Good evening. We are back to our series on these crucial opening chapters of Genesis. Last week David Holloway gave us an overview of Genesis 1.1-2.3 – all seven days of creation. This evening we’re revisiting one part of that, Genesis 1.26-31, so that we can spend a bit more time on this vital teaching. My title is The Making of Mankind, and that’s what this section is about. We need God’s help, so let’s pray:
Heavenly Father, we thank you for your true and living word. Thank you that we can build our lives on it, and that is the only safe thing to do. Help us by your Holy Spirit to learn from it, and teach us better how to live by it. In the name of Jesus through whom you made us, and by whom you redeemed us. Amen.
I want to begin with a story that I’ve told before – but I can’t resist telling it again. I was once a foundation engineer. I used to tour around the country assessing problems caused by the faulty foundations of buildings. I remember once I went to see the home of a couple who were in a state of high anxiety. A few nights before they had been asleep in their bed when they were woken by an almighty bang like a cannon going off in the next room. Full of fear, they investigated. When they went into the living room they saw, to their horror, running diagonally across the brick wall a crack about 8cm wide. You could put your fist in it. You could see right through into the next room. The day before, there’d been nothing evidently wrong at all. But under the ground, the foundations had been gradually moving. And the moment came when the walls above could no longer withstand the pressure. Bang. The couple moved out because they were afraid the house would collapse around their ears.
If foundations are removed, you’re in trouble. Genesis 1 is the foundation not only of our Christian faith, but also of the last thousand years and more of Western society. Reject its truths – remove our foundation – and there’s nothing left holding up our culture. As Christians, it’s easy take our Genesis 1 foundation for granted. But if that was ever a safe thing to do, it isn’t any longer. Let’s be clear and unapologetic about the fact that in Genesis 1 mankind is the culmination of creation – made from the same stuff as the animals, but not an animal. We are qualitatively different – not just further along a spectrum. In fact it’s fascinating to hear a Darwinist evolutionary biologist like professor Steve Jones – no friend to Christian faith – say that we are unique in many ways, including speech, and so unlike animals that the nature of humanity is inexplicable by biology. He says, “If you can’t compare, it’s very hard to know what’s going on.”
Let me say also that there are big issues here at every step, that bear much more exploration. However, we shouldn’t be daunted, because the fundamentals spelled out in Genesis 1 are both simple and profound. This is the truth. This is how things are. So I have just the one very simple and profound heading: GOD MADE US ALL.
That’s the essence of what Genesis 1.26-31 is telling us. And I want to spell that out in SEVEN FOUNDATIONAL FACTS from these verses. These may seem obvious to us – especially if we grew up in a Christian environment in which these facts were the foundation on which our worldview was built from childhood. But let’s not be under any illusions. They are not obvious to our culture any longer. They are all variously contested and denied – with dangerous and often deadly consequences. So here they are.
First foundational fact: GOD MADE MANKIND
Genesis 1.26 starts with these words which are so immense in their significance that’s it’s impossible to do them justice:
Then God said, “Let us make man…”
Man here means mankind – humanity male and female. So there’s a helpful footnote in the ESV Bible which reads:
The Hebrew word for man (Adam) is the generic term for mankind and becomes the proper name Adam.
Well, what God decided he then acted on. Genesis 1.27:
So God created man…
As evangelical Christians we emphasise, quite rightly, our redemption through the cross of Christ. But it’s a travesty if that means we neglect the significance of the fact that God is not only our Redeemer but our Creator as well. We need to be grateful for the gift of life.
Secondly, GOD MADE MANKIND IN HIS IMAGE
Genesis 1.26 again:
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
That’s followed up in Genesis 1.27:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him…
What does it mean that we are created in the image of God? David discussed this helpfully last week, in terms of rationality, creativity, dominion, righteousness and communion. Let me stress that of course this means that every boy, girl, man and woman without exception is made in the image of God. That’s massively important. And that God-given dignity of every person was hard won in our culture. Tom Holland is a historian who sees clearly how shatteringly new and transforming it was when Christian faith exploded onto the pagan Roman world. He writes of what he calls the seismic event of the coming of Christianity. He says:
Dignity, which no philosopher had ever taught might be possessed by the stinking, toiling masses, was for all. There was no human existence so wretched, none so despised or vulnerable, that it did not bear witness to the image of God. Divine love for the outcast and derelict demanded that mortals love them too.
This was the conviction, he writes, that lead to what was in effect the first hospital. And, I quote:
Across the Roman world, wailing at the sides of the roads or on rubbish tips, babies abandoned by their parents were a common sight. Others might be dropped down drains, there to perish in their hundreds…Only a few peoples…had stood aloof from the exposure of unwanted children. Pretty much everyone else had always taken it for granted. Until, that was, the emergence of a Christian people.
