Lesson 5

What is man?

So God created man in His own image, in the image
of God created He him: male and female created He
them. -Genesis 1:27

What does it mean to say that I am created in the image of God? In our previous lesson, we examined what God is. We pointed out that biblically and logically God is not a physical, anthropomorphic (man-like) being. If we follow that logic, it should be obvious that to be in God’s image cannot be a physical creation either. The left-hand picture above is me. The pictures to the right of this picture are all pictures created in my image. It is obvious that the pictures are all identical. The reason they are identical is because they are all created in the same image. If I am created in the physical image of God, and if you are also created in the physical image of God, then what will be true of you and me? Obviously, we would all look exactly the same. Fortunately, that is not the case.

If we are not in God’s physical image, then what does the reference we saw at the beginning of the lesson refer to? The answer is found in the meaning of the word God in the Hebrew language. The chart below shows the words translated God in the Old Testament of the Bible and what their uses and meanings are. You will notice that the word Elohim is used exclusively in Genesis 1. This word conveys the power, strength, and majesty of God. It is also a plural word. By reading further, we find out what the reason is for this plural usage. Genesis 1:2 tells us that “the Spirit moved upon the face of the waters.” John 1:1; Colossians 1:13-19 and other passages tell us that Jesus was there at the beginning. In Matthew 28:19, we read, “Go ye therefore, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” There are three separate entities to this thing that we call God, and yet one God. So, too, are there three separate entities to each of us—and yet each of us is a single being.

Bible Words Translated as God In the Old Testament of the Bible


Man is created in God’s image in that man possesses the ability to function in total freedom from instinct. This is a major difference between man and animals. Animals are driven almost entirely by their instincts. Man’s behavior, on the other hand, is not a product of his instincts. Man acts in the past, present and the future on a basis that is not instinctive in any way. Man creates art and music, worships God, and involves himself in a myriad of activities that lie outside of instinctive drives.


Animals can be conditioned to exhibit a variety of behavior that humans may interpret anthropomorphically. A dog may appear to be feeling great remorse when he is scolded for chewing up a pair of slippers, but his response is a conditioned display that he has learned draws proper response from humans. Guilt is a human attribute which is not conditioned or learned. Sympathy, forgiveness and several kinds of love are also a unique part of man. When animals are raised in human conditions and treated as children in every way, they do not demonstrate these characteristics. Apes have been raised as humans and have not shown the properties we have been discussing. Apes have been taught the sign language of the deaf and have been measured to have IQs in the range of humans, but even these advanced animals do not demonstrate in any large degree any of the characteristics we are talking about.

As the parent of a severely retarded son, I can testify that severely damaged and retarded human beings do demonstrate all these characteristics. These unique properties of man are not a product of his environment or his intelligence.

Holy Spirit

Jesus said, “And fear not them which kill the body, but are notable to kill the soul; but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Man’s soul is separate from his body. God created man’s spiritual make-up in His image. He formed man’s body of the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7) and built in the genetic blueprint for future generations. This blueprint is similar to the make-up of other living things, but the unique part of man which is separate and distinct from all other living things is the part of him uniquely created in God’s image. This soul is identical for all human beings, no matter what the condition of the physical body might be. If we truly believe that all human beings are uniquely and specially created in God’s image with a spiritual make- up which is eternal and of equal value in all humans, then our viewpoint of man is going to be special as well. No matter what your sex is, your skin color, your education, your income, your age or your physical condition—you are special. You are special because you are uniquely created in the image of God.

If, on the other hand, I view man as a being without this spiritual make-up, and if I explain man’s existence as a product of blind-chance physical processes over long periods of time, my conclusion will be quite different. Not only will I view man as totally the product of a gradual change, but I will also have to consider man to be nothing special. Nietzsche said it well when he said:

Our decisions about abortion, suicide, involuntary euthanasia, and countless other issues are strongly flavored by how we view man. Viewing man as a special creation of God with an eternal spiritual make-up leads to a different conclusion on these kinds of issues than a view which says that we are physical beings in a meaningless universe with an insignificant role to play in the cosmos.

John N. Clayton

Lesson 5 Questions

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