The Image of God
Is human life special? Different from other forms of life? Different from the rest of creation? When the Creator decided to write a book revealing Himself to His creatures, He began this way, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, NASU) The record continues in daily segments. Five times in the next five days of creative work, God proclaimed that “it was good” (Genesis 1:4,10,12,18,21,25). On the sixth day, God said something different: “It was very good” (Genesis 1:31). That begs the question as to why God made a different declaration on day six. Perhaps because it was at the end of His creation of the universe. Or perhaps it was because He had just completed the crowning achievement of creation. This was the day that God created man and He declared that it was very good. Furthermore, after giving an overview of creation in Genesis 1, God retold one of His creative acts from Genesis 1. Genesis 2 is a “recap” of the creation of mankind with many added details and much explanation which was not included in chapter 1. The declaration of “very good” and the “recap” seem to indicate the relative significance of the creation of man.
Genesis 1:26-30 gives perhaps the strongest evidence that human life is different from all other forms of life, “Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth." Then God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food"; and it was so.” (NASU) Humans are made in the image and likeness of God. Defining this truth is a difficult proposition but virtually everyone will agree that it makes people very special in relation to the rest of creation. Secondarily, this passage also proclaims that humans should rule over the rest of creation.
Genesis 9:6-7 refers back to Genesis 1 and in the process delivers a very sober warning indeed, “Whoever sheds man's blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. 7 As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it.” (NASU) Many people around the world, including me, will mark January 20, 2019 as “Sanctity of Life Sunday.” Human life is special. Every human regardless of age, color, ability, wealth, creed, etc. is created in the image and likeness of God. Only those who have trusted Christ qualify as His children. However, every human is to be treated with dignity and respect. Perhaps you think it odd that verse 6 speaks of not killing humans and verse 7 immediately turns the attention on having many children. I do not think it odd at all. In fact, the connection is crystal clear to me.
Pastor Steve Ellison is the director of the Ouachita Theological Training Institute in Mena, Ark.