Is vs. In – It Makes All the Difference

“He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” – Colossians 1:15 (see also Romans 8:29, 2 Corinthians 4:4, and Hebrews 1:3)

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’” – Genesis 1:26 (see also Genesis 1:27, 5:1, 9:6, and James 3:9)

IS and IN.

Every word in the Bible is important. Sometimes a two-letter word makes all the difference in the world. Sometimes we are so used to using words, particularly small words, that we really don’t stop to think about what they mean.

Do you know what “in” means? How about “is”? Could you give me an actual definition? Have you considered the important difference between them in the sentences above?

God made man “in” his image. Let’s look at what “in” means.

  1. used as a function word to indicate inclusion, location, or position within limits
  2. used as a function word to indicate means, medium, instrumentality
  3. used as a function word to indicate limitation, qualification, or circumstance
  4. used as a function word to indicate purpose
  5. used as a function word to indicate the larger member of a ratio

Each definition of “in” says something about our creation. God located or bounded our creation “in” the image of God (#1). We were made to function in this specific way. God made us “in” the image of God to be his instruments, to display his invisible nature in a visible world (#2). God limited or qualified our creation to be “in” his image (#3). When God made us “in” his image he was declaring our purpose (#4). By making us “in” his image, God was showing that we were the smaller member between man and God (#5 and i.e., the ratio is man/God or man:God).

We were made “in” the image of God. But, Jesus Christ “is” the image of the invisible God. To see the stark reality of this difference, let’s look at what “is” means.

  1. to equal in meaning: have the same connotation as
  2. to have identity with
  3. to constitute the same class as
  4. to have a specified qualification or characterization
  5. to belong to the class of

Jesus is equal in meaning to God (1a). He is God. Jesus is the identity of God (1b). If we have seen Jesus, then we have seen the Father. Jesus is the same class as God (1c). Jesus has all the same attributes as God although he was willing to lay them aside to become a man. Jesus is specifically qualified (1d). He was without sin and therefore qualified to die for us to save us. Jesus is of God (1e). In the beginning, Jesus “was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

We were made “in” the image of God. But, Jesus “is” the image of God. Are you seeing the difference?

This is why Paul writes that we are to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. We are being changed from “in” the image to the image itself.


This is why Paul writes, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.”


This is why Paul writes, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”


From “IN” to “IS”.


From in the image of God to the same image as Jesus Christ.


In effect, the difference between those two little words is the entire story of the Bible.

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