Gen 1:26 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." Gen 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
One of the many interesting things of the Bible is its use of themes that come full circle. For example the theme of fruitful gardens in which the Bible begins and ends speaking of a garden (Rev. 22:2); a theme of a temple culminating in a place in which we need no temple, etc. These are not just interesting but are important in understanding the overall message of God’s Word.
Another theme is begun in the first chapter of Genesis quoted above; it is one of bearing the image of God. All men are to be image bearers of God not in the way we look but in the way we act. We don’t have time to treat in detail the ways man was created in God’s image but we might list a few. We are rational and moral creatures; we have personhood and so have self-consciousness, moral consciousness and a consciousness of others. We can love.
But that which most reflects God is to love him and all that honors him supremely. Holiness is that part of God’s image that we fully lost in the fall of mankind into sin. Since this is the first moral attribute mentioned and assigned to man it would be a safe bet that the restoration of this aspect of God’s image would be foremost in our redemption. And this leads us to this continuing theme in Scriptures.
After the fall man naturally demeaned the glory of God by creating God in his own image and that of creation. We refused to bear God’s image and recreated him in our own image. The essence of sin is to worship the creature rather than God by making a god out of creation. This is one reason why the very first commandments to Israel addressed this very thing. You are not to think of me as like unto yourselves or any other creature. Honoring God properly is the main problem sin has caused us. Paul taught the Athenians that our loss of being proper image bearers will result in judgment, Act 17:29 “Being then God's offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. Act 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, Act 17:31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
But just to finish up this idea of a biblical theme let me quote some other NT verses. Col 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. om 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 2Co 3:18 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.
There are reasons why we are commanded to be conformed to the image of Christ. We lost the ability to reflect the glory and holiness of God in the fall. The purpose of redemption is not because God just won’t be happy without us in heaven but that his image might be restored in man and so we might glorify him as we were created to begin with. By the power of God in us through the Holy Spirit we now can reflect his image with our new natures.
But there is an inescapable conclusion from these NT texts as well. Everywhere in the NT God tells us to be conformed to Christ’s image; we do not read that we are to be conformed to God’s image in a generic sense. In Col 3:10 we read, “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” There we are said to be conforming to the image of our creator but John 1 and other places have made is clear that this also is a reference to Jesus Christ.
My point then is Jesus must be God or God is telling us to commit idolatry by conforming to and worshipping a creature rather than the image of the true God. The divinity of Christ is inescapable since God tells us to conform to his image and we were created in the image of God and by this we will be judged. Will God accept those who honor his Son less than he does?