From Image to Likeness
Why God Created Man
Rev. 1:8 [NIV]
8“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
The last will be first; the first will be last. We are most familiar with this teaching of Jesus, when He admonished His disciples not to strive for position and honor, rather to learn to serve and love one another. Yet, this word is also one of the keys to unlock the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. It will explain why He taught them to do so.
It points us to the omnipresence of God. Time, or the history of creation, does not have any bearing on Him, but serves as means to His end, that is to bring about His Kingdom and the fulfillment of His plan concerning His Son. God knows the end from the beginning and had set in motion everything according His foreknowledge.
The Business of God the Father, or the Work entrusted to the Son and ministered by the Holy Spirit, is to glorify His Son, then with Him, those who are perfected into His Holiness or Eternal life. This is done through the perfection of Manhood by the Spirit of Sonship and into its fulness, which is no other than the Father’s eternal life. It is patterned after and revealed by Jesus Christ who became a man on our behalf. The Son bears the Father’s perfect image and likeness, He is the “exact representation of the Father”. In essence, through our faith in the Son, the Father would adopt us as sons into His Family, bestowing unto us more than His blood-line (life), but also His very Name (glory) when we are matured into His divine nature or godliness. It is for this very reason, Jesus Christ came and died, so that He can take away our sins to free us into this abundant life.
He is also acting on our behalf as our advocate and mediator against Satan, who ever opposes and challenges the standing of Jesus Christ and those belong to Him. When he was raised from the dead and ascended into Heaven, then sat down at the right hand of the Father, the Father gave Him all authority and power, not merely to overcome Satan, but also to subdue all things under His feet, even for the Church and through the Church, who is His body, with Himself being the Head of this one Spiritual Man. This is the work of the Father and the Son. That is to multiply or increase their very divine life through the perfection of Manhood in the Spirit, even the Kingdom of God on earth as well in Heaven. And this is for the glory and the pleasure of the Father. In other words, this is what would glorify Him and please Him.
In essence, God has always intended for His Word to become flesh, with Jesus Christ as the perfect seed, the firstborn of the Spirit of Sonship in the form of a mortal man, who by the power of resurrection became the first-fruits among many-those whom are also called and destined to conform into this life of Sonship. In this light, it is quite illuminating when we exam the way God created man in the first place.
It should be noticed that across the ages God never intended to leave man outside of His counsel and wisdom. Man has always been the crown of His creation, the delight of His heart and the utmost satisfaction of His affection. His will is that man would be able to put aside all that veiled his sight, marred his understanding, to come back to Him, to be taught by Him as a son would by a father. This is His goodwill to man when He created him, and is the end (mark) of His work unto him. He reserved for him the full measure of His nature, power and wisdom as His inheritance for His sons when they are perfected in this way. It then is inevitable for a disciple of Jesus Christ that, after receiving the life by the Holy Spirit, to be taught, disciplined or discipled by Himself, to grow in His counsel, wisdom and favor, and to partake of His divine nature and power which is embodied in the life of His Son. In the end, he will be changed into His own glory or His very being, become one with Him and in Him through His Son.
This is the journey from His image to His likeness, the journey of Sonship.
Indeed, God’s primary purpose of creation is to have sons. They would be proved in justice and righteousness, worthy of His Name, to be endowed with glory and honor, thus to share His Kingdom as co-heirs with Christ Jesus and reign with Him as kings and priests, over all that He created and will create; more than that, they would share His nature and desire, become the perfect recipient and giver of His love and His wisdom, thus would be able to offer these also to those are to learn of Him. All creation will be judged by the sons of God and will learn of their Creator from them.
To quote my friend Mark Reece in one of his recent articles, “In His Image”:
One of the most startling of the mysteries which has been revealed to the Church through Jesus Christ is that from the very beginning, God purposed to have many sons. It was revealed in fact that the Lamb was slain from before the foundation of the world (Rev.13). Not only was He slain from the foundation of the world and revealed in the fullness of time, but the book of Hebrews tells us that it was for the purpose of bringing many sons to glory (Heb. 2). This, then, is the purpose of God which underlies and undergirds all of the subsequent facts surrounding the creation of man. Knowing that God’s primary purpose in creation was to have many sons changes how we think about man’s being, and must also impact the understanding we have of mankind being created in the image and likeness of God.
