Genesis 1:26-31 “Crucial Question- What Is Man?”

Posted on April 6, 2008. Filed under: Genesis: Answers to Life's Crucial Questions |

Genesis: Finding Answers to Life’s Crucial Questions

Semester One: Genesis 1-5 “Beginnings”

April 6, 2008

Genesis 1:26-31 “Crucial Question- What Is Man?”

Psalm 8 ESV

8:1 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babies and infants,
you have established strength because of your foes,
to still the enemy and the avenger.

3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings [2]
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Introduction to the study of Man:

Some would say that I have wasted a good portion of my life reading massive quantities of science fiction. I read Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea when I was in elementary school and quickly moved up to Edgar Rice Burroughs’ famous John Carter of Mars series, Ray Bradbury, Andre Norton, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and others. While I would agree that much of what I read was not the best use of my time, some of the books and stories are quite thoughtful, profound pieces of literature that raise some serious questions about man’s nature, and future. My dad read a lot of sci-fi and he took me to see Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey when it came out in 1968. Just this last month Arthur C. Clarke, the author of the short story that Kubrick based the movie on, passed away.

OK Bryan, what does sci-fi have to do with Genesis? One of the themes of Sci-Fi is the question of “What is man?” The same question the psalmist asked. Whether it is Harrison Ford in Blade Runner, Jude Law and Haley Joel Osment in Stephen Spielberg’s movie AI, Robin Williams in Chris Columbus’ adaptation of the Ray Bradbury classic The Bi-Centennial Man, Will Smith in Azimov’s I, Robot, or Jim Carey in The Truman Show, the question comes out loud and clear, What is man? What does it mean to be fully human? Who are we? Where do we come from, what is our value, what is our purpose, what is our future?

The existentialist author Jean Paul Sartre said that man is but a useless passion, we come from nowhere and we are headed nowhere. The fact remains that for most of time, most men have been enslaved by back breaking poverty and oppressive governments; life has indeed been solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short, as Thomas Hobbes phrased it. What is man?

In the next couple of classes we will study Gen. 1:14-31; 2:7 and try to find an answer to this Crucial Question: What is man? The world says that man is an accident of the cosmos, a product of evolution with no soul; just another animal, and in fact, the animal causing the most damage to the environment. The Bible says that we are specially created by God in His image, with his breath of life breathed into us and that we are created to give glory to him, to worship and love him forever as eternal souls. One of these worldviews leads to living for self and pleasure in a hedonistic, pointless existence like Hemingway portrays in The Sun Also Rises; the other worldview leads us to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbor as ourselves. One worldview leads to, in their belief, death that is an absolute end to existence; the other leads to heaven or hell, an eternal existence of bliss or torture. I believe the relevance of this passage in Genesis for today is nothing less than finding our eternal purpose and destiny.

I. vs.26-27 Let Us Make Man In Our Image…

The creation account in Gen.1 gives us an ascending order of creation beginning with Light and reaching its pinnacle with Man, who alone of all creation, Scripture says was created in God’s own image. God, the Creator, assigns man the task of taking dominion over the rest of creation. It is not the Sun or Moon or Earth itself that rules, man rules underneath the authority of God himself. The progress of creation goes from non-living to living to sentient. Notice the difference in the choice of words by God as he chooses to create man. Whereas before he had said, “Let there be light…Let there be an expanse…Let the waters be gathered…Let the earth sprout vegetation…Let there be lights in the heavens…Let the waters swarm…Let the earth bring forth critters…” now He says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…” Also, when God made the fish, birds and animals it says, “according to their kinds…” but when God made man it was in the “image and likeness of God”. Even though there are male and female fish, birds and animals, that is not brought out in the narrative, until the creation of man. This emphasizes that both male and female are created in the image of God and plays a role in what Paul would later write in Galatians 3 that “in Christ there is neither male nor female”. Since God is One yet also exists in a plurality, a Trinity, man is created male and female, man is an individual yet created in relationship with his mate and with God. Moses is emphasizing this part of the story more than all the rest in language used and in the total word count. In verse 27 the word bara create, is used three times, and the number 3 not only emphasizes it, but points us again to God, and perhaps in a roundabout way to the Trinity. The arrangement of vs.27 in the Hebrew is a chiastic form that brings the focus into the center word, image. While the animals seemed to come out of the ground, God fashions the man from the dust of the ground and breathes into him his Spirit, the breath of life.

