Continued from Redemption: The Gracious Rescue
In contrast to Adam, the first man, Jesus came as the second Adam, the true image-bearer of God. Paul, looking forward to the final resurrection, says:
Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. —1 Corinthians 15:45–49
Similarly, 2 Corinthians 4:4 calls Christ, “the image of God” and Colossians 1:15 says that he is “the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Along with Hebrews 1:3, which describes the Son as the “radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” these passages refer to the divinity of our Lord as the eternal and preexistent Son of God. In the words of Herman Ridderbos, “When in this context he is called . . . the Image of God, this is to say nothing less than that in him the glory of God, indeed God himself, becomes manifest.” But, as Ridderbos also observes, these passages “are in all sorts of ways directly reminiscent of the creation story.” Jesus is not only fully God, he is fully man. He comes as the second Adam, the Last Man, the true image-bearer of God, the one who never sinned, never failed God, never fell short.
In the unique union of deity and humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, we therefore see not only the Word of God made flesh (John 1:14), but the perfect picture of what it means to be human. Jesus bears the image of God as Adam should have. The divine visage which is marred, distorted, and perverted in all other human beings, shines untarnished in him.
Jesus Christ perfectly reflects the glory of the Father, not only because he is himself divine, but because he perfectly images God’s character in his flawless humanity. In him we see what God intended all human beings to be in their relationships to God, to one another, and to creation. Consumed with a passion for his Father’s glory, Jesus lived in unbroken fellowship with God. He devoted himself to loving others, his love culminating in his death as our substitute on the cross. And he commanded the winds and waves—indeed all the elements of creation—as their true Lord and rightful King.
Jesus is the true Imago Dei, the true image of God. But he also remakes human beings in his image through his work. His life on this earth was the perfect embodiment of all that is righteous, good, beautiful, and true. In his spotless obedience and sacrificial death, he took our place—living the life we should have lived and dying the death we should have died. And in his resurrection and exaltation, he now reigns as the second and last Adam, the True Man, the “firstborn among many brothers” (Rom. 8:29). The clear purpose of God’s saving work in Jesus is to conform us to the image of his Son. Jesus is the new man, ushering in a new creation, in us (2 Cor. 5:21).
This is the unfolding of God’s eternal purpose. God has predestined those chosen in Christ to be conformed to the glorious image of Christ (Eph. 1:4–5; Rom. 8:29). This divine goal will not be fully realized until the Lord Jesus returns from heaven to “transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil. 3:21; cf. 1 John 3:2). But the restoration has already begun in the redemptive work of Christ, applied in our lives by the power of God’s Spirit.
Next: Beholding and Becoming
Excerpted from Christ Formed in You by Brian G. Hedges