Near the end of the sixth day of the creation story we read, “Then God said, Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). The phrase, “Let us make man in our image” reveals a lot about our own nature and about the nature of God.
Designed in God’s Image for Relationship
Being made in the image of God means we were made to be relational beings. The orthodox doctrine of the Trinity recognizes that God is one God, co-existing in three distinct persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is clearly taught in the scriptures (1 Jn. 5:7; Matt. 3:16-17, 28:19; Jn. 14:16-17, 14:23) and has been recognized by the church since the second and third century. It is also formalized in the early Christian creeds, like the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. These three persons of the Trinity are forever in perfect relationship with each other. There has always been and always will be absolute love, joy, and peace within the Godhead.
The very essence of God is relational, and that essential quality has been imprinted on us as humans. We were made to be in relationship with the creator and with the rest of his creation.
As professor Darrell Johnson notes in his book Experiencing the Trinity,
At the center of the universe is a relationship. This is the most fundamental truth I know. At the center of the universe is a community. It is out of that relationship that you and I were created and redeemed. And it is for that relationship that you and I were created and redeemed!
Therefore, when we were made in God’s image, we were made to be in relationship. This truth is at the very heart of the gospel.
Our Chief Goal is Intimate Relationship with God
The universe in which we live was created by a good and gracious heavenly father who filled it with good things to enjoy and moral laws by which to structure to our lives. The chief goal of life is neither to enjoy the good gifts, nor obey the laws, but to know and be known by the Creator (James 4:6-10; Jn. 14:6-9; Hosea 6:6). This loving relationship between God and man is the way things are supposed to be. Our purpose, fulfillment, delight, and very life itself flow from this relationship with him.
As the famous passage from St. Augustine’s Confessions reads, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”
Andy Crouch writes in his book, Culture Making, that God created a world,
designed for the flourishing of exquisitely relational creatures, male and female, who themselves are very good because they bear the image of a relational God.
Created for Interdepence, Not Independence
While God created us to be in relationship with him, he also created us to be in relationship with one another (Mt. 22:36-40). This interconnectedness is an important part of God’s design for his creation and his desire for it to flourish.
While we are all made in God’s image, we are also uniquely made. This is not an accident. It is an important part of God’s plan for us and his creation.
Our culture stresses the importance of independence, but the Bible teaches interdependence and emphasizes community (Rom. 12:4-5). The Apostle Paul makes this very clear in I Corinthians 12 when he reminds the Corinthian church that we are not made to do everything by ourselves. Paul’s beautiful illustration of the unity of the human body establishes that while we are each uniquely created with different combinations of gifts and talents, we are to use these personal resources in relationship with others. As we each do what we do best, together we all add much more to the common good than we could alone. This is what God intended from the beginning.
Relationships Are Restored through Christ Alone
Our relationships and creativity, like all things in creation, were damaged by the Fall. It is through Christ’s redemption that we are restored to a right relationship with our heavenly father and each other.
That in turn allows Christians to seek the fullness and wholeness of living and being good, creative stewards in community. When we do this, we bring a new level of flourishing to our families and our communities through our work, which reflects the glory of God to a world that is in desperate need of finding something greater.
Adam was created to bear God’s image into the world. He was created to perform a task. Image-bearing was his reason for being and his very identity. Thus, the language of image-bearing in scripture bears a dynamic, active, functional trajectory. “God has created us in his image,” writes biblical scholar Anthony Hoekema, “so that we may carry out a task, fulfill a mission, pursue a calling.”
The point of image-bearing in scripture is obedience to God’s will by serving him and our fellow man.