In his book “What Do You Think of Me? Why Do I Care?” Edward Welch write the following: “So much of life comes down to the following three questions: Who Is God? Who am I? Who are these other people? You might not wake up in the morning with these questions on your mind. In fact, you night never have asked these questions. But, as a human being, these questions are a part of your DNA. You will find them sneaking around in your anger, happiness, contentment, jealousy, sadness, fear, guilt, cutting, sense of purpose, life meaning, decision making, moral choices about sex, friendships, school, work, and so on.”1Edward T. Welch, What Do you Think of Me? Why Do I Care? Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2011.
And then he goes on to give examples of how specific sins or struggles answer these basic questions. Who is God? Who am I? And who are these other people?
Those are really helpful questions that I use sometimes when I’m talking to people in my office, and they are really helpful questions I’ve used with myself when I’m struggling with stuff. Who is God—right now? How am I viewing Him? Who am I? How am I understanding myself? And who are these other people? How am I looking at and viewing others?
In his book Welch gives the example of how jealousy answers these questions. How does jealousy answer the question “Who is God? ‘He is someone who should give me what I want.’ Who am I? ‘I deserve better—better looks, better athletic ability, a better boyfriend or girlfriend.’ ‘I am a judge authorized to stand over others.’ Who are these other people? ‘They are below me. They have things that I deserve more than them.’”2ibid.
Those are the answers we are believing when we give in to the sin of jealousy.
And so asking ourselves these questions is a really helpful practice when we’re struggling and even when we’re not struggling. Who is God? Who am I? Who are these other people?
And I’d go so far as to suggest that many, if not most, of the problems in our individual lives and in our world today come from not answering these questions truthfully.
And that’s why our passage is so important today. It’s always been important, but it’s perhaps especially important in a time when so many are so confused about who God is, and who they really are, and who everybody else is.
Today’s passage is like a compass in the midst of all of this confusion because it brings us back tot he beginning. When God first created us in His image. And it tells us, at the most fundamental level, who we really are. Who you really are. Who everybody else really is.
And it does so by telling us more about God. In fact, once again, we are not the main characters of this passage. God is. This is all about what God decided to do, what God said, what God did. And that’s kind of the whole point of this message today: our identity comes from God. He defines who we are.
And so as we walk through these verses we’re going to see five more truths about God. We’re going to see that 1) God made us in His image, 2) God made us male and female, 3) God gave us a mission, 4) God provided for us, and 5) God rested.
1. God Made Us In His Image
So let’s pick up the story in verse 26, which is half-way through day six. And we read “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’”
Now there’s two big questions we need to ask about this verse. First, who is God talking to? And second, what does it mean to be made in God’s image and likeness?
Let’s answer the first one briefly. Some people suggest that when God says “us” he’s using the “royal we.” Like when the queen of England talks about herself, she doesn’t say “I.” She says “we” just to show that she’s important.
A second suggestion is that God is speaking to the counsel of angels. Like a king in his court, He is announcing His plans to create man.
The third suggestion is that God is speaking to Himself. And this is the one that makes the most sense to me. It doesn’t make sense to me that God would say to the angels, “let us make man in our image,” when we’re only made by God and only made in His image. It makes sense to me that God is talking to Himself about making us in His image.
And so this verse gives us another glimpse of the trinity in action. Father, Son and Holy Spirit saying to one another, “Let us do this together.”
So God says, “Let us make man [or mankind] in our image, after our likeness.” And that’s our next question: what does it mean to be made in God’s image and likeness? What is God’s image in us?
Some people have said that God’s image has to do with our physical appearance. Even something like our face. Some Christians have even used that as a justification to not wear masks in these past few months, because those apparently cover up God’s image.
But this just doesn’t make sense to me, because we know that God doesn’t have a body. So how could our bodies be made in His image?
Others have suggested that God’s image is the abilities we have which the animals don’t have. So, for example, God’s image is our ability to reason and think. Or God’s image is our human personalities, or our soul. One of the big problems with this view is that nobody can agree on what God’s image actually is.
So what does it mean to be made in God’s image? What we look around at the other cultures of the ancient world, we actually see that this idea of being made in a god’s image and likeness was not a brand new idea. In fact it would have been familiar to the original readers of Genesis.
In Egypt, they believed that the Pharaoh was the image, or “a living statue,” of one of their gods. And it wasn’t because of how he looked. It had to do with his behaviour or character. He reflected the character of that god or goddess. He acted like them. And so he was their image.
