Spirit-Indwelt, Alive, and Virtuous: Towards a Christologically Defined Theological Anthropology

What does it mean to be human? As has often been pointed out, Genesis 1:26–27 says that God made humans in the image of God, but in Colossians 1:15 Jesus, the beloved Son, is the image of God. Setting aside the important discussion concerning the relationship between being human and being made in the image of God, this observation stands alongside the New Testament’s description of Jesus as the last, eschatological Adam (1 Cor 15:45) and suggests to many biblical thinkers and theologians that Jesus Christ reveals not only true divinity but also true humanity. That is, Jesus Christ is the true human who, not unlike Philo’s Logos, serves as the paradigm and pattern after whom humans have been created. Beginning from this assumption, this paper will draw from the Old and New Testaments, and especially from Colossians 3:1–11, to argue that Jesus not only embodies and exemplifies but also effects true humanity for those in him. In Christ God is refashioning a new humanity—this time not merely from the dirt of the ground but from the dust of sin and death—and he is doing so precisely by conforming sons of Adam and daughters of Eve into the image of his beloved Son (Rom 8:28; 1 Cor 15:49; 2 Cor 3:18; Col 3:10). From this vantage point, we can begin to articulate a christologically defined theological anthropology. True humans are those who, like Jesus, are Spirit-indwelt, alive, and virtuous. Jesus was and is fully invested with the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38), was raised by the Father through the Spirit (Rom 8:11), and was himself sinless in perfect righteousness (Heb 4:15). Yet he also sends to his people the Spirit he received from the Father (Acts 2:33), is himself the resurrection and the life (John 11:25), and is the vine that sources fruit to those united with him (John 15:4). Therefore, those who have died and are raised with Christ are united to him through the Spirit (Rom 8:9–11; Col 2:11–13; 3:1), have their life hidden with him until he and they are revealed in glory (Col 3:3–4), and are conformed into the image of the Son (Col 3:5–11). This conformation culminates in their own literal resurrection from the dead, at which time they will be fully animated and empowered by the Spirit; fully alive in resurrected, glorified bodies; and completely virtuous because of their life and union with Christ.

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