May 27, 2017 | by: 0 Comments|
Brothers and Sisters,
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been reading and thinking about Paul’s conception of the “image of God.” Paul would have learned of the image of God from the Pentateuch, in particular, from Genesis 1:26-28, 5:1-3, and 9:1-7. Among other things, these texts teach us that as human beings (those made in the image of God) we are representative, relational, and responsible. We are representative of God on earth. We are relational in the sense that we relate to God and those made in his image. And we are held responsible for how we represent God and relate to him and those made in his image.
Given what we know of the Bible’s storyline, it is not hard to see how we have fallen far short of our responsibility to honor the One in whose image we are made. In thinking about Paul’s conception of the image of God, I’ve been amazed by the robust way in which he comprehends these foundational truths in relation to our hope in Jesus Christ. Paul uses the language of image at least nine times explicitly, and he probably alludes to the concept even more than that. With respect to those nine explicit references in Paul’s writing, he uses the concept of the image of God in ways that are static and dynamic. The static references are normally connected to Jesus and the dynamic references are related to those of us who believe.
In Colossians 1:15 and 2 Corinthians 4:4, Paul informs us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. This is our hope of salvation. Jesus is the image of God, like we are, yet without sin. He never fell, and so those who are united to him in faith come into possession of his righteousness; his perfect representation of God on earth is ours. The one apparently static use of the image of God with relation to those of us who believe is found in 1 Corinthians 11:7, where Paul is dealing with conduct in public worship. There he simply affirms that man is the image and glory of God.
This leaves Paul’s dynamic use of the image, which is the predominant way that he uses the concept. We should bear in mind that all of these references pertain to those who believe. In Colossians 3:9-10 and Ephesians 4:24, Paul reminds us that we are being renewed after the image of our Creator, and that for this very reason we ought to put off the old self and put on the new self. Through the renewing work of Jesus in our lives by the Holy Spirit, the once marred image of God in us is now being renewed and restored. This is both the work of the Spirit and the work we are to give ourselves to in the power of the Spirit.
There is still another groups of image texts used by Paul in a dynamic way. Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 3:18, and 1 Corinthians 15:49, all contain an eschatological dimension. In other words, they are oriented toward the goal of glorification in Christ. According to Paul, one of the goals toward which our salvation is hurtling is being conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). To that end, we are being transformed into the image of Christ, transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18), so that, on the Last Day, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49).
May we never forget all that we have in Christ, all that we are in him, and all that we will be because of him.
Warmly in Christ,
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