Why Genesis Matters (VI)

By Doy Moyer

Genesis teaches us to keep both God and mankind in proper perspective. In fact, the only way that one can keep mankind in proper perspective is to begin with a proper view of God. A wrong outlook on God will be fatal for understanding who man is and why he is here. Paul made that quite clear in Romans 1.

David asked the great question, “What is man…?” But this question was asked within a larger context of God and His creation. In other words, when David wanted to know something about man, he started with God. It was upon looking at the wonders of God’s creation that he was prompted to wonder, “What is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him?” (Psalm 8). In a humanistic society, the question is reversed: what is God that man should care for Him? Such a society not only misunderstands God, but also man.

The Scriptures reveal that of all the things God created, mankind is the crowning glory of creation (Gen. 1). Everything that God made is indeed great and awesome, but mankind heads the list of all of creation. It is this great fact that gives man value. A humanistic society strives to understand man as autonomous and will thus fail to find the true value and worth of mankind. The Bible shows that we as humans are valuable because of our relation to the Creator. That relation is stated in Genesis 1:26-17: mankind is made in the image of God.

Understanding the concept of being made in the image of God is by no means easy. If we don’t know anything about the image of God, then it will be impossible to understand the point. Such a task is monumental, for who among us can know all about the image of God? Yet it is here that we can begin to appreciate the purpose of our existence and the reason we should be reaching for God.

That God determined to make mankind in His image is a testament to the distinction between mankind and the animal order. One of the reasons why evolutionism is so destructive to the faith is that it breaks this distinction down. Evolutionism cannot be reconciled with the creation of man and woman in the image of God for it fights against the nature of mankind from its inception. Evolutionists cannot possibly have a proper grip on mankind for they have ripped out the heart of that understanding. For us to understand purpose, we must see ourselves as ultimately distinct from the animal world.

It is easy to oversimplify the concept of being made in God’s image because of our finite limitations on knowing about God. Primarily, when we think of being made in God’s image, we think of the spiritual aspect of our existence. That is, since God is spirit, then we too must be spiritual beings. No doubt this is part of the equation. We have been custom-made for fellowship with our Creator and are more than just physical creatures. This alone makes us unique among the physical creation. Still, does this capture all of what it means to be made in His image? Probably not.

In fact, it is doubtful that any man will have the total answer to this question. When we think of God’s image, should we not also think of the emotional aspect of God? Do our emotions mirror those of God’s? What of the ability to make moral decisions? What of the thinking, rational part of our make-up? What of the conscience, the ability to reflect upon who we are and why we do what we do? And what of the ability to love in a reflective, purposeful way?

The issue of love itself helps to answer some of our questions. Why, for example, are we made with free will when God could have made us without it and so spared the suffering that comes from sin? Love helps to answer that. The nature of love is that it seeks a loving response. Would God have been glorified if He made robots with no capacity to love or choose? God doesn’t want to coerce our obedience. He asks for a loving response. Such a response can only come if we ourselves reflect God’s capacity to demonstrate love. Sin is a direct attack against the nature of God’s love and mars those made in His image.

One more point can be made from the context of Genesis 1. Upon making man and woman in His image, God gave mankind dominion over the created world (vs. 28). Again, this indicates the special place of mankind in God’s creation. How does this mirror the image of God? God is the Supreme Ruler with dominion over all creation. Our dominion over this creation is but a reflection of the dominion of God. We were made to rule. This does not mean that we have the right to abuse and misuse. If we are conscious of our position and accountability before God, then we will seek to act accordingly with justice and righteousness. We are stewards of God’s great creation, and how we act toward it will show ultimately what we think first of the God who made it all, and second of mankind who was made to rule over it.

There is much more to the image of God than meets the eye or that can be grasped by a finite mind. This brief article has hardly scratched the surface. But what this part of Genesis shows us is that we were created to reflect God in this world. This is crucial for grasping our purpose here. And this is, at least, part of the reason why, as Christians today, we should be seeking to be conformed to the image of Christ (cf. Rom. 8:28-29).

When the Pharisees tested Jesus on the issue of paying taxes, Jesus asked for a coin, then asked, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They answered, “Caesar’s,” to which Jesus replied, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s” (Matt. 22:15-22). Now then, whose image and inscription is engraved upon you, and to whom should you be rendering yourself?

(Doy Moyer preaches regularly for the church in Cork, FL. He is a professor at Florida College in Temple Terrace, FL. He has his own web site located at http://studywell.org. You can write him at moyerd@floridacollege.edu.)

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