May 27, 2022 Orange Street church of Christ

What Does it Mean to Be a Human?

What Does it Mean to Be a Human?

What is a human being? Many today say humans are randomly evolved, nothing special, and no different from the animals around us. Let’s notice what the Bible says about being a human.

Made in the Image and Likeness of God

Unlike any other creature, human beings were created by God in His image and likeness: “Then God said, ‘let us make man in our image, after our likeness…’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:26a, 27 ESV). To be made in God’s image and likeness does not necessarily mean that we look like Him (He is non-material, Jn. 4:24). Instead, it seems to refer to our moral awareness, intellectual capacity, and emotional capability.    

To be made in the image and likeness of God has implications for the value and worth of human beings. Before the Law of Moses, only the crime of murder carried a divinely ordained death penalty. The reasoning behind requiring the death penalty for murder is given by God: “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen. 9:6). Murder is heinous in part because when one commits murder, he is violently destroying God’s image and likeness. Because human beings bear God’s image and likeness, they should be treated with respect, love, and dignity (Jas. 3:9-10; 1 Jn. 4:20)

Blessed with Dominion 

God created mankind in His image and likeness so that they could “have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26). The first command from God to mankind was: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen. 1:28).   

Humans are the only creatures given dominion over and charged to subdue the rest of God’s earthly creation. As humans, we are supposed to tame the ground, train and husband animals, grow crops, make things, invent stuff, and multiply on the face of the earth. Meditating on this awesome responsibility and the magnificence of God reflected in creation, David writes in the Psalms, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, 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” (Ps. 8:3-6). Our race is here for a glorious reason: to subdue the earth and be stewards of it, while filling it with more of those made in the image of God.  

Mortal and Fallible

Being a human is not all good, however. Our original parents had access to the tree of life which enabled them to live for as long as they ate from it, but lost access to the tree due to sin (Gen. 2:9; 3:22-24). Because of sin, every member of mankind is cursed to have a difficult life and eventually return to the dust from which he was initially formed (Gen. 3:17-19; Job 14:1-2). 

While humans initially could have lived forever in the garden, now our life is fleeting, our days are only a few handbreadths, our lifetime is as nothing, all of us stand as a mere breath and go about as a shadow (Ps. 39:4-6). Our life is “a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” (Jas. 4:14). Now, “it is appointed for man to die” (Heb. 9:27) and many humans, “through fear of death” are “subject to lifelong slavery” (Heb. 2:15). 

As our first parents demonstrated by introducing our mortality, humans are fallible. Indeed, “to err is human.” God blessed us with the ability to have moral choices and we often choose wrongly: “See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes” (Eccl. 7:29). Growing up in a fallen world, we all eventually follow the father of our race and choose to sin and fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23; 5:12). 


Thankfully, while we are mortal and fallible, humans are also loved. God was not content to watch the crown jewel of His creation waste away in sin and death. Instead, He demonstrated His love for the world by sending His Divine Son to earth as a human to die on our behalf and grant us access to eternal life, forgiveness, and righteousness (Jn. 3:16; Rom. 5:6-8; Rom. 8:1-4; Heb. 2:9, 14-15; 1 Jn. 5:11). God even restores the fullness of His image and likeness to us when we are in Christ (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10)! Truly, whatever we lost in Adam we can regain in Christ (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:21-22).  

To be a human means that you are not a mistake. You are not just another animal. You are not a random collection of cells that crawled out of some prehistoric soup. Instead, you bear the image and likeness of God. You are here to have dominion over God’s creation. And, though you are mortal and fallible, you are loved so much that God’s own Son died to give you eternal life and forgiveness!