Topic: English Passage: Genesis 1–3
We live in a world filled with problems. Few would deny it. There are problems on the global scale. There are problems on the national level. And there are problems on the individual level. They range from minor annoyances to serious difficulties. There are Financial problems. Relationship problems. Work problems. Family problems. Physical problems. Emotional problems. Spiritual problems. And getting to the root of these problems isn’t always easy.
Some of you here have had the experience of having some kind of sickness, but no doctor can tell you what it is and no medication seems to be working. It becomes a time of discomfort, frustration, worry, and confusion. But one day, maybe it’s happened to you already, someone comes along and finally is able to diagnose what your problem is. And finally there is a sense of relief. Finally, you know what you’re dealing with, and what needs to be done to get better. The healing won’t be instantaneous, but at least now you’re on the right track.
Well, in many ways, the same is true for every single one of your problems in life. If you don’t know what you’re dealing with, you can’t make real progress. You can’t have any real hope. And no matter what kind of problem you’re talking about, you are always going to be dealing with one thing—people. Right? If it didn’t involve or affect anybody, it wouldn’t be a problem.
So, a major component to understanding life and making progress in it is to understand people. What is a person? What is man? What are you?
Up to now, our study of Christian doctrine has predominantly focused on God—who He is, what He’s like, and how He works. But the thrust of God’s work in the Bible concerns man. “What is man?”
The world has its own answers. And it bombards us with those answers constantly. Those messages affect you, whether you know it or not. They can be so engrained in your life that you don’t even question them. In fact you wonder how anybody could think any different. The world’s message affects the way you think about life, the way you think about other people, the way you think about relationships.
And the only way out, the only way you can keep from being conformed to this world is to be transformed by the renewal of your mind. You need to go back to what the Bible says. The study of man is called Anthropology. And while the world has its own ways of studying anthropology, we want to have a biblical anthropology. What does God say man is?
It’s a question with a lot of possible answers, and for our today, I’m going to be sticking to the broad answers. And for the sake of time, we’re just going to jump right in. What do we know about man? Our first answer comes from the very beginning of the Bible, and it is this: Man was created by God in His image. He is created by God in the image of God.
Go with me to Genesis 1. After six days of creation, the world has day and night. There is sky and dry land and plants. There are animals in the sky, in the water, and on the dry land. And everything is good. But all this was to prepare the world for something else. Gen 1:26-28.
This is something special. This is a climax in creation. God made something totally different, totally distinct. Something that would be like Him. Something that would represent Him. Something that would relate to Him in a way that is very different than the rest of creation. That is mankind. Human beings. Men and women. They are special. All of them.
Now, what does it mean to be made in the image of God? Well, the Hebrews words used for image and likeness point to similarity and representation. To be made in God’s image means that we are like Him and we represent Him. We are not little gods, but we are like God in some ways.
God gave man authority over creation, which represents God’s authority. God made us male and female, reflecting that we serve a God of relationships. God told man to fill the earth because He wanted His image expressed over the entire planet. There was to be no place where God was not represented and glorified by man. To be made in God’s image includes all the things about us that are like God—our ability to think, to make decisions, to feel emotions, to discern right and wrong, to create culture, to love.
This is a high calling for us. And it’s what makes humans unique. This might sound obvious to you, but not everyone accepts this. We live in a world that believes in evolution, which says people really aren’t that special.
Ingrid Newkirk, the president of PETA, citing the “Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness” wrote this: “humans are not unique in ways that matter.” She’s also the one credited with the phrase: “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” Basically, they study genetics or biology, and the conclusion they come to is: we’re just another species of animal. And that’s the product of an evolutionary mindset.
Compare that to the words of Jesus who said: “You are more valuable than many sparrows” (Matt 10). Or Psalm 8:5: He is “a little lower than the heavenly beings.” Man has a special place in God’s plan. We’re not just another animal who is farther along in the evolutionary chain.
The problems we face with violence, injustice, abortion, euthanasia, abuse, racism or sexism… all these come from failing to understand that all people are created in God’s image, men and women. We have dignity and value. And we also have responsibility.
There are people whose think they are completely free. They get to decide who they are or what they do with their life. They get to decide how to be stewards of the creation. An extreme case is someone deciding what sex they should be. But we are not autonomous. We are not independent. There are things about ourselves that we don’t get to decide. God decides. He created us and we are here to glorify Him.
Other people erase human freedom altogether, and basically believe that we are the victims of external forces. And that isn’t true either. God gave us responsibility. We’re not just machines or animals. We are responsible for our decisions. We will be judged by God.
