I have heard many teachers make claims such as "Marriage is the Image of God." They claim that human beings only bear the image of God when a man and woman are joined together in marriage. I have heard some go so far as to say that we are only half a person until we are married. As someone who is unhappily single, the first time I heard that, it was a nasty sucker punch to the gut to be told that I am not an Image bearer of God. Marriage can present a beautiful picture of Jesus' relationship with the Church, a bride for which He has not yet come. But Scripture clearly and irrefutably says that JESUS, a single person, was the perfect image bearer and reflection of the Father.
I realize that good men and well-respected leaders hold to this unfortunate point of view. I have encountered this teaching everywhere from the organization "Marriage Today," to Seminary classes, Equip classes, and the Pope in Rome. We've even discussed it in Sunday morning Bible study. This is not an attack on any specific teacher. I have no interest in tearing down a godly teacher for making a mistake. Good men and close friends that I deeply respect and love as brothers in Christ take this position. But the notion that marriage is the Image of God is an ill-conceived and poorly considered statement which you are unlikely to read within the pages of any Systematic Theology text, study in a Biblical Anthropology class or discover in any legitimate, refereed, scholarly journal. This teaching disenfranchises single believers and disrespects our status and standing before God.
Matthew 24 says that there is no marriage between individuals in heaven and all Christians agree that we will be perfect, fully restored Image bearers of God in heaven. That's the whole point of the glorified body. The doctrine that redeemed man bears the image of God is not negotiable. Colossians 3:10 declares that we:
...have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the Image of its Creator.
Because of Adam and Eve's sin, we lost a crucial part of the Imago Dei, our connection with God through the Holy Spirit. That connection is re-established through salvation in all believers, single or married.
Certainly, marriage is a wonderful thing: He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from God. But marriage does not define our position before God. Adam was created in God's Image, BEFORE Eve was made. She was also created in God's image. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them. Both men and women are created in God's image as individuals and together in marriage they show a picture of God's relationship with us, not a picture of God Himself.
This teaching devalues and polarizes single Christians. All believers single and married are, without doubt, created in God's image, sons and daughters, children and heirs and fully accepted as a valuable part of God's Kingdom. Marriage is a wonderful and God-ordained union between a man and a woman. There are many ways that family honors God and throughout Scripture, the family is highly honored and something to be sought after. It is not, however, the source of one's value or worth as a child and Image bearer of God. Paul, who encouraged us to be filled with all the fullness of God and to reach full maturity as believers, actually encouraged singleness for the sake of the Gospel and viewed it as favorable in certain situations.
Various resolutions by the Southern Baptist Convention have recently been put forth, which recognize the Image of God in all people as a non-compromisable value. It is unfortunate that teachings persist which further disenfranchise singles from the church. This is one of those areas where we draw the line in the sand and firmly say NO. God's image in all people, and in particular, believers, is not a doctrine to be trifled with. All Christians, both single and married are equal, priests, filled with the Holy Spirit, ambassadors for Christ and Image bearers of God.