“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” (Gen 1:26-27)
In six days, the LORD has meticulously crafted a beautiful kingdom and all His work crescendos on the sixth day when he creates a vice regent, made in his own image, to govern it and care for it.
Man, obviously, is very important in the scriptures. A few bulleted notes from Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, Section 2, Chapter 1, The Origin of Man follows:
- Man is the crown of God’s Creation
- Scriptures are:
- God’s revelation to man
- History of God’s dealing with man
- Record of God’s redemption of man
CI Scofield describes man’s unique role this way:
Man in OUR image
“Let us make man in our image…”
It is striking to hear God decree that man would be created in ‘our’ image. Who are the we that comprise the ‘our’ here? The church has traditionally seen this as strong evidence for the Trinity. According to Berkhof, several non-Trinitarian solutions have been offered:
|Plural of majesty (aka the ‘royal’ we)||Impossible. This manner of speaking originated at a later time|
|‘Our’ refers to God and the angels||Impossible. The angels were not co-creators with God.
|A plural self-exhortation (??)||Ridiculous. How could God make a plural exhortation, except He were a plurality|
Thomas Watson had the following to say regarding this noble we:
It is the manner of artificers to be more than ordinarily accurate when they are about their masterpieces. Man was to be the masterpiece of this visible world, therefore God consulted about making so rare a piece. A solemn council of the sacred persons in the Trinity was called. ‘Let us make man, and let us make him in our own image.’
I will praise thee;
for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:
marvellous are thy works;
and that my soul knoweth right well.
Made in the ‘image’ of God
What exactly is the ‘image’ of God? According to Keach’s Baptist Catechism:
Q. How did God create man?
A. God created man male and female, after His own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.
According to the Baptist Catechism and Confession (LBC, para 4.3), the image of God into which man was created represents God’s knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.
- “…ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col 3:9-10)
- “…That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” (Eph 4:22-24)
In the writing of the Apostle Paul, the ‘old man’ represents the sinful flesh. The natural man who is born in and lives in sin. The ‘new man’ represents the man whose spirit is renewed by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit who turns from sin and follows Christ by faith. This new man is renewed (restored to what was lost) in ‘knowledge’ after the image of God and ‘after God’ is ‘righteousness and true holiness’. We can’t point to these two verses as an exhaustive summary of what it means to be made (or re-made) in the image of God, but we can find a glimpse of what part of that image has been lost (and restored in salvation) by sin: knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness.
Regarding the role of Adam as bearing God’s image in God’s earthly garden temple, see Garden Temple by GK Beale.
The Making of Man
When God created plants, animals, birds, and fish, he spoke them into existence –
- And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. (Gen 1:20)
- And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. (Gen 1:24)
But when God created man, he reached down and created him especially as though with His own hands, and breathed life into him, as though with his own mouth.
- And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. (Gen 2:7)
The Composition of Man
According to CI Scofield, and most dispensationalist Bible students, man is tri-partite: body, soul, and spirit.
- Body – The part of man distinguished from spirit and soul, the only part susceptible to death, and subject to the resurrection. We have a physical nature in common with animals, but only humans are raised again to life.
- Soul – The soul is ‘self conscience life’ as opposed to unconscious life (plants). The soul is synonymous with ‘heart’ in scripture and is the source of ’emotions, desires, affections’.
- Spirit – The spirit is the God-conscience part of man
Dispensationalists insist on the 3 part division based on 1 Thes 5:23 – “…I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
For a defense of the bipartite constitution, see Berkhof, Part 2, Chapter 2 – summary to be added soon.
It is amazing that such an obvious and straight forward question like “what am I” (i.e. how am I constituted?) requires such deep thought and study. The answer will never be fully apprehended in this life and our observations and the light given by Scripture (though sufficient) only give us as much as we presently need. One day we will know in full. It is certain though, that a right comprehension of what little we know of ourselves should cause us to magnify God in our hearts just as a right understanding of God should give us humility and shows us our weakness and dependance on God.
The Spiritual State of Man
The spiritual state of man was, in his original constitution, one of holiness and righteousness; but man’s spiritual state was mutable, as he was capable of falling. Man was sinless, but capable of sin. Since the fall of Adam, man is the exact opposite. Today, he is both unholy and sinful, and incapable of sinless-ness. In the resurrection, regenerated man will again be sinless and holy, but incapable of falling again. In Christ, the renewed man will be capable of a state of existance higher than that possible in Adam!
What the above means is that Adam was created mutable – his nature was subject to change. Only God is immutable – There is only One “with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17)’. According to AW Pink, ‘it is clear that the Covenant of Works proceeded on the assumption that man in his original condition-though “made upright” – was capable of falling, just as the Covenant of Grace proceeds on the assumption that man, though fallen and depraved, is – through Christ – capable of being restored’.
On this, the Baptists of old agreed. The Baptist Confession of Faith speaks to the original state of man in Chapter 4, paragraph 2:
After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasoning and immortal souls, rendering them fit to live that life for Him for which they were created;
– being made in the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and having the power to fulfil it;
– and yet living under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will which was subject to change.
God has given man a dominion – a realm to rule over, a stewardship, a responsibility. The World that God created is to be (1) populated, (2) subdued, (3) and managed. The resources of this world are at the disposal of man.
According to Webster, dominion is:
1. Sovereign or supreme authority; the power of governing and controlling.
The dominion of the Most High is an everlasting dominion. Daniel 4.2. Power to direct, control, use and dispose of at pleasure; right of possession and use without being accountable; as the private dominion of individuals.
Man is represented as standing at the apex of all the created orders. He is crowned king of the lower creation, and is given dominion over all the inferior creatures. As such it was his duty and privlege to make all nature and all the created beings that were placed under his rule, subservient to his will and purpose, in order that he and his whole glorious dominion might magnify the almighty Creator and Lord of the universe.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,
and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet:
All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea,
and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
The Dominion of man over God’s creation has strong ethical implications. We tend to think of God’s physical world as temporary and irrelevant. We think of God’s realm and concern as relating to Spiritual things, but forget God’s concern in his physical creation. God is not only concerned that we are holy, but also that we are faithful stewards in all that He has intrusted us. Our Creator is a God of organization and beauty and the stewardship he has given us is one of spreading out, subduing, building, organizing, and making the world fit for human use. This should be impetus enough for us to pull weeds, cut our grass, sweep our sidewalks, etc. Our God is not a God of confusion and decay. He would not have us to subdue and exercise dominion over His creation in any way that reflects laziness, disorder, decay and indifference. Even the most mundane of tasks can be carried out in joy as a service to the King, as this world is His and He has given it to us to take care of and to enjoy.
Implications of being made in image of God are many and obvious. Our views on abortion, evolution, and the meaning and value of life should be heavily influenced by the fact that man has value, because man was made in the image of God.