The image of God is so important. In Genesis 9, it’s the basis for the prohibition of murder. In James 3, it’s the basis for the prohibition against cursing someone with our tongue. When you’re talking to someone else, you’re talking to someone made in the image of God. To attack them is to attack God. Mankind is created by God in the image of God. And that is a basic biblical truth.
What else do we know? Number 2, Man is a unity of both material and immaterial components. Mankind is a unity of both material and immaterial components. Let’s unpack that.
Obviously the material part of you is your body, the part that is visible and science measures. But the immaterial part of you is invisible. Science can’t access it directly. The first part of our statement is that we are a unity. That means that these components are linked. Look with me at Genesis 1:31.
Genesis 2, zooms in on the creation account to give us a little more detail on how God created mankind. Look at Gen 2:7.
God formed Adam out of the dust. That made his body, the material part. But then God also breathed life into him, that’s the immaterial part, the invisible part. This is so vital to who we are. You are a complex unity of these two things, and both are given to you by God. Both are part of who you are.
Throughout history, many people have attacked the body, saying it doesn’t’ really matter. Socrates referred to the body as a prison for the soul. And many Christians through the centuries have taken a similar stance. Even today, you might see people come to Christianity with this idea that our physical body is a bad or unimportant. Like we’re supposed to get rid of it.
This happens sometimes because Paul uses the word “flesh” to talk about the sinful nature. And some people link that to the physical body, which isn’t true. God gave you your body. It is to glorify Him. And it is good. We need to be people who care about the body. It’s the temple of the Holy Spirit.
Even in eternity, your body matters. Death is a separation of the body from the immaterial, but it’s only temporary. You will receive a glorified body forever. And it will be a physical body.
We are a unity of material and immaterial. You can’t continue in sin and think: Oh that’s just my body committing sin, it’s not my soul. Or you can’t punch somebody and say: Well I didn’t actually hurt YOU, I only hurt your body. That doesn’t work! That’s not the biblical view.
Now what about the immaterial part? This is the part that science can’t fully understand. The invisible or immaterial part of you is what actually controls you. It’s the control center of your life. And the Bible has different words for it. It’s called your heart, your soul, your spirit, your mind.
There are different opinions as to what kind of distinctions there are between these things, but the Bible uses them pretty interchangeably. This is the invisible part of you that is connected to your thoughts, to your decisions, to your emotions, to your spirituality, to your wisdom, to your mind or your memory, to your inner life. The Bible makes no distinction between what it calls your heart or your soul or your mind or your spirit. It’s just talking about you as a person, your inner person.
When it says, love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength, it’s just repeating different ways of saying: Love God with all that you are. Sometimes the Bible will refer to a person as a “body and soul.” Sometimes it calls people “body and spirit.” In John 12 it says Jesus was troubled in His soul. In John 13 it says He’s troubled in His spirit. Luke 1 uses poetry to link Mary’s soul and her spirit. So they are really just different words for the same thing. And you can use them as synonyms for emphasis.
Some people disagree. They see a much greater distinction between soul and spirit. That’s not too big a deal. As long as we agree that a human person is a complex unity with both visible and invisible parts. And as long as we don’t make the Bible say more than it does.
This idea of being a unity means that these things affect each other. Your thoughts affect your actions. Your thoughts affect your body. If a child feels nervous, he can get sick to his stomach. And the same is true the other way around. Your body affects your thoughts, your soul. If you get injured you get sad or frustrated. You complain. There is an amazing link between our physical bodies and our invisible, inner self. And we need to consider both, not just one. We don’t want to make an idol out of our physical body. And we don’t want to neglect it either. You are a special unity with physical and immaterial components.
But there is a problem. And this problem is our third point this morning. Number 3: Man is corrupted by sin. Man is corrupted by sin. Go with me to Genesis chapter 3.
This is where we really get to understand the problem with mankind. In Genesis 3, we have the story of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. We call this the Fall of Man. The only negative command given to Adam and Eve was that they were not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, Satan tempts them to distrust God and they disobey. Eve eats, and Adam eats. And the result was God’s curse. Look with me at Genesis 3:16-19.
What happened? Well, there was a spiritual result, which was separation from God, shame, and guilt. But there were also physical results. God said that life would be painful and difficult. Ladies, for you this includes more than just giving birth. It includes your entire reproductive system, and all the problems that gives you. It also includes the difficulty you have in submitting to your husbands. The “desire” verse 16 mentions is talking about a desire to rule over. The Curse isn’t what made Eve submit to her husband; that was part of the Creation order. But it was the Curse that made it difficult for her to accept it. It’s what makes dealing with your husband so difficult. It’s what strains the relationship.
And the Curse didn’t just affect people; it changed the world. You see, the world followed mankind into corruption. So now, Adam’s work to provide for his family would not come easy. There would be thorns and thistles and increased pain and aggravation. This curse on the world is what brought into the world, the possibility of diseases and sicknesses, and ultimately death.
