The Creation of Man – Chapter 21

By Brandon Clay / December 15, 2019

Reading Systematic Theology with Wayne Grudem – The Creation of Man – Why did God create us? How did God make us like himself? How can we please him in everyday living? 

This post is part of a 50+ post series from the classic work by Wayne Grudem (PhD, Cambridge), Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. The aim of each post is to provide an overview of each chapter in the book and related resources for each topic.

Synopsis of Chapter

In Chapter 21, Wayne Grudem covers the creation of man. He uses the generic term for “man” as meaning male and female. Grudem defends the use of the term since it’s both biblical and unnecessary to change in favor of a generic ‘humankind’ or something else. He tells us why man was created and provides an overview of our purpose in life. 

In an extended section, Grudem covers how man was made in the “image of God.” He reviews what the extent of the image of God was, how it was affected by the Fall, how Christ’s coming affected the image of God, and what Christ’s return will mean for the image of God in man. Finally, he reviews the various aspects of the image of God in men and women. 

Man Was Created for God’s Glory

God created us for his own glory. Isaiah 43:7 declares, “everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” He did not need to create us, but he did so to bring more honor to himself. 

For this reason, our purpose must be connected to the reason we were created: to bring God glory. If not, we will never find our true purpose. The Psalmist said, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25-26)

David, the author, understood how there was nothing on earth greater than God. When we align our thoughts with David’s, we too can better understand what our purpose in life is and how it finds fulfillment in Christ.   

Man In The Image of God

Another core aspect of the creation of man is the “image of God.” The “image of God” means that man is like God and represents God. In Genesis 1:26a, we read “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” There are several aspects of this image to be explored, but two things are important now. Man is similar to God just as Seth was similar to Adam who was born in his image (Genesis 5:3). But man was not an exact copy of God (Numbers 23:19). Man is similar to but not the same as God. 

The “image of God” in man is permanent, but it is not without blemish. We see that sin affected the image of God. For instance, Solomon tells us, “See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes” (Ecclesiastes 7:29). But we also see the image of God remaining in man. In both Genesis 9:6 and James 3:9, both murder and slander are forbidden because man is made in the image of God. In other words, “the image of God” was preserved in mankind after the Fall in Genesis 3.  

In addition, the “image of God” is becoming more clear during our sanctification and at Christ’s return. Paul tells us, “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10). And again, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). So the image of God remains in us, but Christians are remade into God’s image through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Aspects of the Image of God

There are several aspects of the image of God. For one, there are moral aspects. We are morally accountable before God having a sense of right and wrong. This is very different from animals who usually fear punishment and aim for reward without aiming to fulfill any transcendent moral law.

Second, there are mental aspects of the image of God. Unlike animals, we can think logically, engage in abstract thinking, decypher ethical problems, think creatively, and be emotional. In addition, we understand a possible future when we are no longer living on earth. This causes many of us to get right with God before we die. (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

Third, there are relational aspects to the image of God. Like God relating to himself in the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit), so also man relates to each other in marriage, family, community, and other organizations. In addition, man was specifically given the right to rule over creation (Genesis 1:26, 1 Corinthians 6:3). 

Fourth and finally, there are physical aspects to the image of God. Though God does not have a body in the same way as us, since “God is spirit” (John 4:24), our physical traits reflect something of God’s abilities. We have ears to hear, like God can hear our prayers. We have eyes to see and God sees everything we do. We have feet to move, so also God can act in history. Our created sense organs reflect God’s greater abilities. 

Conclusion: Great Dignity in Bearing God’s Image

In conclusion, mankind reflects the image of God which implies great dignity for everyone. It is the source of significance no matter how much the image of God is marred by disability, sickness, sin, or weakness. People always maintain their status as image-bearers of God. Once we ignore our connection to the image of God, we increasingly lose our dignity since he is the source of all glory and dignity.            

“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)

Special Terms

  • image of God
  • imago Dei
  • likeness

Resources: Wayne Grudem

Related Resources

Brandon Clay is a Christian (Reformed Baptist) and an apologist. He earned a BA in history from the University of Texas and an MA in theological studies from Southern Seminary. Brandon is married and has 4 children, one of whom (Knox) is now with the Lord.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *