Restoration & Praise
Christian Fellowship Center
GOD CREATES PEOPLE
Devotional Reading: Psalm 103:1–5, 11–14
Background Scripture: Genesis 1:26-31; 2:4-7
LESSON SCRIPTURES: GENESIS 1:26–31; 2:4-7
Exerted from: Standard Lesson Commentary KJV (2017-2018).
26 And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
29 And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.
30 And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,
5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.
6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:
1. Identify aspects of the image of God in humanity.
2. Contrast biblical with non-biblical notions of the nature of humanity.
3. Express one way he or she will honor the dominion mandate.
In the mid-twentieth century, psychologist Erik Erikson coined the term “identity crisis” to describe a developmental issue that occurs during adolescence. That phrase has since been used to describe the common plight of people wrestling with the questions “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” The early theologian Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430) addressed this issue as he prayed, “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you” (Confessions 1.1).
Augustine’s words reflect the biblical texts we are exploring today. Genesis 1:26–31 and 2:4–7 teach us that God created people in His image at the apex of His creation. As His image bearers, we are precious in God’s sight, having received an extraordinary status and role within creation
The first 25 verses of Genesis 1 narrate concisely God’s forming of the cosmos through His spoken word. In successive days, God created light (1:3–5); the heavenly firmament (1:6–8); the seas and dry land (1:9–13); the sun, moon, and stars (1:14–19); living creatures that inhabit the waters and the heavens (1:20–23); and land animals (1:24, 25). The text’s focus throughout is on the planet Earth, either directly or indirectly.
The recounting of the first through fourth days in Genesis grows longer with successive days. A reversal of sorts occurs with the fifth day of creation, as the narration becomes shorter (Genesis 1:20–23). The narration then lengthens dramatically to relate what happens on the sixth day: creation of land animals and people. By allotting only two verses to the creation of land animals on this day (1:24, 25), the author appears in a hurry to get to his focus: the creation of humanity (1:26–31). Not included in the record are any blessings or commands God gave the land animals to multiply, as He had done to creatures of the air and sea in 1:22; compare 8:17).
The author (Moses) presents God’s seeing the creation of land animals as “good” even though, like on day three, he has not finished describing the creations of the day. God has created some good things during the sixth day, but there is more and greater yet to come.
26a. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Something new and significant is happening as God now speaks in a new manner. Up to this point, His words on each new day have begun with “Let there be …” (Genesis 1:3, 6, 14) or “Let the …” (1:9, 11, 20, 24). But now His creation declaration is more reflective in nature: Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.
Many new-covenant believers have understood these plural pronouns as trinitarian in nature. But the original audience lacked the revelation we have to understand them that way. The Old Testament is essentially silent on the triune nature of God. It is the New Testament record that ultimately reveals God as being three-in-one (John 1; etc.). That record will make it possible for believers in the first century and later to contemplate a plurality in the oneness of God’s essence (compare Deuteronomy 6:4; Isaiah 44:8; 45:5, 14).
That leaves open the question of how the earliest readers interpret the plural pronouns. One proposal is that God is speaking to angelic beings in His heavenly court. Another view is that the plurals are to be understood as a “plural of majesty” by which God refers to the fullness of His power and identity. An illustration of this type of plural is the quotation “We are not amused,” supposedly uttered by Queen Victoria after hearing a story that was not as funny as the storyteller thought it to be (compare Genesis 11:7; Isaiah 6:8).
An enduring issue is determining what it means to be created in God’s image, after His likeness. That the words image and likeness refer to different things is unlikely. First, there is no and between image and likeness in the original text. Second, the same Hebrew words translated image and likeness appear in Genesis 5:3 to refer to the same thing. Thus the two words should be seen as synonyms combined to add intensity.
It is problematic to identify the image of God with one of God’s specific qualities. God is complex, so His image must also be complex. But we are able to get a better grasp if we approach the topic from two angles: those of form and content.
The form of the image of God is personhood. This speaks to the intellectual, volitional, moral, creative, and religious capacities that animals do not have. As God exercises His creative will, so also human beings alone among earth’s creatures have the ability to think of complex things that don’t exist, then take deliberate steps to make them a reality. A beaver may go through a sequence of steps to make a dam, but stacking a pile of sticks is not the same as building a hospital!
Content, for its part, speaks to relationship with God (in terms of servants-in-fellowship) and relationship to the world (in terms of dominion-in-stewardship). It is the form part of the image that makes the content part of the image possible.
Regarding the servant aspect, the portrayal of God in the creation narrative highlights a certain correspondence between humans and God that allows us to have a relationship with Him. Regarding the dominion part of the content part of the image, that’s addressed in our next verse.
26b. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
God bids us to rule over His creation, a task elegantly described as having dominion. David will reflect further on this centuries later in Psalm 8:6–8. In creating, the Lord worked and exercised dominion, and He invites us to participate with Him in exercising that dominion as we ourselves work. This is an issue of stewardship. (On understandings of cattle and creeping thing, see commentary on Genesis 1:24 in lesson 2.)
27. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
The image of God in which humanity is created includes male and female. That we exist in community reflects the communal nature of God that we see taught more clearly in the New Testament. The Father, Son, and Spirit are one, yet they are clearly distinct persons. And though male and female together form one humanity, there is a clear, God-intended distinction between male and female.
God’s statement identifying us as being in His image points to humanity’s exalted place. Some students also see the triple-usage of the verb created as significant. The word in the original language being translated thus occurs only eight times between Genesis 1:1 and 5:1, and fully half of those are connected with the final and most significant aspect of creation: the creation of God’s image bearers (three times here and once in 5:1).
It is difficult to overstate the significance of “the image of God” within Judeo-Christian ethics. Without the belief that humans are morally endowed creations of a morally good God, there is nothing to ensure the dignity and value of any and every person—born or unborn, healthy or ill.
Whatever value humans possess comes from the sovereign Creator, to whom we are accountable and responsible. The physical, economic, social, and cultural criteria by which secular humanism establishes and defends personhood are arbitrary, changing, and unreliable. Christians must shape their response to moral issues such as abortion, euthanasia, and racism on the foundation of humanity’s value and special status of being made in the image of God.
What Do You Think?
How will being created in God’s image affect how you treat people you dislike?
Which New Testament passages do you find most helpful in that regard? Why?
CHILDREN OF PROMISE
An online search of “baby names” produces over 33 million results. Expectant parents the world over eagerly hunt for the ideal name for their new arrival (or arrivals). Emma, Olivia, Ava, Caleb, Liam, Noah … To this eagerness is added the anxiety with regard to the various uncertainties that parents-to-be experience.
Given the fact that God has emotions (Numbers 22:22; Psalm 59:8; etc.), have you ever wondered what He was experiencing when He was ready to announce the arrival of His first children, the first humans? Scripture does not give us the backstory details, but the written account of creation does declare the achieved ideal after the fact of creation.
God had hardwired divine values into the first people, and those innate values are passed down to all humans, including us today (see Romans 1:18, 19; 2:15). Christians are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (8:17). We are the “children of promise” (Galatians 4:28). What a reason to rejoice in the “glory of his inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18)! —B. L.
28. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.
God’s blessing-command spoken over humanity reflects what He has already spoken over creatures of sea and sky (Genesis 1:22). It resembles a number of other fruitfulness-blessing statements found throughout this book (9:1, 7; 17:20; 28:3; 35:11; 48:4). Together these demonstrate that rearing children is an integral part of God’s plan for humanity. God desires that the whole earth be inhabited (Isaiah 45:18) and experience His glory (40:5; 42:10–13).
To the notion of dominion used earlier, God now adds the verb subdue. The word in the original language appears elsewhere in a positive sense in contexts of order and security resulting from the subjugation of enemies (Numbers 32:20–22; 1 Chronicles 22:18; etc.). It also occurs in a negative sense of bondage and enslavement (2 Chronicles 28:10; Jeremiah 34:11). All this suggests that the focus is the idea of control. Those who are granted this control are, naturally, accountable to God for stewardship in ordering and developing the resources available.
What has come to be called “the dominion mandate” forms a basis for science and technology; it should never be thought a license for careless and abusive use of natural resources. We exercise dominion only as the image or representatives of God in the world, not as creation’s owners. Because we don’t own creation (Psalm 95:5), we have no right to exploit it in such a way that brings discredit on God. We should exercise the responsibility toward the environment that God expects (contrast Deuteronomy 20:19, 20 with 2 Kings 3:18, 19; God’s expectations are different because of subsequent uses anticipated for the resources).
The extent to which we are able to exercise this dominion is now limited because of sin (see lesson 5). However, Christ, who is the image of the invisible God (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15), has come as the last Adam to achieve dominion (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45–49; compare Hebrews 2:5–18). In Him we have put on the new self and are growing into the image and likeness of God (Colossians 1:15; 3:9, 10).
What Do You Think?
What steps should you take to determine your responsibilities in the stewardship of God’s creation?
What resources will you consult for understanding those responsibilities?
29, 30. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.
The repetition of every highlights the fact that God is the faithful and generous provider of sustenance to both man and animals. Humans will eat from seed-bearing plants and fruit trees, and animals will consume every green plant. After the flood, people will receive authority from God to eat animal flesh as well (Genesis 9:3), a new source of protein.
What Do You Think?
How will awareness of God’s generosity result in one specific change in the way you live?
At what times are you more aware of God’s generosity than at others? Why? Explain your answer in light of Proverbs 22:9; Matthew 5:45; 20:1–16; and 2 Corinthians 9:6–15.
BECAUSE GOD SAID
The largest flower in the world, the Rafflesia arnoldii, can reach three feet in diameter. In California’s Sequoia National Park, the giant redwoods stretch up to 280 feet in height. We can trace all the features of our planet’s vegetation back to two words: “God said.”
With an exacting “God said,” sky, land, and seas stood to attention. Plants and trees took root in God’s care. Seed-bearing plants and fruit trees flourished. God had already planned their purposes and futures, including those of the enormous Rafflesia arnoldii and giant redwoods. Better yet, He planned the ideal purpose and future of His children.
