It is often suggested that the “image” is tied with humans being personal, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and relational beings like God. Others suggest that the “image” is tied with humans being creative like God.
In other words, “the image of God” means that humans possess a likeness with God as a rational being, a reflection of the intellect of God. Having perfect innocence is likened to God’s holiness. God gave man an identity as ruler, to serve his mandate to rule over his creation. Gifted with reason or will, man has the capacity to have a relationship with the divine, being that God is present in him. Man has fellowship with God, reflecting his trinitarian nature and love. God is love and he who loves is like him. He gave man his female partner in ruling over his creation and blessed them to multiply and subdue the earth.
Humanity could have inherited the perfection of Adam before the fall and would have been in communion with God in paradise. Sadly, Adam and Eve partially lost the image of God when they chose to rebel against their Creator. “In so doing, they marred the image of God within themselves, and passed that damaged likeness on to all of their descendants (Romans 5:12). Today, we still bear the image of God (James 3:9), but we also bear the scars of sin. Mentally, morally, socially, and physically, we show the effects of sin.”
God, because of his great love for humanity, sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to restore His image through his expiating sacrifice on the cross. Humans can now be reunited with God because “Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). Through Christ, we are made new creations in the likeness of God (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Through the redemptive act of Jesus the original image of God is restored in man. He begins to have a “new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24) Redemption is only available by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior from the sin that separates us from God (Ephesians 2:8-9). We are being “conformed” to the image of Jesus by the Holy Spirit to be made like Him.