The Image of God (Part 2) Sermon Manuscript

PLEASE NOTE: these are the notes I use to preach from, if you would like to hear them in context, please watch our YouTube video.

Genesis 2-4

-To understand the broken world we find ourselves in, we need to first begin with the understanding of what a human is.

-Last week we looked only at Gen. 1, this week we’re going to take a summary look at Gen. 2-4 to see how sin fractured humans ability to adequately reflect the image of God, and after we’ve laid this foundation of theological anthropology (define) we’ll take a look at the implications of that as seen in the early church, but the roots of all the issues we see throughout the rest of the Bible are seen in these 3 chapters today. 

-Image of God is the foundation of understanding what a human is. So to be human = bearing the image of God. That’s as far as I believe the Bible allows us to go with that, because as soon as you start putting other qualifiers on it you leave someone out. 

-The way I’ve started talking about it is: conception to natural death

-There are huge implications to the reality that every human is created in the image of God, affects things like: abortion, Physician assisted suicide, in-vitro fertilization. All of this are major ethical conversations/debates taking place in our world today. 

-Even in the grant I received, there were 5 other churches that also received it, each one of them is looking at different implications: LGBTQ, worshipping as embodied people, original sin, another church is doing like a 12 week series looking at pretty much every contemporary discussion (racism, abortion, gender issues, being bodied people, creativity…)

-The crazy part is even atheists see how much Christianity has shaped our thinking on these issues. Tom Holland “To live in a Western country is to live in a society still utterly saturated by Christian concepts and assumptions…Whether it be the conviction that the workings of conscience are the surest determinants of good law, or that Church and state exist as distinct entities, or that polygamy is unacceptable..The West, increasingly empty though the pews may be, remains firmly moored to its Christian past.” (Dominion, 13)

-People don’t realize just how much of Christian thinking has impacted our lives and thinking today. The fact that we view ourselves as individuals comes from the Bible!

-We spent last time looking at the functional and structural aspects of the image of God are. Functional is how we interact/engage in the world around us (cultural mandate, fill the earth and subdue it) Structural is the reality that every single human is created in the image of God regardless of any other measurements/standards.

-We are called into a relationship (relational) that entails a role (functional) that we are uniquely designed (structural) to do.

-God calls us, gives us a job, and has uniquely equipped us for that job.

-Video – listen carefully to how this person answers the question. Remember, last week’s video, Bill Gates emphasized the functional aspect of humanity, listen to which area this person emphasizes.

-When you’re in conversation with someone, look for the areas in which they’re right! Celebrate them, God has placed eternity in every person’s heart. He clearly understands that to be human is to be in relationship, but that relationship is only 1 sided (human to human)

-“We confer personhood upon each other through empathy and compassion and trust.”

-Good starting point: but what standard do we use for empathy, compassion, and trust? What about different definitions of those things? What about the Uyghur genocide currently taking place in China? In the Chinese mindset, they are acting empathetic by forcing these people to become more like them.

-“I believe that when we acknowledge each other’s consciousness and complexity we lead better lives and feel less alone in our grief and our joy.”

-we agree! BUT WHY?! We’re created to be in relationship!

-Again, celebrate that which is true!

-“Being human is both something we are and something we aspire to be.”

-Most true thing in the video! But what are we aspiring toward? What is the end goal? Being human is a teleological pursuit (define). Who is the most human person to live? Jesus. So our definition for human needs to include becoming more like Him!

READ/PRAY (Gen. 4:1-16)

-In the creation account, we see that to be human is to be in relationship, 3 ways, we’re going to focus on 2. We are in relationship with God first and foremost, then in relationship with each other, finally in relationship with the ground/rest of creation (that’s why we actually need to take care of the world, to steward it, but that’s a different topic)

-I want us to begin by looking at the vertical relationship.

  1. Vertical Relationship

-God from eternity past has always existed “in a loving unity of three equally divine Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” 

-God, by definition is relational. He doesn’t need anyone or anything else for that to be true. Because God is relational, when he created the cosmos, He created everything to be in relationship with Him.

  1. Unity (2:4-20)

-The pinnacle of creation is humans on day 6. Every previous day was described as “good,” but after humans are created it’s “very good.”

-Everything was properly ordered, everyone was in right relationship, there was no anger, bitterness, fighting, sickness it was “very good.”

-Everything that the creation needed to flourish existed in this one space, the garden (or orchard) of Eden. Plants for food, plentiful water with rivers flowing to all 4 corners of the world. And Adam in perfect communion/relationship with God.

-But despite this perfect setting, something isn’t right. Adam doesn’t have a corresponding part to image God to the world.

-This takes place after Adam has seen the rest of the created order, God brings every animal to Adam to determine what they should be named, but none of them were quite like Adam. None of them could serve as a helper corresponding to him. 