To know this End, we will have to turn back to the Beginning.
Created in His Image
Now let’s turn to Genesis, the book of Beginnings, to take a look how God created man after the first 5 days of creation:
Gen. 1:26-27 [NIV]
26Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;* male and female he created them.
Gen. 2:7 [NIV]
7the Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
Gen. 2:20-24 [NIV]
20So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds of the air and all the beasts of the field. But for Adam no suitable helper was found.
21So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and closed up the place with flesh. 22Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.”
24For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Notice that when God intended to create man, He intended that man will be made in their Image and their Likeness. Here usually it is to be understood the plural name of God implies all the God heads: Father, Son and the Spirit. And man was given the role and responsibility to rule over all that was created for him.
Also please notice in Verse 27:
- Man, including male and female, was only created in “his own image”.
- How interesting the plural denotation of God is changed to be singular. In this singular personality, two sexes or two sets of characteristics of man, was created in Manhood.
Here also only “Image” is mentioned, but not “Likeness”.
We can’t offer a survey of all schools of thoughts concerning these few verses (see Appendix 1). They are indeed simple yet profound, plain yet intriguing. Here we will only give few key observations of God’s eternal plan for mankind and His Kingdom. Hope this will help to unlock your understanding of the nature and the work of the Kingdom of God.
- God created man to be His son, and He intended to endow the soul of man with the Spirit of Sonship. With it, he becomes a spiritual being, thus is enabled to hear the counsel of the Father, who is the invisible God, and see the reality (truth) of the Kingdom of His Son, which is from heaven and of a spiritual nature and substance as well. He is designed to be taught by the Father as His son. And with a fellowship of such a nature, he is able to mature into the nature of God, that is divine wisdom and love embodied in the Son, and conform into His image and likeness.
- It is God’s glory and good pleasure to make man of earthly things (dust) into an organic being (flesh and blood) with a higher life (a living soul) than other creations. In this sense, there is nothing special of man in his physical makeup. Yet, by God’s breath (the life of His Spirit), he was given a soul which is able to appreciate and receive love and understanding, made to be a perfect vessel for the workmanship of Godheads. This work is to be accomplished in his heart, his soul, his mind, even his lowly body. Man is meant to become the temple (tent, house, and tabernacle) of the Holy Spirit and the glory of God, the Father and the Son. Man and God will become one through the instrumentality of the perfection of Manhood by the spirit of Sonship, individually and collectively.
God intended for man to rule his creation and learn of His justice and righteousness, wisdom and love, thus become unto all creation the image and likeness of Himself. Other creations are meant to learn of God and yield to God’s love and sovereignty through man’s perfect obedience and exact representation of His Father as His son. In other words, he is made to be priests and kings on God’s behalf to mediate and teach all creations the knowledge of God and make them have peace with Him, come into His presence and be changed into His glory as well. Indeed, it is ever the Father’s desire that heaven and earth be filled the knowledge and the glory of Himself.
Destined for His Likeness
Now we know that man was only created in “His Image”, not in His Likeness. Such distinction often is blurred by many commentators. I think the reason is because they have not fully grasped the full extension of God’s mystery in creating man. In other words, they are still unsettled with some basics of the mind of God: what is man and what’s God’s plan for him. For some of our dear readers, this seems to be a bold statement, if not an arrogant one. Hopefully it will prove not so as we turn back together to contemplate on the teachings of Jesus, which was also passed unto the early church by the Apostles. Nowadays, many scholars try hard to classify NT teachings with the authorship as if man’s personal traits would define or confine God’s eternal truth and wisdom. Let’s brush away such cloudy thinking, and consider the true source of such a wisdom, acknowledge that this kind of approach is “from-below” or earthly. It depends on human intellect and smartness, and is not the kind of wisdom Jesus and the early Apostles enjoyed. They, however, were all taught by a wisdom comes from above. None ever tried to teach their own doctrines or revelations. What was revealed to and taught by them was plain and clear. One of the keys to the secrets or mysteries of the Kingdom is that God created man in His own image, and He intended to give him the spirit of Sonship, so that He could fellowship with him. This is called as the Rock of our faith by Jesus (Matt. 16:13-20). And in so doing, man will be transformed into the likeness of God, thus becomes one with the Father and with the Son. This was plainly shared by Jesus, Peter, John and Paul in diverse portions of the scriptures. We will not have the time to dig into them in this presentation. Hope you can do that yourself.
