Juan Sanchez on Image, Identity, and Idolatry

Juan Sanchez on Image, Identity, and Idolatry


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Juan: To the 17 year old Juan Sanchez, I would say, look, you don’t need to find your identity in the majority culture. You don’t need to find your identity in changing your hair, in changing your name. I tried all those things. To fit into the majority culture is a young man trying to learn the language and trying to fit in. I would just simply say, God is the one who has established our worth and value as his image and as followers of Jesus Christ, we’re adopted sons and daughters.

Nancy: Welcome to Help Me Teach the Bible. I’m Nancy Guthrie. Help Me Teach the Bible is a production of The Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway, a not-for-profit publisher of the ESV Bible Christian books and tracks. Learn more at crossway.org. I’m sitting down today with Juan Sanchez. Juan, thank you for being willing to help us teach the Bible.

Juan: It’s my pleasure.

Nancy: Since 2005, Juan has served as senior pastor at High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. You’re also an assistant professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Now, I don’t know exactly how you do that. Austin and Louisville are pretty far away from each other. So maybe…

Juan: I teach a couple of classes a year.

Nancy: Oh yeah. What classes?

Juan: And then I teach Systematic Theology 3 for now in July, and then teaching one…

Nancy: So like short term, like a one week or two-week class?

Juan: A week one class, and then Preaching 1 in January and then a recording classes for this Spanish online program.

Nancy: Oh, that’s terrific. Well, Juan I understand that you came from a Roman Catholic background, so tell us how you came to know Christ.

Juan: I was born in Puerto Rico, grew up in a Catholic family, went to Catholic school did everything we were supposed to do. In 1973, my dad moved us to Florida because of the difficulty of the politics in Puerto Rico, and so started to try to learn English. Of course, we went to the Catholic Church. At that time, I still remember the mass being at Latin at times, you know, even though it was ’73, there was one Latin mass and then I was trying to learn English. So it was really hard for me. It was a real hard time. But unlike my parents, I actually became a very devout Catholic. And so, I was an altar boy. You know, I had to wake them up to take me to mass. And this priest took me under his wing and kind of discipled me in the ways of the Catholic Church.

I was very interested in the mystery of who God was. And I heard the Gospel for the first time at 15 years of age, we were vacationing in Colorado Springs and my dad’s sister was it a Nazarene church. I don’t remember anything about the service or the sermon other than the preacher made much of Jesus. And I was angered because in my 15 year old, limited Catholic mind, I thought, wait a minute, I believe the Trinity, but why is he making so much of the second person of the Trinity? You know, the Father is the main person in the Trinity. Why is he talking so much about the second person? I heard the Gospel again when I was 16 years old, I was invited to lifeguard at a Baptist camp and it was my Southern Baptist friends ploy to try to get me to come to Christ.

And so after hearing the Gospel every night, that week, I went to him and I said, ”We believe the same things. I believe one God, maker of Heaven and Earth, of all that is seen and unseen, went through the creed.” And like a good Southern Baptist, he thought I was professing faith in Christ, but I was not. I was rationalizing the Gospel. Coming from Puerto Rico, learning English language at eight years old, trying to fit into this culture. You know, I had a vacuum of understanding who I was. I was longing for an identity and so…and longing to be accepted. And what I realized was this combination of the Gospel clearly spoken and clearly lived out in a manner in which I was accepted for who I was by youth. And at 17, some high school friends invited me to play softball again, another ploy to get me to come to Christ.

But as I started going to their youth group meetings, I started hearing their testimonies of how they came to faith in Christ. I didn’t understand all the language. I didn’t know what quiet time was. I didn’t know why anyone would wanna be quiet. But I started seeing their lifestyle. I started seeing how they were accepting me. And a Sunday school teacher, you know, he didn’t go to university, he was self-taught, was an engineer for the phone company and he would stay up late at night answering my questions. One Wednesday night, his name is Kenny. I said, ”Kenny, I knew a lot about God, but I don’t know God like you all know God. I don’t know God personally. And I wanna know God in a personal way.”

