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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:God created us
Text:Genesis 1:26-27 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God and our Creation
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-01-30
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 81:1-3, 6-7

Psalm 6:1-3 (after the law)

Psalm 8:1-2

Psalm 8:3-5

Hymn 74

Scripture reading: Genesis 1

Text:  Genesis 1:26-27

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ,

This morning we’re in the first chapter of Genesis and looking at creation.  Specifically, we’re looking at a Bible text that speaks about the creation of the human race.  This passage answers the question:  where did we come from?  Of course, there are all kinds of different answers to that question.  And the answers that people give make a huge difference to how you live your life.  It’s one of the most important questions out there:  where did we come from? 

Today many people believe that the human race evolved from lower life forms through natural selection.  Those lower life forms in turn evolved from even simpler single-celled life forms.  Going back millions of years, they say that there was a point at which dead stuff in the universe somehow became living stuff.  But in this way of looking at the world, God is not necessary.  If there is a God, he is not the Creator. 

Like I said, this way of looking at the world has consequences for how you live.  If you’re going to hold this view consistently, you have to accept that human beings are just animals.  We might be more intelligent and creative than monkeys and pigs, but we have no more inherent worth.  Monkeys, pigs, humans -- we are all just bags of chemicals that have evolved.  Other than self-interest, what reason would you have for treating other people with respect and dignity?  And what about death?  If all we are is our bodies, just bags of chemicals, what happens after we die?  Most people would just say, “That’s it.  You die.  The end.  You only live on in the memories of your loved ones.”  Since this world is all there is, you may as well live it up now while you can.  And another question:  what about justice?  Is there ultimate justice for serial killers, child abusers, and genocidal dictators?  In that evolutionary worldview, the answer is no.  Everybody dies and that’s it, there’s nothing after that.  The only justice you might get is the justice you find in this world.  There is no accountability afterwards, no judgment, no consequences.  “No heaven, no hell, above us only sky” – that’s what they want to imagine.

The biblical worldview, the biblical way of looking at the world, is completely different.  What we find here in Genesis 1 is foundational to that worldview.  What we have in Genesis 1:26-27 speaks about the creation of the human race.  In speaking about our creation, it also provides us with some of the key things we need to know about who we are and why we were placed on this earth.  That biblical worldview is not just something to inform your mind, but it transforms your life.  Just like people who believe the evolutionary story have a particular outcome in their lives, so Christians who believe in creation also have it shape their lives.  In this sermon, we’ll see how.  So I preach to you God’s inerrant Word from Genesis 1:26-27.  This passage teaches that God created us.

We’ll see that this means three things.  We are:

  1. Made in God’s image
  2. Mandated with dominion
  3. Male and female 

I trust that most of us are familiar with the six days of creation, at least in general outline.  For our purposes, the important thing to realize is that God left the best for last.  He first created the universe, then he created the environment for life to flourish.  Then God created life.  On the fifth day, he created the creatures of the sea and the birds.  On the sixth day of creation, he turned his attention to the land animals.  He created livestock, the beasts of the earth, and creeping things.  In today’s terms, we would say that God created mammals, reptiles, and insects.  Then notice what he says in verse 25.  He says what he says about what he created on all the other days:  it was good. 

But God was not finished with his creation.  He still wanted to create the pinnacle of his creation – his masterpiece.  That’s what is described in verses 26 and 27.  Now I should point out that Moses wrote this account.  And Moses just briefly describes the creation of humanity in chapter 1.  Then he comes back to a more detailed look at this in chapter 2.  Chapter 2 says more about the creation of Adam, the creation of Eve, and how God brought them together at the first wedding ceremony in the history of the world.  You could say that chapter 1 is just the introduction, and it’s set within the context of what happened on the other days of creation. 

To begin, let’s just zoom out and look at Genesis 1:26-27 in broad terms.  Verse 26 reveals God planning and deciding what he would do with the creation of man.  I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this, but notice that God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”  That reminds us of the Trinity.  The Belgic Confession puts it well in article 9 when it says that from these words “it appears that there are more divine persons than one; and when he says God created, he indicates that there is one God.  It is true, he does not say how many persons there are, but what seems to be somewhat obscure in the Old Testament is very plain in the New Testament.”  So the plural here in verse 26 is pointing us to the nature of God as Triune.  Between the persons of the Trinity, there was the planning and making of this decision to create human beings.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were together involved in taking counsel to do this.

Verse 27 is about the carrying out of the plan.  The Triune God made the plan, and then executed it.  Man was created in God’s image.  Man was created as male and female.  As I mentioned a moment ago, the details of how God did that are left for chapter 2.  Here it’s just put forward as a truth of history:  God created human beings, he made our race on the sixth day of creation.

