The Dignity of Man

Genesis 1:26-28

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
September 2014

We have been doing an in-depth study of the Book of Genesis.  The next three weeks will cover some very important topics in the Book of Genesis that you do not want to miss.  Last week, we read Genesis 1 and we saw that creation in Genesis is a divine process.  It is a supernatural process.  It was a short process.  God did it in six days.  It was also an orderly process.  It was made up of three days of forming and three days of filling.  God formed the earth, the sky, the water and the dry land and then He filled the sky with birds, the dry land with plants, the earth with animals and people and outer space, he filled with the Sun, Moon and stars.

We stopped when we came to the sixth day of creation, which is the most important day of creation.  It is the longest of all of the days of creation.  What did God make on the sixth day?  He made two things.  Genesis 1:24-25 mentions the first thing He made on the sixth day.

“And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.” (NIV)

The first thing that God made on the sixth day was land animals. We saw last week that Genesis 1 is selective.  It doesn’t mention everything God created but it does mention three basic kinds of land animals that God made: cattle, the creatures that move on the ground, and the wild animals.  We can call these three groups wild animals (tigers, lions and bears), domesticated animals (cattle, sheep, goats, ox) and creeping things (insects, rodents, lizards, snakes).

The second thing God made on this day was people made.  Genesis 1:26-29 says:

“Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” (NIV)

Today, I want to look at three things that we learn about people in these verses.  There are three things that God tells us in these verses.  He tells us our dignity, our duty and our diversity.

Man’s Dignity (Genesis 1:26)

It says something about the dignity of man because it says that we are all created in God’s image. Some people think that all life on the planet is equally important.  That is Hinduism.  They say that all life is sacred.  There is no difference between a person and a blade of grass.  They would say that a cockroach is as important as a human being.  Peter Singer at Princeton says that animals have as much rights as people do.  Is that biblical?  No.

Jesus said that people were more important than animals.  In fact, He said it more than once.  He said, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26).  He said “You are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:31) and “How much more valuable is a person than a sheep!” (Matthew 12:12).

In the OT, animals sacrifice was allowed and actually commanded in the Law but human sacrifice was forbidden. This doesn’t mean that animals are unimportant.  Noah saved a bunch of them from a Flood.  Proverbs 12:10 says, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals.” (NIV)  What does Genesis say?  According to Genesis, humans are unique from animals. Only people are created in God’s image.  The image of God is mentioned three times in the Book of Genesis (1:26-27; 5:1; 9:6).

This is very interesting. Animals are NOT created in God’s image.  Humans are the only creatures on the planet that God said were specifically created in His image.  Dogs and cats are not in the image of God.  What exactly does it mean that we are created in God’s image? There are some strange ideas, even among some Christians about the image of God.  What does it mean?

Genesis doesn’t tell us.  Our only hint comes in Genesis 5:3 which says, When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.”  We are in God’s image just like Seth was in Adam’s image.  Many of us are in the image of our parents.  We look just like them. What does that mean?  It must mean that we look like God in some way.

Does this mean that God has a body?  That is what Mormonism teaches.  It is something that distinguishes Mormonism from Christianity.  Mormons believe that God has a physical body.  Joseph Smith, the Founder of Mormonism, said, “The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s.”[1] This is patently false.

Jesus said that God is a spirit (John 4:24).  We have a spirit.  Jesus said that God IS a spirit.  He is an immaterial being.  Jesus said that “a ghost does not have flesh and bones” (Luke 24:39).  The word translated “ghost” (NIV) is the exact same word translated “spirit” in John 4:24.  They are the same word in Greek (πνεϋμα).  The Bible says that God is invisible (I Timothy 1:17).  You cannot have a physical body and be invisible.  Paul said that no one has seen God or can see God (I Timothy 6:16).

We are created in God’s image but this cannot be a physical image because God does not have a body and because both men and women look different and they are both created in God’s image.

Apparently, we look just like God in some way but we do not look like God physically.  We look like him on the inside, not on the outside.  We look like God morally and spiritually, not physically.  We have a conscience.  We are moral beings.  We are rational beings.  We are intelligent beings.  Some show more intelligence than others.