And so I confessed my sins at night, you know, ask the Lord to forgive me. I was 17 years old, just a couple of weeks from graduating high school and a few more weeks from going into Navy boot camp and just being all alone. And so while the Navy boot camp, one of the few privileges I had was just Bible reading. And so I bought my own Bible, my first Bible. It was an open Bible, King James. And so I went to a Christian bookstore, bought it for myself, chosen myself, and I just read it during boot camp, the eight weeks of boot camp, just read, read, read whenever I had an opportunity. So my best friend that had invited me to lifeguard, his mum, she called the first Southern Baptist church to San Diego and said, ”There’s a young man, he’s graduating boot camp and he needs someone to take him to church.” And they send someone every Sunday to pick me up to go to church. And it just really, the love of Christ coupled with the clear Gospel Declaration just drew me to Christ and grounded me.

The irony of it all was I was not attending Sunday school class for Southern Baptist church San Diego in a college and career class and I’m a Christian, just weeks old and everyone’s saying, ”Man, Juan, you know the Bible so well.” And I’m thinking, well don’t you? And so I began to notice a discrepancy there and so the Lord was kind and merciful, didn’t know what I was doing, but just allowed me that time in boot camp to just read the Bible and be immersed in the Bible.

Nancy: Our conversation today, we’re hoping to hand teachers some tools for teaching about something specific that really runs from the beginning to the end of the Bible. This would be one of those key themes that really runs throughout the Bible and that is the image of God. Now, it’s a term a lot of people would be familiar with. Maybe the place to begin is to give us a definition. Of course, the definition may arise out of the Scriptures as we work its way through it. But when someone talks about the image of God, what do they mean?

Juan: Well, if you have even some basic knowledge of the Scriptures and particularly the Old Testament, when you hear the word image, you think bad, you think idols, you think, okay, we’re not supposed to make any image, right? And I think actually that’s helpful because that’s what an image is. An image is a representation. And in the Old Testament were warned against worshipping images, images of false deities, but also images that we create of God himself. You know, so as you think about that, I think that that understanding of image is helpful because it helps us understand what an image is. An image in Scripture is a physical representation of a deity. And in the Old Testament and the ancient near east, these deities, these images would be set up so that, you know, we’re sitting here in Louisville, Kentucky. And so the God or the Goddess of Louisville, Kentucky would have an image. And as you’re coming over the bridge from Indiana, you might see the image of the God or goddess of Kentucky and you realize, okay, you’ve entered into now the territory of the goddess of you know, of Louisville.

And so in the ancient world, they would think of that in deities were territorial, you know, their sovereignty was a particular territory. And so the images would be placed as markers. And so when we think, you know, the first chapter of Genesis, it’s kind of mind boggling that God says, “Well, you are my image.” And if you think about, well image is a physical representation of the deity. And actually, even though some people kind of score them at the idea of the physical representation, I think we are. Not in the sense that we look like God, but in the sense that God has placed us as beings, physical beings on this Earth to represent His character, who He is, what He is like, but also to represent his government. In other words, God rules the world through His vice regions. The concept of the image of God reveals the pattern for the people of God that clarifies both who the people of God are and what the mission is of the people of God.

Nancy: As you’re talking about that, I’m thinking about this initial revelation in Genesis. I’m thinking about Moses writing this. He’s writing it perhaps while they’re out in the wilderness. And these are people who have come out of Egypt, the idea of an image of a deity…

Juan: Which they would have been well familiar with.

Nancy: …would have been so familiar with, that here’s a sense in which Moses describing that way, it’s like he knows his audience. He’s using something they’re very familiar with, which is the image of deity. And so then we have this picture in Genesis 1, of God, this great king and He creates realm, a holly realm. And then He puts into the realm an image of Himself. And what would have been the implications they would have understood?

Juan: So Adam and eve were created to be God’s representatives on the Earth. And so God is demonstrating His sovereignty through a human king and Queen, let’s say. So Adam and Eve would be His representative rulers. You know, so as you read, say Genesis 1, beginning in 26, you know, God said and part of, you know, the context is God saying, you know, day 1, day 2, day 3, and day 4, day 5 and 6, you know, our filling days 1, 2, and 3. And then you have this understanding the animals are made according to their kind. You know, so for example, in verse 25, and ”God made the beasts of the Earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God said that it was good. Then God said, let us make man in our image.”

