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What is the significance of God saying, 'Let us make man in our image' in Genesis 1:26?

At the apex of the creation week, after God had completed everything else, He turned His attention to creating human beings. In Genesis 1:26 we read His pronouncement, "Let us make man in our image." This statement is important for several reasons.

First, He uses the plural pronouns us and our. In order to understand what He means and why that is important, we have to identify the antecedent of the pronouns—who is being referenced? The answer is in Genesis 1:27—God created humanity in His (singular) own image. Some commentators (particularly those not preferring to acknowledge the triune nature of God) have suggested that the pronoun is referring to God and angels, that God was speaking to the angels. But that interpretation contradicts the statement in Genesis 1:27 that God Himself did the creating and the creation was created in His own image—singular, which couldn't include the angels unless the angels and God were one in essence and nature (no one would assert that). The plural pronouns are important because they help us understand that while God is a singular deity, He is a plurality in His personality. While the concept of the trinity (that God is one God and three persons) is not expressly taught in Genesis 1:26–27, it is certainly introduced.

The second significant aspect of the statement God made in Genesis 1:26 is that humanity would be created in God's image, and according to God's likeness. Human life is distinct from everything else that was created in that God chose to make humanity in His own image. While God never explained specifically in what ways humanity was designed to be like God, we get a clue about that when we later see that Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15), and that while no man has seen God the Father, Jesus—God the Son—has explained or revealed Him (John 1:18). The Bible shows that God has characteristics that we see in humanity, including personality, intellect, emotion, will—perhaps these are some aspects of the image and likeness to which God was referring.

Though the extent of the image and likeness of God isn't specified in the Bible, it is clear that they are the bases of the sanctity of human life. After the flood, in Genesis 9:5–6 God tells Noah that any man or beast who shed human blood would be guilty before God because He made man in His image. God values all of His creation, but He values humanity differently (see for example, Matthew 6:26). This foundational truth helps us understand why murder is so unacceptable to God. The murder of a person is not just an offense to the persons murdered and those who love them, it is an offense to the God who created them and values them so much that He gave them part of Himself and loves them so much He gave His only begotten Son to pay their penalty of death so that they might have life (John 3:16–18).

When Adam disobeyed God, the stain of his sin condemned not only him but those generations that followed him (Romans 5:12). While Adam was created in the image and likeness of God, Adam's sons were in his own likeness and image (Genesis 5:3), so they were condemned just as we are today (Ephesians 2:1–3). However, in God's grace, when a person puts their faith in Jesus, that person becomes a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 2:4–9), God's workmanship created in Jesus for the purpose of doing the good things that we were designed to do (Ephesians 2:10). One day, we are told, those who have trusted in Jesus will be like Christ, fully conformed to His image and glorified—finally fulfilling the original design (Romans 8:29–30).

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