On the Image of God in Man

by Matthias Hafenreffer
translated by Andrew Hussman

This section on the image of God in man is taken from Matthias Hafenreffer’s Loci Theologici of 1603. It is found in book three, which deals with the doctrine of man, the first state of man, his state before the fall, the third locus of that section. In it Hafenreffer shows from Scripture what the image of God is and what it is not, the value of this doctrine, and the errors to be avoided.

On the Image of God in Man

So far on the immortality and propagation of man’s soul. Now, so that the honor and excellence of man’s soul may be clearer, I aim to show that man was formed in the image of God.

This is clear:

  1. From the counsel of the Trinity given before the creation of man.

Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.’”

  1. From the very story from of creation, when the previous counsel was carried out.

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

Genesis 5:1-2 “This is the written account of Adam’s line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female.”

Is the external form of a human body the image of God?

No. Although, when one admires the structure of the human body (as with all other created things, Romans 1:19), some little sparks of the infinite power, wisdom, and divine goodness are apparent, this external form nevertheless does not express that image in which man was created by the counsel of the Trinity itself, as it is written.

Then is man’s soul the image of God?

It certainly cannot be denied that man’s soul is also in accordance with that, which is the intelligent and immortal Spirit. For this reason, all of man’s excellence, which surpasses every other living thing, represents God’s image to a certain extent. Therefore, even after the fall, man has the honor of having been made in God’s image, and hence it was commanded that murder was to be avenged with blood, Genesis 9:6. Yet all this excellence is still not that image of God, in which man was formed at the beginning, and of which he was deprived through the fall.

What is the proof that neither the body, nor the soul, is the image of God which was lost through the fall?

  1. Because, if the body, or the external form of the body, were the image of God, then it would follow: that God is corporeal. But God is spirit, having neither bones, nor flesh, John 4:24; Luke 24:39.

  2. It would follow that, when the image of God was lost, the external form of man was lost or changed.

  3. It would follow that, when the image of God was lost, the very mind or soul of man was lost. And all these explanations are not without the greatest absurdity.

Then what, at length, is the image of God?

The image of God was the highest completeness of the first man, in which he reflected the excellence of his creator with a most beautiful likeness.

Without a doubt, in the intellect it was the true and perfect knowledge of all things human and divine; in the will, it was the most delightful and holy agreement with the will of the creator; in all other powers, it was willing obedience. For man was made similar to his God in his qualities, not in his essence, so that with the wonderful light of the intellect, with the holy conformity of the will, with the perfect congruity of all the remaining faculties to the fashioner, he would reflect his image as a mirror reflects something most purely and brightly.

From what do you show that the image of God shone in the perfection of qualities rather than in the similarity of essence?

This cannot be shown anywhere else more clearly or plainly than from the restoration of the divine image itself. For since this restoration is described by the renewal of qualities, it appears clearly to all that it shone forth also in the beginning in the perfection and completeness of the same qualities.

Then produce some testimonies of the restoration of the image of God, so that from them it may be understood what it was like it was from the beginning.

2 Corinthians 3:18 “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

Ephesians 4:17-18, “So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.”

And a few verses later (22-24) “[You were taught…] to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

Colossians 3:9-10, “Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.”

And a little later (12), “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Therefore, through Christ we are thus restored, so that by true knowledge and understanding, righteousness, holiness, truth, mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and forbearance we might express the image of him who created us. Indeed this, into which we are transformed in renewal, was that image at the beginning in creation, which the Original had displayed in his creature as in a mirror.

Was the image of God therefore only an external adornment, and an accident separable without the destruction of the nature?

The image of God was an internal adornment, created together with and built in with the first man, pertaining entirely to the original completeness of man. And it also could not be removed without the miserable and horrendous corruption and destruction of that completeness.

But was not the image of God was lost through sin?

Oh! The grief! It was lost! But, although this removal was permitted, it did not destroy the very substance of man. However, it distorted the wholeness and excellence of his nature with a horrible corruption, as it is clear from the citations, and below it will be shown abundantly in the locus on sin.

Can the lost image of God be renewed?

It can through the grace of God. And in this life it is renewed daily among the faithful. But the highest and perfect degree will be when we in future glory are fully conformed to Christ our restorer.

What is the value of this locus?

  1. That we with free souls may worship God’s infinite goodness, which he demonstrated to the human race in this excellence of his image given together with his creation.

  2. That we, when we contemplate our former honor in the word of God as in a mirror, may deplore our present misery with earnest sighs.

  3. That we may strive zealously to renew through Christ the qualities which we have lost.

What errors should be avoided here?

The opinion of those who think that the external form of man was the image of God.

The opinion of the Scholastics, who have taught that the image of God was something accessory and only an external adornment which could have been removed without the corruption of the nature, concerning which there is more below.

The opinion of the Flacians, who call us Accidentarians, because we teach that both the image of God and original sin are accidents. For we think that the image of God was not merely some slight Accident, but the built in completeness. This is clear from what has been said, and what we think about original sin will also be shown rather clearly below.