The creation of the human race was the central object of God’s creative purpose from the beginning. In an important sense, everything else was created for humanity, and every step of creation up to that point had one main purpose: to prepare a perfect environment for Adam.
The human race is still at the center of God’s purpose for the entire material universe. We know this because Scripture says everything else will eventually perish. It will all go out of existence. According to Jesus, there is coming a time when even “the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken” (Mark 13:24–25). Ultimately, even the heavens will roll up like a scroll (Revelation 6:13–14). “The heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). In effect, everything that was created will be uncreated. Everything in this universe will cease to exist.
Except humanity. God created man to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever. And when every other element of this universe is long gone, a vast multitude of the redeemed human race will dwell in the presence of the Lord forever.
In other words, the unfolding of creation establishes a theater in which the great redemptive saga can be played out. Man is the main character. God’s own Son even becomes a man at the climax of redemption’s drama. This is the purpose for which the entire universe was created: so that God’s grace, mercy, and compassion could be lavished on this creature whom God had created in His own image. In the end, the theater is destroyed. It is a profound and humbling thought.
Clearly, the creation of the human race is the main issue in Genesis 1. Everything culminates in that event, and Scripture devotes more space to describing Adam’s creation than to any other facet of creation. In fact, because this final act of creation is so crucial, all of Genesis 2 is devoted to an expanded description of it. (Genesis 2 is not a different story or an alternate account; it is an expansion of the description of day six from Genesis 1.) Genesis 1:26–31 simply gives us the basics about day six:
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. God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Bear in mind that the creation of Adam occurred on the same day all other land animals were created. All of this occurred in one twenty–four–hour period—one revolution of the Earth.
Adam, as we see from the text, was specially and personally created by God. There is no way to do justice to the text and maintain the notion that Adam evolved from some already–existing form of animal life. Genesis 2:7 is explicit: “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2 also describes how the first woman, Eve, was made from the rib of her husband (Genesis 2:22). So the man and the woman were each created individually—both of them by direct and immediate acts of God.
The genealogies in Genesis begin with a reaffirmation of this truth: “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day when God created man, He made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female, and He blessed them and named them Man in the day when they were created” (Genesis 5:1–2). That verse opens and closes with references to a single day in which God made humanity. Repeatedly Scripture refers back to that momentous day (cf. Deuteronomy 4:32). It was day six of Creation week—and man was God’s final, crowning creative act.
A significant change in the creation process occurs at this point. Genesis 1:26 starts with familiar words: “then God said.” That is the same formula used to introduce every previous act of creation (cf. vv. 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24). But suddenly there is a major shift in the language. Up to this point, every occurrence of “then God said” had been followed by the words “let there be . . .” (vv. 1:3, 6, 14); “let the earth sprout . . .” (v. 11); “let the earth bring forth . . .” (v. 24); “let the waters teem . . .” (v. 20); or “let the waters . . . be gathered into one place” (v. 9)—always the language of fiat “let it be done.” Those expressions are impersonal in the sense that they are mandates issued to no one in particular. They are sovereign, creative decrees that immediately brought things into existence ex nihilo (out of nothing). Never before has God said, “Let Us make” anything.
But here for the first time the expression “then God said” is followed by personal pronouns: “Let Us make man in Our image” (Genesis 1:26, emphasis added). This speaks of the creation of Adam in terms that are uniquely personal. Scripture deliberately employs such pronouns in order to stress God’s intimate connection with this aspect of His creation. It establishes a personal relationship between God and man that does not exist with any other aspect of creation—not with light, not with water, not with the other elements or even the earth itself, not with the sun, the moon, the stars, or the stellar bodies—and not even with the other living creatures He made. He has no personal relationship with any of those things in the same sense He does with humanity. All those things were created by God through His fiat decree, and they began to exist because He ordered them to. But there is never a hint of any intimacy or personal identification between God and those things.
The creation of man contrasts profoundly and powerfully with all that preceded him. The account is replete with God’s intimacy, meticulous care, and the crowning importance He placed on this culminating event—forming Adam out of “dust from the ground,” breathing “into his nostrils the breath of life” (Genesis 2:7), and fashioning the father of all humanity “in [His] image, according to [His] likeness” (Genesis 1:26).
In the days ahead we’ll consider the life-changing implications of understanding who we really are, and God’s glorious purpose for us as His image-bearers.
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