Monthly Archives: January 2016

Moral Image

Studies in Genesis 1

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. (Genesis 1:26 ESV)

People are conscious of their surroundings and themselves, capable of knowing their own thoughts and remembering with detail their experiences. But, people also have a conscience, knowing the difference between right and wrong, or between what is good and what is not good. Each person has a moral compass and this moral knowing is integral to the image of God given.

God uses the word “good” seven times in the first chapter of Genesis. He declared what He had done, what He created, as “good,” fulfilling His standard of excellence. Before He began shaping the universe out of the material He initially created, He formed “light” and separated from it, darkness. Physical light is a type of moving energy necessary for life. Darkness is the absence of light and is detrimental to life. God created both darkness and light and by implication determined darkness not good when He judged, or declared light, “good.”

God has an objective standard for “good.” This standard is based upon Himself and His eternal characteristics. There is no other creative force in the universe.  When He created all things and began shaping all things, He designed the universe and all in it with function and purpose. By declaring what He created “good” He declared His created design and purpose fulfilled His eternal intentions.

Part of the image of God in Man is the ability to consciously know the difference between right and wrong and to know what is good. Man cannot create in the same sense God created but Man can make and fashion objects with specific function and purpose. Man’s standard of excellence is not found in himself but in God. With the image of God embedded in people they will know when what they have done is good and meets God’s rule of excellence.

God’s image in Man gives everyone the tools needed to know what is morally good and excellent. As created by God, people are also given the absolute ability to fulfill their created function and purpose in a righteous and holy manner. Yet, as we will discover, because of sin none do or want to do that which is righteous.

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Intelligence

Studies in Genesis 1

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. (Genesis 1:26 ESV)

Creation is not haphazard or random, but detailed, complicated and purposeful. There are reasons why the term Intelligent Design is taking hold of the scientific and philosophical academic worlds. As we become more technologically advanced it becomes harder to ignore the evidence of intelligence behind the design of nature.

Considering the suggested age of the universe, the age of the Earth, the fossil record of the Earth and the huge variety of animal and plant life, the probability such diverse life occurring by mere chance is absurdly miniscule. All life arising from the primordial soup is close to impossible because of the presence of innumerable variations of DNA. Each life form has its own computer program, called DNA, written by an Intelligent Designer, not by random, uncontrolled mishaps of nature.

Man is intelligent. Intelligence is a marker of the image of God. Intelligence is the ability to comprehend ideas or concepts perceived through observation of the immediate world and the ability to communicate those ideas and concepts to others. It is thinking, understanding, knowledge, comprehension of every facet of life encountered. Limited intelligence is found in the lower animals through instinct and learned behavior. However, the ability to comprehend and think through the ramifications of a new experience is not an ability given any other Earth-bound creature.

With intelligence comes the ability to ascertain truth and believe what the evidence suggests or advocates as truth. Since Man is not omniscient, but limited by space and time, we must examine the evidence of history or the past to determine what truly happened. We do not have all of the evidence. We do not have the option of manufacturing evidence. We do have the limitation of possibly misinterpreting the evidence until more evidence is discovered which may demand we change our understanding. Truth is not constrained by the evidence, changing with each person or each interpretation. Truth is never changed by perception.

Thus, Man is given the ability to know God intellectually though examination of himself and of Creation. Man also has the ability to understand and know that which God reveals about Himself. Given this ability means Man is designed, as part of the physical function and eternal essence, to discover more and more about the universe, the Earth, himself and the God who created everything.

Observations About God

Studies in Genesis 1

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. (Genesis 1:26 ESV)

Here are a few observations about God gleaned from Genesis 1, supported by the rest of Scripture. We will look at these characteristics of God individually in the future. For now, these characteristics will help us understand the image of God given Man. His image is not an exact representation but enough of a likeness for us to recognize God’s character in Man.

God is eternal. He is not created but is the Creator. He was before the beginning and will continue to exist after the ending. God is self-existent.

Man is created in the likeness and the image of God. Man is not and eternal being in the same way as God but created, coming into existence by divine fiat. Though Man has a beginning he does not have an ending. Where space and time will cease to exist, Man will continue to exist in eternity.

God is spirit. He is not physical, nor is He constrained by space and time. As the Creator He created space and all matter and brought into existence time and history.

Man is physical yet has a spirit. Not the motivation or drive we call spirit but the breath of life given by God as part of Man’s eternal character. Though the physical body will cease to exist the spiritual man will continue to exist in eternity.

God is transcendent. God can move into the created, physical universe and out again at His will because He has supereminence.

Man is bound by the constraints of the physical universe. His existence, while in the universe, means he cannot move out of the universe. He is bound by the physical and natural laws of creation. Yet, once again, Man will move from the physical universe into eternity at the will of God.

God is omnipotent, all powerful, placing every atom where He wants to accomplish what He wants. He created all matter out of nothing, ex nihilo. He then created all things out of created material.

Man’s power is limited and comes in conjunction with all of the characteristics of the given image of God. Man cannot create but can make. Man is capable of making that which serves him out of existing material.

God is omniscient. From the beginning He knows the direction and purpose of what is created. He knows all things. He knows Himself.

Man is conscious, aware of his surroundings and capable of discerning purpose and function through observation and experimentation. Man is able to grow in his knowledge of God but never completely know his Creator.

God is omnipresent. He exists outside of creation but is throughout His creation, distinct yet present.

Man is present and makes his presence known through his works. God placed Man on the Earth He created for Man. Everything God did in the universe and on the Earth was designed for Man.

God is sovereign. All of creation comes under His authority and is owned by Him. He is owned by no one and directed by nothing.

Man is given limited control over the Earth and life on Earth, which is part of the environment of God’s creation given for him. Man cannot suspend or override the natural laws of the universe. This is a prerogative of God, the Creator.