Does This Make People a God?

This biblical teaching has led to some crazy ideas.  Some have said that we are not just created in God’s image, we are God. A number of people in the Word of Faith movement have said that believers are little gods (e.g., Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer).  Kenneth Copeland, for example, said, “We do not have a god in us.  We are a God.”[2]  The argument is that God produced after His kind.  Adam was in the god class.

On another occasion, Copeland said, “Am I a god? Man was created in the god class, was not created in the animal class, it was the god class. He has a uniqueness about him that even angels do not have…We are a class of gods.”[3] He also said that “God’s reason for creating Adam was His desire to reproduce Himself…He was not a little like God. He was not almost like God. He was not subordinate to God even. Adam was God manifest in the flesh.”[4] 

Do you agree with this?  Is this correct?  If not, how would you answer it?  It is wrong on every point.  It is wrong about Adam and it is wrong about God.  Adam was subservient to God.  God gave him rules to follow and held him accountable when he did not follow them.  God is a spirit.  He did not reproduce after His kind.  Adam was not a product of reproduction.  He was created by God.  The word “likeness” in Genesis does not mean an exact duplication.  It means a reflection or a resemblance.  Adam was not in the god class.  He was in the man class.  He was a man created in the image of God but he was not a clone of God.

God and man are two different categories.  One is the creature and one is the Creator.  God is immortal but we are all mortal.  We die.  God is omnipotent.  Our power is limited.  God is omniscient.  God’s knowledge is unlimited and complete.  He knows everything.  Our knowledge is limited and incomplete.  As the Apostle Paul said, “We know in part and we prophesy in part.”  God is an infinite being.  We are finite.   We all had a beginning.  God had no beginning.  The Bible says repeatedly that there is no one like God in all the earth (Exodus 9:14; Isaiah 46:9). 

What does this mean practically that we are created in God’s image?  What are the practical implications of this doctrine?  It means that we have value and others have value.  Non-Christians are also created in God’s image.  Even after the Fall, men still have God’s image in them (9:6).  We should be careful how we treat people.  When we hit someone, we are hitting the image of God (Genesis 9:6).  When we curse people, we are cursing people who are in God’s image (James 3:9-10).  If we are in God’s image, we should act like God.  We should reflect His character.  People should see God in us.

Man’s Diversity (Genesis 1:27)

God did not just make us dignified, He made us diverse.  Genesis 1:17 says, So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; MALE AND FEMALE he created them.” (NIV)  Here we learn something important about gender from the Book of Genesis.  This is important because there is so much confusion in our day about gender.  What does Genesis say about gender?

Genesis and Gender Issues

What implications can we draw from the text?  It says four basic things.

1. God made two sexes

Genesis 1:27 says, “God created mankind in his own image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” We live in a culture that hates gender distinctions but gender is God made, not man-made. God was the one who created gender. God created two sexes.  He created people male and female, not male and male or female and female.

Genesis says that He made two different kinds of people.  He created two distinct genders.  He did not create one sex. He did not create people unisex.  He didn’t create three sexes.  He created two.  What is the practical application of this truth?  The application is that men should be masculine and women should be feminine.

We mix that today with people who call themselves transgendered.  They make a difference between gender and sexuality.  They say you can have male organs but act like a female.  What they are actually saying is this: “God created me a man but I don’t like being a man, so I am going to act like a woman” or “God created me a woman but I want to act like a man.” We should accept and enjoy what God has made us to be, not try to resist or fight it.

2. The two sexes are very different

Men and women are not the same. God did not create Adam and Eve the same.  Their bodies were not the same.  They were not even created the same way, as we will see next seek.  Many try to deny this but the fact is that men and women are fundamentally different.  Men are from Mars and women are from Venus. If you have been married for five minutes, you will discover this.

Men and women look different.  They act different. They even think differently.  Their brains are wired completely different.  Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania discovered in 2013. Someone in our class pointed out that you do not need a study to prove this.  It is self-evident.  Men and women have fundamental differences and these differences do not just come from culture.  They come from creation.  They do not just come from environment.  They go back to the way God made us.

