The Crown of Creation
Genesis 1:26-27, 2:7
As we’ve begun “The Story of God” series, we’re discovering that what we believe about God makes a world of difference. Remember our saying from the Introduction to the Story of God—our thoughts on God (our theology) are our most important thoughts because they determine everything else in our lives. As we began the discussion on creation, we discovered that the story of creation shines the spotlight on the Creator… the God who is, the God who speaks, and the God who reigns. Next, we are going to view the creation view from a different vantage point. We are going look at the Crown of Creation, the creation of humanity. We are going to talk about what it means that humanity has been created in the image of God. And we are going to see why it is so crucial that we understand the image of God and live out the implications of being created in the image of God…
Understanding the image of God unveils the heart of God.
To put our discussion in context, let’s look quickly at the big picture. The Story of God is the story of the God who creates and re-creates for His glory and for our good. There are six major chapters in the Story of God: Creation, Chaos, Covenant, Christ, Church, & reCreation. Let’s unpack that big idea: Understanding the image of God unveils the heart of God.
Let’s begin with first half of our big idea…
#1: Understanding the Image of God
We need to begin with the Bible to see what it says about humanity being created in the image of God, and then we need to then take a step back and develop the theology of being created in the image of God.
The Text. Genesis 1:26-27. We are nearing the end of the Creation account in Genesis 1. In Genesis 1 we see the pattern of God’s creation… formlessness to form to fullness. So God has created the heavens, the earth, and all other animal and plant life on earth, and then the apex of that creation, the crown of that creation, is the creation of humanity.
“Let Us…” There has been a lot of discussion about this phrase. Even though the concept of the Trinity (One God, Three Persons: Father, Son, & Spirit) is not fully developed in the Old Testament, some see the “Us” as the Trinity. Some see a heavenly council with the Trinity and other angelic beings. And some see the “Us” as what is called “the plural of majesty.” God is so big and powerful that the singular from of any part of speech cannot contain all that God is. I lean toward the “Us” as the Trinity combined with the “plural of majesty” (more on that in a moment)
“Image and likeness.” “Image” stresses a representation or a likeness to something else. It is used in other places in the OT speaking of idols. Other religions made little gods out of metals, stone, and wood in the image of what they believed that their god looked like. “Likeness” stresses the idea of similarity. So something about humanity reveals what God is like. We bear His image. When we talk about the image of God, we are talking about some way in which we are like God and in some way in which we image and represent God in this world.
A third key aspect of these two verses is that both male and female alike manifest something about God in their image bearing. “Let Us make man…” is better translated as “Let Us make humankind…” The last part of v. 27 validates that–“Male and female He created them.”
Genesis 2:7. This verse in the Genesis 2 creation account emphasizes God’s creative work in “forming” and “fashioning” humanity and breathing the very breath of God… the breath of life into humanity.
“Formed.” The Prophet Isaiah gives a beautiful, poetic picture of what it means for us to be “formed” by the very hand of God. See Isaiah 64:8. Humanity is the crown of creation. All of the goodness of creation climaxes in the creation of humanity. Humanity is not an evolutionary afterthought. Humanity is not the chance product of billions of years of evolution. We are the work of God’s hands. That is critical for us to believe as we move forward.
“The breath of life.” This very breath of life from God is what produces human life. It is what constitutes humankind as the image of God. The “breath of life” in the original Hebrew is never used for animals. It is one of the key things that distinguish us from all other life. There is something very sacred and unique about the creation of human life. We are image bearers of God.
The Theology. There are other places in the Scripture that talk about humanity being image bearers. We need to step back and begin to interpret what it means to be created in the image of God… to be image bearers. We need to develop a “theology” of the image of God. There has been much theological and philosophical discussion on what it means to be image bearers, and it is difficult to narrow it down to only one view. But I want to quickly present three aspects of what I believe it means for us to be image bearers of God. I am taking my cues from Genesis 1:26-27.
Image as Community. “Let Us” the text says. God exists in community… the Trinity (Father, Son, and Spirit), which is especially developed in the New Testament. There is a mutual “one another-ness” in the Trinity. The Father exalts the Son. The Son does only what the Father says and exalts Him. The Spirit is sent to help point all people to the glory of the Father and the Son. The Godhead exists in community. And part of what it means to be human is not only the need for God but also the need for others. Genesis 2:18 – “It is not good for man to be alone…” is in the immediate context of marriage but it also shines light on the human need to be in meaningful relationship with one another.
Image as Dominion. “Let them rule.” The creational decree in Genesis 1:26-27 names humanity as “vice-regent” to rule over all of the earth with God. Image as dominion (not domination) is very apparent in the text. As the story progresses in Genesis 2, Adam has God-given authority to name the animals. Naming in the Old Testament is a symbol of rule and authority. The creation of humanity in the image of God reflects the reality that God has granted humanity to have rule and dominion over creation with God.
Image as Moral Responsibility. The last aspect of the image of God that I want to highlight is that as image bearers who are created in the likeness of God to rule and reign with Him as vice-regents over creation, we are to steward that responsibility responsibly like God does. We are to do the right thing as image bearers. We have been given the capacity, power, and freewill to make moral choices… right or wrong. As God is morally responsible and rules and reigns responsibly so we are to as well rule with responsibility.
