Why Did God Say “Let Us Make Mankind in Our Image”?
“In the beginning…”
So starts the greatest book ever written. More than that, it’s the greatest history ever told, and the greatest story of redemption. Ever.
There are a lot of “greats” in those opening sentences. Why? Because God is great. King David proclaimed in Psalm 70:4, “May all who seek You rejoice and be glad in you! May those who love Your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’” God’s greatness is reflected in all He created (Psalm 19; Psalm 148). The pinnacle of God’s creation, however, is found in man. Genesis 1:26 tells us:
“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 over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’”
Mankind is therefore regarded as the apex of God’s creation because after He created man, God declared all He made to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31).
What Is the Context of This Verse?
In Genesis 1:1-25, we learn the Lord God created the heavens and the earth ex nihilo (out of, or from nothing). With each aspect of creation, the passage reads, “And God said…let there be light, let there be an expanse, let the waters under heaven be gathered in one place,” etc. After each creative act, “God saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25).
Once the heavens and the earth were complete, God created man.
Genesis 1 tells us God spoke the world and universe into existence. To us as readers, it appears as a narration because no audience is obvious or implied within the context of the event. Genesis 1:26 is the first use of a pronoun other than the name of God Himself (Elohim).
This verse is a pause in the creation process as God explains what He is going to do next — and why. God created the human race in His image and likeness using the pronouns “Us” and “Our” and that man should have dominion over what He created.
Why Is It Significant That God Used a Plural Pronoun - "Our"?
Why did God say, “us” and “our” when He spoke of creating man? To Whom was He speaking?
Almighty God is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit — the Trinity. Our God has existed throughout eternity (Genesis 21:33; Deuteronomy 33:27; 1 Chronicles 16:36; Isaiah 57:15), and within His triune nature, God is relational — He has an everlasting relationship between each person of the Trinity. Ligonier Ministries expounds, “The doctrine of the Trinity is foundational to the Christian faith and to Christian living, since knowing God is at the heart of biblical religion and God is fully revealed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the unfolding of the divine mystery. The one true and living God eternally exists in three distinct yet inseparable persons.”
That God is three in One (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) is utterly incomprehensible for the natural (unregenerate) mind (1 Corinthians 2:14). Some Christians even have a hard time accepting this truth, and if they refuse it, they turn to heretical teachings to try to explain something God doesn’t intend for us to fully understand. We take His Word in faith because He is faithful (2 Timothy 2:13). Truths exist that we won’t fully comprehend even when we reach glory in heaven. And we will be content with that because we will have fully glorified minds. Or perhaps He will reveal more than we expect, and that’s wonderful, too! But that’s only because we will be like Him (1 John 3:2).
While the word Trinity is not written in Scripture, the indisputable fact is God introduces Himself as the eternal Triune God in a number of Old and New Testament passages. For further study, the references are listed in the previously noted Ligonier article.
What Does It Mean We Are Made in the Image and Likeness of God?
God is Spirit, and Jesus said, “God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24).
Therein lies our conundrum. If we are made in God’s image, how can we reflect He who is Spirit? We are made in His image, just as was Adam, and Adam was our federal head, the legal representative of all his descendants (Romans 5:12). Through him, sin came to all men. And since we are sinners, how can we reflect our sinless God?
We are made in His image and we remain in His image, even as sinners. What we carry as God’s creation are His communicable attributes — those character traits God deigns to share with us, and they are primarily ethical in nature. A partial list includes grace, mercy, wisdom, love, goodness, patience, and kindness (see also Galatians 5:22-23). And yet we are not fully wise or loving, etc., because no person can exhibit God’s perfect love, etc. By God’s Spirit within us, however, He illumines the Scriptures so we understand more Who He is, His actions, and how we are to respond as His. All we become as Christians is by His doing (John 6:44; Ephesians 2:8). He is the One who takes us from one degree of glory (at conversion) to another as we mature in our faith (2 Corinthians 3:18).
Some of God’s incommunicable attributes (what He does not share with His creatures) are His omnipotence (all powerful), omniscience (all knowing), omnipresence (unbounded presence in time and space), infinity (no beginning or end), and His self-existence (aseity).
The Final Adam, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45) atoned for our sins. All who believe in and surrender to Him as Lord and Savior are changed. We come out of darkness and into Jesus’ glorious light (John 8:12; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Peter 1:8). Pastor Don Stewart relates, “When a person becomes a Christian, they immediately receive the Holy Spirit. Consequently, they begin to live an entirely new life. However, they do not ever become perfect in this life. The sin and weaknesses that are inherited with our fallen nature remain with each believer until death.”
By His work in us, we recognize Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Jesus said, “It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me — not that anyone has seen the Father except He who is from God; He has seen the Father” (John 6:45-46). John 14:9 adds, “Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’”
By God’s power, we are “transformed” by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2), and we put on the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 13:14) as He matures us in Him.
What Does It Mean for Our Life and Witness to Know We Are Made in the Image of God?
Our Lord God has much to teach us in His Word, and without the indwelling Holy Spirit, it’s gibberish. Praise God for His Spirit Who opens His word to us, for in it we receive our “marching orders” as Christians. We come to know Him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and we are taught how to live in this world as we wait for Him to return (Titus 2:13) or to call us home when we die to this life here on earth, for God has placed eternity in our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11).
All of our lives are lived before God (coram Deo) and all of our lives are lived as His image bearers (imago Dei). Del Tackett serves us with a look at man in Focus on the Family’s Truth Project.
As His image-bearers, God created us for relationship, first with Him and then with others. Jesus shared this when He repeated the greatest commandments to a group of Jewish scribes, “And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31; Deuteronomy 6:5).
Since we are God’s image-bearers, we are His earthly representatives — His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are to serve God with fear and rejoice with trembling (Psalm 2:1). It’s a ponderous privilege and great responsibility to represent Christ to a lost and dying world. Someone said that as we all live on earth, we as Christians are the closest to hell we will ever be, and unbelievers surrounded by Christians are as close to heaven as they will ever be unless God calls them to Himself through Jesus (John 6:44).
Fear of the Lord is a reverent fear of our Sovereign Lord, for He holds the keys of Death and Hades (Revelation 1:17-18). One day every person in all of history will stand before Him and give an account of their life and what they did with Jesus; or rather, how they responded to His kind invitation (Romans 2:4).
These truths should give us an urgency to lovingly share the Gospel. And know this, people you don’t know are praying for your walk with Christ. How wonderful it will be to meet and thank all of them in heaven.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Vieriu Adrian
Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis.