Bible Answer

How was man made in God’s image?

Genesis says we were made in God's image. But we are also sinners? In what way do we resemble God?

In Genesis 1 we read:

Gen. 1:26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 
Gen. 1:27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 

Remember God did not create man in his sinful condition. Man was created without sin but became sinful after Adam disobeyed, therefore Adam’s sin marred mankind. This makes our present condition not reflective of our original state prior to sin; in the image of God. The Godhead (i.e., “Us”) declares that Man will be made in the “image” and “likeness” of God. In the original Hebrew, the word translated image is tselem, which means a depiction or representation of something. For example, the same word is used in this passage referring to a drawing:  

Ezek. 23:13 “I saw that she had defiled herself; they both took the same way. 
Ezek. 23:14 “So she increased her harlotries. And she saw men portrayed on the wall, images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion, 
Ezek. 23:15 girded with belts on their loins, with flowing turbans on their heads, all of them looking like officers, like the Babylonians in Chaldea, the land of their birth. 
Ezek. 23:16 “When she saw them she lusted after them and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. 

The word translated “images” in Ezekiel 23:14 is the same Hebrew word as the one used in Genesis 1:26. Notice in the Ezekiel passage that the word was used to describe a drawing or painting on a wall. Drawings are two-dimensional representations of real-life objects, and obviously that depiction were merely reminiscent of the real-life objects they portrayed. A drawing on the wall would never be mistaken for the real object it represents. The drawing and its subject are very different from one another.

So, when Genesis says we were created in the image of God, it isn’t saying we are a carbon copy of God or a clone, etc. We are very, very different than God. Nevertheless, we were created to reflective aspects of God, in ways that set us apart from the rest of Creation (which is not made in His image). 

Then in what way(s) do we resemble God? Do we mirror His physical form? As you pointed out, we know this can’t be true, because God has no physical form, as scripture says:

John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

John 1:18  No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. 

John 5:37 “And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form.

As scripture testifies, God the Father and God the Spirit are all spirit, and therefore He has no physical form. In fact, the Son became flesh so that men could see God in physical form:

John 1:14  And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. 
Col. 1:15  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 
Phil. 2:6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 
Phil. 2:7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 
Phil. 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 

Ironically, the Bible says we were created in the likeness of an invisible God, and it says that the invisible God sent His Son in our likeness (i.e., in human flesh) so that we could see Him. 

Therefore, we must conclude we are created in the likeness of God in terms of sharing aspects of God’s character, nature and personality. We have the capacity to love and hate, to obey and to reason. We have the ability to worship Him and know Him in ways nothing else in His creation can equal. Therefore, we are made in His likeness in these ways, not in terms of His appearance (for He has no physical appearance).

For more detail on how we reflect the image of God, please listen to our Genesis study, particularly Lesson 1D.