Nancy: According to God’s kind.

Juan: That’s right. That’s exactly right. After our likeness and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the Earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the Earth. So God created man, and this is really important. God created man in His own image, in the image of God, He created him. Male and female, He created them. So, you know, one of the initial implications is the understanding of male, female equality because both man and woman are image. They’re both representatives of God. And so before we shift to Genesis 2 to understand the distinction in the roles between the man and the woman, we see that in our essence, in our being, in who God created us as persons, you know, the man and the woman are equally image of God. We are created after the image of God, male and female, we reflect and represent the image and the glory of God.

I’m not arguing that this is the central theme of Scripture. I’m arguing for the fact that we need to learn how to put our bibles together if we’re gonna be Bible teachers, good Bible teachers. And if we learn how to, how our Bible is put together by the Holy Spirit, that there are themes that we can trace throughout. Because of the way that God has put Scripture together, He has revealed Himself progressively. These are very helpful. And this particular theme is really helpful because I think it helps us understand God’s intention for us as human beings under Him, what He has created us for. It also shows our failure in doing this, in faithfully representing God and ultimately is gonna show how Christ rescues us in the perfect human who does this for us. And then the other piece that I think that we don’t always see is that the image of God is not just individual, but there’s also a corporate component to it as well.

Nancy: Well, let’s go back to Genesis 1 and 2. So you mentioned there’s this aspect of this royal son and daughter. So they were instructed to have dominion to work and keep as you said, but also there’s this aspect of being fruitful and multiply and there’s gonna be many image bearers.

Juan: That’s right. that’s right. So that’s an important key because, you know, as I said at the beginning, I think the concept of the image of God helps us identify both who the people of God are and what the mission of the people who’ve God is. So there, the mission of the people of God in the garden is to be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth. Now we have to understand because this is where it’s helpful to know how to put our Bibles together, right, because the danger is we say, okay, we’re just supposed to have lots of babies. Well, before there was sin, yes. God’s desire, He tells us later in the Old Testament was to have godly offspring. He brought Adam and Eve together. But what we have to understand is before sin entered, every offspring would have been a child of God, right? And so they would have been multiplying the image of God. And so the idea was, you know, if you think of it, you know, these are things that we may not always think of. The garden was a space that was limited by boundaries. It had rivers, and so where all these people gonna fit? So you would imagine Adam and Eve were designed to have godly offspring and as the godly offspring expand the borders of the garden space, you know, the place where they would dwell with humanity until the whole Earth was filled with the glory of God, right? Well, sin kind of put a damper on that, so to speak.

Nancy: But God’s plan will not be forwarded.

Juan: It’s exactly right. And so in Genesis 3:15 God gives a promise that through the seed of the woman that He’s gonna crush the serpent. But what sin introduces is another line of offspring, right? So Genesis 1 and 2, Adam and Eve fruitful, multiply and fill the Earth. But now we have a problem. Now we not only have one line, now we have two lines. We have the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, and these are gonna be a perpetual conflict throughout all of history.

Nancy: You’re talking about this story of Cain and Abel. It becomes immediately obvious that being a physical offspring is not the same thing as being a spiritual offspring.

Juan: Right, because you have both the children of the woman and the children of the serpent from the same person.

Nancy: From the same mother. Then when we get to Chapter 5, it’s as if Moses still has this image of God thoughts in mind when he says, ”This is the book of generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.” And then we read that he has a son Seth in verse three in his own likeness.

Juan: Right. Yeah. So the good news there is that, you know, if you wanna think about it, Anthony Hoekema talks about it like this. I think it’s Anthony Hoekema in his book, uh, ”Created In God’s Image,” you know, we are representatives of God. We are to reflect His glory. So if you think about a mirror, you know, a mirror reflects an image, right? We were created to reflect the image and the glory of God. But when we sin with Adam, when Adam sinned and we send with Adam, as Paul says in Romans 5, the image was not eradicated. The image was distorted. So think of, you know, someone damages a mirror, puts a rock through a mirror and all the pieces are there, but it’s shattered. You go up to the mirror, you still see the image, but it’s distorted.

