The point about human beings, in the original creation story to which Paul alludes again and again (specially in passages like 1 Corinthians 15), is that they are God’s agents, God’s appointed stewards over creation. This is what it means to be ‘in God’s image’: to reflect God’s wise, fruitful ordering into creation, and to reflect creation’s praise back to the creator. Humans are the creatures through whom God had intended to tend his world, to make the garden fruitful, to name the animals, to reflect his glory into the whole creation. God’s purpose at this level, was not to make the created world as a mere backdrop, a cardboard stage set within which human beings, his real interest, could as it were have somewhere to live and something to do while they were getting to know him. God’s purpose in creating humans was so that through them creation itself might flourish. But we must keep the balance. God made, for this purpose, creatures who reflected his own ‘image’, and retains a special love for them. They are not mere tools through which he intends to accomplish his plan, but delightful, unique creatures who have the capacity to know his love and reflect it back to him not least through gladly and freely carrying out his purposes. The love and the purposes dovetail together. Recognizing that one has musically gifted children will involve translating one’s love into the provision of music lessons, so that they will be able to play the music one has written specially for them, and specially to bring joy to others through them. Being in God’s image is both about reflecting God into the world (the purpose) and about receiving and returning the Divine love (the relationship). The two go together.
From Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God) by NT Wright p. 486.