The Difference Between Image & Likeness (Genesis)

by Wes Bridel on April 19, 2010

in Calling

God raises us as Sons teaching us of His ways in order that we'll be transformed into His Likeness.

Process of transformation: God raises us as Sons teaching us of His ways so we'll be transformed into His Likeness.

To understand the image and likeness of God, let’s look at when God first introduced the concept…

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”  (Genesis 1:26)

This verse shows us God’s plan.  He would make Man in His image and Man would be in His likeness and then rule over all the world for Him.  It included both of the words that we are studying and the concepts that go with these words.  To be made in God’s image is to be able to hold His Spiritual Life within us, even though He made us out of the dust.  So although our bodies are corruptible, dying flesh, He made us in His Image, meaning that we could hold His Spirit and be fully capable of being a tabernacle for His Glory.  Now that we’ve looked at God’s plan, let’s look at what God actually did in that first week of Creation…

“So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

You can see that God made Man in His image, but that Man did not immediately have the likeness of God.  To have the likeness of God is to be God-like.  If Adam and Eve were God-like, they would not have disobeyed God and brought Sin in between them causing the Fall.

So although it was God’s intention to make Man in His image and likeness, He did not immediately complete this.  The reason is that He intended a process to complete this.  He intended to raise us as Sons teaching us of His ways, nature, and character.  So that over time, we will be transformed into His Likeness.  This concept is familiar to someone who has been in the Church for some time when it is applied to an individual.  We Americans tend to see everything as it applies to individuals because we don’t see ourselves as part of a people.

“Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Peter 1:4)

But God sees us as Man in process through whom He is working out His will and plan.  He is fashioning Man to be what He created Him to be.  A kingdom of priests and kings.  A nation of sons.

Tomorrow we’ll look at a real life example which might make this a bit more real to you…

This is Part 3 in the series Bearing the Image and Likeness of God. To continue with this series, click on Pt 4. To use this as a growth tool to better understand your own calling, please read Pt 1 and Pt 2.

Photo credit: erinold

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth 04.19.10 at 2:51 pm

Well thought out. I was just contemplating how God’s plan is like a process that is unfolded over time. I was studying Judges 12 about how Samson was brought into the world. Strikingly similar to how Jesus was brought into the world. This lead me to think about how long it takes a baby to be born. How Jesus grew in stature and wisdom before He started His public ministry. Yes, God transforms us into His likeness over time, as we practice keeping His commandments and obeying His Spirit’s guidance in our lives. Thanks for sharing.

Wes Bridel 04.20.10 at 12:52 pm

Thanks Elizabeth! I hadn’t read the story of Samson in a while and it is very similar (with a bit of a mixture of John the Baptist as well.) Thanks for stopping by and contributing!

FABRICE 02.13.13 at 7:06 pm

Jesus was in the beginning with the father, but his chronology or pre-existence from the beginning does not credit him to be called the SON OF GOD. Yes, he is the SON of GOD, just as you and I are sons GOD. His sonship was BEGOTTEN of God, and he became the FIRST FRUIT and THE BEGOTTEN SON of God, because he was incarnated in the LIKENESS of God to live amongst men, who had only the IMAGE of God, but not his LIKENESS. Jesus being incarnated in the LIKENESS of God in a sinful world made of him the only begotten of the father and first fruit and not the chronology of creation or existence.

Wes Bridel 02.15.13 at 9:59 am

Thanks for the comment Fabrice! It’s a little difficult for me to tell if you’re agreeing, disagreeing, or just adding a comment. I will say this, Jesus had to attain the likeness of God. That’s why He came. Your comment makes it sound to me like you are saying that He was born perfect. However, he attained perfection through suffering (check out Hebrews 2). This is the heart of the very important message of being born in the image of God, but being destined and purposed for the “likeness” of God. Your point about Jesus being the first of many “sons of God” is well established throughout this series and is a very important understanding for each one to come to in the Lord. Again, this is His purpose for it all.

Ogundele oluwasola michael 12.12.14 at 12:49 pm

I was studying the breath of God, then i begin to realise that God’s image and God’s likeness are different, is what led me to goggle on net to see the opinion of man on the matter, non satisfying my spirit, bcos what i am receiving from my spirit is contrary to one on net, until i find yours,it really agree with the spirit of God in me, i just flow like that with your write up, if i get the pdf i would have happy, but nevertheless i was really happy and blessed, thank you sir.

Wes Bridel 12.15.14 at 12:07 pm

Thanks Ogundele! I’m glad to hear it and thankful for your comment. Here is a link to an updated versionwhere you can dowload a pdf.

princed dan anya 07.17.15 at 8:31 am

I have a little difficulty understanding the aspect of God creating man in His image and man growing in His likeness, I believe the work of creation was perfectly done and concluded.
god’s image has to do with His physical resemblance while His likeness has to do with His attributes, character, personality, and I believe that when He breathed into man the breath of life, He impacted into man His attributes, character and personality which I believe, is His likeness.
all the same I enjoyed reading your well thought out write up.

Wes Bridel 07.17.15 at 10:00 am

Thanks princed dan anya, I appreciate your comments. I agree with alot of what you say, however, I think only Jesus attained the likeness of God so far. But that God’s purpose is to raise up many sons who share His likeness. Thanks again!

Mrs hickman 01.21.17 at 8:45 am

I agree more with Prince.
The God Man was both God and Man.
He was a perfect man. God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit
never had or had to learn anything. Are you kidding me?

That’s what makes him God! His ways are past finding out. The moment you are able to explain God so that you understand him, just know you are explaining a god you made up, not the Elohim God of the Bible.

The text will explain itself when you study the whole Bible, line upon line, precept upon precept.

We have to leave the secret things to God.

Mrs H

Mrs hickman 01.21.17 at 8:48 am

One more thing.
God doesn’t operate in time.
So his God/Man-ness is not predicated on time.
Jehovah-shammah. “God is there.” When we show up God was already there.

In His name,
Mrs H

Wes Bridel 07.20.17 at 9:37 am

Did you just quote the guy who died of a drug overdose as someone you get your spiritual inspiration from? What you have written is exactly what the spirit of religion works hard at (and is very effective at) training every body of believers to believe. Unfortunately, you have no understanding of the purposes of God. I pray the best for you, but you must humble yourself and seek Him if you want to grow into Him. I pray the Lord gets ahold of you and shows you Himself in powerful ways.

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