Fulfilling the Image of God in the Body of Christ

A question fairly asked is what relationship exists between the imago Dei and the church, given the fact that the latter consists of redeemed image bearers, and this paper would answer this question by saying that the church reveals the image of God more completely than sanctified individuals may do. This concept of a greater manifestation of the imago Dei in human beings is suggested by the High Priestly Prayer of John 17, wherein Jesus prays for unity that results in his glory. To make this argument complete, however, the proposed presentation will take four steps listed below.

First, it will show that the image of God is evidence of divine love for the whole human person, body and soul. Early theologians such as Augustine and Aquinas split the image and likeness of God, as defined in Genesis 1:26, but this decision was likely due to the presence of kai in the Septuagint between “image” and “likeness.” Such an understanding separates the corporeal and the spiritual aspects of the imago Dei and is likely an incorrect understanding of the image. Second, the paper will show that when the original relationship with God was lost in the fall, the effect of this change was to obscure the imago Dei. Third, the paper will demonstrate that Christ’s redemption at the cross repristinated the imago Dei, as evidenced by the presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the redeemed person. Fourth, it will show that it is the corporate life of Christ’s body, the church, which completes God’s purpose of conveying a clear imago Dei to the world. Each individual image bearer coming together in community magnifies Christ’s image, with the consequent whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Because Jesus intends that more will come into relationship with Himself, unity in the body and obedience to Christ’s command to love one another fulfill this purpose and continue the imago Dei of creation.

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