Jesus Christ: Man and the Image of God

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Jesus Christ

Man and the Image of God

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Does the apostle James confirm Genesis 1:26?

"...With it [the tongue] we curse men, who have been made in the similitude [likeness] of God" (James 3:9).

Clearly, two passages in Genesis (Genesis 5:2 and Genesis 9:6) substantiate the fact that men and women continued in the image and likeness of God even after sin had entered man's world and greatly marred human character. Several millennia later Christ's apostles confirmed this basic biblical teaching: To be a human being is to have been created in the image and likeness of God.

This is one good reason we should greatly value our human relationships and how we deal with each other. Slander, backbiting and maligning others contradict the natural dignity of our awesome purpose in life.

Did the apostle Paul also confirm this crucial truth?

"For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man" (1 Corinthians 11:7).

These two apostles, Paul and James, reaffirm this basic, fundamental biblical teaching. However, some have supposed that this particular passage excludes women from sharing in the image of God, which, if true, would clearly contradict Genesis 1:26 and Genesis 5:2.

However, just a few verses later Paul shows this is not what he means. "For as woman came from man, even so the man also comes through woman; but all things [including His image, reflecting His character] are from God" (1 Corinthians 11:12). Apparently Paul is discussing the Corinthian congregation's seeming disregard for the proper distinction between the roles of men and women.

Through whom is the image of God perfected in men and women?

"For since by man came death, by Man [Christ] also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:21-22).

"The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man [Christ] is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man [Christ]" (1 Corinthians 15:47-49).

We humans have clearly let ourselves down. We have failed to grasp God's purpose for us. We have not lived up to our marvelous, godly potential. Sin has marred the image of God in all people. But the restoration and renewal of the spiritual likeness (character) of God take place through Jesus Christ, in whose image we are destined to finally and fully conform at the resurrection of the just. Our fleshly bodies will then become glorious spirit bodies (Philippians 3:20-21; see also 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Is Christ also in the image of God?

"But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose mind the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them" (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).

"He [God the Father] has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation" (Colossians 1:13-15).

Though humans are made in the image of God, it is the righteous and sinless Jesus Christ who justifies men and women who have sinned and brought the death penalty on themselves (Romans 6:23).

Paul tells us that we, "who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works,...[Christ] has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present [us] holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed [we] continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast" (Colossians 1:21-23). Though we have fallen far short of our potential, Jesus Christ—who is much more "the image of God"—provides a way for us to be reconciled to our Creator and attain that potential, which is to reflect the character of God in our lives (2 Peter 3:18).

Jesus Christ was the visible image of the invisible God. Christ said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Through Christ we both see the Father and better grasp our purpose and potential.

Clearly, a major aspect of our goal in life is to attain God's character. Hebrews 1:3 explains that Jesus Christ was "the brightness of [God's] glory and the express image of His person..." In this verse image is translated from the Greek word charakter. This word means "a tool for [en]graving...'a stamp' or 'impress,' as on a coin or seal, in which case the seal or die which makes an impression bears the 'image' produced by it, and, vice versa, all the features of the 'image' correspond respectively with those of the instrument producing it" (Vine's Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, "Image").

Jesus Christ was truly the exact image of God the Father. The Revised Standard Version translates Hebrews 1:3: "He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of His nature." Christ confirmed this when He said, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9).

What is the spiritual task of every Christian?

"And be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and...put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:23-24).

It is the new man (or new woman) who is spiritually in the image of God. But none can accomplish this transformation by himself (please request our free booklets The Road to Eternal Life and Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion). The image of God can be renewed in human beings only through the living presence of Jesus Christ in their lives.

The apostle Paul wrote: "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). This truly miraculous experience can be accomplished only by and through God's Spirit.

What is our ultimate destiny in God and Christ?

"For whom He [God the Father] foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren" (Romans 8:29).

Everlasting life in the Kingdom of God as part of God's family is our destiny. That is why we were made in the image of God in the first place. True Christians are destined to join the Father and the Son in that great family as "brethren" of Jesus Christ.

Great and abundant will be the rewards of the righteous! But what will happen to the wicked who refuse to repent?