Genesis 1:27-29

We are continuing our study verse by verse through the book of Genesis. And as we arrive today at the text, we arrive at verse 27 and we’ve been following through Genesis chapter one, not only verse by, but word by word. And as we have been working our way through the progression of the days first, in terms of the first three days of creation with God forming the earth. And then the second three days of God filling the earth, on the sixth day, we saw that in the beginning of the day, God created the creatures. And in verse 24, we saw, “and God said that the earth bring forth living creatures, according to their kinds lives talk and creeping things and beasts of the earth, according to their kinds. And it was so, and God made the beast of the earth, according to their kinds and the livestock, according to their kinds and everything that creeps on the ground, according to its kind, and God said, God saw that it was good.”

What we saw in those verses here in the beginning of the sixth day is a change in how God addresses those whom he has created. We saw that when he created the things previous, including vegetation and things in the sea and the birds of the air, he said, “let them be fruitful and multiply.” But when he created these creatures identified as livestock and creeping things in beasts of the earth, God said that “they should bring forth each according to its kind. God saw that it was good.” Then God said, “let us make man in our image after our likeness and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing, the creeps on the earth.” Now we saw in looking at verse 20, that when we have the text here, say, “then God said” it’s falling in the sequence, obviously. 

But notice that then he speaks in the plural of majesty, which is also an indication of the Trinity. “Let us make man in our image after our likeness.” Now, the language of majesty is that which is used by royalty, such as the reigning queen of England. The Monarch of England never uses the first person singular, but also always uses the plural. “We are not amused” as Queen Victoria famously used to say. We do this. We do that. And it is because the Royal person is considered to be too magnificent to be contained within the first person singular. So many readers of the text here have insisted that what we have here is simply a Hebraic form of the plural of majesty. The problem with that is that we already have a Trinitarian indication in the text, and it comes very early because we are told that the spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters as we saw beginning in the text, even in verse two. 

We later find out, of course, that it is the Son, the Incarnate Word, the Logos, who is the agent of creation itself. So that creation is a Trinitarian act. Now, in all fairness, we do not know that from a plain reading of the book of Genesis without the revelation given to us in the New Testament, but we are not reading Genesis as if we do not have the gospel. We’re not reading Genesis as if we are not Christians. And we are not reading Genesis as if we do not have the gospel of John that tells us “in the beginning was the Word. And the word was with God. And the word was, God, all things were made through him. And without him, nothing that was made was made.” So when we see, “let us make man in our image,” we have to see not only the plural of majesty, but an indication of the Trinity. But what is God here determined to do? 

“Let us make man in our image.” So, the distinction that comes immediately in terms of the creation of the human creature is that this creature is going to be distinct from everything else to form the earth and everything else that filled the earth by the fact that this being this creature is to bear God’s own image, to be made in the image of God. Now, the first thing we learned about human beings here is that we are a creature. That’s a very important first Axiom of understanding what the Bible has to say about what it means to be human. We are not self-existent. We are not some kind of cosmic accident. We are a creature. What makes a creature distinct from something that just happens is intentionality and ownership. You make it, you own it. If you create it, it is yours. God created all things. 

We understand that everything that exists, exists precisely because God created it. And the everything that God created, the everything that exists, finds its culmination in the creation of the human creature, who is owned by God, made by God. And yet fashioned by God. Made by God, not just as the other things he has made, even the other living creatures, but this creature is made in his image. We must remember however that there remains always an infinite distinction between the creator and the creature, even as the creature is made in God’s own image. The creature is not God. The distinction between the creator and the creature is enduring. It is eternal and it is singularly important, but this creature is made in a different way, according to a different purpose than everything that has come before. “Let us make man in our image after our likeness.” 

