There is something special about the sixth day of creation. In it God made livestock and wild animals. But He also did more. On this day, God created an image of Himself mankind. Man is the pinnacle of God’s creation. From here on in, throughout the Bible we read about this particular creation. We do not read about fish unless it is in connection with Man. We do not read about oak trees unless it is in connection with Man. The focus of the Bible is the Human Race: the Human Race in rebellion against God and the Human Race as the object of God’s special love shown in His redemptive plan.
Of course, to say that the creation of human beings is the most important part of the Creation event might be seen as an egotistical statement in this day of animal’s rights. I read a Peanuts comic strip not so long ago in which Snoopy the dog is trying to explain to Woodstock the bird that dogs are the highest developed life form on the planet. And if we were fish, we might well be taught in our schools that fish are the most important part of creation.
But neither Snoopy nor the schools of fish are the most important. Men and women are higher than any other forms of creation. They rule over creation and are told by God to have dominion over the rest of creation. They do not rule by force of strength. Many animals are stronger and more powerful than any man. Mankind rules over the animals because he was appointed to do so by God.
When God Creates
In Genesis 1:26, 27 the uniqueness of Man and his superiority to the rest of creation is expressed in the word “create.” “Create” is used in Genesis to indicate that something special is happening. God is making something totally new; something unique to the rest of creation. Threetimes the word “create” is used in Genesis 1. First, in Genesis 1:1 where God creates something out of nothing. God spoke and heaven and earth – matter – became real. From that matter, through the Word of God, came vegetation, trees and all plant life. The second time the Bible uses the word “create” is in connection with conscious life things that know they are alive like fish, birds, and mammals. Then in Gnesis 1:27, God created Man. He created a being with a soul, a spirit; a being with God-consciousness.
We see progression in the creation account. From nothing to matter; from matter to life; and from life to God-consciousness. And just so you do not miss the point, the writer of Genesis is inspired by the Holy Spirit to tell us three times in verse twenty-seven that something significant has taken place in the creation of the man and woman: “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” It is as though God is putting His exclamation point at the end of the creation account to indicate that there is something special, something unique, something very important about the creation of Mankind.
And what is it that is so special? That, too, is reported for us three times in :26 and :27. Man was created in God’s image. The Heidelberg Catechism teaches that to be created in God’s image means that God made us “in true righteousness and holiness, so that he might truly know God his creator.”
Holiness and Righteousness
Men and women posses the attributes of personality, even as God does. That personality includes knowledge. It includes feelings (including spiritual feelings), and it includes a will. These God has. These Adam and Eve had. These the rest of creation does not have. Some people may argue that animals possess a certain kind of personality, but animals cannot reason like people do. You cannot have a decent conversation with your chicken. You may be able to teach your pet dog to respond to certain stimuli, but it is only conforming to certain patterns of behavior. Nothing else in all creation can truly love or worship God.
Being created in the image of God makes us moral creatures. Man was created with a certain amount of freedom, but with that freedom came responsibility. Man was good and without sin at the time of creation. He knew God. He loved God. He worshiped God. But he also had to obey God. Adam and Eve had the responsibility to acknowledge their Creator.
Even though they were above the rest of creation, they were not above God. In order to acknowledge God as the Creator and to recognize Him as above all things – including themselves – they were not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. When Adam and Eve ate from that tree, they lost their true righteousness and holiness.
No longer were we a people able not to sin; we became a people unable not to sin. As Lord’s Day 4 will point out, Adam and Eve still had the same moral responsibility that they were created with. They still had to love and honor God. That responsibility is passed on to all the descendants of Adam and Eve, as well.
When Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree, they rejected the superiority of God. They poisoned themselves and their yet unborn offspring. We are guilty of sin because Adam and Eve ate from the tree.
When does this corruption begin in us? Certainly it began at the fall of Adam and Eve. But when are you personally guilty of sin and deserving of hell? Is it after you have a knowledge of God and His Law? Is it at the age of reason? Is it at viability or while we are still in the womb?
A Pro-Life View
The Bible teaches that it is at conception. Genesis 5:3 teaches us that Adam had a son “in his own likeness” meaning born in sin. Psalm 51:5 says: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” The Heidelberg Catechism teaches in Question and Answer 7: “…we are born sinners corrupt from conception on.” Our form of Baptism picks up on that when every parent is asked: “Do you acknowledge that our children, though conceived and born in sin, and therefore are subject to all manner of misery, yea to condemnation itself are sanctified by Christ and therefore ought to be baptized?”
If you believe in the guilt of original sin and answer “I do” to the question asked at Baptism, then you believe that life begins at conception. That is a very Pro-life view! You cannot say that you are Pro-life and have a view that life begins at twenty-two weeks. You cannot say that you accept the Reformed faith and say that life begins at birth.
Why not? Because the soul is there at conception. That is what the Bible teaches. The image of God is there at conception. Why? Because God put it there! At the moment of conception we have in us the image of God. We have to understand that we are in the image of God not because of what we do but because of how we are made. And because we are made in God’s image, we are valuable to God.
Several years ago a college professor from a “Christian” college showed the congregation I was serving three acorns. He asked us what they were. We of course replied that they were acorns. He then asked us that if he destroyed those acorns would we accuse him of destroying three oak trees. We replied, “No.” His argument was that the acorns were not oak trees but potential oak trees.
Then he made a giant leap of logic and went on to argue that the destruction of a zygote or an embryo would not be killing a person, but a potential person. He then showed some slides of people with genetic deformities. His contention, as he showed these slides, was that these people should never have been born. With the technology that we have today to detect deformities and illnesses before birth we should abort such grotesques creatures.
To do that, however, is to destroy a creature that has in it the image of God. Not a potential image bearer, but one created with God’s image already implanted in him at conception. The image of God is not how your teeth are arranged. The image of God is not blue eyes, blond hair, and whatever other Aryan characteristics you may like. The image of God is something that God has planted in each and every person from conception on. To destroy that image is what the Bible calls murder.
It is murder because you are destroying the very pinnacle, the very crown of creation. If oak trees were the pinnacle of God’s creation and every one of them was branded with the image of God, it certainly would be wrong to destroy an acorn. We have to understand that according to the Bible the image of God is not something that you do, it is something God has placed in you already at conception. By our very nature; by being what we are – human beings; we bear the image of God.
The Image Restored
God loves His image bearers in a way that He does not love the plants and animals He created. He loves them so much that He sent His Son into the world to restore that image that was shattered through the fall.
Sin has greatly marred the image of God within us. Like a shattered mirror badly reflects the image before it, so we badly reflect the image of God. Every part of our being has been affected by the Fall.
That’s obvious from the fact that, after the Fall, Adam and Eve ran away from God when they heard Him in the Garden. They tried to hide from the very One who had created them. And men and women have been trying to hide from God ever since.
But God, through His Son and through the Holy Spirit, has established contact with those who have rebelled against Him. God’s Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross so that we might be restored to God. Through His death we can regain that perfect image of God. Saved by grace, when the sinner enters into glory through Jesus Christ, he shall again have true righteousness and holiness. We will once again truly know God as our Creator, we will love Him with all of our heart, and live with Him in eternal happiness for His praise and glory.
Rev. Wybren Oord is the pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan and editor of The Outlook.