Foundations - What is a Human Being? (last portion)Series: Foundations
Note: The first part of this sermon was lost due to a technical issue.
Where did we come from? Why are we here? What does it mean to be human? We are in a Genesis where we are answering questions about the nature of God, our world, and ourselves.
Identity is a critical word in our culture today. Identity speaks to the very definition of who I am as a person, why I am here, and what I should be doing in my life.
So, what is a human being? If you type this question into google, here is your immediate response from our culture that believes naturalism: It is pictures of Ape mixes of people. Brittanica says “Human being, a culture-bearing primate classified in the genus Homo, especially the species H. Sapiens.” Wikipedia says this: “Humans, or modern humans, are the most common and widespread species of primate, and the only surviving species of the genus Homo.” In short, we are an evolved ancestor in the primate family.
As we spoke of last week, the Babylonian culture for example, believed that human beings came from the blood of another god and their purpose was to be servants of the gods.
In contrast, we have the record of Moses from God’s eyewitness testimony to the creation of mankind that presents a radically different message, one that they and we need to hear in the midst of a pagan culture.
“Let Us make man in Our Image…”
In Genesis 1:26-31 we come to the crown jewel of God’s very good creation: the creation of humanity. We are told that God made mankind in his image, according to their likeness. And, both male and female are said to be made in his image of God.
This presents us with the question. What does that mean? A lot has been said about this in order to explain it. People have said that it is humanity’s ability to reason, have self-awareness, have a conscience, and an awareness of spiritual things. And this is obviously connected to the idea. Just as children imitate the features of their parents, we imitate these features of God.
However, look carefully at verses 26-28, notice what the text emphasizes: It is ruling or dominion. God gave man a status or position over the creation and a charge to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it; and to have dominion. Mankind to rule the earth.
Now, how is this tied to being in the image of God? The word “image” is often used to refer to the images that were used as part of idolatry. “Throughout the ancient Near East, an image was believed to contain the essence of that which it represented. That essence equipped the image to carry out its function” (NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible). These images then are not representations in appearance, they are representatives in authority.
This makes sense of what we’re reading. Humanity is given a stewardship to rule it in the character of God on his behalf as representatives. Human beings are meant to be like a mirror that reflects God’s character into the world and reflects the praises of creation back to God.
Another reason this is so stunning is that he says that all humanity shares in this calling. In the ancient world, the concept of being an image of God was attributed to kings and priests. But here, shockingly, this status is given to all humanity. Everyone of us has a royal status - both male and female share in this as equal representations of God. This speaks directly to the question of “why did God make me?” He made you to be like him, to please him, to enjoy God, to share his goodness and glory into the world, to participate in the creating.
This is a tremendously liberating idea. We live in a culture that says you must be a “self made man”, that your value and worth are what you offer to society and accomplish in your life. You are valuable if you are married, have children, or have a particular ethnicity. Your value is in your appearance, your skills, your intellect, and more. In contrast, this flips the whole “self esteem” concept on its head and says that we are valuable because God made us and we image Him.
This forms the bedrock of all human interactions. The reason we treat each other with dignity and respect, the reason we are not prejudiced based off of power, wealth, gender, color, etc, is because there is one race - humanity, and they are made in the image of God. This means that any action that harms or devalues a person is sin and an attack against God.
So no, the evolutionary explanation is not consistent with the Bible. God did not take an ape and shape him into a man. No, God put man over all animals and all of the plants and vegetation as well. And further, this concept of creation worship today where man is only part of the species of the earth is inaccurate. Yes we are part of the creation, but humanity has a special role as the stewards of God’s creation.
Humanity’s mission then is to fill the entire earth - to fill it with God’s image. They are to use the earth and rule it in a way that gives God the glory. And notice, God is not concerned with overpopulation. God wants lots of his image in the world and He is the one who knows that the world and those in it can meet their needs by His provision.
“Cultivate it and Keep It”
Now we move into Genesis 2:4-17 where we have a more in depth explanation of day six of the creation week. Notice that God’s name changes here and it seems tied to revealing His unique identity and the covenant’s God makes with man.
God formed man from the dust, breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Further, God plants a garden in Eden and he places the man there. We have a description of the garden and what was included: The trees all have two characteristics, desirable in appearance and good for food, there is both beauty and practicality in the creation. Further, we have mention of the two trees that represent the choice humanity will have - life, and the knowledge of good and evil.
This entire land is lush, watered by a river, along with precious metals and stones. Right here, God places man in the garden to cultivate it and keep it. With only one command, to not eat of any of the trees except the one of the knowledge of good and evil, if he ate of it he would die.
Remember, at this point, humanity’s food has only been vegetarian, not millions of years and death and suffering. This then is a wonderful buffet provided and planted by God with is a choice. Mankind will have free will. God is not making robots, they will decide if they want to participate with God or if they want their own way.