Now, some very interesting questions appear so early here in the text. “In our image, according to our likeness.” What in the world does that mean? Do we look like God? That’s a fundamental theological mistake. It is the mistake that is at the very heart of idolatry. The assumption that God is like us in terms of a form just perfected. Now we know that this is idolatry by any reading of the scripture, but specifically in Romans chapter one. If you look over at Romans chapter one, you will see the indictment of this kind of confusion. And we should be so thankful again, that we’re reading Genesis as Christians armed with all that God has given us in the New Testament. We read beginning in verse 18 “for the wrath of God has revealed from heaven against all in godliness and unrighteousness of men who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” 

It’s this suppression of the truth, that is, seemed to be the first evidence of human sinfulness and all humanities involved in this conspiracy to suppress the truth. “For what can be known about God is plain to them because God has shown it to them for his invisible attributes.” Not ours, his invisible attributes, “namely his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Here’s where it gets very important for us. “Although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened claiming to be wise. They became fools and exchange the glory of the immortal God for images, resembling mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.” 

If you look at the idolatry of the ancient world, in particular for instance, if you even look in many of the Eastern religions, you see images of human beings. Images of human beings, often in an idealized or gigantic frame of reference or dimension. So, if you look at some of the Buddha statues from the east, you’ll notice some of them are absolutely huge. They are humanity blown up big. In other cases, the idols are not so physically large as they are physically perfected. And so there has always been the temptation to idealize the human form and to worship that in some idolatrous way. But that is precisely not what it means for us to be made in God’s likeness, because God, we are told, does not have a body. He will insist on the fact that he does not have a bodily form. 

He will tell us, even as Jesus told the woman at the well that God is Spirit, and those who worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. The human desire to try to create an image, whether it’s of a human being or, as Romans one tells us, or of any kind of thing, any kind of creature or created being or created thing is a form of perverted religion, otherwise known as idolatry. The ambition to do that is to cast a lie about God. Armed with that knowledge then, when God says, “let us make man in our image, after our likeness,” we know that that is not a physical capacity, but as we follow through biblical theology, our physical form does imply certain things that the image of God makes clear. It isn’t that God has a body that we are a lesser copy of, it is that God possesses certain functions in a perfected and omnipotent way that he shares with his human creatures. The most important issue of the image of God is going to be the fact that we, of all the creatures alone have two capacities. First, the capacity to know him. And secondly, the capacity to rule. To exercise dominion. 

Now first, what it means to be made in God’s image is that of all the creatures, we are the only creature able to know God. Consciously to know him. Now God’s glory is in all creation. God said, “it’s good.” He declared the goodness of all creation. So there’s not something the dog is supposed to have that the dog doesn’t have. The dog did not lose the ability consciously to know the creator as a result of the fall. The dog was not meant to have this capacity. It doesn’t have the capacity. We have a dog, as you know, Baxter, the Wonder Beagle, and Baxter is a very friendly, wonderful dog. He is kind of the prototype of dog. He is well of a certain kind of dog. Not a guard dog. Baxter would be completely incompetent at guarding anything because he likes everybody. 

He likes crooks as well as honest people. He would be the welcoming committee for…although he believes he has a guard dog function because when UPS drops off something and rings the doorbell, he goes as if he’s on the attack mode, but his tails wagging. Baxter’s not a highly intelligent creature, even by dog standards. You know, there are dogs that can be trained to do all kinds of things. Baxter’s not even impressed by that. He doesn’t even think he should aspire to that. But what he is, is absolute loyalty, absolute happiness, and absolute nose. Every once in a while, we will be walking along and he’s just sniffing something and he looks up to me as if to say, “you have no idea what you’re missing.” I’ll just go on record of saying, I think I’m thankful I’m missing it, but nonetheless, he’s got capacities I don’t have, but he has no capacity consciously to know his creator. 

Now God is glorified in that dog. God’s glorified. And that dog does exactly what God intended that dog to do. And doesn’t it say something about the joy of the creator in his creation? When you think about how he made all these creatures and decided that each should have this particular shape and form and this particular function, and then you look at some of these animals and you go, okay, if I’m an evolutionist, if I’m operating of a materialistic naturalistic worldview, I’m gonna say evolution did that strange thing. However, if I’m a human being, looking at that who is not an evolutionist, but rather is a believer in divine creation, I look at that and say, God has a sense of humor, a sense of delight in his creation. But in his, as human creatures, he built in, created the capacity consciously to know him. 

