Humanity, Gender, and the Image of God

“We believe that God created human beings, male and female, in his own image.  Adam and Eve belonged to the created order that God himself declared to be very good, serving as God’s agents to care for, manage, and govern creation, living in holy and devoted fellowship with their Maker.  Men and women, equally made in the image of God, enjoy equal access to God by faith in Christ Jesus and are both called to move beyond passive self-indulgence to significant private and public engagement in family, church, and civic life.”

The gospel is the diamond at the heart of the Christian faith, and what we’re doing in this study is looking at this diamond from a variety of different viewpoints so that we can see its full beauty and its magnificent light shining into all the areas of our thinking. 

So far we’ve seen how the beauty of the gospel impacts our view of the Trinity: God the Father planned our salvation, God the Son accomplished our salvation, and God the Spirit applies our salvation to us in time.  We’ve seen how the God who saves is the Creator and King over all things, ruling and reigning to ensure that His purposes will be accomplished for His glory and our good (the ultimate example, of course, seen in the cross of Jesus Christ).  And finally, we’ve seen how this glorious God makes Himself known to us: in creation and in Scripture.  Today we will consider yet another angle of the beautiful diamond that is the gospel: God’s design for human beings. 

We confess that God created human beings.  Fundamental to who we are is the fact that we are creatures and God is our Creator.  This is perhaps the most important reality of the Christian faith outside of the gospel itself.  This reality, usually called the “Creator-creature distinction,” immediately sets the context for our whole lives: who we are and what we do.  For example, some of our older brothers in the faith have said that this reality means that “to God is due from angels and men, and every other creature, whatsoever worship, service, or obedience He is pleased to require of them.”[1]  In other words, the very fact that God created us means that we ought to give our entire lives (worship, service, and obedience) to Him.  The worship in heaven sounds something like this: “Worthy are You, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11). 

We also confess that God created human beings male and female.  For now we need to point out that two things: 1) there is a fundamental difference between males and females, and 2) this difference is good since it is a product of God’s wisdom and purpose.  First, God created humans as males and females on purpose.  It is no accident that there are male and female humans.  Second, that God created us as male and female is good since God is wise.  To blur the lines between male and female, to downplay the distinctive qualities of males and females, or to look down upon someone for being either male or female is to reject God’s good and wise design for humanity. 

Finally, we confess that God created human beings in His own image.  Our confession helps us understand what it means to be made in the image of God: we are to live “in holy and devoted fellowship” with God, and we are to “serve as God’s agents to care for, manage, and govern creation.”  So to be made in the image of God is to be God’s covenant creature, His representative in the world to promote and manifest His glory.  We are God’s covenant creatures in that He has come to us to establish a relationship, a relationship in which we are to worship, serve, and obey Him.  And we are to promote and manifest God’s glory by being fruitful, multiplying, filling and subduing the earth, and taking dominion over it (cf. Genesis 1:28).  In short, we are to work and keep the garden (cf. Genesis 2:15) until it becomes the city of God (cf. Revelation 21:1-5). 

Each of us also, by virtue of being made in God’s image, has equal value, dignity, and worth before God and others.  This is why we are told not to murder (cf. Genesis 9:6) and not to slander (cf. James 3:9).  These things distort the value, dignity, and worth of other human beings.  However, being made in the image of God does not mean that we are little gods, or that we have access to God’s incommunicable attributes (eternity, infinity, simplicity, aseity, immutability, etc.).  And being made in the image of God does not mean that God is but a bigger version of ourselves, as if we could look at who we are and then apply that back up to God.  (That would be us making God in our own image.)  Rather, to close, being made in the image of God means that we ought to reflect God’s glory throughout all creation and that we ought to give our lives in worship, service, and obedience to Him precisely because He has made us for that very purpose.           

[1] Westminster Confession of Faith, 2.2.

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