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Man in Dominion

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I don’t know if you experienced this when you were growing up, but I had several childhood rivals. My pride is so ingrained that I would categorize the people in my life. There were the cool kids, the ones that I wanted to be like and wanted to like me, so I would do whatever was necessary to please them and win their “friendship.” There were the insignificant kids, that I just ignored pretending like they didn’t exist because no one else paid attention to them either, and then there were the rivals. These were the kids whom I had determined were not worthy of being liked by anyone because the people that I wanted to pay attention to me also paid attention to them. I wanted the cool kids to like me, not them, so I would do whatever I could to discredit and dismiss these rivals. There was one kid named Dan that I had determined was the worst of all of them. He definitely wasn’t cool, but somehow was able to connect with the cool kids, so every chance I got, I used to show how much better I was than him. We even got sent to the principles office once for fighting (he punched me because I was holding his jersey in a game of flag football). When it came to Dan, I was convinced that I was better than him, and that I needed to prove it. Unfortunately, I still have times where these kinds of attitudes plague my thinking.
As we have walked through the creation week narrative in , we have seen the glory and majesty of God on full display as God spoke and created all that is. Through the creation of light, sky, earth, seas, plants, sources of light, fish, birds, and animals, God has shown His omnipotence, His sovereignty, His benevolence, and His transcendence. But the creation week turns slightly in the middle of day six. It isn’t that God becomes a spectator or unimportant to the narrative, but the focus turns more toward what He creates on day six than on any other day as God creates humanity.
The special creation of humanity is emphasized by God dignifying humanity in a way that He didn’t do with the rest of creation, as God turns our attention to this day of the week. Do you notice that the commentary on the various days of creation gets longer with each passing day? Day one is the shortest commentary, and the descriptions grow as the week moves on, emphasizing that day six was a special day in the creation week. When we see this special focus on humanity, we are forced to ask why God would focus on humanity as He does. And I believe the answer comes right away in v26, God created humanity in His image. When I act like I did toward Dan and those like him, I was rejecting them as divine image bearers. But God dignifies all of humanity by creating us in His image; therefore, we must dignify humanity as well. That is the point of .

God created humanity in His image; therefore, we must dignify humanity

How? When we consider the events surrounding the creation of humanity, we see four recognitions that are necessary to dignify humanity

Recognize humanity’s unique creation (v26-27)

I’ve already alluded to humanity’s unique creation but we can see it in more detail in v26.
Genesis 1:26–27 NASB95
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Genesis 1:26 NASB95
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
There are two aspects of our creation that bring out this uniqueness:
There are two aspects of our creation that bring out this uniqueness:
First, notice that God speaks to Himself. This is a stark change from previous verses where we can see a distinct pattern: Then God said, “Let there be . . . something.” After having read the account for each day starting off with, “Then God said, ‘Let there be,’” we expect that here, and yet the wording changes. Instead of speaking to creation or what He is creating, God speaks to Himself here. He says, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.”
This contrast is emphatic. God is making a point by changing the words to draw attention to what He is doing next: the creation of humanity.
In addition to this, we note that God creates in His image. This further emphasizes the uniqueness of humanity’s creation, for no other aspect of creation is connected so closely to its divine Creator. But what does this mean, that humanity was created in the image of God?
Let me first note that the two phrases here are appositional, that is, the second phrase is explaining the first, they are not saying two different things: “According to Our likeness” rewords “In our image” to clarify its meaning. So we aren’t dealing with two different ideas here, just the one.
Concerning the meaning, the phrase is undefined in , so we must look elsewhere for assistance in understanding. The absence of this phrase anywhere else in the creation week indicates that this is a category in which only humanity belongs. Animals are never said to be made in the image of God nor are angels. However, in looking elsewhere in Scripture we find that this concept is exceedingly rare. There are only a couple of other passage that mention humanity being in God’s image, which explains why theories on its meaning are frequently debated.
The most significant passage is . In as Paul talks about the reasoning behind women needing a sign of authority in worship, He connects the idea of image to God’s glory in v7
1 Corinthians 11:7 NASB95
For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.
But what does this mean that humanity is the image and glory of God? Perhaps the best explanation we can give is that humanity was created to represent God in His glory here on earth. This ties into the old catechism answer to the question, “What is the chief end of man?” “To glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Humanity was made to glorify God in a way that the rest of creation cannot, and we can gain more insight into this when we consider that Christ is said to be the image of God.
is the first place we run into this idea. There Paul explains that Satan blinds the eyes of many so that they miss the gospel message. He goes on to call the gospel, “the gospel of the glory of Christ,” and he mentions as well that Christ is “the image of God.” So instead of emphasizing that all of humanity is made in the image of God; here we see that Christ is the image of God.
2 Corinthians 4:4 NASB95
in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
This same idea is repeated in . There Paul begins his great Christological hymn of praise by saying . . .
Colossians 1:15 NASB95
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
We can also see the same concept in , which says that Christ is the “radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature.”
Both and connect the idea of image of God in Christ to glory, which further emphasizes the relationship between image and glory in us.
Hebrews 1:3 NASB95
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,
Hebrews 1:3–4 NASB95
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much better than the angels, as He has inherited a more excellent name than they.
Now what are we to make of all this? Perhaps most significantly, we must admit that Scripture is vague on what the image of God in humanity is. While we must definitely affirm the truth of it, we can allow for variance on the issue as long as it is clear that the image of God is what makes humanity a unique part of creation. I would also assert that God intended us to represent Him in a similar way that Christ ended up doing. Christ is the quintessential human. When we failed to glorify God in bearing His image, Christ came being the exact representation of His nature. We can also say that the connection of image and glory in the New Testament helps us in some way recognize that at least some aspect of the image bearing that we do as humans ought to draw attention to the God who made us.
Let me also note that there is one other passage where the image of God in humanity is evoked. We’ll come to it again here in our Origins series, but it bears mentioning now as well.
Genesis 9:6 NASB95
“Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man.
The fact that humanity is created in God’s image means that there is an inherent dignity in all humans that God regards as extremely important. Murder is a sin against God’s image; it destroys an image bearer. Therefore, we must stand against sins that destroy or disgrace image bearers: murder, abortion, racism, xenophobia, rape, sexual or physical abuse, pornography, and bullying are just a few of the ways in which we treat our fellow image bearers with contempt. Being an image bearer of God is something that is true of every human being born on this planet, and we must dignify our fellow humans because they share this image. Stop hating each other; stop looking down on those that are different than you; stop insulting people to make yourself look better. Treat image bearers with the respect they deserve.
So we see that if we are to dignify humanity, we must recognize the unique creation, now let’s also see humanity’s ruling position.

