This post is a chapter from Dr. Timothy Tennent’s book, 30 Questions: A Short Catechism on the Christian Faith available for purchase from our store. This resource makes for a great teaching tool in local churches, especially for catechesis purposes. We’re featuring a chapter each week in hopes of encouraging you to pick up the book and share it with others as well.
The Scripture reveals that the created order emerged out of the spoken word of God. However, when God created man and woman, we are told that we were fashioned out of the dust of the earth and that he breathed into us the breath of life. We were “created in his own image.” We should not understand that the “image of God” means that we physically look like God or that God has a physical body like us. The Scripture declares that “God is spirit” (John 4:24).
The idea that we are “created in the image of God” generally refers to three distinct capacities which have been granted to the human race. The first is a spiritual capacity. This means that we are meant to reflect his nature in the world. The image of God is like a mirror. We are to “mirror” or “reflect” God’s character and presence in the world. We are to reflect his holiness, his righteousness, his love, his creativity, and so forth. Indeed, we are to reflect every attribute of God which can possibly be communicated to a finite person. The second feature of the image of God is relational. We have the capacity to know God and to communicate with him. We also have capacities for relationships with one another which are profound and glorious. We can truly love God and our neighbor. Finally, the image of God grants us the capacity to represent God in the world. We are his ambassadors in the world. We are to govern the world and share in his rule and reign over it. God always remains sovereign over the universe, but he has delegated the care and nurture of the earth to us. We are commanded to fill the earth, rule over it, care for it, and subdue it for his glory and our good.
1 Corinthians 15:49
2 Corinthians 3:17–18
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