What does the phrase “in the image and likeness of God” mean?

In the article “If God is incorporeal, how did He create man in His own image?”, the author mentioned that the phrase “made in the image and likeness of God” refers to the spiritual aspect of man. Someone challenged that statement in a comment:

The Bible says “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). And the author interprets and says, “and something else, “the image and likeness of God” refers to the spiritual part of man…” but nowhere in the Holy Scripture is this thing told, it is a misinterpretation, and also adding to the Word (Proverbs 30:6). Here’s an example to describe Seth, the third son of Adam and Eve, it is said, “When Adam had lived one hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, according to his image, and named him Seth” (Genesis 5:3). Here, to describe the image and likeness of Adam, they are using the same terms as in Genesis 1:27. So,  no way for the description of Seth it is used “the spiritual part of man…”

Created in the image and likeness of God
The man in the sight of God

The reader refers to the text from Genesis 5:3, which says that Adam became the father of a son in his image and likeness as to demonstrate that the “image and likeness” does not refer to the spiritual aspect. However, it is this text that demonstrates that the “image and likeness…” refers to the spiritual part because the appearance of Adam had not changed after the fall, but his spiritual condition changed: he became spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1-3). So, Seth, son of Adam, was born in the image and likeness of Adam, but it is no longer said that they are in the image and likeness of God.

The analysis of the texts from the comment

Let’s analyze the texts referred to in the comment. These texts mean the following:

  1. Adam was created in the image and likeness of God.

2. Seth, son of Adam, was born in the image of Adam, but it no longer says “in the image and likeness of God”, even if the purpose for which God created man was to be in His image and likeness.

Changes after the fall

Let’s see what has changed in Adam after the fall and what this change brought to all people.

  • All men were made sinners (a change on a moral or spiritual level).

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned… For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.  (Romans 5:12,19)

  • All are spiritually dead.

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. (Ephesians 2:1-3)

When God created man, He put him in the Garden of Eden and warned him that the day he eats of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he will surely die. Adam did not physically die on the very day that he ate of the forbidden tree. According to the text from Ephesians 2:1-3, Adam died spiritually.

So after the fall nothing has changed in human or physical appearance, but his moral and spiritual conditions have changed.

Jesus can turn our image and likeness into the image and likeness of God

Jesus came into the world as a man to regain the image and likeness of God, and that happens when someone turns wholeheartedly to Christ and is born again (sealed with the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption):

but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:16-18)

We understand that it is the Holy Spirit who makes us in the image and likeness of God, as Jesus tells Nicodemus when He speaks about the necessity of being born again, which is a birth of the Spirit:

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)

So, the change occurs on the spiritual level. This is reinforced in Ephesians:

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth. (Ephesians 4:17-24)

So the Scriptures, when talking about the “image of God”, refers to spiritual or moral aspect, manifested in living human (actions and attitudes).

Also read this article in Romanian