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Make Man in Our Image

by David Johnson

(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)

 

     It is wonderful to be together again as we look into the Word of God.  The title for our lesson is: Make Man in Our Image.  Our main text is Genesis chapter 1 verses 26 through 31.  Please listen to the Word of God.

     “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.  God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning —the sixth day.”

     The creation of the human race is the apex, the pinnacle of God’s creation.  It was for mankind that God created, for his purposes and ultimate glory.  Everything else both animate and inanimate was created for humanity.  Everything created up to this point was to prepare a perfect paradise for man and woman to live in harmony with God and his creation.

     Even after man’s sin and the earth cursed by God, the human race is still at the center of God’s concern and purpose.  We know this is true because scripture reveals that everything else will eventually perish.  Only humankind, once created is eternal.  Ultimately, for example, “the sky will recede alike a scroll, rolled up, and every mountain and island be removed from its place.”  According to Revelation chapter 6 verse 14.

     God created man to glorify him and to enjoy him into eternity.

John MacArthur, a fine commentator writes: “When every other element of this current universe is long gone, a vast multitude of the redeemed human race will dwell in the presence of the Lord forever.

     In other words, the unfolding of creation establishes a theater in which the great redemptive saga can be played out.  Man is the main character.  God’s own Son even becomes a man at the climax of redemption’s drama.  This is the purpose for which the entire universe was created: so that God’s grace, unmerited favor, mercy, and compassion could be lavished on the creature whom God had created in his own image.  Scripture devotes more space to describing Adam’s creation than to any other facet of creation.  In fact, because this final act of creation is so crucial, all of Genesis chapter 2 is devoted to an expanded description of it.  Genesis chapter 2 is not a different story or an alternate account; it is an expansion of the description of day six from Genesis chapter 1.  Genesis chapter 1 verses 26 through 31 simply gives us the basics about day six.

     Bear in mind that the creation of Adam occurred on the same day all other land animals were created.  All of this occurred in one, 24-hour period, one revolution of the earth.

     Adam was specially and personally created by God.  There is no way to do justice to the text and maintain the notion that Adam evolved from some already existing form of animal life.

     A significant change in the creation process occurs at this point.  Verse 26 starts with familiar words: “Then God said.”  That is the same as used to introduce every previous act of creation.  (consider verses 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, and 24).  But suddenly there is a major change in language.  Up to this point, every occurrence of “Then God said” had been followed by the words “Let there be” (verses 3, 6, 14); or “Let the land produce” (verses 11, 24); or “let the water teem” (verse 20); or “Let the water be gathered” (verse 9).  Always the language of sovereign decree ‘Let it be done’.  Each of those expressions are impersonal in the since that they are mandates declared to no one in particular.  Never before has God stated: “Let us make” anything.  But now for the first time the expression: “Then God said” is followed by personal pronouns.  “Let us make man in our image.”      

     This speaks of the creation of man in terms that are uniquely personal.  God deliberately uses such pronouns to stress God’s intimate connection with man’s creation.  This establishes a personal relationship between God and mankind which does not exist with any other facet of his creation.  God has no personal intimate relationship with any other aspect of his creation in the same way as he does with humanity.

     God’s personal relationship with humankind is unique in all of creation.  Therefore, scripture vividly portrays God’s personal involvement in the creation and interaction with mankind.

Also, significantly in Genesis chapter 1 verse 26 referring to God these are plural pronouns: “us” and “our”.  Therefore, in the very first chapter of the Bible we are introduced to a plurality of relationships in the Godhead.  Here we have the very first major and unmistakable reference to the Trinity of the Godhead.  The evidence of multiple persons in the Godhead has been hinted at in the original Hebrew word for “God” that is used in 21 of the first 25 verses of scripture.  Because ‘Elohim’ takes the form of a plural noun in Hebrew.

     “In the beginning, Elohim created the heavens and the earth” Genesis chapter 1 verse 1.  So, the plural pronouns of Genesis chapter 1 verse 26 reinforce this truth even more forcefully.  This is an unmistakable reference to plurality within the Godhead which begins early on to lay the foundation for what we later learn of the Trinity from the New Testament.

     There is at least one other earlier hint of the Trinity in Genesis chapter 1 verse 2 that says in part “The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”  All of this evidence points us to the divine council in the Godhead at creation.

