September 3 – Genesis 1:26-28


Main focus: God purposefully created humanity, in all of its diversity, to reflect his creativity and complexity.

Last week we looked at the separate persons of the Trinity and their diverse-but-unified triunity. This week we’ll see what that theological reality means for our human lives—because God made mankind in his image, we can recognize his creation of a diverse humanity as an intentional effort to communicate his own creativity and complexity (in short: it’s a feature, not a flaw). Here in Genesis 1:26-28 God reveals his intent in creating mankind: to fashion creatures in his “image.”

That’ll be the first stop in discussion, defining what the “image of God” is. There’s much we could say here. One place to start is with the categories of “incommunicable attributes,” those things that are unique to God (ex. being all-powerful), and “communicable attributes,” those things that we share in common with God (ex. creativity, wired for community, ethics, etc.). This helps us see those ways we resemble God as creatures made in his image. But that word “image” is also used in the Bible to describe an “idol,” a little statue that represents a deity and is used for their worship. So, you and I are little moving, breathing statues patterned off God himself and designed to reveal God’s glory. That’s what it means to be made in the image of God.

And, as we read in Genesis 1:26-28, when God decided to fashion humanity in his likeness, before sin and brokenness ever entered the picture, he created us with inherent diversity; “male and female he created them.” In God’s wonderful, mysterious way, he decided to make mankind non-uniform and prolific, creating a man and a woman who would have children and grandchildren and, in doing so, create countless iterations of his image in all the different human beings that would fill the earth.

Below you’ll see the question, “When God made humans in his image, he made them male and female—what do you think that can tell us about him?” Emphasis on him; God’s creation of mankind as both male and female doesn’t mean God is neither male nor female (or both). Throughout the Bible, God is pointedly gendered with masculine pronouns, adjectives, and metaphors. In a few spots God describes himself with female metaphors, such as an eagle hovering over her nest (Deut 32:11-12), but in thousands of others God uses masculine descriptors, the chief examples being the titles of Father and Son and the incarnation of the Son as a human male. But hear this clearly: this in no way means that men are somehow more like God than women. Both are equally made in the image of God (1:27). Instead, this ties back to the distinction of persons within the Trinity that we discussed last week. God wants to communicate something about himself by giving himself the titles “Father” and “Son,” something we lose if we fail to describe him as he describes himself.

Since mankind is made in God’s image we can observe connections between the nature of God and the nature of man. But we need to distinguish the cart and the horse—we’re made in God’s image, not the other way around, thus our theology dictates our anthropology, not vice versa. However, in one sense our anthropology certainly sharpens our theology, since God’s nature is revealed in some sense by the breadth and diversity of humanity, and in another sense our anthropology, particularly how we treat others, reveals our theology (and the flaws in it).

In discussion we’ll move on to wonder what would’ve happened if Adam and Eve had fulfilled their mission without sinning. This is no empty speculation; this will help us hone in on God’s intent for humanity. He told them to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” Theologians call this the cultural mandate (though they mean culture as in agriculture), God’s command to go out into the world and cultivate it for God’s glory and mankind’s own good.

 But imagine what would’ve happened if we’d done this perfectly—spreading from Eden across the face of the earth, some would’ve built homes in mountains and become mountain people with mountain lingo and mountain ways, while others became beach people with their own beach jargon and habits, or desert people or plains people. In short, there simply was no way to fulfill the command to “fill the earth” without the inevitable development of different cultures and ethnicities. This was true before sin entered the world; human diversity is not a flaw but an intentional feature, meant to communicate God’s creativity and complexity.

Thus there are clear implications for God’s people here: our diversity and unity bears credible witness to who the Triune God is and what God is doing in the world. This also teaches us how to be a part of what he’s doing. Among other things, we can encounter people who are different from us graciously, as learners sensing out God’s good design in human diversity. We can enjoy and partake in human culture as standard bearers of the Triune God, the ultimate culture maker, while developing an appreciation and biblical evaluation of our heritages (see pg. 17 in the study guide for more on that). And we can marvel at the breadth of human expression and ingenuity yet, understanding them as byproducts of God’s more marvelous creativity, look past them to see something greater shown through them.

Questions for Discussion

• Could someone read Genesis 1:26-28 for us?

• What is the “image of God” and why do you think it’s important for understanding human beings?

• When God made humans in his image, he made them male and female—what do you think that can tell us about him?

• Look at verse 28—what do you think would’ve happened if this mission for humanity had gone perfectly?

• How does this help us see the purpose of human diversity?

• In summary, God created diverse human beings to show his creativity and complexity—how might that inform the way you relate to people who are different from you?

• Prayer prompt: Take a moment to praise God for his good design with humanity and ask him to help us value others who are different from us.