April 2, 2010

Reflecting on the Bible – Part 5 – Genesis 1 and You

Genesis 1 and You

So far, we’ve learned quite a bit about God from the Bible’s reflection on Genesis 1. Can we learn anything about ourselves from this passage?

  • God created us in his own image. In the flow of the narrative in Genesis 1, the creation of mankind is the crowning achievement, the climax to which the rest of the story has been building to this point. It’s almost as if all of the preceding creative activity took place to prepare the environment for human beings. The repetitiveness of Gen 1:26-27 underscores the significance the author places on being created in the “image of God.” The uniqueness of humanity when compared with the other aspects of creation is firmly established in the first chapter of the Bible. Any notion that we are just like the other animals, only a bit more evolved, is incompatible with the biblical view of mankind. There is a fundamental qualitative difference.
  • God’s image in us is the foundation of respect for other humans. In Genesis 9:6, God declares that those who commit murder shall receive the death penalty, and his reason for this is that man is created in God’s image. From the beginning there is a requirement that human life be respected. But this respect goes beyond simply respecting life, but covers the respect of the whole person. James says that we should not even curse others, since they are made in the image of God (James 3:8-10). That’s as far as a Christian needs to go to determine how they should treat others. Without respect for age, ethnicity, social status, or capabilities (physical or intellectual), all who fall under the category of human are image-bearers and therefore should be treated with respect and dignity.
  • God appointed humanity as his representatives over creation, giving them dignity and solemn responsibility. God said, “Let them have dominion” over the rest of creatures on the earth (Gen 1:26). His first directive to humanity was to “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground” (Gen 1:28). It’s worth noting that this first command is actually a blessing (“And God blessed them…”). The gift of children is a blessing from the LORD (Psa 127:3). Beyond that, he blessed them with the dignity of being his agents in ruling creation. We know that “the earth is the LORD’s,” but he has delegated authority to mankind, his viceroys. When the psalmist contemplates the awe-inspiring works of God, and the smallness of humanity, he is led to ask, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4). He cannot comprehend why God has given men such dignity as to be his kingly representatives over the created world (Psa. 8:5-8).
  • The fact of creation forms the foundation of Christian scientific inquiry. The command to fill the earth and subdue it, and the fact that we were created to worship our Creator, form the foundations of Christian engagement in science. In one respect, science is needed to understand how creation works, so that we may subdue, cultivate, and care for creation. At the same time, the fact that we understand the operation of nature to be the providential work of our majestic Creator leads us to an act of worship in which we are awed by the wonder of creation, while also seeking to discover the ways in which God works, much as a child desires to learn how his father does his work.
  • God created us good, but we have fallen into corruption through sin and rebellion. Understanding the truth of human sin is fundamental to gaining a clear view of the world in which we live. Without it, you’re bound to come up with the wrong diagnosis of the problem and will be unable to recognize the correct solution. The preacher declares that “God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes” (Eccl 7:29). Made in the very image of their Creator and crowned with dignity and honor, humanity chose to worship other creatures (including itself) rather than give praise and honor to the Creator (Rom 1:21-23). From Genesis 3 to Revelation 20, we see the effects of sin on every page. Though the image was not completely lost, it was marred and corrupted, such that the sin which plagues us is universal. One need look no farther than their own to see that corruption, and a simple perusal of the newspaper headlines will provide sufficient confirmation of the Christian doctrine of original sin. We were all “by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2:3).
  • Jesus Christ is the perfect image of God, and in him the marred image is being restored. He is the perfect image of God (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15), or as the author of Hebrews describes, “the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3). He is fully and truly man, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). If we want to know what humanity ought to look like, we should look to Jesus. He is also fully and truly God, sent by the Father to redeem out of sinful humanity a people for himself that would have the image of God restored, so that we will be his people and he will be our God. When we are born again we are given new hearts, a new self, which is “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24; also Col 3:10). The purpose of God’s plan of salvation from the very beginning, and the thing for which we seek, is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Genuine humanity, as it was created to be and as we find it in Jesus, is the goal of the Christian life.

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