Why Are We Even Here?

| Genesis 1:1-5, 26-31 | May 27, 2018

Week of June 3, 2018

The Point:  God created us to live in fellowship with Him.

The Creator God:  Genesis 1:1-5, 26-31.

[1] In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. [2] The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. [3] And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. [4] And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. [5] God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. [26] Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” [27] So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. [28] And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” [29] And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. [30] And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. [31] And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.  [ESV]

“[1:1-5]  First, when Genesis begins with the words in the beginning, God, it is telling us that God is self-existent. This is not true of anything else. Everything else depends on some other thing or person and ultimately on God. Without these prior causes, the thing would not exist. We recognize this truth when we speak of the laws of “cause and effect.” Every effect must have an adequate cause. But God is the ultimate cause and is Himself uncaused. God has no origins; this means: first, that as He is in Himself He is unknowable, and second, that He is answerable to no one. Why should God’s self-existence mean He is unknowable? It is because everything we see, smell, hear, taste, or touch has origins and consequently we can hardly think of anything except in these categories. We argue that anything we observe must have a cause adequate to explain it, and we look for such causes. But if God is the cause beyond everything, then He cannot be explained or known as other objects can. Second, that God existed in the beginning means that He is self-sufficient. Self-existence means that God has no origins. Self-sufficiency means that God has no needs and therefore depends on no one. This is not true of us. We depend on countless other things. Here we run counter to a widespread and popular idea of God that says God cooperates with man and man with God, each thereby supplying something lacking in the other. It is imagined, for example, that God lacked glory and created us to supply it. Or again, that God needed love and therefore created us to love Him. Some talk about creation as if God were lonely and created us to keep Him company. But God does not need us. He gains nothing from mankind. When we notice that God is the only truly self-sufficient One, we may begin to understand why the Bible has so much to say about the need for faith in God alone and why unbelief in God is such sin. If we refuse to trust God, what we are actually saying is that either we or some other person or thing is more trustworthy. This is a slander against the character of God, and it is folly, for nothing else is all-sufficient. On the other hand, if we begin by trusting God, then we have a solid foundation for all of life. Because God is sufficient, we may begin by resting in that sufficiency and so work effectively for Him. God does not need us. But the joy of coming to know Him is in learning that He nevertheless stoops to work in and through His children. Third, the truth that God was in the beginning means that He is eternal. It means that God is, has always been, and will always be, and that He is ever the same in His eternal being. We discover this attribute of God everywhere in the Bible. That God is eternal has two major consequences for us. First, He can be trusted to remain as He has revealed Himself to be. God is unchangeable in His attributes. So we need not fear, for example, that although He has shown His love towards us once in Christ He may nevertheless somehow change His mind and cease to love us in the future. God is always love. Similarly, we must not think that although He has shown Himself to be holy He may nevertheless somehow cease to be holy and therefore change His attitude toward our transgressions. Nothing that we do will ever change Him. Again, God is unchangeable in His eternal counsel or will. He does what He has determined beforehand to do, and His will never varies. This is a source of great comfort to God’s people. If God were like us, He could not be relied on. But God in not like us. He does not change. Consequently, His purposes remain fixed from generation to generation. The second major consequence for us of God being eternal is that He is inescapable. If He were a mere man and if we did not like either Him or what He was doing, we might ignore Him, knowing that He might change His mind, move away from us, or die. But God does not change His mind. He does not move away. He will not die. Consequently, we cannot escape Him. If we ignore Him now, we must reckon with Him in the life to come. If we reject Him now, we must eventually face the One we have rejected and come to know His own eternal rejection of us. In this lies the profundity of the first verse in the Bible. For at the very outset it brings us face-to-face with the God with whom we have to do. He is the One who is “infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, A. 4). Genesis maintains that the universe exists with form and personality because it has been brought into existence by an orderly and personal God. God was there before the universe came into existence, and He was and is personal. He created all we know, including ourselves. Consequently, the universe naturally bears the mark of His personality. On the basis of the first verse of Genesis we can define God as the One who creates. We cannot create. At the best humans only form or fashion things in imaginative ways, and even then, it is the case that we get our imagination as well as all other physical, mental, and spiritual gifts from God. Strictly speaking, we are craftsmen. We use preexisting material. But God does create, and He does so on what is to us a vast and incomprehensible scale. We do not know how God has done it. But He has willed creation, and as a result all we know, see, and are have come into being. God has created all things. That is why there is meaning in life, and why there are absolute standards that do not change. God tells us what is right and what is wrong, and that is why there is meaning in life.”  [Boice, pp. 29-40].

