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Your Questions, Our Thoughts

If humanity has fallen and the image of God is marred, how do we know what God is doing in the lives of His people today?

God’s purpose is to conform us to the icon or “image” of His Son (Rom. 8:29). Through the act of justification (Rom. 5:1–2; 2 Cor. 5:21), and in the process of sanctification (Rom. 12:1–2), God is conforming us to the image and likeness of His Son (2 Cor. 3:18). God will complete His redemptive purpose for us at Christ’s Second Coming (1 Cor. 15:49–53).

Since fallen people still bear the image of God, does this have some practical implications for us as Christians?

All people have worth before the Lord. We must reject racial supremacy, ethno-centrism, and sexism, and stop assessing people based on skin color, level of education, or class distinctions. We must endeavor to see people the way God sees them. We cannot impart dignity to any person. Since all human beings bear the divine image, our responsibility is to recognize the inherent dignity that people already possess.

After the Fall of humanity in Genesis 3, do people still bear the image of God?

Yes! Certainly sin has marred the image and defaced it, but the Fall did not erase the image of God in humanity. Even though we live in a fallen world, the value of human life persists to this day—because of the reality that people still bear the image of God. This abiding fact is the basis for the supreme value and dignity of all human life today (Gen. 9:6). James insists that the way we speak to people should reflect their value as image bearers of God (James 3:9). The implications of God creating Adam and Eve in His image continue to this day.

Why did God create humanity as male and female (Gen. 1:26)?

One key question of the 21st century is what does it mean to be human. According to Gen. 1:26, God created two biological and anatomically distinct sexes, male and female. God created male and female with complementary biological and anatomical distinctions. (The details of their creation are given in Genesis 2). These distinctions are God’s gift. When God evaluated His creation as a whole, including human maleness and femaleness, He declared that it was very good. Moreover, male and female together are the image of God; male and female equally bear the image of God as originally created. Male and female together, with their complementary divinely created distinctions, are designed to give a fuller picture of the character and nature of God.

Male and female together as image bearers demonstrate that God is a relational and social being. Also, maleness and femaleness constitute the objective, verifiable, biblically sanctioned, anatomical and biological distinctions that are the basis for marriage (see Mark 10:2–9).

Since God is spirit (John 4:24), and in His essential being does not have a physical body, in what sense do people bear the image of God?

God created humanity in His image, according to His likeness, bestowing on humanity immense dignity, worth, and value (Gen. 1:26–27; Psalm 8). The specifics of what constitutes the image are not explained in Scripture, however. Since God in His essential being does not have a physical body, some interpreters have limited the image of God in people to merely the immaterial and artistic aspects of humanity: our ability to reason, our aspirations for God, our longing for permanence, our capacity to create, and so on.

While all of the above may be constituent elements of the image of God, Genesis 1:26–27 does not restrict the image of God to merely the spiritual or artistic side of people. Instead, the emphasis in Gen. 1:26 is on the embodied unity of humankind. As originally created, human beings in the totality of their embodied life represent God. God does not have a physical body, but He created humanity to express and represent Him in the totality of their embodied life. Our physical and embodied lives matter!

Is the Hebrew word for man in Genesis 1:26–27 a personal name or a generic term for humanity?

In Genesis 1:26–27, the Hebrew word, which is translated as man in our English versions, is adam. Adam is sometimes used as the name of the first man (Gen. 5:1, 3-5). But in Genesis 1:26–27, adam is used in the generic sense for humanity, including male and female. Adam also underscores man’s connection with the ground, since the Hebrew word for “ground” is adamah (see Gen. 2:7). As careful readers of Scripture, we can use the context to determine whether adam is a personal name or a generic term for humanity, as in both Genesis 1:26–27 and 5:2.

BY Dr. Winfred O. Neely

Dr. Winfred Neely (B.A., D.Min. Trinity International University; M.A. Wheaton) is currently working towards an advanced research degree in Old Testament at the University of Bristol, England. He is an ordained minister of the Gospel and a full-time professor of hermeneutics, homiletics, and pastoral studies at Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Prior to joining the faculty at Moody, Winfred served churches in the City of Chicago and is currently interim pastor of the Judson Baptist Church in Oak Park, IL. He brings to his ministry a global perspective, having served as a missionary/pastor in Senegal, West Africa for nine years. He is also involved in a global equipping ministry, speaking and conducting workshops and training events at churches and conferences in the US and abroad. He and his wife Stephne have been married for forty years and have four adult children and nine grandchildren. He takes acting classes from time to time and is an ardent fan of science fiction films such as Star Wars and Star Trek.

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