Recognize humanity’s ruling position (v26b)

This ruling position is seen in v26b
Genesis 1:26–27 NASB95
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
It is also restated in the second half of v28
Genesis 1:28 NASB95
God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Humanity is given an ruling position as a sort of vice-regent under God over the rest of creation. The wonder of how this could be is captured by the Psalmist in
ps 8
Psalm 8:1–9 NASB95
O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth, Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens! From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength Because of Your adversaries, To make the enemy and the revengeful cease. When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, The moon and the stars, which You have ordained; What is man that You take thought of him, And the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, And You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen, And also the beasts of the field, The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, Whatever passes through the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, How majestic is Your name in all the earth!
Considering the vastness and power of the heavens and the strength of the animals, it is a wonder than man is to rule over the work of God’s hands. Humanity isn’t even close to the fastest, strongest, or hardiest of God’s creation, but we are given a ruling position over the rest of creation. While it isn’t inherent in the words rule or subdue used in , God’s example and the rest of Scripture, particularly the law, indicate that this ruling is not a harsh rule, but one that uses creation to the fullest of what God created it to be. This has implications when it comes to environmentalism and creation care. If humanity has been given dominion over creation, then using coal, oil, wood, and natural gas for energy is not inherently sinful, nor is eating meat, or using animals to assist us with making work easier and more efficient; however, mistreating an animal for your own amusement or destroying creation for your entertainment is contrary to using creation as God intended it to be used. God created the rest of creation to be beneficial for humanity; hence, the repetition of the fact that he saw that it was good. So we must exercise our dominion by using creation, but not by misusing it.
We will dignify humanity when we recognize our unique creation and ruling position. But we must also recognize humanity’s divine mandate.

Recognize humanity’s divine mandate (v28)

Humanity’s divine mandate is in v28
Genesis 1:28 NASB95
God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
This mandate has two aspects to it:
Procreate: God commands them to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth. We saw this last week in God’s blessing of the birds and fish to fill the sea and the sky. Here, God gives the same command to humanity that they might recognize that God has created them as creators of life. God gave humanity the ability to procreate; therefore, we should. Arguments about overpopulation not withstanding, humans should procreate.
Subdue: God also commands humanity to subdue and rule over creation. As I already mentioned, this is a repetition of v26, and it underscores that creation is for humanity’s use and benefit.
These mandates are fraught with baggage in our culture. Baggage that not even Christians are excluded from carrying, and these issues demand our sensitive, but careful attention. Since we’ve already discussed the issue of ruling creation, let me focus on the issue of procreation here.
How many children does it take to be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth? This is a particularly sensitive issue with which many have struggled. In my study for today, I found that most commentators merely make statements about what this means, but avoid the implications of it. So I now tread into waters that many men probably wiser than I am have avoided. Here are the facts that we can be sure about:
Children are a blessing:
Psalm 127:3–5 NASB95
Behold, children are a gift of the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.
Even the command here in is connected to a blessing even if indirectly. So we recognize that having children is good; therefore, we should rejoice when God gives children and never look down on those to whom He has given many children.
The affects of sin has affected some couples’ ability to have children. They want children; they aren’t bowing to cultural pressure to have a small family. In their case God in His wisdom and sovereignty has chosen to close the womb just as He did with Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth.
Be fruitful, multiply, and fill are vague: There is no prescribed number, so this is not a strict command. How many children does it take to fill the earth? What does multiply mean? Since the command is vague, we must leave this matter up to conscience. There are multiple matters that must be weighed with regard to developing our conscience on these things: age, health concerns, financial concerns, and capacity. That said, we must be careful about refusing to have children because of our own selfishness or because of our lack faith, and never underestimate the impact kids will have in exposing your sinful heart. That impatience or anger you show your children isn’t your kids’ fault, it’s your fault. They just gave you the opportunity to express it by sinning themselves.
This is a matter of conscience: The right response for all of us on this issue is no different than any other matter of conscience. We must prayerfully determine what is Scripture would have us do and then we must refuse either to judge or to look down on others who come to a different conclusion. This much I know, you can be spiritually mature with no or few children and you can be a spiritual zero with a whole gaggle of kids. If you are tempted to judge or look down on a couple’s spirituality based on the number of children they have, you don’t understand what spiritual maturity is or how it is obtained.
There are four recognitions that are necessary to dignify humanity. Recognize our unique creation; recognize our ruling position; recognize our divine mandate; and finally, we must recognize humanity’s gracious provision.