     “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image’” reveals both close communication and agreement among the Persons of the Godhead.  This reality is affirmed in the New Testament in Titus chapter 1 verse 2 that says, “a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised before the beginning of time.”  Affirming perfect agreement in the council of the Godhead before creation, time and space.  And mankind once created has eternal existence in the likeness of God.

     There has been much written regarding how humankind was originally made in the image or likeness of the Godhead.  First, we should understand that “image” and “Likeness” are synonymous terms not meant to mean something different.  Some commentators claim one expression refers to spiritual similarities between God and humans and the other designated a physical likeness.  However, the Hebrew language scholars affirm that there is no distinction between the two terms in the original language.  “Image” and “likeness” are parallel terms in meaning, the repetitive terms are given for emphasis.  This sort of parallelism is a very common and a typical Hebrew language device.  The parallelism is included here to underscore the significant importance of this truth: that mankind was created in the ‘image and likeness of God.’

     Part of the reason for this reality is that it elevates humankind far above the other land creatures also created on the 6th day.  This as our omniscient God fore knew the terrible theory mankind would much later devise, that of macroevolution.  For humans to be created in the image and likeness of God is not a state into which lower creatures could ever evolve.  This is not something that can be achieved by a random mutation in the genetic code.  It is not something that was brought about by a chance deviation in some higher primate’s DNA.

     Instead, it is the very reality that makes humanity different, and of immensely higher value than every other created thing.  It is what differentiates the human being’s unique identity and purpose.  It is the whole reason God took such a personal, intimate interest in the creation of mankind.  Made in the image and likeness of God sets humankind radically apart from every other creature on the earth.

     So, what exactly is the ‘image of God’?  The Hebrew word for ‘image’ comes from a root meaning that refers to carving.  It almost seems to convey the idea that man was carved into a shape like God.  It suggests that God was somewhat, the pattern for the personhood of man.  That is certainly not true of anything or anyone else on earth

     John MacArthur continues: Clearly, because the image of God is unique to humanity, it must describe some aspect of human nature that is not shared by animals.  Therefore, this cannot speak primarily of man’s appearance or biological makeup.  We do in fact, have many biological features that are common to other animal creatures.  Naturally, because we share the same environment, it is reasonable to expect that we would have many of the same biological and physiological characteristics in common with animals.  And we do.  Our internal organs work in similar ways; in many cases our skeletal structure has strong similarities; and even the way we look on the outside bears a clear similarity to some of the primates.

     But this quite clearly is not a reference to the material part of man.  It isn’t talking about biology or physiology.  It certainly isn’t a reference to the way we look as creatures made of flesh and bone.  After all, “God is Spirit” John chapter 4 and verse 24.

Clearly this deals primarily with man’s spiritual attributes, our self-consciousness, our moral consciousness, and our consciousness of others, especially our consciousness of God himself.  Animals are conscious, but they are not self-conscious, morally aware, or able to have a truly personal relationship as mankind.

     Before the image of God in man was marred by sin, Adam shared in a pure and undefiled way all the communicable attributes of God, those qualities of the divine nature that are capable of being reflected in creatures.  These would include holiness, wisdom, goodness, truth, love, grace, mercy, and righteousness.  The image of God in man no doubt still includes certain characteristics that mirror some of the virtues of God we learn about through creation, such as an appreciation for beauty, creative abilities, and a love of diversity.  Of course, it must therefore include our rational faculties as well.  For example, the divine image surely encompasses our ability to understand abstract principles especially moral concepts like justice, righteousness, holiness, truth and goodness.  And the divine likeness in man therefore seems to include the higher aspects of our intellect and emotions, our ability to reason and solve problems, and emotions such as sorrow, zeal, anger, delight, and joy (all of which can be observed in their perfection in various dispositions scripture says belong to God.

     But above all, the image of God can be summed up by the word, personhood.  We are persons.  Our lives involve relationships.  We are capable of fellowship.  We are able to love other persons in a God like sense.  We have an amazing capacity for language.  We have conversations.  We know what it is to share thoughts, convey and discern attitudes, give and take friendship, perceive a sense of brotherhood, communicate ideas, and participate in experiences with others.  Animals cannot do those things in the same sense people can.  Man’s capacity for intimate personal relationships needed fulfillment.  Most important, man was designed to have a personal relationship with God.  He signified that he himself is a God of relationships.  And he created us in his own likeness so that we would and could enter into a relationship with him.”

