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Bible verses about God's Image
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Worldly religion has conditioned us to think of worship as something that we do briefly once a week, and then we are free to do what pleases us. This is woefully inadequate for fulfilling God's purpose of creating us in His image. His purpose involves putting His mind in us that we may imitate Him in every area of life.

In this, the first commandment has very practical ramifications. If another crowds God out of first place in our thinking, affections, and conduct so that we admire, submit to, and imitate him, we will be in another's image, not God's. If we are not in God's image, will He allow us into His Kingdom?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The First Commandment (1997)


 

Genesis 1:26

Moses writes that man is created in God's "image" and "likeness." Any reliable lexicon mentions that "image" and "likeness" reinforce each other in a manner common to Hebrew. It means we are like God in form and implies that, like Him, we have a spiritual capacity which animals do not have.

John W. Ritenbaugh
God Is . . . What?


 

Genesis 1:26-27

Here in the Bible's first chapter, God states His goal: He is making man in His own image! By using both "image" and "likeness," God explained that He would create man to be just like Him! Man would not only look like God, but humanity would also have a spiritual ability to understand His nature and learn to conform to it. Through the experiences of life and the process of building godly character, humankind can put on the image of God and be resurrected into His Family (I Corinthians 15:49-53).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
God's Master Plan


 

Genesis 1:26-27

Notice the overall context of these verses. It is the very first chapter of the Bible, and God is laying the foundation for what will follow. If the foundation is not laid correctly, then the rest of the building is crooked. God is beginning to establish our vision of what His purpose is and where we are headed with our lives, and being what we are, we need to have some insight into what He is. So He tells us immediately that we are made in His image and His likeness.

He contrasts us with the animals. Each one of them reproduces after its kind. And when they reproduce, they look like their parents. They look like each other. God is clearly implying that He is reproducing Himself and that His purpose is that we will be exactly like Him when He is finished with us. Even now, in our physical forms, we are made in His image so that we will have the potential to be exactly like Him.

Virtually every explanation of these two verses begins with an assumption: that God did not really mean what He clearly states.

Verse 26 says the creation of man is about to occur. It is yet future. Verse 27 says that the creation is in the past tense. By the time the statement in verse 27 is done, man is already in His image. It is not future. It is past tense. It is not an image and likeness in progress as in the creation of a character image, but within the context, the image was already accomplished. A physical image and likeness of God has been made.

Who knows better? The God who authored the Book and the people He used to write these things down—or people who are looking at it centuries after the fact and have never seen God or heard His voice, people who are using a combination of Bible verses, metaphysics, philosophy, science, and assumption?

What is the assumption based on? It is usually on men's definition of the word "spirit." They combine that with John 4:24, which says that "God is Spirit." Adam Clarke provides a typical explanation: "Now as a divine being is infinite, he is neither limited by parts or definable by passions. Therefore he can have no corporeal image after which He made the body of man" (vol. 1, p. 38).

That is a direct contradiction based upon an assumption. It is based upon disbelief. Certainly, God does not have a material body, but that does not address the issue. The issue is whether He has a spiritual body, which served as a model for mankind, and whether He has a body that has parts.

This is important because men within the church of God are now telling members that God does not have form in mind at all in this verse, but only character image. This is important to us in understanding the nature of God and getting a correct perspective of the goal and purpose of life itself. They are associating Him with being not much more than the Catholic beatific vision or with man becoming part of a vague, immaterial blob without independence. This would effectively do away with the doctrine of being born again into a constructive and developing Family of creators.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

Genesis 1:26-27

The word "image" is translated from the Hebrew tselem, and it means "shape, resemblance, figure, shadow." There is nothing abstract in it. This same word is used in Genesis 5:3:

And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image [tselem], and named him Seth.

Adam lived 130 years and begot a son in his own likeness, after his shape, after his resemblance, after his figure, after his shadow. There is absolutely no argument from anyone anywhere about the meaning of "image" here. There is nothing abstract.

