When the disciples of Jesus asked Him to teach them how to pray He said, "After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name" (Matthew 6:9)
Nearly all Christians believe in God, the Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. They furthermore believe that each of these three beings are God. However, this presents a problem for many of them because the Bible repeatedly states there is only one God (see Mark 12:29; Luke 18:19; John 8:41; Romans 3:30; 1 Cor. 8:4,6; Gal. 3:20). If that is so, the problem Christians face is explaining how there can be only one God yet say we believe in three beings whom we refer to as God.
Christians most generally find the answer to this dilemma in John 4:24 which says, "God is a spirit" and infer this to mean that God must look completely different from us in form and substance since we are physical and He is Spirit. They also point to those scriptures that says God is invisible ( Col. 1:15; 1 Timothy 1:17) and is eternal, meaning He has always existed, and conclude that since we are both visible and mortal, then God must be unlike anything we can conceive of. Therefore, it is assumed that this invisible, eternal spirit is somehow capable of being one God yet three persons in a way we can't even begin to comprehend.
The great Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, explained this mystery by saying that while we live in a three-dimensional world, God lives in a four or perhaps even a five dimensional world. Since we can't conceive of what kind of world that is like we therefore can't really understand or explain how a being so far superior to us can be one yet be three people all at the same time.
Most Christians also believe that since God is a spirit that means He has no body, and if that is the case then He can't have any shape or form. This idea is further reinforced when we say that He is omnipresent, meaning that He is present everywhere. This has led to the expression that "God is so large that He can fill the immensity of space and yet is so small that He can fit inside our heart." Therefore, God is thought of as being some sort of Person who is impossible to describe.
If all of this is true then Christians reason that man could not possibly be the literal offspring of God, as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches, any more than an elephant can be the offspring of man since we look nothing at all like God.
However, this concept of God creates some other problems. When speaking of the creation of man we read in Genesis 1:26, "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understands this as meaning that our human body was shaped and formed to resemble the image and likeness of God. However, since most Christians don't believe God has a body therefore they feel it is not possible for our body to resemble His. Furthermore, since God is far superior to us, some Christians claim it is demeaning to describe God as having a human form because it lowers Him to the status of a created animal. More than that, some feel that such a concept of God is arrogantly implying that man is nearly the equal of God. To many Christians both of these ideas seem sacrilegious.
Therefore, the way most Christians explain this scripture in Genesis is to say that we were created in the image and likeness of God's various characteristics. That is to say, we were made in the emotional image of God whereby we can feel the same emotions of love, hate, joy, sorrow, pride, and jealousy that He feels. We were made in the moral likeness of God so that we can distinguish between right and wrong and can decide for ourselves how we want to behave, just as God can. We were also made in the intellectual image and likeness of God in that we can think, reason, contemplate, and communicate similar to how God does.
But there are other scriptures that describe God as having various parts of the human body, such as a head, eyes, hands, arms, and feet. Since most Christians don't believe that God has a body, they conclude that such verses of scripture must not be literal so it is assumed they must be symbolic in meaning.
However, all of these explanations are based primarily on the idea that a spirit has no shape or form. Yet, angels are spirits and Christians acknowledge they have a human form. And just because they are invisible to us doesn't mean they can't have a human form. However, despite this fact, Christians still steadfastly declared that God has no shape. But, in order for them to maintain that position they have to ignore one of the most important cornerstones of the Christian faith.
The apostle Paul wrote, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (1 Corinthians 15:14). As important as the death of Christ was on the cross, had He not risen from the grave there could be no salvation. Therefore, the resurrection is just as important to our salvation as is Christ's atonement for our sins. Paul explained it this way: "if Christ be not raised, your faith is [in] vain; [and] ye are yet in your sins… For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:17,21,22).
The Bible tells us that since all men have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) that is why all men must die. That is to say, each of us will lay our body in the grave because of the curse of sin that God pronounced upon man in the garden of Eden. But the Bible is just as clear that there will come a time when the bodies of all men will rise from the grave, some to eternal life and some to eternal damnation (John 5:29). And this event will happen because Christ rose from the grave and thereby conquered death.
Concerning those who will come froth in the resurrection of the just, the apostle John wrote, "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is" (1 John 3:2).
