2 Corinthians 4:4 / Colossians 1:15 / Hebrews 1:3
Hebrews 1:3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
Colossians 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
2 Corinthians 4:4 whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.
The Trinitarian Belief
Jesus is the exact image of God, therefore Jesus is God.
The Belief vs. The Facts
The facts show that this language is referring to the resurrection glory of the man Jesus.
The Problems with the Belief
1. Image of God means you are NOT God
By definition, if you are in the image of God, it necessarily means you are not God. It means you are in the image of someone else and that someone else is God. For example, we read at Genesis 1:26 that man was made in the image of God. We know this means that man is not God but someone made in the image of God.
2. The Image of Christ = the image of God
Christians are to be conformed to the image of Christ.
1 Corinthians 15:49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.
Romans 8:29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
If we are to be conformed to the image of Christ, and Christ is the image of God, then the image in question is the image of God. Shall we suppose Christians are Christ because they are conformed to the image of Christ? Shall we then suppose Christians are God because they are conformed to Christ who is the image of God? One only needs to think these things over for a very short time to realize the we are not understanding the term image properly.
Analysis of the Facts
1. Jesus Christ’s Resurrection Glory
Jesus was bodily raised from the dead. His risen body is the same crucified body of flesh which died on the cross. God the Father is Spirit (John 4:24) and when Jesus was raised from the dead he became “life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45). For this reason, the risen Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). And for this reason, Paul tells us the Lord Jesus is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17), that is, the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4-5). In that same context, Paul tells us that we are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory. What same image? The Spirit. And then Paul goes on to describe this image as “the image of God.”
1 Corinthians 15:45 So also it is written, “The first man, Adam, became a living soul,” the last Adam life-giving Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:14-4:5 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because the veil is removed in Christ . But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their heart; but the veil is taken away whenever a person turns to the Lord. Now the Lord IS the Spirit , and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 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 from the Lord, the Spirit.… And even if our Gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord.
A careful examination of 2 Corinthians 3:1-4:5 shows that Paul is discussing the ministry of the Holy Spirit (3:2-11) and referring to the risen Lord Jesus as the Spirit, “the Lord IS the Spirit.” In fact, Paul comes right out and tells us that he is preaching Jesus Christ as Lord. Hence, we know the Lord of 2 Corinthians 3:17 is Christ and Christ is the Spirit (which contradicts Trinitarian doctrine). The preceding context also shows clearly that the Spirit is the Holy Spirit. Note also that “the glory of the Lord” is “the glory of Christ.” Furthermore, “the same image” is the Spirit since he had just said “the Lord is the Spirit” and we are being transformed into the same image. And Paul ends this passage by referring to Jesus as the image of God. In context, we know that image is the Spirit.
These facts show us beyond any doubt that “the image of God” refers the fact that “the Lord is the Spirit.” Indeed, we are told that we are being transformed into the same image. Christians are “partakers of the divine nature,” that is, partakers of the Spirit (2 Peter 1:4; Hebrews 6:4) and they are sons of God because they walk according to the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:14) and are in this way transformed into the image of Christ who is the image of God. You can’t see the Spirit and for that reason the risen Christ is the image of the unseen/invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and so we walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:5-7).
This is also why Hebrews 1:3 says the risen Jesus is the exact image of God’s being (hypostasis*). That being is “Spirit” since God is Spirit. A true son is what his father is and the risen Jesus is now what his Father is: Spirit. For this reason also, we read that the second Psalm, “You are my son, Today I have begotten you” was fulfilled when God raised Jesus from the dead (Acts 13:30-36; Hebrews 1:5). This is also why Paul expresses these two ideas together at Colossians 1:15-18. The firstborn of all creation (v.15) is the firstborn out of the dead (v.18) is the image of the invisible God: Spirit.
