Understanding Imago Dei: It's Biblical Meaning & Your Value
- Brenda Rodgers
- 2019 Jun 20
What does it mean to be "fearfully and wonderfully made" (Psalm 139:14) and, more specifically, "made in God's image" (Genesis 1:27)? As I prepared to write this article, I learned that the question "What is Imago Dei?" is much more complex than I thought. This is a question that theologians have been discussing, studying, and even debating for years.
What is "Imago Dei"?
The simplest answer is that Imago Dei is Latin for "made in God's image." According to pbs.org, "[Imago Dei] has its roots in Genesis 1:27, wherein "God created man in his own image. . ." This scriptural passage does not mean that God is in human form, but rather, that humans are in the image of God in their moral, spiritual, and intellectual nature. Thus, humans mirror God's divinity in their ability to actualize the unique qualities with which they have been endowed, and which make them different than all other creatures"
What Does the Bible Say About Imago Dei?
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So 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 have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:10)
“Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Genesis 9:6)
In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:4)
For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. (1 Corinthians 11:7)
- He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, (Hebrews 1:3)
But how are women made in God's image? And why is this truth important to understand in order to combat the lies the enemy tells us about our identity?
Here are 3 life changing truths about Imago Dei:
1. Your worth is infinite, as it comes from an infinite God.
Genesis 1 tells us the creation story. First, God created all the seen and unseen in nature. Then, in Genesis 1:24 He created "living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds."
The phrase "according to their kinds" is significant in this verse. God made living creatures in the image of other living creatures, not in the image of their Creator.
However, when God went on to create man and woman, something changed. He didn't create Adam like the other creatures, according to his kind. Instead, God created Adam in His image and in His likeness.
“Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So 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)
The decision to make humans in God's image instead of the image of the other creatures proves our worth in His eyes.
God wanted us to reflect Himself. When He looks at us, He wants to see His fingerprints, His traits, His characteristics. That is how valuable we are to Him.
I can relate to this when someone tells me that one of my daughters looks like me. I smile and feel proud. It shows that she belongs to me and we're connected in a special way.
The same is true for God. He loves us so much that when He created us, He wanted us set apart as His children. He wanted to be able to look at us and see that we are His. And He wanted other people to look at us and see the same.
The enemy attacks women's identities more than any other part of their persons. Ever so slyly, he whispers in our ears that we are worthless. He orchestrates our culture and the world so that women are oppressed, abused, mistreated, put-down, unheard, and not taken seriously.
When we see that, according to worldly standards, we are worthless because we're treated as worthless, it's hard to believe any differently. It's hard to believe that we are full of worth because we're made in God's image. However, this is God's truth, and the truth will set us free.
“So, Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, 'If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.'” (John 8:31-32)
How does believing God's truth that we are worthy set us free? When we know who we are and who we belong to, we start to see how our value is connected to Him. This changes our perception of ourselves which, in turn, changes the decisions we make, our relationships, and how we talk about ourselves.
No longer do we feel the need to dress a certain way to get attention or to detract attention. We don't need to be a certain weight. We don't have to manipulate others to get what we want. There isn't a need to stay in bad dating relationships longer than we should. We have the ability to set healthy boundaries and grow in emotional intelligence. Gossip and girl drama become unnecessary. There's no longer a fight to prove ourselves and our worth.
I'm not saying this is a simple fix, because it's not. As I stated, the enemy inundates us with lies. When you think to yourself, "I'm worthless," or any variation of that statement, or if you find yourself making decisions that show you're not valuing yourself, pray this simple prayer:
Lord, I know I am fearfully and wonderfully made. You made me in your image, and I have indescribable worth. Even though I don't feel like I am and even though the world around me doesn't affirm me, I know that your Word is true and "I am worthy" is the truth. Please set me free with it.
2. Appearance has nothing to do with your value.
For centuries a woman's appearance has been more valuable than any other part of her being. This, again, is a scheme of the enemy to devalue her to nothing more than a sexual being. Our weapon against this lie is believing God's truth that we're made in His image. But how do we believe this?
Obviously, Imago Dei does not apply to our physical appearance. God does not have a physical body. He is spirit (John 4:24). Therefore, when Genesis 1:26 says that we are made in God's image, it does not mean in our appearance. God gave us physical bodies in order to relate to each other and so that the body would be a temple of the Holy Spirit for people who are in Christ. This makes our bodies important in function but not important in appearance.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, 'Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'" (1 Samuel 16:7)
When God created Adam and Eve, He created them righteous and holy. Their inward being imaged God's. Sin entered the world and changed this; however, through faith in Jesus, it can be restored (Ephesians 2:8-9, 4:24; 2 Corinthians 5:17). If we are followers of Jesus, when we die, the part of us that images God—our soul—goes to heaven. Our body does not.
As women, when we start to believe the lie that our appearance is all that matters, we can remind ourselves that we are made in the image of God. And He does not look upon the outside, but only what reflects Him on the inside.
3. Christ proved your worth when He died on the cross.
Sin entered the world and disfigured our reflection of God. We no longer reflect His image the way we were created to. Sin broke our relationship with God, and we are no longer capable of honoring Him.
However, the New Testament turns our broken relationship with God right-side up through the death and resurrection of God's perfect sacrifice—Jesus Christ. Jesus is the perfect image of God (Colossians 1:15).
Satan tells women that we have to be perfect in order to be accepted and loved by God. This creates a burden so great that many women struggle to ever feel like they do enough or are worthy enough. However, we can never and will never be perfect. And guess what? God doesn't expect us to be. He does not ask us for perfection because only one person, Jesus, is perfect. All He asks for is our hearts.
We are not made in the image of God in that we are perfect like He is perfect. We are made in the image of God because Jesus' sacrifice on the cross credited us as perfect (2 Corinthians 5:17). We have unmerited favor and grace stamped on our foreheads. Not only does this make us righteous in God's eyes, but it also makes us a part of His family. He adopted us as His children (Ephesians 1:5).
This truth about our identity as righteous and adopted children of God frees us from the chains of perfectionism.
Living Out Your Imago Dei Identity
Accepting, believing, and applying Imago Dei, the truth that we are made in God's image, sets us free from the lies the enemy wants us to believe about our identity.
As I tuck my daughters into their beds at night I say two truths to them, "You are fearfully and wonderfully made. And you are made in God's image." Of all God's truths, I know that these are the most important for them to believe as future women. The enemy attacks women's identities as if they're his biggest threat. Maybe they are.
One simple statement to say to yourself when you think thoughts contrary to who God says you are is, "I am made in God's image." This also applies when people or culture attack your identity. Simply repeat that sentence to yourself. No, it's not a quick fix. But over time, as you retrain your mind to believe God's truth, you will begin to see the difference in your thoughts and behaviors.
Brenda Rodgers considers herself a “recovering single” after years as a single woman chasing after marriage instead of chasing after Jesus. Now her passion is to mentor young women to live purposefully and grow in their relationship with God and others. Brenda has been married for five years to a heart transplant hero and is the mom of a toddler girl miracle. She is also the author of the eBook Fall for Him: 25 Challenges from a Recovering Single. You can also read more on Brenda’s blog, www.TripleBraidedLife.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook.
Photo Credit: Unsplash/Guilherme Stecanella