It is generally believed that after the resurrection the righteous will live with God in heaven but the resurrection is all about our human shaped body coming forth out of the grave and living forever. Therefore, in the resurrection not only will we be like Christ emotionally, morally, and intellectually, but we "shall be like him" in form and shape as well. Consider this, if God is a shapeless, invisible being who is incomprehensible then how can we "see him as he is" and be like Him if we have a human shape and He doesn't?
Paul answered this question when he wrote that in the resurrection God "shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his (Christ's) glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself" (Phil. 3:21). In order for Paul to have said this he must have believed that God does have a "glorious body" otherwise why would he say that after the resurrection our corruptible human body will become as glorious as God's body?
As Christians we believe that Jesus Christ is God, who came to earth and took upon Himself a mortal body of flesh and bones, the same as us. We also believe that when He was resurrected that same body rose from the grave. The apostles testified that they saw Christ rise to heaven on a cloud having a body, and two angels declared that Christ would someday return to the earth the same way (Acts 1:9-11). Many years later the apostle John saw the resurrected Christ and described Him as having a body in human form (Revelation 1:10-17).
A disciple of Christ named Stephen declared that he looked into heaven "and saw the glory of God, and [saw] Jesus standing on the right hand of God" (Acts 7:55) But, if God has no body then He has no right side or left side, neither top nor bottom, neither can He stand or sit. If that is so, then how could Stephen see with his own eyes Jesus, who is God, standing on the right hand of a God who has no shape or form?
Some biblical commentators say that these kinds of verses are not meant to be taken literally but rather are an ancient expression indicating that someone has been given great honor. However, the Bible tells us that when our bodies are resurrected we too shall sit with Christ on His throne just as He has sat down on His Father's throne (Revelation 3:21) and we shall rule and reign with Christ (Revelations 20:6). Furthermore, Jesus told His apostles that in the resurrection, "ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matthew 19:28)
If we follow the logic of the biblical commentators, since God has no body and is therefore incapable of literally "sitting" on a throne, we would have to conclude that even though we will have a literal body we will not literally sit on a literal throne nor will we literally reign with Christ since such verses are not to be taken literally but symbolically. However, most Christian churches teach that there is a literal throne in heaven where God literally sits and where we too will live with Him in our human shaped body. In fact, the Bible itself declares that men have seen the throne of God with their own eyes (Isaiah. 6:1; Ezek 1:26: 10:1), thereby indicating it is a real object rather than it merely being the expression of an intangible concept. Therefore, to say that we don't look anything at all like God is to deny what the scriptures teach about the resurrection.
But there is another fundamental doctrine of the Bible that posses a greater challenge to the doctrine that says God doesn't look anything at all like us.
We refer to Jesus Christ as being the Son of God, but He taught us to call God our Father, thereby making God not only the Father of Christ but our Father as well. Nowhere in the Bible does Jesus ever refer to us as being His children but in every instance He calls us His brethren (Matthew 12:46-49; Luke 8:21; John 20:17; Hebrews 2:11,17). If Jesus is the Son of God and he calls us His brethren, then that makes us sons of God as well. And if Jesus looks just like His Father (Hebrews 1:3), and the scriptures tell us that we too are the sons of God (John 1:12; Romans 8:14; Galatians 4:6,7; Philippians 2:15; 1 John 3:2) then why wouldn't we look like our Father in heaven just as God's Son, Jesus Christ, does?
In order to find the answer to this question all we need do is ask ourselves, Why do we call God, "our Father?" One answer that most Christians frequently give is that God is our Father in a spiritual sense not in a human sense, but that doesn't fully answer the question.
Traditional Christianity teaches that God created us rather than fathered us. Just as God created the earth, the planets and stars, He likewise created plants, animals, and man. In this sense, God is viewed as a craftsman who goes about making things. For example, a potter takes a lump of clay and forms and fashions it into a pot. A carpenter takes some lumber and turns it into a beautiful piece of furniture. An artist applies some paint to a canvass and creates a beautiful picture.
