sábado, 2 de novembro de 2013

The Image of God [02/03]

An Approach from Biblical and Systematic Theology

Published in Studia Biblica et Theologica, March 1971

The Image of God in the New Testament

In the New Testament the primary word for “image” is eikōn. Secondary words arehomosiōsis and charaktērEikōn appears in twenty verses throughout the New Testament. In twelve of these it explicitly denotes physical representations.16 In one verse it refers to the Law as not being the true image of things to come (Hebrews 10:1). Twice it is used to denote Christ as the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4Colossians 1:15), and five times it relates man to the image of Christ or God (Romans 8:291 Corinthians 11:715:492 Corinthians 3:18Colossians 3:10). James uses homosiōsis, saying that men “are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9). The author of the epistle to the Hebrews uses charaktērto say that Christ is the express representation of God’s nature (Hebrews 1:3).
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ is the image of God, and when all the information is gathered, we know we are speaking of “image” here in a radically different sense than we found in the Old Testament. “He is the image of the invisible God….For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Colossians 1:1519; cf. 2 Corinthians 4:4). The men who saw Jesus Christ saw God (John 12:4514:9). Jesus is the effulgence of God’s glory and the representation of his very nature (Hebrews 1:3John 1:14). Now if Christ is the image of God, in what sense does the New Testament see man as being in God’s image? The following paragraphs set forth the key texts.
In the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, verses 35 to 50 answer the questions, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” (v. 35). After discussing in detail the resurrection of the dead, Paul gives the summary statement: “And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (verse 49, ASV). The context makes it clear that Paul is thinking in personal terms: Adam is the earthy and Christ is the heavenly. We must ask what the “image of the heavenly” involves. The answer is found in noting what specifics verse 49 summaries. The “image of the heavenly” has to do with the nature of the resurrection body. “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (vv. 42-44, ASV). Thus to take on the ‘image of the heavenly” is to be incorruptible, glorious, powerful, and spiritual.
It is very doubtful that Paul is here thinking in terms of the image of God in Genesis 1:26 at all. He is concerned to teach about the Resurrection, and the metaphor “image of the heavenly” is helpful. He is not teaching a recovery of the image at this point (marred or lost at the Fall), because he is contrasting the resurrection body with what Adam was by the act of creation (prior to the Fall): “So also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (v. 45, ASV). Paul is not contrasting a fallen body with a redeemed body, but a natural body with a spiritual body: “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body…. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is of heaven” (vv. 44, 47, ASV). Therefore, I conclude that this passage has nothing to say directly about the image of God that men now have or once had and shall regain. The reason I have examined this passage at all is that it regularly finds is way into theological discussions about the image of God where, I have noted, it is sometimes misused. Properly interpreted, it servers as a preliminary warning that the mere appearance of the word “image” even “the image of the heavenly,” does not mean the author is thinking in terms ofGenesis 1:2627.
In Romans 8:2930, Paul writes: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.” In this passage the phrase “conformed to the image of his Son” defines the destination to which the elect of God are appointed.17 Verse 30 specifies that the one who is predestined to be in God’s image is, as a means to that end, called, justified and glorified. Being conformed to Christ’s image appears conterminous with glorification. This is supported by the context. Since we are predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, “In order that he might be the first-born among many brethren,” then to conform to his image means to become heirs with him—brothers. But in 8:17 being fellow heirs with Christ is on the same level as being glorified with him, while sharing his sufferings is the condition of both. Therefore, being conformed to Christ’s image entails being glorified with him. Furthermore, verses 18 and 21 speak of glory as the destiny of the believer, which in verse 29 is described as conformity to the image of God’s Son. Thus it is important to emphasize that in the present text the meaning attached to “the image of his Son” is the glorification of the saints.
Two other features of this text are important for our purposes. First, a necessary implication of Paul’s remarks is that we are not now conformed to the image of Christ, at least not fully. Being completely conformed to Christ’s image awaits the final glorification, which is future. Second, it is God who conforms man to the image of his Son. God predestines, God calls, God justifies, and God glorifies. Man here is entirely recipient. The possibility of conceiving Paul’s meaning of the image in this text as a restoration of a lost image will depend on whether or not Paul indeed thinks man has lost the image of God which was given in creation. The answer to this question will become obvious when I discuss 1 Corinthians 11:7. For the moment we should recall that in 1 Corinthians 15:49 Paul uses the “image” terminology and definitely does not intend any direct connection with the “image” of Genesis 1:26.
In 2 Corinthians 3:18, the stated content of the image is again glory—the glory of God through Christ. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” In verses 3 to 6 of chapter four we learn that the glory we behold is the glory of Christ, and his glory is the “light of the gospel” which shines in our hearts. It is by the light of the knowledge of the gospel that we are being glorified and hence attaining gradually to the image of God. Here Paul places his teaching about the image alongside the preaching of the gospel and thus gives us an insight into the practical way in which God is working out his eternal purposes in human lives.
