How important is this idea of man being made in the image of God? Many Christians seem not to think it is very important. We don’t hear much teaching done on the subject, yet it obviously is important, especially in the New Testament. There is very little teaching done on either the meaning or the means by which we are to express that image in our lives.
Paul said that human beings are the “offspring” of God. One expects that the children of a couple will in some way look like their parents – and not only look like them, but in many ways act like them. The same is true of the children of God. But how do we know how we are supposed to “look?” Yesterday we devoted some thought to the fact that the only way we can truly know what God is like – and hence what the image of God means – is by looking at Jesus, the “exact likeness of God’s own being.” Today we want to expand on that idea and see just how Jesus manifested the likeness of God in His life.
Just how important is this idea of Jesus being the image of God? In Colossians 1:13-15 Paul connects the redemption of man with Jesus, the image of the invisible God…
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.”
Being the image (eikon) of God shows His relationship to the Father, and being the “firstborn” (prototokos) His relationship to creation. He, in His fleshly form is the exact representation of the Father and as the one through whom the worlds were framed, He stands above creation as its ideal ruler. Firstborn does not in any way suggest that He had a beginning, but refers to His position over creation.
When we read this passage we cannot fail to think back to Genesis 1:26-27 where God made man in His own image…
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
Man was intended to be God’s representative in creation, living and carrying on His work in the same manner as God Himself. Having failed that, man’s perception of God was greatly limited. No longer could man walk with God in the same way Adam and Eve had in the garden. No longer did man have the ability to envision God in order to understand what he was intended to be. But Jesus enables man to both see what God is like and to understand how he is to relate to creation.
In 2 Corinthians 4:4-7, he speaks of people who are perishing, telling why they are and what they could see if they had not been blinded.
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.”
Paul says in v. 6 that man’s accurate perception of God is through the “gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Here there is a connection of the original creation with man’s salvation, the new creation. He makes that clear in 2 Corinthians 5:17;
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”
To what purpose are we a new creation in Christ? Is it just that we be forgiven of our sin? That certainly is a part of it, but in thinking about becoming a new creation we cannot help but think also about the original purpose of God in creating man to be in His image.
For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
The image of God that man was supposed to manifest is now seen in its full manifestation in Jesus. So, what do we see in Him? What does Him being the image of God reveal to us of what we should be as we are this new creation? Look at some of the things that are said about Him.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:29
He was tender, forgiving and compassionate. Consider the example of the sinful woman who anointed His feet. Jesus was eating with a Pharisee when this woman came in and with her tears washed his feet and then anointed them. His host, though silent, disapproved of Jesus action. What do we see of the character of Jesus in this account?
“…and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment.
And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”
And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:38, 48, 50).
He was moved by human circumstances of grief and sorrow. At the tomb of his friend, Lazarus, Jesus wept because of the sorrow he saw in his sister and friends.
“When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:32-37).
What can we say about Jesus washing His disciple’s feet?
“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3-5).
Here was the Son of God with a towel around His waist down on His knees washing His disciple’s feet. What was He showing His disciples? He was showing them what God is like. He was saying to them, “This is what it means to be like God!” “If you are going to be like God, this is the kind of thing you must be doing!”
Indeed, that very night he would be taken, tried and the next day be crucified. He was saying to them in all that, “See how much I love you!” He was God being humiliated. God suffering. God dying. God emptying Himself. All of it because of His great love with which He has loved us. All of it so that we could be restored to fellowship with God and again bear the image of God as He is the image of God.
There are many other things we could call to mind about how Jesus manifested the image of God while He walked among men. But the best way to learn about all these ways in which He was like the Father is by getting to know Him for yourself. Go to the gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – read about His life. Walk with Him through Galilee and Jerusalem. Listen to Him preach the good news of the Kingdom of God. Watch Him as He interacts with people. See how He reacted to the needs of others. See His sympathy, His compassion, His tenderness and yes, even His anger as He was outraged by the blatant disregard people had for God and for holy things.
When you have become thoroughly acquainted with Him, willingly yield yourself to His loving Lordship and begin living and acting out of a character that is formed by worship and admiration of Him. Then you will begin to take on yourself the “imago Dei.”