Title: Searching for More Clues
Text Genesis 1:28-31
The Image of God and the Apostle Paul
The Apostle Paul was a Jew, in fact he was a Pharisee; everything about him was Jewish, including his mindset. He was the Pharisee who persecuted Christians, who met Jesus on the road to Damascus and who gave his life to Christ and became the apostle to the Gentiles, and in the process of all this, he wrote the largest part of the New Testament sending his writings to Gentiles. Ironic, isn’t it?
A common theme that runs through his writings is that of the old way of life versus the new life in Christ, and in discussing this, he used several ways of explaining it. Perhaps the most common of these was his dichotomy between “the flesh” and “the spirit”, but he also described the same thing in other terms; the first man v. the second man, the old man v. the new man, the Law v. life. In all of this, Paul makes essentially the same point: that we have choices to make.
On the one hand, we can continue to live according to the ways of this world, just like we did before we had a relationship with Jesus Christ, or we can live a new life in Him. We can worry about the transactional legalism of the Law, or we can be free in Christ; yes, that is our decision to make. None of that, however, tells us that our physical forms are anything other than the image of God, nothing Paul has written tells us that our bodies are bad, wicked, evil or terrible; actually, the opposite is true.
If God made us with physical bodies that are evil, wicked, shameful and oozing sin, then why would using our bodies for sinful purposes be “immoral”? In such a case, we could rightly say that God made us sinful and wicked, and we just can’t help being what God made us, but Paul (not to mention Jesus) taught the exact opposite. Paul not only gave us the problems, he also gave us the solution: “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”, and “set your mind on things that are above”. Humanity’s great challenge comes not from evil in our physical bodies, but from the wrong kinds of thinking, for we start our journey with Christ thinking like everyone around us, rather than seeing things from a more heavenly perspective. Consequently, our focus is on the things of this physical life; money, food, shelter, pleasure, entertainment, sex, luxuries, sensuality, emotions, feelings, passions and social positions… just like the pagans.
Does this kind of thinking describe Jesus?
Paul did not contradict the notion that we were created, in every way in the image of God, for it is precisely because we were created in God’s image that this is important.
And we don’t have to do this on our own… that’s why we have the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Back to the Beginning
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”
Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.
By now, we have a pretty good idea that our having been created in the image of God applies to us as a total package; body, soul and spirit. If this is true, as it appears to be, then we should find evidence in the story of Adam and Eve, something that would confirm this image in action or application. These verses from Genesis 1 follow the text we looked at recently in which “image” and “likeness” were first mentioned, ending with both the male and the female comprising all or part of God’s likeness.
Right away, God tells them to “be fruitful and increase in number” which is an obvious reference to making babies. I’m pretty sure there is a clue here, what do you think? God continues to say that their increased numbers should fill the whole earth “and subdue it”, and I am thinking this is a second clue. Finally, God tells them that they (humanity) should “rule over” all of the creatures that God has created, or as the old King James said to “have dominion” over them.
Let’s begin with that one, that humans should rule over all of the creatures that God created, to “subdue” the earth. Who is it that rules over all of Creation?
That’s an easy one, for we all know that God rules the universe through the Person of Jesus Christ who rules as King of kings and Lord of lords. Thus, when God told Adam to “subdue” and “rule over” He was in effect delegating a portion of His divine prerogative to them. They would rule according to God’s will and purpose over the earth.
Stop and consider: These two original people, bearing the image of God Himself were to multiply through a physical act to fill the earth with more people bearing the image of God, to subdue and rule over all that God had created here on earth. In doing so, they would be (in His image and doing His will to accomplish His purpose) the very expression of who and what God is. This is why God created humanity; to express Him through fellowship with Him, and quite clearly that fellowship consists of both relationship and His purpose.
Why did Jesus come to earth in the incarnation?
Yes, He came to go to the cross so that God’s original purpose could be restored and attained. By the cross, fellowship between Man and God that had been broken (Gen. 3) was restored, and today it is back in place, only our purpose is to “subdue the earth” by making disciples for the Kingdom of Heaven which upon Jesus’ return will culminate in the removal of all evil from the earth.
Back to Genesis…
Verses 29-30 contain the terms of this arrangement: God gave us all of the trees and plants for food, and forbade them to eat from that one certain tree; follow the rule, and all is fine and dandy, break this one simple request, and there would be problems…
There is a parallel in Genesis 2; let’s take a look…
Genesis 2 gives us a more detailed account of Adam and Eve, the story goes along smoothly as we have already seen, until the end, where there are two comments that seem to come from left field. Here’s the first one:
The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.
Verse 23 is Adam’s comment in quotes; what a nice little ending to that part of the story: Next section…
And then verse 24 drops out of nowhere, the narrator is speaking suddenly in a way that doesn’t actually fit the rest of the chapter; if Moses was the author of Genesis, then why did Moses add that verse?
I took the liberty of a little research, and I discovered that this word string “one flesh” appears 5 times in Scripture, one is our text, and the other four are in the New Testament, and in two of those, Jesus was quoting Genesis 2:24. Hmm… interesting.
The first one of these is found in Matthew 19:
“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” (Matt. 19:4-6)
In this text, some Pharisees were trying to cause Jesus to say the wrong thing so they could accuse Him of something, anything, and they approached Him on the subject of divorce. Notice that in His answer, Jesus goes all the way back to Genesis 2:24 and highlights God’s intention that the male and the female shall come together and become “one flesh” in telling them that God is not so keen on divorce. For our purposes in exploring the image of God and its implications, knowing that male and female are bearers of the image of God, and that they are intended to become one flesh, it is hard to miss the presence of great significance in this statement. Mark also quotes Jesus using this verse in Mark 10:8 in answer to this same question.
Paul, in 1 Corinthians 6:12 ff. was discussing sexual immorality in a larger discussion of freedom in Christ. He makes the point that the human is intended for the Lord, and that each is one of the members of Christ and then asks, “Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!” (6:15b). He goes on to say, “Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (6:16-17). There is a clear connection being made between bearing God’s image, becoming one flesh with a spouse and being united with God in His purpose. One more text:
Paul gives instruction for marriage in Ephesians 5:21-33; everything he wrote in these verses is about marriage, husbands and wives… until the surprise ending:
After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
Once again, the text moves along very smoothly and with no surprises, and Paul drops a bombshell: He isn’t really talking about marriage at all; he’s talking about our relationship with God, as pictured by the relationship of Christ and the Church. Even more amazing than that, the aspect of marriage that is the clincher in all of this is the husband and wife being “one flesh”. Put another way, when husband and wife unite sexually, we have a picture of Mankind uniting with Christ. Can you think of any other word that would mean the same thing as “picture”?
Two come to mind right away: One is “image” and the other is “likeness”.
I think this is a really good place for us to stop and reflect, so I’ll end for now.
Oh wait! I almost forgot the other odd statement, Genesis 2:25:
Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
You know what? After reading these verses all together, this isn’t such an odd addition to Genesis 2 after all; why would they feel any shame; they were an expression of God’s glory!