Even as the animals reproduced after their kind, so did Adam and Eve reproduce after their kind. What was reproduced was in the form and shape of Adam and Eve. It was in their image. It is only when we apply this to God that people begin to question. All go on the assumption that God really does not have any shape—it is only something that He uses when convenient. However, that is not what the Bible testifies.

If we want to be accurate with the scriptures, we must be consistent with the way these words are used in the Scripture. The same word is used of Adam and Eve as is used of God.

This word is also used in Exodus 20:4—right in the commandment: "You shall not make for yourself a carved image [tselem]. . . ." This is the same word as Genesis 1:26. Does anybody contend that these images do not look like eagles, dragons, snakes, or men or women? No, the image, the idol, looks like something that is a resemblance, the shape, the form of what it is being copied from. This word can also be found in Leviticus 26:1; Psalm 106:19; and Isaiah 40:18-20; 44:9-17.

Seventeen times the word tselem appears in the Old Testament, and even the liberal Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, which goes to great lengths to avoid saying it, admits that concrete form and physical resemblance must be considered for Genesis 1:26-27: "Perhaps we may conclude that, while much of the thought that there is an external resemblance between God and man may be present, Ezekiel, who was a priest, has it" (vol. II, p. 684).

The Scripture cannot be broken; they do not contradict one another. They have to grudgingly admit that it is there in the Bible. Man looks like God. Continuing the quote: "However cautiously he states it, P [P stands for priestly, one of the four different groups of people who edited the Bible] seems to have reached a measure of abstraction."

They are very sneaky. Well, maybe there is a concrete resemblance, and we know that Ezekiel has it, yet the fellow who wrote Genesis 1, perhaps he reached a measure of abstraction. How hard it is to give up the assumption!

The same consistency is shown with the word "likeness." In the Hebrew it is demooth, which means, "model, shape, fasten, similitude, and bodily resemblance."

Notice Genesis 5:1, 3:

This is the book of the genealogy of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness [demooth] of God. . . . And Adam lived one hundred and thirty years, and begot a son in his own likeness [demooth], after his image, and named him Seth.

If it is used for God in Genesis 1:26 (God's creation of man in His image), and then we see it here in Genesis 5:1, 3. Do we not have to apply the same discernment of what God intends? The word demooth also appears in Isaiah 40:18; Ezekiel 1:5, 10, 13, 16, 22, 26, 28; 10:1, 22.

When we begin to study the whole subject, we begin to understand why Interpreters had to say that Ezekiel showed man in physical resemblance to God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

Genesis 1:26

At the very beginning of the life of men, God says something that implies a great deal more: that He would make man "in Our image." In a nutshell, this is God's purpose for mankind.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

Genesis 1:26

The actual creation of Adam and Eve and the placing of them in the Garden of Eden was not an end in itself but only a necessary step at the beginning of a process that continues right down to today.

God is creating a community.

From the very beginning, God implies the expansion of His own community. He says, "Let Us," indicating a community already exists. Man was made, physically, in God's image, and he begins with characteristics of shape and form in common with his Maker. The rest of the Bible fills in the details of how mankind is being brought from having not only form and shape in common with his Maker, but also character, so that he fits perfectly into the community that the Maker is expanding.

When the Son of God came, He came with a message from His Father. Jesus gave as the title to the message that He brought, "the good news of the Kingdom of God" (Mark 1:14-15). This is the Boss Himself, and this is the title He Himself gave. It was the good news of the Kingdom of God.

Is there any doubt in our minds that God is forming a community? Is there any doubt that Jesus Christ will rule this community, first, and that afterward, He will turn everything over to the Father? (I Corinthians 15:28)? There is nothing ambiguous here. Is God forming a community?

The important thing for us is what ramifications the good news of the Kingdom of God has on the way we live our lives. In the course of the unfolding of Christ's ministry, and the apostles' afterward, we find some interesting things that have a direct impact on the way we live our lives.

First, Christ was the Son of God. Does not a son indicate a family relationship? “Son” is used in the Bible in at least two different ways. One means "a direct descendant of." The other is used in the sense of "characteristics of, but not necessarily direct descendant of." The Bible says plainly that Jesus was the Son of God, a direct relationship. Since He was of the same Family, there is a family relationship. He was not only a literal Son born of Mary of the Holy Spirit, but He also showed the characteristics of God. He was God.

