Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature…(Colossians 1:15)
As we continue looking at this most glorious revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, we learn about how we can see the invisible God. We learn how the image of God in man, as man was created, is restored in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and Son of Man.
In tracing this idea of the image of God through the scriptures, it is first seen in Genesis chapter 1 regarding the creation of man:
And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them.(Genesis 1:26–27)
In whatever other way that mankind is made in the image of God, this one way stated in this verse is that mankind is to have dominion (“lordship”) over the other living things on the earth. It is obvious from this fact of creation that man was created with a special purpose above the purpose of the animal world. This mankind in this verse extends to both men and women. Mankind, however, was not satisfied being made in the image of God, and succumbed to the tempter when he promised that “ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). So the record goes on to say concerning the children whom Adam would father, represented by Seth:
And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth… (Genesis 5:3)
Now, this does not take away from how God sees man as bearing His image, because the punishment for murder by the death penalty as given to Noah was justified by the fact of man being made in the image of God:
Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made He man. (Genesis 9:6)
Indeed, in describing order in the assembly and proper “dress code”, Paul describes man, particularly the man as in God’s image:
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. (1 Corinthians 11:7)
With this, however, there is a new way in which man is NOT in the image of God. Adam, and all but one of his descendants as described in Genesis 5 to Noah have this one thing in common: “And he died”. This is true of all of Adam’s descendants, for “in Adam all die” (1 Corinthians 15:22). A mortal cannot be said to truly bear the image of God, for God cannot die, but our Lord Jesus Christ “only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto” (1 Timothy 6:16), and is spoken of this way:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high… (Hebrews 1:1-3)
The fact that the Son of His Love is the image of the invisible God should do much to shed light on why God in giving the law was so opposed to images that man made. In the “Law and the Prophets”, we see strict commandments to not make any image and liken it to God:
Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth… (Exodus 20:4)
And the LORD spake unto you out of the midst of the fire: ye heard the voice of the words, but saw no similitude; only ye heard a voice… Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of similitude on the day that the LORD spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire: Lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of male or female, The likeness of any beast that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air, The likeness of any thing that creepeth on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the waters beneath the earth: And lest thou lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun, and the moon, and the stars, even all the host of heaven, shouldest be driven to worship them, and serve them, which the LORD thy God hath divided unto all nations under the whole heaven. (Deuteronomy 4:12, 15-19)
To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. (Isaiah 40:25)
The nations, all of them, “changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things” (Romans 1:23). That is why God “gave them up” (Romans 1:24, 26), and “gave them over” (Romans 1:28) and called Abram to call a special people to Himself. The special people were to be a “peculiar treasure unto [the LORD] above all people” and “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Exodus 19:5-6). A very important qualification in that role was that second commandment “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image”.
There is nothing qualified in all of creation to be called the image of God. The Son of His love, the Lord Jesus Christ is the image of God, the firstborn of all creation. This is not to say that He is a created being, but that He has position of firstborn of all creation, because He is Creator.
The unbelieving world does not, in fact it cannot see the glory of Christ as the image of God. They may see “the lowly Jesus, meek and mild”, or the “poor man on the cross”, but not the image of God. Satan has his way with them blinding their mind to the glory of Christ:
But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, Who is the image of God, should shine unto them. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4)
Note that this does not say that they cannot believe the gospel of Christ, it is that they cannot see the glorious gospel of Christ, Who is the image of God. They cannot see His glory. As Paul said concerning Israel:
Nevertheless when it shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away. (2 Corinthians 3:16)
So we who believe now see. God has determined this:
For God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6)
Remember how personal this must have been for the Apostle Paul, who saw visibly with his own eyes the glory of Christ, and that was as Christ’s enemy! The only Christ Paul knew was He Who revealed Himself that day on the road to Damascus as “a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about [him]” (Acts 26:13). This was a life forever changed by the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ!
Now the rest of us who have believed on that Name above every name have a future with our Lord Jesus Christ, and God has determined to repair the loss of His image:
For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. (1 Corinthians 15:47-49)
But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18)
As we will read later in Colossians, there is a part that we play in this transformation. We “put on” the new man—which is Christ Himself, manifest in our new nature, the Body of Christ, and He actively renews that image in us:
…seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him…(Colossians 3:9-10)
That image of glory that we see when we believe can be yours too. When you believe the gospel of your salvation, that Christ died for your sins and rose again (1 Corinthians 15:3-4), He will save you eternally and you too will see the glory of Christ, Who is the image of God, the firstborn of all creation!