|The Image of God and Jesus the Christ|
Image-bearers in spite of the fall
Nonetheless, Adam’s responsibility to act as God’s steward was not taken away: he and his descendants continued to be God’s image-bearers. Now, however, their job would be infinitely harder.
In the midst of the devastation brought about by sin and judgment, however, we have a word of hope. God told the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. And he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.” (Gen. 3:15) This promise, known as the protoevangelium (first Gospel), points to a day when the “seed of the woman” would deliver a fatal blow to the serpent but would himself be wounded in the process.
Over the Old Testament Scripture, the seed of the woman would be narrowed down to the seed of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob, of Judah, and of David; we learn in Isaiah that the promise would be fulfilled by the child of a virgin, who would be God with Us. Ultimately, all of these promises and prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus, the child of a virgin mother, “who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness….” (Rom 1:3b-4a)
In other words, giving Adam and Eve free will ultimately involved the risk that they would disobey God’s commands and thus throw the world into chaos. But God was ready for their sin, and put in motion a plan He had in place even from before the foundation of the world (cf. Rev. 13:8). And the scope of that plan is nothing short of breathtaking.
God’s eternal plan in Jesus
In order for Jesus’ death to be effective for us, however, He needed to be sinless Himself. And for that He needed, like Adam, to be born without the taint of original sin dragging Him down. He had to be, in essence, a new Adam, one who faced the test of obedience but who remained faithful in the midst of that testing. He also experienced the full brunt of suffering in this world and God’s judgment on Adam—He worked as a skilled craftsman; he experienced hunger, thirst, and exhaustion; He was misunderstood and slandered, rejected, betrayed by those closest to Him, mocked, tortured, and killed. But through it all He never lost His trust in God and never wavered in His obedience and submission to God’s will.
And as if that were not enough, He rose from the dead, His transformed body a paradigm for the bodies His followers will receive at the resurrection. But even in this world, the resurrection matters: Jesus’ death broke the hold of sin and death over our lives, and the resurrection then gives us new life and the power to live in obedience to the calling God has given us. We participate in the Great Exchange: Jesus takes our guilt, and we take His righteousness; Jesus takes our punishment, and we receive His reward; Jesus suffers death for us, and we receive His life in this world and the next.
And all this is predicated on faith and trust—the very place where Adam and Eve failed. In essence, we get what we place our trust in: if we trust Christ, we receive what He deserves; if we trust in ourselves, we get what we deserve. If we trust in Christ, we get His power to live the way we were made to live; if we trust ourselves, we’re on our own.
The new Adam
But there’s still more: Col. 1:15 tells us that Jesus “… is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Humanity was made in the image of God and continues to bear it, but Jesus is preeminently the image of God, the one who is God’s definitive representative on Earth, who speaks with God’s voice and authority, who is quite literally the face of God on Earth—the fullness of deity in bodily form (vs. 19).
Until then, we are living in a new reality in this world. Sin may have marred the image of God and made our mandate to “tend and keep the Garden” under God’s authority far more difficult, but in Christ the power of sin over our lives has been broken. We are thus freer than we have been since Adam to fulfill God’s original calling to humanity, to act as His stewards in all that we do in the world. Our redemption in Christ restores to us the ability to fulfill the cultural mandate that God gave Adam and never revoked.
 This is one reason Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden: to keep them from eating from the Tree of Life and never dying. In a world of suffering and change, natural death and an end to toil and pain can be a mercy.
 This probably has something to do with the virgin birth, though how exactly sin is transmitted is not explained in Scripture.
 “Firstborn” is not always literal in Scripture; it also refers to someone who is an heir (whether the firstborn or not) or someone who has precedence over something. Given the following verses, it is clear that Paul is not describing Jesus as the first created being but rather as the one who is preeminent over all creation, including the spiritual world.