So as we seek to understand the image of God, we have looked at two key texts and talked about the theology… image as community, image as dominion, and image as moral responsibility. And remember our big idea: Understanding the image of God unveils the heart of God. So let’s talk about the second half of our big idea…
#2: Unveiling the Heart of God
As image bearers of God, we reveal and unveil something about the character and nature of God in bearing His image. I am not saying that we have “created God in our image” and as you look at humanity, we fully and wholly image and define God. God is eternal God and existed long before humanity ever came on the scene. But since humanity has been created as image bearers, we in some way unveil the character, nature, and values of God in how we bear His image. In line with the three aspects of the image of God that we discussed during the first part of our message this morning, I want to show three things that God values as we bear His image.
God values Community (image as community). If part of image bearing is the reality that God exists in Trinitarian community, then it follows that when we do community well… loving each other with Christ-centered sacrificial love, then we bear God to each other and the world around us. Remember, image bearers bear an aspect of God. As we talk about “Chaos” in the Story of God, we’ll look at the reality that the image of God in humanity has been “defaced” as a result of sin. Part of that defacing of the image of God and the results of sin is isolation, loneliness, and estrangement in human relationships. God values community, and therefore, we as a church, people among whom the image of God is being restored, bear the Communitarian, Trinitarian God. We are the people that the world is supposed to look at and say, “That’s what God is like… loving, gracious, merciful, forgiving… and on and on. That’s what God is up to in restoration.” As the life-transforming community of Jesus, we become the people and a place where we are more deeply connected with Jesus by being connected with each other.
God values Creation (image as dominion). A second aspect of image bearing revealing and unveiling the heart of God is that God values Creation. We should rule and reign over creation like God rules and reigns over creation with amazing care. God creates this amazing beautiful creation for humanity to enjoy. And part of what it means for us to be image bearers is that we would be wise stewards of His creation. We should care for creation like He cares for creation. Evangelicals, those committed to image bearing as revealed in God’s word, should be leading the way in creation care and stewardship because we actually believe that God has called us to value creation like He values creation. In doing so, we don’t go to either of the extremes. We don’t pilfer and pillage creation for our selfish gain, not thinking of anything but our own consumption. At the other end of the spectrum, we don’t go so far into extreme preservationism that we can’t even enjoy any of it. If we are image bearers and stewards, then we actually need to care about what happens to God’s creation.
God values Life (image as moral responsibility). Humanity and human life is the crown of creation. That’s not a statement of arrogance. That’s a statement of fact. In the creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2, the creation of humanity is shown as the high point of God’s creation. The implication is the profound value of human life. There are numerous issues that we must think through theologically as Christ-followers, those that believe that human life is highly valued and sacred. Here are some of the implications of God valuing life.
The dignity of all people. In a culture that tends to demonize people who aren’t like us, the image of God tells us that all people, regardless of whether they are like us or not and whether we like them or not, are created with dignity by the mere fact that they are human beings. Evangelical or atheist… Christian or Muslim… American or Iraqi… Republican or Democrat… Homeless or Homeowner… Insider or Outsider. All human beings are created in the image of God. And when we value them and afford them the respect and dignity they deserve as human beings, then we as Christ-followers are revealing to the world around us that God values human life.
The sacredness of life. Another part of the image of God that is crucial for us is the sacredness of human life. There are numerous issues in our culture that are moving away from the sacredness of life, but one of the most apparent issues in our culture in discussion over the sacredness of life is the issue of abortion. I know this issue has been and continues to be one of the hot spots of political debate, and I don’t want to get into the politics of abortion. I want to talk about the theology of abortion. Abortion devalues human life. I know we can talk about the value of the woman’s choice to decide, but at the end of the day, a woman’s choice should never be able to override the value of human life. Abortion takes a human life, but it also deeply defaces and scars the image of God in those who make this decision, women and men.
Understanding the image of God unveils the heart of God. We have been created in the image of God. We as human beings are the crown of creation. When we talk about the Fall and the Chaos that ensues because of human rebellion, the image of God has been defaced. We are in desperate need of restoration. Jesus Christ in His full divinity and full humanity is the only One who restores the image of God in us because He is the very image of God. Jesus Christ is God Himself. And there is a battle underway for your heart… for the restoration of the image of God within you, for your life to fulfill the creational intent of God, for your life to have the full meaning and purpose that God created you to experience. The Apostle Paul explains the battle for your heart in 2 Corinthians 4:4-6. The enemy tries to blind the world and even us to the glory of Jesus Christ. God says, “Let there be Light” so that you might see the surpassing greatness of Jesus Christ in His overwhelming centrality and supremacy. And right in the middle of 2 Corinthians 4:5 is what we do: we preach Christ Jesus as Lord. Christ Jesus, the One who took the penalty for our sin and rebellion, the One who restores the image of God in us. Jesus Christ, the One who was raised from the dead and is now seated on the throne of heaven, ruling and fully fulfilling image as dominion. The God Man Jesus Christ, the very image of God, the very manifestation of God made flesh perfectly and beautifully unveils the heart of God so that we might be restored back to Him to enjoy Him forever.