In your salvation journey, have you found yourself struggling with Genesis 1:26-27? Specifically, what does it really mean to be created in the image of God? Genesis 1:26-27 is a foundational text for appreciating the relationship between God and humankind, the relationship of humankind and the rest of creation, and human-to-human relationships. The word man in this biblical text refers to both male and female genders. Therefore, both males and females were created in God’s image and likeness. Humankind is exceptional from the rest of creation according to the above text, and the question of their significance is represented in Psalms 8:4, “What is man that you take thought of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” The image of God in humans can be categorized into substantive, functional, and relational.
The Substantive Image of God
In the substantive aspect, we share some of God’s substantial characteristics, and he endowed us with certain gifts and talents. These have been understood to include rationality, creativity, productivity, generosity, morality, and self-awareness. In this way, we show the image of God in our character traits. The attributes he shares with us are called communicable attributes. These attributes defined Adam and Eve before they sinned. Communicable attributes were affected by sin; hence, Christ is restoring us to his image (Romans 8:29, Philippians 3:21, 1 John 3:2, Colossians 3:9-10).
- Rationality: God created us as reasonable beings who can make logical decisions. Even when regarding our sins, he calls us to reason with him and eventually offers a solution to the problem of sin (Isaiah 1:18). Paul testified to Festus of his meeting with Christ and conversion as true and rational (Acts 26:25). Furthermore, those who are led by the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh while those led of the Spirit of God have their minds set on those things that honour God (Romans 8:5; Phil. 4:8). Because we are created in his image, God has set the standard of what our minds ought to focus on (Romans 12:2, Ephesians 4:22-24).
- Morality: Morality deals with the principles concerning the distinction between good and evil, right and wrong. God created us with the ability to live a morally upright life. Sin took away that ability, so we know what we ought to do but keep doing the evil we don’t want to do (Romans 7:14-18). Christ restores our ability to be burdened to do those things that honour God perfectly (Romans 8:3-4). Romans 13:8-10 emphasizes loving our neighbor and acting in a manner that glorifies God toward them. To enjoy life in eternity with God, we are commanded to lead a righteous life, and the emphasis is on living like Christ (Colossians 3:5-17).
- Self-awareness: Self-awareness refers to being able to focus on yourself and how your actions, thoughts, or emotions do or don’t align with God’s set standards. We have spoken of our thoughts and actions in the above points on rationality and morality. While the Bible acknowledges emotions, it cautions us to avoid sin caused by our emotions. Therefore, emotions are portrayed not as a sin, but it is what we do with them that becomes acceptable or unacceptable before the eyes of God. For example, the Bible allows us to be angry but not let our anger lead us to sin (Ephesians 4:26). God has addressed some harmful emotions we encounter in our life journey, such as anxiety (Phil. 4:6) or worry (Matthew 6:25-34).
The Functional Image of God
We share in part of God’s role concerning creation, expressing authority over it in a way consistent with the fact that we are created in the image of God. We exercise our creativity, generosity, love, and desire to conserve the environment (Genesis 1:26, 28). Taking care of creation was the original mandate given to humans (Gen. 2:15). God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all involved in the work of creation (Gen 1:1-19; Jn 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17). In his law to the Israelites that God gave to Moses, he provided guidelines for renewal of the land (Exodus 23:10-12), for the needy and poor people (Leviticus 23:22), and for the rest of the creation (Deuteronomy 25:4).
The Son holds the entire creation together (Col. 1:17). Humans are both stewards and consumers of creation (Genesis 1:28-29). Taking care of creation ensures that future generations are secure. Unfortunately, this is not emphasized much within the church circle but is left for other organizations to address. Our love for God is reflected in the manner in which we fulfill our role in the world. God appointed us to bear his image (Gen 1:27) and entrusted this world to our care (Gen. 2:15). In this way, caring for God’s creation is one of the most fundamental things we are called to do as someone that’s created in God’s image.
The Relational Image of God
We are created in God’s image to exist in relationships, just as God, as the Trinity, exists in relationship (John 17:21). We were created as relational beings, enjoying fellowship with God, other people, and the rest of creation in a way that reflects God’s relational existence. All who believe in Christ join God’s family (John 1:12). Jesus prayed that believers might join him where he is and have fellowship with him, indicating his relational nature (John 17:15, 24). Since God is a relational being, the two great commandments of loving him and expressing this love for him by loving others are also intensely relational (Matthew 22:37-40). We were created not only for fellowship and intimacy with God but also with each other. The scripture instructs us to imitate God in our dealings with others (Ephesians 4:32; Phil. 2:4; Matthew 5:43-48).
Therefore, as Christians, we resemble God in our inner beings apart from our corrupted nature. We share attributes with God as he has seen fit to share with us. Man cannot achieve many attributes that God has since they belong exclusively to God. For example, he alone is the creator and able to create from nothing, and he alone is omniscient. God takes care of his creation and has called us as Christians to take care of creation. We thus share in this function with God.
The Bible says that Christ is the exact image of God (2 Cor. 4:4). Christians are called to grow into being like Christ in the scripture (Rom. 8:29). The Bible tells us that those of us who are no longer blinded by the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4) are being transformed into the image and likeness of Christ (2 Cor. 3:18). Therefore, as Christians, God expects us to grow into Christlikeness because we’re made in his image.
- Why Should Christians Care for Creation? – Common Question – BioLogos. https://biologos.org/common-questions/why-should-christians-care-for-creation