The very first lesson in the Bible teaches that, at the root and origin of all this vast universe, there is a living and conscious Spirit, Who wills, knows and fashions all things. He is called "God." Man was the final and crowning work of His creation. Made according to a divine pattern, man was created for fellowship with his Maker, in which (fellowship) he would be permitted to enjoy many divine privileges not shared by other creatures. In man, God made a nature in which He could manifest Himself as a Person to persons.
There is a two-fold sense in which man is said to be made "in the image of God."
- It involves the possession of self-conscious reason -- shared by no other creature in God's material creation. This involves:
- Intellectual faculties of a creative nature -- enabling man to develop and progress in a purposed existence.
- The ability to rise above impulses and conceive of moral ideals.
- The ability to love, sympathize and distinguish between right and wrong, good and evil.
- The capacity for knowing and holding spiritual communion with God.
- In this sense, man is still "in the image of God" -- even after the fall, (Gen. 9:6; I Cor. 11:7; Acts 17:28; Jas. 3:9).
- But the true God-resemblance of man consists in spiritual and moral qualities that exhibit the characteristics of God - knowledge, righteousness, true holiness and authority. This image was shattered by the fall; it can only be restored in Christ, (Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24; Rom. 8:29; I Cor. 15:49; II Cor. 3:18).
Though the word "covenant" is not used in connection with this passage, the form in which God makes His pronouncement is of a covenant nature. In this brief passage may be seen the purposed destiny of mankind as created "in the image of God."
I. IN FRUITFULNESS, MAN WAS TO MULTIPLY AND FILL THE EARTH.
- HIS FRUITFULNESS WOULD BE DEPENDENT ON GOD'S BLESSINGS, (I Chron. 26:5).
- Children are "an heritage of the Lord," (Psa. 127:3-5).
- One of the blessings promised to Abraham was that his seed should be "as the sand which is upon the sea shore" for multitude, (Gen. 22:17).
- THE PRESENT-DAY HYSTERIA OVER A SO-CALLED "POPULATION EXPLOSION" IS A MARKED EXAMPLE OF UNBELIEF -- even if preached by respected theologians.
- GOD KNEW EXACTLY WHAT HE WAS DOING WHEN HE MADE MAN WITH A CAPACITY FOR REPRODUCTION.
- And He alone knows what this earth will produce in support of men who are yielded to Him.
- The potential has not yet been imagined by the finite mind.
- If that capacity is ever reached, God is well able to enlarge it for the fulfillment of His own purpose.
- It is only unbelief that can question the wisdom of God's order in any area.
II. MAN WAS EXPECTED TO SUBDUE EARTH'S NATURAL RESOURCES -- FITTING THEM FOR HIS SERVICE.
- THOUGH A VERY SMALL PERCENTAGE OF MAN'S INVENTIVE CAPACITY HAS YET BEEN USED, FEW DOUBT THAT HE WAS ORIGINALLY ENDOWED WITH THE ABILITIES NEEDED TO FULFILL GOD'S PURPOSE FOR HIS EXISTENCE.
- EVEN THOUGH SIN HAS HINDERED, MARVELLOUS PROGRESS IS BEING MADE TODAY IN HARNESSING THE EARTH'S NATURAL RESOURCES FOR MAN'S SERVICE.
- THE ASTOUNDING INVENTIVE GENIUS OF MANKIND HAS BEEN DEMONSTRATED IN MANY AREAS.
- He skillfully shapes matter to make marvelous structures for his own convenience.
- He controls color to create masterpieces of art.
- To a large degree, he is mastering space by sophisticated means of travel and communication.
- He is learning to control many invisible powers of nature -- radio waves, electricity and nuclear energy.
- In the natural sciences and medicines, he delves into the very mysteries of life itself - enabling many to live longer and to enjoy better health.
- BUT MAN'S INVENTIVE GENIUS HAS BEEN PERVERTED; DESIGNED FOR THE GOOD OF MANKIND, IT IS CONTINUALLY BEING USED TO DEVISE INSTRUMENTS OF DESTRUCTION.
- ONLY IN THE MID-TWENTIETH CENTURY HAS MAN SHOWN ANY DEEP INTEREST FOR THE WHOLE EARTH.
