Compare Genesis 1:24-25 with Genesis 1:26-28. God makes animals, patterning them after their kind. What likeness does God pattern humans after, and what does he bless them to do?
Read Genesis 1:28-30 and 2:15-18. What does God want his image bearers to rule over? What does he want them to multiply?
Let’s continue to follow the story by reading Genesis 3:1-7. How do humans forget about their identity as bearers of God’s likeness? How does the animal rule over the humans, and what multiplies?
Consider again how God creates his living images to rule with him as you compare Genesis 1:27-28 with Exodus 20:4-5. What ends up ruling over humans when they create carved images for themselves, and how do consequences multiply through generations?
Consider how Jesus—the exact image of God (Heb. 1:3)—chooses to rule. Read Matthew 20:25-28. To rule as image bearers like Jesus, what does Jesus instruct us to do?
Jesus shows us the mindset we need in order to rule as images of God. Read Philippians 2:3-15 and describe the attitude of Jesus, the complete image of God. What is one way we can shift our mindset to be like him?
The Ancient World and the Image of the Gods [00:00-0:59]
Jon: So if you lived in ancient Bible times, odds are you lived under the authority of a king.
Tim: And many of these kings claimed that they were gods, and they would even call themselves the “image of god.”
Jon: Meaning they had authority to tell people what to do, order things to be made.
Tim: Yeah. They got to define good and evil. And these kings would often make statues of themselves, which in Hebrew were called tselem, often translated as “idol” or “image.”1
Jon: But for Israel, they didn’t view their kings as the god. In fact, they were never supposed to even make images of God.
Tim: That’s exactly right, and that was really unique for that time and culture. This was rooted first of all in Israel’s belief that you can’t reduce the Creator God down to any one thing in creation. But there’s another reason. People aren’t to make images of God because God has already made images of himself.
Jon: When did he do that?
Humans and God’s Image [01:00-01:41]
Tim: Let’s go to page one of the Bible. And the first person we meet there is God. He’s the one with authority over all creation.2 He speaks, and creation obeys.3 And he defines what is good and not good. In other words, he alone is king. But then surprisingly, as the pinnacle of all of God’s creative work, he makes humans. And he calls all of them the “image of God.”4
Jon: Wait, so he gives all humans the authority to rule?5
Tim: Exactly. That’s what he goes on to say. He tells the humans to subdue the earth and to rule it.6 And so this task that once belonged only to elite kings is, here in the Bible, the task of every human being. This was a revolutionary statement in its day because all humans are being called to rule and to participate in the human project.7
Rule and Subdue [01:42-02:57]
Jon: So what does this mean? I mean, how are we all supposed to rule?
Tim: So the picture we get in Genesis is gardening.8
Tim: Yes. Gardening. So they rule the earth by cultivating it, by harnessing all of the earth’s raw potential and then making something more and new out of it.9
Jon: So growing food for each other?
Tim: Yes, but that also includes growing families then, which become neighborhoods. And then they create communities where people are going to work and take care of each other and build businesses and cities that will expand to new places and so on.
Jon: So ruling is really the day-to-day acts of our work and creativity.
Tim: Yes. We take the world somewhere. This is humanity’s divine and sacred task.10
Jon: Yeah, and this all sounds really nice. And humans have designed some pretty great things, but just as often, we create things that cause a lot of suffering and a lot of injustice. So maybe we shouldn’t actually be ruling.
Tim: Yeah, so the Bible addresses this. In Genesis, what happens is that God gives humans a choice about how they’re going to rule. So are they going to use their authority for the benefit of others, which is God’s definition of good, or are they going to turn away and define good and evil for themselves and use their authority for self-advantage?11
The Image Shattered [02:58-03:34]
Jon: And in the story, they choose to define good and evil on their own terms.12
Tim: And so this is the Bible’s depiction of the human condition. So sometimes we pull off amazingly good stuff,13 but just as often, despite our best intentions, we act selfishly, and we create evil in the world.14
Jon: And so we’re stuck as mediocre rulers making a mess of things.
Tim: But that’s not the end of the story. So the Bible goes on, and it makes this claim that all of this was resolved when God bound himself to humanity through Jesus. And he showed us what it looks like to truly rule as a human.15
Jon: So what does it look like?
Jesus Restores the Image [03:35-05:15]
Tim: Well Jesus ruled by serving and by seeking the best for others by putting himself underneath them and loving not just his friends but also his enemies.16
Jon: And that’s not a typical way to rule.
Tim: And not only that, Jesus confronted the consequences of all the evil and the death that we have created by our messed up ways of ruling. And he takes it. I mean, he lets it kill him.17 And so when the New Testament writers looked back to Jesus’ resurrection, they see a whole new future opening up for all humanity.18
Tim: Yeah. That’s why they called Jesus the “image of God” or the “new human.”20 And not only that, they also believed that Jesus’ divine life and power is now available to heal and to transform us to become our life and power.21
Jon: And this sounds really nice, but what does it really look like?
Tim: So practically, the apostle Paul said it looks like people being filled by Jesus’ own presence and Spirit, filled with love and joy and peace and patience and kindness and goodness and integrity and gentleness and self-control.22
He says this is the new humanity that God wants to create in us, so that we become people in whom God’s image is being restored, people who will move the human project forward. And that’s actually how the story of the Bible ends. It’s a renewed world where God is on his throne and his servants are all around him. But they’re the ones ruling over this new world, taking it into new uncharted territory with Jesus as their healer and their guide.23