Turn in your Bible to Genesis 1:24-31. We've already said that Genesis lays the groundwork, not only for the rest of the Old Testament, but for all of the Scriptures. We've also commented that, when thinking about Genesis one and the claims of modern science, the important thing to remember is that it's safe to take Genesis 1 at face value. This week I want to concentrate on one thing: what does it mean to be made in the image of God? I want to look at Genesis 1 along with several other passages in order that we might have a more definite and biblically-rounded understanding of God's image. Let me suggest five things that it means to be made in the image of God.



I. Man is distinct from animals

First, it is clear in Genesis 1:24-25 that to be made in the image of God is to be distinct from the animal creation. Five times we are told that the beasts of the earth are made after their kind. But in Genesis 1:26-27, we are told that man was made in God’s own image. Moses is trying to tell you that man is unique. It's not just that he's smarter than animals or that he grew legs and can outrun fish. He's not just more highly developed; he is of a different kind. Today it is not uncommon for human anthropologists to refer to man as the human animal. From Moses’ perspective that is a contradiction in terms. We are more than animal; we are human. That's precisely what Moses wants us to see in Genesis 1.



II. Man is made to rule

The second thing that we see about the image of God is that we are endowed with the capacity and responsibility of dominion and rule. Look at verse 26: "Then God said ‘Let us make man in Our image according to Our likeness, and let them rule.’" Notice how in such close proximity to this assertion that we're made in His image and likeness, God says, “Let them rule.” That, of course, implies that main is able to think and act morally. That aspect of God's image is stressed in the divine command that is given to Adam in Genesis 1:28. There God blesses man says to him, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it, and rule.” In that passage again, man's capacity and responsibility to rule is stressed. That declaration, by the way, is repeated in Genesis 9:2-3 where this passage is reiterated in the time of Noah, and that is precisely what is celebrated in Psalm 8.

And let me just say very briefly that our rule over creation is not for the purpose of exploitation. A lot of times you hear anti-Christian environmentalists say Christianity is responsible for all the pollution in the history of the world because we teach that man can use the earth however he wants to. That's not true. God has given man responsibility to rule over the earth but in accountability to Himself. Therefore, the earth is not there simply for us to use as we wish, but we are to utilize the earth and rule it in such a way as to bring pleasure to the one who owns it.



III. We share certain of God’s attributes ]

Thirdly, Genesis teaches us that being in the image of God means that we bear certain of God's attributes. You see an example of this in Genesis 5:1-3. That passage correlates the language of our being created in the likeness of God and the language of Seth, Adam's son, being created in Adam’s likeness. It is made clear by this analogy that, as Seth was in the likeness and image of Adam, so we are in the likeness and image of God. The attributes are not spelled out there in so many words, but there are indications, especially in Genesis 1 and 2, what it means to be bearing certain of God's attributes. Let me just mention three.



It is apparent from Genesis 1 that as God is rational, so we are rational. This is implicit of God in Genesis 1:1-25 and of Adam in his naming of the animals in Genesis 2:19-20. This is also confirmed in Colossians 3:9-10, where the Apostle Paul indicates that that aspect of the image is restored in redemption. We also learn in this passage that, as God is personal, so also man is personal. Verse 27 says, "In the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." As the triune God is eternally in personal fellowship, so also man is created as a personal being, and the very differentiation of the sexes is part of the image of God. That has massive implications for all sorts of things, everywhere from role relationships to homosexuality. We also learn in this passage that, as God is moral, so also is man. In Genesis 1:31, it's clear that He is acting in righteousness in all that He does. Then man is given things to do and not to do, and therefore he is to act in righteousness. Paul says in Ephesians 4:24 that, as God recreates us in Christ, He restores that original righteousness with which we were created. Now, so often people will say something like, "I'm sinful; after all, I'm just human." Hidden in that phrase is the assumption that it is of the essence of humanity to be sinful. That is wrong. The more we sin, the less human we are. Sin dehumanizes us and progressively eradicates the image of God in us; grace always grows that image in us.



IV. Man’s life is sacred because of the image of God[

Fourthly, in this passage we see that man's life is sacred because of the image of God. Look at Genesis 9:5-6 and notice the argument there. In that passage we are told that it is precisely because man is created in God's image that capital punishment is required for capital crimes. The argument of the Lord to Noah is not capital punishment as a deterrent to crime. His argument is that capital punishment is necessary for the upholding of God's standard of the value of life. And I might also say that this passage shows that the image of God was not completely lost at the fall. God is still speaking to Noah after the fall0 about having to respect human life because of the image of God. Therefore, we see in this command the only adequate basis for the establishment of basic human rights and mutual respect.



Man has an immortal spirit

Finally, the image of God means that we are endowed with an immortal, spiritual aspect to our being. Look briefly at Genesis 2:7. There we are told that we have a spiritual aspect to our being. Adam is endowed with a soul, so he has an aspect to his being which is personal and spiritual and immortal. It will go on forever, and that is part of the image of God. That is also why it is so important for us to preach the gospel. If we deny God in this life, that immortal, self-conscious aspect to our being does not cease to exist; it must go on eternally apart from God, eternally becoming less human but never being extinguished. That is a fate that we would wish upon no one, and only the gospel can save us.