     Another commentator, Douglas Kelly writes: “God himself has never existed as a single, lonely, solitary, or ‘cut off’ individual.  Rather, he has always existed in the fullness of family-like being in the Godhead.  Consider also in the New Testament Ephesians chapter 3 verses 14 through 15 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.” 

     Or, as the great Saint Athanasius used to say in the 4th century AD, ‘the Father has never been without his Son.’  The amazing mystery of the origin of personality is that the one God exists as three persons in one being (or reality).  The one being of God inherently involves personhood.”

Man is an ethical being.  All true relationships have ethical ramifications.  In spite of the fact that our moral and ethical sense has been marred due to sin; we still know right from wrong in a basic sense.

All of this makes humanity distinct, created by God in his image and likeness apart from all other creatures.  This pertains to our inner self, the invisible part of humankind, the spirit. Moreover, our personhood is eternal which makes us like God.

     It is amazing to think that in the fullness of time God would become man.  God prepared a human body for his own Son.  Luke chapter 1 verse 35.   And he would be “made in human likeness” Philippians chapter 2 and verse 7.  Just as man had been made in the likeness of God.

     Of course, it was not just the first man that was made in the image and likeness of God but also woman and all their offspring.  Note the truth of this in Genesis chapter 1 and verse 26 that says in part “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them (plural) rule.”

     That humankind is made in the image and likeness of God helps us make sense of the human conscience.  It establishes our moral responsibility and accountability.  It actually points us to the very essence of the meaning, purpose, and value of human life.  Let’s consider some passages first from the Old Testament Genesis chapter 9 verse 6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”  And also, in the New Testament James chapter 3 and verse 9 “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.”

     Another reason God created mankind was to “rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” Genesis chapter 1 and verse 26.

     Warren Wiersbe writes: “We were created to have a dominion over the earth.  Adam and Eve were the first regents over God’s creation.”   Consider in the Old Testament Psalms 8 verses 6 through 8 “You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the fields, the birds in the sky, and the fish in the sea, and all that swim the paths of the seas.”  And also Psalms 115 verse 16 “The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to man.”

     Another reason God created humankind was to propagate life: that is to be fruitful and fill the earth.  Genesis chapter 1 and verse 27 that says in part “male and female he created them.”  Genesis chapter 1 and verse 28 says in part “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth.’”

     Here we can discern God’s perfect plan for the marriage union of man and woman and for procreation.  Then God makes provision for mankind and for the other creatures.

Genesis chapter 1 verses 29 through 30 “Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.”

     Commentator H. C. Leupold writes: “Man is permitted to use a great variety of things comprising a vegetable diet.  In a marvelously rich and beautiful world the rich bounty of very many different kinds of “seed bearing plants” and “every tree that has fruit with seed in it.  They will be yours for food,” provided the finest proof of the Creator’s goodness.

     These verses are an indication of the perfect harmony that originally prevailed.  Neither man, nor any other creature preyed on another.  Ferocious wild beasts did not yet exist.  It was indeed a paradise, like creation.”

     So, we have our last verse in Genesis chapter 1 and verse 31 “God saw all that he had created, and it was a completed creation “very good.”

     Finally, let’s consider the stark contrast between the creation of mankind in scripture versus the creation of the first human beings according to the Mesopotamian tradition.

Both begin with dust or clay, but then both accounts vary widely.  In the ancient Mesopotamian creation account, humanity’s dust is mixed with the blood of a demon god killed for his treachery against the second generation of gods.

     Therefore, humans are demons from the time they are born.  The creation process according to the Mesopotamian tradition fits well with the overall view of humanity professed by that culture.  For example, according to one tradition, humans were created with the express purpose of relieving the lesser gods from the difficult labor of digging irrigation ditches.

      By contrast, the Genesis account of scripture reveals that human beings, male and female, were created in the image of God to rule over all the earth.

     The Mesopotamian account reeks of ridiculous mythology whereas, the Biblical account is credible, yet profound in simple terms that both a youngster can grasp, and a scientist can be intrigued with.  Is that not evidence enough that the Biblical creation account originated in the very mind of our Creator God?  

   

           David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.  

 




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