Catechetical sermons preached in PCC Evening Worship Services, Feb 2013 to Dec 2017
WSC 10 of 107
1:26 And 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.…Genesis 1:26-28; see also Genesis 2:7, 18-24.
WSC 10. How did God create man?
A. God created man, male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.11 Gen 1:26–28; Col 3:10; Eph 4:24.
We are on a series of messages based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. We saw previously that God created the world in six days. We noted that on the sixth day, God created man as the pinnacle of His creation.
In this follow-up message, we must consider how God created man in greater detail. Our Shorter Catechism, Question 10, asks, “How did God create man?” The answer is: “God created man, male and female, after his own image in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.”
This answer is drawn from several passages in Scripture. But we will take our text from the creation account itself. Turn with me to Genesis 1. Read verses 1:26-28, 2:7, and 2:18-24.
From these verses, we may draw five propositions.
1. Adam Was Formed Out of Dust
God created two species of rational creatures. No, I am not referring to men and women though it is true that sometimes they almost appear like different species.
I am referring instead to men and angels. Angels are invisible spiritual beings created individually without gender distinctions. All the angels that would ever exist were created on the first day of the creation week.
Man, however, was designed to be a federation. God intended that all men should descend from the first couple of persons.
So God made man, male and female. And because God would have us appreciate the distinctions He intended for men and women, He made man and woman separately. He first made man. Genesis 2:7:
7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Man is a two-part being. He is designed both to dwell on earth and in heaven. Therefore, God made man in two steps.
First, He fashioned man out of the dust of the ground; then He breathes into his nostrils the breath of life. Man became a “living soul.”
Interestingly, the term translated as “living soul” in Hebrew is also used for the animals created on the fifth and sixth days, though it is translated as “living creature” on these other occurrences (See v. 1:21, 24; 2:19).
Nevertheless, man is a living soul of a different order. His body is deliberately fashioned by the hands of almighty God. His soul, as it were, fills the body as it is breathed into him by the breath of God Almighty.
None of the other creatures of God was given so much attention, and yet none other was made using such a lowly material. Of course, all creatures on earth are made of the same substances. But the original creations were all made by God’s immediate command. On the other hand, man was crafted out of the dust of the earth. Clearly, God intends us to have a proper attitude regarding our existence. We must know how lowly and insignificant we are. Yet, we must know how special we are to God. God is a gracious God!
Indeed when we think about the creation of Adam, it is needful that we remember the second Adam, Christ. The apostle Paul calls Adam a type or a figure of Christ (Rom 5:14). In fact, Adam is the only Old Testament character who is explicitly called a type of Christ in Scripture. And Paul suggests that Christ is the Second or the Last Adam (1 Cor 15:45).
The first Adam involved all mankind in sin and death, but the second Adam would involve those He represented in righteousness and life. But to do so, the second Adam must take the nature of the first Adam. So the making of the first Adam must have been in God’s mind, a precursor to the coming of the Second Adam. The second Adam is Immanuel, God with us. The Son of God would humble himself to dwell with us! Oh, what a wonder of God’s mercy and grace!
Let us respond to Him in humility and gratitude.
2. Eve Was Made Out of Adam’s Rib
After the Lord made Adam, He said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (v. 1:18). It was the last day of creation, but creation was still incomplete. One more thing remains to be done to cap the beauty of God’s marvellous work: the creation of woman.
Now, the way that God created woman is exceptional.
In the first place, God wants us to know that a man is not complete without a woman. This is God’s reason for creating Eve. God said: “it is not good that the man should be alone” (v. 18a). It was as if God had left the finishing touches to the portrait of man undone until He created woman. This is a compelling argument that every man and woman should seek marriage unless the Lord has given a gift of celibacy.
It was to provide a companion for man that God created woman. “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.” Adam was not complete without Eve. God would make a suitable companion and helper for Him.
In the second place, consider how God made Eve. How did God make Eve? Verse 2:22:
“22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.”
The word translated “made” here1 is not one of the words used to describe the making of Adam.2 Instead, it is a word that is used to describe the building of houses. The Lord took one of Adam’s ribs and, like a master architect and builder, custom-built, as it were, a beautiful woman for Adam to be his companion and helper.
Adam must, therefore, learn to cherish Eve. He is not at all to think of her as inferior, but as one whom God has specially crafted for his needs. Why did the Lord choose to use the rib of Adam instead of his skull or his toe bone? Matthew Henry puts it beautifully:
“The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
Thus, although it is true that women are usually weaker vessels physiologically and perhaps even psychologically (1 Pet 3:7), it is also true that there is no superiority between men and women. This is why Adam called Eve “woman.” In Hebrew, that simply means “she-man.”3
A woman is not a different species, whatever a man baffled by women may say. Adam said of Eve that she is “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.” She is made of the same material as man. Let no man forget that. A man is of no higher value than a woman. But a man must value and cherish her greatly because God made her specially for him.
But once again, as the creation of man should lead us to think about Christ, the creation of woman should also lead us to think about Him: for Christ would, in the very next chapter of Genesis, be called the Seed of the Woman (Gen 3:15). Christ would, in the fullness of time, be born of a virgin (Isa 7:14) that He might save His people from their sin. Thank God for womenfolk. Thank God for the seed of the woman.
