The classical Latin term Imago Dei means the Image of God. The Scripture provides ample evidence that man is created in the image of God. The typical biblical passage on this subject is Genesis 1:26: Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” The words “image” and “likeness” express the resemblance or relation of man to his Creator. These words are synonymous and are used as a parallelism to convey the same meaning. This idea is reiterated in Genesis 5:1 and emphasised in 9:6. Various passages in the New Testament also attest to the same concept (1 Cor. 11:7; James 3:9).
We understand from the Scripture that God is personal and infinite. Furthermore, we know that man is also a personal being, though finite. He is a person in the same way God is and thus has the attributes of personhood like self-consciousness, rationality, and freedom of the will. These ontological similarities between man and God facilitate him to function as God’s co-regent and representative on this planet and govern the earth on behalf of Him (Gen 1:26). In his original “state of innocence,” there was an open and uninterrupted relationship between God and man. But this relationship got severed for man as a sinner in his “fallen state.” Man’s guilt and sinfulness obstructed him from relating to God in the way he was created. Nevertheless, man is still in the image of God (Gen. 9:6) even after the ‘fall.’
When apostle Paul talks about Christ as the image of God (Col: 1:15-17), he presents Jesus in a distinct perspective. He portrays Christ as the exact visible exemplification of the invisible God. The same idea is echoed in Hebrews 1:3, which says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature.” Hence, when we look at Christ, we are looking at God. He is God in the likeness of man (Phil. 2:7), the God-incarnate.
When a person is ‘in Christ,’ he is reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit. God reconciles that person to Himself through Christ. The relationship, once severed, would become restored, and he would become acceptable to God (2 Cor. 5:17-19). Thus, we are justified, i.e., acquitted of sin and declared blameless before God by faith through our Lord (Rom 5:1). There begins our journey of sanctification. According to the Scripture, a believer in Christ is in the process of being conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29). It means that the indwelling Holy Spirit is sanctifying us to become like Christ to bear His character or image in ourselves. Apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:18 says that a person in Christ can continually see and reflect the glory of the Lord. When we behold His glory and cherish Him as the most precious treasure, He will progressively transform us into His image from one degree of glory to even more until we mature up to the measure of the fullness of Christ.
As God’s image bearers, we must reflect Christ’s characteristics to the rest of the world. The New Testament scholar NT Wright offers the analogy of an angled mirror to explain God’s image. According to him, we are like an angled mirror in this world so that God can reflect His love, care, and stewardship of the world through us so that the rest of the world can praise the Creator. Like an angled mirror, we are meant to show the world the greatness and love of our God exhibited through Christ. Furthermore, considering every other person as the image of God will change our perspective about others and facilitate a peaceful coexistence and harmonious living on this planet as intended by God.
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