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What does “humans are made on God’s image” mean?

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).

His image and likeness

Man was created to bear God’s image. That image was most evident in terms of his spiritual nature. Man was created with the capability to think, given free will, a self-conscious character and the ability to dominate the rest of creation. These are godlike qualities, superior to any other creature.

God is love

God’s nature is summed up in one word – God is love” (1 John 4:8). The name of the Lord stands for His character. We also read the following about God’s image and nature: “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth,  keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin by no means clearing the guilty” (Exodus 34:6,7). Thus, God’s nature consists of three fundamental qualities—mercy, justice, and truth. The greatest emphasis is placed upon mercy because God’s relationship to us is based upon it.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:7–12). 

Reflecting His image through Christ

At the beginning, man’s nature reflected the divine holiness of his Maker until sin shattered the divine likeness (Genesis 3). It is only through Christ, the brightness of the glory of God and the “express image of his person” (Hebrews 1:3), that our nature is transformed into the image of God again.

When a person accepts the Lord Jesus Christ by faith into His heart, he becomes a new creature. Then, the Holy Spirit transforms him to reflect God’s image in his character. The apostle Paul describes it that way: “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Colossians 3:10 also Ephesians 4:24).

As Christ is the express image of His Father, so the Christian is to grow “unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). For both the individual and the church, likeness to Christ is the goal to be reached (Romans 8:29).

This amazing change is the good news of the gospel, the truths of forgiveness, rebirth, sanctification, and final glorification. The transformation is achieved by the union of the human with the divine. As the Son of God took upon Himself our human nature, so believers may submit to God to be filled with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), and the Son of God will dwell in them (John 14:23).

Thus, the believer becomes a partaker of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Then, by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13, 14), and and the pure example of Christ (John 15:12; Philippians 2:5), he is guided to a new holy life. By prayer and the study of God’s Word, the believer’s character is daily elevated to be more like that of the Redeemer (Romans 5:3, 4; 1 Peter 2:21–24), until the day of the eventual glorification, when the resemblance will be made complete (1 John 3:2).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

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