Within the body of Christ, it is a common belief that we are made in the image of God, and should be striving to look like Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God (Genesis 1:27; 1 John 2:6; Matthew 3:7). Scripture tells us that it is Christ in us, that is the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). Does this mean that when we accept Jesus into our hearts, that He is now in us, and thus giving us the hope of entering the Kingdom of Heaven? Or is there a deeper meaning to our being made in His likeness, and Christ being formed in us? (Galatians 4:19) Is there a deeper meaning to God’s glory? The Apostles and the Early Church, delving beyond the face value of the Scriptures, were unanimous in understanding that the glory of God is His very nature manifesting through His people. Through the revealed word, the character of Christ is formed in us, washing away our old nature, bringing about the hope of our salvation.
The Apostle Paul, as mentioned above, when writing to the Colossians said, “To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27). In order to understand what Paul is articulating, let’s delve deeper into the Greek and Hebrew meanings of some of these words. Firstly, ‘Christ’ in Greek is the word Christos and is where we get the English word ‘Christian’ from. Christ means “anointed” (1) and comes from another word, chrio, which means to “smear or rub with oil” (2) and “enduing Christians with the gifts of the Holy Spirit”. (3) In the Old Testament the Priesthood, the High Priest and the furnishings in the tabernacle were anointed with oil (Exodus 30:22-38). The anointing symbolizing the consecration of those ordained to operate in the tabernacle, and the articles (furnishings) within it. Peter states that God’s people are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and Paul tells us that we are the temple of God (1 Corinthians 3:16). The deeper meaning of this is the priesthood and tabernacle are a symbol of God’s people, who have been anointed.
So, do God’s people have to be anointed in literal oil to be sanctified?
In Hebrew understanding, ‘oil’ is symbolic of the breath of God (4), and in Hebrew thought breath refers to the character and function of someone. For example, when God breathed into Adam (Genesis 2:7) He was anointing him with His character, bringing Adam to life. In the New Testament, Jesus was anointed with the holy spirit (Acts 10:37-38) after being baptized by John (Luke 3:21-22). He is the word made flesh (John 1:14), so Jesus being anointed is symbolic of the anointed Word. According to the apostle Paul, the Holy Spirit reveals the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10). The word ‘deep’ in Greek is bathos and pertains to mysteries. (5) To the church of Ephesus, Paul writes “if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which was given to me for you, how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Ephesians 3:2-4). The word ‘mystery’ in this passage refers to “some sacred thing hidden or secret which is naturally unknown to human reason and is only known by the revelation of God.” (6) Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God is a mystery, hidden in parables (symbolic teachings) (Mark 4:11), so the Holy Spirit reveals the mysteries of the Kingdom, or the deep things of God hidden in His Word, to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear (Matthew 13:13).
In reference to the mysteries of scripture, Origen said,
… let them commit to them secret mysteries; let them speak to them the word of God and the secrets of the faith that “Christ may be formed” in them through faith. Or, do you not know that from this seed of the word of God which is sown Christ is born in the heart of the hearers? For the Apostle also says this: “Until Christ be formed in us.’. Therefore, the soul conceives from this seed of the word. (7)
The Early church knew that understanding the depth (mysteries) of God’s Word is integral in forming Christ in us. Without this knowledge, we cannot know or understand who the Lord really is in us.
In Greek, the word ‘hope’, elpis, refers to the “joyful and confident expectation of eternal salvation”. (8) Unlike western thought, in which the term ‘hope’ can refer to something that may or may not occur, the biblical understanding of this word signifies a knowing, without doubt. The word ‘glory’ is doxa in Greek, and The Complete Word Study Dictionary states “The true glory of man, on the other hand, is the ideal condition in which God created man. This condition was lost in the fall and is recovered through Christ and exists as a real fact in the divine mind.” (9) So, God’s glory is referring to a state of being, that Adam was in before the fall, and through the Holy Spirit revealing the depths of God’s Word to us, we are enabled to return to this glorified state of being. Paul writes that the Bride, the Church, is to be washed in the water of the word (Ephesians 5:26) and that we must be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), thus resulting in the divine mind- the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). Paul said, in referring to Jesus ‘Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God’ (Philippians 2:5-6). Now that we have a deeper understanding of Paul’s exhortation to the church of Colossae, we can see that the Holy Spirit revealing the depth of God to us, is what results in a confident expectation (knowing) of our eternity with God, through our transformation from corruption (our fallen nature) to incorruption (See 1 Corinthians 15:53). From this we can see that ‘Christ’ is not Jesus’ last name, but rather speaks of a character, in which Jesus walked in, and that we are called to walk in too, in order to obtain salvation.