Each of these finished objects are a creation of the person who made them and thus the craftsman is known as the creator or maker of the object, not the father of it. Even if a sculptor made a statue of himself, or an artist made a portrait of himself we would not say that he was the father of these objects. In the same way, if we are a creation of God then He is our Maker and Creator, not our Father. Yet, throughout the New Testament God is always referred to us as our Father, not our Maker.
Because traditional Christianity teaches that since we are as much of a creation as is a whale or a tree, they say we look no more like God than they do. However, we don't say that God is the Father of the beasts of the field or the fish in the sea or the birds in the sky. Instead, we say He is their creator. But that is not true when it comes to mankind. The Bible specifically refers to Him as "our Father."
Some Christians might argue that the reason we refer to God as our Father is because we are the only creation that was made in His emotional, moral, and intellectual image, but that isn't entirely true because Christians most generally believe that angels have many of the same emotional, moral, and intellectual characteristics that man has yet nowhere in the Bible do we find them calling God their Father.
For this reason (as well as others) most Christians have been led to believe that angels and men are two different species. That is to say, man could no more become an angel than could a cockroach. However, if that is true then that creates another problem because the Bible seems to indicate that only man is capable of becoming a "son of God."
From what we read in the Bible it would appear that not even the angels enjoy that distinction (see Hebrews 1:5). The Bible tells us that man was made a little lower than the angels (Psalms 8:4,5). That means angels are a superior creation than man. And indeed, the Bible seems to infer this when it describes men as having no natural inclination to worship God while angels are naturally obedient to God. Yet, the Bible clearly states that sinful man can become a son of God and inherit the kingdom of God and all that the Father has (Revelation 21:7) but nowhere does it say that for the righteous angels. Clearly, there is something extra special about man that is not found in anything else God has created.
The scriptures repeatedly speak of man in terms of us having a close, personal family relationship with God. It speaks of God begetting us (1 Peter 1:3; 1 John 5:1,18), of man belonging to the household of God (Ephesians 2:19), and being married to Him. While this may be meant in a spiritual sense, yet nowhere in the Bible does it indicate or even infer that any other creation of God enjoys such a relationship with Him.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches that the reason for this special relationship is because we are the literal offspring of God. Just like a son looks like and behaves like his biological father, so we too, as spirit children of our Father in heaven look like and behave like Him who begat us. Not only do we have the same emotional, moral, and intellectual likeness of God but He created our physical bodies in the same, shape, form, and image as His glorious and resurrected body.
Just as every righteous earthly Father seeks to teach their children to grow to become like him, our Father in heaven seeks the same thing for His children. His goal is to help us become perfect as He is (Genesis 17:1; Matthew 5:48). Even traditional Christians say that God's purpose is to mold and conform us into the image of His Son
To maintain their view that God has no body, shape, or form, traditional Christians have to alter the meaning of a number of scriptural passages. If they don't then they find themselves teaching doctrines that are clearly contradicted by the Bible itself. And even doing this they still have trouble making all of the scriptures agree with their stated beliefs.
However, surprising as it may seem, nowhere in the Bible does it say that a spirit is a formless being, yet this one belief about God has shaped the way people understand many verses of scripture. This, in turn, has affected the way people have come to view our relationship to God, His purpose for man, the reason why He seeks to save us, and why He wants us to inherit eternal life. However, if the traditional understanding of what the Bible means when is says "God is a spirit" is not correct then all of the other beliefs that are based on this misinterpretation must also be incorrect.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints takes the Bible literally when it says that man was made in the image and likeness of God. It takes literally those verses of scripture that describe God as looking like a man. To say that man was literally made in the image and likeness of God doesn't demean Him any more that it demeans a human father to say that their children look just like him. Just because an earthly child is far inferior in intelligence and capabilities to its parents doesn't mean they cannot look anything like their father.
In the same way, just because we may be far inferior in intelligence and capabilities to God doesn't mean we can't look anything like Him. Just like an earthly father cares for and is intently interested in the welfare and well-being of his children, so also God, our Father, cares for and is intently interested in us because we are His children. This explains why God loved us so much that He sent His only Begotten Son to earth to die for our sins.
When we read the Bible the way it is actually written, rather than trying to interpret its meaning, we find there is no problem in believing that God has a body and that we were literally made in His image.