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Man was created in the image of God.

Gen 1:26: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. . . .’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Cf. Gen 5:3: "When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth.”

Man represents, reflects, and resembles God in some ways--which includes as a result the ruling (subduing, having dominion) over creation, and having the capacity for relationship with God and with fellow human beings.

Even after the Fall, we all remain in the image of God, distorted though the image may be.

Gen 9:6: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”

James 3:9: "With [the tongue] we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God."

When we were united to Adam, our original covenant representative, we bore his image.

1 Cor 15:49a: “We have borne the image of the man of dust. . . .”

Though we are in the image of God, Jesus is the image of God.

Col 1:15: "[Jesus] is the image of the invisible God. . . ."

2 Cor 4:4: "Christ . . . is the image of God."

When we become united to Christ, our covenant head, our goal is to be conformed and transformed into his image.

2 Cor 3:18: "Beholding the glory of the Lord, [we] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another."

Rom 8:29: "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. . . . ."

Col 3:10: "[We] have put on the new self [Greek: man], which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator."

When Christ returns we will fully and completely reflect the image of Christ.

1 Cor 15:49: "Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven."

1 John 3:2: "Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is."

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7 thoughts on “The Image of God: A Primer”

  1. pduggie says:

    “Even after the Fall, we all remain in the image of God, distorted though the image may be.”

    The two quotes don’t actually say anything about a distortion of the image of God.

    “Man represents, reflects, and resembles God in some ways—which includes as a result the ruling (subduing, having dominion) over creation, and having the capacity for relationship with God and with fellow human beings.”

    So this is the “definition” of image of God? If one thing recent reading on this in reformed writing (Calvin, Hoekema, etc) is that there is no single universally recognized definition of ‘image of God’ in theology.

    1. Justin Taylor says:

      pduggie: In the first one, I was mainly emphasizing that the Bible says we are still in the image of God. On the second one, I’m not claiming that is a universally accepted definition. It’s my attempt at an inductive, beginning definition expressed in a simple way.

      1. Alex Philip says:

        Thanks for this summation, Justin. I’m curious though: What is the Biblical basis for asserting that the image of God has been distorted in us? Is that expressly taught in Scripture or are we connecting dots to make that claim? Your response is appreciated.

  2. Clarification Dave says:

    Another issue that should be explored is the relationship of the innate image of God and “total depravity”.

    The implications for a doctrine of salvation would be significant.

  3. John Thomson says:

    You are touching here on a theme i find myself often reflecting on. It seems to me that new creation ‘image of God’ is an advance on old creation ‘image’ even before the fall.

    Paul makes a clear distinction (and implied advance) between our image in Adam and that in Christ: ‘as we have borne the image of the earthly so shall we bear the imge of the heavenly (1 Cor 15). Indeed Ephesians seems to imply true holiness and righteousness is found in the Christ-image of God rather than the Adam-image.

    Eph 4:24 (ESV)
    and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

    The Adam (pre-fall)and Christ(resurrected)contrast is vital: first/second; flesh/Spirit; earth/heaven; mortal/immortal; natural/spiritual; immature/adult; …

  4. Ramon Rivera says:

    Its interesting how genesis 1.26 says that God will make the man (ha-adam) into his image and likeness and will give them (ha-adam) dominion over creation. Later on the psalmist reflects on this same passage and says: “What is man that you are mindful of him…yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works f our hands”. I think David here was reflecting on genesis 1.26. The author of Hebrew takes up this comment on genesis 1.26 by David and reasons thus: “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor…” So when David spoke of man as lower than angels, he was speaking of Jesus. This is what the author of Hebrew says to us. The whole statement was about Jesus. We are so concerned about ourselves that we think the psalm is about us.
    It seems to me that the statement “man was made in the image of God” is wrong. The purpose of Adam when created was for him to eat of the tree of life and doing so be the image of God, but, that was reserved for Jesus, the second Adam, the image of God.
    David speaks of the fulfillment of genesis 1.26, because he Knew about Jesus. Thats why his psalms are mostly Messianic. Not only David, but all the prophets, were constantly reflecting on the Pentateuch, the teaching of Moses.
    Saying that humankind was made in the image of God is, again, wrong. Adam, the first man, was made in the image, but the rest are his sons, image of Adam. We see Adam in us.
    But if anyone is in Christ new creation. Thus the need for regeneration. That is why John says that to all that receive him, who believe in his name, he gave the right to become children of God (image of God). We are being transformed, created into the image of the Lord, but this is for those that are in Christ.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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