So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:27)
This is truly a fascinating verse. The fact that God has created mankind in His image is stated three times in the same sentence/verse. It really highlights how humans are the crowning element in the order of creation in the Genesis account. I believe it is an overwhelming expression of love and delight that God shows in his final creation. It is important to keep in mind that God knew that, soon after they were made, Adam and Eve would disobey and bring forward a sinful nature for all generations to come. Yet, God creates man for his glory, delights in providing, and wants to have a relationship with us.
When I consider your heavens,
the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars,
which you have set in place,
what is mankind that you are mindful of them,
human beings that you care for them? (Psalm 8:3-4)
The image of God rests on us as human beings; and with this privilege comes authority and power. God allows man to rule over all of the created world. No other creation has authority over anything else to such a degree: The birds don’t rule over the air, or the fish over the sea. The animals merely ‘fly’ or ‘move’ in, on, and over the created world. They are subject to natural order and instincts. Mankind, on the contrary, is made in God’s ‘likeness’ and ‘rules over’ all other creation. We are a distinct kind. And even though there are physical similarities between some animals and the human body, the Bible clearly states that we were not made in the same category as them.
Although God has given human kind authority over what has been created, there are boundaries and man can in no way become God. In Isaiah 43:10, God clearly states that he is the one and only God. I like to imagine this relationship like that of a parent and a teenage son or daughter. Think of the parents as being in control over everything in the family: the finances, the provision of food and clothing, and the emotional and physical wellbeing of the child. The teenage child has authority to a far smaller degree: he lives relatively freely in the home the parents made, he is provided the aforementioned (e.g. pocket money etc.), but at the same time has the free will to make his own decisions. Therefore, the teenage child has responsibilities that come with decision making and can certainly make wrong decisions which are followed by disciplining by the parent.
So, God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. It is clear that there is authority far above man (or the teenage child): that of God (or the parent).
“You must not … or you will die.” (Genesis 3:3)
It is the ultimate disobedience that man could commit in this situation. The result of this breach is death. In the imagery of the parent-teenage child relationship it might be the cutting off of any support and/or being kicked out of their home to force the child to provide for himself. And of course, in Genesis, man disobeys and has to face the consequences. Because of a single sin, pain, decay and death entered the world for everyone to feel and experience. The image of God that was put on Adam and Eve before sin became part of human nature was damaged as a result.
But God continues to be far more patient and caring than any earthly parent could be. Despite the overwhelming amount of sin that is part of everyday life, God remains faithful to his highest creation.
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)
Only through Jesus Christ, who appeared as God in the flesh among man, the image of God was presented on earth as restored. It was an example of how mankind was originally created before they disobeyed God for the first time. Christ’s sinless life, his death, and his resurrection give us as terrible sinners an awesome gift through which we are seen as righteous in the sight of God. Through Him alone, we can be restored.