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  • Writer's pictureRichard A. Jones

In the Image of God

In the Image of God


In Matthew 25, Jesus said that the kingdom of God (the purpose of God) has been since the creation of the world. Therefore, it seems only right that to understand God’s purpose for this world, I must begin at the beginning.

While this truth is woven into the very fabric of our lives, I believe that through the imagery of the creation story of Genesis, God reveals who we are and the purpose for which we are on this earth.

In what follows, I want to explore some of this Creation imagery, which I believe unfolds for us the meaning of our existence. I will not be looking at every verse or trying to answer all questions. This is just an overview of what I have seen in my own journey of faith.

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In the 1960’s racial tensions erupted as black Americans were re-defining their identity in American culture. The Feminist movement sought to move away from the roles that society had assigned to them. The youth culture spawned the hippie movement as young people set out to “find themselves.” And In 1968 German psychologist Erik Erikson coined the term identity crisis.

Over half a century later these questions are still being asked. In this post, however, I want to deal with an even broader question that encompasses all these and more. What does it mean to be human?

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Some seem to think that humans are just another animal, the product of evolutionary processes. That is not the story that Genesis tells.


So, God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

What does it mean to be created in God’s image, or likeness? Unlike the animals, we don’t merely live by instinct. We have the power of reason, the ability to look beyond the appearance of the world and its utilitarian use in providing food, water, and shelter. We ask Why. We look for meaning, truth, and a reason for our existence.

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Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food…The gold of that land was good; aromatic resin and onyx were also there.

Both animals and humans live in this world that is permeated with sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. But good, pleasing, and aromatic are not a vocabulary for animals. These terms imply not only an experience of the senses, but also a judgment of quality.

Like the animals we would taste, see, smell, touch, and hear. But we would experience creation differently. Animals see the same mountains and oceans, the same sunrises and sunsets that we do….

…But Humanity would add adjectives to life on earth: Not just food, mountains, and sunsets, but delicious food, majestic mountains, and glorious sunsets.

As humans, created in God’s image, we possess an aesthetic sense. We identify beauty, and we have the capacity to experience awe and wonder.

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Beginning at Genesis 2:4, If your Bible is like mine, the heading reads Adam and Eve. I think this is misleading. In Genesis 2 there is no mention of anyone named Eve. That story comes later.

And Adam was not only the name of the first male human. Adam is the Hebrew word for man. Languages historically have used masculine pronouns for both genders.

This is brought out clearly in Genesis 5: When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “Man” (Adam).

Adam is not just the name of a male person. It is the word for mankind or humanity.

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Genesis tells us that alone is not good. God created them male and female. God is relational, and he creates a relational world. They were uniquely different from one another, but the two would come together as one, and the potential for the development of all human relationships would be born: children, family, extended family, and communities. This would imply all the nuances of human interaction and shared life.

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Genesis 1:28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

There is no hint here of the man being over the woman. God created them, God blessed them, God told them to multiply, God told them to rule. Humanities purpose on the earth would be a cooperative responsibility of both man and woman.

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The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground. This imagery of Humanity being taken out of the earth, implies a deep bond between humans and the earth.

This truth is seen In many Native American creation stories. In the Comanche story of creation, man is formed from a mound of clay.

Adam, the Hebrew word for man, is derived from the Hebrew word Adamah, meaning ground. And in English the word Human has the same origin as the word Humus, the organic matter in soil. Don’t be offended, but in some sense, we are related to dirt. Maybe the common term “Mother Earth” is somewhat appropriate.

We have a bond with the physical creation, a mutual dependency.

One example is the cycle of oxygen and carbon dioxide. We need oxygen from the air to live. We breathe out carbon dioxide which is necessary for photosynthesis in plants.

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Let them rule. God does not wave a magic wand and zap his full grown purpose into existence. And, evidently, God didn’t get the memo that said “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” He entrusts his kingdom on earth to humanity. God’s best gifts always seem to come in infant form.


Rule is not a position of authority and the right to do as we please, it is a trust. In Genesis 2:15 we are given a two-fold responsibility. The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Workers—Creation would not yield its bounty automatically. We would engage in work to acquire from the good earth what we needed. Because of our work, the earth would bear the imprint of human presence. We would bring from the earth what was needed to serve humanity, meet human need, and honor our Creator.

Caretakers— Keepers of the earth. We would be responsible to use wisely, what the earth provided, to nurture creation toward its potential, and to guard and protect earth’s resources, beauty, and viability.

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But doesn’t God rule the earth? We hear it all the time: “It must have been God’s will.” “It was meant to be.” “God is sovereign,” “God is in control.” It is the idea that whatever happens, it is because God has willed it and done it. Genesis however, tells a different story. “Let them rule.”

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Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.

I don’t believe that this is a literal account of a human being sitting on a rock and calling out goat, bear, and cow, ect… as the animals parade in front of him. And we don’t find the man praying, “Lord, what is your will for the big grey one with the trunk.”

The reality is much bigger than this. To truly rule the earth, we must name life. And whatever we call life that is what it will be.

We are not puppets with strings attached to God’s will. We are not actors living out a prewritten script. We are not characters in a story that God is telling. We are the ones writing the story of life on earth.