- It has now become an object of wholesale planning -- technically, culturally, economically, politically and militarily.
- But this does not imply a belated decision of submission to God's plan.
- Instead, it suggests that there exists a seething cauldron of unrest, distrust and greed that has become universal.
- It suggests that each nation of earth is against every other nation.
- The stakes are high; it is a game of winner-take-all.
- The basic problem does not lie in "physics" or "science"; it is rooted in the depravity of the human heart.
III. MAN'S DOMINION WAS TO BE UNIVERSAL, UNDER GOD'S DIRECTION; IT WAS TO BE OVER EVERY LIVING THING. Man was truly destined to be King of the earth, (Psa. 8:5-9; Heb. 2:5-11).
- ADAM'S ORIGINAL HEADSHIP OVER THE RACE IS TAUGHT IN MANY PLACES, (Rom. 5:12-21; I Cor. 15:21-28, 45-49; Heb. 2:5-9).
- "MAN IS A KING, AND NOT A KING WITHOUT A DOMINION; THE WORLD AROUND, WITH ALL THE WORK OF CREATIVE WISDOM, IS HIS KINGDOM," (Delitzsch). He was destined to be ruler over:
- The fish of the sea.
- The fowl of the air.
- The beasts of the field.
- BUT THIS AUTHORITY WAS SOON FORFEITED THROUGH SIN.
- Man, in rebellion against his Maker, sank to beastiality, (Psa. 32:9; 49:20; 73:22; Dan. 4:30-33).
- That condition is not yet wholly remedied, (Heb. 2:8).
IV. GOD HAS PROVIDED SUSTENANCE FOR MAN AND BEAST, (Psa. 36:6; 136:25; Matt. 6:25-33; Jn. 6:48-51).
- GOD'S ORIGINAL COVENANT DID NOT PERMIT MAN TO EAT FLESH; HE WAS TO BE A VEGETARIAN, (Gen. 1:29).
- ONLY AFTER THE FLOOD WAS HE GIVEN PERMISSION TO "SLAY AND EAT" THE BEASTS OF THE FIELD, (Gen. 9:3).
V. MAN HAD THE RESPONSIBILITY OF MAINTAINING THE GARDEN OF EDEN, (Gen. 2:8-15).
Of what this consisted, one may not be certain. There seems to be the suggestion of "guarding" it against an enemy. He must at least be concerned about "spiritual hosts of wickedness," and outside Eden the beasts may not have been as gentle as they will be in the millennium.
VI. BUT ONE THING WAS SPECIFICALLY DENIED TO MANKIND.
- HE MUST NOT EAT OF THE "TREE OF KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL," (in a sense, he was put on probation).
- Up to this time evil, for mankind, was only a concept; it did not exist.
- By his partaking of the forbidden fruit, it would become a deed; man would be helplessly involved in rebellion against his Maker.
- DISOBEDIENCE WOULD MEAN CERTAIN DEATH -- separation from the presence and fellowship of God.
In giving to man the freedom of choice, God was, knowingly, taking a great risk. What if man went astray? Fully aware of what man was capable of doing, God (to use human terms) "ran the risk." Why? It was His desire that:
- The worship and praise of man should be spontaneous -- from the heart.
- Man's service must be voluntary and free.
Unbelief is an ignoring of God's will and man's best interest. As a matter of fact, God's will IS man's best interest -- always. Unbelief is spiritual suicide of deluded men who view God's eternal truth as a delusion and their own delusions as the truth.
Let us be concerned to "know the truth"; it will both make and keep us free.
QUESTIONS FOR REVIEW
- What is the first lesson taught in the Scriptures?
- What was the crowning work of God's creation?
- For what purpose was man created?
- In what "image" was man created? What does this mean?
- In what way was man to be fruitful?
- Should Christians worry over a "population explosion"?
- According to God's original plan, how far-reaching was man's dominion to be?
- What happened to man's authority?
- Has God provided for man's sustenance?
- How many things were originally forbidden to man? What?
- What would be the result of man's failure to obey God?
- Did God have a reason for making man "free"?
- Do you recognize His wisdom in "running this risk"?
- How are YOU using this freedom? for Him? or against Him?