Man in the image and likeness of God

Updated: Apr 25


1) God created Man in His image and likeness.

We confess that God is one, yet triune. We confess that from eternity God the Father begot God the Son in His image and that God the Holy Spirit eternally proceeds from them both. He is both the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. He indwells them both as their Spirit and is at the same time the third Person of the Trinity. This unity is not only of nature, but also of love. There is one God, yet three Persons.

We also confess that God created man in His own image and after His own likeness. His triune nature also finds reflection in mankind. Adam, which, besides becoming a personal name, initially means man or mankind. Adam, understood as mankind, was created in God's image and after His likeness, male and female (Gen 1:27).

Image and likeness have been explained in various ways, but one aspect that is paramount is sonship (cf Lk 3:38). It is usual for children to reflect their parents and that is at issue here. In Genesis 1:26,27, where image precedes likeness, the context implies that the son will rule. Being male and female is in service of proliferation so that God's rule via His children can be extended to the ends of the earth.

Likeness, which is the second term, implies something similar to the refrain from Genesis 1 of plants and animals reproducing “after their kind”. Genesis 5:1 only says that God created man in His likeness, while Genesis 5:3 uses both image and likeness, but in reverse order. This is in the context of the genealogy of the church. Like begets like, although this is only maintained among those who call on the name of the Lord (Gen 4:26). Consequently that God created man in His likeness would seem to imply sonship and godlikeness without further implications. It seems to be the more limited term, yet rich.

One aspect of the image and likeness of God is found in the unity of the human race. God created man first and from his rib formed the woman, so woman is from man. This separation did not lead to disunity, however, for the two were to become one flesh again. This act of unification is the physical expression of the unity they had in love for each other. They were two, yet one. From this act of unification children were to be conceived, who would be begotten and conceived in their image and likeness, in the unity of love and nature to be raised in love and to live together in love as one happy family. This structure of Adam, as reflective of the nature of the Triune God, is only fully visible from the vantage point of the NT, for only there has the triune nature of God been fully revealed.

This structural image of God was horribly deformed. Sin intervened. Eve led Adam into the fall and Adam rejected Eve after the fall and Cain murdered his brother, Abel, after the fall. The genealogy of Cain ends in violence and the genealogy of Seth ends in the sons of God marrying the daughters of men and corrupting themselves (Gen 6:2) and destruction. Unity was lost and the moral image of God in the human race was destroyed. There were structural things that the fall could not totally erase such as our rule and how we are constructed as a human race, but even this Satan attacked and still attacks. He wants to obliterate the image of God in the human race entirely and damage God's creation in any way he can for he hates God and God's people.

2) The New Man recreated in the image of God.

God did not let this sad situation continue forever. He had a plan to restore all things. He sent His own Son to this world as the first of the New Mankind.

Scripture speaks of the reversal of the fall beginning in Genesis 3:15. The “seed of the woman” points forward to the victory of the Lord Jesus Christ, who alludes to it in John 12:31; cf 14:30. He is also called the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45; cf Rom 5:12-21) in whom all things consist (Col 1:17,18). He is the head of all things (Ps 8:5 & Heb 2:7,8; Eph 1:20-223; Col 1:18). He is the progenitor of the new human race for in Him all believers from Jews and Gentiles are one new man (Eph 2:15) and a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).

This unity and inclusiveness is pictured in several ways in Scripture. The Lord Jesus Christ is Israel (cf Ex 4:22,23; Hos 11:1; Mat 2:15). Also the Servant Songs of Isaiah show this all inclusiveness, for the Servant is both Israel and sent to Israel (cf Is 49:3,5,6). We can also see His union with His people when the NT quotes Genesis 3:15, but applies it to all God's people (Romans 16:20). They will conquer Satan in Christ.

In these texts it becomes obvious that Israel in its history prefigures the Lord Jesus Christ, or perhaps better, He recapitulates in Himself the history of His people and shows how it points forward to a spiritual reality beyond it.

He was begotten from the Virgin Mary, from woman without the involvement of a man, by the Holy Spirit and the power of God. He was created from the old Adam/mankind, but without original sin or guilt as He was a pre-existent, holy Person and not in Adam when he fell. Although His body was in the likeness of sinful flesh (Rom 8:3) He was the image of the invisible God in spirit and became the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15).

However, He would only gain the right to take people out of the sin, misery and condemnation in which they lived if He obeyed God in all things and paid the penalty for our sins. This He did and the proof of that is His resurrection from the dead. At that point He was fully restored and glorified bodily. He gained what the first Adam failed to gain, eternal life for all His 'descendants'.

The New Bride created

The last Adam needed a bride just as the first. This bride was provided for and chosen for the Son by the Father (Joh 6:37,39,44,65,70; 17:2,6,9,24). She is the glory of the Man (cf 1 Cor 11:7:Eph 1:22,23). It is clear that the Lord Jesus Christ never married, for His bride and descendants were not to be according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. Nevertheless, He is the source of His bride, which is the church.

God also created the bride of Christ from Christ. There would be no bride if the Lord Jesus Christ had not become man and had not lived for her righteousness and died to pay for her sins (Eph 5:25-27). His life, death, resurrection and glorification are the source of her existence. The church is called the bride of Christ (Rev 19:7-9; 21:2,9; 22:17). This marriage imagery was already there in the OT. Israel (Hos 1-3) and Jerusalem or Zion are often depicted as a woman and as a wife of the Lord (cf Is 54:1,6 & Gal 4:26-31). However, this imagery comes into its own in the NT. The Lord is the head of the church, which is His body (Eph 1:23), with whom He is one flesh (Eph 5:30-32) and one spirit (1 Cor 6:17).

The New Bride bears the New Man's children.

The church in union with Him bears children, who are born of that incorruptible 'seed', the word of God and His Spirit (Jm 1:18; 1 Pet 1:23,25). Her children are regularly called the children of God, but at times they are also called Christ's children (Is 53:10; cf Is 8:17,18 & Hebrews 2;13,14). Since He is the new man from heaven (1 Cor 15:45-49) He begets children who are in His image through sanctification by the Spirit (Rom 8:29). They are spiritually renewed, a new creation (2 Cor 3:18; 5:17), but not yet bodily. When that happens our redemption will be complete (Rom 8:23; Phlp 3:21; 1 Jh 3:2).

3) The New Mankind is eternally in the image of God.

The eternal consequences of this redemption in Christ is that God will have a humanity inextricably tied to Him through God the Son, who is at the same time Jesus Christ, the Lord of all mankind and one of us. The Church will be His bride and we, her children, will forever be in the image and likeness of our Holy, Triune God. God's creation plan will be forever complete. Mankind will reflect its Creator perfectly and, as God's children, rule the new world forever in His image. This is the glorious future towards which we are moving, forever one with our Lord and forever reflecting the glory of our God. Praised be the Lord.

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