Is Christ indicating a family relationship with us in Mark 3:34-35? We have already seen that the community that He is creating is a kingdom. This kingdom is also a Family. Everybody is related, all being sons of the Creator. Everybody has the same characteristics. Do not the descendants of parents look like their parents? Sure they do.

Everything fits together beautifully, and logically. God is reproducing Himself.

Consider Romans 8:14-15. Is that a family? Thus, if we have the Spirit of God, we are part of a family. We are Jesus' brothers. We are Jesus' sisters. We are Jesus' mothers (see Matthew 12:50). We have the same Father as He did.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 1)


 

Genesis 2:24

In Genesis 2:24, when the marriage covenant is ordained, man and woman are designated as "one flesh"—one unit. God is indeed creating a Family modeled after His own characteristics, but not all Godlike characteristics are found in one sex or gender, any more than they are found in one race. It bears repeating that God did not create a superior and inferior sex, any more than He created a superior and inferior race.

God has characteristics (revealed throughout Scripture) that are considered to be masculine and feminine. Our own bodies mirror this. Human reproductive glands, for example, manufacture both male and female hormones. Women's ovaries produce small, but significant amounts of androgen (a male hormone). Likewise, men's testicular canals produce not only testosterone, but also a small but significant amount of estrogen (female hormones). God has also designed the human anatomy so that both sexes have vestigial equipment of the opposite sex. No one is 100% male or 100% female—not even the most muscular man or the curviest woman can claim this distinction.

Together, men and women make up a composite image of the living God. Individually, we are incomplete, partial, and lacking something in our personality. One of the reasons God gave us marriage state (a God-plane relationship) is to learn how the other half of the God-image behaves. We learn from our mate's traits and characteristics of the opposite sex in order to become complete God-beings. The Bruce Willis/Russell Crowe macho-warriors and the Nicole Kidman/Meg Ryan goddess stereotypes are insufficient models for a God-being. God the Father is not in the process of making macho-warriors or goddesses, but balanced members of His Family.

Part of this process—incredible as it sounds—involves the male incorporating Godlike feminine (not effeminate) characteristics such as tenderness, mercy, and patience. Similarly, the female needs to learn or adopt masculine (not tomboy or butch) characteristics such as strength, assertiveness, and decisiveness. If we make a thorough search of the Scripture, we would find the masculine and feminine traits of God equally distributed. Ironically, if gender-neutral advocates had their way, these delightful differences would be blotted out.

Space permits elaboration on only a few from each list. We see ample and abundant masculine traits in the Bible: strength, power, decisiveness, aggressiveness, provider, ruler, and leader. Feminine traits are also abundant: beauty, grace, mercy, tenderness, caring, and affectionate. In order to qualify as members of God's Family, both men and women need to incorporate all these characteristics into their personalities.

Men often have a hard time being as loving and affectionate as their wives are. Little boys know that Mommies make the best pillows, and Daddies make the best armrests. If some of the women in the congregation would enlist the aid of the men in the congregation to hold their babies, the men might break out in a cold sweat. Nevertheless, motherly feelings and instincts come from God. It did not bother Jesus Christ to express a motherly instinct: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem. . . ! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. . . !" (Matthew 23:37).

David F. Maas
Is God a Male Chauvinist?


 

Job 42:1-6

This is the conclusion, the climax, of his long and detailed story. Now Job can see God. From the context, properly seeing God involves getting the self out of the way! As long as self was in his line of sight, Job judged God by his own perspective. Remember, we see what we want to see, what we are educated to see. So Job saw his own wisdom, his own works, and they blocked his view of God in His greatness. The carnal mind is trained to do this.

It takes great determination, discipline in study and in prayer, and meditation to break oneself of that natural, carnal mode of thinking. Even when we succeed, we have to understand that our vision of God still has to be constantly replenished—"day by day," Paul says (II Corinthians 4:16)—and upgraded, refocused, exercised, as it were, in the truth.