Notice the use of the plural forms in vs.26 Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. There seems to have been about 6 views on what the use of the plural in this verse means:

(1) A polytheistic remnant– thoroughly untenable because of the strong monotheistic teaching of the whole passage.

(2) God is including all of Creation in this address- but, again, God alone is the Creator in this passage and He goes to noticeable lengths to de-deify the sun, moon, etc.

(3) A plural of majesty and honor– possible but the verse is stressing the correspondence between God and man, not the difference of majesty.

(4) Self deliberation– while common in other ancient literature of man’s creation, the plural forms here kind of rule that out.

(5) God is addressing the heavenly court of angels– this is possible, certainly when you look at the book of Job you realize this is a good answer and it too is attested by various other pagan accounts. The Psalm 8 passage we read earlier seems to point this out in its reference to making man a little lower than the angels. But the overwhelming problem with this interpretation is that no angels are mentioned in Gen. 1-2.

(6) It points to the Trinity– we have discussed this a little a few weeks ago so we realize that while you cannot come up with the doctrine of the Trinity from this text, when you look at this text in light of the NT teachings on God’s Tri-unity, it does make sense. For the original audience of the book, Israel in the wilderness, the teaching may simply be that God is both singular and diverse, a unity and a plurality, answering one of the most ancient questions of philosophy, is the universe ultimately one, or is it many parts. God and the universe are separate and distinct, in that God alone is eternal and he is the Creator. Man and the rest of the universe are not God. But God is both one and three. The Spirit of God is mentioned in vs.2 and the later authors of Scripture referred to the source of life as the Spirit in Job 33:4; Psa 104:30; Ezek 37. Prov.8:30 refers to Wisdom personified, which many scholars say refers to the pre-incarnate Christ, or possibly to the Spirit.

Adam– refers to all mankind in vs. 26, male and female, thus all mankind, both genders, are made in the image of God. In 2:5,7 adam refers to an individual and in 5:1 is used as a proper noun.

Image and likeness- selem-image and demut-likeness occur here and again in 5:1,3 and 9:6. We know from the text that both men and women are created in His image, but what exactly does that mean? The basic meaning of the terms is that man is like God and represents God on earth. To be created in the image of God gives us dignity, responsibility and a capacity to reflect the image of God back to Him. From the context we see that man was made by God in a special manner, given the breath of life, created in a relationship with the female and in a relationship with the Creator much as God has a relationship within the Trinity, and is to conform to the image of God- that is, grow in his likeness of God his Creator, we were created with the capacity to mirror divine attributes. God has given dominion over the rest of Creation to man, man is to be fruitful and multiply, man is to work the garden and name the animals, and to live according to the word of God and will be held accountable to God for his actions. Additionally, and very importantly, in the context we see that even though man was created in the image of God, he fell into sin. And, though now a sinner, he remains in the image of God, though that image is now marred, damaged. The question then becomes, what is it to be created in the image of God and yet to be a sinner? Then you can also ask, what happens to the image of God when we are born again? And, what is our ultimate destiny?- will the image be completely restored?

Augustine tried to explain the imago Dei by referring to the Trinity. Man has memory, knowledge and a will. For most of the church fathers it was popular to distinguish between the image and the likeness. Some have said the image refers to our ability to reason while likeness is the spiritual component. Because of human sin, the likeness has been lost but the image remains. This bifurcation was abandoned by the Reformers who, in going back to the Hebrew, realized that the two terms are used as synonyms and to look for a separate meaning for both was a stretch. Calvin seems to look at image and likeness to mean our perfection which was lost in the fall, but is restored in Christ. The Son is the perfect image of the Father and we are gradually being restored until that day when, in Christ, we shall be perfected.

