In the Image of God

“God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” —Genesis 1:27

REALIZATION OF THE truthfulness of this text is perhaps the strongest single argument there is against the theory of human evolution. Darwinists are adept at calling attention to the various ways in which the evolutionary ladder may have been climbed throughout the millions of years they claim there has been life on the earth, beginning with protoplasm. But not one has hazarded a guess at what rung in this ladder an ape, or a “missing link,” became conscious of right and wrong, and was able to reason the difference between the two. Nor has any of them been able to suggest a set of circumstances that would prod an ape into thinking on the human level.

As an experiment, a female chimpanzee named Bonga was installed on a small island in a lake at Charlottesville, Virginia. Bonga could not swim, so had to accommodate herself to conditions on the island, even in the winter. When snow came she walked upright. It is claimed that Bonga did this to keep her hands and abdomen from getting wet. This, it has been suggested, may well be, in the distant past, what led to the step in evolution at which chimps and apes began walking upright and became cave men. But what led the apes to discover that they needed a conscience, and that they owed allegiance to a Higher Power, whose laws they ought to obey?

In high circles of professorship in and out of the church, and among our government leaders from the president down, nearly all claim to believe that man was created in the image of God. In the free world it is this viewpoint that constitutes the basis for the “dignity of man” doctrine, and for the zealous fight to maintain the individual rights of man.

This is good, but let us remind ourselves that this viewpoint—which is the unequivocal teaching of the Bible—cannot be harmonized with the Darwin theory of human evolution. If man is a product of evolution, and not the direct creation of God, then there is no basis for the claim that he is the image of God. If God did not create man, and give him his law, then he has no divine law to guide him in his behavior. It might be argued, indeed, that what we suppose to be a law against sin is only a mistakenly conceived repressive measure which in reality is keeping man back from the next great step in evolution.

But thank God for the realization that the plain statements of his Word express that sacred truth, which all right-thinking men and women instinctively espouse and declare, many of them despite their unproved theories of natural selection and evolution. The full beauty and grandeur of the Bible’s teaching on this subject stands out even more brilliantly when we note the detailed manner in which man is so completely set apart from the beasts; and further when we become acquainted with the Creator’s designed eternal destiny for this human creature made in his own image.

This, of course, is not a physical, but a moral and intellectual image. Man has the ability to know right from wrong, and he is able to think, to reason. He cannot think on the same high plane as his Creator. His thinking, rather, is confined to the realm in which he was created to live, that is, the earthly. Speaking to man, God said, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55: 9) But man is able to reason with God on matters pertaining to his relationship with his Creator. God invites this, saying, “Come now, and let us reason together …: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”—Isa. 1:18

Man’s ability to think and to reason out the ways and problems of life, rather than to be guided merely by instinct as are the lower animals, manifests itself in many ways. We see this from the very beginning of human experience. When our first parents disobeyed they immediately felt a sense of guilt, and were afraid. Then, to cover their shame, they donned leaves. In other words, they clothed themselves. Adam and Eve were probably not too adept at garment-making, but which of the lower animals in the garden would even have thought of putting on clothing to cover its nakedness? In fact, God provided a protective covering for the lower animals, but man was left to provide his own.

And man soon began to make and use tools, which is something else the lower animals have never shown any inclination or ability to do. Monkeys, they say, have been known to pick up a stick and with it pry open a door. Elephants, it has been claimed, have been known to use a piece of brush to sweep something from an otherwise unreachable part of his body. But no animal has ever been known to attempt the fashioning, or making of a tool. Here, again, man is set completely apart, and above, even the highest form of lower animals.

Archeological discoveries reveal that the earliest known man manufactured and used tools. Today this difference between man, who was created in the image of God, and the lower animals is more striking than ever. Think of the intricacy of tools and instruments of all sorts which are now in use, with even greater marvels in the making. In modes of travel, communication, and manufacture, we are daily witnessing miracles; but the pig merely keeps on grunting.

Earlier in these lessons we drew a sharp distinction between the infinite wisdom and power of God and the puniness of man. This was to emphasize that with all man’s boasted wisdom he had only scratched the surface in his understanding of the mighty Creative works of God. In this connection we are reminded of a statement made by one of the most brilliant men of all time, Sir Isaac Newton. Well along in his life Newton wrote, “I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.”

Probably most great scientists feel much as Newton did concerning their own accomplishments. Nevertheless, when we consider man’s ability to think, to plan, to invent, we recognize striking evidence of the fact that he was created in the image of God. God, for example, is a Creator, and man is endowed with the desire to create, and by the use of materials already created by God, can put together marvelous things.

At times we hear the comment made of an individual that he has a “creative mind.” However, we are inclined to limit the word create to the works of the Creator. All that man can do is to use the materials provided by the Creator and with them “make” things. And, because he was created in the image of God, what marvelous things man can make! Let us remember, of course, that the metals the gases, the oils, the electricity, the wood, and whatever else man may use in putting together the things he invents, have all been furnished by God; but the fact that man, even in a limited way, can utilize the materials furnished by the Creator is one of the evidences that he was created in the image of God.