Now we can zoom in on three particular points stressed in our text.  The first is a truth mentioned not just once, but three times in verses 26 and 27.  Man was made in God’s image.  This is obviously being emphasized by the Holy Spirit through Moses.

Throughout the history of the church, there have been various understandings of what it means for human beings to be the image of God.  I’m not going to survey them all with you.  Instead, we can note that at a bare minimum this means that humanity reflects God and that sets humanity apart from the other creatures.  When Adam and Eve were created, they mirrored God in certain key ways.  They did not mirror God in every way.  For example, it’s quite obvious that God is infinite.  He is not subject to time.  He has no beginning and no end.  The man and woman, like all of us, come into existence at a certain point.  For another example, God is omnipresent.  God can be everywhere at the same time.  He fills heaven and earth.  But human beings are limited to being in one place at one time.  So we do not reflect God in his infinity or eternal nature, or in his omnipresence.  Other examples could be added. 

But we do reflect God in other ways, important ways.  Adam and Eve were created as moral beings – they could reflect God’s righteousness and holiness.  They were created as relational beings – they could have rich and meaningful relationships with God and with other human beings.  In those relationships, human beings can communicate in ways that animals can’t.  Human beings are created with the capacity for creativity.  Unlike animals, we can create art, music, drama, literature, and so on.  We consciously make cultural products that are beautiful.  Being created in the image of God is a rich and multi-faceted part of what makes being a human being remarkable.  It sets us apart.

Humanity reflects God as the image of God, but it also represents God.  As Psalm 8 puts it, human beings have been crowned with glory and honour.  God has put humanity on this earth as his royal representatives.  We are to rule over this earth in his place.  You could say that while God is the king, we are his princes and princesses.  An older term you’ll sometimes hear is vice-regent.  Australia has a queen:  Queen Elizabeth II.  But she doesn’t live in Australia.  She has a representative over her in her place.  That’s the Governor General, Sir Peter Cosgrove.  He represents the queen.  In the same way, here on earth we represent God.  That’s a highly exalted position – that’s something that sets us apart from the other creatures.

Sadly, something happened to the image of God in our race.  When you get to Genesis 3, you find the sad story of the fall into sin.  Adam and Eve didn’t cherish their high position, but reached up for something more.  In the process, they fell hard.  They vandalized the image of God.  Ever since then, the image of God has been marred by sin on this earth.  The image of God is still there in human beings -- it has not been altogether lost.  You can think of how Genesis 9 speaks of capital punishment for murder because, even after the fall, man is still God’s image.  But that image has been damaged.  If we think of it as a mirror, it’s a mirror with cracks in it.  It still gives a reflection, but it’s distorted and doesn’t quite work the way it should. 

Thankfully, in the gospel God has done something about this.  He sent his Son Jesus to take on our human nature.  The Son of God became one of us to suffer and die for us, to pay for our sins.  In so doing, he has also begun to restore us to God’s design for us to be his image.  After his death on the cross and after his resurrection and ascension, Christ poured out his Spirit on his people.  The Holy Spirit is the one who lives in us and enables us to again begin fully reflecting and representing God on this earth.  As part of that, we’re called to learn from what it means that our human race was created in God’s image.  God wants his Christian image-bearers to read his Word about this and let it shape their lives.  Let me mention three ways. 

First, we have to recognize that other human beings around us are the image of God, even if it is spoiled or vandalized.  God’s purpose for them is his purpose from the beginning:  that they reflect him and represent him.  They’re only going to begin doing that properly through the gospel, through repentance and faith in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Seeing the image of God in other people means that we recognize their worth and the fact that God had a design for all human beings from the beginning, to reflect him and glorify him.  So seeing the image of God in others means that we’re motivated to share the gospel hope with them.  The image of God connects to our evangelism. 

It also connects to relationships in other ways.  Other human beings around us are the image of God and therefore to be treated with dignity and respect.  James works this out in chapter 3.  He applies it specifically to the tongue.  With the tongue, “we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.”  That’s James 3:9.  The implication is clear:  when you curse people, anyone, you are cursing God.  When you bad mouth a human being, you are attacking God whose image that person bears.  Instead, Christians being fully restored to the image of God by Christ’s Spirit are to use their tongues to treat all people with respect and honour.  Treat them as the image of God.

Last of all, we should also think about how the image of God relates to the problem of pornography.  How does pornography treat human beings?  It turns them into sexual objects.  It takes human beings and turns them into means to an end.  It dehumanizes men and women, degrades them.  Pornography is not about the worth and dignity of human beings, it’s not about the image of God.  Instead, it’s a satanic attack on the image of God.  As Christians, we have to see this for what it is.  All human beings were created for more and better:  to reflect God and represent him to his glory.  Therefore, we have to realize that pornography is something to be resisted by us personally, repented of if necessary, and seen as a great evil, a plague on society.  Just like gossip and slander are attacks on God’s image in us, so is pornography.