Another very important aspect of Paul’s teaching about the image of God is the identification of the glory of Christ with the glory of God. In the text above, “the glory of the Lord” is ambiguous; but as we follow the text into chapter four, we see that Paul uses the phrases “glory of Christ” and “glory of God” interchangeably. In verse 4 he speaks of “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the likeness of God;” and then in verse 6, as if following the logic of his own statement, he speaks of “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Therefore, we should not make any significant distinction in Paul’s teaching at this point between being conformed to the image of Christ and being conformed to the image of God. When a man attains the full glory of Christ, he has attained the greatest image he ever will.
This text confirms that men are not now fully in God’s image, as Paul uses the phrase; but it explicitly states that men are now in the process of becoming the image. This statement is important for two reasons: first, because it teaches that “this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” By the power of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s life, he experiences the present reality of God’s image and is changed from one degree of glory to another. This truth comes out more fully in Paul’s teaching about the new nature.
The next passage we consider is Colossians 3:910. “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” Here we find the image in a context of moral admonition, which points to its practical consequences as a present reality. Note that it is not our old nature which is being renewed; that was crucified with Christ. It is the new nature created in man by the Holy Spirit which must be made even newer, as it were; it must change from one degree of glory to another. Lightfoot takes “in knowledge” to mean “unto perfect knowledge.”18 That is, a fundamental aspect of our renewal after the image of our Creator is increased knowledge. This must be understood in terms of the knowledge which is in Christ. Paul says in 1:9 that he has prayed continually that the Colossians might “be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” And in 2:2, 3, he strives for them to “have all the riches of assured understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, of Christ, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Thus, in Colossians 3:10, the central element of the image which saints are attaining is a full and perfect knowledge. This is qualified in v. 11 which says, “Christ is all, and in all.” It should be noted in passing that again the renewal of the image is not by man’s effort, but is being done to him, we may be sure, by the Holy Spirit.
A passage which must be considered as parallel to Colossians 3:10 is Ephesians 4:22-24. “Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” No word for “likeness” appears in the Greek text. The phrase “after the likeness of God” translated ton kata theon, which literally means “which is according to God.” But on the basis of the parallel inColossians 3:10, and the obvious sense intended, the RSV rightly fills out the ellipses. Whereas in Colossians, Christians are approaching divine likeness in fuller knowledge, in this text the divine likeness is manifest in righteousness and holiness. Again, this aspect of the image is not one of our own doing. The righteousness and holiness that are the image of God in us are created, not elicited. They are our possession only by continued grace.
In none of the texts so far discussed does Paul seem to move within the idea of Genesis 1:2627. Nowhere is the image viewed as something restored, something which man once possessed and then lost. But does the fact that Paul neglects to mention such a restoration eliminate it as a true description of what really occurs? No. In order to eliminate the idea that the image of God attained in regeneration is a restoration of the image given in creation, one must demonstrate that Paul viewed the image of Genesis 1 as still intact in fallen mankind. If this could be demonstrated, then the image of God in the Old Testament and the image attained in regeneration would have to be carefully distinguished.
In 1 Corinthians 11:1-6, we find Paul thinking not in terms of redemption, but in terms of the natural order, the order of creation. The key thought for our purposes is found in verse seven. “For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God….” Verse 8,which says that woman was made from man, and verse 14, which speaks of “nature itself,” make it clear that Paul is thinking here of the divinely established order of creation. Therefore, when Paul says that man is in the image of God, he means first that this image is the image given in creation, and second, that man is indeed now in that image.
Lest we belittle this text as an isolated example, let us consider James 3:9. Here the belief we are deducting from Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 11:7 is made explicit by James. In giving warning about the improper use of the tongue, he says, “With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who are made in the likeness of God.” James, therefore, comes alongside Paul in teaching that men are created in God’s image and are now in that image, so that certain practical consequences ensue, just as they did inGenesis 1:26 and 9:6. The inference which may be drawn from the above is this: since Paul views the image of God as a present possession common to man by virtue of creation, the image of God which man newly attains in regeneration cannot be a restoration of the image bestowed in creation. Thus, both the Old and New Testaments concur that the image of God given to man in creation is not lost, even in the presence of sin. As I said above, we must therefore carefully distinguish between the original image of God and the new creation in Christ. They are not equal.
In conclusion, I offer the following summary statements regarding the New Testament teaching about the image of God in man.
  1. Underlying New Testament thought is the assumption that all men retain the image of God given in creation. This is not described except insofar as it is the ground for various practical admonitions.
  2. A central Pauline teaching is that in regeneration men receive the image of God.
  3. Jesus is the image and fullness of God, and men therefore receive the image of God by sharing in what Christ is.
  4. The image of God which Christians receive is really, but only partially, possessed in this life.
  5. To receive the image of God through Christ means to begin to share in his glory, knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. It means to become like him.
  6. The Christian life is a process of increasingly full attainment of these virtues.
  7. The image of God in its present reality and future fullness is a gift of God worked in man by the Holy Spirit through the light of the gospel of Christ.
If this truth does not satisfy our hunger, consider that “we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
Por John Piper. © Desiring God. Site em inglês: desiringGod.org | Português: satisfacaoemDeus.org |
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...