“The Image of God [1:26-27]. In these verses the uniqueness of man and his superiority to the rest of creation are expressed in three ways. First, he is said to have been made in God’s image. This is not said of either objects or animals. Second, he is given dominion over the fish, birds, animals, and even the earth itself. Third, there is a repetition of the word created. This word is used at only three points in the creation narrative: first, when God created matter from nothing [1]; second, when God created conscious life [21]; and third, when God created man [27]. This is a progression, from the body (matter) to soul (personality) to spirit (life with God-consciousness). Lest we should miss this, the word create is repeated three times over in reference to the man and woman [27]. When Genesis 1 speaks of the creation of man, as it does several times over, it is not concerned with the time at which he was created. What concerns the author of Genesis is man’s being created in God’s image. This is repeated several times: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him [26-27]. What does this mean? What does it mean to be made in God’s image? One thing it means is that men and women possess the attributes of personality, as God Himself does, but as the animals, plants, and matter do not. To have personality one must possess knowledge, feelings, and a will. This God has, and so do we. We can say that animals possess a certain kind of personality. But an animal does not reason as men do; it only reacts to certain problems or stimuli. It does not create; it only conforms to certain behavior patterns. It does not love; it only reproduces. It does not worship. Personality, in the sense we are speaking of it here, is something that links man to God but does not link either man or God to the rest of creation. A second element that is involved in man’s being created in the image of God is morality. This includes the two further elements of freedom and responsibility. To be sure, the freedom men and women possess is not absolute. Even in the beginning the first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, were not autonomous. They were creatures and were responsible for acknowledging this by their obedience in the matter of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Since the fall that freedom has been further restricted so that now they are unable not to sin. Still there is a limited freedom for man and women even in their fallen state, and with that there is also moral responsibility. In brief, we do not need to sin as we do or as often as we do. And even when we sin under compulsion, we still know it is wrong and, thus, inadvertently confess our likeness to God in this as in other areas. It is relevant to the matter of morality that, when the sanctification of the believer is spoken of as being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator [Col. 3:10] or conformed to the image of his Son [Rom. 8:29], it is the moral righteousness of the individual that is most in view, though of course this may also refer to the perfection of personality in ways we do not as yet understand fully. The third element involved in man’s being made in God’s image is spirituality, meaning that man is made for communion with God, who is Spirit, and that this communion is intended to be eternal as God is eternal. Although man shares a body with such forms of life as plants or flowers and a soul with animals, only he possesses a spirit. It is on the level of the spirit that he is aware of God and communes with Him. Here lies our true worth. We are made in God’s image and are therefore valuable to God and others. God loves men and women, as He does not and cannot love the animals, plants, or inanimate matter. Moreover, He feels for them, identifies with them in Christ, grieves for them, and even intervenes in history to make individual men and women into all that He has determined they should be. We get some idea of the special nature of this relationship when we remember that in a similar way the woman, Eve, was made in the image of man. Therefore, though different, Adam saw himself in her and loved her as his companion and corresponding member in the universe. They are God’s unique and valued companions. In support of this we need only think of the Bible’s teaching concerning Christ as the bridegroom and the church as His bride. In this chapter we have been looking at man as God made him and intends him to be, that is, before the fall or as he will eventually become again in Christ. Although man was made in the image of God, this image has been greatly marred by sin. There are vestiges of the image remaining, but man today is not what God intended. He is a fallen being, and the effects of the fall are seen on each level of his being: in his body, soul, and spirit. At the fall, man’s spirit, that part of him that had communion with God, died instantly. His soul, the seat of his intellect, feelings, and identity, began to die. Man became futile in their thinking and their foolish hearts were darkened. They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man [Rom. 1:21-23]. Thus man’s soul is seriously damaged especially as it pertains to spiritual matters. Eventually even the body died. However, the glory of the gospel is seen at precisely this point, for when God saves a person He saves the whole person, beginning with the spirit, continuing with the soul, and finishing with the body. The salvation of the spirit comes first; for God first establishes contact with the one who has rebelled against Him. This is regeneration, the new birth. Second, God works with the soul, renewing it after the image of the perfect man, the Lord Jesus Christ. This work is sanctification. Finally, there is the resurrection in which even the body is redeemed from destruction. Moreover, God makes a new creation, for He does not merely patch up the old spirit, soul, and body. God creates a new spirit that is His own Spirit within the individual. He creates a new soul, known as the new man. At last, He creates a new body. This body is like the resurrection body of the Lord Jesus Christ through whom alone we have this salvation.”  [Boice, pp. 87-93].

