Let Us Make Man in Our Image: A Series on the Imago Dei, Part 1

In Psalm Eight, the writer contemplates a theological mystery, one that seems, at least at first, to have no answer.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 4 what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him? (Psalm 8:3-4 ESV)

Here, the Psalmist considers man as a created being compared to the vastness and beauty of the created universe and is left pondering, what is it about man that would cause God to care for him the way He does?

I.  Male and Female as Image Bearers of God

To answer the Psalmist’s question one must go back to the very beginning of creation.  The answer is found in the text in which God speaks within the Trinitarian nature something never heard before.  Rather than saying, Let there be…and it happens, God says something entirely different when approaching the creation of man, Let Us create man in our image…

26 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.” 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)

The reason God cares for mankind the way He does is that man has been given God’s image and was created to display God’s likeness in a way that the rest of creation would not.  He has created mankind in His image and in His likeness.  Based on this passage the image of God has to do with ways in which mankind is like God.  While we know that if there are any similarities between mankind and the infinite God, these similarities are but finite expressions of the infinite.  Yet, at the same time, man was created to express or display God’s image to the created world.  As Wayne Grudem defines being made in God’s image, he writes, “The fact that man is in the image of God means that man is like God and represents God.”[1]

From the definition given by Grudem, we must consider, in what ways is mankind like God and how is it that mankind represents God?  Mankind, in his original created state, was righteous and without sin, he had true knowledge, and true holiness.  Much has changed since the fall.  Now man is left in a depraved state only partially fulfilling God’s commands to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with other godly people.

John Calvin very briefly explains that in general, being in the likeness of God speaks both of external being and the internal soul.   Of the two, he highlights that the soul itself is the seat of God’s image.[2]  Calvin sees the soul as the foundation for all the different aspects of man being made in God’s image. In addition, according to Louis Berkhof, spirituality is also to be added to the characteristics that display God’s image.  He writes, “Another element usually included in the image of God is that of spirituality.  God is Spirit, and it is but natural to expect that this element of spirituality also find expression in man as the image of God.”[3]  Berkhof continues to explain that yet another aspect of the image of God includes man’s immortality.  He notes that God alone is truly immortal in and of Himself, yet mankind possesses it as an endowment from God.[4]  When God made man in His image, He gave man an immortal soul, which is the seat of morality, holiness, knowledge, and spirituality.  These are some of the elements of the image of God.

Both man and woman are image bearers.  Both are equal in their importance and personhood.  27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27 ESV).  Both men and women are equally important, valuable and both reflect God’s image and character to others.  Both are valuable to God and sought after in salvation.  Both receive the Holy Spirit when saved.  Both receive Spiritual gifts (Acts 2:17-18).  Men and women are equal in their ability to receive the New Covenant[5] To further highlight this fact, we should look to Paul’s words in Galatians,

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
(Galatians 3:27-28 ESV)

Before sin entered the world, both men and women were a perfect finite picture of God.  Adam and Eve displayed many of God’s character traits flawlessly.  They were given the command to fill the earth and subdue it.  Mankind was an example of God in the dominion he was given over creation.  Man was to have authority to govern and care for the created world.  Man was also to display God in creation as he was given the charge to fill the earth.  He was to procreate which pictured God’s creation.  Filling the earth and subduing the earth were to work in cooperation with each other.  Man was to be fruitful and multiply and as he became greater in number so his godly dominion would expand over the entire earth.  He was to fill the earth with other godly people who would together have dominion over every aspect of the planet.  In a real sense, the Garden of Eden was to cover the entire earth as Adam and Eve’s generations procreated and followed God.[6]

28 And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 ESV)

(This is part 1 of a four-part series)

Brian Evans is the preaching elder and overseer at Grace Community Church in Waverly, Ohio. Brian holds a holds a B.A. in Pastoral Ministry from Clear Creek Baptist Bible College, an M.A. in Biblical Counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and an M.Div. from Whitefield Theological Seminary. He is currently pursuing a Th.D. from Whitefield in Biblical Counseling.

[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House,

2000), 442

[2] John Calvin, Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (London: Westminster Press, 1960) Book 1, 15, 3 page 186

[3] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing House, 1976), 204

[4] ibid, 205

[5] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000), 458

[6] G. K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission (Downers Grove: Il., 2004)

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