May 07, 2020

What Does It Mean That We Are “Created in God’s Image”?

Nathan W. Bingham & Stephen Nichols
What Does It Mean That We Are “Created in God’s Image”?

Who are you? What gives meaning to your life? Today, Stephen Nichols shows that our worth as individuals is not found in our economic assets or in our contribution to society, but in something much deeper.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: I'm here on the Ligonier campus with Ligonier's chief academic officer and one of our teaching fellows, Dr. Stephen Nichols. Dr. Nichols, so what does it mean when Scripture says that we're created in His image?

DR. STEPHEN NICHOLS: This is a very important question because it really answers the question, "Who am I?" Which is huge, of course. And if people aren't asking that question, they need to be. And this is the best answer to that question: "Who are you? You are created by God, in His image." And there's a boatload of information in that, but let's just focus on this idea of the image of God.

Scholars are a little divided over what it means and the particulars. Some think it has to do with our relational capacity; they're all agreed that this differentiates us from every other creature God made. We are the only creatures"men and women, human beings"we are the only creatures in God's image; so we all agree on that. Some think it has to do with a relational capacity. So, God made us as spiritual beings, and that is our capacity, then, to enter into relationship with God.

Some see it as having a functional meaning. Immediately after we are told we are in the image of God, we were told to go out and have dominion over the earth and to subdue the earth. And so in our function as sort of co-regents"so God is the Creator and we are sort of little creators in His image"so as He created the world, we go out and have dominion over the world. So it's a functional thing.

I lean more towards the relational answer, that it identifies who we are and our being and it also then creates us with the capacity to relate to God. Wherever we land, we need to see the implications of it. And a very, very important implication of it is this is the basis of human dignity. So whether we're talking about the sanctity of life, it has nothing to do with that person's economic value or their contribution to society. We've got to push against that as hard as we can. Human life is valued based on the image of God, which is the basis of human dignity. It also has to do with how I see myself and recognizing that I am created in God's image, and that's the sense of my worth and my value and my meaning before God.

And then we also have to realize that because of sin, we marred the image of God. It's defaced. It's not eradicated, but it's cracked, marred, and defaced. And so, what do we need? Well, we need Christ. And very interestingly, Paul says, "Christ is the image of God." And as we come to Christ, then we can have that image restored. And so, it's a very rich theological point that we are created in God's image.