Commentary by Walter Albritton


September 9, 2007


The Awesome Privilege of Being Created in the Image of God


Genesis 1:26-2:3


Key Verse: Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over . . . [everything] upon the earth. – Genesis 1:26


Genesis is not the first book of the Bible by accident. Its very name explains why it is first. It explains “the beginning” of all things. A book about faith, the Bible tells us that the earth did not “just happen.” God did it. God created the heavens and the earth and all the living creatures that inhabit the earth.

The Bible wastes no words with regard to the theory of evolution. It does not provide a scientific explanation of creation. It simply affirms that the earth exists because God decided to create it. Animals and birds exist because God made them. The sun and the moon occupy their place in space because God put them there.

The Bible explains that the climax of creation was the creation of human beings. (“Humankind” is such a stiff word that I try not to use it.) The language of the biblical story throws us a curve at this point. The plural words “us” and “our” are used when God spoke saying, “Let us make human beings in our image. . . . “

We need not stumble over this plural concept. The best explanation is that God is here referring to the Trinity. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each is a Person. Each shared in the creation of the universe. All three Persons are God. God is One God while at the same time three Persons in One.  Reginald Heber summed it up perfectly in his familiar hymn, “Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty, God in three persons, blessed Trinity.”

Actually the Trinitarian nature of God is wonderful news. His very nature speaks of fellowship. God created human beings so that he could have a relationship with them, a relationship of love like that of a father with his children. That humans bear God’s image or likeness suggests the purpose for which they are created – to enjoy fellowship with their Creator now and for all eternity.

Some people dismiss the idea that God created men and women so they could serve him by having dominion over everything on the earth. Such skeptics are content to believe that apes are the ancestors of human beings. An anonymous poet, in a poem titled “Darwin’s Mistake,” invites these skeptics to think again:  

Three monkeys sat in a coconut tree
Discussing things as they're said to be;
Said one to the others "Now listen, you two;
There's a certain rumor that can't be true,
That man descended from our noble race.
That very idea is a disgrace.
No Monkey ever deserted his wife
Starved her babies or ruined her life,
And another thing you will never see
A monkey build a fence around a coconut tree
And let the coconuts go to waste,
Forbidding all other monkeys to taste.
Here's another thing a monkey won't do,
Go out at night and get on a stew,
And use a gun or club or knife
To take some other monkey's life.
Yes, man descended, the onery cuss--
But, brother, he didn't descend from us.


          The Bible invites us to embrace the conviction that God has a special plan for his special creation. In the beginning we were given a special assignment: be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth, and have dominion over it.  Human beings were created to know God, to serve God as responsible stewards of the earth, and to love God as our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer.

My friend and author Ben C. Johnson taught me to see myself (and other people) as a unique, unrepeatable miracle of God. To think this way gives dignity and meaning to our lives. To fail to think this way is to insult our Maker. Of course we should go a step further and see every person as someone of sacred worth and very special to God.

So here we are – alive and in the world – for awhile. We can use and abuse the earth or we can care for it wisely so that it may be even more useful to future generations. We can live as we choose – to satisfy our desires and the lusts of the flesh. Or we can choose to be accountable to God for the gifts he has given us and live as responsible stewards.

We can learn to love God, love other people, and enjoy rich fellowship as fellow believers with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We can give thanks for the awesome privilege of having been created in the image of God. We can do our best to live so that our lives will reflect the likeness of our Creator.

For years people said that I looked very much like my father. Now people say my sons look like me. That is not really surprising – that children resemble their parents. Neither should it be surprising that we should “bear the resemblance” of the God who made us. From the beginning it has been God’s plan that his children reflect his character. Surely that is what Saint Paul meant when he said, “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children” (Ephesians 5:1).

God willing, we may be able to convince the three monkeys in that coconut tree to take another look at what it means to be a human being with a divine mission in the world.

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