In John 3:36 we are told: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life.” The word “in” here is literally “into.” We believe into the Son. The same Greek preposition is used in Romans 6:3: “…Baptized into Christ Jesus.” We were put into the Lord Jesus, just as we were put into the water at baptism. The step of being baptized into Him takes the one foot of believing and the other foot of being baptized. We believe into Him and are baptized into Him.
What does baptism mean? It does not refer to life, but rather death. “As many as have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death” (Rom. 6:3). The death of the Lord Jesus left Him with a wound. At the site of this wound we are baptized into Him, are grafted into Him, and grow together with Him. By being baptized into His death, we are grafted into Him. This grafting is a union and a growth. The joining activates the growth process. The life juice of the tree gets into the grafted branch, and it begins to grow in resurrection.
THE SIMILARITY BETWEEN GOD AND MAN
For two trees to be grafted, there must be a close similarity between them. A banana tree cannot be grafted to a grape vine. The same is true with a skin graft. If the skin to be used in a graft is foreign to the body, the body will reject it.
How then can our human life be grafted to God’s life? It is because the two lives are to some extent similar. Man was made in God’s image and according to His likeness (Gen. 1:26). But, you may ask, how can God have an image when He does not have any form? Idols are images because they have a form, but what is God’s image?
Some explain image as meaning the inner attributes, with the term likeness denoting the outward form. However, I would explain image as referring to one’s expression, while likeness refers to one’s stance. If I stand with my hand raised in a salute, my image is my expression, but my likeness is that of a soldier! If I jump and leap on the platform, my image is still my expression, but my likeness is that of a hart!
When God created man in the beginning, He created man with His image, or expression, or face. Then He also made man according to His likeness, that is, according to His stature; for this He used the dust of the ground.
You may ask how God could have a physical form. This is a difficult question. There is, however, an instance of God’s appearing in the form of a body before the Lord’s coming to earth in the incarnation. In Genesis 18 Abraham was sitting at the door of his tent one hot summer day, when three men approached. Two were apparently angels (cf. Gen. 18:22), but one was clearly Jehovah the Lord (18:13). He came as a real person. He ate the meal Abraham prepared for Him, after having His feet washed. He talked with Abraham in an ordinary way, not like the Creator issuing decrees from a heavenly throne. As He was going on His way, Abraham accompanied Him a little distance. This closeness constrained God to open to him and reveal what He would do, as one would share with a friend. Is this God in Genesis 18 a man? Who is this Jehovah? He is surely the same as the Lord Jesus in the New Testament. This is beyond theology’s ability to explain, but we can see from this passage that man has a body after God’s likeness.
At the time of creation, God breathed into man’s nostrils the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). The Hebrew word translated breath in this verse is translated spirit in Proverbs 20:27: “The spirit of man is the lamp of Jehovah, searching all the inward parts of the belly” (Heb.). The breath of life in Genesis 2 becomes the spirit of man in Proverbs 20. The human spirit is the breath of life from God that enters into man and becomes his spirit.
The spirit may well be what Confucius was referring to when he said that there is a bright virtue within man. His thought was that this bright virtue needed to be developed and further brightened. The Bible, however, shows us that this spirit needs to be regenerated. In our spirit, which was formed from God’s breathing into man the breath of life, there is not the Spirit of God. Therefore, the spirit must receive another life by being “born of the Spirit” of God (John 3:6).
The spirit of man is his most precious part. It is what distinguishes him from animals. Once this breath of life got into man’s nostrils, he became a living soul, with a personality that in reality is in the image of God. Man’s emotions, desires, and intelligence correspond with God’s. God has such feelings as love; He has desires; and He has thoughts, wisdom, and intelligence. In a sense we are like a photograph of God. The photograph is not God Himself, but it is His image.
It is foolish to accept Darwin’s theory that man evolved from lower animals. All the plant and animal life created by God in Genesis 1 were designed to reproduce after their kind (vv. 11, 12, 21, 24, 25). But when it came to the creation of man, instead of saying “after his kind,” it says “after our likeness” (v. 26). Man is not in the category of animals. He is a picture of God. God created man like Himself.
We are not God, anymore than a picture of the President is the President. But we must not demean ourselves. If we see that we are God’s image, we shall realize that we are vessels of honor prepared unto glory.
(Life Messages, Vol. 2 (#42-75), Chapter 18, by Witness Lee)