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If we are made in the image & likeness of God, then in a real sense we are like Him. But is He like us? Obviously not, see: Psalms 50:16-21, especially Psalms 50:21.

16 But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, or that thou shouldest take my covenant in thy mouth?

17 Seeing thou hatest instruction, and casteth my words behind thee.

18 When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him, and hast been partaker with adulterers.

19 Thou givest thy mouth to evil, and thy tongue frameth deceit.

20 Thou sittest and speakest against thy brother; thou slanderest thine own mother's son.

21 These things hast thou done, and I kept silence; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.

If God said nobody is like Him:

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, (Isaiah 46:9 KJV)

then how are we made in His likeness?

Is it possible that we can say of God: “Lord, we are like you, but you are not like us, for you alone are God” ???

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  • Hi Cork88, welcome to BH-Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please be sure to take the site tour and read our code of conduct. Thanks! Jul 25 at 9:13
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    There are obvious differences between an object and its picture.
    – Lucian
    Jul 25 at 11:34
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This is the difference between "like" (a comparison) and "likeness" (a representation).

In Genesis 1, the words tselem and demuth are used, which mean something like forms or statues. The LXX uses "eikon". So think of it as a representative or statue made in the likeness of God, not actually being God.

But Isaiah 46.9, the word translated as like is actully kamo, which comes from "ki", and in this case it really means "like" and suggests a comparison.

To understand the difference, think of a famous person, say the real Mona Lisa. She might have been so beautiful that there was no one like her - her beauty was incomparable. But there were many reproductions (paintings, images, icons) made of her.

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  • Thank you Robert for this answer. As I posted the Original Question I found this to be the most satisfactory answer. I originally asked this on Quora (the App) and I asked it with 1 more scripture that I believe helps to understand the difference between Isaiah 46:9 & Genesis 1:26. A helpful aid in our English Bible would be Isaiah 46:5: “To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal And compare Me, that we should be alike?” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭46:5‬
    – Cork88
    Jul 28 at 21:22
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    @Cork88 You can ask that as a separate question, since the meaning is a bit different. In Is 46.5, God asking of which person he is made an icon.
    – Robert
    Jul 28 at 21:48
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First, what "the image of God" means in Genesis 1:26 - The Bible states that God made mankind in his image (Genesis 1:26-30). No other creation of his was so made. It is not said of any of the animals, birds or fish that God created. It is not said of angels that were created. It is not said of the Son of God who was never created. So, what does it mean that there was something of the image of God in his created, earthly children?

Further, because the Bible shows that God created 'ex nihilo', from absolutely nothing and without any necessity, this means humans are created out of his love, and have a communion of love with the Creator. The man and woman united in marriage who reproduce should do so out of love for each other, and have love for their offspring. But there is much more to being created in the image of God than love, vital though that is in such an intimate relationship. Now I quote from the book by Calum MacKellar below:

Claus Westermann says, "The relationship to God is not something which is added to human experience; humans are created in such a way that their very existence is intended to be their relationship to God." Anglican theologian Christopher Wright says, "The expression 'in our image' is adverbial (that is, it describes the way God made us), not adjectival; (that is as if it simply described a quality we possess). The image of God is not so much something we possess, as what we are. To be human is to be the image of God." The Image of God, Personhood and the Embryo pp 88-90, (SCM Press 2017)

This means that Satan cannot make any human person in his image. We humans are all made in the image of God. Satan tries to corrupt that image and often succeeds, but only by causing humans to start disbelieving God, our Maker. God does not exist in our image. We exist in God's image, whether we acknowledge that awesome fact or not. We need to believe God.

Second, what "the image of God" means in Isaiah 46:9 - You referred to Psalm 50, where the Mighty God (el giboor, as in Isaiah 9:6) rebukes wicked men who "thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself, but I will reprove thee..." Those wicked men spoke evil things, took part in adultery and deceit, and slandered others. Of course they were not like God! And - more to the point - God was not like them!

Isaiah 46 starts off by ridiculing false gods, such as Bel and Nebo. Then the Mighty God asks his people, "To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me?... I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me." Context is clear that God is ridiculing the stupid, man-made idea that they can have their own gods, who they vainly try to liken to the Living God of Israel. This is not about human likeness being compared to the likeness of the only true God.

This means there is no comparison between those two texts. Therefore, there is nothing to reconcile.

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How are we made in God's likeness?

Ps 50 provides nothing of use in this enquiry - advice and instruction about 'living wisely' provides little information to interrogate the grand scheme!

