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.”
The entire six days of the re-creation week led to the momentous pinnacle of God’s physical creation—the creation of humankind! The God (Elohim) family—the Father and the Word—were both intricately involved in the design and structure of humankind. Verses 26 and 27 show us that God did not completely start from scratch when He designed the shape and form of the first human being. In fact, He had a blueprint: Himself!
We read that God formed and designed man “in His own image; in the image of God He created him” (verse 27). What does that mean? The Hebrew word translated “image” is tselem, which essentially means a representation, image or outline. This is one of two major ways that human beings are distinct from the animal kingdom. Humans are a physical representation of the form of God. The Bible reveals that looking at the basic form of our human bodies gives us a general idea of the form of God—because we were made like Him.
Numerous scriptures throughout the Bible describe God’s form. God has arms (Isaiah 40:10), hands (Psalm 110:1), fingers (Exodus 31:18), feet (Exodus 24:10), back (Exodus 33:23), ears (Psalm 88:2) and a face (Exodus 33:11).
But there is much more to being made in God’s image than just our general form. Though we are designed according to the general pattern of God, we are not made of the same substance. The Bible tells us, “God is Spirit” (John 4:24). Human beings can’t fully comprehend the nature of “spirit,” because we are made of flesh (matter). Humans were formed by God out of “the dust of the ground” (Genesis 2:7).
But God’s plan for humanity is more than a mere fleshly existence that ends in death. God’s purpose for humanity is to complete His creation of beings in His image.
First, He begins that process by the creation of human beings who are formed in His general image. He gives human beings a “spirit in man” (1 Corinthians 2:11) that allows us to have some of His mental attributes—the ability to think, create, plan, form families, etc. What is missing is His perfect spiritual character (1 John 4:8).
Second, He works on developing His spiritual character in human minds and hearts. God’s purpose for human beings in this life is to form His holy, righteous and perfect character in us (Matthew 5:48; Ephesians 4:13). This is done through the giving of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:10) to those who repent and are baptized. The Holy Spirit begets a Christian as a child of God (Romans 8:16).
After this process begins at baptism, a Christian is to continually grow toward the perfect character of God through a lifetime of overcoming sin and putting on God’s righteousness (Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10-12).
Third, the process of making human beings in His full image will be complete when they are born into His family at the return of Jesus Christ. Then we will be given the same composition of God—we will be transformed into spirit (1 Corinthians 15:44, 46-48).
At that time God will share His power and attributes with us: We will “bear the [full] image of the heavenly Man” (1 Corinthians 15:49); we will be given “immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:54); we will be “like Him” and “see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2); we will be considered “divine” (2 Peter 1:4); and we will be “conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).
This blog post has just scratched the surface of the deep meaning embedded in the statement that humankind is created “in the image of God.” To learn more about God’s purpose for your life, read “God’s Plan.”
For a study of what the Bible teaches about our purpose and destiny, download our free booklet God’s Purpose for You: Discovering Why You Were Born.