Job's case is particularly interesting. Job thought he knew God well, but he was painfully unaware that there was still much that he did not know. During his sufferings, he threw a great many direct challenges at God in an effort either to justify himself or to understand why he was going through this trial. Yet, God never directly answered any of Job's challenges! Instead, beginning in chapter 38, He leads Job to see his own insignificance in light of God's greatness. Most people do not realize that in the entire book Job never repents of sin. Sin is not the issue! The issue is that, despite Job's extensive knowledge of God, he did not see Him as all-powerful! He did realize that God alone puts down evil and brings to pass all of His holy will.

We can tell the real issue in the book of Job by what God says in chapters 38-41. God makes two speeches. It is not self-righteousness that God addresses, but Job's questioning of God's justice in the governance of His creation.

When Job opens his mouth to speak in Job 42:1-6, it is to tell God that he got the point: God's purpose is all that counts! In addition, since He is God, He can bring it to pass. God has the right, the will, and the loving nature to do anything He pleases to anybody at any time—and good will result.

Do we believe that? A caution, however: A man as spiritually mature as Job did not—until the end of the book.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Do You See God? (Part Two)


 

Psalm 17:15

To have His likeness is not just to be spirit as He is, but also to be like Him in quality of life. If we are, then the relationship with Him and His other sons will continue for all eternity. That is the Christian hope!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Resurrection From the Dead


 

Isaiah 55:8-9

When we do not think like God, we are not in His image. We cannot say as Jesus did, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). God, in His wisdom, has willed that we grow in His image through exercising faith in what He says, buttressed by what He reveals of Himself in His creation.

The fundamental difference between the person of faith and the unbeliever is revealed by the way they judge things. The unbeliever, of the world, judges things by worldly standards, by his senses, and by time. The person learning to think like God brings God into everything, viewing things from His perspective, by His values. He ascertains how the activity, event, or thing looks in terms of eternity. He seriously meditates on God's sovereignty over all things. At times, doing this puts the screws to his trust because the Bible says that God's judgments are "unsearchable . . . and his ways past finding out" (Romans 11:33). Faith holds a person steady.

Because we often do not think like Him, and because we do not have His perfect perspective, we often do not exactly know what God is doing. Only in hindsight do we understand what is occurring in our personal life, to the church, or in the world in the outworking of prophecy. So we must trust Him, and in the meantime weigh what is happening and its possible outcome.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Luke 24:36-40

Consider the context and the time. He is resurrected, composed of Spirit. He is God. Does He indicate at all that being in the body is only a part-time experience for God? No, instead He teaches them that a spirit being's body is not vaporous like a ghost and that it is not composed of earthly flesh and bone.

The implications are important in relation to other parts of the Bible. In this case, what He does not say is important because He wants them to answer in their own minds just the opposite of what they originally thought, "This is a ghost. It has no form or shape."

Yes, He did have form and shape, and it was solid to the touch. They felt Him, and their hands did not pass through Him. He is saying that He has flesh and bones, but they are not physical. They are spirit flesh and bones.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

Luke 24:36-39

This passage makes it very plain that God in composition is spirit, that He does have form, that He is solid, and He has skin and bones. The description even includes scars in His hands and feet!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 15:35

Do things ever change, or do the same questions keep coming around all the time? This sounds as modern as last year—God has no body. So people in the first century were questioning what kinds of body the sons of God will have in the resurrection. Why were they questioning that? Because there were undoubtedly people, most likely of the Gnostic persuasion, who were saying that God does not have a body. And, they argued, since we are to be made in the image of God, we will not have a body either.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 1)


 

1 Corinthians 15:42-49

The image Paul speaks of is not merely that we will be composed of spirit even as Christ is, but that our very nature and character be like His. If God desired that we merely be spirit, He could have made us like angels. Angels, however, are not God; they are angels. God is doing a work in us through which we will become like Him, not like angels.

His purpose requires that we cooperate. Though our part is very small by comparison to what He is doing, it is nonetheless vital. Notice how Paul draws this beautiful section of I Corinthians to a conclusion by drawing our attention to what it will take on our part to make God's purpose work: "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (I Corinthians 15:57-58).