Recognize humanity’s gracious provision (v29-30)

Humanity’s gracious provision is found in v29-30
Genesis 1:29–30 NASB95
Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so.
This is a logical extension of the ruling position of humanity over creation, but God graciously provides for humanity by giving us all of the plants on the earth for food. He graciously provides this for the animals as well, but this again reveals the importance of humanity as God cares for the needs of His crowning creation. This is abundant goodness from God to provide so much for humanity to enjoy.
This not only emphasizes the importance that humanity has in God’s eyes, but it also emphasizes how God meets our needs and delights in our enjoyment of His good gifts. It is interesting that in giving humanity food, even though humanity ruled over all of the animals, fish, and birds, God did not include the animals as a source of food. Perhaps we can understand the reason for this later as we zoom in further on the creation week and here God’s command to avoid the one forbidden tree that He planted in Eden. In giving them that commands God warns humanity that when they eat from that tree they will die. Based on that, we recognize here that death is not a part of God’s creation yet, so animals are not considered sources of food because they will have to die in order to be eaten. This doesn’t change the abundance of the provision God gives here, though. God’s provisions are abundant and kind. They are good to meet our needs and usually even beyond our needs.

As Christ followers, we must never neglect to dignify humans as the crown of creation that God made us to be in His image.

Perhaps some if not most of you have heard of Rachael Denhollander. Rachel was a fledgling gymnast in Michigan when Larry Nassar was immorally preying on young girls to feed his sinful lusts. Last week, Larry Nassar was sentenced to 40-175 years in prison for his assault of over 100 gymnasts who sought him out for medical treatment. It was Rachel’s story that really initiated the investigation into Mr. Nassar. She also gave a moving testimony at the sentencing hearing. Rachel is a professing Christian who made the gospel clear by expressing her forgiveness in her testimony. But she also emphasized justice by repeating and answering the question, “What is a little girl worth?” In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Rachel explained what she believes a little girl is worth this way.
“From a Christian worldview, she’s made in the image of God. She has eternal and immeasurable value.” That statement could be applied far beyond the gymnasts that Rachel as referring to. It applies to every single human being that is walking on this planet.
Remember, creation wasn’t the only time God dignified humanity. He also did so when He sent Jesus.
Romans 5:8 NASB95
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6–8 NASB95
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
God looked beyond our unworthiness as sinners and sent Jesus to take our punishment for us. We were unlovely, helpless, rebellious wretches, but God saw image bearers who needed that image restored. If you are here this morning and everything we’ve been doing and saying is a little confusing, please at least here this. We all do wrong things that destroy the image of God in us. We wreck the picture; we distort the glory, but even while we did that, God sent His Son Jesus, who perfectly imaged Him to take all of our rebellion and distortion on Himself, so that we might have the perfect image of God restored in us. Jesus did this by dying as a criminal on a Roman cross, and God offers Jesus’s righteousness and a restored image of God to all those who will trust Him to give it to them. Believe this morning and be restored.
And to all of us: When we are able to recognize that every human is uniquely created, given ruling position and a divine mandate, and enjoys God’s gracious provision, then we also will fight for justice for those who are marginalized (both the born and the unborn); we will refuse to dismiss other humans as less important because they are different whether in skin color, nationality, gender, age, spiritual maturity, lifestyle, conscience, or any other difference that our depraved minds like to use to excuse our mistreatment of others. God created us all with dignity. He blessed us all to be His image bearers, so care for others, treat others with respect, and watch how God uses you to help others image God better than they could ever imagine.
May God grant us the grace to see others as image bearers so that we might see that they all have eternal, immeasurable value.
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