The Image of God in the New Testament
The functional view of the image described argues that the phrase means humans are created as God’s image. Taking that understanding to the New Testament’s image of God language brings the meaning and importance of the image doctrine in New Testament theology into clear focus.
Paul argues that believers are destined to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom 8:29). We are to live as God would, to represent him and his character. Paul elsewhere refers to Jesus as the image of God (2 Cor 4:4). The writer of Hebrews uses the same verbiage, calling Jesus “the express image of God” (Heb 1:3). As humans gave visible form to God, so Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15). Jesus was truly incarnate, becoming human to atone for humankind, but also an example for humankind (Phil 2:6–10; 1 Pet 2:21).
These New Testament passages convey that Jesus was the imager of God. As Jesus imaged God, we must image Jesus. In so doing, we fulfill the rationale for our creation. This process is gradual: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:18). Paul also links our resurrection to Jesus as the image of God in 1 Cor 15:49.
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