These are only some of the characteristics of God and comprise a foundation for understanding the image of God given Man. They are not part of but are necessary to the image of God given Man.

“Why?”

Studies in Genesis 1

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. (Genesis 1:26 ESV)

We want to ask why God does what He does. Why did He create the heavens and the earth? Why did He allow darkness yet then create light? Why did e create in an order which does not seem logical to us? We can surmise many of the answers to how and when but the “why” is hidden in the eternal being of God.

Why did God create man “in His image”? No other creature has His image. All of creation bares the marks of the Creator, the evidence of His work as the ultimate Creator. We can begin to discover what the image of God is, and how it works, what it does, but we cannot know “why” Man has the image of God and not others in His creation. “Why” is not something we have to know.

Knowing how something works and why it works the way it does gives control to the one who knows. God knows all things about all things and, as the Creator, has ultimate and complete control. He cannot, by His nature, be out of control, or lose control of anything He has created, which is everything in existence, whether seen or unseen, physical and temporary or spiritual and eternal.

Actually, we can know “why” God created man in His image. But God has to tell us the answer. He has to reveal His will and reasons. His “why” cannot be known through observation of the evidence of the physical world and universe.  His “why” cannot be known through meditation or psychoanalysis or by any level of thinking or feeling or acting. He reveals to us why He created us in His image through the special revelation of His Spirit through His Word. Still, we must be willing to accept His reasons.

He does not tell us His reasons in Genesis as He creates Man in His image. He hints at why throughout the Hebrew Scripture, which we call the Old Testament. These hints explicitly point toward the absolute revelation of His will in the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.

For now, we are going to put the question “why” to the side and seek to discover “what” the image of God is which He gave to Man. We will use all of Scripture but begin with observations from the first chapter of Genesis.

Imago Dei

Studies in Genesis 1

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. (Genesis 1:26 ESV)

There are not three Gods. There is One God who eternally exists in three Persons. He is Trinity—God, the Father and God, the Son and God, the Holy Spirit.

God tells us in Genesis 1:2 His Spirit moved over creation. David acknowledges that neither he, nor anyone else, can flee from His Spirit. Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!” (Psalms 139:7-8 ESV). After Jesus ascends He sends His Spirit, as He said He would in John 14 and 16.

Concerning God, the Son, John tells us, in John 1:1-3, that Jesus was with God in the beginning and He made everything that exists. Paul, in Philippians 2:6-7 gives perhaps the most concise declaration of the divine Person of Christ.

Though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form… (Philippians 2:6-8 ESV)

In Genesis 1:26 the word used for “image” means a shade, or phantom, a resemblance or representative figure. It is used to describe idols of a false god meant to represent the Only God. Thus, “image” is a shallow depiction or copy if that which is real and true. Yet, God also uses the word “likeness” which can also mean resemblance but carries the idea of shape or model. This is the only place in Scripture where these tw words are used to describe Man. God created Man in His image and likeness, making him a physical representation of God, with those qualities necessary to represent God’s being. He did this so He would have an intimate relationship with Man. Yet, God is spiritual and eternal, not physical and temporary.

There are several words used in Philippians 2:6-7 to describe and define Jesus. He has the “form” of “God” and of a “servant” and in the “likeness” of men. “Form” is a philosophical word, morphe, which means the nature of a thing, or that which makes something what it is. “Likeness” is the word homoioma, which depicts the true appearance or shape of a thing. Paul also uses the word schema, in verse 8, to describe the internal and external makeup of Jesus as human. Jesus was human in the truest sense. “God,” theos, means God, and there is only One. “Servant” means someone or thing under subjection to another, either voluntarily or involuntarily, either a slave or a bond-servant.

Jesus has the eternal and essential qualities and characteristics which are only God’s. Jesus has the eternal and essential qualities and characteristic which makes a servant, a servant.  He also had the true biological and psychological makeup of a human man.

Jesus is truly the Servant God come to represent Man because He was a man. Jesus is man the way God intended Man, as the Second Adam (see Romans 5:12-21) while being God the Creator of all whether seen or unseen, known or unknown.

It is in His image and likeness Man is created.

 

Pluralis Majestatis

Studies in Genesis 1

And God saw that it was good. 

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. (Genesis 1:25-26 ESV)

Though God declares what He has created thus far on day six “good” He is not finished. All is created except for His highest creation. All is in place and ready for the penultimate creation. He will now create Man. Scripture, history and hindsight tells us Man is His highest creation. But, Man’s recreation after the fall into sin and separation from God, the reconciliation of a broken relationship, is His ultimate act of creation.

“Let us make.” To whom is He speaking? Has there been another present during creation, helping Him accomplish that which He determined? His words are plural, referring to more than one. Is there more than one god?

Scripture is adamant there is only One God. “I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God” (Isaiah 45:5 ESV). Is He speaking about angels? Angels have had no input into creation and are themselves created. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (Colossians 1:16 ESV). Is He speaking about the animals, birds and fish? This is absurd. That which is life created cannot create life. Like the created angels, creating life is completely outside their created nature.

God must be speaking to and about Himself. Is this then the “royal we,” the pluralis majestatis, where He is both the subject of the declaration and the object of the declarations purpose. If this is true at its most basic level then the phrase is hollow and does not follow the tenor of what He has been saying and doing. He would have said “I will make” not “let us make.”

God is speaking to Himself. He is a Trinity, one God in three divine persons. Nowhere in Scripture is the term “Trinity” used for God. Yet, throughout Scripture God reveals the truth of Himself as Three in One. Nor is this doctrine an Old Testament teaching. Genesis 1 looks forward to the incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2 ESV).

“Let us make” tells us the full being of God is wholly involved in all of creation and especially the creation, and ultimately the recreation, of Man.