The Social Nature of God and the Image of God in Humanity

It is a fact that humanity reflects the social nature of God. In order to understand this fact we have to examine, first, the nature of being. That is, what is it that constitutes a person? This is answered in Genesis chapter 1 wherein we find the following very important passage:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”- Genesis 1:27

This verse is at the center of this discussion since it defines for us what it is to be a person. That is, a person is properly defined as that which is created in God's own image. That describes only one creature- humanity. This leads to the logical question, in what sense then are we his “image”? There are three elements that basically make up this “image” in humanity. Humanity reflects God's image through:
  1. Function- What we do in the world. Our creativity and how it impacts the world and others in our world. We have dominion in our world and are capable of complex communication. We are also equal in dignity (male and female), though we are different in the roles we fulfill. We possess memory, intellect, will, and reason.
  2. Morality- We have an innate sense of moral law and of justice. We grasp instinctively the concepts of right and wrong, and we are able to transcend mere personal desires or even needs for the greater good of another. We have a drive to love and be loved.
  3. Spiritual- We are spiritual beings with a need for spiritual sustenance.
While I acknowledge these three are perhaps myopic, I think they get to the heart of our discussion. These elements describe the nature of being, of personhood. Each of these three elements shares one commonality. That is, all three are undeniably relational. This points us to the social nature of God as His image in humanity.

God's social nature is expressed in:
  1. Function- He created and interacts with the world. His creativity clearly has impact on our lives, and while we have dominion, He is still sovereign over His creation. Additionally, God communicates to humanity and is co-equal in all aspects with regard to the Triune Persons, though the Father, Son and Holy Spirit each take a different role. God possesses memory, intellect, will, and reason.
  2. Morality- The innate sense of morality in humanity demands there be a moral law Giver. God, who is holy, is the ground of all morality. He is just, and He always seeks our highest good. This is so because he loves us, and it is His will that we love Him.
  3. Spiritual- God is Spirit, and all spiritual sustenance flows from His blessings.
These elements are seen even in the relationship between the Persons of the Holy Trinity, which is loving, self-giving, and adoring of one another.

Dr. Gerry Breshears, Professor of Systematic Theology at Western Seminary, states:

I think along with many others that God is eternally relational. So God is love that has meaning because within the being of God there are three persons that actually love each other. It is not like me loving myself which is a kind of bizarre, but this is different when I say I love my wife. It is different when we say the Father loves the Son who loves the Spirit and they all three love each other. And it seems to me that all three are other oriented and we as humans are best fulfilled when we are other oriented in that self-giving relationship that we find in the trinity. I think this is a pattern for all of life, that of being relational, other centered and self-giving and it is right in the heart of the trinity referring to God eternally as gracious and loving and faithful, because the persons of the trinity do that to each other.”1

This love is expressed by humanity, again, in our function, morality and spirituality, which all flow out of, and are consistent with, the two greatest commandments.

Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

Most Holy Trinity, One God, eternally loving and relational; help us to always be aware that we are created in Your Image, and that with that image comes great responsibility as well as blessing. Help us to reflect Your loving relationship in our love for others, and to love You as we ought. Amen.

1Systematic Theology lecture, Transcript. “Trinity”.