3.3.2 Man in the image of God

Of all creatures, God conferred on human beings a special position, and thereby brought them into a close relationship to Himself: "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.' 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).

What distinguishes human beings here is that they are just as much a part of the visible as the invisible creation, because they possess both a material and a spiritual nature as a result of this divine act: "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 being" (Genesis 2: 7). God gave His most distinguished creation a life force and also permitted them to share in divine characteristics such as love, personality, freedom, reason, and immortality. God enables human beings to recognise the Creator, to love Him and to praise Him. Thus human beings are oriented to God even though they may not always recognise the true God and may put something else in His place.

Because it is God who gave man both a physical and a spiritual nature, both of these aspects should receive the dignity due them.

The fact that man has been created in the image of God means that he has been given an exceptional position within the visible creation: he is the one whom God loves and to whom God speaks.

Beyond that, mankind's likeness to God points to the fact that God became Man in Jesus Christ, the "image of the invisible God" (Colossians 1: 15). Jesus Christ is the second "Adam" (1 Corinthians 15: 45, 47), in whom the image of God becomes evident in perfect fashion.

That man has been created in the image of God does not imply, however, that one can draw any conclusions about God's nature from human nature. This is only the case with Jesus Christ.

God created man as a being endowed with speech. This too is related to mankind having been created in God's image. God has always spoken from eternity. Through the Word He created everything and called man by name. It is by hearing the divine call that a human being perceives himself as a person–it is through God's address of a human being as "you" that the person becomes "I". The person is now capable of praising God, communicating with God in prayer, and listening to God's word.

The ability to make free decisions also derives from the fact that man is created in God's image. At the same time, the freedom with which he has been endowed makes man responsible for his actions. He must bear the consequences of his deeds (Genesis 2: 16-17).

Man and woman are both created in the image of God and therefore of the same nature. They were not only created with one another but also for one another, and have the same commission to have "dominion" over the earth, in other words, to shape and protect it. This authority granted to mankind does not entitle them to deal with creation in a reckless way, however. Rather, because they have been created in the image of God, it is their duty to treat creation in a manner befitting divine nature: with wisdom, kindness, and love.

SUMMARY

God, the author of all perceptible reality, has assigned human beings a living environment and issued them the mandate to have dominion over the earth and to protect it. Human beings are thus directed to treat all life and their environment with respect. (3.3.1.2)

God has created human beings in His image. Human beings are just as much a part of the visible creation as of the invisible creation. God gives mankind a life force (the "breath of life") and also allows them to share in divine characteristics. (3.3.2)

Being created "in the image of God" means that man has been given a special status within the visible creation: mankind is loved and addressed by God. Man and woman are both equally created in the image of God. (3.3.2)

See also