3. God Made Man in His Own Image God
God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen 1:26). What does that mean?
What does it mean that man is created in the image of God? Well, the word ‘image’ speaks of a likeness or resemblance.
If you stand before a mirror, you will see your image. The image is not exactly the same as yourself. It looks like you, but it cannot think, cannot feel and cannot talk.
Similarly, there are times when a father and son, or daughter and mother, can look very similar and behave very similarly. I once knew a prominent elder in a certain church. I did not know he had two sons when I first met him. But one day, I was walking towards the back of the church when I saw two young boys, about 6 or 7 years old, sitting quietly on a bench.
When I saw them, I immediately thought that they looked almost identical to one another, and to the elder. And they behaved almost exactly like the elder. They spoke the way he spoke and smiled in the way he smiled. And I immediately concluded that they must be this elder’s sons. And I was right!
These two boys bore the image of their father. But it is quite evident that they were not exactly like their father. They certainly did not know as much as he did. They certainly would not make decisions in the same way as he did. And they certainly were not as strong as he was. And yet it is undeniable that they bore his image.
Now, when man is said to be made in the image of God, it is like that.
Man bears the image and likeness of God. He is like God in some ways but unlike God in many ways. For example, he is not as strong as God; he does not know as much as God; he has a beginning, whereas God has no beginning; he grows and changes, whereas God does not change in any way; he is finite, whereas God is infinite.
How, then, is man like God? What does it mean that man is made in the image of God?
Foremost, let us understand that it does not mean that man looks like God, for God is a spirit and does not have a body like us. Thus we must be created in the image of God in terms of the attributes of the soul. But how? Well, many theologians usually speak of the image of God in the broader sense and the narrower sense.
In the first place, man is made in the image of God in the broader sense in that He has an immortal soul, a conscience, a rational mind, a spiritual sense and the ability to make things. That is to say: man has immortality, morality, rationality, spirituality and creativity.
- When an animal dies, that is the end of it, but when a man dies, his soul will live on. Man is created in the image of God; his soul will never die. He has God-ordained immortality.
- And he has a conscience. Just as God distinguishes between good and evil, man can distinguish between good and evil. When a man thinks about doing something evil, his soul will feel uncomfortable because his conscience will prick him. But an animal does not care. It has no conscience. It is well known that a female dog that seems so intelligent may kill and eat up her pups if she feels threatened when giving birth. Animals are not created in the image of God. They have no conscience and no morality. Man, on the other hand, has morality.
- Similarly, man thinks logically as God does because man is created in the image of God. Man has rationality. Animals, on the other hand, cannot reason in the way that a man can. Animals cannot do mathematics or write computer programs.
- And likewise, a man has a spiritual sense or spirituality in that he knows there is more to life than what he can see with his eyes. He knows that He has a soul and that there is a God because he is made in the image of God.
- And again, man creates new things just as God, in whose image he is made, is the Creator. Man has creativity. Animals can only make things they are programmed to make, such as nests; they cannot make new things.
So in the first place, man is made in the image of God in the broader sense in that he has immortality, rationality, morality, spirituality and creativity.
These things make us like God and distinguish us from animals. Man still possesses this image of God though the Fall has damaged it significantly. We have not lost immortality, though we will live forever in hell unless God saves us. Our conscience is no longer so sharp. Our minds are generally not as rational as before the Fall. Our spiritual sense is clouded. We are no longer as creative as a man before the Fall could be.
But we still retain some aspects of this wider image of God. This is why even after the Fall, God told Noah: “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Gen 9:6). Fallen man is still a creature bearing God’s image, or at least a creature designed to bear God’s image.
But there is also a narrow sense of the image of God, for the Scripture teaches us that man is specially made in the image of God in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness. Paul says in Ephesians 4:24:
“And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph 4:24).
Paul is referring to the new or regenerated man. He is essentially saying that the new man created in Christ Jesus has the original virtues of man restored to him. The original man was created in the image of God. Therefore, righteousness and holiness must have been two of the attributes of man created in the image of God.
Similarly, we read in Colossians 3:10:
“And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col 3:10).
Paul is here saying something very similar to what he says in Ephesians 4:24. He mentions the attributes of the man created after the image of God. But this time, he mentions knowledge.
Thus man must have been created in the image of God in knowledge, righteousness and holiness.
Theologians call this the ‘Narrow Sense of the Image of God.’ This is the fullness and core of the image of God.
- Man was created with true knowledge. Unlike animals, man was created to know God and what is right and wrong according to God’s standards.
- Man was also created with original righteousness. This means that man, unlike animals, was created with a desire and ability to want to do right.
- And likewise, man was created with true holiness. This means that man, unlike animals, was holy or separated unto God. Animals will merely live their lives according to their nature. Man was created in such a way that he knows he must serve and glorify God. He feels his life is meaningless and empty unless he serves God.
This was the case with man originally. Today, man is no longer like that because man has fallen into sin. No longer does man have true knowledge about God and His laws. What remains is just a faint imprint of the law, which is enough to tell man that God exists and that he will have to give an account of his life to God.