The lion and the tiger, they show the glory of God, but they have no idea. The same things true, of course, of the plants and the trees. They’re showing the glory of God, but they have no consciousness that they’re doing so. Human beings do. From the moment of our awareness, we are aware that we are created. And that means that there is a creator. And the knowledge of that creator is that with which we all have to do. I was reading last night Nietzsche the famous nihilist at the end of the 19th century, in the beginning of the 20th century. The man who defined the argument that God is dead and that we have killed him. And he made a very interesting statement. He said, and I I’ll have to paraphrase here, but he said, as much as we have killed, God, God keeps coming back in the grammar, which is an amazing statement for Nietzsche to have made. The very, that we have the capacity to use language. And there are regular rules of grammar. It means somehow, at least by intuition, that there is a creator, we kill him. And he comes back in the grammar. 

I mentioned to you some weeks ago, as we were beginning our study in the book of Genesis, this book recently written by an evolutionary scientist trying to explain to other evolutionary scientists why it is that they’re making so little headway getting children to accept the theory of evolution. And you’ll recall that she has a very brilliant argument. It took a lot of her for her to come up with this. She said that it seems that children reason from form to maker that children learn. They learned it from their parents. You know, how do we get this house? Well, somebody built this house. You know, how do we get this car? Somebody made that car. You look at a little girl walks in and finds her brother on the floor, having made something with blocks. Well, he made that. She knows that. Well, then they look at each other and they say, where do we come from? Well, the very fact that we exist implies that someone made us. And so this evolutionary scientist said, we’re up against a big challenge here, because it seems like, and this is the way she put it, It seems that evolution has encoded even children not to believe in evolution, which is a pretty tough thing to come to terms with. If you’re an evolutionist, well being made in God’s image means we do know. And this is why also we speak of the kind conscience is a part of the Imago Dei is a part of the awareness of the creator. This is why Adam and Eve, when they sin, hid themselves, and that’s why your three-year-old does the same thing. It is because that conscience cries out. 

Even when mom and dad aren’t in the room, somebody saw me do that. But there is a second dimension. And that is the rule, the dominion that is given, and that comes so early in the text. “Let us make man and our image after our likeness.” And the very next statement is, “and let them have dominion,” that’s Lordship, “over all the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over livestock and over the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Dominion. We sing about dominion, we sing about God’s Lordship, his dominion. We don’t use that word much for instance, in our maps. Although if you go back a hundred years and you can actually say that precisely, you go back to 1912 and you look at a map, you will see any map in the English language that will use the word dominion in a map of the world, because it’s the age of empire. 

And so you have Russia, but you also have Russian dominions. And especially with the British empire, you have Britain, but then you have the dominions and those are the lands over which Britain ruled, even though they were not properly Britain. England had dominion over India, over Malaysia, over Singapore, over about a third of the Earth’s surface. The word dominion is now sometimes even used with reference, for instance, especially in historical reference to Canada.  But let’s just say we’ve kind of defined dominion down. I don’t think Ottawa worries a great deal about what London thinks anymore. But back during the age of empire, I guarantee they did. The United States was once considered a dominion of Great Britain. Took a war or two to end that claim. But the word dominion is one that we are not able to do without, as human beings with reference, even to how we see the affairs of nations. But here in the very beginning, and it’s very important that we remember that we’re in Genesis one, the fall is not yet on the horizon. There is no sin, and there is no effective sin. God did not give dominion to the human creature because of the result of sin. He gave dominion to the human creature in the very perfect design of creation. “Let us make in our image, after our likeness and let them,” we went over them. 

