What it Means to be Created in God’s Image

When Jewish people pray to God, they pray “Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech Haolam” (Blessed are you the Lord our God, King of the Universe). Genesis 1:26-27 states
26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
The Lord God Almighty created Adam to be Melech Haaretz, (King of the Earth). As God ruled the Universe, He wanted man to rule the world. In Verses 19-20 we are told:
19 Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So Adam gave names to all cattle, to the birds of the air, and to every beast of the field.
Naming animals is the first step in ruling over them. We can see that with our pets today. We control all aspects of their lives. Perhaps this can be a reminder to us of what we lost when Adam and Eve sinned.
God specifically tells us in the above Scriptures that He has created us in His Image and Likeness. But how can an Immaterial Being, one that is pure Spirit, have an image or a likeness. I think to find the answer to this; we must take our eyes off of the physical world and concentrate on the Spiritual Realm. He never speaks about us “looking” like Him. I doubt very much that outside of the incarnation of Messiah Jesus, He has arms, legs, torso, or even a head, etc.
In Michael S. Heiser’s article THE IMAGE OF GOD, he tells us that The image of God may be defined as an ability particular to humans—such as intelligence, rationality, emotions, volitional will, consciousness, sentience, or the ability to communicate. God, by definition has all of these abilities and to be made like Him, we need to be given the same abilities. Since God made each of us individuals, we do not all have the same level of each of these abilities.
Heiser further states The term “spiritual abilities” refers to God-directed abilities or spiritual inclinations of the inner life. Examples would include belief in God, a desire to know God, prayer, and the ability to discern right from wrong. However, as with a physical or mental ability, spiritual abilities or desires are not possessed equally by all humans at all stages of life.
In Shaun Lewis’s article WHAT IS MAN? OR, THE IMAGE OF GOD, he tells us that there have been three major views of “Imago Dei” (God’s Image) as early as the second century and are still around today. He briefly explains the views as follows:
Explanations of the imago Dei span the second century to the present and they are legion. Some have slight variations, while others are more significant. Nonetheless, all views can be grouped within three categories.* Substantive views teach that imago consists of certain parts or characteristics of man, such as his rationale or spirit. Relational views concern man’s relationship with God or others as the divine image. Functional views maintain that God’s image in man is some action he does, such as rule or take dominion over creation.
Let’s talk about the Functional View first. According to Lewis, Irenaeus distinguished between image and likeness as physical/spiritual, Clement and Origen saw the distinction as qualities essential/unessential. In other words, man is still “man” with or without original holiness and righteousness. There is still no agreement as to whether or not “Image” and “Likeness” were synonyms or had different meaning. This only occurs within the Functional views.
Lewis starts his discussion of the Relational View thus:
A new concept of the imago Dei arose in the twentieth century. Genesis 1:26 opens with Trinitarian plurality and is followed by verse 27 which says, “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” In the immediate context of the imago lies a plurality within the Godhead and a plurality within mankind. Advocates of relational views say this plurality should be taken seriously** Therefore, a dynamic relationship is the essence of how man is like God. Karl Barth believed the imago is not a relationship per se; it is an experience within an active relationship. Emil Brunner illustrated the concept saying that a mirror is not a source of light nor does it have an imprint of light; it only reflects the light according to its placement
The last view that Lewis discusses is the Functional View: God created mankind in His own image and commanded him to rule over creation. Adherents of a functional view see more than a close connection between these concepts. To them, the imago is the activity of ruling over creation. The image is something man does.
Lewis offers us a good evaluation of the three views:
Each of the major categories has strengths and weaknesses. The substantive view is straightforward and has by far the most advocates. Despite this, substantive views fragment man in ways unsupported by Scripture. One theologian said this is part of God’s image and that is not. The imago has been equated with man’s physical body, essential qualities, intellect, original righteous state, or any part distinctly human. The problem is that none of these distinctions have exegetical support in the creation account.
He continues by stating:
Relational and functional views at least have some exegetical support in the creation account. Genesis 1:27 and 5:2 both state that God created man and woman in His own image. Genesis 1:26 makes a link between humanity and dominion taking. Therefore, it must be affirmed there is male/female plurality within the imago and some link between it and taking dominion. This is a good start for these views, but the real question is whether Genesis actually defines the imago in these ways or not ***
I find it very interesting that the Lord starts to keep His secrets as early as Chapter One of Book One of the Scriptures. . He tells us that we will not understand all He does on this side of eternity and He goes and proves it by creating us in His Image and Likeness, but not telling us exactly what that means.

Works Cited
Heiser, Michael S. THE IMAGE OF GOD, article in the “ Faithlife Study Bible”. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016. Print.

Lewis, Shaun WHAT IS MAN? OR, THE IMAGE OF GOD, article in “Journal of Dispensational Theology” (April/August/December) 16.48 (2012): 13–26. Print.
*(used within Lewis’ article – 5 Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983; reprint, 2007) 520; Stanley Grenz, “Jesus as the Imago Dei: Image-of-God Christology and the Non-Linear Linearity of Theology,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47 (December 2004): 621.)
** (used within Lewis’ article —19 Barth, Church Dogmatics, III.1.195. On Genesis 1:27, Karl Barth wrote, “Could anything be more obvious than to conclude from this clear indication that the image and likeness of the being created by God signifies existence in confrontation?” For a helpful overview of Barth on this subject, see D. J. A. Clines, “The Image of God in Man,” Tyndale Bulletin 19 (1968): 60–61.)
*** (used within Lewis’ article 39Kenneth M. Gardoski, “Is Culture a Reflection of the Imago Dei?” (paper presented at the Eastern Annual Conference of the Evangelical Theological Society, Clarks Summit, PA, March 2004) 6–9.

Bible Gateway, New King James Version, Holy Bible. https://www.biblegateway.com, accessed 5/29-6/5/17


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