Please read Genesis 1:24-31 in your Bible.
Have you ever read the Dr. Seuss book Horton Hears a Who? It has a memorable line, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”
The line comes from Horton the elephant who heard tiny Whos in Whoville perched on a dust ball sitting on a flower. Horton suffers persecution when he acts to protect the Whos, explaining “Even though you can’t see them, or hear them at all, a person’s a person, no matter how small.” The book is a pro-life primer!
This message so simple Dr. Suess taught it to toddlers; every person has value, whether they are like us or not. As simple as this principle is, our culture fails to uphold it. We shall see the creation account is the first affirmation that human life is sacred. This is a core belief of our faith and we must stand against the corrupted culture of our time to promote this doctrine and safeguard human life.
Human life is sacred because it was created by God in His own image.
1. Day six: God created the land animals first. (1:24-25)
As the text says four times, God created the land animals EACH ACCORDING TO ITS KIND. Having been repeated so often, this must be important.
The significance of the phrase may be because there is a slight difference in the kinds, based on their utility. LIVESTOCK may refer to all the land animals that could be domesticated. CREATURES THAT MOVE ALONG THE GROUND may refer to insects and or smaller animals (because they are closer to the ground) or animals that are prey. WILD ANIMALS may refer to larger undomesticated animals, perhaps predators.
Considered in context, it is more likely the phrase was used to distinguish animals from human beings. Animals were created in their “kinds,” but humans were created in God’s IMAGE, two different things. Modern culture, idolizing science, says human beings are only another kind of animal. This lessens the value of human life and is contrary to this passage.
God declared His creation GOOD BEFORE He created human beings. This is an overlooked detail we should notice. Contrary to our usual assumption that creation is all about us, God added human beings to a world that was ALREADY good. We are special, but not the center of creation.
2. Then God created human beings as unique among the rest of creation. (1:26-27)
Only humanity was created in His IMAGE and LIKENESS. No other part of creation is distinguished in this way. There may be a slight difference between the meanings of these two words.
Ironically, LIKENESS is meant to distinguish humans from God. We are not God, we are merely a LIKENESS of God, a physical and spiritual token of God in creation. LIKENESS is also meant to distinguish us from the animals. Though there are obvious physical similarities between humans and animals, mental and spiritual differences are implied in this word since we are “LIKE” God but not “like” animals.
IMAGE is meant to show our similarity to God. As a child bears a resemblance to its parents, so do all humans bear a resemblance to our heavenly Father.
There has been a lot of speculation about the IMAGE. This Hebrew word is used seventeen times in the Old Testament. Five of them refer to this special quality or status of human beings, the rest to a physical object that bears a resemblance to something else (like a statue or portrait bearing resemblance to a person). This means God created human beings to represent Him in His own creation.
I will not take space to list all the notions about the IMAGE. I believe there are lots of valid aspects to the IMAGE. The rest of the Bible is, in a sense, an explanation of the IMAGE of God. Anyone who says it is any one thing is exaggerating. If we interpret the term in context, the IMAGE is delegated authority God gave us so we can have the dominion over creation He commanded Adam & Eve to exercise. God delegates part of His authority to us to rule over creation; that is the responsibility side of the IMAGE.
Verse twenty-seven affirms both male and female human beings as being created in God’s image. This means at least three things. One, men and women have, from the beginning, been of equal status in the eyes of God. In every way that really matters, men and women are equal because they were created that way.
Two, in a culture obsessed with validating all kinds of lifestyles, there is a wrong-minded denial of the fundamental difference of maleness and femaleness. As this passage affirms both genders as being created in God’s image, we must be critical of attempts to say that gender is a matter of no consequence; it is interchangeable.
Three, in the next verse God blessed the human beings and commanded them to be FRUITFUL and INCREASE IN NUMBER; make more people. This is possible only with both genders involved.
3. Being created in God’s IMAGE carries serious responsibilities. (1:28-31)
The first responsibility is productivity or “fruitfulness.” This is a blessing and a command all in one. When God said, “BE FRUITFUL, INCREASE IN NUMBER and FILL THE EARTH,” those are all ways of saying “Make more humans.”
In 2:24 it is explained to us that this command is the foundation of marriage. A new family is created when a man and woman marry; children are welcome additions to it because they represent God’s blessing of the couple and their obedience to His command. Because Adam and Eve sinned, even this fundamental relationship has suffered.
The second responsibility associated with the IMAGE is that of delegated authority. God expressed human authority over creation in two “no-nonsense” terms.
The word to SUBDUE literally means “stamp on.” The word translated as literally means “to tread upon.” These words imply a complete domination and assertive rule over creation. God put complete trust in human beings. How have we rewarded it? In many instances, we have not taken good care of our Father’s house.
As He did with the land animals, God blessed Adam and Eve, saying, “I GIVE YOU EVERY SEED-BEARING PLANT” (29). The key word in that phrase is GIVE. Before Adam sinned God gave him a fruitful earth. After he sinned, Adam would have to work hard to get the earth to be fruitful. The point here in chapter one is that God the Father, being the ultimate parent, took good care of His new children. This relationship dynamic is also contrary to pagan religions that said the gods made people to provide food for the gods.
Creation is good because God said so. (31) In the Hebrew, the sense of approval is stronger than it is in English. Verse 31 should read, “it was really very good.” In comparison, the other six declarations are merely GOOD, whereas here after humans were created, it says that creation was VERY GOOD. In this passage, GOOD means it is in conformity with God’s plan; it was just as God wanted it to be.
Human life is sacred because it was created by God in His own image.
One of the reasons we have the creation account in the Bible is to provide evidence contrary to the pagan cultures of that time. We need this section of them Scripture for the same reason: to counter the pagan culture of our time. When you think about it, social issues from abortion to zemiology (the study of social harms) are based on making human life cheap, even disposable. If we accept as true the belief that human beings are just another kind of animal, all kinds of evil can be justified.
We observe the Sanctity of Human Life Sunday because this is a core doctrine. Human life is sacred because God said so, not because of anything we’ve done to earn it, but simply because we are made to be His representatives, the benevolent rulers of creation. We are not just at the top of the “food chain,” we are at the top of creation with the authority of God delegated to us.
That’s the message we have to get out to our pagan culture. What believers need to hear in Genesis 1 is that our sacred status comes with important responsibilities. We are to be God’s representatives, His IMAGE and LIKENESS in the way we live. EPS 2:10 puts it plainly: FOR WE ARE GOD’S WORKMANSHIP, CREATED IN CHRIST JESUS TO DO GOOD WORKS, WHICH GOD PREPARED IN ADVANCE FOR US TO DO.
Zondervan Bible Commentary, Genesis, H.L. Ellison.
Genesis, Bruce K. Waltke & Cathi J. Fredricks.
Word Biblical Commentary, Genesis 1-15, Gordon J. Wenham.