3. The two sexes are equal before God

There is a feminism that is secular and unbiblical and there is a feminism that is biblical.  The Bible teaches an equality of the sexes.  Galatians 3:28 says, There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”  Men are not superior to women.  Women are not superior to men.  Men and women have complete equality in Christ.  They have equal value in the sight of God. They are both made in God’s image.  They are equal in image.  They both resemble God in some way and represent Him on the earth.

If you read Genesis 1:26 out of context, it may look lile only men are created in God’s image.  It says, “Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” The very next verse shows that it means mankind. Genesis 1:27 says, “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created THEM (not “him”); male and female he created them.” The Hebrew word for adam can mean both man and mankind.

Adam was not the only one created in God’s image.  They both were.  Both were given equal dominion over the earth.  Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that THEY MAY RULE OVER (not “that HE may rule over”) the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Who is doing the ruling here over the earth?  Adam and Eve.  They have joint rulership over the earth.  Both were assigned the task of ruling the earth.  As C.H. Macintosh said, “Adam did not rule over Eve but with Eve”[5]

The fact that Eve was created from Adam’s rib shows equality.  Many have pointed this out. Eve was not made from Adam’s head (suggesting inferiority to Adam) or from his foot but from his side (suggesting inferiority to Adam).  She was created from the middle of Adam (neither above nor below Adam).  She was intended to stand beside him, not below him, not behind him and not above him.

Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. (Genesis 2:19-20)

This shows equality with shows equality with Adam. Animals could not serve as a helper for Adam.  They could not complete Adam.  They were not his equals.  When God created Eve, he created someone completely on his level.  It is a picture of absolute equality.  God created a perfect match for Adam.  Pets can make great companions but they are not our equals.  Eve was Adam’s equal.

Eve was created different but equal.  In fact, notice what Adam says when Eve was created?  He said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23).  I would have expected him to say something about how different they were.  Instead, he says how similar they are.  Adam was shocked.  We will talk about what this means next week.

4.  The two sexes have different roles.

Eve’s role was different from Adam’s.  Genesis 2:18 says, The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” (NIV).  What was Eve’s role?  She was to be a helper FOR HIM.  She was not supposed to be a rival to Adam or his enemy but his helper.  That was one of the reasons she was created.  When she does that, she fulfills one of the roles assigned to her by God.  Her job was to complete the man.

She was called a helper.  She had a different role as a mother.  Feminists say that this is degrading to women.  It seems to have a negative connotation.  Woman are just called helpers (like an assistant or servant).  They say that this is sexist.  Do you agree?  You cannot really prove anything from the term “helper.”  As Wayne Grudem points out, “A person who helps can be superior to, equal to or inferior to the person being helped”[6]

The word is not degrading perse because the same word is used of God.  Sixteen times in the Bible God is called “our helper” or the one who helps us (e.g., Exodus 18:4; Deuteronomy 33:7, 26, 29; I Samuel 7:12; Psalm 20:2; 40:1; 33:20; 70:5; 115:9-11; 124:8).  That does not mean that God is inferior to us or under us.  It does not mean that God is subservient to us.

Men and women can be equal and have different roles.  God is a trinity.  All members of the trinity are equal but they have different roles.  The role of the Father is different from the role of the Son.  The Father was not crucified.  The Holy Spirit did not become incarnate.

If anything, the term “helper” degrades men, not women. It says that they need a woman to make them complete and that they are not complete on their own.  Adam could not get the job done on his own.  He needed Eve to help him.  Some men are too proud to admit that they really need their wives to balance them out and to complement them.

Man’s Duty (Genesis 1:28)

We have looked at man’s dignity and diversity from this verse.  Now, I want to look at one more thing, namely, man’s duty.  Man has a job to do.  God gives people two commands in Genesis 1.  There are two things that man was commanded to do.  These two commands make up what is called “the Cultural Mandate” or “the Creation Mandate.”  In the NT we have the Great Commission.  That is given only to believers.  These two commands are given to everyone.