Again man no longer has a desire or ability to do good.
Nor does man seek by nature to live for God’s glory. Man has become selfish. Thus, the apostle Paul says:
“There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Rom 3:10-11).
Although fallen man retains a semblance of the broader image of God, we have entirely lost the core of the image of God in us. But it is this core or the narrow sense of the image of God that is most important because it is with this image of God that we can truly enjoy God.
It is like a father and son. The son may look like the father and share a similar genetic makeup. But if his character is very different from that of his father, then it will be tough for them to enjoy each other’s fellowship.
So it is in our relationship with God. If we only have the image of God in the broader sense, we can never really enjoy God. But if we have the image of God in the narrow sense, too, then we will be able to fellowship with God and enjoy Him forever.
How can we get back the lost image of God so that we can enjoy the friendship of God?
Only through Jesus Christ, who is the express image of God (Heb 1:3)! Those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will be renewed in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. They have the image of God restored in them. They can enjoy God today and forever.
Beloved brethren, children and friends, has the image of God been restored in you? Unless it is, your life will be without meaning. Will you not trust in the Lord Jesus Christ?
4. God Appointed Man to Rule over Creation
God told Adam and Eve:
“1:28b Subdue [the earth]: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
What does that mean?
This must mean that man is to be the king over the earth and her creatures. Man is to cultivate and develop the land in a way that will benefit mankind. He may build on it and farm on it. He has the divine authority to do so.
He must, of course, be a responsible steward of the land. He must subdue it, not destroy it.
Likewise, man is appointed dominion over the fishes, the birds and every other living thing. Man has the right to capture, tame, and keep these animals in a way that reflects his dominion and kingship.
Man has been appointed as the king over creation, especially on earth. Some say this also means that man has no divine permission to travel into space. I am not sure about that. But I do know that there is much more yet to be done and discovered on earth and in the oceans. There is so much that man does not yet know and has not yet subdued.
Man must not be afraid of the lower creation. We should not be afraid of cats, dogs, birds, snakes, or insects.
We must train our children from childhood to love animals and insects rather than hate or fear them. How can those who are called to be kings and queens over the animal kingdom be frightened about a little hamster or frog or beetle?
The world has turned upside down because man has failed to exercise his right of dominion over the lower creation. Man and animals are simply not on par with one another. Man need not be afraid of animals and must have the right over animals.
This does not mean that we have the right to abuse animals. We do not. One of the marks of a righteous man in the Scriptures is that he is kind to animals. But when there is a conflict between man’s needs and some animal’s needs, it is always right for man to be given preference. We think of a situation where cows are fat and venerated while millions of people die of starvation. This is just not right. It is a result of Satan’s lies.
Animals are not men. Animals are not higher than men. And no, man does not reincarnate into animals. Man is uniquely made.
God has given man dominion over the creatures. But how does this thought lead us to Christ? Amazingly, the apostle to the Hebrews brings up the thought that man has been given dominion over the creatures to prove the deity of Christ! The point is that while man is given dominion over the creatures, and we sing about it in Psalm 8, the reality is that man does not have dominion over the creatures since the Fall. Does that mean that Psalm 8 is not true? Does it mean we cannot honestly sing, “For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour” (Psa 8:5). Well, no! For the answer is found in Christ! As the apostle puts it:
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.Heb 2:9
What a marvel that, once again, we are led to remember our Saviour and thank Him as we contemplate our initial creation.
5. The Institution of Marriage Anticipated Christ
We are on the subject of how God created man, male and female, after His own image. But we cannot leave the subject without touching on marriage because immediately after God made Eve, He instituted marriage. He says:
“Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Gen 2:25).
These words teach us that because God has created not just man but woman, it is by God’s design that man and woman be married.
This argument, of course, makes sense only because man is created in the image of God and is a moral creature. The fact that animals are created male and female does not imply that they should be married. But in the case of man, it must be so. This is the basis of the Seventh Commandment.
Moreover, let us understand that the marriage of Adam and Eve anticipated Christ. How? In the first place, it was through the marriage of Adam and Eve that Christ would eventually descend. In the second place, the apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 5 that one of the theological purposes of marriage is to reflect the bond between Christ and His Church. Husbands, He says, must love their wives and lay down their lives for them as Christ laid down His life for the church. Wives, on the other hand, must submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ.
Of course, marriage was ordained before the Fall, but God knew everything that was to come because He foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. Therefore, we have little doubt that one of the reasons God instituted marriage is to illustrate the bond of love between Christ and His church.
Our Shorter Catechism summarises the doctrine of Man’s creation neatly:
“God created man, male and female, after his own image in knowledge, righteousness and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.”
But let us not forget that God ordered everything in our creation so that we may be brought to think about Christ when we think about our existence. Indeed, let us not forget that “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (Jn 1:3).
May the Lord grant us that this doctrine not only tickles our minds, but fills our hearts with gratitude for Christ and the strength to walk with Him so that we may be more and more like Him, who is the perfect man, and the express image of God. Amen. —JJ Lim