The Express Image of God

Posted on August 15, 2010

By Mike Ratliff

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1-2 ESV)

I heard a sermon once a long time ago in which the preacher defined a cult as any religious group that called itself Christian but denied the orthodox view of any person of the our Triune God. That means that those who deny the Doctrine of the Trinity, according to that definition, are not Christians, but heretics. The man-centered part of each of us, that is the flesh, rebels from such a strict “legalistic” view, but as our faith becomes more and more God Centered in all its aspects, that view becomes entirely justified in our hearts because as we come to know God as He reveals Himself to His children, we will not doubt His Word nor will we attempt to overlay His truth with “altered” truth nor will we add to it nor subtract from it nor take it out of context in order to make it more man centered. If we compromised and did those things we would do so in order to become more acceptable to the majority and not be excluded and hated by the world and those who call themselves Christians, but who are really just part of the world system.

᾿Εν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ Λόγος, καὶ ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, καὶ Θεὸς ἦν ὁ Λόγος. οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν. (John 1:1-2 GNT)

Above is John 1:1,2 from the Greek New Testament. I placed the ESV version of this passage at the top of this post. I remember writing a post once in which I exegeted this passage, focusing primarily on the Apostle John’s use of Λόγος or logos here, which the ESV translates as “Word” to refer to our Lord Jesus Christ. The discussion was very good, but I was amazed at the contact I received from so many who were upset that we were focusing on our Lord Jesus Christ this way as being eternal and God even though there was absolutely no way they could refute the exegesis of the passage without doing serious damage to context. The reason I brought this up before we go to our primary text for this post is that we must understand that not everyone who claims that they are Christians or Christ followers or whatever they call themselves nowadays, is truly in Christ because in their theology, He is not God.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1-4 ESV)

In the first four verses from Hebrews 1 in order keep v3 in context. I wanted to make sure that everyone would understand who the “He” is that the writer of Hebrews is referring to. As we can see, it is the Son, who is our Lord Jesus Christ. Here is v3 from the Greek New Testament.

ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, δι᾿ ἑαυτοῦ καθαρισμὸν ποιησάμενος τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ἡμῶν ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς, (Hebrews 1:3 GNT)

The ESV says that our Lord is, “the radiance of the glory of God” this is wonderful and we have already looked at this. The Apostles witnessed this when our Lord was Transfigured before them just prior to His crucifixion. In any case, let us concentrate on the next phrase, “and the exact imprint of his nature.” This is a translation of the Greek words, “καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως.” The KJV translates this as “and the express image of his person.” Of course the “his” there is referring to God. The ESV’s rendering of “exact imprint” and the KJV’s rendering of “express image” are attempts to translate χαρακτὴρ or charaktēr. I am sure you can see that our English word “character” is a direct transliteration of χαρακτὴρ. This word is used in the Bible only here in Hebrew 1:3. The history of this word’s development in Greek tells us that it always referred in some way to an engraving process or the impression made by a carver or the stamp for making coins or a character in writing. However, eventually it came to refer to the basic bodily and psychological structure with which one is born, which is unique to the person and which cannot be changed by education or development. Of course, the Word of God is telling us here that our Lord Jesus Christ is the χαρακτὴρ of the person of God and as we see in John 1, He was not created or born, but was there as God in the midst of the creation of the Universe. Jesus Christ is God because His the χαρακτὴρ of the person God.

The next part of the phrase “ὑποστάσεως” or hupostasis speaks of that which stands under something else, that is, the foundation of something, the true essence and substance of it. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the express image of God and of the exact same essence and substance as Him. Our Lord is not a created being. He is not a glorified angel or man. He is God. He and God the Father and God the Holy Spirit are the Triune God whom genuine Christians love and worship and serve daily with their all. Jesus Christ became incarnate as a man and when we go to be with Him in eternity, we will be with Him and He with us forever. This is what I live for now. Do you?

Soli Deo Gloria!

(HT: Possessing the Treasure)