Let’s zero in on our phrase, mankind was made cultivate and keep the garden. The way that mankind serves and glorifies God is through the work he does! See, this action of gardening is an example of what it means to be made in the image of God. Adam is showing rule over the garden, working for God’s glory, and enjoying the fruits himself. Work changes after the fall, but work is part of how we glorify God and reflect his character into the world.
Have you thought about this as it relates to your identity? You were made to reflect God’s glory. You do that through enjoying the creation that God has made and through cultivating it and keeping it. It’s not that all of us are made to be only gardeners, but this is the foundational occupation that allows the development of all other vocations. All our relationships (marriage, family, etc), work, and recreation, should be be cultivated and kept. Your life is meant to be a combination of enjoying God’s pleasures and cultivating it for more potential all to His glory.
“It is not good for man to be alone”
Finally, let’s look at this last section in Genesis 2:18-23. We will have an entire lesson on marriage next week, but right here we have more insight into the creation of the woman. After all the good things mentioned in chapter one, we now find something that is not good: It is not good for man to be alone. Now, he is not saying necessarily that every person is to be married. Many instructions in other places show that marriage is not necessary for fulfillment. However, we are made for community and relationship. We grow and become more like God through the relationships that we share with others. In our mutual relationships we are improved.
This is quite a statement because, again, it shows us something about God. God is not a single person from eternity, there is one God in three persons. Love and community are at the center of the universe. What God wants for humanity is not isolation, but community. God’s answer then is to make a helper suitable, someone compatible that helps make Adam better.
The next story is where God brings all the animals for to Adam for him to name them. This shows that God is delegating the rule of the animals to Man. God could have named the animals, but God is sharing his rule with man and it is his job to name and rule the animals.
But second and more importantly, it is clear to Adam that there is not a helper suitable to man among the animals. The animals can not fit the unique needs and be a blessing as God has intended for man. So the solution is the first surgery in scripture. Adam is put to sleep and the woman is fashioned from his rib and brought to the man. This is an intricate process that is different than all the other creation to this point. This seems to speak to the beauty and intentionality of the creation of woman and her special place in the creation beside Adam.
The response is quite telling in verse 23, “This one finally is bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” You can see the “fitness” of Adam’s statement. “Finally! This one fits me! She is like me!” This underscores the importance of equality and diversity represented here.
As God said back in 1:27, male and female are made in the image of God. Genetically there are two sexes. 2 of the chromosomes in a male are XY. 2 of the chromosomes in a woman are XX. All other mutations come from sin and the curse. These are designed differences by God.
However, the changes are not just genetically. The differences are emotionally, constitutionally, physically, and more. But that difference is not by accident, it is by design. God is not trying to create uniformity between the sexes, he is creating diverse and complementary humans. Child bearing is a wonderful examples of these differences. There are certain parts of the child raising process that are necessary from both male and female perspectives.
Yet this concept of diversity and equality in genders, is under assault in our world. When we think of one as superior or inferior we are going against God’s order. When we discriminate against one or the other we are not appreciating the value of diversity as God intended. Scripture is clear on praising women and holding them in honor. And yet, in the eyes of the world they put demeaning and subjugation of women at the feet of Christianity.
We have to stand against these concepts. Men must stand against the suppression, subjugation, and sexualization of women. They are not here for our pleasure, they are to be cherished and appreciated. This must be a culture passed on to our children so they do not think of women inferior, ignorant, servants to be abused and maligned.
Women must do the same for men. Most shows and movies picture the father as a fool and the mother is intelligent and that men are a disaster, they’re lazy, and only focused on sex. Men are not just a paycheck or a pain, they are critical in the home. Don’t buy the narrative.
God has designed us to work together. We are both made in God’s image and each gender exists to complement the other. We are made for a relationship, first with God and one another. We need to follow God’s wisdom and order and not give into the false representations and slander put forth by the world. Let’s be thankful for who we are and work to image God in every part of our lives - our work, in creation, and in our relationships to one another.
This is a glorious vision of humanity. Tragically, these foundational truths are forgotten or deliberately attacked and there are terrible consequences as a result. We need to live out our beliefs and the truth of scripture. We need to realize our true identity as the image of God and the fact that all other people are made in his image and then treat them appropriately.
The image of God has been damaged because of sin. When we look at each other we are left with broken reflections of God that sometimes show his goodness but often show our wickedness. However, the goal of the gospel is to recreate us in the image of God, to make us to be like Jesus - the true image of God (2 Corinthians 3:18). The closer we draw near to Jesus the more we will be like him and represent God. The teaching of Christ is to renew our minds, change our affections, to put off the old self, and for us to put on the new self that is created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness (Ephesians 4:22-23).