As Christians, we understand that every single person on the planet is created in the Image of God. The Genesis account of man’s creation communicates this truth (Gen 1:26-28).
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. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Even though most Christians are familiar with this passage, many are confused about what it actually means. In other words, what are the implications of being a man or woman created in the Image of God?
According to Genesis 1, God’s image bearers were called to express their identity by having dominion over the earth. This dominion commission is accomplished in two ways—filling the earth with children (28) and by subduing the earth (26, 28).
We don’t just tell stories. We live them. We orchestrate our lives around a big story that we trust in
Think for a moment about this place in history. God created man and woman in his image and they are unhindered by sin and enjoy perfect fellowship with God, each other, and all of creation. God gives them the gracious task of ruling, and they found joy in the opportunity to procreate little image bearers and subdue the earth. They had everything they needed to be obedient to God’s dominion commission. And they were to do it for the glory of their Maker.
Think about this commissioning in light of Psalm 8:4-9:
What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen,
And also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
Whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O LORD our Lord how majestic is your name in all the earth.
Therefore, as Image bearers we are to have dominion and this is good. However, man’s ability to be obedient to this commission to have dominion has been paralyzed because his relationship with God is severed.
Christians are all too familiar with the dreaded Genesis 3 account of the fall of man:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden? And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate and she also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
In three short chapters, Adam and Eve go from being naked and not ashamed to being naked and ashamed and unable to enjoy a relationship with God and fulfill the task God has given them to have dominion over the earth.
The story doesn’t end there, though. God does something incredible.
Pay close attention to Genesis 3:15:
“I [God] will put enmity between you [the serpent] and the woman [Eve], and between your [the serpent’s] offspring and her [Eve’s] offspring; he [Jesus] shall bruise your head, and you [serpent and his offspring] shall bruise his heel.”
What is God doing here?
God is preaching the gospel. In one verse, we come to understand that God has graciously saved the newly depraved Eve (puts enmity between her and the serpent); he divides the world up into two communities: those who love God and those who love self (Eve’s offspring vs. the serpent’s offspring). He foretells of a Deliverer we know in this verse as the snake-crusher, which is Christ.
Ephesians 1:7 states, “In him [Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.” God through Jesus Christ has and is restoring the image of God to his church. This restoration was his plan before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4).
After Christ died on the cross and bodily and eternally rose from the grave, securing salvation for his church, he gives this commission to his disciples:
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28:18-20
Do you understand the significance of this truth? Because Christ has secured our salvation, we now have the ability to be obedient to the dominion commission.
The Great Commission is a dominion commission just as Genesis 1:26-28 is a dominion commission. Because of the authority of Jesus and the Holy Spirit indwelling believers we can joyfully make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and teach them obedience.
God through Jesus has restored his image to his church and has reconciled us to himself for his glory. Furthermore, he has reasserted our purpose to have dominion on the earth—for his glory. We do this by faithfully heralding the good news of the gospel in the authority of Jesus Christ.
Christ won’t return until all of his children from every tribe, tongue, and nation proclaim his kingship (Ps 110:1). He has appointed that glorious day, long ago (Mk 13:32; Acts 17:31). Our commission to spread the glory of God to all nations will be successful. Christ died so that it would be. Embrace your identity and find fulfillment and joy in the task that God has graciously called and equipped you for.
Joey Tomlinson lives in Yorktown, VA with his wife, Brayden and their son, Henry Jacob. He has served as a pastor at Coastal Community Church for almost 10 years and is pursuing his doctorate in biblical counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also a certified biblical counselor with IBCD.