And when we compare that idea to what we see in the Bible it makes the most sense. We are made in God’s image which means that we were made to be like God, somehow, in the way that we act and behave and the things we do.
Now if you were reading Genesis for the first time, what have we learned about God so far? We’ve learned that He’s a creator. We’ve learned that He’s organized—He separates things like light and darkness, water and land, and puts them both in their proper place. He fills up the empty spaces with life. He is a king who has dominion and rules over His creation.
So is it any coincidence that this is the kind of thing God talks about in the rest of verse 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.’”
And then down in verse 28: “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.’”
God made us to be life him—to fill this earth and to rule over it under Him.
Once again, this was an idea the Israelites would have been familiar with from Egypt. In Egypt they believed that because the pharaoh was an image, a living statue, of one of his gods, he had the right to reign. As the image of his god he ruled here on earth as their representative.
And this idea was pretty close to the truth. God made humans in his image. We are to be like God—creative, orderly, having dominion. And God made us this way so that we would have dominion, ruling over this world under him.
I see the image of God on display in my three children who are helpless creators. Whether it’s Lego or blocks or sticks lying around in the backyard, they can’t help but create. They can’t help but make things. They can’t help but exercise dominion, making up new words for things or ruling over their few square feet of the sandbox.
I see the image of God on display in my wife when she walks into a messy room and can’t be at peace until it’s organized and cleaned up. Like God in the six days of creation, separates and puts things where they belong and then is able to rest from her work.
I see the image of God when I read a good novel, or watch a well-made movie, and see an author or director make a whole world of their own.
These are small but real examples of the image of God on display in us. Ways in which we represent our creator. And if you look for it, you’ll see it everywhere. I was listening to a podcast the other day about someone who was feeling so gross in the early months of the lockdown because they’d just spend hours on social media every night. So they put aside the phone and picked up a creative hobby. They began to make things, and they felt so much better. That’s the image of God, and it starts back here in Genesis.
And what this tells us is that people are really important. God didn’t give the rule of this world to angels, he gave it to people. And this was very different from some of the other stories in the ancient world, where humans were created by the gods as an afterthought, and our only job was to provide the gods with food.
What we see here is that mankind is the crown of God’s creation. After making people, God says, in verse 31, that everything He had made was very good. We’ll come back to that in a moment, but what this shows us is that we are far from an afterthought. We’re the crown of creation because we reflect our creator.
We are living statues of the living God and that makes us so significant because God is so significant.
So that’s the first truth we see here today. God made us in His image. We are creation’s crown.
2. God Made Us Male and Female
Next, let’s look at verse 27: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
This verse has the echoes of poetry about it, with the way it repeats things three times. This is like in a movie, where they slow things down or change the background music to make you really notice what’s going on. This verse is the high point of this whole chapter thus far. And what we see here is our second truth, that God made us not just in His image, but that He made us male and female. “Male and female he created them.”
This tells us so much that’s important for us to know. It tells us the equality between men and women. Men and women, male and female, were both created equally in God’s image. We were both created to reflect God and be like God and have dominion over the earth together.
Second, this tells us that being male and female is God’s idea, not ours. Many people in our world today believe that gender is fluid concept and that we get to decide what our gender is and what it means for us.
Here’s what an article on dictionary.com says about this: “Gender… includes a person’s perception, understanding, and experience of themselves and roles in society. It’s their inner sense about who they’re meant to be and how they want to interact with the world… while a person can only change their sex via surgery, one’s gender is more fluid and based on how they identify."3https://www.dictionary.com/e/gender-vs-sex/
That’s how more and more people in our world today think. And it actually does make sense to think that way if you believe that we are just the result of a blind evolutionary process. If the universe is just one big accident, than what’s important in life, what’s true and good and beautiful and meaningful in life, is up to us. Life is what we make of it, just like we’ve been told in so many stories.
And that’s true, if we were not created by God. We call the shots. And that’s why that dictionary.com article says that gender is someone’s “inner sense about who they’re meant to be and how they want to interact with the world.” “Who they are meant to be” depends upon their “inner sense.” How they interact with the world depends on how they want to interact with the world.
That’s what more and more people in our world today believe. But Christians don’t believe this. And the reason that Christians don’t believe this is because of Genesis 1. This chapter tells us that God made us and that God lovingly calls the shots. He defines what is important and true and good and beautiful and meaningful.
