Any object’s purpose is directly tied to its design. The designer designed the object the way they did with the intention that it would accomplish something specific. The better you understand what an object was designed to accomplish, the better you understand its purpose. Now you can best use it to accomplish what it is it was made to accomplish.
When asked what it means to be the image of God, most Christians would likely talk about how our design is similar to God’s in that we think, feel and love. There’s nothing wrong with that answer. But it’s helpful if we go a bit deeper than that because understanding our design as His image is a helpful guide in understanding what we were made for and what works in life.
God decided to design us a certain way for a certain reason. We were designed to accomplish something. Everything truly desirable and healthy in life is going to align with what He wanted to accomplish and His original decision of how to design us. So if we want to align ourselves with His purpose, we must understand those two things.
God designed a “them”
A major component of the human design is described in Genesis 1. Pay special attention to the underlined words…
Then God said, “Let us make mankind in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the livestock and over all the earth, and over every crawling thing that crawls on the earth.”
So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…”
The major component to notice is that God designed a “them.” Just like God is not an individual, the first human was not either. The first human contained many humans. By multiplying, the image of God would be expanded to the earth. This is what God wanted to accomplish.
The expansion of God’s life to another
But it’s only expanded if those many would be one, for the purpose of an image is to reflect what it’s imaging. God is many-but-one. To be the image of God is to be that kind of community.
This expansion of Himself was what God had in mind when He decided to create. He wanted the same life and fellowship in His community to be expanded to another. Here’s how Milt Rodriguez describes this purpose in his book The Community Life of God…
God wanted to have a visible expression of Himself. God wanted an expression and expansion of Himself. He wanted to be magnified, to be made bigger, if you will. When you magnify something, you make it bigger for the purpose of clarification.
This process of expansion (magnification) and expression (manifestation) is called glorification. God’s glory is His expansion and expression. His bigness and His greatness and His splendor are all expressed through the communal man.
Rodriguez sums up what it means to be the image of God nicely when he says…
In order for man to be “like God” he would not only need to have the many, he would also need to have the “one.”
We image God and fulfill our purpose when we have the type of relationships God has going on within Himself. To image God means that we are many but one.
Eating, digesting and displaying
But this doesn’t happen automatically. We’re not robots that oneness is programmed into. We’re vessels that are lived in and through. We must do something. That something is eating, digesting and displaying God’s life. This was the choice presented to the first Adam.
God’s life would then infuse our life just like physical food grows and shapes our physical bodies. This is exactly who Jesus was. He was a human that was completely infused with the life of God.
Unlike the first Adam, the second Adam (Jesus) chose to live according to how He was designed and unlocked that opportunity for mankind once again.
To truly be one, we have to possess the kind of life that creates oneness. But not only that, we have to choose to live by that life by eating, digesting and displaying it.
Humans build and maintain relationships for lots of reasons – common interests, aligned activities, similar desires, shared beliefs, etc. But godly relationships are only experienced to the degree that the type of relationships that we’re having are the type of relationships that God has within Himself.
And that only happens if we possess and express together the type of life that God possesses and expresses.