Made in the Image of God: Relationship and Responsibility

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Genesis 1:26

Last week, I wrote about man’s likeness of God relating to the spirit. This week, let’s take a look at two more ways we’re made in the image and likeness of God: Relationship and responsibility.

Relationship

In Genesis 2:18, after God had finished creating everything and had declared it all good, there was one thing that He said was not good: “It is not good that the man should be alone.” Out of everything that God created—plants, animals, insects, New Jersey—the only thing God said was not good was that the man was alone.

God is completely and perfectly independent, having no need for relationship with anyone but Himself, in the three persons of the Trinity. Humanity, however, was not created to be independent (sometimes to my chagrin—as an introvert, my idea of a great party is when everyone goes home). We cannot exist without relationship with others. So what did God do? He said, “I will make a helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18b). He made the woman. And upon seeing her, Adam (like all men who love their wives) said, “Wow! She’s amazing!”

Genesis then says that “a man shall leave his man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). In marriage we find the closest human equivalent to the perfect union of the Trinity. In marriage, man and woman become one, just as God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are one. We have one home, one bedroom, one bank account, one faith, one family.

We have one life together. It is a wonderful thing, to be sure.

Responsibility

Because we have both, man and woman, been created in the image of likeness of God (Gen. 1:27), we have been created with equal dignity and value. Men are not more valuable or important than women. Women are not more valuable or important than men. Speaking of our value in Christ, Paul writes, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, emphasis mine). Just as we image the Trinity through marriage, becoming “one flesh,” we image the Trinity when we understand and embrace the unique responsibilities God has given to us as men and women.

Each person of the Trinity performs a different role. God the Father creates everything through God the Son. God the Son does the will of God the Father, coming to earth as the man Jesus Christ to pay the price for our sins, dying on the cross and rising again three days later. God the Holy Spirit equips and enables God the Son in His incarnation to live a spirit-filled, spirit-led life, and does the same for Christians today.

All are equally God, but all have different responsibilities.

Likewise, men and women have different responsibilities as equal image-bearers of the Triune God. Men are made to be cultivators—creators and stewards of family and culture (cf. Gen. 1:26,28, 2:19-20; 3:8-20). Men are commanded by God to provide for their families (1 Tim. 5:8 puts it this way: “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever“). They are commanded to manage their households well (1 Tim. 3:4). Men are commanded to love their wives, and be willing to lay down our lives for our brides (Eph. 5:25-27). We are to nurture and encourage her in her faith; to help her grow into maturity (cf. Eph. 5:28-30).

God the Father is the Cultivator, creating all that exists and will exist (Gen. 1:1-2:3). God is the Provider, giving us all that we need (Luke 12:22-34). God the Son, laid down His life for His bride, the Church, in order to present her blameless and spotless on the day of judgment (Eph. 5:26-27). God, through the Holy Spirit, works within us, sanctifying us and growing us in maturity (cf. Phil. 2:13).

Women are made to be helpers of men. Today, if you say that a woman is a helper, a listener is liable to think you’re saying that women should be barefoot and pregnant, never go to college (or learn to read for that matter) and not have opinions. And that is pure nonsense. When you read “women are to be helpers,” please don’t fall prey to the notion that that means women are to be subjugated. The subjugation of women is an affront to God. Rather, please see it for what it truly is: That women are to embrace their role that is modeled by the Holy Spirit, who is called the Helper (John 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7).

By being a helper, women follow the guidance of their husbands (or fathers) as they follow Christ (Eph. 5:22-24), with respect (Eph. 5:22) and kindness (Titus 2:5). They are to use their gifts and abilities that God has given them for His glory and their joy (cf. Prov. 10-31; Titus 2:3-4). This includes serving to bring conviction of sin upon their husbands; not with mean-spirited, condemning words (Proverbs 24:24 says, “It is better to live in a corner of the housetop than in a house shared with a quarrelsome wife”), but with words that build up and encourage (cf. Eph. 4:29).

Conclusion

By living in relationship, particularly in the context of marriage, we image the perfect relationship of God within Himself. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are one, yet distinct. In the same way, husbands and wives are one, yet distinct.

Because in our oneness, we are still distinct, we must understand and embrace the different responsibilities that God has given us. Wives are to submit (which does not mean they are to be enslaved) to their husbands. Husbands are to love their wives like Christ loves His Church; a husband is to give up his life for the sake of his bride. All men and women are to be mature Christians, holy and blameless before the Lord, and seek to build each other up and encourage one another.

And together, we celebrate that men and women are both made in the image and likeness of God.