Lesson Focus: God created us in his image so that we might best be able to enter into a relationship with him.
Catching up on the story: This is the beginning of the story. God, who is outside of time and space, has been in existence for all of eternity. There is nothing besides God. God, however, out of his divine love, chooses to create in order to include others in his divine dance.
The Text: As we look at the text for the very first time, a text we are very familiar with, we find that the story begins, not with a reason for what is about to happen, but with a simple declaration of what is going to happen. In the beginning God begins to create.
So God speaks and the heavens and earth form and are separated. And as God’s voice, as God’s spirit is hovering over the vast formless and void expanse of the world, the waters and land begin to separate. With another word light comes into existence. It was good. God continues to speak and things continue to happen. Dry land appears. Then vegetation and things that produce seed and have the ability to reproduce themselves. It was good.
God continues to speak and the sun, moon and stars are created. Notice that light comes into existence before the sun. Many cultures worshiped the sun as a god. This account is specifically stating that the sun is a created thing. It has no power other than to give warmth. Day and night, seasons of the year are created by this word that gives the sun and moon. God speaks again and living things are made, fish and things in the sea and sky. Then animals are created to cover the dry land. They are all given creative power; they are all endowed with the ability to create new life.
Then it happens. God decides to make something in his own image. In verse 26 we aren’t told exactly what that means, but we are told that this new and last creation will be in the likeness of God, it will have authority to take care of and use the good earth for its own needs. Everything is given to humanity. We are mysteriously made, in God’s image and likeness. Then God stepped back and said that it wasn’t just good, but that it was very good. It was very good indeed.
So that leaves us with three questions. Why did God create in the first place? What does it mean to be made in the image and likeness of God? Why would God create if he knew things would end up the way that they have?
Why did God create in the first place? First of all, we need to specify that God did not need to create. Demanding that God needed to create would be like saying that there was something outside of God making God do something. This is not the case. God, if he is what the bible says he is, is bigger and more powerful than anything else in existence. There was nothing, and never will be anything, that can force God to do anything.
So if God didn’t have to create, if God didn’t need to create, then why did God create? Well, the passage that we are looking at today really doesn’t answer that question. It merely begins with the beginning of the story of God’s creation. In the beginning God began to create… So to answer this question we must keep in view the entire scope of the bible and all of Christian thought since its inception. We must look to the Church’s confession of who God is for the answer.
What has the church, those who confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, believed about who God is? The church’s confession has always been that God is three persons, yet one essence. This is Article One of our Articles of Faith. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are one God, but three persons as well.
This can be a bit hard to understand. So, we will look to a metaphor to help explain it. We’ve used this metaphor before. Early on, the church found it useful to describe the relationship between the persons of the Trinity as a divine dance. The word they used to describe this is perichoresis. It literally means, circle dance. The members of the Trinity engage in a dance with one another (keep in mind, this is a metaphor). There is fluidity of movement and unity of purpose within the Trinity.
See, God exists as a fully self-contained being. God does not need anything else. All of the relationship that God needs, God has within the relationship of the Trinity. But, and this is a big but, God wanted to invite another dancing partner. Because God’s very nature is love, he wanted to include another in the relationship of love that is the Trinity. God wanted a dancing partner so God creates a dancing partner (the world, humanity) and then invites them to dance with him.
So, this helps us answer our next question. What does it mean to be made in the image of God? Well, as with our first question, our text doesn’t tell us. Many have tried to answer this question, but my guess is that we will not fully understand what it means to be made in the image of God until Christ returns and we know God in his fullest. Nevertheless, let’s use the dancing metaphor again to help us understand this image of God thing. Have you ever tried to dance with someone who was really not close to your same size? Perhaps you have witnessed a really short girl dance with a very tall guy. Or perhaps you have witnessed the opposite. It’s awkward. The same could be said for trying to dance with an animal. Try doing a nice slow dance with your cat, or a cow. See how that goes. It just does not work, as it should.
The point is that God has created us to be significantly similar to him so that we could dance really well with each other. It means, that in some kind of mysterious way, and I doubt it means that God has two legs, two arms and a head, we are like God. It could be that in our ability to choose between right and wrong, we are like God (we are free creatures). It could be our ability to love selflessly, it could be our spiritual makeup, or it could be our potential to live eternally with God that makes us like him. I’m not sure. But what I do know is that God has created us to be enough like him so that we can enter into his divine dance, a dance that brings us into intimate relationship with him.
That brings us to our final question, why would God create if he knew it might turn out the way that it has? Why would God create if he knew we would disobey? The answer has to do with the nature of Love.
Loving involves risk. Any of you who have entered into a dating or marriage relationship with someone know that there is always the risk of that person breaking your heart, of being unfaithful. Love requires freedom. In order for love to be true and real it must not be forced, it must not be coerced.
So God creates this dancing partner, this partner with whom he hopes to have a great and loving relationship. God creates them out of love, giving them the ability to choose to love him or to not love him. God gives his creation the ability to choose to dance with him or to not dance with him. And it’s a risk.
So What? God, despite the risks, created anyway. God, despite those risks coming to fruition, continues to love us. The world that God has created was good, very good. God has not given up on that world that was so very good. He continues to call to us, his beloved dance partners, to return to him. This is, I believe, the part of the purpose of everything that follows in the bible. Its purpose is to tell the story of God’s continual and relentless calling to the creation he loves so much, to rejoin him in the divine dance. This relentless love leads God to exit the comforts of heaven to become one of those creatures he created. It led him to death on a cross so that he might defeat death once and for all. And now, this crucified yet resurrected God continues to call to us to enter into relationship with him.
Specific Discussion Questions: Read the text aloud. Then, read the text to yourself quietly. Read it slowly, as if you were very unfamiliar with the story.
What was before creation took place?
Why did God create?
What does it mean for us to be created in the image of God?
Why did God create if he knew there was a possibility that his good creation might rebel?
Those of you who are parents, why did you have children?
Reflect on the “dancing with God” metaphor. What does it look like to dance with God in everyday life?
If we believe that the world that God created was very good and that God has continued to love and call his creation back into relationship with him, how might that influence our understanding of what happens to the world when Christ returns?
Ways to Dance with God…
Begin your prayer time this week thanking God that you were created in his image and likeness. Ask that God might help you more fully understand what that means.
If you have children, reflect on the love that you have for your children. Reflect on the times your children have been disobedient or rebellious and the emotions you experienced because of their disobedience. Now, relate those reflections to God’s love for us.