We are given the mandate to make decisions that will actually affect outcomes, to choose paths that will shape the direction of life. We would not merely respond, we would create.

Through relationships and meaningful work, through invention, agriculture, art, music, literature, drama, architecture, and many other endeavors, we would bring God’s truth, joy, and wisdom to bear on the human experience ……..Or, we would not!

The highest good requires the greatest risk.…And God is the great risk-taker. God did not create a world merely to micromanage it himself. The paradox is this—The greatest act of God’s sovereignty is to lay down his sovereignty. The truest expression of God’s control is to relinquish control.

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And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden…

Here again, freedom of choice is expressed. God does not decide for us, what he has given us to decide for ourselves. He does not give us a watch, and then expect us to ask him, every five minutes, what time it is. We are free to choose from all the good that God created.

Human choice is so intrinsic to life, that Genesis says God commanded…you are free… Without choice, there is no meaning to relationship, and there is no meaning to love. In order for love to exist at all, it must be freely chosen.

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but you must not…Life has a moral quality. This image of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil is not saying that by a wrong choice, we would suddenly gain previously unknown information about what is right and wrong…

I believe that being created in the image of God, we have an innate moral conscience. We inherently know right from wrong. The image speaks of freely choosing wrong. Choosing to eat, to taste, to participate in what we know to be contrary to God’s purpose.

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…By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy (set it apart), because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.

I don’t think that this is saying that God was tired or couldn’t think of anything else to do. This was to emphasize and model the rhythms and cycles of creation:

Just as day is followed by night, and the growth of Spring and Summer yield to the dormancy of winter, there would be a rhythm of work and rest.

Rest would be holy. It would not only refresh and restore us. It would be a safeguard against pride, and a time to remember our true purpose in God’s creation.

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It is interesting to me that in all of the Genesis creation story, worship is never mentioned. Sometimes Scripture tells us as much by its silence as it does by what it says.

I believe that worship is not mentioned because worship was never intended to be one activity among many. We were not to work sometimes, rest sometimes, and worship sometimes.

We were to set aside one day each week to rest, but we were never intended to set aside only one day each week to Worship. Worship would be like the air we breathe, present in every arena of life. Everything humanity would do was to be wrapped in worship:

As Paul said in the New Testament: Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as unto the Lord…..Whether you eat or drink, do it all to the glory of God.

And if we fail to worship God, Jesus said "...the rocks themselves will cry out." He is stating what the ancient prophets had said long before.

The Psalms: Let the sea resound, and everything in it…Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy


Isaiah proclaimed: The mountains and hills will burst into song… and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

David: The heavens declare the glory of God, the sky proclaims the the work of his hands.

These metaphors tell us that true worship, simply means, being all that we are created to be. Creation worships automatically. But, as someone has said, “Of all God’s creatures, we are the only ones who have trouble being ourselves.”

Worship for us means to willingly give everything we know of ourselves, and to bring all that we do in this world, to all we know of God and his purpose……all of the time.

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The Genesis Creation Story, a Synopsis

It tells of a world spoken into existence from the will and purpose of a good and loving Creator: A relational God of process, who plants the seeds of life, and sets in motion the growth of those seeds.

A pristine, beautiful, and abundant earth of plants and animals, fish and birds. A place where sun and moon mark the changing seasons and guide life in the rhythms and cycles of nature.

Male and Female—Two unique individuals. And yet, the two becoming one, as life unfolds in relational harmonies of family, friendship, and community.

Male and Female—Ruling creation as Co-creators, workers, and caretakers of the earth. living, deciding, choosing, and naming life.

Balancing good work that provides for needs, awakens potential, and honors God, with good rest that brings renewed strength, fresh perspective, and humility.

Worshiping God and finding meaning in all that they do. Living in peace with God, with one another, and with the good earth.

And everybody lived happily ever after….Well, not exactly.

(More about this next time.)

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Postscript

Remember, the warp threads in Scripture are the long threads of truth. I believe that the long warp thread of the kingdom of God is firmly attached to the Genesis story of Creation. Although I will be writing more about this later, I want to very briefly track this long thread through to the end.

We all know that something has gone wrong with life on earth.Throughout time those who have longed for God’s kingdom have looked at what the world has become and been discouraged, disappointed, and at times even disillusioned….But…

… To keep hope alive, we must Follow the long thread.

Isaiah 46: 10 I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’

Colossians 1 (speaking of Jesus) says, For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven….

Jesus prayed Father…your kingdom come, your will be done on earth

2 Peter 3 Scoffers will come,… They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed… But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient …But the day of the Lord will come …

And Revelation 11:15 speaks of the fulfillment of creation’s purpose.

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.”—God never gives up on what he calls “VERY GOOD!”















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Dave Crowell
Dave Crowell
21 mai 2023

That's a lot to unpack. Thank you for your thoughts. I've just started processing this entry and it's raised a couple of questions for me. You mention that humans make a judgement on the quality of things. For example, adding "majestic" to mountains. While I'm not sure we can assume that the animals don't do such a thing, accepting this brings up a question for me. Why is calling some mountains "majestic" a "good" thing? It seems to me that this increases the value of one part of God's creation over another. Perhaps it's the "animals" that are on to something. I love the "Sangre de Cristo" mountains and, on some level, I'm sure I value them more highly than the "San…

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