What It Means to Be “Made in the Image of God”

What is the Bible trying to convey when it says that we are created "in God's image"(Genesis 1:27)? I've heard this phrase many times, but I'm not sure that I really understand what this means. Can you shed any light on this question for me? Does sinful man continue to possess the "Image of God," or was it lost when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit?

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

This is an excellent question. There are probably very few people in the church today who have ever stopped to ask themselves what the Imago Dei is really all about. There are even fewer who could come up with an answer if asked point-blank to state their beliefs concerning this point of biblical doctrine.

You speak in terms of man “possessing” the Image of God. We respond that the Image of God is not so much something that man bears as something that man is. Biblical scholar D. J. A. Clines, in his groundbreaking article “The Image of God in Man” ( Tyndale Bulletin 19, 1968, 53-103) argues that the Hebrew preposition be (“in”) in the phrases betsalmenu, “in our image,” and betsalmo, “in his image” (Genesis 1:27), should be taken as an instance of “beth essentiae” or “beth of the essence.” We realize that this may be difficult to grasp if you don’t know any Hebrew, but the point is that the grammar favors the translation “God created man as His image” over “God created man in His image.” As Cline puts it in his concluding remarks: “Thus we may say that according to Genesis 1, man does not have the image of God, nor is he made in the image of God, but is himself the image of God.” Humankind, then, was created to be a “copy” or a “graphic image” of the Creator – a formal, visible, and understandable representation of who God is and what He is really like.

Did man’s fall into sin destroy or remove the Image of God? No – it merely marred or disfigured it. This is a crucial distinction, since it is the Imago that makes us different than the rest of creation. As theologian Louis Berkhof puts it, “The doctrine of the Image of God in man is of the greatest importance in theology, for that Image is the expression of that which is most distinctive in man and in his relation to God. The fact that man is the Image of God distinguishes him from the animal and every other creature” (Systematic Theology, p. 206).

To put it another way, it is precisely the Image of God that makes man human; man could not lose the Image without ceasing to be what he is. Furthermore, it is only because he retains it, even in a broken or distorted form, that man is redeemable and worth redeeming. Without it, God would have had no reason or motivation to send His Son to die on our behalf. This is a vital point, not only from a strictly theological point of view, but also in connection with practical issues such as the sanctity of human life.

If you think it might be helpful to discuss these concepts at greater length, call us. Focus on the Family has a staff of pastoral counselors who would love to speak with you over the phone.

 

Resources
If a title is currently unavailable through Focus on the Family, we encourage you to use another retailer.

Reasons for Faith

What Every Christian Ought to Know Day by Day: Essential Truths for Growing Your Faith

Mere Christianity

Basic Christianity

What the Bible Teaches: The Truths of the Bible Made Plain, Simple, and Understandable

The Faith: What Christians Believe, Why They Believe It, and Why It Matters

Referrals
Christian Research Institute

Insight for Living

LeeStrobel.com

Share:
Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email

Thank you [field id="first_name"] for signing up to get the free downloads of the Marrying Well Guides. 

Click the image below to access your guide and learn about the counter-cultural, biblical concepts of intentionality, purity, community and Christian compatibility.

(For best results use IE 8 or higher, Firefox, Chrome or Safari)

To stay up-to-date with the latest from Boundless, sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter.


If you have any comments or questions about the information included in the Guide, please send them to [email protected]

Click here to return to Boundless

Focus on the Family

Thank you for submitting this form. You will hear from us soon. 

The Daily Citizen

The Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family exists to be your most trustworthy news source. Our team of analysts is devoted to giving you timely and relevant analysis of current events and cultural trends – all from a biblical worldview – so that you can be inspired and assured that the information you share with others comes from a reliable source.

Alive to Thrive is a biblical guide to preventing teen suicide. Anyone who interacts with teens can learn how to help prevent suicidal thinking through sound practical and clinical advice, and more importantly, biblical principles that will provide a young person with hope in Christ.

Bring Your Bible to School Day Logo Lockup with the Words Beneath

Every year on Bring Your Bible to School Day, students across the nation celebrate religious freedom and share God’s love with their friends. This event is designed to empower students to express their belief in the truth of God’s Word–and to do so in a respectful way that demonstrates the love of Christ.

Focus on the Family’s® Foster Care and Adoption program focuses on two main areas:

  • Wait No More events, which educate and empower families to help waiting kids in foster care

  • Post-placement resources for foster and adoptive families

Christian Counselors Network

Find Christian Counselors, Marriage & Family Therapists, Psychologists, Social Workers and Psychiatrists near you! Search by location, name or specialty to find professionals in Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network who are eager to assist you.

Boundless is a Focus on the Family community for Christian young adults who want to pursue faith, relationships and adulthood with confidence and joy.

Through reviews, articles and discussions, Plugged In exists to shine a light on the world of popular entertainment while giving you and your family the essential tools you need to understand, navigate and impact the culture in which we live.

Have you been looking for a way to build your child’s faith in a fun and exciting way?
Adventures in Odyssey® audio dramas will do just that. Through original audio stories brought to life by actors who make you feel like part of the experience; these fictional, character-building dramas use storytelling to teach lasting truths.

Focus on the Family’s Hope Restored all-inclusive intensives offer marriage counseling for couples who are facing an extreme crisis in their marriage, and who may even feel they are headed for divorce.