(14.) On Christ as the Image of God

(14.) On Christ as the Image of God

(14.) On Christ as the Image of God.

‘Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.’ Jesus replied, ‘Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show Him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (John 14:8-10).

Christ is the Face of God. In Anne Rice’s excellent book series on the life of Jesus, she at one point had Jesus say these words to His disciples: “I come to bring the Face of the Lord to the whole wide world.” (The Road to Cana, p. 239). Down through history, God has been an invisible force in the world. God is a Spirit, so it’s no wonder that no one has ever seen Yahweh-God in Hebrew Scripture. God is audible, but invisible. People have heard God, and seen His effect on people and nature, but no one has actually seen what God looks like, if He actually looks like anything humans would find intelligible. But here comes God’s eternal Son, Jesus Christ, wearing the Face of the Almighty God! And Jesus said, Do you want to see what God the Father looks like? Then look at me! Once you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. We are so intimate and in such union, in fact, that we are inside of each other, and you can see the Father through Me like a window.

Christ is the Exact Likeness of God. “He is the visible image of the invisible God.” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus is like the perfect portrait of the unseen God. There is an unmistakable family resemblance between the Son and the Father, a twin-like resemblance that is not coincidence. Jesus and the Father are “eternally related to each other.” (NASB notes). The Greek word for “image‘ in this verse is ‘icon.” Jesus is the living icon of God, a window into the heavenly appearance of God. As Eugene Peterson once wrote, “Christ gives us the best picture of God we’ll ever get.” Peterson was referring to 2 Corinthians 4:4, where Paul discusses the plight of unbelievers who “cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Jesus displays the perfect, divine likeness of His Father in heaven. In fact, “Christ’s likeness to God is so genuine that it provides mankind with a perfect and exact representation of God.” (NKJ notes). And now, finally, that important blessing in Scripture was clarified a bit. In the Aaronic Blessing of Numbers 6:24-26, Yahweh God instructed the priests to bless the Chosen People with these words, among others: “May Yahweh make His face to shine upon you…” Readers of the Jewish Bible, or listeners to Aaron back in the day, wouldn’t be faulted if they wondered… What face? Does God even have a face that would shine? What would that look like? Well, Yahweh has a face now. He has Jesus, the exact likeness, the perfect image of God, the very face of Yahweh.

Christ is God’s Perfect Replica. “He is the perfect imprint of God’s very being.” (Hebrew 1:3, Amplified). The Greek word for “imprint,” or image, in this verse is “character,” which means something engraved, or cut in, or stamped from the original. Looking through the different translations, there are many creative ways to unpack this verse’s meaning… Jesus is: the exact representation; the perfect replica of the Father’s substance; the mirror-image of God’s Person; the exact impression of God’s true nature; the complete expression of God in a human body; the ideal image of God’s essence. Jesus is all these things. The Greek word “character” is an exact impression made by a stamp or seal on clay or wax. Eugene Peterson put it this way: “In the NT times, this word often referred to the impression on an official seal. This was a very common word, and the practice behind it was everyday and unexceptional. Here a person’s authority and personality were represented in an image. And that’s what Jesus did in relation to God. He bore the very stamp of God’s nature. And He did it accurately and authoritatively.” So Jesus had a prototype, an original, from which He was stamped, and the stamp is so perfect that one can’t tell the difference between the prototype and the replica. That’s because there is no difference, they are one and the same. Jesus isn’t just a copy of an original. He is an exact duplicate of the very essence of the original. “For Christ is the complete fulness of deity living in human form.” (Colossians 2:9).

Christ has become our Prototype. God created mankind in His image. Because of the entrance of sin, that image has become marred, tainted, broken. Christ has come to bring wholeness to the broken image, restoring the image to its pre-sin existence. Christ is the image of God, and now we are to be remade into the image of Christ. “For He knew all about us before we were born, and He destined us from the beginning to share the likeness of His Son.” (Romans 8:29, TPT). The Message puts it this way: “God decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love Him along the same lines as the life of His Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity He restored. We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in Him.” Believers are called to be “conformed to the likeness of His Son.” (NIV). Father Patrick Reardon put it still another way: “Christ is the original meaning of humanity. Christ is what God had in mind when He reached down and formed the first lump of mud into a man.” (Christ in the Psalms). We are to be stamped with the likeness of Christ. The Orthodox church believes that as Man, Christ is the image in which man was made and toward which man is moving. Christ is the perfect image of God, and believers are being restored into His likeness.