Gen 1:26 is foundational to God's plan. What we see is the initial steps to make man in God's image, in 'our' image is the words we're provided. We can see from many bible teachings that God created a hierarchy of order. There are various levels in the angelic realm, humans are created lower than them, but will supersede them once in the Kingdom. With hierarchy we must have various levels of power and authority. God allows His creation to use this power - hopefully for good, but He allows evil to exist also. We might say, evil is allowed to thrive, for a time at least! Eph 6:12, Dan 10:13, 1 Cor 8:5 etc.

Anyway, God honours those in His government, He requires us to honour the government in our lives - family, civic and spiritual. He has indicated this honouring with the term "us" and "our" when referring to the creation process. He doesn't operate in isolation, He is love. The beauty of the angels, the archangels and the heavenly beings with their glory and wonder is a part of what God is making with us. We will have more glory than the angels. God made Jesus to have a greater glory - and he is a front-runner for us!

You made him a little lower than the angels; You crowned him with glory and honour Heb 2:7

Importantly, creation of humanity is a process - it will not be finished until fire burns up the earth!

While the general concept is, 'we are made in the image of God', this is only true in and through Jesus who IS the image of God. Rom 8:29

For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

This is the same theme of 'all things are made in Christ'

...there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live. 1 Cor 8:6

God made everything to have its destiny and fullest purpose and realisation in Christ - being able to rise above sin and death only in him. IOW, without Christ's salvation, we might as well not even exist - our life would be pointless. We cannot be found in God's image on our own at any time, certainly not while we are still sinners.

Jesus was made in God's image from birth - being holy and without inherited sin. We, since Adam, have inherited sin and corruption deep within our being - this is very UNlike God.

Further confirmed by;

And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so also shall we bear the likeness of the heavenly man (Jesus). 1 Cor 15:49

How are we in God's image?

We must ask why are not the angels also in God's image? They are holy and without sin - those who are still called 'God's angels'.

God is able to do whatever He wants - He chooses to do good. We are made in this fashion of having a choice. Jesus was also similarly made because he had his own will also. He had a lifetime of choices to make while in the deepest of evil and associated temptation. He passed the test until the bitter yet triumphant end - and we pass it to - but only in his victory.

It must be restated that God is able to do evil - He can be mean, cruel, unloving..., but He always chooses not to. This kind of character is what He is producing/creating in humanity. Once this is completed, we will be in the image of God - in Christ.

It would seem that the angels could turn at any time towards evil. We, on the other hand, will have made our choice forever once we are changed and filled with the fullness of God. Which brings us to;

We know that no one who has been born of God sins; but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. 1 John 5:18

The biblical matter of being 'born again' or 'born from above' is explained here.

Once we are born of God, we will not want to sin anymore - we will persistently choose not to - just as Jesus did while fleshly with his Father's spirit enabling his decisions and choices to align with God's will and not his own.

Once we have received our change to spirit life, as Jesus did also, we will not be God, but we will have the character and heart of God - which the angels do not have.

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me Isaiah 46:9

God has never said He is making more Gods. He is making, though humanity, a family of children who are like Him and want the same things He does - peace, love, grand desires and accomplishments and all without a seeking of selfish purposes.

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  • (+1) Sound answer, and very well explained. The only missing piece is that there's no explicit reference to either of the source texts of the Question - this is currently more of a systematic theology answer, and would be strengthened by exegeting at least the Isaiah passage and exploring the authorial intent around it. Hermeneutically, when we're trying to understand a passage we should anchor our exegesis on that passage, or else we risk playing 'Bible Trumps' with our favourite verses.
    – Steve Taylor
    Jul 27 at 9:53
  • I think I covered the Q aspects - which is really contrasting one obvious meaning with another apparent meaning. How are we like God - how is God not like us? The passages merely point to those assumptions and little Herm. is required. But happy to dig a bit deeper. thx.
    – steveowen
    Jul 27 at 10:06
  • Well that's it - it's one thing to address the theological or philosophical angle, but that can be the opposite of the hermeneutical process. A true hermeneutical approach begins with the source passage in isolation, and builds upwards using context, to explain the authorial intent of the text. Beginning with a construction of other passages to shape and frame your answer before exegeting Isaiah risks eisegeting conclusions into the text. So I still really like your answer in terms of its logic, but without the hermeneutical angle there's always the chance it could be misleading WRT Isaiah.
    – Steve Taylor
    Jul 27 at 10:23
  • Do you see what you seek in any other answer here?
    – steveowen
    Jul 27 at 10:25
  • I suppose that Robert's written the only answer that makes a clear attempt at exegeting the texts to understand their intent, though I'm undecided as to whether it's short or just very concise. But no, I suspect there's more exposition available on this question, especially from the Isaiah angle - if I had a little more time on my hands today it'd be a fun one to investigate. :)
    – Steve Taylor
    Jul 27 at 10:33
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God is Spirit (2 Cor 3:18, John 4:24) and we are flesh and blood. God is the creator and we are His creation. It states the rather obvious to say that we are not God (Isa 46:9). God is omniscient, omnipotent, etc, and we are not. God is perfect we are not.

