Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Beginning of Humanity

Part 3 of The Beginning, a series on Genesis 1-3

You can listen to this sermon here.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them (Gen. 1:27). 

We Are Not Animals 

Text: Genesis 1:26-31

A few years ago I read a book by Peter Singer called Rethinking Life and Death. In the book, Singer argues that traditional (Judeo-Christian) views about life and death are outdated and should be replaced by a new ethical approach. For example, he says that we shouldn’t always treat human life as more precious than nonhuman life. To Singer, this is discriminating on the basis of species (i.e., speciesism). So, according to this ethical view, if a burning building contains a terminally ill human and a healthy ape, it might be better to rescue the ape first.

But, according to the Bible, there is a big difference between humans and animals.

  • Humans were made “in [God’s] image, after [God’s] likeness” (v. 26). The animals were not made in God’s image. 
  • Humans were made to have “dominion…over all the earth” (v. 26; cf. Ps. 8:5-8). The animals have many physical advantages over humans (e.g., the eagle can fly; the lion is stronger; the cheetah is faster). But, unlike the animals, humans have been able to “subdue” (v. 28) the earth (i.e., use the earth’s resources for their benefit). Now we can fly higher than the eagle (in an airplane). Now we are stronger than the lion (with the use of weapons). Now we are faster than the cheetah (on a motorcycle). 
  • Humans were made to be relational creatures. God spoke to Adam and Eve (“And God said to them,” v. 28). He never spoke to the animals. 
  • Humans were made to be moral creatures. God prohibited them from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:16). God never gave commands to the animals. The less we follow God’s will, the more we act like animals (e.g., a serial killer could be described as an “animal”). 

Made to Be Like God 

Verse 27 says, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” What does it mean to be made in God’s image? “When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created. When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Gen. 5:1-3). (One of the first questions people ask about a baby is “Who does he look like—his father or his mother?”)

To be made in God’s image means that we were made to be like God. 

Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit by claiming, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (3:5). Ironically, Eve was already like God because she had been made in God’s image. When she and Adam disobeyed God, they became less like him and more like Satan (i.e., sinful).

There are several ways in which humans bear God’s likeness (e.g., mentally, creatively, relationally, morally). The Bible urges us to copy God’s moral attributes. “Be imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1). “Be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:44). “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:36).

If you want to know what it looks like when a person perfectly reflects God’s image, look at Jesus. “[Christ] is the image of God” (2 Cor. 4:4). “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). “He is…the exact imprint of [God’s] nature” (Heb. 1:3). “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). 

Restoring God's Image in Us 

The gospel can be seen as the story of God restoring his image in us.

1. Because of sin, there was a distortion of God’s image. 

Sin didn’t totally destroy God’s image in us: “People…are made in the likeness of God” (James 3:9). (We are like broken mirrors that need to be put back together.)

2. Presently, redemption in Christ provides a progressive recovery of God’s image. 

“[You] have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10). “And we all…beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another” (2 Cor. 3:18).

3. When Christ returns there will be a complete restoration of God’s image. 

“For those whom [God] foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Rom. 8:29). “Just as we have born the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49; cf. 1 John 3:2).

We Matter to God! 

To be made in God’s image indicates that God values us more than anything else in his creation. God said to Noah, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen. 9:6).

In creation and redemption, we see that we matter to God. If God made us in his image and if he loves us, doesn’t it make sense that life will be most fulfilling when we are reflecting God’s image?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Beginning of the Universe

Part 3 of The Beginning, a series on Genesis 1-3

You can listen to this sermon here.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day (Gen. 1:1-5). 

All Truth Is God's Truth

(Much of this sermon's content comes from a little book by Keith A. Mathison called A Reformed Approach to Science and Scripture. The book is based on an answer given by R. C. Sproul to a question concerning the age of the universe.)

One of the questions people often ask when they read Genesis 1 is “How old is the universe?” The dominant view among scientists is that the universe is billions of years old. Among Christians, there are differing views on the age of the universe. “Young earth creationists” believe that God created all things in six literal days and that the universe is only a few thousand years old. “Old earth creationists” believe that the universe could be billions of years old--though many OECs believe that God directly created Adam and Eve around ten to fifteen thousand years ago. In this debate we must acknowledge that the Bible was not written to be a scientific textbook and that the purpose of Genesis 1 is not to tell us when the universe began. As Galileo said, “The Holy Ghost intended to teach us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” 

[Read Gen. 1:1-25.]

