Sex Is Marriage: In The Beginning
Mankind Has a Job
Genesis 1:26 tells us God determined to make man in "our image." we will not spend time discussing the reason for the plural pronoun; it will suffice to say the intention of Moses was not to introduce the idea of Trinity. When the children of Israel received this document the prevailing concern was not one God in three persons but the simple idea of monotheism. The pagan world believe in a multiplicity of gods with none of them holding complete sovereignty and power. Flying in the face of that commonly accepted idea is the teaching that Yahweh is the one true God who is the creator of heaven and earth and holds all power over all things. That is the primary message of the creation account concerning the nature of God.
When God said he was going to make man in his own image he doesn't define that. It is often thought that God is concerned with the rational mind or the spirit of man when he refers to the image of God. However, we must be careful of artificial limitation in this case. Remember, we want to first understand how the original audience would have received this and for the ancient Hebrews, the claim that mankind was made in the image of God would have been understood as the whole person. Throughout the Bible it is clear that men are considered a whole being. In other words, the living person is both body and spirit, both rational mind and emotion, both physical and intellectual. Therefore, we will simply acknowledge that the human person is created in the image of God and that all aspects of that human person tell us something about God. Certainly, God is without a physical body but it is because mankind has arms, eyes, and mouth that we have an understanding of the strong arm of God, of what it means to be the apple of his eye, and how it is that God conveys truths to his people.
It seems repetitious for Scripture to tell us God said he would make man in his image according to our likeness and it is often thought this is simply a reinforcement of what was said in the first phrase. I think it is meant to draw our attention to the fact we can know something of the creator through the imitation of God in his creation. We've already touched on this but, to be in the likeness of something is to illustrate that thing. Moreover, this should make us think of the royal language of representation. Even today we understand that when a representative of a head of state visits other dignitaries he or she does so with the authority of that head of state resting upon him. This is certainly true of humanity.
Hence, the image and likeness is charged with dominion. it is important to understand this is representative work. In other words, mankind is working for someone else and that someone else is the creator God. As one who is subordinate to another, humanity must not pursue his own will but do the will of God. And it is God's will that mankind should be stewards of creation not exploiters. It always baffles me why people believe Christianity teaches or allows for the exploitation of God's creation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, it is the pagan, non-Christian cultures that misuse the natural world. The examples are too many to recount here. If you like to know more about that pick up any honest book of history and you'll see what I mean.
It is interesting that God says humanity will reign over the fish of the sea. But how do land-based creatures reign over fish and other animals who live in the water? Well, part of this is simply the task of keeping the watery environment clean and healthy for its inhabitants. There is a lot of husbandry that takes place in the modern world concerning the oceans. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of abuse. The pollution of the oceans and waterways of the world with plastic, for instance, is a shame.
But this is also metaphor. I've said in another place that all of life is metaphor. I'm sure I read that somewhere but I can't remember where I originally saw that. In any case, it means all of life is meant to illustrate a greater truth. Now, this doesn't mean this life and experience is not real. It simply means this real, true world speaks to us about greater things. For our purposes one of the best examples is what Paul has to say about a husband and wife in Ephesians five. He spends quite a while talking about the right attitudes and actions of a husband and wife but concludes by saying it is a mystery, "but I speak of Christ and the church."
When we think about what God is telling us in this section of Scripture we might turn to the book of Daniel for help. In chapter four of the book there is a story about Daniel's interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar's dream of the great tree. Chapter 4 verse 20 we read, the tree you saw was growing very tall and strong, reaching high into the heavens for all the world to see. It had fresh green leaves and was loaded with fruit for all to eat. Wild animals lived in its shade, and birds nested in its branches. That tree, Your Majesty, is you. For you have grown strong and great; your greatness reaches up to heaven, and your rule to the ends of the earth (Daniel 4:20-22).
So, dominion over animals can point to dominion over nations and communities of people. Therefore, under the authority of Yahweh, men may exercise rule over other men. We know from the whole of God's word this is governance characterized by self sacrificial love. In addition, it is designed to be dominion after the manner of the great commission. Truly, the great commission is simply the dominion mandate reimaged in Christ in the new covenant age. This was foretold by the prophet Isaiah when he said, In the last days, the mountain of the LORD's house will be the highest of all—the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. People from many nations will come and say, "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob's God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths." For the LORD's teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore (Isaiah 2:2-4). An authentic reading of this passage makes it clear Isaiah is talking about the character of the new covenant age. It is in the age of the Son of Man, Jesus the Christ, that the nations are disciplined, baptized and taught to observe all that the Lord commands (Matthew 28:18-20).
Yahweh goes on to proclaim that humanity will reign over the birds of the air, domestic animals and indeed all creatures upon the earth. Once again I believe we see the presence of metaphor in this passage even as it is a mandate to husband the created order. Fish, birds, animals, humans – all of creation must be considered in every action of mankind. Truly, this requires sound thinking. It requires wisdom. And wisdom is to think like God thinks. This is part of the image of God in mankind; the ability to think God's thoughts after him.
We recognize the care and nurture of animals primarily with domestic animals and livestock. It is in this category of creatures that the loving care of the creator is most evidently portrayed. Like God in his work of creation, humanity's care of the domestic animals reflects the process of taking hold of creation "rearranging it" and improving upon it. Again, all of this must be done with the same love and concern that the Creator has for his creation.
No aspect of creation is left out of the equation. Even the uncategorized small animals and creeping things fall under the authority of humanity. Is this authority over all things that the last Adam, Jesus Christ the Son of Man claims as his own. Again, in Matthew 28:18 Jesus said that all authority in heaven and Earth had been given to him. Therefore, in his humanity Jesus is the true Adam. He is the one through whom humanity will realize this dominion mandate.
Thus, in his first section we see that humanity was created as God's representative. Mankind must act as God's vice regent on Earth. It is in Jesus Christ that we are able to do this and thereby reclaim the position and the activity of original humanity. This mandate remains the norm in this new covenant age and has been reimaged in the great commission. It was sidetracked by sin but it is restored in Jesus Christ.
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