Now let us give few key observations along this line as well:
- When God created man, He gave him the full faculty to be able to fellowship with Himself. This implies that man can see, hear and understand God. He enjoys the full spiritual faculties to commune with God, just as he enjoys physical, mental and moral faculties to sense and analyze the natural world. He can memorize and reflect what happens in time; he can retract, form, process and express thoughts, emotions, feelings, even organize them into patterns of thinking, thus rationalize his judgments, attitudes, behaviors and decisions if he so choose; he can form, discern and judge unto and within behavioral, moral, relational, communal, even social standards of rights and wrongs. In essence, this will eventually enable him to enjoy the confidence to decide what is moral, right, just, reasonable, etc, offering unto him a sense of knowing the rights and wrongs. He can even develop these further to embody, practice and regulate them as conventions or principles, stated or not by laws or by-laws in communal settings. This ability is by itself a great gift from God and truly a blessing. Yet it is ever God’s desire to help him to achieve just this, as testified by the spirit and heart of the law of Moses and Jesus’s teachings. God wants man to live out, even to embody fully His love, righteousness and wisdom. But when he skewed his mind from and remains ignorant of these, this gift then will be abused even misused to endorse, justify and develop his own righteousness. He will then have to acquire and develop wisdoms and rely on strengths or powers that are not from God, being it of his own or from the evil one. He then excluded himself from the counsel and wisdom of God and won’t be able to live in and by God’s divine power, even the power of His eternal life. In the Father’s sight, he is a son that has lost his way. He is deceived and held captive by the evil one through his own evil desires in this corrupt world as Peter put it. His life is sin (missing the mark) and his end is death (decay, corruption).
- Now, natural or physical aspect of man’s learning faculty for understanding and intelligence is but a tip of an iceberg and simply a shadow of what God endowed man with in term of the spiritual. Just a side note here: Brother Watchmen Nee has a book titled, “The Latent Power of the Soul”. In it, he even mentioned that the soul or mind of man would be able to avail psychic power for his selfish and vile purposes. Spiritualism and witchcraft are of such a nature. But these are proved to be an illegal, if not fatal, pathway to avail spiritual power and understandings. Such wisdom, by its nature and source, is very base and limited when comparing with the rich, pure and glorious wisdom of God, which is embodied in and ministered in His Household and the Kingdom of His Son. He would freely give it to us if we repent from our wicked ways, receive the Lordship of Jesus Christ, and hold unto the faith reached out in the Gospel till the end.
God intended that man be made to be able to fellowship with Him as a son would to a father, thus attain unto His eternal life. It was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat, but not the tree of life. When Jesus died on the cross, he took the blame or curse (cursed is a man who dies on a tree), and was lifted up to be a symbol of shame, thus satisfied the just God for the price of death in regarding to sin. In this, He becomes our redemption, forgiveness, atonement, justification, righteousness, even sanctification and glorification. If we hold unto our faith, we will be fully restored back to the Father, and the privilege of His fellowship and love. He indeed is the Way.But it takes a process for this pattern life to be actualized in our own spiritual life in time and space. In the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, this process is mentioned as our spiritual journey of sanctification, glorification, maturity, transformation, the renewal of our minds, cleansing of our old self, etc, etc. But the essence is all the same. That is to partake the nature of God, thus being changed from a natural man into a matured spiritual man. We are to grow from His Image into His Likeness.