What does the Creation Mandate say?  Genesis 1:28 says, “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”.  It sounds like four commands but the first three all go together.  There are only two commands.  What is the first command? Be Fruitful, Multiply and Fill the Earth.

This first command is very interesting.  He told them to reproduce.  He wanted them to multiply.  Up to this point, there has been a lot in the chapter about DIVIDING things (light from darkness, sky from water and land from sea).  Now God tells Adam and Eve to MULTIPLY.  The same command was given to the animals. Genesis 1:22 says, “God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” (1:22). It seems like a strange command.

1) This command involves sex

You cannot reproduce unless you have sex.  God was the one who created sex and He is the one to bring up the topic.  God is here commanding Adam and Eve to have sex.  Sex is not the forbidden fruit.  It is actually the first command in the Bible.  He not only created sex, He commands people to have sex and this was BEFORE THE FALL.

Since sex is fun, He is actually commanding them to have fun.  That is strange.  It is not the view of God that many have.  Now this command was given to married people.  Genesis 2:25 says, “Adam AND HIS WIFE (not his companion, friend or partner) were both naked, and they felt no shame.”  God was not endorsing premarital sex.

2) This command results in children

You cannot fill the earth without having kids.  Does this mean that God wants everyone to have large families?  No.  God does not call everyone to be married and He does not give everyone large families but the Bible does view children differently than the world does.  What the Bible says is radically different from what the world says.

King Solomon on Children 

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.
Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them” (Psalm 127:3-5 NIV).

1) Children are a blessing.

They are “a heritage from the Lord”.  They are described as a gift from the Lord, a reward from the Lord.  They are a blessing, not a curse.

2) Many children are a blessing.

They are described as “arrows in the hands of a warrior.”  The more you have, the better off you are.  Solomon does not say that you are blessed if you have one or two.  He says you are blessed if you have a whole bunch of them.  A quiver is a case that holds arrows.  He had a lot of wives, so he probably had a lot of kids.

3) It is good to have them when you are young

He speaks of “children born in one’s youth.” We should want them, even if we are a young married couple.

People use overpopulation as a reason not to have children.  In 2013, a Stanford University professor said that “no one has the right to have twelve children or even three.”[7] God is more concerned with under-population than over-population.  God said, “Reproduce and multiply”.  He did not say “reproduce and multiply until you get two or three.”

Does this mean that birth control is wrong?  There are two completely different views on this among Christians.  Some believe it is based on this verse.  If children are a gift from the Lord (Psalm 127:3), birth control must be wrong. It is a lack of faith.

Others point out that there is no verse in the Bible that says birth control is a sin.  It is wrong to prohibit something that the Bible does not specifically prohibit.  The Bible also says that a wife is a gift from the Lord (Proverbs 18:22) but that does not mean that it is wrong to stay single.[8] They would say it is not a question of faith but of stewardship.

The second command is to “subdue the earth; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

It is called the dominion mandate.  Dominion is what kings have.  It is a royal function.  Man is to be king over the world and animals and to rule it on God’s behalf.  Man came from the earth (dust) and is now to rule over the earth as God’s representatives.  Does this mean that God is not an environmentalist? What is the Christian view on environmentalism?

There are two extremes here.  There are two errors that people make when it comes to environmentalism.  On the one extreme are those who worship the earth.  Much of environmentalism is just nature worship.  It is pantheism.  They worship the planet.  Earth Day is an excuse to worship Mother Earth.  The main focus is not on saving souls but on saving the planet.  The earth will eventually be destroyed.  The Bible says that one day it will burn up (II Peter 3:10).

At the other end of the spectrum are those who want to pollute, litter and trash the planet.  We should use the earth’s resources but not abuse them. We are to subdue the earth, not destroy it.  We are to exercise stewardship over the earth but not exploit the earth.

[1] Doctrines and Covenants 130:122

[2] Copeland, “The Force of Love”, 1987, Tape #2 -0028

[3] Praise the Lord, TBN, 2/5/1986

[4] Copeland, “Following the Faith of Abraham”, 1989, Tape #01-3001

[5] C. H. Macintosh, Notes on the Pentateuch, 22.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, 118.



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