Thinking about images
By Jerry Batson, Th.D.
Special to The Alabama Baptist
Christ did not only come to be the image of the invisible God to humans but also to make possible that humans might come to bear the image of Christ. As Romans 8:29 says, God has destined Christians “to be conformed to the image of His Son.”
Imaging Christ is a process that takes a lifetime and more. Christians traditionally label the stages in this process as regeneration, sanctification and glorification. Regeneration is the beginning point at which forgiven sinners start the process of bearing the image of Christ.
We often term this beginning point as new birth, such as Jesus urged upon Nicodemus as described in John 3. Thus the salvation the Savior came to make possible is an experiential salvation not merely a religion of external performances or repeated rituals.
Work in progress
This conversion experience is the beginning point of a transformation that becomes a work in progress. We often speak of this progression of growing in likeness to Christ as sanctification.
Such a possibility is the wonderful message of 2 Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”
To make this process possible God has not only given us as a mirror His inspired Word in which to view Christ but also His indwelling Holy Spirit. To these essential provisions God has added the influence, example and encouragement of fellow believers in the context of local churches.
What began at a point of conversion and continues as a work in progress will become a work perfected in eternity future. The completion of believers coming to bear the image of Christ awaits our future encounter with Him face to face: “Beloved … we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is” (1 John 3:2).
This completed stage is often termed glorification when sin-defaced mortals are transformed into the likeness of Christ.
In 1 Corinthians 15:45–49 a contrast is drawn between a likeness to Adam (“the first man was of the earth, made of dust”) and a likeness to Christ (“the last Adam” who was “the Lord from heaven”) before concluding, “As we have borne the image of the man of dust we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man.”
A new beginning issues into a progressive recovery that culminates in a regained goal.