What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

As is usually the case, in order to learn about man, we first have to learn something about God, our creator.

In his book, “Knowing God” J.I. Packer describes incommunicable and communicable attributes of God. Incommunicable traits are specific to God and highlight his transcendence and how different he is from us. These traits include his independence (his eternal self-existence), his immutability (unchangeable, and consistency in his actions), his infinity (not limited by time or space, also his eternity and omnipresence) and his simplicity (that he is united within himself, he cannot be torn in different directions by divergent thoughts and desires). These traits are incommunicable because they are characteristic of God alone. 

When God made man in his image (or likeness) it means that his communicable attributes were communicated, or imprinted, in man. Some of God’s communicable attributes include his goodness, truth, wisdom, and holiness.  When God made man, man was a responsible moral agent who was good and upright in nature. As J. I. Packer describes, man was, “in a word, godly.”

The moral qualities carried in Adam and Eve were lost in the Fall. The image we carry is defaced and ruined. All of mankind has fallen into ungodliness. See R.C. Sproul’s explanation of our radical corruption.

But there is hope and joy! The Bible tells us God’s plan of redemption is to restore his people to his likeness, the likeness of Jesus Christ, the true image of God. Through the Spirit, the redeemed are putting on “the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Colossians 3:10

But doesn’t image refer to a visual?


In Biblical language however, “image” and “likeness” are synonymous. Being made in the image of God means that we have a capacity to mirror and reflect the character of God. When we remember God’s incommunicable attributes, we remember that God does not look like his creatures, because he transcends his creatures and the cosmos that he created. In his great love, God has created humanity to not only be creatures, but also his children, calling us to mimic his attributes and have a personal relationship with Him. This amazing revelation is to be shared to all peoples and all nations.


Further Study

Calvin, John, Institutes of The Christian Religion Book II

J.I. Packer - Knowing God


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