Irenaeus, who learned from Polycarp, the disciple of John, said this:
Now God shall be glorified in His handiwork, fitting it so as to be conformable to, and modelled after, His own Son. For by the hands of the Father, that is, by the Son and the Holy Spirit, man, and not [merely] a part of man, was made in the likeness of God. (10)
The Early Church understood that God will reveal His glory through His people (His handiwork), just as He did through His Son Jesus. In the Gospel of John, when Jesus prays to the Father, He says “I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:4-5) Here we see that through His ministry and walk on this earth, Jesus was glorifying God.
In writing to the Romans, Paul says that Christ is the first of many brethren (Romans 8:29) and urges the Church of Corinth to imitate him, as he imitated Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1). Paul understood that just as Jesus, being the Son of God, walked on this earth in the character of His Father, so too are the rest of God’s chosen people called to do so.
Jesus walked a holy life, being without blemish (1 Peter 1:19) and Paul writes that those in the church are to be sanctified to be presented to the Lord without blemish (Ephesians 5:26-27). Clement, disciple of the apostle Peter, in his first epistle explains that to be a Christian means to finish our course without blemish, being imitators of Christ. He provides examples of those who strove to imitate our Lord, and that these men (as well as Jesus) are an example to us.
Dost thou wish to be a Christian? Imitate Christ in everything. John, the ambassador, he who came before our Lord, he “than whom there was not a greater among those born of women,” (Mat_11:11) the holy messenger of our Lord, was a virgin. Imitate, therefore, the ambassador of our Lord, and be his follower in every thing. That John, again, who “reclined on the bosom of our Lord, and whom He greatly loved,” (Joh_21:10) – he, too, was a holy person. For it was not without reason that our Lord loved him. Paul, also, and Barnabas, and Timothy, with all the others, “whose names are written in the book of life,” (Phi_4:3) – these, I say, all cherished and loved sanctity, and ran in the contest, and finished their course without blemish, as imitators of Christ, and as sons of the living God. Moreover, also, Elijah and Elisha, and many other holy men, we find to have lived a holy and spotless life. If, therefore, thou desirest to be like these, imitate them with all thy power. For the Scripture has said, “The elders who are among you, honour; and, seeing their manner of life and conduct, imitate their faith.” (Heb_8:7) And again it saith, “Imitate me, my brethren, as I imitate Christ.” (2Co_11:1) (11)
Further on in his epistle, Clement states,
Let us, therefore, contemplate and imitate the faithful who have conducted themselves well in the Lord, as is becoming and suitable to our calling and profession. Thus let us do service before God in justice and righteousness, and without blemish, “occupying ourselves with things good and comely before God and also before men.” (Rom_12:17) For this is comely, that God be glorified in us in all things. (12)
Notice Clement articulates that God should be glorified IN us, in all things. John says that God being glorified in us, can only be done when we understand who His Son is, through the truth of His divine Word (John 1:14). It is through our understanding being enlightened, that we can have a hope of God’s glory, which is our inheritance (Ephesians 1:18). Another Early Church Father, Clement of Alexandria, explains that being without blemish refers to “a soul [that is] pure through righteousness which is offered to God.” (13)
Through exploring the divine scriptures, and writings of the faithful Early Church Fathers, we can see that as believers, in order for the hope of our glory (being restored into the image God intended us to be) we are to imitate Christ. Jesus’ disciples, and the Early Church were striving every day to walk as Jesus did on this earth. They knew it to be of vital importance that we do so too, in order that we may be saved. When we understand the depth of God’s Word, we are truly understanding who Christ is, who is the Word. The Early Church understood that it is this process of the word being revealed to us, transforming us into the same image as Christ, that is our hope of glory. Just as Jesus was glorified on this earth, through His obedience to the Word of the Father, we have the hope (expectation) that through our understanding of His Word and obedience to the faith, the Lord will raise us up from these corruptible bodies into His incorruptibility. The glory is coming through a people who have been prepared, being washed, and sanctified by the Word, to be His habitation. Are you preparing your temple for the hope of His glory IN you?
We leave you with a blessed writing from the Apostle Paul:
‘When He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.’ (2 Thessalonians 1:10-12)
1. Thayer’s Greek Definitions: Christ (G5547)
2. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries: Christ (G5548)
3. Thayer’s Greek Definitions: Christ (G5548)
4. Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the bible: Oil (H8081)
5. Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries: Deep (G899)
6. The Complete WordStudy Dictionary: Mystery G3466
7. Origen- Leviticus Homily 12, pg. 230
8. Thayer’s Greek Definitions: Hope (G1680)
9. The Complete WordStudy Dictionary: Glory (G1391)
10. Irenaeus- Against Heresies Book V, Vol. 1
11. Clement- The First Epistle of the Blessed Clement, Ch VI
12. Clement- The First Epistle of the Blessed Clement, Chap. XIII
13. Clement of Alexandria – Fragments of Clemens Alexandrinus. I – Comments on the first epistle of Peter.
All scripture references from The Holy Bible: New King James Version: NKJV. Thomas Nelson, 2010.