So I think, to me, that’s a helpful analogy to understand. We still retain the image. We were still, we still retain the purpose for which we were created and that’s to image God as His royal sons and daughters to live in His presence and serve Him, hHs priests within a covenant relationship. The problem is that now the image of God is distorted and so we don’t reflect God faithfully. But it does help explain on a practical level why even unbelieving men can be good husbands, why unbelieving women can be good wives, why unbelieving husbands and wives can be good parents, why an unbelieving person can be a very good CEO, a very moral person, because we have best just have of the image of God in us. We were created to reflect that. And so even in our fallen humanity, even though our proclivities are to rebel against God, there’s still vestiges of that image.

Nancy: It seems to me as that you’re handing teachers some helps here and just some interesting words you’re using that we have to grab onto to try to communicate this. You talked about how the image of God was distorted, right? So we’re still made in the image of God. Distorted a good word or marred is one we often hear.

Juan: Not destroyed.

Nancy: Not destroyed, not… Yes. And that we have vestiges. Yeah. Other words like that you can think of using?

Juan: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, to me again, the analogy of the broken mirror is helpful, because, you know, we’ve all been, like, we’ve been traveling on a turnpike on the interstate and we pull over in one of those rest stations and you go to that metal mirror after you washed your hands, and you look at yourself and it’s all distorted. It’s still you, it’s an image of you, but there’s a distortion. And so we still, even in a distorted way, we’re hardwired. Maybe that’s an awful word. We’re hardwired, you know? So even unbelieving people understand, even though they may not have a way to explain their ethic, it’s wrong to murder someone, right? That’s a universal understanding. There’s certain things that are wrong universally, it’s wrong to harm children. You know, there’s universal understandings, you know, God has hardwired us in it.

Nancy: And if we think about what it means originally that we were made in the image of God in terms of knowledge, holiness, some of this, beauty. It’s not like all beauty is eradicated…

Juan: That’s right.

Nancy: …in those who are not believers, but the beauty is marred. The knowledge, there’s a foolishness.

Juan: That’s right. And I think another important implication of being created as image is human dignity. It is a foundation. So it’s not only the foundation. I mean, we’re beginning to see, I think the practical importance of this particular doctrine, the equality of male and female as human beings, but also we see human dignity. It is the foundation for our arguments, for human dignity so that when you go to Genesis 9 pick up in verse five it says, ”And for your lifeblood, I will require a reckoning. From every beast, I will require it. And from man, from his fellow man, I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed for God made man in His own image. And you be fruitful and multiply and increased greatly on the Earth and multiply in it.” So the image of God is the is a foundation for our understanding of human dignity, of worth, of human being. That if you take a person’s life because that person is image of God, you forfeit your own life. You know, so frankly, we even have foundations for capital punishment, a biblical argument for capital punishment because we’re created as image of God.

Nancy: That’s why we value people with disabilities because the image may be marred…

Juan: That’s right.

Nancy: …but they’re made in the image of God.

Juan: That’s exactly right.

Nancy: Life is valuable.

Juan: Yeah. And so we begin to see, so for example, as a young Puerto Rican coming to a new culture in the United States, you know, wrestling with my identity, you know, here we begin to see our value is not in where we came from, what socioeconomic status we have, whether we’re male or female, you know, whether we’re able or disabled are foundational. Dignity and worth is rooted in the fact that we’re image of God.

Nancy: While we’re tracing this theme throughout the Bible, so we’ve seen it here in Genesis. How about if we jumped maybe to Exodus. But it doesn’t seem like we’re very going very far in the Bible. We’re going away is in history, but you’ve got the people of God. You were just talking about your sense of identity coming out of Puerto Rico. Here are these people, their sense of identities, they’ve been slaves. They maybe have a little bit of inkling about these promises that were made to their forefathers, but that hasn’t been at the hear…

Juan: A little skeptical.

Nancy: …of who they may have been. And now they have been brought out of Egypt, but they are there in the wilderness. Where do we see the image of God become a big part of what God wants them to know about who they are?