When the timeless Creator spoke the world’s first foliage into life, He had already pictured not only their ranges of sizes and features, but ours as well. The Creator knows all the details of each person’s being, having tenderly formed us in our mothers’ wombs (Psalm 139:13). What a joy to know that above all plants and animals, we are precious in His sight!
31. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
God had previously assessed elements of creation as “good” (Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). He now evaluates His creation in light of the addition of humanity, and He pronounces it very good. The exclamation behold both expresses God’s excitement and invites the reader also to view creation from God’s perspective. Creation, before the intrusion of human sin in Genesis 3, fully reflected God’s intent. Humanity now awaits the new heaven and new earth, to appear when God’s redemptive purposes, initiated in the work of Christ, are consummated (Revelation 21:1–5).
4. These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.
We come to what many characterize as a second account of the creation of man. This section, however, is better thought of as a more detailed account of what Genesis 1 described in the format of panorama.
The phrase these are the generations is a formulaic section-header (compare Genesis 5:1; 10:1; 11:10; 25:12, 19; 36:1, 9; 37:2). This introductory statement carries the sense of “This is what happened concerning …”
A feature of the Bible, first occurring in the verse before us, is the use of the divine name Yahweh; this is traditionally rendered, in small capitals, as LORD in our English Bibles. Previously, God has been called only by the Hebrew name Elohim, a title conveying His transcendence and power. The name Yahweh, on the other hand, emphasizes His eternal existence and covenantal presence with His people. The combined name—seen three times in Genesis 2:4–7 and dozens of times elsewhere as “LORD God”—is thus particularly powerful.
What Do You Think?
How might the doubled name “Lord God” influence how you relate to Him?
Does the triple designation “Lord God Almighty” in Revelation 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7; 21:22 change your answer? Why, or why not?
5. And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.
The language here suggests that the writer is not looking back to the creation of vegetation in Genesis 1, but rather is previewing the cultivation that will occur in the Garden of Eden and after the fall. Two features lend support for this view. First, the phrase herb of the field appears again in Genesis 3:18 to designate what humanity will eat after the fall. Second, whereas the rain anticipated in verse 5 will be a blessing, it is an instrument of judgment in Noah’s day (7:4). These verses thus may set the stage for the more detailed account of man’s creation that follows, which complements the general description in 1:26, 27.
6, 7a. But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground. And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground.
The exact nature of the mist that rises from the earth is unclear. The underlying Hebrew word occurs in the Old Testament only here and in Job 36:27, there translated “vapour.” Taken together, the idea may be that of evaporated water that condenses to a liquid state to water the whole face of the ground. Perhaps the water mixed with dust provides clay the Lord God uses to create man (compare Job 10:9; 33:6; Isaiah 45:9; Romans 9:21).
The sound of the Hebrew word for man, which is Adam (Genesis 2:19), resembles closely the word for ground. Thus the lofty image of being created in God’s likeness (1:26) is now tempered with the reality of what constitutes the human body, its humble origin. “The first man is of the earth, earthy” (1 Corinthians 15:47).
7b. And breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.
Some have proposed that for God to breathe the breath of life into the man is to place a tiny portion of God’s very own essence into a human. This is wrong. When 2 Peter 1:4 speaks of being “partakers of the divine nature,” the meaning is that we share in those attributes of God that He grants us as His image bearers (example: 1 Peter 1:15, 16). No part of our essence as humans is uncreated.
7c. And man became a living soul.
On first reading, this phrase may lead one to believe that it is at this point that the first human receives that element of his nature that sets him apart from the animals: the soul. But the original language behind the translation became a living soul is identical in the descriptions of other creatures in Genesis 1:20, 24, 30; 2:19). We are indeed a combination of physical and spiritual (Matthew 10:28), but that fact cannot be established from this verse.
The following is attributed to Gregory of Nyssa (AD 335–395):
In this world I have discovered the two affirmations that man is nothing and that man is great. If you consider nature alone, he is nothing and has no value; but if you regard the honor with which he has been created, man is something great.
Christians should view themselves and others as special creations of God and objects of His love and concern. Because all are made in our Lord’s image, all deserve respect, dignity, honor, and care, regardless of social status, accomplishments, etc. Moreover, as God’s image bearers, our work is a cooperative enterprise with Him. Our work is exalted, holy, and spiritual. May we treat it as such!
What Do You Think?
What will the expression “of Christ, who is the image of God” in 2 Corinthians 4:4 motivate you to do differently in the week ahead? Why?
Consider how we are like and unlike Christ as image bearers.
Father, we praise You as ones having been formed in your image, unique and loved. Grant us to see the value You have already bestowed abundantly on us and others. Give us eyes to see the stewardship we have from You in our work. We pray this in the name of the one into whose image You are transforming us—our Lord Jesus. Amen.
Thought to Remember
Live up to the meaning of Romans 8:29
Standard Lesson Commentary KJV (2017-2018).