Is the Image of God easily and simply stated as "Powerful and Relational?" If that theory has merit, it will be supported by God’s Word. That is the best source to be trusted.
And, for that matter, it will be supported by what you see in life because God is the creator of life and demonstrates Himself through His creation. That is another reason the powerful and relational theory is easy for me to accept. For example, consider the picture of a soldier hugging a woman - powerful and relational. Or, how about a lion with a lion cub - a great picture of powerful and relational!
Of course, since God created everything, the image of God is everywhere, but for the following, let's focus only on God's Word. Obviously, this is not a scholarly treatise on the image of God. While that would be great, it does not fit my desire (or abilities) at this time. On the other hand, if the image of God is best described through maleness and femaleness, Separate and Belonging, or Powerful and Relational, it shouldn’t be that difficult to find in God’s Word.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness,”... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. – Genesis 1:26-27
Consider and study the following scriptures to see if they represent "powerful and relational." There are several examples here, with some verses providing both elements and others providing just one.
He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
This is one of my favorite Bible verses because of its simple, fundamental insight into what makes life abundant. We act confused about how life works, but God provides clear direction here.
The verse plainly states that we are to be powerful (do justly) and relational (love mercy and walk humbly), which is good. A reasonable speculation is that it is good because it reflects God. So, God is asking us to be powerful (just) yet relational (love mercy).
For thus says the High and Lofty One, Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, with him who has a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones."
This is a spectacular verse that presents both elements. Even better, this verse is in the context of God telling the nation of Israel that He is willing to forgive and restore them, which is another powerful and relational concept.
Look at the first three phrases. Each is about the power of God or how He is different (separate) from us. He is "High and Lofty," "inhibits eternity," "Holy," and "dwell in a high and holy place..." If we understand the reality of just that portion of the verse, it initiates a worshipful and humble spirit in us because it represents His majesty!
Now, look at the quote from God. He first states that He “…dwells in a high and holy place…” then continues to say He dwells with people also. He could have continued to express how powerful He is and how angry He is with sin (which He has done before this verse), but He wants us to know His willingness to forgive sin.
Equally important, God states that He dwells in more than one place. He inhabits eternity, dwelling in the high and holy place, but He also lives with people who have a contrite and humble spirit willing to see their sin and repent of it – Powerful and Relational.
…but, speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—...
This is a tremendous foundational verse on how relationships work best. When we do not seek and share the truth, relationships suffer. If we only seek and share truth, the emphasis would be placed on being Separate and Powerful because truth is always powerful.
The emphasis of the verse is not just powerful, though. We are to speak “…the truth in love…” which combines power with what is best for the other person. So, powerful truth is spoken with the thought of what is best for them – Powerful and Relational.
2 Timothy 1:7
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
In Isaiah 57:15, quoted earlier, God stated how He is both Powerful and Relational. Here Paul tells believers that God has given us a combination of power, love, and a sound mind (self-control).
What a wonderful reminder for believers, God wants us to represent His image correctly. So, He gives us His Spirit to blossom the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. And God wants us to display His image in the form of power, love, and self-control instead of fear, so, again – Powerful and Relational.
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
After God tells us about creating us in His image, He tells us our purpose. That purpose has both relational and powerful elements in it. Consider “Be fruitful and multiply.” That relational element refers to the most intimate options for a man and woman’s relationship. And God uses “subdue” and “have dominion,” which are powerful words – Powerful and Relational.
Genesis 2:16-17 and Genesis 3:8-9
This combination of verses provides an excellent picture of God’s image. These two elements are not used in isolation but in combination or proportion, as seen in Ephesians 4:15. While God related to Adam and Eve, He also gave them one clear and powerful boundary.
And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
This “powerful” statement was a boundary that hurt their relationship with each other and Him if crossed. What a good way for us to see how the two interact and support each other. Just like Ephesians 4:15 above, the power of truth supports the relationship and vice-versa.
But Genesis 3:1-6 tells us Eve was deceived, and Adam ignored the command (it was given to Adam before Eve was created), and they sinned or crossed the boundary. Now notice what God did shortly after they sinned.
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?"
God did not bring His power first; He related to them – “Where are you?” He wasn't asking them about their location, but if they knew where their hearts or relationship with Him was at that point. Shortly after this, in verses 15-19, God demonstrates His power by judging the serpent, Eve, and Adam. Once again – Powerful and Relational.
John 1:1-2, 14
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
In these verses, God refers to the Word (Christ) in two different ways. First, “…the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Second, “…the Word became flesh and dwelt among us….”
God shows us a clear picture of His image in the way that He provides a solution to our sins. Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection saves us and restores us to the place of ruling that God stated was our purpose back in Genesis 1:28. Christ, the second person of the Trinity, is spoken of as Powerful and Relational.
So much more is expressed in these verses, but we will move on.
John 3:16-17, 36
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
These two verses (3:16-17) may be some of the most quoted in God's Word. They speak of love, life, and salvation – all relational items. But now consider the very last verse in the same chapter.
He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.
The relational items are there, but some powerful elements are added. “He who believes…” can have an everlasting relationship with the Son who provided the solution to our sin. That repeats what is stated earlier in the chapter. But notice the addition of power – "...he who does not believe..." will suffer "…the wrath of God….” Again, we see – Powerful and Relational.
You can see how easy it is to show both the powerful and the relational elements in God’s Word. While that may not be convincing, hopefully, it has generated some interest for you to study the idea further.
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