“Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness’.”
~Genesis 1:26 (NRSV)
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?”
~1 Corinthians 3:16 (NRSV)
We are to live in the body in fear and trembling—well, if we read 1 Corinthians 3:17 that might be our deduction.
Yet, 1 Corinthians 3:16 is very often misread and taken out of context; the “you” is plural, meaning that Paul is referring not to a Christian’s personal body, but to the church—the body of Christ. This is why it’s said that anyone who destroys God’s temple, God will destroy them.
Those that meddle with the church, or disparage the contemporary
Something that God holds absolutely sacrosanct is the idea of community—even the Godhead three-in-one is not an individual, but a Community of Oneness.
Being made in the image of God, therefore, is to see the body not just singly but, more appropriately, corporately.
A Heightened Level Of Respect
When we think about being made in the image of God, not just singly but corporately also, our interest is esteemed to a higher (and broadened) level of respect. The Lord didn’t simply have our individual persons at heart at creation, but wanted, and desperately so, to imagine everything of humanity like God (not God per se, just like God), remembering that God is three-in-one, just as the church, also, should be a-number-in-one, and therefore a unity.
The trouble is we cut out the communal meaning—being made “according to our likeness”—in our very individualistically-focused world. The ancient Hebrews would never have seen it that way; nor would the First Century church. The image of God was as much community, or unified fellowship, as it was singular.
Here we also see the thinking of God raised several, even infinite, notches above human default thinking.
Seeing The Trinitarian ‘Community’ Of God
If we cannot see the Triune God at work right throughout the Bible we may not be seeing as we would be blessed to see. And some people cannot see it; those who vouch even to be Christians.
People who struggle with the Trinitarian theology of God cannot see the oneness destined for community, for God—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—is perfect community.
The Triune God, in whose image we are made, cannot be divided. Nor should be the church—God’s temple; of which we are part.
Anyone deriding the church, certainly by the Pauline theology of 1 Corinthians 3:16-17, is party to activity set on destroying God’s temple: the church.
As God’s temple is holy, so is the church; a vestibule made in the image of God, epitomising the perfect community within the Godhead. This is why unity within the church, that which is built up and strengthened with sure foundations, is absolutely fundamental to God’s purposes on this earth.
Being made in the image of God is just as much about seeing the oneness in community and the community in oneness as it is identifying with God in our single being and by our single creation.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.