-Despite being in perfect relationship with God, Adam was still created to be in relationship with other people, something that had not happened yet.

-One of the things we see in Gen 3:8 is God coming to walk in the cool of the day, which some scholars have used to say that God would regularly come to the garden to spend time with his creation. So you could say that God and Adam would hang out together on a nightly basis! Don’t worry church, that day is coming again in the future!

-Part of being human means we measure ourselves in relation to God. Every human, whether they realize it or not, is created to be first and foremost in relationship with Him, but because of what we’ll see in the disunity section, that relationship has now been severed, broken, cut off.

-This is where we see an innate desire within all humans for transcendence (something greater than we can see around us). This is another instance where we can tell people you were created for something more than this world!

-C.S. Lewis: “If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.

-Augustine: “Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise; your power is immense, and your wisdom beyond reckoning. And so we men, who are a due part of your creation, long to praise you – we also carry our mortality about with us, carry the evidence of our sin and with it the proof that you thwart the proud. You arouse us so that praising you may bring us joy, because you have made us and drawn us to yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

Ecc. 3:11 “He has put eternity into man’s heart.”

-This is intentional! God designed us this way, it’s only because of the Fall that we are not in perfect unity with Him.

-This leads us to the Fall (which we studied appropriately last Fall!) in Gen. 3

  • Disunity (3:8-13)

-Everything was perfect, but that wasn’t enough. Feels a bit like those memes you may have seen “You had 1 job”

-Hang out with God, in a world that He created JUST FOR YOU! But sin is too enticing, the serpent too clever. 

-Before the fruit was eaten from the forbidden tree, the unity of the relationship had to be questioned. 

-Serpent attacks the relationship: did God REALLY say? Is God good, is He kind, does He actually care about you?

-Then, starting in vs. 8, when God comes for his nightly walk with his creation, what’s their response?

-I think of a scene from Monty Python: RUN AWAY! The unity that had been so perfect is shattered. They can no longer live perfectly in the presence of God. 

-I think that’s even summarized in the fact that this is the first question God asks in the Bible. He knows everything, He knows what’s happened, but He still wants that relationship with His people. 

-Think of when you grew up, texting had just become a “thing” when I was in high school, and the dreaded text would come from my parents: Where are you? (before every phone had GPS and built in tracking apps) Generally asking because of a breach in the relationship, just like what has happened here in Gen.

-How does God deal with the breach in trust, with the dissolution of paradise and with the now broken relationship?

  • Violence (3:14-24)

-Notice that all the relationships are broken. Serpent is literally lower than all the other animals and is cursed. There is now violence between the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent: one will have a bruised heel, the other a bruised head. One of those is worse than the other.

-Woman: childbirth is a violent affair! I’ve seen it 3 times now, not the prettiest thing in the world. The result is beautiful, but gross! 

-There is also now violence in the relationship between the man and the woman (we’ll get to that one on just a minute) 

-But notice that the violence is directed toward that which she was created from: man. Similarly for Adam:

-Man: violence between the ground and the man (the third ordering of relationships)

-Finally, God commits violence by killing animals to clothe Adam and Eve. Because of sin, someone’s life had to be taken to cover/atone for the sin. God is setting up the whole sacrificial system here.

-Culminates in expulsion from the garden “to the east” where we’ve been banished since. But it comes with the promise of violence if one were to try to take the garden back again: guarded by a cherubim and a flaming sword.

-This separation, disunity continues, although not completely, until Christ returns. Because now we can have the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, literally living in us, making us new people, new temples, so we can continue carrying out the command to fill and subdue the earth.

-That’s not the only broken relationship, let’s look at the horizonal relationships

  • Horizontal Relationship

-Remember, despite being “very good” it’s not good for Adam to be alone.

  1. Unity (2:23-25)

-God creates Eve from Adam’s rib, then brings her to Adam (walking her down the aisle) to be perfect complimentary partners in ordering the world.

-To be gendered is good! It takes men and women to “fill the earth.” God could have created another Adam to help him subdue the earth, but He didn’t. He created someone who corresponded to Adam, not exactly the same.

-Adam breaks out in praise! Wooing Eve with a love song. 

-This takes place after Adam had seen every animal God created, none of them was the right fit. You guys all know this! We’ve got dogs, they’re fun, but not the same as sitting down with my wife! And don’t even get me started on cats!

-Bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She’s just like me! She understands me. Implicit in this is the idea that language is a part of relationship (but don’t confuse those 2, language serves the relationship not the other way around)

-Just as he had been naming the rest of creation, Adam continues his task from God and names her Woman (ishah) because she was taken from man (ish)

-Culminates in both being naked and not ashamed.