And what happens if that foundation is not there, or crumbles and collapses? Here’s one example. In 2019 there were 43 million abortions around the world – over 40% of all deaths. That is what we, mankind, have done. Lose the foundational fact that God created us in his image, and we lose human dignity for all. Lose human dignity, and it’s deadly. We need to respect every person.
Thirdly, GOD MADE MANKIND MALE AND FEMALE
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
So foundational is this, not least for marriage between a man and a woman as the bedrock of human society, that Jesus himself – the Son of God, and our Creator – taught this directly, and from this very passage of Scripture. So for instance the Gospel of Mark 10.6, records how Jesus taught:
…from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’
Arguably that’s a foundational fact that has been obvious to all mankind through millennia of history up until this last generation. That’s a measure of how extreme our culture is becoming. The other day there was an article in the paper by a professor of philosophy (not a Christian) who’s been facing fierce attacks for raising her concerns. She (Professor Kathleen Stock) wrote:
It is mind-boggling to me that…some schools are telling children that their feelings about gender identity matter more than facts about their sex. [And she speaks of…] the risks we face when our institutions – be they medical, legal, sporting or educational – decide that gender identity is more important than biological sex without considering the consequences.
And, we might add in the light of Genesis 1 and the teaching of Jesus, if our culture continues down the road of de-coupling gender identity from biological sex, it will be a disaster. If you want to follow up on these issues, and you’re in the north-east and on our emailing list, then there’s information in our weekly email about online events being run by the Christian Institute early next month called Identity Matters. We need to value our God-created partnership as men and women.
Fourthly, and following on closely from that: GOD BLESSED MANKIND WITH THE COMMISSION TO BE FRUITFUL AND MULTIPLY
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth…
Children are a blessing from God. That’s not at all to say that parenting is easy or comfortable. But we must not degenerate into seeing children as a curse. We must not wish children away, or, God forbid, wish them dead. If and as we can, we should obey what is unmistakably a command to mankind collectively to be fruitful and multiply. In the words of Hebrews 13.4:
Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled…
We need to honour marriage and its fruit.
Fifthly, GOD GAVE MANKIND DOMINION OVER THE EARTH AND EVERYTHING IN IT
Genesis 1.26 again:
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 again in Genesis 1.28:
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.”
It seems to me a great irony that some attack this very notion of human dominion over the earth. They see it as the root of mankind’s destructive tendencies. They call on us to reject the notion and to take responsibility to look after the earth. Of course we should look after earth. But we can only have responsibility to do that precisely because we are charged with having dominion over it. We are stewards of God’s creation. It belongs to him. He has given us dominion, and with dominion comes responsibility. We’re constantly tempted to shirk it. But under God, we need to take responsibility for the earth and everything in it.
Sixthly, GOD PROVIDED FOR MANKIND
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 this provision extends to animals as well. Genesis 1.30:
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.”
As Alasdair Paine points out, God’s gift to us of plants yielding seed (which is not mentioned in relation to animals, though of course they eat seeds) implies agriculture. Animals forage; we normally farm. So God has given us the land, the skills and the natural resources with which to feed ourselves. And that remains true even with a rising population in the billions. It’s striking that even now, on this heavily populated island, as the BBC reported:
Ordnance Survey data suggests that all the buildings in the UK…cover 1.4% of the total land surface…Buildings cover less of Britain than the land revealed when the tide goes out.
But apparently one third of all food produced worldwide is wasted. To give a slightly mind-boggling example, 2.6 million slices of bread are thrown away every day in London. Food shortage is not a matter of supply. It is a matter of distribution. Even as God provides for us, we need to be generous and care for needs.
And to round off these foundational facts – Seventhly, MANKIND AS CREATED BY GOD IS GOOD
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. [And that includes us] And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Now, of course, Genesis 1 and 2 are followed by Genesis 3. Sin enters the world, with all its distortions and damage. But we were not created sinful. Sin was our choice. We’ll come to that later in this series. What God created was good. And that brings us back again to the inherent dignity of mankind. Winston Churchill famously quipped:
We are all worms; but I do believe I am a glow-worm.
But the truth is we are not worms. But you could say that, without any exception at all, as men and women, made by God in his image for his glory, we all glow. And in the man Jesus we see what sinful mankind should be, and what it can become, by grace, through faith in him. This creation foundation is being seriously undermined. With God’s help, let’s work to restore it. Let’s pray:
Heavenly Father, thank you that you are our Creator. Help us to grasp all the multi-faceted implications of that. Teach us to be grateful for the gift of life; to respect every person; to value our God-created partnership as men and women; to honour marriage and its fruit; to take responsibility for the earth and everything in it; to be generous; and to bring you glory. In Jesus name we pray. Amen.