What Is the “Image and Likeness” of God?

September 20, 2023
God-in-Christ, Maturity

We have all heard a biblical declaration quoted as if it says: “We are created in the image and likeness of God.” When God said, “Let us create,” (a) [See endnotes for all Scriptures] why is it assumed, we are already in the image and likeness of the Eternal One? In this life, we are all in early stages of developing growth. 

Do we reflect and resemble God because we have two eyes, arms and legs? Maybe it is because we have minds that can reason, emotions that can feel, and a will that can choose and decide. Some say we are because we can love, be creative, and know right from wrong? However, these features are in animals. 

So we ask, what is the “image and likeness” of God? As we examine this phrase we will begin to realize what our Creator intends for each person He births into life, in this temporal environment. 

God Is Not Like Us

Most of us have surely thought: if God is anything like me or even the best of us, we are all in a lot of trouble. Rest assured, God actually says several times that He is “not like us.” (b)

The Eternal One (c) has no beginning. He doesn’t experience any ending, nor does He grow and develop. He simply is! The disciple closest to Jesus during his earthly ministry states: “God ‘is’ Spirit…Light…and Love.” (d) Light and Love describes the essence of God. These qualities are the motivating source of all His expressions. As our Creator and Father, His love for us is unconditional. (e) His forgiveness is even without exception. (f)  

“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.” (g) Each person is God’s created possession, even when we do not know it or act like it. Can we even imagine such an eternal reality or believe it? 

When we understand God’s essence, we are able to appreciate His expressions. The Eternal One’s motion and activity produce only expressions of Light and Love. The expressions of God are as credible as His essence. When God speaks, His word goes forth to perform His intention and is always successful. (h)

While God’s essence has no hint of variation, (i) He spoke the natural universe into existence as a temporal realm full of variables. This includes the earth with its heavens and life forms. (j) God designed the Earth to be the place He would birth His ever growing family into existence. This created natural realm is where positive and negative, in and out, up and down, good and evil (productive and destructive) variances exist.

God designed the Earth to be the place He would birth His ever growing family into existence.

Reflections and Resemblances

God’s desire to parent His children is first noted in Scripture as a statement that followed the creative acts of the natural universe: “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.’” (k) 

The statement becomes more meaningful when we realize the Hebrew words translated in our Bible as image and likeness, clearly mean reflection and resemblance. This phrasing is closer to God’s intention because it is more relational. As verified in other passages, we are birthed into existence to reflect God as a mirror (l) and to resemble Him as children. (m) We are created as reflections and resemblances of God. 

When our first parents’ chose to ignore God’s insightful direction, it affected them and has continued to impact their offspring. It planted the idea that we can be “like God” while ignoring His guidance. (n) The idea that we can be “as God” continues to complicate our process of maturing into our created purpose.

Our Eternal Father intends for us to reflect and resemble Him as offspring (o) who grow and mature as His children. (p) In this temporal world, at our best, we are immature reflective resemblances of God’s pure and untainted essence and expressions of Light and Love.

The Light and Love that comes from God is pure, untainted and unfailing. However, when He addresses our lack of response to His guidance He can ‘appear’ to be angry or discouraged. Yes, each of us can be more responsive to His abiding, enlightening, and loving presence.

We are created as reflections and resemblances of God.

Developing Children

We can better understand God’s expressive heart when we see it as expressions of His character, attitude and personality (CAP). This is examined and explained in detail in the book Created To Relate.

Every person is gifted with the capacity to receive God’s expressions and become more than offspring that ignore Him. (q) As offspring, we are designed to receive and become good expressions of God. We can ‘take up” and “put on the armor of God,” (r) to become better expressions of light and love. 

Two thousand years ago God’s “expressive voice” came into this temporal earth to be born and live as a child of man. (s) In many ways, Jesus Christ was just like us, a child of God and man. The life and words of Jesus became the most exact reflection and resemblance of God in a human form. (t) The anointed Jesus perfectly illustrated to humanity the heart of our Eternal Father by reflectively resembling His “character, attitude, and personality” (CAP) of light and love, as a man.

Having the spirit of life in us makes each of us ‘offspring’ of God. (u) We all begin this life as expressions of God and man. (v) When we respond to God’s guidance, we live as ‘children’ of our Eternal Father. (w) As children of natural parents, we can observe their example and listen to their instruction or we can ignore them. As children of our Eternal Father, we respond to God in the same ways.

During 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, experiencing each. We have the potential to grow and mature under God’s care and guidance into better reflections and resemblances of His heart. 

Rest assured, the Eternal God is not like us. He is perfect in every way. As developing children in this temporal world, we can only reflect and resemble certain aspects and measures of His CAP. And, God knows this! Now, we can better understand the image and likeness of God. Our created purpose and potential is more of a maturing reality that improves as we respond to God’s guidance. 

So, we can be asking ourselves – how well are we maturing into God’s reflection and resemblance—as expressions of His Eternal Spirit of Light and Love? The great news is God even wants to help us!

We have the potential to grow and mature under God’s care and guidance into better reflections and resemblances of His heart.

a) Genesis 1:26; 1 John 3:2; b) Numbers 23:19; I Samuel 15:29; 16:7; c) 1 Timothy 1:17; d) John 4:24; 1 John 1:5; I John 4:8, 16; e) Romans 8:35-39; f) Isaiah 43:25; 44:22; g) Micah 7:18; h) Isaiah 55:11; 46:10; i) James 1:17; j) Genesis 1:1-31; John 1:1-5; k) Genesis 1:26; l) 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 3:18; m) John 1:12-13; Romans 8:14; John 8:12; n) Genesis 3:5, 8; o) Acts 17:22-26; p) John 1: 12; q) Luke 15:11-32; r) Ephesians 6:11-17; s) John 1:14; Hebrews 1:1-2; t) Colossians 1:15; Philippians 2:6; u) Genesis 2:7; 7:22; Job 32:8; Proverbs 20:27; Ecclesiastes 12:7; Psalms 139:13-16; v) Job 31:15; Jeremiah 1:5; Psalms 139:13-16; Ecclesiastes 11:5; w) Acts 17:24-29

Keith Carroll, “The Relationship Guy”
Relational Gospel Founder
Created To Relate author

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