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Gen 1-2 (Part 2): What Does Creation Teach Us About Man? Print E-mail
Monday, 14 November 2005

Have you ever asked the question: who am I? or what is my identity, what makes me, me?  These are questions that for the most part we all ask at some time or another.  When we are growing up and in school we often ask it to try and figure out what group we belong to or what friends we should have.  When going to college and deciding on a career, we often reflect on who we are and what we want to be when we grow up.  When considering marriage, we often try to answer the question of our identity in order to answer the question of Ďourí identity together.  I am learning that even as an adult we often make decisions based on how we answer the question of who we are.  Thus, Ďwho am Ií is an important question for us and one we want to answer correctly.

Of course the problem is that throughout our lives we are bombarded with answers to the question from the world.  They lie to us and tell us that it is all about us.  They lie to us and tell us we need to constantly be recreating ourselves to fit in or make a statement.  They shove pictures and ideals in our face and convince us that who we are is measured by how well we compare.  Yet, the error in all of this is that it begins and ends with man.  In other words, they fail to consider who God tells us we are.

Thus, this morning I want us to consider from Genesis 1-2, primarily 1:26-31 and 2:4-25, what creation teaches us about man.  After giving us the six days of creation, Moses focus in chapter 2 more specifically on the creation of man.  This is not a second creation, but simply an explanation of the creation of man.  Thus, coupled with the sixth day of creation in chapter 1, there is much we learn about who we are from the biblical account of creation.  I want us to consider two lessons from the text.

First, we learn that man is part of creation.

The biblical account of the creation of man teaches us that man is dust.  Moses in 2:5-7 makes this point clear.  Look at those verses with me.  Like all the rest of creation our life and existence is dependent upon the work of God.  He takes dirt and forms man and breathes life into him that he might become a living creature. 

In 1:26a, we see that the Lord creates man on the sixth day.  As much as we want to fight and scream and claim our power and our authority and our autonomy, the bible makes clear that we are creatures in desperate need of their Creator.  From all this we can make this important conclusion: we are not God or we are not gods.  No we are creatures who are made in the image of God. We are said to be made in Godís likeness, which is one way for the author to point out that we are not exact copies of Him but simply made in His likeness. 

Of course you may be thinking that admitting that we are not God is not that new or profound of a thought.  And to some degree, being raised in the church, I can agree with you.  On the other hand, although it is basic, it is very fundamental to the Christian faith and it stands in great contrast with many of the religions and belief systems of the world.  Thus, I want to make it as clear as Moses does: we are not God, we are not the Creator.  No, we are the creation.  It is important that we understand and emphasize this distinction because, as Paul teaches us in Romans 1:18-25, the root of idolatry is mistaking the creature as the Creator.  Thus, at the very root of sin is misunderstanding the difference between the Creator, and the joy of beholding Him in all His glory, and creatures, and the passing pleasure found in worshipping them. 

As we pointed out last week, as part of creation we are responsible to God because He has rights over us as our Creator.  We see in 1:28 God giving a clear command to Adam to be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth.  After introducing the garden of Eden and all that is there in 2:8-14, we see in 2:15-17 the command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Because God is our Creator, He has authority over us and we are called to submit to such authority.  This is not a mean act.  This is not God acting like an ogre.  No, this is good and right authority, exercised by a holy and loving God over His creation.  Yet, as we will see next week, man will struggle and rebel against Godís good authority, even as we see prevalent in society today. 

It is important as we seek to answer the question of who we are that we let the text humble us as simply part of the creation.  God made us from dust and gave us life.  God rightfully exercises authority over us as part of the creation in giving us commands and expecting obedience.  We are called to submit to His authority and to live in obedience to His commands as His creatures. 

Yet, this is not all that we are taught.  Yes we are dust, but we are dust made in the image of God, which leads us to the second lesson we learn about man from creation.

Second, we learn that man has a special place in creation, being made in Godís image.

Look at Genesis 1:26-27.  The text tells us that on the sixth day God created man in His own image.  We recognize immediately that this sets man apart from the rest of creation.  None of the animals are made in the image of God.  The earth or sky or sun or moon is not made in the image of God.  No, it is only man who is made in Godís image, after His likeness.  Every human being is made in the image of God, for even as we will look at next week, the Fall greatly distorts and perverts the image of God, but it does not destroy it completely.  Thus, as we look around and consider our fellow men, it is important that we see them as made in the image of God.  Obviously some practical applications that immediately follow this include fighting against murder, or particularly abortion and the killing of the elderly and handicapped (see Genesis 9:6).  The doctrine of man being made in the image of God also calls us to fight against racism and any form of belittling humanity over color, culture, or social status.  These applications quickly come to mind when thinking about the image of God.

