Monday, June 24, 2019

The Creation of Man in Genesis 1:26-18

Genesis 1:26–28
"[26] Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'
[27] So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
[28] And God blessed them. And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'"
The first chapter of Genesis asserts that God alone is eternal and that everything else is His creation. Everything visible and invisible came into being by His powerful word, in the space of six days, and all very good. This means that He is the potter and we are the clay. Not only does this mean He determines what we are and our purpose, but it also means that we have a nature and purpose! There is design and intention behind our existence - we are not the product of an accident, we do not have to make life meaningful by trying to create ourselves. And yet, that is exactly what we tend to do - seeking to be as God, determining who we are by our independent choices. But as those who are repenting from our sinful folly, what does it mean to return to our Creator's design? In Genesis 1:26-28 we find a few important basics about the nature of humanity.

The image of God

"God created man in his own image" (v. 27). What is the image of God? Man, both male and female, is the image of God. To be created after His likeness means that we are His image. The image of God is not some part of us. It does not say that some part of man was created after God's image. We are God’s image, and like an image, we resemble Him and represent Him.

How do we resemble and represent Him? No, we do not physically look like God, for God does not have a body - He is invisible (1 Tim. 1:17). Yes, God the Son became man as well, but this was later and did not change the nature of God. Rather, we resemble God in other ways. As the Westminster Shorter Catechism says, “How did God create man? A. God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, with dominion over the creatures” (WSV, Q. 10). We reflect God's knowledge, righteousness, holiness, and dominion. Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:24 speak of being renewed after this image in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. Genesis 1:26-28 emphasize our reflection of God's dominion over the earth. And even though we reflect invisible attributes of God, we manifest them in the world with our bodies. Our whole person, body and soul, is created in God's image and designed to make God's character visible in this world, unto His glory. When man fell into sin, we continued to be God's image, but a distorted image - we remained rational, moral, religious, and cultural creatures, but all these areas were distorted by sin and idolatry. Those who are being saved by Christ are being restored in these areas, to reflect God truthfully again as His children.

Not only do we resemble God, but we represent Him. The image of the king is not just appreciated for art's sake - it is a symbol, a representation of the king and His authority. This is why our creation in God's image is brought up in Genesis 9 in the context of the penalty for murder. The fact that we are God's image gives us dignity and value - to attack God's image is an attack on God.
"Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image." (Genesis 9:6)
Finally, Genesis 1:27 also indicated that both male and female are created in the image of God. This brings us to our next point.

Creation of man as male and female

"...male and female he created them" (v. 27). God created man as male and female. These are not merely social constructs or the products of individual choice, nor did God create other genders to choose from. We are male and female based on the way our bodies are made. Since our rebellion, the physical creation does groan under the curse, and our bodies do suffer various unnatural things - sickness, disease, death, disabilities - and this includes rare occasions where biological sex is unclear. But the exception does not overturn the rule - mankind is still created by God as male and female.

Not only are we male or female (whether we like it or not), but we also have a duty to submit to this arrangement, to present ourselves as male and female. This is evident from the case law in Deuteronomy 22:5 which forbids wearing the attire of the opposite sex. I have written about this more in this post.

The mandate: be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, etc.

Not only does God make man and woman, but He also gives them a task. In this task, we reflect God - we create and rule. Yet, our procreation and dominion is in some ways quite different than God's. It is done on our level, as those who, unlike God, are limited creatures created as male and female.

This task is big, and to unpack all that it involves would take more than a simple blog post. But fundamentally it involves having and raising children, filling the earth with God's image, and ruling it as His vice-regents or stewards unto His glory. Our exercise of dominion involves cultivating, conserving, and harnessing the potential of this earth, and so this mandate is sometimes called the "cultural mandate."

This task is given to all humanity. It is part of who we are as humans. All of us participate in this grand calling in one way or another. Sin hijacked this task - infecting us and our children with sin and guilt and perverting our use of authority and power. Just as sin distorted but did not destroy God's image, so it distorted but did not destroy this mandate. And just as God's grace restores us to the true image, so it restores us to a proper fulfillment of this mandate. Once again we can fill the earth with God's children - by raising covenant children and by evangelism - and once again we can fulfill our earthly callings unto God's glory.

This task is given to humanity, but it is important to realize that it was originally and fundamentally given to a married couple. An individual cannot fulfill the mandate. As Adam found out in Genesis 2, he needed a helper to fulfill this mandate. Together in the context of marriage, man and woman work together to be fruitful, to fill the earth, and to rule it. This is the way things naturally work. Men and women naturally have complementary strengthens and weaknesses such that they work best together. They are naturally attracted to each other in a way that naturally produces children. Thus, except in cases where they can serve God in singleness undistracted by this burning desire, the normal duty of adult men and women is to marry: "each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband" (1 Cor. 7:2).

We learn from this passage that marriage is not just about you and your needs, or even about your spouse and his/her needs - it is about serving a bigger cause, the creation mandate. Our marriages serve the goal of filling the earth with the image of God and ruling the earth as His faithful stewards. Marriages produce households, which are religious units, economic units, cultural units - microcosms of human society. God created marriage to be fruitful and productive, for the good of the world and for His glory. May God help our marriages to fulfill this intention through the sanctifying grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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