God created man in his image and that also ties into the mandate to have dominion.  The two are closely connected.  After all, being God’s image means being his ruling representative.  Dominion is all about ruling.  There are a few things we can note from our text. 

We can note that the dominion assigned to man is comprehensive.  Moses is careful to outline that human beings are to have dominion over all the other creatures of the earth.  There are no exceptions.  All creatures are under us.  This is how God designed it. 

Second, we should note who it was that assigned this dominion.  It was God.  God is righteous, good, and wise.  Human beings are called to reflect his righteousness, goodness, and wisdom in how they carry out their dominion mandate.  There is the fall into sin and after that comes the temptation to abuse this mandate.  After Eden, there is the draw to treat the other creatures and our environment (which are all connected) with callous disregard.  But if God is good (and he is), then we are called to reflect his image in our dealings with creation.      

Again we can think of the redemption brought by Christ.  In both Romans and Colossians, the Holy Spirit tells us that Christ’s redemption has a cosmic aspect.  Not just man, but the whole creation has been affected by the fall into sin.  Christ was involved with that creation at the beginning, and his salvation includes the eventual renewal of all creation.  That’s why Romans 8 speaks of the creation waiting with eager longing for “the revealing of the sons of God.”  That’s why Colossians 1 speaks of Christ reconciling to himself all things through the blood of the cross.  The whole creation is affected by sin, but it will be renewed by the same Saviour who has redeemed us.  In other words, Jesus has an interest in more in this created world than just us human beings.  He also cares about the animals and the environment.  And if we’re united to him through faith and the Spirit, we’re to do the same.  Our lives and cares are to look like his. 

Let me say something here directly to our children.  Kids:  if you say you’re a Christian, then you have to treat animals with respect, all of them all of the time.  You can’t kill them just because it’s fun, just because you can.  You certainly can’t torture them, making them hurt just because you think it’s funny.  No, if God has entrusted these animals to us, we’re to take care of them.  Sure, we can still go hunting – for pest-control or to put some meat in the freezer, but we don’t kill animals just for fun.  We take care of them.

For all of us, as Christians we should not only be good students of the natural world, learning what we can from nature so that we can glorify God for what we see.  We also need to be good stewards of the natural world.  A steward is a representative and manager.  He or she is entrusted with the care of something.  God has entrusted us with the care of this world – the fish, animals, birds, as well as the earth itself.  Christians should be the best environmentalists, careful about managing this world.  Put that into practice.  It’s simple things like:  don’t throw your rubbish on the beach or in the water, or out of your car.  We don’t worship the environment like some greenies might, but we do worship God and we understand that he’s mandated us to responsible dominion over the environment.  Take care of it.

Last of all, our text reminds us that God created humanity male and female.  That becomes apparent from the next chapter as well when we meet Adam and later Eve.  From the beginning, God created the human race with two genders, two sexes.  Male and female was God’s design and purpose.  This design existed with the other creatures and was then carried over also to humanity. 

It’s more important now than ever that we understand this part of the biblical worldview.  In the biblical worldview, there are two genders.  It’s plain and simple, black and white.  It’s not only in Genesis 1 and 2.  It’s also in the New Testament.  Jesus said in Matthew 19:4, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?”  Our Lord was referring to Genesis 1:27.  He believed it.  We believe it.  It’s the Word of God.  It’s the Word of the one who created us.  We have to take him at his Word.

We live in a world today where these things are increasingly rejected.  The world tells us that there are far more genders than male and female.  We hear of men who feel like they’re women trapped in a man’s body, or the other way around.  They sometimes get gender reassignment surgery so that their body matches how they feel about themselves.  This is the whole transgender issue that we’re faced with in our world today.  As Christians, we have to know where we stand on this.  We have to stand on the Bible and what it teaches us.  We have to understand clearly the difference between what the Bible says and what the world says. 

The world teaches us that we are identified by our sexual desires or preferences.  Our sexual desires and preferences form our identity.  An important part of who you are, maybe even the most important part, is your sexual desires and feelings.  Loved ones, do you see that?  Do you see how the world reduces us to that?  The world knows nothing of God the Creator.  The world has elevated sex into idolatry.  Sex is god.  Sex is everything.  So, you are your sexuality, you are your desires and feelings.  You are gay, you are lesbian, you are hetero, you are trans, whatever else.  And those feelings have to be validated, no matter what.  These days there are no or very few wrong sexual desires.  Your sexual desires define you and they are what they are, just right for you and nobody should judge you.  It’s all about sexuality and that’s what you get reduced to.  It’s a vain and shallow way of thinking about our humanity, but it’s also dead set against what the Bible teaches.