So this is to be a multiple creation. This is to be a plural creature. This is not just to be one man. This is to be humankind. The implication that as with the other creatures, this creature is to fill the earth, but that comes later as an order. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. Then verse 27, “so God created man in his own image, in the image of God, he created him, male and female He created them.” Oh, now we have them. We had let them before, but we didn’t know who they were gonna be, but now we have them. And the essential new information that comes in verse 27 is male and female He created them 

Now that’s very interesting because in all the previous acts of filling, there was no reference to what we now call gender. To what, in the English language, we would previously call the sexes. It wasn’t necessary, but we do know that even in the world of vegetation, their gender still plays a role. You still have pollen, and you have pollination. You still have seeds, and the things that that imply gender, even in the world of vegetation. It would take a botanist, an agronomist to explain that fully, but somewhere in elementary school or junior high school, we learned that even most trees and most vegetation has a gendered identity. We just can’t recognize them very readily. Sometimes they exist in the same plant in one way or another, but when it comes to the, the living creatures, that is the creatures that fill the seas and that fill the skies, and that of course fill the earth in terms of the livestock and the beast of the field and the creeping things, they’re gendered. There’s a male rabbit and a female rabbit. There’s a male grouper and a female grouper. The animal world is filled with that gendered reality. 

So are human beings, but human beings are named in terms of this gendered reality in the image of God who created him. That is humankind, man, male and female He created them. Now, before we go on at all, we should quickly note here that gender is thus a part of the goodness of God’s creation. This is not a result of the fall. This is God’s purpose in perfection from the beginning, male and female. You’ll notice that there is a listing of two. There’s a dichotomy. There is a, there’s a bifurcation of humankind, a differentiation, a specialization that comes down to male and female. In order for human beings to be able to fulfill the mandate God give in terms of filling the earth, it’s going to take the male and the female. This is a part of the goodness of God’s creation. God could have by his sovereign power as creator, he could have assigned asexual reproduction to the things he has made. 

He could have done that for the fish of the sea. He could have done that for the birds of the air. He could have done that for human beings. He did not. A couple things we learned from that before we even rush on from this text. The first thing is that human beings were never made as individual reference. We were never meant to be alone. Now that’s going to be declared in chapter two. It is not good for man to be alone, but the reason we know that it isn’t good for us to be alone is that it’s going to take at least two in order for the human species to survive. It is going to take at least two for the process of filling the earth to continue. It’s going to take at least two, because without both, there is no wholeness. 

There is no picture of the species intact, flourishing, and functioning. It’s going to take both a male and a female. And that’s why in the second chapter of Genesis, we will be told so quickly here in that theological commentary, we’re gonna find in chapter two, on the progression of the days that we are encountering here in chapter one, we’re going to be told that it isn’t good for human beings to be alone. Therefore, we are given the institution of marriage. Therefore, a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife. And they shall be one flesh, husband and wife, not just male and female, but before creation is finished, husband and wife. There are two and only two sexes mentioned here. 

And, and in creation is important that we recognize that it was so. There is no confusion. There is no sin here. Sin manifesting itself later in human experience in grotesque confusions over that, which is so clear here in creation, male and female, it’s very clear. The female is made in the image of God. The male is made in the image of God. More commentary on that will come in chapter two, but equally made in God’s image. They’re not only made for God. They are made for each other. There is a complementarian structure that is built into creation, and there’s no confusion here. Now, after the fall, there will be all kinds of confusion here, never more than in our own day. And the confusions that fill our headlines today are confusions that would’ve astounded people even 20 or 30 years ago. We are living in what in human history must assuredly be the most grotesque and intense period of confusion over that which is so clear here in Genesis chapter one. 

And to that, we will return When we look at the commentary on this text, we find in chapter two. but before leaving the creation of the human creature of man and woman we read, “and God blessed them, and God said to them,” so God is going to speak to his human and creatures. The creature made in his image, the creature consciously able to hear him. And to know that we are being spoken to, he says, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” That’s reproduction. That’s what that’s about now. It’s probably more than that. It’s about filling the earth, not only with babies and with progeny, but filling the earth with cities and buildings, and filling the earth with the things that by human industry is we’re made in God’s image we’re able to do. 

