Origins of… Humanity

Genesis 1:26-27

In this sermon, we focus in from God’s creation in general to God’s creation of humanity in particular. These verses break the pattern that has been established so far in the chapter, and this is a deliberate way of drawing attention to what they are saying.

The key idea being communicated in these verses is that humanity is made in God’s image. Often people try to pin down a particular way in which we resemble God (e.g. ability to make moral choices, existence as ‘spiritual’ beings, capacity for rational thinking, responsibility to steward creation, relationality. etc), but this misses the point. Just as Seth was in the likeness of Adam (Genesis 5:3), meaning that he resembled Adam in lots of ways, so our existence in God’s image means we are like him in all of the ways listed above, and many more.

It is also worth noting that the idea of an ‘image’ comes from temple language. In the nations around Israel, their god would set up an image in the form of a statue (usually of an animal) as their representative likeness to their worshippers. In God’s creation of the world, and particularly the Garden of Eden, we see the prototype of the temple, and in place of the image of a beast or bird, God declared the thing that best represents him on earth is the humans that he has made.

Some Key Points:

  • ALL humans are made in God’s image. This means there is a fundamental dignity on every person, who should be treated with honour as an image bearer, regardless of race, gender, whether able or disabled, born or unborn.
  • Humans have been given a role of having dominion over creation. This includes both rights (to use the resources in creation) and responsibilities (to steward the creation well)
  • A particular aspect of being in God’s image that is highlighted here is maleness and femaleness. The word translated here ‘man’ is not used in a gender-specific sense (think ‘humanity’) and so we must recognise that God’s image is shown in maleness and femaleness, and in particularly in the complementarity of relationships that reflect something of the relationships within the Trinity.

Following the Threads:

  • Genesis 9:6 & James 3:9 are clear that humanity is still the Image of God after the fall. However, sin has marred this image and we less perfectly represent God to creation.
  • John 1:18 & Colossians 1:15-19 highlight that Jesus is the ultimate image-bearer of God, and he perfectly fulfils the role of making known what the Father is like.
  • Romans 8:29, 1 Corinthians 15:49, 2 Corinthians 3:18 & Colossians 3:9-10 all speak of the Christian life as being conformed to the image of Christ. As we walk with him we are restored to a life where the image of God is much more clearly outworked in us.

Potential Applications:

  • Dignity of All – The way we treat others must be founded on the Image of God in them, and so we should treat all with honour.
  • Anti-Discrimination – This passage has a lot to say to the recent conversations about race, gender and disability. It is good to speak into these issues from this passage, clearly asserting there is no place for discrimination within the Biblical worldview and the responsibility on Christians to fight against prejudice wherever we see it.
  • Care for the Unborn – Humans made in God’s image is a key reason why Christians fight for the rights of the unborn. Whether in or out of the womb, God’s image means we should treat people with care and dignity.