Man as the Image of God | Sam Waldron

by | Apr 27, 2022 | Ethics, New Testament, Old Testament, Practical Theology, Reformed Theology, Systematic Theology

Chapter 4 of the 1689 is entitled “Of Creation.”

Listen to paragraph 2 of this chapter:

After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, rendering them fit unto that life to God for which they were created; being made after the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change.

2LCF 4:2


Man as the Image of God

In this paragraph, the immensely important and massively foundational subject of man as the image of God is affirmed. Though we cannot do justice to this subject in this brief blog post, there are several important questions that may be answered.

  • How is man related to the image of God? We are not to think of the image of God as an appendage to, or attribute of man.  We should not even speak of man possessing the image of God.  For the image is not something man possesses.  It is something man is.  Man is the image of God. This interpretation is borne out in 1 Corinthians 11:7 where it is said that man ‘is the image…of God’.


  • What do the terms ‘image’ and ‘likeness’ mean? No important distinction is to be made between ‘image’ and ‘likeness’.  Both are intended to convey one concept.  This is borne out by the fact that only one of the two words can be employed to convey a single concept.  For instance, in Genesis 1:27 only ‘image’ is used; in Genesis 5:1 only ‘likeness’, in 1 Corinthians 11:7 only ‘image’, and in James 3:9 only ‘likeness’.


  • What is meant by image and likeness? The term ‘image’, means a replica (Num. 33:52; 1 Sam. 6:5, 11; Ezek. 7:20). The term, ‘likeness,’ is derived from a verb which means ‘to compare,’ designates something that looks like something else (2 Kings 16:10; 2 Chron. 4:3; Isa. 13:14; Ezek. 10:1).  In both words, the complex idea of visible resemblance comes across.


  • In what, therefore, does the image of God consist? The biblical concept explained above requires the idea that everything which makes man the living, visible replica of God, everything that makes man, man, is involved in his being the image of God.  Man has as his identity the image of God.  The body is involved because visibility is involved.  Dominion is emphasized (Gen. 1:26; Ps. 8; 1 Cor. 11:7-8).  His personal, intelligent, moral nature is essential (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24).  All that enables man to represent God on earth is related to the image.


  • Is fallen man God’s image? Many have answered this question with an emphatic ‘No!’ and have maintained that in the Fall, man lost the image of God. The biblical concept of the image informs us that the question as formulated above is impossible to answer in one word. The image of God is man’s identity.  It is not something that he can simply lose. Thus, in a certain sense man continues to be the image of God after the Fall. Genesis 9:6 assumes that man continues to be the image of God after the fall: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.” So also does James 3:9 where James says that with the tongue: “… we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God.”


  • Is fallen man an accurate replica of God? Is he a good or distorted image of God? This is the way we must address the question of whether fallen man is the image of God. When we do ask this question, the answer is clearly that he is a very distorted image of God, a very inaccurate replica.  That image, therefore, needs to be renewed in the redemption of men. This is what Paul teaches in Col. 3:10 and Eph. 4:24.  Colossians 3:10 says: “and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him–.” Man is the image of God.  He may be a good or a bad image, but he always remains the image of God.


Since man’s identity is the image of God, this means that he always remains intimately and indissolubly related to God.  As the image of God, man is in such an intimate relationship with God that he cannot cease to know God.  As he is the image of God, man’s whole duty is to be the image of, to reflect, or represent God on earth.  Our moral duty is to be like God, to follow his example. As man is the image of God, his sin is always the misrepresentation of God.  This being so, God can never be indifferent to the wicked behavior of his images.  He is committed to clearing his good name and avenging himself upon those who persist in misrepresenting him.

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