Someone has written that “monkeys have no music in their souls,” and thus we are reminded of another wide gap between man and the highest species of the lower animals. Music is harmony of sound which, on earth, apparently only the human ear can discern. However acute a dog’s hearing may be, it does not know the difference between harmony of sound, and discord or noise. But man, created in the image of God, finds one of his greatest delights in the field of music. In a wonderful promise to the Lord’s faithful people, the Prophet Zephaniah wrote, “He [the Lord] will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love, he will joy over thee with singing.” (Zeph. 3:17) From this we learn that God at times expresses his joy and his love through singing. Because man was created in the image of God, he also finds joy in expressing his delights through the harmony of music.

Almost numberless times in the Bible, reference is made to the joy experienced by man in “singing” praises to God, his Maker. And here is another way in which man is set apart from the lower animals—he instinctively looks up to a higher power in praise and worship. Because of man’s fall into sin and selfishness, his quality of worship has in the case of many become distorted—having deteriorated into base superstition in which God is seen as not much different than a demon. In others, the disposition to worship a higher power has been almost completely erased.

But even now, more than six thousand years after man’s creation and fall, the vast majority of the human race still possess, in varying degrees of strength, the desire to worship. Millions bow down before idols; others worship a multiplicity of gods. A few have confidence in the Bible and accept its teachings as the revelation of the one and only true God, the Creator of heaven and earth. A continued examination of his Word, reveals that he is a God of wisdom, justice, love, and power; a God in whom we delight to trust, and whom we are glad to serve. In Jeremiah 9: 23,24 we read, “Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the Lord.”

Man’s Dominion

Verse 26 of the 1st chapter of Genesis uses the word “likeness” as well as “image,” in describing man’s similarity to his Creator. We read, “God said, Let us make man … after our likeness: and let them have dominion.” This would seem to imply that man’s likeness to God included the fact that he was given a dominion. God is the supreme Ruler of all his great universe, and on earth he delegated authority to man, whom he had created in his image. No such grant was given to any of the lower animals, nor would they be capable of exercising dominion. Man’s authority was limited. He was not given dominion over the weather, or seasons, or tides, but only over the lower orders of sentient creatures—the “fish of the sea”; the “fowl of the air”; the “cattle”; and “every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

Just as God commanded the lower orders of the animal creation to multiply and fill the earth, the same command was given to man. Thus the “animal kingdom,” with man as king, was to be extended to encompass the whole earth. Man, under the headship of God, could have successfully controlled his increasing number of ‘subjects’.

There was every necessary provision to enable this divine arrangement for the earth to function as God had planned. Man needed only to use properly what God had provided. “God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”—vss. 29-31

Man’s Home

Everyone knows the unwisdom of trying to understand a story simply by piecing together incidents far removed from the original setting. So it is with the most wonderful story ever written, the story of God’s plan for man as recorded in the Bible. If we are to understand and appreciate this story we must get a clear grasp of its original setting, and as we follow its many sequences, make sure that our understanding of them is in harmony with the original facts as we find them set forth in the Genesis record of Creation. This is particularly true with respect to God’s provision of an eternal home for his human creatures.

On this point we have already presented the complete record. It reveals that the earth was designed to be man’s home, and that man in his original perfection was in every way suited to the earth. God did not give the slightest intimation to Adam that after he ruled successfully for a while over the lower animals, he would be transferred to another home, and exalted to a higher dominion. Nor does the record indicate that if Adam failed on earth, he would be removed from the scene of his failure to enjoy eternity in heaven—or anywhere else!

We know, of course, that tragedy temporarily disturbed the smooth-working of man’s dominion. Indeed, he lost his dominion, and with it his life. But God’s design was not changed by man’s failure. Throughout the Scriptures the fact continues to be emphasized that it is still God’s plan for man to live on the earth, the home which was originally prepared for him. In Isaiah 45:18 we read, “Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited.”

In Psalm 78:69 we are told that the Lord has established the earth forever. Psalm 115:16 declares, “The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord’s: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.” In a prophecy pertaining to the ultimate fulfilled purpose of God concerning his human creation, we read, “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.”—Isa. 11:9

In a promise assuring us of the ultimate triumph of righteousness and of the righteous, the Prophet Isaiah wrote, “He [the Lord] will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.” (Isa. 25:8) The false notion that God will one day abandon the earth and destroy it, does not find support in the Word of God. When the Creator’s design concerning man shall have been fully accomplished, man’s eternal home will be on the earth, and it will be here that, throughout eternity, the Creator will continue to pour out his rich blessings upon his human creation.

Man’s dominion will then be restored to him. This fact is attested by Jesus, who prophetically speaks to those who will prove worthy of everlasting life, saying, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (Matt. 25: 34) This “kingdom,” as we have seen, is a dominion over the earth, and the lower forms of God’s earthly creatures.

The Apostle Paul also confirms the fact that man was created to live on the earth, and nowhere else. Speaking to the Athenians from Mars’ Hill, he said, “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshiped with men’s hands, as though he needed any thing, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; and hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation.” (Acts 17:24-26) This is a strong statement, emphasizing as it does that man was created to live on the earth, and that the “bounds” of his habitation, his dwelling place, or home, had been established.

When the angel announced the birth of Jesus, acclaiming it to be glad tidings of great joy, which would be to all people, the heavenly host sang, “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men.” (Luke 2:10,13,14) Jesus did not come to earth to arrange for a transfer of the human race to heaven. He came that there might be peace and joy and health and life for God’s human creatures here on earth. That is why Jesus taught his followers to pray, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”—Matt. 6:10

True, there are in the Word of God spiritual, or heavenly promises, but these are not made to the human race in general. Their place in the great plan of God will be considered later.

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