15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
What is the imago dei? The intellectual inquiry of what constitutes the image of God in man goes all the way back to Genesis 1. What is it to be created in God’s image? Is it man’s intellectual capacity? Is it his creative ingenuity? Is it his ability to appreciate beauty? While this inquiry is useful, there is a better way of looking at the imago dei, and this passage presents that better way.
Rather than look at the constituent parts of man that make up the imago dei, it is better to look at the man as a created whole. In so doing, the reality is that the man was created as a glorious vessel to embody the second person of the godhead, the Son. In man, the Son of God found a suitable being to live out the rest of eternity. We can glory in this realization.
This passage tells us that Jesus was the firstborn of all creation. Being firstborn is not a characteristic of time but of glory and preeminence. All things are from him and for him. He reconciles all things to himself. He brings all things to himself.
All created history expresses this uniting of God with man and all creation. This is not a pantheistic union but one of divine will guiding his creation. Starting with the incarnation in the womb of the virgin, God the Son took on humanity. Even Christ’s self-designation, Son of Man, is a title of divinity. Daniel 7. But his divine will doesn’t stop there. He lives in mankind through His word. God deigned to make Scripture both His words and man’s words at the same time. Therefore, the Bible we read is a union of God and man.
His design in human relations embodies his desire to be united to his creation through his imago dei. The man is to be united to his bride in one flesh. Genesis 1. And we know this to be Christ and his church. Ephesians 5. He commands his people to make disciples of all nations. Matt. 28. And what is it to be a disciple other than the taking on the characteristics of the leader? A student’s goal is to become like his teacher.
In this Advent season, all Christians should look for how God is uniting himself to and taking loving care of this world. The first place to look is in weekly worship. We receive the Word and Sacrament. Both unite God and man and then impart that blessing to us. Look to the imago dei in your loved ones as they partake in the divine worship, and pray for them the blessings of Christ.
We should also pray for our leaders. This creation is immutably stamped with the principle of covenant. It is undeniable that families, churches, companies, and nations take on the characteristics of those who lead them. Children respect and act like their parents. Churches act like their pastors. Companies take on the characteristics of their CEO. And nations act like their national leaders. Ever wonder why America has become such a violent nation? We must pray not only that our leaders make right decisions, but that they cultivate the right character in their administrations. We must pray for our pastors that God will lead and guide them. And we must pray that we lead our families well.