And Genesis 1:27 teaches us that manhood and womanhood, maleness and femaleness, are not our ideas. Those are not concepts which are up to us to define or decide. Genesis 1:27 says that God created us, in His image, as male and female. This was His idea and His plan.
And we’re going to see in the next two weeks that God has a specific design for maleness and femaleness. It’s not just our bodies that are different; God had specific roles for Adam and Eve to play in the great mission that He gave them.
And all of this comes back to Genesis 1:27, which tells us that biological sex and gender are God’s idea, God’s design, God’s plan, God’s creation—not ours. This is why Christians believe what we believe and have always believed this. We believe the Bible and this is what the Bible teaches us.
3. God Gave Us a Mission
Let’s move in to verse 28 which tells us that God gave a mission to the first people. Remember, He doesn’t just make things and walk away. He’s the generous creator and the loving King.
And here, in verse 28, He gives Adam and Eve their royal mandate, their mission. It begins by saying, “And God blessed them.” That’s where it starts. The first communication of God to man in the Bible is blessing.
This is so important this is to understand. I suspect that many of us think that the first thing in the Bible that God says to Adam and Eve is, “don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The first thing is rules.
Yes, God does give rules, but He gives us rules because they are good for us. His heart is to bless us. And He begins with a blessing.
And then He does give a command: “Be fruitful and multiply and full 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” (v. 28).
Notice the royal language here. Subdue. Have dominion. Adam and Eve are to rule this earth. And they are to fill it. Be fruitful and multiply. Have lots of babies.
Do you think this would have been a hard rule to keep, especially before the fall when there was no pain in childbirth? I don’t think so.
Now without spending a lot of time on this, I just want to wave a little flag and say that we need to be careful about applying this command to you and I today. We need to be careful about saying that God wants us today to be fruitful and multiply and that God wants all Christians to have lots of babies.
If that’s true, then the Apostle Paul failed miserably because he was never married and didn’t have any kids of his own.
And yet, he referred to Timothy and Titus as his children (1 Tim 1:2, 2 Tim 1:2, 2:1, Titus 1:4) and spoke to his churches as a parent (1 Corinthians 4:14), comparing himself to both a father and a mother (1 Thessalonians 2:7, 11).
And this makes sense when we remember Jesus’ words that we must be born again (John 3:3). Now that Jesus has come, the focus of God’s plan is not on his people having lots of babies but on His people making disciples.
Now, as many of you realize, having children of our own can be a wonderful way to make disciples. I just baptized my son a few weeks ago, and it was a wonderful celebration of how God has used me and Aimee to disciple him over these past number of years. Having kids gives you a captive audience to teach and to train, and God very often uses parents to help their children be born again.
But now that Jesus has come, not having children can also be a wonderful way to make disciples. Like the Apostle Paul, or some people I know today, who are able to be a father or mother to many precisely because they don’t have kids of their own.
So I’m kind of skimming here. But the big idea is that God gave mankind a mission to rule over the earth, and in order to do that they needed to fill the earth by having lots of babies. “Be fruitful and multiply.”
You and I are in a different place in the story, and we need to be careful about taking these words out of context. And my heart, as always, is that the church would be a place where those with and without children can come together and be a family together as we fulfill our mission, which is to make disciples of all nations.
4. God Provided For Us
Verse 29 continues God’s instructions to the man and woman by talking about how God provided for them: “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. 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” (Genesis 1:29–30).
This whole theme of food and plants is going to be important as Genesis develops. But at this early stage what we see here is God’s generous provision. He takes care of His creation. The plants that He made in day three now become the food for the animals and humans He created on day 6.
This also reminds us again that God did not just create us with His word and leave us to figure things out on our own. Rather, God directs the man and woman with His word, giving instructions on what they were to eat.
From the very beginning we have needed God’s word. We’ve needed God to speak to us. And He has. He provides for us and tells us how to access His provision.
5. God Rested
And so finally we read, in verse 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.”
Our fifth truth is that God rested.
Notice how after each of the first five days we heard that God saw what He had made and said that it was good. But here, with the creation of man, He looks at what He has made and says that it is very good. Really good.
And with this really good day behind Him, God is finished His work of creation. And now He rests.
“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God finished his work that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:1-3).
