Entry Level Theological Truth [5]

Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ Genesis 1:26

God is neither distant from His creation (as in Deism), nor is He identical to it or co-extensive with it (as in Pantheism.) He is closely involved with the universe’s maintenance and destiny (Hebrews 1:3; 2 Peter 3:10-13.) What is more, God is most interested in relating to the capstone of His work: mankind. Humans, meanwhile, are prone to either overestimate or else underestimate themselves. Either they are the measure of all things or they are worthless collections of atoms randomly thrown together by chance, matter, and unthinking forces. The Almighty sanctions neither of these extremes; instead He recognizes mankind’s true position in the universe. Created in the Creator’s image, man is made to be His ruling representative on earth, and is below Him in might, glory, wisdom, and position.

Higher Beast Or Representative of God?

It is common today for people to equate the value of humans and lower life forms. The needs of pets and endangered species are championed by celebrities and the news media, while millions of people starve to death per year in grim anonymity. It is true that as a created being, man possesses some commonality with the animal creation. Yet to think that humans are merely higher forms of primates – naked apes, so to speak – would fall short of reality. One commentator explains the connection between animals and mankind:

As the last and highest of the animate creatures, man is created. His creation is indeed thrown together with that of the land animals into one day, and in this way a certain connection between the two is acknowledged. But much more does the account aim at making prominent his dissimilarity and his high dignity, as contrasted with these and all other beings. This is indicated by the place assigned him at the end of the whole series, and it is expressly stated by the assertion of his divine likeness and rank as ruler.*

Another scholar adds: “…man is set apart by his office (1:26b, 28b; 2:19; cf. Psalm 8:4–8; James 3:7) and still more by his nature (2:20); but his crowning glory is his relation to God.”**

Image-Bearing And Its Benefits

In this likeness to our Maker, humans must use their intellect and creativity for God’s glory. Most importantly, they must come to know Him and interact with Him through their spirits (that aspect of human nature that is unique to mankind and not shared with other earthly creatures.) Of course, Genesis 3 tells the sad tale of how sin marred God’s image in humans and continues to alienate them from our Creator.

Nonetheless, in Christ believers regain the status that Adam lost (they have actually gained much more than Adam lost, but that is another blog post as they say.) Man’s spiritual deadness is reversed by the new birth through the Last Adam who is “a life giving Spirit” (John 3:3-21; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1 Corinthians 15:45.) They are destined to share in the administration of the future renewed planet earth under the perfect Man, the King of kings and Lord of lords, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:14-30; 2 Timothy 2:12; Revelation 2:26-27.)

In light of the implications of mankind being God’s stewards on earth, Christians must lead the way in acting as those who are created to know, worship, and serve God. This will affect every aspect of their lives: their ethics, job performance, family life, work-ethic in school, choice of entertainment, selection of friends, and many more issues. Recognizing one’s image-bearing responsibility even has implications for our behavior on the web. The image one projects on social media sites, the way one uses e-mail, the amount of time one spends amusing oneself online must be evaluated in light of mankind’s creation in God’s image.

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*August Dillmann, Genesis Critically and Exegetically Expounded, Vol. 1. Translated by Wm. B. Stevenson. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1897, pp. 77f [Emphasis mine.]

**Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 1. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967, p. 55.

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