Sin’s effect on the imago Dei- God’s image in man is still present after the Fall, but it is warped, broken, distorted. Do you remember going to the State Fair or a carnival when you were younger and entering the house of mirrors? Some mirrors made you tall and skinny others made you short and fat? Or have you ever used a broken mirror or one that had corroded? We now imperfectly reflect the image of God because of sin. In Gen.9:6 we see that even after the Fall and Flood, man reflects the image of God. This is confirmed in the NT by James 3:9.

Compare Gen. 1:31 with Gen.6:5-6

We will study the doctrine of sin later when we get to ch.3, but for now we need to be able to answer the crucial question, What is man? by not just referring to the Gen.1 account, but to include an explanation about sin. The world wants to define man as being just another one of the animals, a product of evolution. But what about man’s moral component? What about our conscience? The atheistic materialist will say that consciences and morals are derived from the society in which we are raised, it is all learned. This is part of the foundation for situation ethics and moral relativism. But the world is unable to explain raw evil using this weak foundation.

When we explain that man is specially created by God to bear His image and to be like Him, yet is fallen and is a sinner, we provide real answers to the questions about evil. We each have a conscience and a sense of oughtness, of right and wrong. We all seek justice when we are wronged, yet make excuses for our own unjust actions. We long for and strive for a return to Eden, to a perfect world, but we fail in our efforts time and again. We are created in the image of God and yet we are broken.

Here is where our apologetic points to the Gospel: all of men’s efforts to return to Eden fail, but God has given us His Son to save us from the consequences, power and ultimately even the presence of sin. In the life of Christ we see One who perfectly reflected the image of God (Col.1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God) But Christ is more than our example. The world is fine with Jesus as an example for us to emulate. I saw a bumper sticker the other day, “Who would Jesus Bomb?” But Jesus took his perfection to the cross as the perfect sacrifice. Having fulfilled all righteousness, never sinning but always obeying his Father, he died in our place. He received the punishment that Adam’s sin in the garden brought upon all of us. He was the one who died so that Adam and Eve could be clothed in skins instead of their own efforts, fig leaves. In the atoning death of Christ we see perfect humanity as God intended dying for fallen humanity, atoning for our sins so that we could be forgiven.

In the resurrection we see Christ overpowering death and the grave so that in his glorified, resurrected body we have new life and a hope for resurrection. Our return to wholeness, to perfection, to Eden and perfectly reflecting the image of God once more, rests in the completed work of Christ including the resurrection.

Sanctification: When God sends us hi Holy Spirit, and we are born again, we repent of sin and trust in Jesus for forgiveness. We then begin a new journey, a new life of Sanctification. This process of being made holy is a gradual process of recovering the imago Dei. As we conform to the image of Christ, as we imitate Christ, we are having the image of God restored day by day. In some ways it is like a jigsaw puzzle. As a lost sinner we are just a jumbled up mess of parts and pieces with curious shapes and little pictures that point us to the box cover that has the full beautiful picture. Apart from Christ we are unable to put the pieces back together. In Christ, with the Holy Spirit, we are making good progress in piecing the puzzle back together. We are on a journey to becoming fully human once again.

Upon Christ’s return- we will be completely restored to what was originally intended. 1Cor.15:49; Rom.8:29; 1John3:2.

Let’s now examine some of the specific aspects of being created in God’s image.

1) We have a moral nature. We know right from wrong and will be held accountable for our choices. There will be a judgment day. If there were no God, as Dostoevsky says, everything would be permissible. We must have some idea of there being absolute truth and ultimate justice in order for there to be a civil society. The animals have no sense of right and wrong, although they can be trained and conditioned to know what behaviour is expected from them and they will show fear if they misbehave. This does not mean they have morals. We are fundamentally different in that regard.

