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Doctrine of Man: Made in the Image of God

May 2, 2021 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Scripture: Genesis 1

Scripture: Genesis 1:26-31


Today we are going to continue our discussion on the Doctrine of Man –

Specifically looking at man being made in the Image of God.

I hope last week was profitable for you –

I trust you were able to make use of our reflections last week on creation.

That you spent the week contemplating the myriad and glorious aspect of creation.

Of all the different uses, structure, characteristics qualities, powers, etc…”

That you might be ready, with a greater appreciation, of being made in the image of God.

“In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”

Do you remember the Days of Creation?

  • Day 1 –created Light, separated it from darkness
  • Day 2 – heavens
  • Day 3 – divided the land and seas; vegetation (grass, herbs, trees)
  • Day 4 – stars, moon, sun
  • Day 5 – sea creatures, and birds
  • Day 6 – land creatures and finally….man


As we concluded last week, we haven’t yet scratched the surface…

God created man and placed him in the garden…to till and to care for it…

and God gave man:

  • Everything he needed for food and drink.
  • Everything he needed for shelter.
  • Everything he needed for warmth.
  • Everything he needed to not float off into space.
  • Everything he needed to live a full life with all the natural laws in place.

Scriptural Support for Man as the image of God

Westminster Confession of Faith: Chapter 4, Article 2

Therefore, it is very easy to see how man can be said to be the crown of God’s handiwork.

Furthermore, the Bible represents this and tells us man’s special glory is that he was created in the image of God, according to His likeness.

Man as the crown of God’s handiwork.

Let's read some Scripture passages to help set this foundation...

  • Genesis 1:26 & Genesis 1:27 – image, likeness
  • Genesis 5:1 & Genesis 9:6 – likeness, image
  • 1 Corinthians 11:7 – image and glory
  • Colossians 3:10 - image
  • James 3:9. – similitude

Man as the image of God in the history of the church

Throughout history, there were attempts to distinguish b/t “image” and “likeness.”

Some held the opinion that “image” referred to the body,

and that “likeness” referred to the soul.

Church Fathers

Gregory of Nysa

  • Image had something to do with human intelligence.

Justin Martyr

  • Identified the image with the bodily (physical) form of man.


  • took “image” to be “the knowledge of truth”, or the intellect.
  • took “likeness” to refer to the soul.

Man as the image of God in the history of the church

Dispensational Theology

Commonly, believe man is created in the image of God as body, soul, and spirit. (Do you recognize the trichotomy?)

Man is compared to God in a tri-partite manner; similar to the Trinity.

This might be attractive and pious sounding, but it is not biblical.


God is a Spirit and He does not have body parts. (John 4:24 -- anthropomorphisms)

  • Man is not created in the image of God bodily because God Himself has no body.

While Jesus of Nazareth, the God-man, has a true body….

  • Jesus of Nazareth, the divine Second Person of the Godhead, is not physical but spiritual. (This is a similar argument to justify the nativity scene.)

Thomas Aquinas

  • Likeness and image were not distinct.
  • Adam was created first as a rational being….
  • and later given the extra gift of original righteousness.

The Roman Catholic Church extends this idea (the general view)

God endowed man with certain natural gifts at creation. (natural image)

  1. The spirituality of the soul.
  2. The freedom of the will.
  3. The immortality of the body.

God also endowed man with original righteousness to help him combat his natural appetites and desire and to give victory to his will to resist.

The Lutherans

  • Their confession tends to make the image of God a moral likeness only.
  • Some teach man has completely lost this image through sin/ the fall.
  • Some teach the effects of sin have left very little difference between man and the animal.
  • It is easy to see why the Lutherans might prefer traducianism…it is necessary to preserve their doctrine.

So, you can see the church has struggled to develop this doctrine of man being made in the Image of God.

Man as the image of God: The Need to Understand

One may be tempted to dismiss this as something that really isn’t necessary…

After all, I’ve gone this far in my “Christian walk” without understanding it and I’m doing just fine…why should it matter now?

