The Image Of God Genesis 1:26-27

Genesis 1:26-27

The great work of creation now approaches its close -
“Now heaven in all her glory shone, and rolled
Her motions, as the great first Mover’s hand
First wheeled their course: earth in her rich attire
Consummate lovely smiled; air, water, earth,
By fowl, fish, beast, was flown, was swum, was walked
Frequent; and of the sixth day yet remained:
There wanted yet the master-work, the end
Of all yet done.” - Milton.

In approaching to the creation of man, the sacred narrative assumes a more solemn air, and more dignified style - “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over all the earth.” And then it is added - “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him.”

It is impossible to read this account of the origin of our first parents, and not to acknowledge that it conveys an intimation of some eminent distinction, which has been exclusively conferred upon the human race. “We are indeed,” says a fine writer on this subject, Note: Rev. William Harness. Sermons on the Image of God in Man. 1841.] “the beings of a day; incapable of counting on a single hour as our own; uncertain whether we shall be permitted to carry our slightest purpose into execution; exposed to a thousand perils; and liable to be diverted from our holiest and most steadfast resolution by the sudden gust of passion, or the unexpected temptation; but still, though weak and frail, we are invested with the highest dignity which can be bestowed upon any creature, for there is some portion of our nature which bears the impress of the image of the Creator.” 

It is said that he still bears this image; for, although some have urged, that whatever was intended by it, must have been lost at the Fall, we agree with this writer in thinking that there is Scripture evidence to the contrary. The Almighty, addressing Noah after the Deluge, and uttering this solemn denunciation against murder, says - “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God made he man.” Note: Genesis 10:6.] The reason here urged for respecting the life of man, could have been of no conceivable force, had the image of God been wholly or irrecoverably forfeited by Adam’s transgression. In what then did this image, by which man is likened to his Maker, consist?

The old, and still too common, idea, that it consists in the lineaments and erect figure of man, although taken up by the poets and orators, and hence invested with images and ideas by which its real offensiveness is hidden, is painfully revolting to one who is enabled to realize a distinct conception of the great fact, that “God is a Spirit.”

Does this image then lie in the “dominion,” which is given to man over the inferior creatures? Some think that it does, and have written largely on that view; but if we examine with care the text on which that notion is founded, Note: Genesis 1:26.] we shall see that the dominion is a power which belongs to man because he bears the image of God, and does not in itself constitute that image.

Does it, then, lie in that immortality which is denied to all lower creatures, and which indeed invests man with a dignity which might certainly, under particular points of view, be regarded as the image of God? Yet it would be still an incomplete image. The immortality of God is an eternity of past and future - ours of the future only. But above all, consider that Satan and his angels are also inheritors of an immortal being; and it will not, surely, be urged, that the language in which the Scripture describes the nature of Adam, can be applicable to them, as must be the case if mere immortality constituted the image of God. 

More will tell us that it lies in man’s intellect - his powers of reason, of thought, of invention, by which he is made only a little lower than the angels. Proud sinners that we are, to be thus ever prating about our intellect, the efforts of our genius, the wonders of our invention, the grasp of our thoughts! We forget that the devil and his angels have more of all this than we possess, and that so far from giving them the image of God, it probably only accelerated their departure from him. Reason is a fine thing; but let us not think too much of it. God does not. We know of a surety - we know on the authority of his Word - that all the proud and high things of man’s intellect, are of infinitely less value in his sight than the humblest aspiration after mercy and truth - than the heart-uttered groan of a contrite spirit. Besides, there is no real likeness. God does not reason. God does not labor in thought. All truth, all knowledge, is intuitive to Him, is part of his own essence. Where, then, is the likeness in this?

Since, therefore, the image of God is not to be sought in the perfection of man’s body, nor of his mind as the seat of the intellect, this holy endowment can only be found in his soul, the seat of his moral faculties. It must be a living energy in the human breast, reflecting the likeness of the God who made its. Surely, therefore, it is evinced in the capacity of resembling Him in moral attributes; of being holy as He is holy; of loving him with something of that love wherewith He first loved us. This is plainly intimated in the words of the Apostle, where he exhorts us to “put off the old man with his deeds, and to put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him.” Note: Col 3:10.] So also, when he exhorts the Ephesians to “put on the new man, which, after God, is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Note: Eph 4:24.] Nothing can be clearer than these two passages taken together; which both, indeed, have a most distinct reference to the very text of Genesis by which this inquiry has been excited. 

It is therefore in the capacity for, or in the presence of, true “knowledge,” of “righteousness,” of “holiness,” that the image of God is found; and, seeing that all these faculties have their root in love - love to God, a feeling of God’s love to us, the love of God in the soul - it is in love that the image of God is perfected; and he is most like God, sets forth most of God’s image, who loveth most. There can be no doubt in this. To bear the image of God, is to be like Him in that attribute in which chiefly He is presented to our view, and is related to us; and that is love. The book of God’s hand in the natural world, and the book of his Spirit in the Scriptures, concur in setting forth his love in creation and In providence; while the latter discloses to us the special wonders of his love in redemption. “Love is of God,” says the Beloved Disciple - “and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God towards us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him ... Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” Note: 1Jn 4:7-11.]

If, then, “God is love,” to love Him, and love mankind - because they bear his image in the capacity for the same love of Him - is to be like God, is to bear that image of Him in which Adam was created. Not faintly did our Lord himself indicate this view, when he told the hopeful Scribe, that the essence of all the law and the prophets was comprised in the two great commandments - “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind;” and in this other, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” Note: Mat 22:37-39.] Let us therefore desire to bear more and more of God’s image in love. Few men loved more than David; and it was in this, that he was the man “after God’s own heart” - that is, after God’s image. Yet he was continually aspiring to higher degrees of conformity to the Divine image. “I shall be satisfied,” he says, “when I awake with thy likeness.” Note: Psa 17:15.] Let this also be our desire and prayer. May we also be satisfied with nothing less.