What makes a human different from all of creation?
Lesson 9 from The HOPE Study Guide
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
– Genesis 1: 26-27
And on the sixth day, after God had created everything else, He formed the first man out of the dust of the earth. Then He breathed life into the man and the man became a living being. God called him Adam. And from the very flesh of the man, God created the first woman. Adam called her Eve. And Adam and Eve were different from all of creation, for God created them in His own image.
– The HOPE, Chapter 1
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
Notice from The HOPE excerpt and the Bible verse above that man was created “in the image of God.” What does it mean to be made in God’s image? To answer this question people often cite characteristics in humans that are similar to the characteristics they attribute to God. These might include the capacity to be creative, to reason, to make choices, communicate, and experience complex emotions.
Some would argue that certain animals display (to some extent or another) many of these same “God–like” characteristics. They would say (rightly or wrongly) that the primary distinction between humans and animals is not one of essence or nature, but rather one of degree, and that humans are only more highly developed (or evolved) animals. Yet the Bible says that “God created man in His own image,” a distinction not given to any other creature.
Genesis 2:7 offers some important insight in this issue:
“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”
Notice from this verse that after forming man’s physical being from the dust of the ground, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” The Hebrew word (nephesh) translated here as “being” may also be translated as “soul.” Soul refers to the nonphysical or nonmaterial part of a person. Some people believe that animals, too, have “souls.” Whether that is the case is not the point here. What’s significant is that – according to the Bible – the way in which man received a soul is entirely unique to man. He received it directly from God Himself!
God spoke the world into existence, but He created man in a different way. He formed the material part of the first man out of dust. The human soul was not so much created as it was imparted. From the dust of the ground God fashioned Adam’s physical body, but his soul was God–breathed. This is not true of any other creature. This divine impartation or infusion is the source of man’s image and his capacity to create, reason, communicate, make choices, and experience complex emotions in the likeness of God.
When God breathed “the breath of life” into man, He transferred something that caused him to be made in the very image of God! This divine breath is what separates humans from all the rest of creation – and this is what gives incredible value to every man or woman.
ASK & REFLECT
A piece of paper money has no value in and of itself. Its value is derived from the fact that it represents something valuable, usually gold or silver that is stored safely in a treasury vault. The paper money is, in a sense, the printed “image” of that gold or silver. Likewise people – all people – have value because they are made in the image of the God whose value is so great that it simply cannot be measured. Many people believe their value and worth are based on things like performance, wealth, fame, looks, etc. But according to the Bible, we are all valuable because we are made in the image of God.
- Is there something other than God that causes you to feel valuable? What would happen to your sense of personal worth if that thing were taken from you?
- Human history is full of examples of man’s inhumanity to man: war crimes, genocide, terrorism, etc. What difference would it make if every person on earth believed that every other person on earth had immeasurable value having been made in the image of God?
- How would a person’s self–image be affected if he really believed that he was made in the image of God?
- What difference does (or should) it make to you to know that you are made in the image of God?
DECIDE & DO
Read the following words from Psalm 139:13-17.
“You created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!”
Although the phrase “self–image” never appears in the Bible, the truer image (or understanding) a person has of God, then the better or truer image they will have of themselves. When we truly understand that God made us (as we read in Psalm 139), and that everything God does is perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4), then we will most certainly have a positive self–image. The starting point for a good self image is a good God–image. Determine to increase your understanding of the One who made you, and in so doing better understand yourself!
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.