Yet, we could ask at this point: what does it mean to be made in the image of God?  This is a difficult question and has drawn much attention throughout the history of the Church.  Yet, I think in looking at the surrounding context we are given some clues as to what it means to be in the image of God.  This is not necessarily an exhaustive list, but letís consider three aspects of man being created in Godís image.

First, man is given dominion over the earth and is called to be fruitful and multiply and fill it.  We see this in 1:26b, 28.  Look at those verses with me.  After creating man in His image, God commands the man in verse 28 to have dominion over the earth.  We also see Adam naming the animals in 2:19-20, which we said last week was an act of authority.  Thus, under Godís authority and His dominion, man images God by having dominion and authority over the earth.  I think this is at least one aspect of man being made in the image of God.  Manís relationship with the rest of creation is one of authority and responsibility.  Man is called to fill the earth by producing offspring.  Thus, procreation in marriage is part of man being made in Godís image.  As believers in God, we should be a people who see children as a blessing of the Lord and parenting as part of imaging God.  Of course, bringing up the issue of parenting leads us to second aspect of man being made in the image of God that is brought up in this passage.

Second, man is given a relationship with woman.  Look at 2:18-25 with me again.  God creates man as a social creature.  Why?  How does this image God?  Well, looking back at 1:26, we are struck by the fact that the plural pronoun is used in referring to God: And God said, ĎLet usÖ  Of course we do not want to read too much into this pronoun, but with the rest of Scripture we know that God exists in three Persons: Father, Son, and Spirit.  Thus, within the Trinity there is relationship between these three Persons.  As humans, we image this reality by our relationship with our spouses and our relationship with one another as fellow human beings.  The call to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth is a call to fill the earth with persons who live in proper relationship to one another.  Yet, again, as we will look at next week, the image has been distorted in the way that we relate to one another even as it has in the way that we relate to nature and the rest of creation. 

Before moving to the third aspect, let me offer some brief comments about the relationship between man and woman.  The Bible makes it clear that Eve was made as a help for Adam.  Yet, before the room fills with male pride, it is important to note that the word used for Ďhelpí in this text is used most frequently in the Old Testament to refer to God as a God who helps.  In the end, and although this is not fully revealed in the creation account (nor is it excluded), we see that men and women are equal, but distinct, equal, but not identical.  Again, this very much serves to display the relationship between the persons of the Trinity.  They are all equally God, but the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Father.  In spite of what culture is telling us, we must uphold what the Bible teaches about man and woman.  We must recognize and honor the equality, while at the same time proclaiming the differences, distinctions, and roles of each.  Man and woman are equal, but man is not woman.  The role that the man is called to play in portraying the gospel in marriage is not the role that the woman is called to play.  We must be willing to submit to what the text teaches us about us, for in such submission we find our greatest good.

As for the third aspect of man being made in the image of God, we see from the text that man is given a relationship with God.  Look at 1:28-29 and 2:18.  Not only do we have relationships with one another, but we have the capacity to have a relationship with God.  God deals with man in a unique and personal way, even as we talked about last week when considering Godís goodness.  As beings created in the image of God, we were created to fellowship with the Creator in a way that the rest of creation does not enjoy.  There is great privilege in this gift of a relationship with God.  At the same time, there is great responsibility to be faithful and obedient to His commands so as not to spoil such a relationship.  It is this thought that prepares us for Genesis 3 and the Fall of man.

In all three of these aspects we are told what it means to be created in the image of God.  It involves our relationship with nature, our relationship with our fellow man, and our relationship with God.1   

Yet, even as we have alluded to, you may be thinking to yourself: ĎWait a minute William, there is a problem.í  And I would agree with you.  When we look around at humanity and ask the question who are we, our first response is not necessarily, ĎWe are creatures who have been made in the image of their Creator.í  People are not living as God-imaging, God-honoring, God-obeying creatures.  Their relationship with nature is abusive, their relationship with one another is hostile, and their relationship with God is nothing short of pure rebellion.  We can simply look around and know that the story does not end with Genesis 2.  The creation account teaches us that man is dust and that man is created in the image of God, realities which continue to have practical impact on our lives today.  Unfortunately, the Fall teaches us that because we failed to be obedient as creatures and aspired to the position of Creator, the image of God has been distorted in us.

But there is hope.  As far reaching and destructive as the Fall was, it too is not the end of the story.  The good news of the gospel is that God has sent His Son, the very image of the invisible God, that through faith in Him the image of God might be restored in us.  Godís plan in creation was to fill the earth with His glory.  He created man in His image to fill the world fruitful, God honoring, God pleasing, God obeying image bearers.  Through Christ, in spite of all that came as a result of the Fall, God will restore men as fruitful, image bearing, followers of God.  For that, we can only bow and worship our Creator, who is also our Redeemer!!  Amen.

1 For additional information on these three relationships and the image of God see Anthony A. Hoekema, Created in Godís Image (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986), 66-101.

~ William Marsall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 February 2006 )

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