Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness, and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.” God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them. Gen 1:26-27
This passage contains one of the most discussed phrases in the Bible. What does it mean to be made in the image of God? The passage itself is full of repetition. In the Hebrew language (I am told) repetition is used as emphasis because it contains no intensifiers like “very” or “most.”
From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One. But I say, “I waste away, I waste away. Woe is me! For the traitors have betrayed, with betrayal the traitors have betrayed.” Isa 24:16. The repetition in that last line is obvious. According to the Hebrew language, these traitors must be the most traitorous of the bunch.
Now look at Ex 26:33. You are to hang this curtain under the clasps and bring the ark of the testimony in there behind the curtain. The curtain will make a division for you between the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. “Most” is not in the Hebrew. Instead it reads: “the holy holy place.” The repetition is the intensifier.
All of that means that the Genesis passage where we began is emphasizing that we are indeed created in the very image of God—“image” or “likeness” occurs four times. Scroll up and read it again and see if you catch that. Now let’s see where that takes us.
This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. Gen 5:1-3
The concept in this passage is of a father being presented with his newborn child. He “creates” him, then blesses him, and finally names him. That is what God did with man, vv 1, 2. Adam did exactly the same thing with Seth. He fathered (created) a son in his own image, presumably blessed him as was the custom in ancient times, and named him, v 3. You only name what belongs to you. The parallel shows that just as Seth was related to Adam and belonged to him, somehow we are related to God and belong to Him.
Being in the image of God is so intrinsic to us that it did not change when man sinned.
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. Gen 9:6. This applies to any man, not just godly men. We are not to kill that which is made in God’s image. It was still so after the flood.
With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the image of God. Jas 3:9 It is still true in this age. James uses that fact to show us the severity of cursing another man. So how are we made in the image of God?
Refer back to part 2 of this series. God is spirit, God is light, and God is love. Obviously we are not invisible spirit, nor are we a light so holy that man cannot survive it.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. 1John 4:16-17. Love is what God is so when He gives love, He is giving of Himself. We are thus “as He is” when we love others, and when we return love to Him. God intended to create man with the ability to return or reject His love. Love can only be genuine when it is given by choice.
Sin is the rejection of God’s love. When God gave us freewill, He gave us permission to hurt Him. His wrath, then, is the wrath of a jealous lover, one who has every right to expect that His love be returned. This righteous jealousy is for the relationship, not against the lover (Zech 8:1-8).
When we refuse to love others we are rejecting our relationship with God. We are denying our “image,” one of someone who loves unconditionally and of his own freewill. Reviling and mistreating anyone, whether they deserve it or not, is a far more serious matter than we realize.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. Eph 5:1-2