I said that even as we have a body that does not mean that God has a big body. It isn’t that God is a perfected body. He doesn’t have a body, but we actually need a body to be able to fulfill the functions that he has given us. God creates with a word. He says, let there be. And there is, he says, let there be light. And there’s light. God doesn’t need a hand. God doesn’t need an arm. We need them. And we need that even to understand. That’s why that when Israel tells the story of how God brought them out of bondage to Pharaoh in Egypt, he’ll say he brought us out by his mighty hand and his outstretched arm. Well he doesn’t have an arm. And, and that doesn’t mean physically that some giant arm scooped up Israel in captivity. No, it’s metaphorical language. Israel knew it. And we know it because God doesn’t have a hand. God doesn’t have an arm. God doesn’t actually need a hand or an arm to accomplish what he does, but we do. So even though our body is not rich, small, a picture of what God looks like, our body is what our creator gave us to facilitate what he told us to do. 

I was talking to a dad the other day who told me that he was in a little bit of trouble with his wife, and I could tell this was lighthearted. And I said, what? And he said, well, our five-year-old had a birthday, little boy, and I got him not some play tools, but I got him some real tools. Now, it wasn’t a giant toolbox. It was his size, and it was a hammer. And he said now daddy’s gonna teach you how to use this hammer. He said I wanted him to have, even at age five, the feeling of a hammer in his hand. I wanted him to feel the satisfaction in that. And he said, unfortunately, he felt the satisfaction in that in ways that were not fully pleasing to mom, leading to a couple of marks on some furniture, which he declared, he was fixing. When you look at that, and you say it comes real early to us, doesn’t it? The desire to move things around. 

When I was a little boy, my favorite toys were tonka trucks and that was back when they were made outta metal. And I had a complete construction set. I had drag lines and bulldozers and dump trucks, by the way, I still have them. I don’t play with ’em anymore. Let me be that clear. But I still have them. But you know what? I can still remember sitting there in the dirt and making things and just imagining, seeing big people make things. And that was during the time when especially during the space race and then the postwar building boom, you could look everywhere and construction’s taking place. We build things. We make things. There’s an urge within us to do it. And we are told here that that comes right from the order given to us in creation, to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the, of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. 

There’s gonna be more to this of course, but I want to conclude by mentioning to you a story that I had to deal with about two years ago, in terms of some media attention. Had to do with the fact that the zoo and Berlin had decided to make the point, the human beings are just like any other animal, just like any other animal. So, the zoo in Berlin put up a special exhibit and they put human beings behind the cage and they identified the creature as homo sapiens. Man. So the people going through the zoo would walk through the zoo and see those human beings here in this cage, over here, you have orangutans and over here you have tigers. And over here you have lemurs and whatever else. And then the reptile house, you have the reptiles, and then the aviary, you have the birds and here you have human beings, but what made that ludicrous and why did that exhibit fail? 

Not because we’re not interesting to look at. It’s because we know we have to put ourselves in the cage and the zebras did not put human beings in the cage and hammer a sign up front homo sapians Now we’re the only creature who can build the cage and put ourselves in it, which just points to the fact that we really aren’t just like all the rest of the animals after all. And we know it. Genesis one tells us why and shows us God’s glory in it. And there is yet more, a whole lot more to come. Let’s pray. Our Father, we are so thankful that you’ve given us so much in your word, this word, that arrests us and surprises us and tells us what we desperately need to know. Father, our familiarity with this text can sometimes Rob us of the absolute joy of finding in your word that, which is more profound, more clear, more present than many of us would ever have imagined. That’s why we thank you for the privilege of going through this text word by word verse by verse, in order that we would gain from it, what we desperately need to know, not only for our understanding of things past, but our hope of things to come and our responsibility in the future. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.