2) We have a spiritual nature- while the atheistic materialist will object to our claiming a spiritual nature, and we see this in the death of the arts, the emphasis on living for the here and now, sensuality, etc., we are nonetheless spiritual beings with bodies. When God breathed the breath of life into Adam, it was more than just brining the man of dust into life. We have a capacity to pray, worship, love God, hear the voice of God in Scripture, relate to other believers in a spiritual manner. Though our bodies are mortal, our spirits are eternal. We are created for eternity by our eternal God and we will spend eternity wither with the Lord or in hell, separated from the Lord forever.

3) We have a mind- I do not think evolution can ever explain the human mind, will and emotions. In this we reflect the image of God. We are self-aware, we can reflect on our own condition. Descartes, who attempted to doubt everything reached the conclusion that “I think, therefore I am”. We do not live by instinct alone, as do the animals. Animals certainly have memory, but we have history where we not only remember the past, but organize it, study it, reflect on it, draw lessons from it and have certain emotions about it. We have plans and hopes for the future and can contemplate the eternal. We have language that is complex, and abstract. We have a creative element that is in the image of God. To observe things like St Peter’s in Rome, the Parthenon in Athens, the Hoover Dam, or to listen to Handle’s Messiah or Bachs Brandenburg Concertos, is to experience something that points you to God our creator.

4) Relational Aspects- while certainly the ants have a well ordered society, and a honeybee hive is miraculous to watch, there is nothing as complex, as beautiful and tragic as a human city. The definition of civilization is man dwelling in cities. We are relational beings. We have love and romance, and we have World Wars. When we study marriage in a few weeks we will see how marriage itself reflects the image of God. We relate to the rest of Creation as the overseer, we rule in God’s stead. We have dominion over his creation. This relationship with the world, with nature, is one of stewardship, not ownership.

5) Our Physical bodies- while the Mormons claim that their heavenly father has a body just like we do, and that we are literally created in his image, we believe God to be a Spirit. Nonetheless, our bodies are given to us by God, God sent Jesus to earth in human form with a real body, therefore our bodies do also reflect the image of God in some manner. Keep in mind that God spoke the physical universe into existence and he creates us as spirit and body to live in and have dominion over this physical universe.

II. Why were we created? Crucial Question: What is man’s purpose?

Sartre, Hemingway, Camus would all probably say that we have no purpose. Live for today. Pastor Tim is beginning a sermon series in Ecclesiastes today that will address this very question.

1) God did not need to create us- God was not lonely, he had love and communication and fellowship within the Trinity from all eternity.

2) What is our purpose-He created us for his glory Isa 43:7; 1Cor 10:31; Eph 1:11-12. We have significance because God is infinite he can care for each of us as individuals and give us his full love and attention. We can enjoy the blessing and approval of God as we live for his glory. This lends significance to every action, deed, thought and intent of our existence. John 10:10; Psalm 16:11; 27:4; 73:25-26; Phil 4:4; 1Thess 5:16ff;

God rejoices over you in Isa 62:5;

Applications: The world not only denies Creation, but the God of Creation, and when it does that it affects the definition of who man is. Either we are an accident of an impersonal cosmos, coming from nowhere and going nowhere, living only for today as a “useless passion” or we are a direct creation of God who desires to live in an intimate relationship with us based upon the life, death and resurrection of his Son. This doctrine of man can be used to answer some of life’s most crucial questions and is a springboard for the gospel. This doctrine of man has political implications.

1) Abortion

2) Euthanasia

3) Environmentalism

4) Crime and punishment

5) human sexuality


Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


    This blog exists to study the bi-vocational ministry, explore the Bible & Theology, and look at current events, history and other world religions through scripture, and have fun doing it!


    Subscribe Via RSS

    • Subscribe with Bloglines
    • Add your feed to Newsburst from CNET
    • Subscribe in Google Reader
    • Add to My Yahoo!
    • Subscribe in NewsGator Online
    • The latest comments to all posts in RSS


Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

%d bloggers like this: