Designed to be Like Him
The 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).
The first chapter of Genesis tells of all of God’s creative work. He spoke and light came into being. He commanded and the oceans and the sky were formed. He uttered the words and the world was filled with life. Plants and animals alike swarmed over the earth at His word. Each day saw a new wonder and each one surpassed the one that had come before.
At the summit of this creative activity came the creation of man. For the first time, the words of God became personal. Instead of the dispassionate statement of command, there is a personal consideration reflected in the words, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” This sort of language was not used in the creation of the birds or the fish or the land animals. This description was unique. Man was to be different than the rest of creation. He alone was to be made in the image and likeness of God.
In what way was man created in the image and likeness of God? Some have suggested that it is in the area of free will. Others have tried to see in this statement a tri-unity within man - that he is body, soul and spirit (as a reflection of the Trinitarian God). Still others point to man’s desire to create or his potential for both good and for evil.
There may be a measure of truth in each of these, but there is another aspect that is suggested to us by the very context of the book of Genesis. It is the area of ruler ship. This is seen in the very next verse.
And God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and RULE over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth." (Genesis 1:28).
As God was sovereign over all that He had created, so now man was placed into a position of relative sovereignty over all that was upon the earth. This rulership is an extension of God’s rulership over the earth rather then a separate independent rulership.
God rules over...
Man who rules...
The rest of the world
What does this mean for us that mankind is in a position of rulership over the reset of the world? For one thing, it means that those who believe in the Lord have a reason and a basis for an ecological mindset. We have a reason to be proactive regarding ecology because the God whom we worship has made us stewards of His world.
This rulership is described in the Bible in a context of multiplication. God says, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it.” Mankind was to fill the earth with that which existed in the image of God. The result would be that when you looked at the earth, it would be a place that would be full of the image of God.
You know the rest of the story. Instead of filling the world with the image and likeness of God, mankind fell into sin and soon the world was filled with the violence and sin.
Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. 12 And God looked on the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth..(Genesis 6:11-12).
A lot of years have passed since that time and a lot of different events have taken place, but the Lord has never departed from that initial determination to fill the earth with that which bears His own image and His own likeness. The Bible teaches that there is coming a day when the earth is to be filled with the glory of the Lord
So the LORD said, "I have pardoned them according to your word; 21 but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD. (Numbers 14:20-21).
This passage is given in the
Daniel 2 sets forth this same truth in a vision of the rise and fall of kingdoms. At the climactic close of that vision of a great image, a stone cut without hands rolls up and brings the entire thing crashing down.
Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver and the gold were crushed all at the same time, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away so that not a trace of them was found. But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. (Daniel 2:35).
Daniel goes on to explain exactly what each of these images represent. They picture the coming of a kingdom that is established by God.
And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which will never be destroyed, and that kingdom will not be left for another people; it will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, but it will itself endure forever. (Daniel 2:44).
Man builds his own image that is an image of idolatry and self-worship. But God brings it crashing down via His kingdom.
The command that God gave in Genesis 1 will one day be completed. The earth will be filled with those who have been made in the image and likeness of God. How is this to take place? Jesus explained when He gave a commission to His disciples.
And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).
These were the last words of Jesus that are recorded in Matthew’s account. They reflect a parting command. This is known as the “Great Commission” because it was the final mission given by Jesus to His disciples. As we read the words of this commission, several factors come to light.
• This is spoken in the context of a change in world authority and rulership: "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (28:18). The words of Jesus reflect a cosmic context. They deal with “heaven and earth.” This means we are to join the concept here with that of rulership in Genesis 1:28.
• We have a new responsibility that has been delegated to us. It is to go forth and to make disciples. A disciple is one who learns; a student. But it is more than someone who sits in a classroom. The idea of a disciple is one who follows his master and who does the same thing his master does so that he can become like his master. To put this in the language of Genesis 1, we could say that a disciples is one who strives to take on the image and likeness of his master.
• This is the new way of filling the earth. We are to fill the earth with disciples of Jesus. We are to fill the earth with those who are fashioned in the image and likeness of the Lord.
• Instead of only a physical reproduction, we are also to reproduce spiritually. This means the work of multiplication is not limited to those who are married with children. There is a spiritual dimension to our multiplication.
The product of such discipleship are people who are made in the image of God. The New Testament describes this dynamic in a way that calls to mind a parallel with the Old Testament mandate.
Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him 11 -- a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:9-11).
This new image is the basis for our fellowship with one another. It is the basis of telling the truth and not lying to one another. It is also the basis for striking down the class and racial and social distinctions.
Are you different than you used to be? Have you entered into the process of putting on a new identity and a new self that is in accordance with the person and work of Jesus Christ? Have some of those old practices begun to fall away as they are edged out by your new family resemblance in Christ?
You can come to Christ today, trusting in Him and in the work He accomplished on the cross when He died in your place. He calls you to faith. He calls you to trust and to rely upon Him. He calls you to turn from that old manner of life and to enter and embrace the new life that is patterned after His image and likeness.