Juan: Yeah, I think it’s a great question because what we have with Israel is a corporate image and understanding. So, so as I’ve explained those terms, if we go to Exodus 19, it’s really quite fascinating because like I said, the term image doesn’t have to be there for the concept to be there, for the theological concept. So God rescues Israel out of Egypt. He brings them out. He says, you know, ”Tell Pharaoh to release my firstborn son.” So again, you have the concept of sonship there, right? Then they come to Mount Sinai and God directs Moses to tell Israel these words. He says in verse four, ”You yourselves have seen what I did to the Egyptians. It’s this beautiful imagery and how I bore you on Eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.” It’s a beautiful image of God, rescuing Israel and literally picking them up and bringing them to his mountain. It says, ”Now, therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession.” It’s a beautiful term.

Nancy: That’s a beautiful sense of identity.

Juan: It’s a beautiful, because if you think about in the ancient world, a king owned everything, but he would have a private stash. And so the private stash would be his personal treasure. You know, if he couldn’t sleep at night and he thought, “Well, let me just go and count my stash, let me go and see what I have.” It would be a reminder that he owns everything, but it was his private treasure. And so what God basically is doing to Israel is saying, you’re gonna be my private stash. You’re gonna be my treasured possession. What does that mean that Israel is God’s private treasure? Well, it means that you shall be, to me, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel. This is gonna be really important because what you have is you have royal sons and daughters that are to be priests and that are to be distinct from the surrounding nations. That’s image of God language, right? It’s God’s desire for a human king that His son, that’s a human king that will represent His rule, His government on the Earth, and that will live in His presence as priests. And you’d be a go-between between Him and the world, and the world and Him. And so what he does with Israel is Israel becomes a corporate image in that just like Adam and Eve were to represent God’s rule on the Earth. Now, Israel, as a nation, is to represent God’s rule on the Earth as God’s royal sons and daughters, as His priesthood there now to display to the surrounding nations who God is, what He is like, what it is to be His people, what it is to live under His rule and His law, and what it is to live in covenant with this God. So God gives him the law from Chapter 22 to Chapter 24 and he tells them how to be his display nation distinct from the world.

So you know, Israel was placed strategically in the center of the known world at the time. And the nations would have to go if they wanted to do anything, go anywhere in their world, they would have to go through there. Israel was to live. So whereas Adam and Eve were to be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth, you still have this idea that Israel is to have a seed there to become a nation, have lots of offspring, and as a nation distinct from the world, they were to be distinct from the nations in their worship. They only worship one God. They were to be distinct from the nations in their government. God was their king. They were to be distinct from the other nations in their clothing, in their food, in their government in everything so that they served in the middle of the world, displaying to the world as an embassy of God’s kingdom on the Earth. And anybody could come in and be incorporated. So Israel’s mission was to display the Kingdom of God on the Earth, His rule, His care, and anyone like Rahab and Ruth who would want to become worshipers of Yahweh could do so. Your men would have to be circumcised, but anybody could come in and become a Jew. And so that was Israel’s mission.

Nancy: How does our understanding of being made in the image of God, how does that relate to the big problem throughout so much of the Old Testament, which is idolatry? I mean it flows out of, we were in Exodus 19. In Chapter 20, right at the beginning, He’s going to tell them, “Don’t make for yourself a carved image or any likeness of anything.” And so we know that this idolatry is at the heart of the sin of God’s people that causes them to fail. So help us if we’re teaching and we’re trying to help our people understand the image of God, how do we relate our understanding of the image of God to the issue of idolatry in the Old Testament?

Juan: That’s a good question because, you know, we’re not supposed to make physical representations of God, right? And the irony is that we are the physical representation of God, in the sense that we are on this Earth as God’s representatives. Maybe I can put it this way. So as a holy nation is you’re supposed to image God to the other nations in distinction in their worship, worshiping the one God, they’re continually drawn to the worldliness of the other nations to worship their gods. And what happens is rather than attributing to God the blessings that they have, they begin to attribute to the idols the blessings that they are experiencing.

