The Expository Files

God's Work, God's Image, God's Distinction

Genesis 1:27

A serious reading of the early chapters of Genesis is crucial to the development, maintenance, instruction and obedience of faith. J. Sidlow Baxter was right. "The major themes of Scripture may be compared to great rivers, ever deepening and broadening as they flow; and it is true to say that all these rivers have their rise in the watershed of Genesis," ("Explore The Book," p.#23). An example of the practical value of teachings in Genesis is this familiar statement:

"So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created them; male and female He created them," (Gen. 1:27).

Three things stand out and need our attention:

God's Work: "God created man." This is the truth about our origin. God called into existence that which had no previous existence, and the highest act of this divine work was to create human life. When you read the claims of the Bible, consider the evidence and decide that the document is the Word of God - you are glad to read Genesis 1:27 and accept this truth of man's origin: "God created man." As you hold this conclusion in your heart, you are doing what is described in Hebrews 11. "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen . . . by faith, we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible," (Heb. 11:1,3).

Charles Darwin was a British naturalist, who lived from 1809 until 1882, and in his work The Descent of Man he asserted: "Man is descended from some lower form." This is just where the confusion begins for Darwin and his disciples. He changed, revised and sometimes contradicted his own theory. And Darwin's "theory of evolution" evolved. Today, there are interpreters of Darwin who debate their interpretations. Some begin with specific observations of Darwin and build a scientific creed. They apply their interpretation of Darwin and label their fellows as either Darwinian, anti-Darwinian or neo-Darwinian (what we sometimes call "drawing lines of fellowship"). There is a growing number of highly esteemed scientists who argue vigorously against Darwinianism (Michael Behe, Robert Jastrow, Phillip Johnson). There are scientific journals published today, devoted to the theme of "Intelligent Design," responding to the old Darwinian models. Thus, there are many, conflicting evolutionary doctrines claiming authority in Darwin, and many non-Darwinian models and theories now gaining more attention. Not all that is called "science" is academic and objective. Modern science is sometimes encumbered by myth, prejudice, politics, arrogance and human competition (just like modern religion).

So what am I to do? What can I believe? What should I teach my children? "God created man!" Hebrews 3:4 teaches that "every house is built by someone, but He who built all things is God." When you study science, presented with validity and without human agenda, you are studying what God built. Good science yields agreement with the Genesis account, and in particular this affirmation: "God created man."

God's Image:
"God created man in His own image." This word "image," in common discourse, is suggestive of something visual. A camera captures an image, for looking; for observation with the physical eye. Pictures or graphics in computer format are often called "images." So the word is often used for something visual; something that becomes the object of sight. Not in Genesis 1:27.

In dealing with the word in this context, we must move beyond simple visual similarity. This "image" is real, but not necessarily or primarily visual. The word "image" in Gen. 1:27 means "likeness, resemblance." The previous verse reports God's declaration: "Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness."

We were made like God; according to His likeness. Now this cannot be understood as duplication; we are not clones of Deity (see Deut. 4:35). We are like God; we are not God. He made us in His image. We must not attempt to make Him in our image.

Of all God made, He made man unique, like Him. We have the capacity to think, to make choices, to love - unlike plants and animals. We can be good; we can chose good character, do good things, be good people. God never said to a tree, rock or insect, "Be holy, for I am holy," but He says that to us, according to 1 Pet. 1:16. We were made in the image of God.

Sin stifles that resemblance, defacing the image of God. Sin keeps us from personally realizing the full extent of our resemblance to God and living in fellowship with Him. But in your response to Christ, sin is forgiven. And in your continued life of response to Christ, sin is conquered. This was the basis of what Paul said to the saints in Colossae. They had "put on the new self, who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him." Romans 8:29 defines this process in these terms: "for whom he foreknew, He also predestined (to become) conformed to the image of His Son." We were created by God, made in His image. Through the choice to sin, we fall into the bondage and guilt of sin (defacing the image). But in obeying the gospel, we are renewed and conformed to the image of His Son.

God's Distinction: "male and female He created them." Because of the systematic working of error in our culture, we have to talk about things we thought we would never have to bring up. I had no idea in my earlier years I would be addressing this peculiarity of our culture: the blending and blurring of gender differences! That distinction God built into nature is today denied, re-defined and perverted, to accommodate the culture (and ultimately, the perverse desires of individuals serving their own lusts). This is where we are in the culture of 2002.

Sometimes we become aware of men who want to be women, and women who want to be men! There is such a powerful movement, rushing and running away from traditional "gender stereotypes" and roles. According to some who are given their voice by the media, it is no longer good to let the little girls play with dolls and let the little boys have trucks and learn to throw a ball. There is an agenda (subtle in some cases, but bold in others), and the purpose is to deny, confuse and blend the sexes.

Before the Bible is ever opened, the uniqueness of male and female is evidenced in nature. Men and women are different, and that is objectively discernable. Once you get away from the "softer sciences," the evidence joins Biblical truth to confirm the obvious. There are differences in metabolism rate; in skeletal structure; in the circulatory system and certainly in the reproductive system. Forensic scientists can detect the differences between male and female years after the body and spirit have parted! In addition to biological differences, there are social, emotional and psychological differences - about which there was no debate, before the current gender neutral movement (sometimes called "unisex."). {For an excellent study of these issues, see Florida College Annual Lectures, 1995 - In His Image: Male and Female In Nature, by Wayne T. Galloway, p.#151}.

Biblically, here is the case: "And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He crated him; male and female He created them." God created man, in His own image, and the distinction is God's: male and female. Sexual differentiation was not a result of social evolution; it was explicit in divine creation. The suitable partner for man was a woman (Gen. 2:18)!

Romans chapter one is describing the behaviors of a people who have forsaken God. This has always been the context of Romans 1 (long before current discussions that confuse the genders).

"For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due." (Rom. 1:26,27).

Paul uses the terms "natural" and "unnatural," reflecting what is explicitly written in Genesis 1:27 - male and female. When men or women choose to ignore the gender distinction God ordained, they go against God, against nature, corrupt themselves, produce victims, contribute to the decay of their society and work against the purposes of Almighty God. And every work against the purposes of God will be defeated.

"We ought not fear the differences between men and women, rather we should fear a loss of that distinction. Does not nature itself teach us that men and women are different? And in agreement with these natural differences and building on them, the Scriptures clearly teach the proper role for men and women. These innate differences and these traditional gender roles have been so fundamental to mankind's progress and happiness that we may have taken for granted their importance. But if we lose these distinctions it will be painfully clear how important they are." (Thaxter Dickey, "Male and Female Created He Them" in the book, "A Tribute To Melvin Curry," p.#87).

The book of Genesis must continue to inform our faith. Do not be intimidated by any modern efforts to confuse or merge human science with divine revelation. In these early chapters of Genesis, there is truth given in simple terms, for us to digest and act upon today. If you think you have "grown" beyond the book of Genesis, you have deceived yourself and you have confused growth with apostasy.

Helpful Resources:
"In His Image," The Implications of Creation; FC Annual Lectures, 1995.
"A Tribute To Melvin Curry," see page #71: "Male and Female Created He Them" by Thaxter Dickey.

By Warren E. Berkley
From Expository Files 9.11; November 2002