Spiritual Growth and Christian Living Resources

How Can I Be a Sinner if I’m Made in God’s Image?

How Can I Be a Sinner if I’m Made in God’s Image?

Good question. This question, however, spawns a few others.

Is everyone a sinner? Or just people worse than me? Is everyone created in God’s image? Then how can a serial killer, a terrorist, or a rapist be made in the image of God? Who’s a sinner and who’s not?

How can people be sinners and still be made in the image of God? More importantly, how can I be like God and worthy of eternal damnation?

Created in God’s Image

In the first chapter of Genesis, God states, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” Then God forms Adam out of the earth and breathes life into him (Genesis 2:7). This act of creation differs from God’s creation of every other living thing, which came into existence through God’s speech. God did not breathe on anything else. He did not say he made monkeys or squirrels or tulips look like him.

He only made man and woman in his image.

In Latin, the term “image of God” is imago dei. Paul uses this same descriptive to explain the miracle of Jesus’ humanity and deity in 2 Corinthians 4:4. Jesus is human, “the image of God,” yet he is also deity: Peter affirms that Jesus is the Son of God (John 6:68, Matthew 16:14-16).

Although Genesis 1:26-27 functions as God’s final day of creation, these two verses about God’s image re-enforce the love and longing that God has toward us (and the reason he took such extravagant measures to reconcile mankind to himself after Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. See what it means to have the image of God:

1. You are an intentional creation. You are not random cellular material from an accidental explosion. You were designed at a particular time, in a particular way, to live a particular life (Psalm 139:13-16).

2. You are like God in form and function. The word for make in Hebrew means “to fashion, produce, appoint.” The word for image and likeness speak to the internal and external similarities—you have a body, emotions, free will, and a soul (Deuteronomy 6:9, Revelation 6:9).

3. Your existence was discussed in committee by the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; each person of God wanted you to exist.

The Bible builds on the idea of imago dei through exhortations like:

Created in Adam’s Image

Genesis 3 records the serpent’s temptation and deception of Eve. She and Adam chose to disobey God’s instructions, and although he forgave them, he removed them from the Garden of Eden. The curse of sin went into effect (spiritual and physical death), but thankfully, God promised in Genesis 3:15 that God would send someone to crush the curse and redeem mankind, who would counteract Adam’s sin (1 Corinthians 5:21-23).

Because of Adam’s humanity, we have inherited Adam’s physical and spiritual attributes:

- We bear Adam’s likeness (Genesis 5:3)

- We have a sinful nature (Romans 5:12-14)

- Our sin begins in our heart/soul and mind (Genesis 6:5, Jeremiah 17:9)

- Our sin nature struggles against the spirit of God in us (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 8:8)

- We need God’s love and grace to save us (Romans 5:8, Ephesians 2:8-9)

The Cosmic Struggle

If you’re a follower of Christ, you have two natures, a sin nature, and a holy nature. The Holy Spirit lives inside of you, convicting (John 16:8), filling (Ephesians 5:18), teaching (John 16:12-15), guiding (Romans 8:14), and other actions. When you choose to sin, you grieve the Holy Spirit inside you (Ephesians 4:30). This is going to make your life uncomfortable. As Paul said, “you were bought with a price; therefore, honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

Romans 7:15-25 explains the cosmic struggle going on inside of you. Your spirit wants to obey and serve God because the Holy Spirit produces good qualities in you. But the enemy of God uses your natural sinful selfish tendencies to oppose the work that God is attempting to do in you; your sin nature produces evil qualities whenever you give in to temptation (Galatians 5:22-23). You have a war inside of you.

Which Nature Is Going to Win?

The Bible’s entire message is that God sent his Son to take on the sins of the whole world, to die for them, and then to resurrect into glory where he would act as an intercessory for every sinful person who calls on his name (Acts 2:23-25).

Logic demands that I must be sinful since Jesus died for my sins. Consequently, I must face the reality that I am a sinner, even though I try not to be (Romans 3:23, 6:23) because the Bible says that all humans have sinned. Paul tells the Galatians that the grace of God would be pointless, and Jesus would have died needlessly if they were capable of saving themselves (Galatians 2:20-21).

But there’s good news: God promises that even though we inherit Adam’s sinful nature, a second “Adam” (Jesus) came to replace our sins with his grace and forgiveness (Romans 5:15-18). “For just as through the disobedience of one man, the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of one man the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).

It doesn’t make sense that the God who created the universe would become a human and allow himself to be tortured and executed unless it was absolutely necessary for preserving the thing he loved most--us.

How Does God Fix the Sin Problem?

Eternal death is not punishment for being human. It’s the punishment for rejecting God’s authority, a punishment that was created for the devil, not for us.

Whenever we give in to our sin nature, we follow the devil (John 8:44), and therefore, we reap the punishment intended for him. But God made a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13)—he sent his Son to pay the death penalty so we could live in the eternal realm that God created for all of us for way back at the beginning of time. Jesus’ mission to earth revolved around re-establishing “the kingdom of heaven,” where he intended for all of us to live all along. (Remember the Garden of Eden?) God is about relationship, not punishment. The Bible, with its instructions and warnings, is a light directing us toward seeking God (Psalm 119:105).

Sure, God could have kept Adam and Eve from making a bad choice. He could have withheld free will. They could have blindly obeyed everything he said. But that’s not a relationship. That’s not freedom. That’s not love.

So, we all have two choices, as well as two natures. We can choose to believe that God loves us, died for us, and will forgive our sins. Or we can choose to reject that God loves us, died for us, and can forgive our sins. We will all live and die with the results of those beliefs.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Laurenz Kleinheider 

new 2020 headshot of author Sue SchlesmanSue Schlesman is an award-winning author, teacher, and church leader. In 2020, Sue won a Selah Award for her nonfiction book Soulspeak: Praying Change into Unexpected Places. Sue is a top-contributor to Salem Web Network radio ministry and Crosswalk.com. She loves traveling, reading, missions, art, and dessert. Sue has a BA in Creative Writing and a Masters in Theology and Culture. Sue is agented with Karen Neumair at Credo Communications. She and her husband Shane are launching a podcast called “Stress Test: the heartbeat of healthy leadership” in late April, 2023.