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So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:27).
We Are Not Animals
Text: Genesis 1:26-31
A few years ago I read a book by Peter Singer called Rethinking Life and Death. In the book, Singer argues that traditional (Judeo-Christian) views about life and death are outdated and should be replaced by a new ethical approach. For example, he says that we shouldn’t always treat human life as more precious than nonhuman life. To Singer, this is discriminating on the basis of species (i.e., speciesism). So, according to this ethical view, if a burning building contains a terminally ill human and a healthy ape, it might be better to rescue the ape first.
But, according to the Bible, there is a big difference between humans and animals.
- Humans were made “in [God’s] image, after [God’s] likeness” (v. 26). The animals were not made in God’s image.
- Humans were made to have “dominion…over all the earth” (v. 26; cf. Ps. 8:5-8). The animals have many physical advantages over humans (e.g., the eagle can fly; the lion is stronger; the cheetah is faster). But, unlike the animals, humans have been able to “subdue” (v. 28) the earth (i.e., use the earth’s resources for their benefit). Now we can fly higher than the eagle (in an airplane). Now we are stronger than the lion (with the use of weapons). Now we are faster than the cheetah (on a motorcycle).
- Humans were made to be relational creatures. God spoke to Adam and Eve (“And God said to them,” v. 28). He never spoke to the animals.
- Humans were made to be moral creatures. God prohibited them from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:16). God never gave commands to the animals. The less we follow God’s will, the more we act like animals (e.g., a serial killer could be described as an “animal”).
Made to Be Like God
Verse 27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” What does it mean to be made in God’s image? “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Gen. 5:1-3). (One of the first questions people ask about a baby is “Who does he look like—his father or his mother?”)
To be made in God’s image means that we were made to be like God.
Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit by claiming, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5). Ironically, Eve was already like God because she had been made in God’s image. When she and Adam disobeyed God, they became less like him and more like Satan (i.e., sinful).
There are several ways in which humans bear God’s likeness (e.g., mentally, creatively, relationally, morally). The Bible urges us to copy God’s moral attributes. “Be imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1). “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).
If you want to know what it looks like when a person perfectly reflects God’s image, look at Jesus. “[Christ] is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). “He is…the exact imprint of [God’s] nature” (Heb. 1:3). “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Restoring God's Image in Us
The gospel can be seen as the story of God restoring his image in us.
1. Because of sin, there was a distortion of God’s image.
Sin didn’t totally destroy God’s image in us: “People…are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9). (We are like broken mirrors that need to be put back together.)
2. Presently, redemption in Christ provides a progressive recovery of God’s image.
“[You] have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10). “And we all…beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).
3. When Christ returns there will be a complete restoration of God’s image.
“For those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). “Just as we have born the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49; cf. 1 John 3:2).
We Matter to God!
To be made in God’s image indicates that God values us more than anything else in his creation. God said to Noah, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen. 9:6).
In creation and redemption, we see that we matter to God. If God made us in his image and if he loves us, doesn’t it make sense that life will be most fulfilling when we are reflecting God’s image?