However, the fact that we are made in the image of God (Gen 1:26) means we need to be imitators of God's character - this is one of the most repeated and consistent messages of the NT - see appendix below.

APPENDIX - The Imitation of God

The NT has a wealth of material about how we are to imitate Jesus. Here is a small sample.

  • Made like God. Gen 1:26, 27, 5:1, 9:6, Eph 4:20-24, 1 John 3:2. Note that this means that one of the purposes of salvation is to restore the likeness of God in humans that sin has erased.
  • Walk as Jesus walked. 1 John 2:6.
  • Jesus was led by the Spirit Matt 4:1. The Christian must be born of the Spirit (John 3:5) by receiving the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38) and walk by the Spirit (Gal 5:25, John 6:63, Phil 3:3, John 4:24). In fact, the whole life of Christian is to put aside the “psychical” mind and live by the Spirit (1 Cor 2:14, 1 Cor 15:44-46, Gal 5:17, Jude 19, John 6:63, 1 Peter 3:18).
  • Love as Jesus loved. John 13:34, 35, 15:12, 1 John 4:8, 11, 19, Eph 5:1, 2.
  • Lay down life for friends. John 15:13, Eph 5:2.
  • Jesus’ suffering leaves us an example. John 16:33, 1 Cor 7:28, 2 Tim 1:4, Heb 13:12, 13, 1 Peter 2:21.
  • Because Jesus was persecuted, so are His followers. John 15:20, 21.
  • Conformed to the likeness of the Son. Rom 8:29.
  • Transforming our will and bodies to conform to God’s will. Rom 12:1, 2.
  • Jesus was baptised (Matt 3:13-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21, 22) and so should we be baptised, Matt 28:19, Acts 2:38, 10:48, 16:31, 22:16, Rom 6:1-9, etc. See “Baptism”.
  • Forgive as Jesus forgave. Matt 6:12, 14, 15, 18:35, Eph 4:32, Col 3:13.
  • Be imitators of God. Eph 5:1.
  • Be holy as Jesus is holy. Lev 11:44, 45, 1 Peter 1:15, 16.
  • Be pure as He is pure. 1 John 3:3.
  • Partakers of the divine nature. 2 Peter 1:4.
  • We are being changed into Christ’s glory (= reputation). 2 Cor 3:18.
  • Pray as Jesus prayed. Luke 11:1.
  • We are to have the mind of Christ. Phil 2:5, 1 Cor 2:16.
  • Be kind because God is kind. Luke 6:34, 35.
  • Be merciful because God is merciful. Luke 6:36.
  • Be servants to others as Jesus was. John 13:15-17, 1 Peter 4:11b, Matt 20:24-28.
  • Be patient as Jesus was patient. 1 Tim 1:16.
  • Talk/speak as Jesus speaks. 1 Peter 4:11a.
  • Be “perfect” (= mature and generous to enemies) as the Father is. Matt 5:48.
  • Husbands should love their wives as Christ loved His people and gave Himself for her. Eph 5:25.
  • Keep the commandments as Jesus kept the commandments. John 15:10.
  • Abide in Christ as Christ abides in us. John 15:4.
  • Jesus is the “beginning and the end” (Rev 22:13) and Jesus is the beginning and end of our faith (Heb 12:2).
  • We are co-heirs with Christ of glory. Rom 8:17.
  • Jesus gave his all and we must give up all things for Him. Rom 8:32.
  • Jesus is called the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29, 1 Cor 5:7, 1 Peter 1:19) and so are His followers (John 10:1-18, 21:15-17)
  • Jesus washed the disciples’ feet (John 13:1-17) and so should we (John 13:14-17)
  • Jesus is the light of the world (John 1:4, 9, 8:12, 9:5) and so are we (Matt 5:14-16)
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Communicable attributes of God are those that human beings can also have. E.g., Leviticus 11:44

For I am the LORD your God; consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, because I am holy.

How are we made in His likeness?

We are made like God because we can have the communicable attributes of God.

On the other hand, God is not like us because of his incommunicable attributes. Incommunicable attributes are those that belong to God alone. E.g., Jeremiah 23:24

Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?” declares the LORD. “Do not I fill heaven and earth?” declares the LORD.

No creature can fill heaven and earth. Only God can.

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  • Great point, something surely to meditate on. I’ve learned about communicable & non-communicable attributes of God before, that seems very tenable for an explanation.
    – Cork88
    Jul 28 at 21:28

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