What does it mean to be created in the image of God?
When God made man, he said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen. 1:26). “Image” comes from the Hebrew term tselem, which has to do in this context with having a resemblance with someone. “Likeness” comes from the Hebrew term demuwth, which likewise has to do with bearing a resemblance to someone or being similar to someone or something.
So to be created in God’s image means that we in certain ways resemble God and are similar to Him. In what ways is this true? Well, our physical bodies aren’t similar to God because God is spirit (John 4:24) and a spirit does not have flesh and bones as we do (Lk. 24:39). So we’re not made in the physical image of God since He has no physical body. Yet we do have a soul or spirit and the ability to reason, be creative, think, understand, and plan. God has these same capabilities.
The spiritual side of man – our soul, our spirit – was created by God (Zech. 12:1), whereas God has always been and always will be. Yet our soul and spirit, once created, will never cease to be (Matt. 25:46; 2 Thess. 1:6-9; 1 Thess. 4:13-18; Eccl. 12:7). So that is another way we resemble God.
God is immeasurably pure and holy. When we come into being, we also are pure and holy and thus are similar to Him in a spiritual, intellectual, and moral sense. It is only through sin that we lose that resemblance. Yet when we obey the gospel and grow to become more and more “in the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29), we regain these similarities.