In this light, we might have a glimpse of how much man lost from the Fall. Almost everything that matters to the goodwill of God and the wellbeing of himself! We will have a discussion of this in the next few chapters.
Why God Created Man?
Eph 1:3-6 [NIV]
3Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
2 Co 4:18-5:5 [NIV]
18So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
1Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Heb 2:10-13 [NIV]
10In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12He says,
“I will declare your name to my brothers;
in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.”
13 And again,
“I will put my trust in him.”
And again he says,
“Here am I, and the children God has given me.”
Created in His Image, Destined for His Likeness
John 10:30-38 [NIV]
30I and the Father are one.”
31Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”*
33“We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
34Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods’? 35If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— 36what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. 38But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.”
John 14:6-17 [NIV]
6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.7If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. 14You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
15“If you love me, you will obey what I command. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— 17the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
Heb 1:1-13 [NIV]
1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. 4So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.
5 For to which of the angels did God ever say,
“You are my Son;
today I have become your Father”?
“I will be his Father,
and he will be my Son”?
6And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says,
“Let all God’s angels worship him.”
7In speaking of the angels he says,
“He makes his angels winds,
his servants flames of fire.”
8But about the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever,
and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.
9You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.”
10He also says,
“In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
11They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
12You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.”
13To which of the angels did God ever say,
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet”?
Col 1:12-20 [NIV]
12giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
15He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. 19For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
2 Cor. 3:16-4:6 [NIV]
16But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
1Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. 5For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
2 Pet 1:3-11 [NIV]
3His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
10Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, 11and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Finally we note two important passages in which man is said to be created in “(the image and) likeness of God” (Gen 1:26; 5:1), and one passage where Adam fathered a son, Seth, “in his likeness” (Gen 5:3).
Our purpose here is not to examine per se the doctrine of imago Dei. The studies on this have been legion. Specifically. we shall attempt to ascertain the relationship between selem (“image,” q.v.) and dĕmût (“likeness”) in Gen. Nowhere else in the or do these two nouns appear in parallelism or in connection with each other. The following suggestions have been made.
- Roman Catholic theology has maintained that “image” refers to man’s structural likeness to God, a natural image. which survived the Fall and “likeness” refers to man’s moral image with which he is supernaturally endowed; and it is this likeness that was destroyed in the Fall.
- The more important word of the two is “image” but to avoid the implication that man is a precise copy of God, albeit in miniature. the less specific and more abstract dĕmût was added. dĕmût then defines and limits the meaning of selem (Humbert, Barr).
- No distinction is to be sought between these two words. They are totally interchangeable. In Gen 1:26, which is God’s resolution to create, both words are used. But in v. 27, the actual act of creation, only selem is used. not dĕmût. The two words are so intertwined that nothing is lost in the meaning by the omission of dĕmût. Also, the LXX translates dĕmût in Gen 5:1 not by the usual homoiosis but by eikon, the Greek counterpart for Hebrew selem in (Schmidt).
- It is not, selem which is defined and limited by (dĕmût but the other way around. Two things are important here: (a) the similarity between demut and the Hebrew word for “blood” dām; (b) in Mesopotamian tradition the gods in fact created man from divine blood. Genesis then represents a conscious rejection of and polemic against pagan teaching by asserting that,selem specifies the divine similarity to which dĕmût refers, viz., man’s corporeal appearance and has nothing to do with the blood that flows in his veins (Miller).
- The word “likeness” rather than diminishing the word “image” actually amplifies it and specifies its meaning. Man is not just an image but a likeness-image. He is not simply representative but representational. Man is the visible. corporeal representative of the invisible, bodiless God. dĕmût guarantees that man is an adequate and faithful representative of God on earth (Clines).
(Harris, R. L., Harris, R. L., Archer, G. L., & Waltke, B. K. (1999, c1980). Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (electronic ed.) (192). Chicago: Moody Press.)