We believe that God has created human beings in the divine image. God formed them from the dust of the earth and gave them a special dignity among all the works of creation. Human beings have been made for relationship with God, to live in peace with each other, and to take care of the rest of creation.
We believe that human beings were created good, in the image of God.1 As creatures according to the divine likeness, we have been made stewards to subdue and to care for creation out of reverence and honor for the Creator.2 As creatures made in the divine image, we have been blessed with the abilities to respond faithfully to God, to live in harmony with other human beings, and to engage in meaningful work and rest. Because both Adam and Eve were equally and wonderfully made in the divine image, God’s will from the beginning has been for women and men to live in loving and mutually helpful relationships with each other.3
We are grateful that God patiently preserves humanity and faithfully remains with us even through death.4 God has made provision for the salvation of humanity and the redemption of creation.5 We believe that the image of God in all its fullness has been revealed and restored in Jesus Christ, in whom we find our true humanity.6
(1) Gen. 1:26-27, 31; Rom. 8:29.
(2) Gen. 1:26-30; Ps. 8:5-8; Rom. 1:21-23.
(3) Gen. 2:18-23; Eph. 5:21-33.
(4) Rom. 8:38-39.
(5) Rom. 8:19-25.
(6) 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15.
- The “image of God” refers to the unique relationship of human beings to God and therefore also to their distinctive relationship to each other and to the rest of creation. The term refers to human beings as a whole rather than to one particular aspect of the person.Some theological understandings of human beings have focused on humanity’s role as God’s representative on earth to manage and care for it. Some have emphasized the relationship between men and women as a symbol of the inner relationships of the triune God. Other views have underscored the distinctive relationship with God for which human beings have been created. And some have focused on the differences between human beings and animals, especially human reason, culture, and morality. Each of these views emphasizes one aspect of the larger biblical picture of being human, which this article has summarized as being in the image and likeness of God.
- According to Genesis 1:26-27, God created both man and woman in the divine image. Both are equal in relation to God and are created for relationship with each other. Woman’s relation to God is not derived from man, and man’s relation to God is not derived from woman. Genesis 2:18 describes woman as man’s “helper,” but this does not imply one-sided subordination. The same Hebrew word is most often used for God as “help” or “helper” (for example, in Deut. 33:7, 26; Ps. 33:20; 54:4; 70:5; 115:9-11). The rule of man over woman is a result of sin (Gen. 3:16) and is therefore not an acceptable order among the redeemed (Gal. 3:28; 1 Cor. 7:4; 11:11-12).The renewal of humanity in Jesus Christ restores both woman and man to the divine image. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon both men and women directly in accord with the prophecy of Joel (Acts 2:1-18; see also Acts 1:12-14). In the community of faith, Gentiles have the same status as Jews, slaves as free, and women as men (2 Cor. 6:18). They are called to live in unity with each other (Gal. 3:25-28) and in mutual subjection to each other (Eph. 5:21-6:9).
- We believe that God created human beings with an ability to choose to obey or to disobey the word of God (Gen. 2:15-17). Humanity has been created with the freedom to choose the bond of a covenant relationship with God or to choose bondage to sin (Rom. 6:16-18). We are genuinely free only when we live in covenant with God and in conformity to God’s will.
- We believe that God intends human work to be a way of caring for and ordering rather than exploiting the world which has been created. Work is necessary to sustain and enhance human life. It can also be a way to serve and witness to others in the spirit of Jesus Christ (Gen. 1:28; 2:15, 19-20; 2 Thess. 3:6-13; Eph. 4:28; 6:5-9). According to God’s design, we are to balance work and rest, for our own good and for the good of the rest of creation. Above all, regular rest from work is intended to remind us of God’s presence and of God’s creating, liberating, healing, and saving activity (Exod. 20:8-11; Deut. 5:12-15; Mark 3:1-5; Heb. 4:9-11).Because we are called to serve God in all of life, we also seek to follow Jesus Christ in the work we choose and in the way we carry out our work. See the articles on “Discipleship and the Christian Life” (Article 17), “Christian Stewardship” (Article 21), and “The Reign of God” (Article 24).