Bearing God’s Image

During the early 90’s, tennis star, Andre Agassi, was the focus of an ad campaign for Cannon. The camera company successfully promoted their photography products with the flashy, long-haired, celebrity, athlete, touting their catchy slogan in commercials, “Image… is everything.” In a worldly sense, image is everything. How one appears determines one’s social status. Cannon had tapped into a clever way to get people to buy their cameras and accessories, while Agassi became an icon… and it was all based upon image.

The Bible

In the Biblical sense, “image” is also everything. The image that we bear says something about who we are. Take this verse from Psalm 73…

Psalms 73:20b (HCSB)
…You will despise their image.

The psalmist is talking about the wicked. This is what is written a few verses earlier…

Psalms 73:11-12 (HCSB)
The wicked say, “How can God know?
Does the Most High know everything?”
Look at them — the wicked!
They are always at ease,
and they increase their wealth.

God despises the image of the wicked. The reason? Because, their image is not His image.


If we go back to the beginning of Genesis, we see how man originally came to be (on day six of the creation week)…

Genesis 1:26-31 (HCSB)
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, all the earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”

So God created man in His own image;
He created him in the image of God;
He created them male and female.

God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.” God also said, “Look, I have given you every seed-bearing plant on the surface of the entire earth and every tree whose fruit contains seed. This food will be for you, for all the wildlife of the earth, for every bird of the sky, and for every creature that crawls on the earth — everything having the breath of life in it. I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.

Image vs. Likeness

If you notice, man was made in both the “image” and “likeness” of God. These two things are not synonymous. They point to two different things. In the book, *God’s Kingdom Through God’s Covenants, authors Stephen Wellum and Peter Gentry explain what these two terms each offer in describing man…

“Given the normal meanings of “image” and “likeness” in the cultural and linguistic setting of the Old Testament and the ancient Near East, “likeness” specifies a relationship between God and humans such that ’ādām can be described as the son of God, and “image” describes a relationship between God and humans such that ’ādām can be described as a servant king. Although both terms specify the divine-human relationship, the first focuses on the human in relation to God and the second focuses on the human in relation to the world.”

Assuming that the authors are correct, “image” then points to our role and responsibility, where “likeness” refers to our characteristics and appearance. In other words, when we refuse to represent God (as we were originally meant to), we then become “wicked” and our image is “despised” by God, just as Psalm 73 describes. As Genesis 1 says, we were created to “rule” over the terrestrial realm. How we do this reveals something about the image that we each bear.

A question we must always ask ourselves is…

“Whose image am I bearing?”


Below is an example of one of the many encouragements written by Paul to the Christian, to bear the image of Christ…

Colossians 3:1-17 (HCSB)
So if you have been raised with the Messiah, seek what is above, where the Messiah is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Therefore, put to death what belongs to your worldly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desire, and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, God’s wrath comes on the disobedient, and you once walked in these things when you were living in them. But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old self, with its practices and have put on the new self. You are being renewed in knowledge according to the image of your Creator. In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.

Therefore, God’s chosen ones, holy and loved, put on heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, accepting one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a complaint against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. Above all, put on love — the perfect bond of unity. And let the peace of the Messiah, to which you were also called in one body, control your hearts. Be thankful. Let the message about the Messiah dwell richly among you, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, and singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

If you want to be a son of God… then image God’s Son.

Godspeed, to the brethren!

*Peter J. Gentry and Stephen J. Wellum. God’s Kingdom through God’s Covenants: A Concise Biblical Theology. Crossway, 2015.

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  1. It’s interesting that Seth, the first in the godly line, was created in the likeness and image of Adam (Genesis 5:3). James 3:9 seems to show that even the unregenerate still have the image of God. We who are in Christ DO need to be deliberate in our walk, to make sure we do not profane the name of our God before the nations. But I think man, even the worst reprobate, is higher than the other creatures because he was made in the image of God.


    1. James doesn’t mention “image,” but “likeness” in that verse…

      James 3:9 (ESV)
      With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.

      Anyway, it’s something worth digging into.


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