THE IMAGE OF GOD - PART 1
"Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth."
And 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
"And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."" Genesis 3:4, 5
God's Eternal Purpose
If we want to understand God's original purpose for man, then we must go back to the very beginning when man was created. Why was man created? That's the question we need to ask ourselves. What was the motivating factor in God's decision to create man? Why am I here? Why was I created? What is my purpose here? Are these not some of the greatest, most pressing questions that we have all faced? But to understand the answer to these questions we must go back to the beginning when God actually created man to see what He had in mind. The account in Genesis gives us several 'clues' or 'hints' as to His purpose for creating us. But I honestly believe that we have completely overlooked some of those hints, and have thus missed the main point.
"Let Us make man in Our image . . ."
Here we see God dong something that He rarely does in the scriptures. We see Him speaking in plural pronouns. He says Us and Our instead of Me and My. Who is this Us He is talking about? Could there have been an angel standing there that He was talking to when He said 'Us'? That's virtually impossible. How could He have turned to an angel and said, "Let Us make man in Our image"? Is an angel God? Does an angel have the power to create? Of course not! He could not have been speaking to an angel nor anyone else except God Himself! In other words, He must have been speaking to Himself. There can be no other explanation.
I think that the only way we can imagine this with our finite minds is in this way. God took counsel within Himself. The Godhead (Father, Son, and Spirit) had a meeting and discussed this matter of the creation of man. It was decided that this creature called 'man' would be created to be like God. He would in some way reflect or represent the nature of God Himself. In other words, he would be made in His image.
But in what way would man be His image? In what way would man be like God? To find the answer to this all important question we must look at a few more clues. Sometimes, in order to answer a question, we must ask another question.
"For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3:5b
To Be Like God
Now we still don't know in what way man was to represent God or be His image. But we do know that man was created to be like God. He was created in His image, or His likeness. Now there is a question here that is just begging to be answered, a question that I have never heard anyone ask. The serpent came to Eve and tempted her with something. He threw out some bait, or you could say that he dangled a carrot in front of her. The bait was that she could be like God.
But wait a minute. Wasn't she already 'like God'? After all, God created man in His image, in His likeness. How could this be a viable proposal to Eve if the bait was something she already had? If she was already like God then why would the devil use this angle to tempt her? It would have been totally powerless. Now the devil is many things but he is not stupid. He would never have tempted her with something that she already had. The power of his proposal was that if you eat this fruit, you can have something that you presently do not, you can be like God.
So what does this mean? How can Eve be created to be like God and yet not be like God? For the answer, we will need to backtrack a little and take another look at Genesis 1:26, 27.
"Let Us make man in Our image . . ."
The First Adam
We need to ask the question again; in what way was man created to be like God? This could not have meant the physical. God is a Spirit and doesn't have a physical form, so this "image," if it was going to be physical, could not look like Him. The image could be like Him, however, in another way. We know that God gave man a spirit that came from His Spirit. So in that way, man is like God because he has a spirit like God does. However, there is much more that is implied in these verses. Let's take a deeper look at them.
There are two things that we need to understand here and they are tied together.
First of all, God speaks in plural terms when He is creating man. He speaks of Himself in the plural when He is creating His image. Could it be that His image would have something to do with His triune nature? Could it be that God also wanted man to be plural yet one like He is? It's no coincidence that God speaks here in plural which is something He rarely does in all of scripture. Because we know and have the background of the rest of scripture behind us, we can come to these verses and see that there is definitely much meaning behind this plural language.
Not only that, but when it says "Let Us make man . . ." it is obvious that God is not talking about an individual man here. In this context, the word man means mankind or the whole race of men.
Now, with these thoughts in mind, let's take a look at the next verse.
"And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him, male and female He created them." Genesis 1:27
Now in this verse, Moses is giving us the narrative, so God is not speaking and there is no plural language; or is there? This is absolutely fascinating because even here in the narration, the plural is coming through! The Hebrew word of 'God' in this verse is "Elohiym," which is plural! Literally translated, this word is 'gods.' Do you remember the way that the Jews open up their prayers? "The Lord our God is one." They are actually saying that 'Elohiym' is one; though He be plural, yet He is one.
But that's not all! This (plural yet singular) God is creating an image. "He created him, male and female He created them." Now did God create a 'him' or a 'them'? If you consider everything that I have pointed out up to now, then the answer is obvious. He created man, a corporate entity, a humanity, a race that included many individuals within. We can only draw one conclusion from this; man was created to be a plural yet singular entity, just like God! This has tremendously far-reaching implications for our understanding of God's purpose in creating an image of Himself. His purpose has always been that man would be a reflection, or a visible representation of His "plural yet one" nature. Within the living God there are three Persons; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but these three are One. There is only one God. He wanted man to show this "oneness" by being and living as an entity who had many individuals, yet they were one man. Can you see this? I pray that God will reveal it to you.
Now we can answer our question about the serpent's proposal to Eve. You will recall that his bait was the fact that Eve could be like God. But wasn't Eve already like God? The answer is a resounding "NO!" Eve was not created in God's image (likeness), man (kind) was! The serpent approached Eve as a separated individual, not as a corporate man. Adam was not even included in this decision. This proposal was made by an individual to an individual and that's why it was so tempting. Eve was enticed by the thought that she, as a separate individual, could be like God without needing Adam at all! This shows us that the enemy struck at the very heart of God's purpose; to have an image.
In the next article, we will delve deeper into God's image and the fulfillment of His purpose in Christ.