by Brian G. Bettes
In Genesis 1:26-27, we are told that we have been created in the image of God, and according to His likeness. In order to understand this more fully, let’s explore a couple of things.
IN HIS IMAGE
The Hebrew word used for ‘image’ in Genesis, ‘tselem’, means “resemblance,” or, “representative figure.” In Revelation 1:12-17, there is a description of the resurrected, glorified Jesus Christ. In that description, we see that He has feet, a chest, a head with hair on it, eyes, a voice, hands (the right one is specifically identified), a mouth, and a countenance. Other accounts in Ezekiel and Daniel further show that the “figure” of God is that of what we see when we look at a man.
Understand that John knew Who he was looking at. He had known Jesus as a human being, seen Him transfigured on the mountain, watched Him die, seen Him after His resurrection and touched His body, and watched Him ascend to Heaven. John knew Who he was describing. But in case there would be any doubt, Jesus clears that up for us. He says, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last. I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen” (Revelation 1:17-18). This was indeed THE glorified Jesus Christ talking to John. We were truly made “in His image.”
IN HIS LIKENESS
The Hebrew word used for ‘likeness’ in Genesis, ‘demuth’, means “similitude.” It is derived from a root word that means “compared to,” or, “to be like,” and is often translated as the word “thought.” The difference between being created in His image, and being created in His likeness, has to do with how we think and act, rather than how we look. In the first and second chapters of Genesis, we see God’s clear statement that He is a Creator.
Mankind alone can plan, design, and build – create – in a limited fashion like God can. He was set apart from and above all other creatures on earth by being given the power of intellect and the ability to reason. It is through this means that God gave man “dominion” over all other creatures on the earth (Genesis 1:26). There is no other creature among the animal kingdom that has the thinking capability given to it in the same way God gave to mankind.
Being made in the image and likeness of God give us some incredible capabilities. I never really thought about this much before, but if we are created with a limited ability to be like God in a creative capacity, what other engenderment have we been given? If we look at the statements of what God says He is, we realize that, on some limited level, we have been given that same capacity.
Romans 1:20 is very insightful with regard to how this works. It states, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead.” What this is saying is, all we have to do is look at what He made in creation, and we can clearly see Him, who He is, and what He is, even though He is invisible to us, by studying what He created.
Let’s look at one very important capability of this kind. 1 John 4:8,16 make a very clear statement. The statement in both verses is, “God is love.” If my premise is correct, then we have the capacity to love in the same way God loves, but in a very limited way. Better stated, our capacity to love properly in our human condition is incomplete.
Humans, though they have a capacity to love, do not understand what love really is, nor do they know how to do it without God’s Spirit living within them. Even then, it is usually a process that takes a lifetime of unlearning previously learned, Satan influenced, worldly concepts of love. We have to be re-educated as to what love really is, and how to apply it. That instruction only comes from God’s Word (John 17:17). Just a few scriptures such as, John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:13-14; 1 John 4:9-10, give us a glimpse into the mind of God regarding love, and should help us to re-orient our own thinking to begin to accurately understand, then live out true Godly love in our lives.
In looking at what God created, we see that God is both sides of love. He is a giver of love, and a receiver of love. That we were made to both give love and receive love is made clear in that He created us in His image, both male and female – companions that both give and receive love. We were built with a need to give love out, and with a need to take love in. Notice that I have placed first, and therefore emphasis on, giving love out. That is the opposite of what Satan has broadcast to this world. The world focuses on the receiving, or getting, side of love. Get for me. I need love. I want love. I can’t find anyone who will love me and make me feel good. All popular themes portrayed by the endless propagandization of self - get for me! Satan has perverted God’s way of love – the way of giving. As per usual, Satan pushes everything in this world in the absolute opposite direction of God’s way.
God gave us an earth to live on (Genesis 1&2). God gave us life (Genesis 2:7). Before we ever sinned, knowing we would, God gave His only begotten Son for our redemption (Romans 5:8). God is giving us eternal life, through His plan of salvation (Romans 6:23). God is giving us an opportunity to be God – His very children – for eternity (Romans 8:16-17). God’s love, which is His way of living, is that of giving. God is Love, and Love is giving, not taking and getting!
We were created with the capacity to give love on a limited basis. Some people are naturally more selfless than others. Many serve the needy, the poor, the imprisoned, and the wounded. But all too often, even these “acts of kindness,” this giving, is done to get something in return. I want to acknowledge that this is not always the case. But after many years of being involved in these types of activities, I have seen it over and over again. Volunteering to be seen, to be recognized, or for any reason other than simply helping those in need can be very selfish.
We must have the love of God in us, which is given when we receive His Holy Spirit. We were made to be like God in how we love, but we cannot do it properly without His Spirit to lead and direct us in our purpose. Let’s realize the weight of responsibility we have as followers of Christ – Christians – to fulfill our purpose of becoming as He is – to become love as He is. Yes, we were made to receive love. But we were also made to learn to give love as He does. We were made to be loved and to love.