Imago Dei in Creation and Fall
The phrase imago of God (imago Dei) comes from Genesis 1 which records the creation of humanity.
Broadly, being made in the image of God means that humanity is uniquely designed to represent God. Human beings are like God in ways other created beings are not. It means we alone have a spirit that allows us to relate to God. It’s an expression that invites us to understand our relationship with God as Creator and our relationship with creation in a clearer, more intimate way.
Of all God made, He chose human beings to be rulers of creation, under His own rule, and He has given us the intelligence, insight, and skills necessary to accomplish that task. All of our caretaking and culture-making work—from farming to teaching to engineering to painting—is a product of our role as image bearers.
It’s important to notice that when the Bible describes us as image bearers, it says He created us male and female. Part of what it means to be made in the image of God is to be made with a God-given sex. Our sex isn’t a social construct but a distinction bestowed as part of God’s good design.
We live in a time when the culture around us tries to blur the lines around gender, manhood, and womanhood. But gender distinctions are rooted in creation, and men and women reflect God’s nature in different ways. Those distinctions are important if we’re to know God well and to understand our identity in Him.
Of course, all the goodness and glory that came with image bearing were disrupted in Genesis 3, when sin entered the world. Notice that the serpent tempted Eve with the promise of greater glory: “You will be like God” (v. 5), he said. This temptation is actually an attack on the imago Dei: you aren’t enough. Satan whispered, “That’s not good enough.” It’s an attack that has echoed throughout the world ever since—in the ways one human being diminishes another; in the ways we’re made to feel diminished by advertising (“You’re not enough, so buy our stuff.”) or social media (“Your life is dull. You’re not enough.”); or in dozens of other ways that signal we aren’t complete human beings.
In fact, the consequence of sin is that the glory of the imago Dei is diminished. Adam and Eve didn’t get what the devil promised. Instead, they were subject to a series of curses that would follow humanity forever. Fortunately, the story didn’t end there. A restoration would come that would reverse the devil’s work. And even in the meantime the imago Dei isn’t destroyed. We still bear God’s image in many ways. That image carries with it the hope of redemption, even in a fallen world.