 “Man, God’s Regent [1:28-31].  God created the man and woman and gave them dominion over the created order. Consequently, they were responsible to Him for what they did. When man sins, as the Genesis account goes on to show that he does, it is God who requires a reckoning. Second, man was created male and female, and it is still so. In our day many say that there are no essential differences between men and women, or that whatever differences there are, are accidental. This is understandable from those who think that mindless evolution is the means by which we have become what we are. But it is entirely incomprehensible from the standpoint of the Bible, which tells us that nothing is an accident and that sexuality in particular is the result of the creative act of God. Maleness and femaleness are good and meaningful. The man and the woman are equal before God, but they are not indistinguishable. Third, God made man body and soul, and He still does. The body is the part we see, the part that possesses physical life. We have a body in common with every living thing. The soul is the part of the person we call personality or self-identity. In general terms soul refers to what makes an individual unique. We might say that the soul centers in the mind and includes all likes and dislikes, special abilities or weaknesses, emotions, aspirations, and anything else that makes the individual different from all others of his species. It is because we have souls that we are able to have fellowship, love, and communication with one another. But man does not only have fellowship, love and communication with others of his species. He also has love and communion with God, and for this he needs a spirit. The spirit is that part of human nature that communes with God and partakes in some measure of God’s essence. Fourth, man was created dominant over the animals. At the present time we have this horrible situation. In his sin man either tends to dominate and thus violate the creation, subjecting it to his own selfish ends, or else he tends to fall down and worship the creation, not realizing that his debasement is brought about in the process. The unfortunate thing is that when man severs the tie that binds him to God and tries to cast off God’s rule, he does not rise up to take God’s place, as he desires to do, but rather sinks to a more bestial level. This brings us to the last point: God created man holy, and now he is not holy. The other items we have considered remain, though they are distorted by sin in each case. Man is still a created being, though weak and destined to die. He is still male and female. He is still body and soul. He is still dominant over the animals. But man was also created holy as God is holy, and of this original righteousness not a vestige remains. Rather, as the Scriptures say, every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually [Gen. 6:5]. That is why man needs a Savior. God made man upright, but he sought out his own devices. In turning each to his or her own way man brought ruin on the race. Now, not only is no one holy, none is capable even of regaining that holiness. Man can no longer avoid sinning. It is as though he jumped into a pit where he is now trapped. He must remain in that pit until God by grace through the work of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit lifts him out.”  [Boice, pp. 94-99].

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Genesis is the “Book of Beginnings.” There is probably nothing that separates those who believe in the inerrancy of Scripture and those who do not more than the first three chapters of Genesis. As you study the creation story in these verses take time to think upon the importance of this truth and the impact it has on the way every believer should live their lives in contrast to those who do not believe in the historical truth of these verses. How does belief in the historicity of creation impact your concept of God; of humanity? What authority over all of creation does God as Creator have? What three truths about God does Boice find in the opening of Genesis?
  2. What does it mean that God created mankind in His image? What three elements of this image does Boice mention? Why is this truth so important for the way we view ourselves and how we treat others? How does sin impact this image?

References:

Genesis, vol. 1, James Boice, Baker.

Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1, Kenneth Mathews, NAC, B & H Publishers.

Genesis, Bruce Waltke, Zondervan.