Biblical Story Lesson Plans - The Imago Dei

For the first lesson plan, we will cover the topic of humanity being made in the image of God. This topic is important in the overall Biblical story because, among many other things, it explains our high calling and, consequently, how far we have fallen in our sin. Without understanding the Imago Dei, we cannot understand the seriousness of sin and beauty of the new creation. Additionally, understanding this doctrine gives us a firm foundation for Christian ethics. As D.J.A. Clines puts it, “By the doctrine of the image of God, Genesis affirms the dignity and worth of man, and elevates all men-not just kings or nobles-to the highest status conceivable, short of complete divinization.” \autocite[p.53]{Clines1968Image}.


Genesis, the first book in the Bible, opens with an account of how God created everything from nothing. In the first three chapters, we learn how God creates the universe, and more closely, the earth. God then fills the earth with plants and animals. At the end of his creating work, God creates humanity, man and woman. Let’s read a portion of chapter one.

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” (Gen. 1:26-28, English Standard Version).

Notice that, unlike every other created being, God says that humans are uniquely made in his image. Both sexes, male and female, are fully made in his image. This is the Imago Dei, the image of God.

God then gives humanity two charges. The first is to “fill the earth”. This means to reproduce and raise children so that humanity would spread across the globe. This command has continued until today, where every corner of this planet is filled by some tribe or nation.

The second charge that God gives is to subdue the earth and exercise dominion over all creation. In one sense, this means that we are to cultivate and develop this planet; to bring order to chaos; to design, create, and engineer. Made in God’s image, we are to create like he does, with the difference being that only he can create from nothing.

In a difference sense, Imago Dei conveys a sense of rule and reign. Only God is King of the universe, but he has given us the privilege of visibly demonstrating his rule everywhere we go. Like ambassadors, we represent his country.

Like mirrors, our purpose is to reflect God’s perfection, his character, his goodness, to each other and to all creation. As the creator, he is the source of all that is true, right, good, and beautiful. And we, as his most prized creation, have the privilege and heavy responsibility of imitating his goodness to the world.

In order to understand the significance of the Imago Dei, we must understand how far we have fallen from it. Later, in chapter three of Genesis, Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, chose to rebel against God. Instead of reflecting God’s glory, they attempt to become their own gods. From their first act of disobedience, the mirror shattered; creation broke; humanity’s relationship with God fractured. Instead of living in God’s presence in the garden, they were exiled, separated from his presence physically and spiritually. On that horrible day, they died spiritually.

Theological Significance

The Imago Dei is not something that God added to our humanity \autocite[p.197]{Berkouwer1962Man}. There is no humanity without the Imago Dei! Our sole purpose is to know and enjoy God forever. Apart from a relationship with him, the things of this world will never satisfy us.

Knowing that we bear God’s image shows us the height of our calling and the greatness of our fall. Every human has a responsibility to love God and one another perfectly. In addition to that, we have a duty to cultivate, develop, and care for all creation. This planet is still the garden that we have the task of keeping.

The Imago Dei has big implications for our ethical choices. Every person we will ever meet bears God’s image; from the unborn to the elderly; from every ethnicity; speaking every language; those healthy and those with physical or mentor disabilities. All human life, regardless of their ability to contribute to society, has inherent dignity, worth, and value. Why? Because they possess God’s image.

This is why, later in Genesis, God commands that everyone who murders must receive the death penalty. God does not leave room for anyone who takes the life of another image bearer; who disregards the value his image.

Romans 3:23 says that “All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory”. Despite our high calling, each of us has individually rebelled against God’s kingdom and chosen to set up our own kingdom.

The good news is that God has not walked away from humanity. Through our disobedience, we have separated ourselves from him, but he has pursued us! After explaining the consequences of sin to Adam and Eve, God promises that someday he will send a man who will make everything right. The rest of the Old Testament traces this promise to the Messiah, Jesus.

Two thousand years ago, Jesus lived the perfect life that we should have lived and died the death that we deserve. He is the perfect image of God, because he is God. He came to be our substitute, to rescue us from the penalty of our sin and to change us from the inside out, so that we can once again reflect God’s goodness.

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