Man: Created ‘As’ the Image of God?

There has been much ink spilled over the meaning of Genesis 1:26-28: “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 the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.’ So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (KJV) So, this is not an attempt to rehash the ideas that have already been put forth as to what it means to be created in the image and likeness of God. Instead, I want to suggest a slight adjustment in our thinking.

When I was a boy, I grew up in a time when automobile and other small engines still had carburetors. (For those of you too young to know what a carburetor is, it basically served the same function as fuel injectors do today, but it was less efficient and more finicky!) My dad worked as a greens-keeper at a golf course and during his spare time, he would often work, doing minor repairs to automobile and lawn mower engines. I remember quite vividly that often my father would be working on an engine and after he thought it was repaired, he would attempt to crank it. Many times, after incessantly pulling the rope on a lawn-mower engine or turning the key in the ignition of an automobile, the engine would stubbornly refuse to start. It was at that point, my dad would do something, that would make the difference between successfully starting the engine or flooding (too much gas in the carburetor) the engine. He would take a screw-driver and slightly turn the screw of the value that controlled the flow of gas into the carburetor. After my dad did that, nine times out of ten, the engine would start! That is what I suggest we do in our thinking concerning man being created in the image and likeness of God; not a major shift in our thinking, just a slight turn of the carburetor screw!

Are you ready? Here it is: Instead to thinking of man as being created ‘in’ the image of God, what if the meaning the Genesis author really sought to convey was that man was created ‘as’ the image of God? The preposition ‘in’ allows for such an interpretation. If I said: “I work in a bank.” You would hear the word ‘in’ but you would understand I work ‘as’ a banker, a teller, a loan officer, or whatever capacity at a bank. Using that same line of logic, when you look at what follows in the Genesis text, it is obvious that God’s intent was for man to function as God’s representative on the earth! What I am suggesting is that, it could be; the image of God is not a capacity that man has, but rather it is the essence of what man is! Maybe the author’s intent was not so much to convey that God created man ‘in’ God’s image, but rather that God created man ‘as’ God’s image!

Now, this gets all the more interesting when we consider the Greek word the Septuagint (The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible: OT) uses in that verse to denote the idea of image. It is the word from which we get the English word; ‘icon.’ When I looked it up in the various Greek dictionaries and lexicons, a couple of definitions jumped up and grabbed my attention. This is what is found in the Friberg Analytical Greek Lexicon: “(1) as an artistic representation, such as on a coin or statue image, likeness; (2) as an embodiment or living manifestation of God form, appearance; (3) as a visible manifestation of an invisible and heavenly reality form, substance.”[1] Note, definitions 2 and 3! And then, look at what The Bible Knowledge Commentary says: “Human life was created in (lit., “as,” meaning “in essence as”) the image of God.”[2] All this time, we have been thinking ‘in,’ when the real truth just might be ‘as!’

As I was pondering the implications of this, I ran across some biblical texts that seem to imply that perhaps my reasoning is correct. The Apostle Paul made a statement in 1 Corinthians 11:7 that is very interesting! Now, he made the statement in the context of proper cultural protocol in regard to men and women covering their heads (or not) while they prayed or prophesied. Now granted, when Paul spoke of ‘man’ in this context, he was referring to the male gender of the species, but nevertheless, could not what he said be applicable to the species in general? He said: “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.” (KJV) Aside from the cultural specifics of covering the head, Paul plainly said: “He (man) is the image and glory of God.” Note also, that he said the woman was the glory of the man, but he didn’t say the woman was the image of the man! In Colossians 1:15, Paul says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. In Romans 8:29, he says that God predestined us to be conformed to the image of his (God’s) son. Now, don’t get lost; follow the dots: Man was created as the image of God! Because of sin, that image is marred and tarnished! Jesus, who is the perfect image of God, came to redeem humanity and to restore that image. Hence, God’s purpose is that we might be conformed to the image of Jesus, who is the image of God! When we conform to the image of Jesus, who is the image of God, we are conformed to the image of God, which is the image God made us as in the first place!

Now, what are the implications of this? How does this change the way we think, pray, or do God’s will? Well first, once we internalize this slight turn of the carburetor screw into our spirits and minds, we will truly understand and appreciate how God works in the earth realm. We will cease to believe in magic and begin to believe in God! We will realize that whatever God does in the earth, God does it through human agency because the very purpose of man is to be the physical, visible, embodiment of the spiritual, invisible God on earth! Hence, we will no longer foolishly blame God for the evil in the world because we will understand that the presence of evil in the world is not God’s fault or responsibility; it’s ours! There is evil in the world, not so much because God wills or allows it; but more so, because we allow it!

Secondly, we will no longer snort, cry, sling oil, or otherwise try to get God to bless us! As we refer back to the Genesis text, we should note that the text says: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them. . .” Do you see that? It didn’t say: “And God ‘was going to’ bless them.” No! It said: “And God ‘blessed’ them.” Every blessing we need to successfully be the image of God on earth, we already have! If we are experiencing a lack of the blessings necessary to function in the capacity God intended for our lives, it is because we don’t understand how to operate as the image of God! Jesus was the perfect image of God! Therefore, if we want to know how to do it, he’s the perfect example and model. He said to a crowd of people who were worried about how they were going to make it: “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore, do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. ‘Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)

Thirdly, if we understand that all of us (saints, sinners, Black, White, Americans, Republicans, etc.,) are created ‘as’ the image of God, then we will have a newfound respect for the sanctify of human life! Racism, classicism, and all the other ‘-isms’ exist because of our ignorance of who we really are! There billions of people on the planet, and each one of us was created to ‘image’ God on the earth. Therefore, when we mistreat and abuse one another, we are, in a sense, mistreating and abusing the image of God! And when we mistreat and abuse the image of God; we mistreat and abuse the God the image represents and embodies!

Finally, once we understand and internalize this concept, we will truly understand that life is not about us! All of us are placed here to do the will of God. The purpose of the blessings in our life are not primarily for our comfort, but rather to aid and assist us in doing what God called (created) us to do! In other words, primarily, the blessings are not for our enjoyment; they are for our employment! We are blessed to be a blessing!

There is an old saying that says the eyes are the windows of the soul. Perhaps that is true, but even more than that, as we look into the eyes of another person, we must also realize we are looking into the eyes of an image of God!

 

[1] Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 1

[2] Allen P. Ross, “Genesis,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 1 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 29.

 

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