The Bible teaches that we were created in the image of God.  That, in the first place, defines us.  It defines all of us as human beings, whether Christians or not.  It’s not our feelings and desires that establish our identity, but first of all that we are God’s image.  We were designed to reflect him, to represent him, to glorify him, to desire him, to enjoy him.  We were created to be pointed outward and upward, not obsessed with the inward.

The Bible teaches that when God created our human race, he created two sexes.  Those two sexes are two genders – the Bible makes no distinction between those two.  The Bible does not say that your gender is defined by how you feel about yourself.  Instead, you are born a male or you are born a female, and you live your life as a male or a female.  That is the norm – the way it was established at the beginning. 

The Bible teaches that something disastrous happened to the human race in the Garden of Eden.  Adam and Eve rebelled against God and brought sin into the human story.  The Bible teaches us that we should never underestimate the extent to which sin has polluted our race.  It infects and affects everything, including our desires.  After the fall, men and women have sinful desires.  They desire to have someone else’s possessions.  Greed is a sin.  They desire to take someone’s life.  Murderous rage is a sin.  They have wrong sexual desires.  They desire to have sexual relations with someone to whom they’re not married.  Fornicating or adulterous desires are sinful.  As Christians we recognize that there are all kinds of good desires and evil desires.  When you are born a man, and you desire to dress up like a woman and even have surgery to make yourself a woman, the Bible teaches that this is a wrong desire.  God made you one way, but you desire to be another.  Just like with all other wrong desires that desire has to be seen for what it is and dealt with accordingly.  If a Christian has such a desire, he or she has to fight it, just like we fight all evil desires.  The one thing we cannot do is say that these desires just are, that they’re not wrong, they just exist and have to be accepted.  We can’t say that.  These desires are because of the fall into sin.  They are wrong

However, and this is important:  like with all wrong desires, there is a gracious God ready to forgive through Christ.  When we come to him with repentance, hating our sin and wanting to fight it, when we ask him to forgive us because of Jesus, we will be forgiven.  Having transgender desires is not an unforgivable sin, neither is acting on those desires.  Like all other sins, these things can be forgiven through Jesus. 

Now I should say one more thing about what the Bible teaches on this topic.  The fall into sin also brought all kinds of disease and bodily dysfunctions into this world.  The fall into sin brought birth defects into this world.  This past week there was a news story about a Belgian model who came forward and revealed that she is neither male nor female.  This is what is called intersex.  Sometimes babies are born with an ambiguous gender.  The statistics on the frequency and severity of this vary.  But it does happen and as Christians we have to reckon with that as well.  What do we say about someone born with a birth defect that’s left them with an ambiguous gender?  Again, we admit that it happens and why it happens.  Even Jesus in Matthew 19 spoke of those who had been born eunuchs, born with a sexual birth defect.  It happens because this world has been wrecked by sin.  And what about the identity of such a person?  Again, people are not to be reduced to their sexuality, as if that’s all there is to them.  We have to remember our primary identity is always as the image of God, and that applies to the intersex person, as well as to the person born clearly as male or female.  Such a person is no less valuable, worthy of dignity and respect.  Such a person can be redeemed by Jesus Christ.  Believing in Jesus Christ, such a person will be made whole, restored with a glorified body at the resurrection.  Through Christ, we have hope to offer such people.            

Loved ones, the world around us is going to continue challenging the truth about who we are as human beings, where we came from, and whether we can define ourselves.  The Creator has revealed the truth to us in his unerring Word.  You have to see that there’s a choice to be made:  do you accept the world’s version of who we are as human beings, or do you accept the Creator’s version given in the Bible?  You can’t accept both.  May God graciously help each one of us to hold steadfastly only to what God says.  AMEN. 

PRAYER:

O God our Father and Creator,

When you made our first parents Adam and Eve, you did an amazing thing.  They were the pinnacle of your creation.  We worship you for your wisdom and creativity.  You made us in your image to reflect you and represent you.  We want to do that, but we confess how often we fail.  Through Christ, we pray to you for forgiveness.  We thank you for the Saviour who took on our human flesh to restore us in being your image.  Please help us with your Holy Spirit so that we grow in mirroring you.  We pray for help too in taking care of this world.  Help us to reflect our Saviour’s concern for the created world.  And Father, we also lay before you the challenges we face concerning gender in our day.  There’s so much pressure from the world.  Please give us more grace so that we stand firm on your Word, so that we still call sin what it is, but also so that we hold out grace in Jesus to those who have been rebelling against you.  If there’s anyone in our congregation struggling with their gender, we pray for you to show your mercy.  We pray for you to help them in that struggle with your Spirit.  Help them to find peace in being who you’ve created them to be.  Father, please help us to resist not only the sinful world around us, but also the sinful desires in our own hearts.   




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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