2. Jesus Christ’s Resurrection Body
Due to their preconceived notions, some people get very confused when they see the Bible says Jesus was bodily raised to be “life-giving Spirit” such that Paul could even say “the Lord is the Spirit.” For these people, the physical body is one thing and spirit is necessarily something else. But this confusion is unnecessary and based on mistaken preconceptions. Before Jesus’ resurrection, physical earthly things and spirit were two different things. Not anymore. He is a new creation, something which did not exist before. The crucified body of Jesus was consumed and clothed by the Holy Spirit of God when he was raised from the dead. This is why we longed to be clothed when we are raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:53-54; 2 Corinthians 5:2-5). His crucified body was swallowed up by the Spirit, death swallowed up by life, that is, the Spirit which is life-making. God consumed the offered sacrifice. When we consume a sacrifice it becomes us and we become it.
In this way, his body and the Holy Spirit have become one new thing, a new creation, and that is why we can become new creations in him, in the risen Christ. His risen body and the Holy Spirit have become one new thing without horizon. Together, the two, his body and the Spirit, have become one. The two have become one. He is a new creation where the Holy Spirit of his Father and his physical crucified body have become one new thing, a new creation. “Flesh and blood” cannot enter the Kingdom of heaven. “Flesh and blood” is an idiom for mortal humanity. Since Christ is risen in this Spiritual body, we no longer know him according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16). We now know him according to the Spirit; the Lord is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17;4:5). Because he is a new creation where he is an earthly body transformed into life-giving Spirit, we become new creations in him who we no longer know according to the flesh (2 Corinthians 5:16-17).
3. Bearing all things by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3)
Paul also says the risen Son bears all things by the word of his power. This is the same idea as Ephesians 1:9-10 and Colossians 1:17. At Ephesians 1:9-10, we read that all things were (lit.) “Headed up” in Christ and at Colossians 1:17, we read that all things (lit.) “stand together” in him (established/founded in him). Note what the Hebrews writer has just said. God appointed him to be heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2) because when he sat down at the right hand of God he became superior to the angels having inherited a better name than them (Hebrews 1:4). God subjected all the works of His hands to Jesus (Hebrews 2:5-9) giving him all authority in heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18) when He raised him from the dead (Ephesians 1:20-21). He was made Lord (Acts 2:26) of all things and for that reason all things are Headed up in him and stand together in him. The “word of his power” refers to the authority of the Son given to him when God seated him at His right hand, “the right hand of the Majesty on High” (Hebrews 1:3). In this way, the Lord of all creation bears all things by the word of his power. All the works of God’s hands were subjected to him.
As can be seen that if Jesus is in the image OF God, it necessarily means he is not God. It doesn’t matter how exact the image is. An exact image of an emperor on a coin is not the Emperor. An exact image of yourself in the mirror is not you; it is something else – an image of you. The risen Jesus is the image of God because God is Spirit and his crucified body was swallowed up by the Spirit so that his body became a spiritual body and for that reason we no longer know Christ according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. The image in question is the Spirit and we who are partakers of the divine nature are being transformed into the same image as Paul says, the image of Christ who is the image of God. When we are raised from the dead, our bodies will be like Jesus’ body and the Bible tells us we will bear the image of the heavenly man who is the image of God.
* Hypostasis: In the first century, the Greek word hypostasis essentially meant “being” and was generally regarded as a synonym for ousia. It did not mean “person” as the KJV translates. In fact, the Nicene Creed anathematized anyone who denied the Father and the Son were the same hypostasis. Today, Trinitarians do in fact deny that the Father and the Son are the same hypostasis. In the late fourth century, the Cappadocians redefined the word hypostasis due to confusion concerning the word’s definition and to suit Trinitarian doctrine. At Nicea in the early fourth century, the Father and Son were the same hypostasis but by the end of the fourth century, the Father and Son were not the same hypostasis because the word had been redefined. For this reason, the word hypostasis in later Trinitarian doctrine does not mean the same thing as it did at Hebrews 1:3. For that reason, most modern translations use the English word “being,” or something similar, to translate hypostasis.