God rested. And in the context here we should not understand that God was tired and needed a break. Rather, it simply points to the fact that He didn’t do any more creating on that seventh day. He didn’t work in the way that He had been working.
His work was done; there was nothing more to add to His very good creation. And so He rested, setting apart that seventh day in a special way.
Conclusion: Who Is God? Who Are You? Who Are These Other People?
So, five truths. God made us in His image, He made us male and female, He gave the first people a mission, He provided for them, and He rested.
And as we finish up here, and think about how this all fits together, I want to conclude by asking you the questions I asked at the beginning: who is God? Who are you? Who are these other people?
Let’s think specifically about the second question. Who are you? Where does your identity come from? Who do you think about when you think about you being you?
Many people spend all their lives thinking about themselves in purely human terms. They think of themselves in terms of their experiences and their interests and their preferences and nothing more.
Some Christians do turn to the Bible to discover their identity, but they focus on own narrow part of it, forgetting the others. So some Christians think of themselves as fallen sinners and no more. They live in the land of “I’m a sinner, I’m a sinner, I’m a sinner.”
Other Christians focus on who they are in Christ. Their main way of thinking of themselves is that they are loved and forgiven and accepted in Christ. That’s where they start and where they end.
And in a way, each of these different perspectives is true and helpful, if they are taken together. But that’s the important part: we need to take them together. We need to remember the big storyline of the Bible and how it all helps us know who were are.
In the home I grew up in, we spend most of our time in the “sinner” category. That’s where we started, and what’s where we ended most of the time. And I’ve just been realizing recently how much damage this perceptive did. And it’s actually been a very significant step of growth for me recently to begin to think of myself by starting not with the fall but with creation.
I’ve been learning that, when I think about who I am, I shouldn’t start in Genesis 3 with the fall into sin, but in Genesis 1 with the glory of being made in God’s image. Of being created as a living statue of the living God, made to be like God and to reflect and represent him on the earth.
I hope that’s where you start here when you think about who you are. It’s so important because it helps you understand just how significant your life is.
And this doesn’t make you arrogant, because guess what? Everybody else was also made in God’s image. You’re surrounded by living statues of the living God. That’s that third question: “who are these other people?” Images of God.
And who is God? He’s the generous creator who designed us and made us and provided for us and gave us a mission. This is where we need to start when we think about who God is, and who we are, and who these other people are.
Now please don’t hear me saying that I’m trying to minimize the fact that we are fallen sinners who need redemption. In fact, it’s the opposite.
See, when we begin with creation, when we build our identity on the foundation of Genesis 1, then we realize that our sin is a bigger deal than we thought.
Ironically, in my home growing up, where we started with “I’m a dirty sinner,” our understanding of sin was often really, really shallow. It was so often about man-made rules and silly arguments.
But if we start with “we were made in the image of God, created to reflect the creator here on earth,” then we’ll see what a huge deal our sin actually is. And that’s something we’re going to explore in three weeks or so.
And this, in turn, will help us see just how big of a deal Christ’s redemption is. When we see how high we started, we’ll see how far we fell and how much Christ did to save us— how much His forgiveness cost and how big the distance was that he pulled us up again.
And it’s even bigger than that. Because in saving us, Jesus is not just restoring us to where we were before. He’s not just making us like Adam. He is shaping us into His image, reforming our identity to be like Christ Himself.
“Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit…The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47–49).
The goal of our redemption is to make us once again reflect the image of God in an even greater way than Adam and Eve did, because we are going to be like Jesus Christ Himself, who is the perfect image of God.
So who are you? You are an image of God, way more significant than you can imagine. You are fallen, way more sinful than you can imagine. And, if you know Christ, if you’ve been saved by Him, then you are way more righteous and way more loved and way more saved than you can imagine. And one day, in the New Creation, you will be way more glorious than you can imagine.
And this is true for everybody else you see.
So how do we respond to this? One answer is worship, and that’s what we’re going to do in a moment here as we sing “How Great Thou Art.”
But I also hope you take away from this message those three questions, and how important they are. The next time you’re wrestling or struggling with something, the next time you’re tempted with a sin, the next time you’re unsure of how to proceed, ask those questions. And be honest about how you are answering those questions in that moment.
And then, beginning in Genesis 1 and moving through the rest of the Bible, start to tell yourself the truth. Answer truthfully, who God is, and who you are, and who these other people are. And just watch what happens.