Blogging the Institutes | 1.15.4 | Reflecting God’s Glory

“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List

Reflecting God’s Glory

We won’t have a complete understanding of the image of God until we know how humanity reflects God’s glory. The best way to know this is by looking at God’s remedy for our corruption.  When Adam sinned, he became alienated from God. Although that God’s image is not entirely erased in sinful humanity, it is so severely defaced that whatever of it that remains is a deformity. Therefore, our deliverance begins with the renovation we receive from Christ who is the second Adm. He restores us to our original nature before God. When Paul contrasts the life-giving power of the Spirit which believers receive from God with the living soul that was called Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45), he is not contradicting that the goal of regeneration is to form us anew in the image of God, even though he highlights the richer measure of grace which is bestowed through regeneration. God is not going “beyond” our human nature to add to us anything “supernatural.” The new man is renewed after the image of Christ (Colossians 3:19).  Another passage states: “put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:24).

Now we can see how Paul understands what our renovation in Christ entails. First, he mentions knowledge. Second, true righteousness and holiness. Therefore, when Adam was first created, the image of God was manifested by a mind absorbed with God’s lights, uprightness of heart, and integrity is every part of the human experience. Although all these descriptions are really describing the same reality, the leading feature in the renovation of God’s image must have been the high point of all creation. Elsewhere, PAul says that seeing the glory of God with unveiled face, we are transformed into the same image. We now see how Christ is the most perfect image of God: he perfectly bears the image of God in knowledge, purity, righteousness, and true holiness. If those points are granted, the idea that the image of God is something referring the physical body, as Osiander argues, vanishes. Now, let’s look at the passage where Paul says that man alone, to the exclusion of the woman, is called the image and glory of God (1 Corinthians 11:7). In context, it is clear that Paul is only referring to the ordering of society. The image of God relates to spiritual and eternal life. John is referring to the same thing when he says that the light which was from the beginning, in the eternal Word of God, was light of humanity (John 1:4).

John’s object is to highlight the grace of God when he made humanity greater than the animals. Humanity not only has bodily existence but also intelligence. Therefore, the image of God constitutes all the excellencies of human nature, just like it shone forth in Adam before his fall. After his fall, however, the image was almost destroyed. Nothing remained in humanity but an image ruined, confused, mutilated, and tainted with impurity. The recovery of the image is only seen in part in the elect when they are regenerated by the Spirit. It’s full glory, however, will be displayed in heaven. But in order to know all the various properties of the image, you must also study the different faculties of the soul. Unfortunately, Augustine’s idea that the soul is a mirror of the Trinity, because it consists of intellect, will, and memory, is baseless. The image is not merely the dominion humanity has over creation either. The likeness must be within. It must be something in the soul, not merely external to humanity.

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