This paper will argue that the Great Commission, which is usually taken to be a new commandment to the church, is in fact an extension of God’s creative/redemptive plan to make a community of people in his image first introduced in Gen 1:26-27. The great commission, then,is an invitation from Jesus to join God in his creative/redemptive work.
Outline: The paper will be developed in the following way. It will begin by clarifying what the “image of God” in Genesis 1:26-27 is and link it to what is meant by the idea of “disciple” as that is found in the Gospel narratives. What that meant for Adam in the Garden will be explained. The next section will consider how Israel was formed to be a people who would “image” God to the world. For example, Torah was given so that Israel might be “holy as the Lord their God was holy.” Israel’s failure to keep covenant led to the prophets’ predictions of a coming community of people who would be the reflection of God’s image to the world. The third section of the paper will consider how Jesus as the true Israelite fulfills this prediction both because Jesus is the perfect “image of God,” and because he begins to form a community of people who reflect God’s glory to the world. This community is entrusted with and empowered for the mandate to extend the task of creating a community in the likeness of its Lord. The fourth section of this study considers how the apostolic writings endeavor to shape and form a community that bears God’s image. The paper will conclude with some practical implications of this study for the church’s mandate to make disciples.