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June 14, 2020 Sermon

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Genesis 1:26-28

  Last week Moses gave us an overview of how God created everything that exists. Today we want to focus in on the most important part of all that God created—Humans, and the relationship God wants to have with us.

  Some today might object to the statement that humans are the most important part of all God created. They might ask, “how do you know there aren’t other life forms that are more important, or that might at some point become more evolved than humans?” From an evolutionary, unbiblical world view the answer would have to be, “we don’t know.” But for those who accept the Bible as God’s word without error there are many reasons to say that humans are the most important, the crown of God’s creation. Along with that position comes great responsibility as well. Let’s review some of the Biblical reasons that humans are the crown of God’s creation.

  As you track the things that God created each day, it is clear that things are building to a climax. Each day the things God creates are more and more complex. It’s clear he is creating things that whatever he creates on the following day will need. Sky, water, vegetation, then birds, fish, animals, and last of all, humans.

  When it came time for God to create humans, he broke his usual pattern. By doing so, he indicated that what he was about to create was something different than all he had created before.

  The persons of the Trinity counsel together. God said, let us make man. He didn’t do that before he created anything else that exists. He changed his pattern from saying, let there be, or let the earth produce, to saying let us make. And from chapter two we are told that, instead of just commanding the earth to produce Adam, The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and  the man became a living being. Chapter 2 also tells us how it happened that God created male and female. After Adam realized that all the animals had mates and that he was different than the animals, God took a piece of his side and built a woman from what he had taken out of the man. There is to be no doubt that she too was human because she was taken out of man, the only other human. In fact, Eve is the only woman who came from a man. Every other human being, including Jesus, male or female, was born of a woman.

  God describes the high position humans would have in his creation. They would be created to have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky and over the livestock, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that crawls on the earth. After he created them, he blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.

  God didn’t need anything that he created. He had existed through all eternity without any of it. Everything he created he made for the use and the enjoyment of the crown of his creation, Adam and Eve. Creation, even in it’s fallen state, still offers many things for us to enjoy. In our world today, people really enjoy their pets. Who doesn’t enjoy a beautiful sunset, a field of growing crops stretching out as far as the eye can see, or a day at the beach? God still provides all these things for our enjoyment.

  When you see someone throw trash out of their car, or when you see pictures of miles of plastic floating in the ocean, or birds covered with oil from an oil spill, you realize that humans have not done a very good job of exercising their rule and dominion over the earth. The earth is the Lords and everything in it. It’s his. We just get to use it and enjoy it for as long as we live here. Like anything that you get to use that belongs to someone else the owner expects you to take good care of what they allow you to use. They expect to receive it back in the same condition it was when they let you use it. God has given us rule and dominion over his earth and he expects us to be good stewards, to take good care of it.

  So, if we don’t always take very good care of all that God created, why did he give Adam and Eve rule and dominion over it?

  Part of the answer is that he was showing his love for them. Another part of the answer is that he created them in his image, and as long as they were in his image, they would care for what he had made perfectly.

  We heard the phrase “image of God” a number of times in our verses for today. He said let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.  And that’s just what he did. God created the man in his own image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them. (He makes it clear that both Adam and Eve were created in his image.)

  What does it mean that Adam and Eve were created in God’s image?

  It can’t mean that they looked like God. Why? Because the Bible clearly states that God is Spirit. He is a personal being, but he does not have a physical body. Besides, both Adam and Eve were in his image and they didn’t exactly look alike.

  Image doesn’t mean “look like”, but it obviously means that they were like God in some way. We see that they had intelligence. Adam had no problem naming the animals when God asked him to do so. He was in some respects smarter than many people today because he realized that he had not come from an animal and no animal was suitable to be his partner. He was able to communicate with God and to be in his presence without fear. Chapter 3 reports that God walked in the Garden of Eden and spoke with Adam and Eve. But none of these things are the essence of the Image of God. Paul explains in our other readings for today what the real essence of the image of God was.  Speaking of believers, he says that the New Self is continually being renewed in knowledge, according to the image of its Creator. He says that this New Self wants nothing to do with sexual immorality, uncleanness, lust, evil desire and greed, wrath, anger malice, slander, filthy language and lies. He says the new self is created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. There it is. The essence of the image of God is having true righteous and holiness like God.

   When God created humans and gave them rule and dominion over all he had made they were in his image. They were perfectly righteous and holy. They were perfectly in tune with God. They understood what everything God made was and how best to use and care for it. They were willing and able to be perfect caretakers of all that God had made for them. The enjoyed a perfect relationship with God and with each other.

  It’s important to note that when you hear many other Christians talk about man being created in the image of God, they mean something different. Their misunderstanding of this term causes them to have trouble with other doctrines of the Bible. When they talk about humans being in the image of God, they simply mean that humans are distinct from the animals and a special creation of God with a body and a soul. That’s true as far as it goes, but that’s not what the Bible means when it talks about the image of God.

  What’s the problem with this misunderstanding of the image of God? The Bible says that when Adam and Eve sinned the image of God was lost. We heard Paul say that it is only being restored in those who are brought to faith in Jesus. So, if the image of God only means that humans are a special creation of God separate from the animals, did they cease to be that when the image of God was lost in sin? They didn’t. All of their descendants, all humans, are born only with Adam’s sinful image. But, even in our sinful state, we are still a special creation of God separate from the animals. What humans lost is not their humanness, what they lost is their holiness and righteousness, their ability to keep from sinning.

  You can see that this misunderstanding of the image of God affects the doctrine of original sin. It opens the door to the idea that people are born with some remnant of spiritual power, some ability to rule and have dominion in a godly way. It negates the need for baptism. But the Bible says that all of Adam’s descendants, all humans, are born dead in sin, in Adam’s sinful image, not God’s holy image. It means that humans cannot save themselves. In fact, if left to themselves, they would only destroy themselves and all that God has made. As Paul said, nothing good lives in us, that is in our sinful nature. Failure to understand this leads to false doctrine regarding baptism and conversion. Failure to understand that the image of God has been lost leads to the dangerous idea that people are basically good and they don’t need God or any authority to guide them. What they think will lead to utopia, or as some say a “summer of love”, will only lead to anarchy and misery.

  Imagine as best you can what it must have been like for Adam and Eve to have the image of God for the short time they had it. Imagine what it would be like to be perfectly in tune with the mind of God. Imagine what it would be like to be able to do everything perfectly. Imagine what it would be like to be in God’s presence, to walk and talk with him in a beautiful garden. Imagine what it would be like never to worry, never to be afraid of anything, never to feel sadness or shame. Imagine what it would be like to have a perfect relationship with God and perfect love for others.

  That’s what Adam and Eve enjoyed before they sinned and lost God’s image. That’s what Paul says is being restored in us through faith in Jesus. He is the second Adam. He is the perfect image of God. He never lost it in sin. In grace, he credits his righteousness and perfection to us. Spirit worked faith in Jesus drives out fear, overcomes worry, erases shame. Spirit worked faith delights in God and his word, in doing his will and talking to him in prayer.

   As long as we live on earth, the image of God is only being restored, it’s not completely restored. That will only happen when Jesus returns, raises our bodies from the dead and fully restores in us his perfect image. That’s a day we long to see.