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Three): Hope


 

2 Corinthians 3:17

In this verse, which refers directly to Jesus Christ, "spirit" is used in the sense of composition. But just because the Father and the Son are composed of spirit does not mean they have no form. If they had no form, how could the Bible honestly say that humans were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26)? They do have form. Physically, we are in Their image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 1)


 

Philippians 3:12-14

The word picture in Philippians 3:12-14 is of men straining to win a foot race. The Christian life is especially like the longer races where the runner must sustain a winning frame of mind over a longer period of time. We cannot run our race like the hare of the "Tortoise and the Hare" fable, in which the hare took a nap during the race.

Paul illustrates that after having received God's grace, our responsibility is to return full effort to God in striving to perfection in moral, ethical, and spiritual areas. He did not see the struggle against sin, fear, and doubt as being accomplished by God alone. The apostle is here urging his erring brothers to follow his example in persistently concentrating on our common goal.

Life for us now consists of discarding wrong attitudes and habits accumulated in the past. In modern, psychological terms, we must lose our baggage. For us, the past is dead, buried in the waters of baptism. With that behind us, we must diligently make unwavering progress in putting out the leaven of sin, growing in God's love, producing the fruit of God's Spirit, moving toward the Kingdom of God, and putting on Christ's perfection, His image in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Colossians 3:1-17

Notice how many active words Paul uses in Colossians 3:1-17 to describe what a Christian must be doing:

  • "Seek those things which are above" (verse 1).
  • "Set your mind on things above" (verse 2).
  • "Put to death your members" (verse 5).
  • "Put off all these" (verse 8).
  • "Do not lie to one another" (verse 9).
  • "Put on tender mercies" (verse 12).
  • "Bearing with one another, and forgiving" (verse 13).
  • "Put on love" (verse 14).
  • "Let the peace of God rule . . . and be thankful" (verse 15).
  • "Let the word of Christ dwell in you" (verse 16).
  • "Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus" (verse 17).

Paul makes sure we understand that we must actively participate in order to grow. When God talks about growth, He means increasing in His attributes, the qualities that will conform us to His image.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

1 John 4:7-12

If we are going to be like Him, these verses are important to us because they tell us much about Him and our responsibilities. First, love is of God—He is its Source. This love the apostles write about comes from God and is not normally a part of man's nature. It is agape love. Human love apart from God is at its best a mere pale and vague reflection of what God is eternally.

Next, John says "God is love." Sublime as this is, some have misunderstood it because it can be misleading. God is not just an abstraction like love. He is a living, dynamic, and powerful Being whose personality has multiple facets. He cannot be boxed, wrapped, and presented as merely being one attribute.

John's statement literally reads, "The God is love." The Greeks used an emphatic form of writing, and here the emphasis is on the word "God." The syntax means the two words "God" and "love" are not interchangeable. "Love" describes God's nature. A good paraphrase would read, "God, as to His nature, is love." God is a loving God!

This does not mean that loving is one of God's activities, but that every activity of God is loving. If He creates, He creates in love. If He rules, He rules in love. If He judges, He judges in love. Everything He does expresses His nature. God and His nature are manifested by what He does. By love God is revealed and known.

The very existence of life in others besides Himself is an act of love. His love is revealed in His providence and care of His creation. Since we are not robots, free-moral agency is an act of His love. God, by a deliberate act of self-limitation, endowed us to respond with mind and emotion. We are not animals. God's love is the explanation for redemption and our hope of eternal life. Out of love, God has given us something to live for. Life is not just a matter of going through the paces. We do not live our lives in vain.

God made humanity in His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). But the Bible says, "God is Spirit," and "God is love." Man, though, is flesh, and the Bible describes us as carnal, self-centered, and deceitful. In practical fact, this means that man cannot be what he is meant to be until he loves as God loves. Only then will he truly be in the image of God because he will have the same nature as God. So, to achieve his potential, a person must love, but he must love with the love of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Love


 

 




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