So as you read the Minor Prophets, for example, you know, God is exposing their idolatry. He’s saying how, you know, you attribute these blessings to these other gods when I’m the one who…Hosea 11, I’m the one who taught you to walk. You know, I’m the one who did all this for you, but you’re thinking some other God did thiis for you. So they’re plagued by that idolatry when we were the ones that are created to represent God on this Earth and to display His glory and to display His rule on the Earth. We settle for lesser glories. God’s original intention to have a human son that would rule as king and serve as priest within a covenant relationship for the purpose of mission, and that is to multiply the image of God over all the Earth.

Nancy: And Adam has failed in that.

Juan: Adam’s failed.

Nancy: The corporate image, the nation of Israel has failed.

Juan: That’s right.

Nancy: And so then the prophet I suppose is gonna assure us not to give up hope there. There is hope that there is going to be a son, a priest, a king who, will image God perfectly in the world.

Juan: That’s exactly right. And you have all these wonderful promises. And I love how the New Testament begins. In Matthew 1:1, it became the genealogy. And it says, ”The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David and the son of Abraham.” So Matthew is intent on showing how Jesus is the true and faithful son of God, the true and faithful Israel, you know, and he shows by the structure of this genealogy that Jesus is the answer to the exile. So the genealogy is structured from Abraham to David, from David to the exile, and from the exile to Jesus. Matthew 2:15 ”Out of Egypt, I called my son.” So he’s fulfilling. That’s Hosea 11:1, “Jesus is the new and better Moses who’s going to lead God’s people in a new exodus.” He retraces Israel steps in Matthew 4 in their wilderness wanderings and their unfaithfulness when they tested God. And each response to Satan comes from Deuteronomy, from the wilderness, wondering so that Jesus is…it says, “He’s retracing Israel’s failures, he’s undoing their failures.” You know, so we come out of Matthew 4 to Matthew 5, “And Jesus is the new and better Moses that gives the law.”

Nancy: Goes up on the mountain.

Juan: That’s right. And then, you know, what we begin to see is that as we go through Matthew’s gospel, he is literally gonna reconstitute Israel on the foundation of 12 apostles. You know, Matthew 16 ”You are Peter. And on this rock I will build my church.” And so Jesus is reestablishing Israel on the foundation of the 12 apostles. And he is the son from David’s line who is going to inaugurate this promised new covenant by his blood that will establish this new Israel.

Nancy: So you started out looking at Adam and how Adam was supposed to fill the Earth and that an aspect of him being made in the image of God was exercising dominion. So I’m thinking about teachers. So they’ve been following along all this with the Old Testament. They get to the New Testament. And they’re all primed. Okay, I want to present how Jesus is the perfected, the ultimate image of God sent into the world. So you’ve described one way, this tracing of his sonship…

Juan: Sonship, kingship, priesthood.

Nancy: …is a keyway. I’m thinking that also to look at this since of dominion. When we see Jesus come into the world, he exercises dominion over the demonic realm, over nature, over death, over everything. So we’ve got these pictures of him in the gospels, but it’s interesting. The epistles help us a bit with the image of God as well. Don’t pay Colossians, Hebrews 1.

Juan: You know, in the epistles we come back to the actual language of image, you know, so in Colossians, Paul says that Jesus is the image of the invisible God. He is the true image of God. And you know, a beautiful passage is Hebrews 1, and in Hebrews 1, it says, ”Long ago, many times in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days, He’s spoken to us by His son.” That’s why I love the concept of the image of God because it’s pulling all these ideas of sonship, priesthood and kingship together. And you can trace all of these individually throughout, but I think they fall under the umbrella of the image of God. But He’s spoken by His son whom He appointed the heir of all things, you know, Jesus is the king.

Nancy: Your sonship.

Juan: Through whom, He also created the world, he, Jesus is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature. Jesus really represents God. When we asked the question, what is the eternal plan of God, what does the Eternal Plan of God? In Ephesians 1 beginning of verse seven, Paul uses this language. He says, ”In him, we have redemption through his blood. Speaking of Jesus, the forgiveness of our trespasses according to the riches of his grace,” which he lavished upon us in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery Paul uses that were technically mystery, something formerly hidden, but it’s now revealed. The mystery of His will according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on Earth. So the eternal plan of God that was formally had never revealed was to unite all things in Christ. Everything that Adam, through his sin, fractured, God intends to unite in Christ.

