At times, we hear a Bible phrase quoted that states; we are created “in the image and likeness of God” (a). [See end notes for all Scriptures.] Though mind-boggling, do we simply accept it without much thought because it’s Biblical? Or do we ask, what does that mean?
Are we God’s ‘image and likeness’ because we have two eyes, arms and legs? I think not. Maybe it’s because we have a mind, emotions, and a will. Or, is it because we can love, be creative, or know right from wrong? Most of these features do not really distinguish us from the animal creation.
Beyond that, most of us have surely wondered; if God is anything like me or even the best of men and women, we are all in a lot of trouble. What kind of God would that be? So, where do we find satisfactory answers to these thoughts? As we examine the meaning of ‘image and likeness’ we will understand what God intends for each person He creates.
Reflection and Resemblance
It helps to realize the Hebrew words translated in our Bible as ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ actually mean ‘reflection’ and ‘resemblance.’ These words are closer to God’s stated intention because they are much more relational. As verified in other passages, God births us into existence; to ‘reflect’ Him as a mirror (b) and to ‘resemble’ Him as a child (c).
God declared from our beginning that we are uniquely different from the animal creation. As God desired to parent children, He created humankind, you and me, to reflect and resemble Him as ‘offspring’ (d), who grow and mature, ideally as disciplined ‘children’ (e). So, what do we grow and mature into?
The effects of sin and separation from God impact every person. Because of this condition, our growth and maturing process is to become more than tarnished reflections and resemblances of God’s heart. We can better understand God’s heart when we see it as His character, attitude and personality (CAP). This is explained in detail in the book Created To Relate.
The Hebrew words translated in our Bible as ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ actually mean ‘reflection’ and ‘resemblance.’
Eternal God vs. Temporal Creation
Although designed to reflect numerous characteristics of God, we must acknowledge from the start; God is eternal (f). Unlike us, He has no beginning or ending. The disciple that was closest to Jesus stated; God ‘is’ Spirit, Light, and Love (g). These are descriptions of His essence as well as expressions that come from Him.
Additionally, there is another big difference between us and eternal God; He is able to love unconditionally and to forgive without exception (h).
“Who is a God like Thee, who pardons iniquity and passes over the rebellious act of the remnant of His possession? …He delights in unchanging love” (Micah 7:18).
While God gifts us with the capacity to receive His love and reflect His heart, we certainly have human limitations. Unlike God Himself, our love rarely reaches such levels of commitment to our family and friends, or others.
God gives us the capacity to receive His love and reflect His heart.
Expressions of God’s Essence
By acknowledging God’s essence, we can begin to recognize His expressions. The motion and activity of His spoken word produce expressions of spirit, light and love. God and His spoken word are to be counted as one and the same because His word is as credible as His essence (k). When God speaks, His expression goes forth to perform His intention and is always successful (m).
God’s nature has not even a single hint of variation (n) . However, when He spoke the natural universe into existence, He ‘created’ a temporal realm with heavens and earth (o). Earth and our heavens are the place He fashioned to birth His children into existence, to be the womb of our beginnings. These natural experiences with variables of good and evil only exist in this created temporal realm.
The light and love emanating from God is pure and everlasting. That said, God speaks in ways to assist our understanding and maturing process. Thus, when God addresses our life in the natural realm, He can ‘appear’ or is ‘said to be’ angry or discouraged. This helps us relate to our lack of response to His guidance and (hopefully) respond differently.
God speaks in ways to assist our understanding and maturing process.
God’s Expressive Voice
Two thousand years ago God’s ‘expressive voice’ came into the earth and was born as a child of man (p). Jesus Christ was like us in many ways, a child of God and of man.
The life and words of Jesus are the most exact reflection and resemblance of our heavenly Father in human form (r). Jesus perfectly illustrated the heart of our heavenly Father by reflecting and resembling God’s character, attitude, and personality (CAP) as the pattern for us to follow.
Each of our lives begin as dual expressions of God and man (s). Having the spirit of life in us, we are all ‘offspring’ of God; when we respond to His guidance, we live as ‘children’ of our heavenly Father (t). As children of natural parents, we listen, ignore, or run from their instruction. As offspring of our heavenly Father, we respond to God in the same ways.
Jesus perfectly illustrated the heart of our heavenly Father as the pattern for us to follow.
Maturing into the Image and Likeness of God
In this life, we bounce between the influences of the temporal and spiritual realities: between spirit and flesh, light and dark, love and disdain, living and dying. The potential to grow and mature under God’s fatherly care and guidance is in everyone. At our best, we are little more than immature reflections and resemblances of the image and likeness of God.
Rest assured; the Eternal God is not like us. He is perfect in every way. As developing children in this temporal life, we can only reflect and resemble certain measures of His CAP. And He understands!
Now, the phrase “we are created ‘in the image and likeness of God’” can be better understood. So we should be asking ourselves, “How well are we maturing into God’s reflection and resemblance—as expressions of God’s eternal Spirit, Light and Love?” Our next blog will delve further into what it means to be expressions of God that reflect and resemble His heart. The greatest news is that God even wants to help us do that!
The potential to grow and mature under God’s fatherly care and guidance is in everyone.
a) Genesis 1:26; b) 1 Corinthians 18:12; 2 Corinthians 3:8 NASB; c) John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14; John 8:12; d) Acts 17:22-26; e) John 1: 12; 1 John 3:2; f) Deuteronomy 33:27; 1 Timothy 1:17; g) John 4:24; 1 John 1:5; I John 4:8, 16; h) Isaiah 43:25; 1 John 1:9; k) John 1:1; m) Isaiah 55:11; n) James 1:17; o) Genesis 1:1-31; John 1:1-5; p) John 1:14; Hebrews 1:1-2; r) Philippians 2:6 NASB; Colossians 1:15 Greek –elkon: resemblance; s) Job 31:15; Jeremiah 1:5; Ecclesiastes 11:5; t) Acts 17:24-29)
Keith Carroll, “The Relationship Guy”
Relational Gospel Founder
Created To Relate author