-Not JUST physically (although it includes that) Known and completely accepted. Nothing hidden, nothing forced, nothing fake completely open, honest, and transparent with each other. It’s the kind of relationship every one of us longs for, but so often aren’t willing to engage in because of past hurts or brokenness. Isn’t it scary to be completely known? But God already does know us, why would we be afraid of being open to people on earth? Because right now we have:

  • Disunity (3:12-19)

-What was originally a good, pleasing, perfect relationships became broken, full of distrust, blame, and disunity.

-When God confronts Adam, who does he blame?

-When God confronts Eve, who does she blame?

-Suddenly, every relationship is fraught with suspicion and blame. Serpent gets cursed, woman gets painful childbearing and a broken relationship with man, man gets the ground cursed and now has to work hard to eat and bear fruit. Every relationship is broken.

-Generally, when looking at the problems with humanity, we stop here (and I was planning to stop here too!) Until someone pointed out to me that the core problem with relationships is manifested more fully in Gen. 4 where we see the violence rearing its’ ugly head, even in horizontal relationships.

  • Violence (4:1-16)

-Most of us know the story of Cain & Abel, the 2 sons of Adam & Eve. At the root of these broken relationships is the reality that we don’t always treat other humans with the dignity, honor, and respect that they’re due simply because they’re humans created in the image of God. 

-You may have heard of the idea of “othering” which means you create some kind of rule that separates people into groups, you identify yourself with one of them and then create “others” of whom you don’t associate and then start to paint them as villains. This is the first instance of that happening (although an argument could be made that happened right after the fall when they played the blame game!)

-We all do this! We compare ourselves to others and try to (either intentionally or unintentionally) find some way to make ourselves look/feel better. Did anyone ever read the Star Bellied Sneetches growing up? 

-“If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

-Time in college we had a speaker come for “man church” who is a theology prof at Talbot. Talked about how we all try to compare ourselves to others instead of God, like playing pick up basketball. A guy burns you, gets a layup, and your mind immediately goes “I bet you haven’t read a book all year.” I ended up playing basketball against him, burned him, and then told him I read 2 books that week! 

-Back to the story: 

-This tension begins in their very names. Cain means “to bring forth” while Abel means “nothingness.” Their whole lives Cain is viewed as the chosen one, while Abel is literally named “nothingness.” How do you think that affected their relationship?

-Cain and Abel were making offerings to the Lord. Cain brought normal (most likely thinking he’s fine, the chosen one), Abel brought the best of the best (knowing he has nothing apart from the Lord). The Lord accepts Abel’s offering, but not Cain’s. Text doesn’t say why, but Good goes on to say “If you do well,” so there’s a heart that is not a part of Cain’s offering.

-Instead of getting himself right and offering a pleasing offering, Cain begins to “other” Abel. Notice: sin is crouching at the door. Sin is always there waiting for us, looking to devour, looking to destroy. John Own “Be killing sin, or sin will be killing you.” 

-Cain brings Abel away from their community to kill him. Went out to the field.

-What Cain needed was a brother to help restore him to his right place, to help him bring the right offering, but what he did was kill the brother he needed.

-This is where “othering” leads: to violence. We either kill them outright (Russian gulags, German concentration camps, South African apartheid) or we kill them in our hearts (which Jesus equates to killing them outright)

-What we’re supposed to see in these early chapters of Genesis is: we find ourselves in Adam & Eve. Given the same options, we would choose to sin too. Same with Cain & Abel: each of us could be either of them: “othering” a different group or being “othered” by a different group.

-Think of all the places we do this: politics, theology, gender, skin color, education, financial well-being, generationally. If there’s some measurement we can use to separate people into groups, someone will take it, sin will then distort it, and we will find the culmination of it in violence. But here’s the best part. We have thousands of years after this story that point us to a solution to this problem.

  • The Solution (4:26)

-“At that time people began to call upon the name of the Lord.”

-The violent display of death on the cross takes the disunity of the world and brings unity to a new people, the reversal of the fall. The cross provides the only means by which the “othering” we as humans do to each other can be solved, dealt with once and for all.

-This “othering” is at the root of every conflict, issue, struggle humans have had throughout history. They’re a different tribe from us, kill them! They speak a different language than us, kill them! They’re a different religion than us, kill them!

-Jesus comes, and instead of “othering,” he becomes the “other” so we killed him. The gospel message means people can actually be unified today. It’s when we have idols in our hearts, it’s when we’re NOT calling on the name of the Lord that we start to treat “others” as less than human, but the Bible doesn’t let us do that. Instead, every human being who has ever lived and will ever live is worthy to be treated with dignity, honor, and respect merely because they are humans. Regardless of anything that we/the world would use to differentiate between each other, God calls us to love people just like He loved us and sent His Son to become “other” for us.

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