But then we continue reading in chapter one and we come in right in the middle, in verse 19, it says, ”And what is the immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe?” According to the working was great might that He worked in Christ when He raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places. So this is enthronement. This is an enthronement scene. God has placed Jesus on the throne in heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion and above every name that is named not only in this age but also in the age to come. And He put, here’s that word phrase from Saul made, and He put all things under His feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

So my argument is that God’s eternal plan was to have a human son who would be a king, a ruler over creation, and who would serve as a priest in His presence between Him and humanity and creation within a covenant relationship. And what we saw at the very beginning and Adam and Eve, we see culminate in Christ and it was God’s eternal plan to exalt His son, Jesus Christ, as king and Lord over all things to place all things under his rule and to unite all things in Christ who is the perfect high priest, who establishes this new covenant by which he is now uniting a fractured humanity, which Paul tells us in Ephesians 2. To what end Ephesians 3:10, “So that through the church, the manifold wisdom of God might now be displayed to the principalities and powers.”

And so it’s really fascinating what do we do as image of God? We represent God’s rule on the Earth. We reflect God’s glory and so that as God redeems are fractured humanity places them under Christ, unites them in Christ together as a church. Now we become the corporate image of God so that we are, in Peter’s language, 1 Peter 2:9, ”But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” Just like Israel was to be a display nation in a specific geographic location under the new covenant, the people of God are no longer to be a display nation in just one central geographic location. But as local churches scattered throughout the world, each local church is to display the glory and the Kingdom of God, as embassies of the Kingdom of God now scattered throughout the Earth. We are His royal sons and daughters serving as priests, number one, in His presence. It is our mission to be a corporate image, to display as ambassadors of Christ the image of God on this Earth, which is why we are, by God’s Holy Spirit and by God’s word and by one another, are being conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, right, to look more and more like Jesus.

Nancy: When we’re teaching about the image of God. You’ve walked us through this Old Testament failure and now seeing Christ as the perfect image of God and even gone on to talk a little bit about what that means for us corporately. Would you bring us to a close by speaking to that 17 year-old Juan Sanchez who has such a confused sense of identity and speak to him about what these things mean for him as he’s seeking to understand who he is in this world?

Juan: Yeah. To the 17 year-old Juan Sanchez, I would say, look, you don’t need to find your identity in the majority culture. You don’t need to find your identity in changing your hair, in changing your name. I tried all those things to fit into the majority culture as a young man trying to learn the language and trying to fit in. I would just simply say God is the one who has established our worth and value as His image. And as followers of Jesus Christ, we’re adopted sons and daughters. And that is a value that no one can take away. And we follow the steps of our elder brother Jesus in this life and we follow this, his steps into suffering and in to death. But we also follow Jesus into resurrection and to glory.

Nancy: We will awake with his likeness.

Juan: That’s right.

Nancy: Thank you so much Juan for walking us through this.

Juan: Yeah, absolutely.

Nancy: What beautiful truths. You’ve been listening to Help Me Teach the Bible with Nancy Guthrie, a production of The Gospel Coalition sponsored by Crossway. Crossway is a not for profit publisher of the ESV Bible Christian books and tracks. Learn more about Crossway’s Gospel-centered resources at crossway.org.

The first thing we learn about who we are in Genesis 1 is that we are made in the image of God. But what does that mean? What does that say about our purpose in this world? How was that affected in the fall? And what difference does Jesus make?

I posed these questions along with many others to Juan Sánchez, TGC Council member and pastor of High Pointe Baptist Church in Austin, Texas. Over the course of our conversation we traced the Bible’s message about the image of God from Genesis, through the history of Israel, to the person and work of Christ, and into the future when the image of God in us will be fully restored.

You can listen to our conversation here.

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Editors’ note: 

Join us for our 2019 National Conference, April 1 to 3 in Indianapolis where Nancy Guthrie will be recording a live episode of Help Me Teach the Bible with David Platt. You can browse the complete list of 68 speakers and 53 talks. Register soon!