Many people believe that science contradicts the Bible. And skeptics of Christianity will argue that if science does contradict the Bible, then Christianity is proven false. Is this true?

God is a “God of truth” (Isa. 65:16), and he wants us to believe what is true (both theologically and scientifically). There are two ways in which God reveals truth.

First, God reveals truth through nature. Theologians call this kind of revelation “general revelation.” The Psalmist says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Ps. 19:1-2). The apostle Paul writes, “[God’s] invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made” (Rom. 1:19-20).

Second, God reveals truth through Scripture. Theologians call this kind of revelation “special revelation.” All of God’s revelation (both general and special) is infallible, but our interpretations of revelation are fallible. People’s interpretations of what they see in nature are sometimes wrong (e.g., spontaneous generation). People’s interpretations of what they read in Scripture are sometimes wrong (e.g., geocentricity, based on a wrong interpretation of Joshua 10:12-14).

Science and Scripture

Science is not the enemy of Christianity. How should Christians view the relationship between science and Scripture?

1. Since general and special revelation both proceed from God, they cannot ultimately conflict. 

2. A misinterpretation of one kind of revelation can be corrected by a right interpretation of another kind of revelation.

3. While science cannot overturn an actual teaching of Scripture, it can sometimes correct a misinterpretation of Scripture. 

4. If a scientific theory contradicts an actual teaching of Scripture, that scientific theory is wrong.

Monday, January 13, 2014

The God Without a Beginning

Part 1 of The Beginning, a series on Genesis 1-3

You can listen to the sermon here.

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen. 1:1). 

Before the Beginning 

Recently, there was a post on called “30 Things Turning 30 This Year.” The list of things that turned 30 in 2013 included the McNugget, Return of the Jedi, the North American minivan, My Little Pony, the Mario Bros. arcade game, country singer Carrie Underwood, and Microsoft Word.

Everything and everyone has a beginning, with one exception: God.

1. When there was nothing, there was God. 

“In the beginning, God….” There was a beginning to the universe, but there was no beginning to God. God is eternal. He has always existed and will always exist. (Children often ask, “Where did God come from?” Our minds can’t comprehend eternity.) The psalmist declared, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps. 90:2).

“God” in Genesis 1:1 is translated from the Hebrew word Elohim. Elohim is a generic word for both the true God and false gods. But God does have a personal name. When Moses asked God, “What is [your] name?” (Ex. 3:13), God answered, “I AM WHO I AM” (v. 14). In Hebrew, the name “I AM” is Yahweh. (It usually appears as “LORD” in the OT.) One of the meanings of “Yahweh” is “the self-existent one.” God is not dependent on anyone or anything for his existence. (Jesus identified himself as Yahweh in John 8:58: “Before Abraham was, I am.”)

2. Without God, there would still be nothing. 

“…God created the heavens and the earth.” God is the uncaused (eternal) cause (creator). This is one of the arguments for the existence of God (the cosmological argument). [During the sermon I showed a Lego creation. It’s obvious that someone made it. Isn’t it obvious that someone made the universe?] 

God created all things out of nothing. Genesis 1 says that God brought all things into existence by the power of his word. (“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light,” v. 3). “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb. 11:3; cf. Ps. 33:6, 9). The NT says that all things were created through Jesus. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3; Col. 1:16).


God’s creation that was originally “very good” (Gen. 1:31). But eventually sin and death entered the world, marring God’s creation. And God could have decided to destroy humanity and the world forever. (In frustration, I’ve done that with a few of my “creations.”) Instead, in Revelation 21:5 we read these words from the mouth of God: “Behold, I am making all things new.”

The God who made all things is also the God who will make all things new. 

God is in the process of making all things new through Christ. The apostle Paul writes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor. 5:17). The God without a beginning gives a new beginning to all who put their faith in Christ.