And … it didn’t just affect Adam and Eve. It affected every single person. Turn with me to Romans 5. Here Paul is talking about the power of the gospel, but he’s going back to the beginning. To the beginning of sin. Rom 5:12.
Through Adam, came sin, disobedience, wickedness, evil. And through sin, came death. And we all sin and we all die. This is what theology typically refers to as “Original Sin.” We are all born into a sinful state, into a sinful condition. The seed of every sinful act is already in us. It doesn’t come from outside us. It comes from our sinful nature within. From our heart.
Psalm 51:5 or 58:3 connects sin to the time of our birth, even to the time of our conception. Ephesians 2:3 says we were “by nature children of wrath, living in the lusts of our flesh and giving in to the desires of the flesh and of the mind.”
We are slaves of Satan. We aren’t called sinners because we commit sin. We commit sin because we have a sinful nature. So we are sinful by nature, first, and then by choice, when that nature expresses itself.
Now, to what extent are we affected by this sin nature? The Bible indicates that the effects of sin reach into every person and into every part of who we are. We are completely polluted by sin, completely disabled. It’s so bad that we are incapable of doing anything to change it. Every aspect of who you are is corrupted by sin.
Romans 1 and Ephesians 2 say your will is corrupted. Romans 1 and Ephesians 4 say your intellect is corrupted. Jeremiah 17 and Mark 7 say your heart is corrupted. Genesis 6 describes the world like this: “Every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually.”
Does this mean all of us are as bad as we can be? No. God graciously restrains sin. But it does mean that none of us are as good as God requires. We don’t think like He wants us to. We don’t act like He wants us to. We don’t love like He wants us to. It means that our ability to please God is completely gone. Rom 3:23 – all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Romans 8:8—“Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” John 15:15, Jesus saya: Apart from Me who can do nothing. John 6:44 — No one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him.
We can do some relative good, but we do cannot do any spiritual good that pleases God or enters us into a good standing with Him.
This doesn’t mean that we’ve lost the image of God. We haven’t lost any dignity or responsibility. But we have disfigured it, in a sense. We’ve marred it. We’ve lost our ability to ability to love God and represent Him perfectly.
This is a huge doctrine! It’s fundamental to life, this side of the Curse. And it’s a doctrine that our culture rejects. They say we are basically good. They say the bad stuff is just the result of not being loved enough. God says you love yourself too much. Our world says you don’t love yourself enough. They call it “self-esteem.”
People begin to excuse sin as a “sickness” or a “condition” instead of sin. Parents live in fear that they are going to damage their child in some spiritual way or set them on a wrong course for life. Well, guess what? They are already on the wrong course. Your job is not to avoid doing something. It’s to DO something. Teach them the truth about God. Teach them about God’s law. Teach them about a sinful heart. And most of all, teach them about Jesus Christ.
And this leads us to our final point for today. Again, we’re just covering the broad truths about man. Mankind is created in the image of God. Mankind is a union of a material and immaterial components. Mankind is entirely corrupted by sin, physically and spiritually. And finally, Mankind is redeemed by Jesus Christ. Mankind is redeemed by Jesus Christ.
Man is the focal point of God’s redemption. We are corrupted. We are tainted. But there is a solution. And it’s a solution that only God provides in Jesus Christ, who became a man to undo the Curse on man. It’s a solution to every problem you face. It’s a solution to the biggest problem you face, which is your sin. Sin brings separation. Sin brings death. Death is a separation of your body from your spirit. Sin brought separation between you and other people. But worst of all, sin brought a separation between you and God.
God is perfectly holy. He hates sin. He is righteously angry with sinners. He righteously judges sinners forever in hell. He is too pure not to punish sin. He is to glorious not to deal out justice. But, in love and grace and mercy, He has provided His Son, Jesus Christ, who took the penalty of sin upon Himself. And for anyone who repents of sin, who turns away from living for themselves and believes in Jesus Christ, there is the promise forgiveness and salvation and a restored relationship with God.
Look down with me again at Romans 5. This is our last passage. Adam’s sin had a universal effect, but it was not irreversible. In Jesus Christ, we have the gift of salvation. Rom 5:15-21.
There’s so much here to unpack. There’s so much more to salvation than you realize. That’s why we’re going to slow own our study on doctrine. And for the next month, we’ll specifically focus on some key aspect of salvation. What did Jesus accomplish? And what is He going to accomplish? And how is His work applied to a guilty sinner? And what difference does that make in my life? It makes all the difference. And I’m confident you’ll see that in the studies to come. So stick with us. And bring a friend.