Let’s quickly turn to the Bible to see if we are really not required to study the Word of God and everything it contains within it…

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 2 Timothy 2:15

All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Timothy 3:16–17

Therefore, it is essential to study so that we might approach an understanding of the nature of the image of God.

  • It affects man in his relationship to God.
  • It affects man in his relationship to the creation of which he exists.
  • It affects man in his relationship to redemption through Jesus Christ.

Man as the image of God: Scriptural Perspective

It is essential to have a proper perspective of the image of God.

Westminster Confession of Faith.

  • Man is a rational and an immortal being.
  • Man is endued with knowledge righteousness and true holiness.

The prevailing understanding in Reformed Theology of the image of God:

  • In the soul or spirit of man, that is, in the qualities of simplicity, spirituality, invisibility, and immortality.
  • In the psychical powers or faculties of man as a rational and moral being, namely, the intellect and the will with their functions.
  • In the intellectual and moral integrity of man’s nature, revealing itself in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10.
  • In the body, not as a material substance, but as the fit organ of the soul, sharing its immortality, and as the instrument through which man can exercise dominion over the lower creation.
  • In man’s dominion over the earth.

Dr. Clark -> "The man of rational animals was not created in His image but God breathed His spirit into the earthly form and Adam became a type of soul-superior to the animals. To be precise men should not speak of the image of God in man. Man is not something in which somewhere God's image can be found along with other things. Man is the image. This of course does not refer to man's body. The body is an instrument or tool man uses. He himself is God's breath, the Spirit God breathed into the clay, the mind thinking ego. Therefore, man is rational in the likeness of God's rationality. His mind is structured …"

Man is a rational being, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.

  • Man in the image of God thinks rationally.
  • Man is created to be like God -- a thinking being.
    • But man is limited in his ability.
    • Man cannot exhaust the propositions of knowledge as God can.
    • Man can't bring all the propositions into a rational coherent order.
    • Man can commune with God in a way the rest of creation cannot commune with God (especially the animal kingdom)

The image of God distinguishes him from the animals

Man is not a higher form of animal --- Psychology/ Philosophy teaches otherwise.

(We are beginning to be able to recognize some of the damaging effects of modern psychology upon our understanding of Scripture)

  • F. Skinner
    • Man is simply a higher form of animal life.
    • All animals can probably ascend to some higher form.

Scripture teaches that man is not simply a higher form of animal.

  • Man is created distinct from the animal kingdom.
    • Man is not an animal.
  • Man has the unique position of being called a creature created in the image of God.
    • Man is created in the image of God.

Animals are not created in the image of God.

  • Animals do not think.
  • Animals cannot think.

Animals only operate through instinct. (we may confuse this with thinking)

Animals were created by God with the instinct to be able to live w/i the world.

But man is a thinking, rational being.

Dr. Clark -> “The image must be reason because God is truth. And fellowship with him, a most important purpose in creation, requires thinking and understanding. Without reason, man will doubtless glorify God as the stars stones, and animals, but he could not enjoy Him forever. And without reason, there can be no more reality or righteousness for these too require thought.”

But you see, Man is a rational being.

He must be a rational being…

  • If he is going to glorify God
  • If he is going to fellowship with God
  • If he is going to do that in a way that is unique from the rest of creation.

Man is a thinking being.

And he must be a thinking being if he is going to have these ideas…

The idea of maintaining morality.

The idea of maintaining righteousness.

The idea of how to glorify God.

The idea of how to honor Him

The idea of how to serve Him.

The dies of how to obey him.


That is all for today.

We’ve looked at several passages describing man being created in the image of God, in His likeness.

We’ve looked at a very brief survey of the history of the church trying to understand what exactly, is meant by the “image of God”

and we’ve refuted some of those along the way.

We’ve discussed that man is not like the animals or the rest of creation.

Man is able to commune with God in a way no other part of creation can.

Finally, we’ve looked at the WCF teaches us about this doctrine:

  • Man is a rational and an immortal being.
  • Man is endued with knowledge righteousness and true holiness.


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