A question that I have been considering lately is: “What does it mean to be human?” What is the nature of humanity?
I believe the biblical nature of humanity is “to be made in the image of God.”
Reading through Genesis 1, an individual will find over and over again the words “And God said,” or “And God saw.” The first 25 verses seem to flow right upon each other. God is painting a masterpiece with his creation and has set the perfect scene for his greatest creation yet.
“Then God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion. . . (over the created earth).
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” Gen. 1:26-27
Unlike the birds and reptiles before him, Adam was created in the image of God. He resembled his Creator. He was created to reflect to character and beauty of God. He was unique, beautiful, and perfect. He was given the very breath of God and an immortal spirit. God did not create another god, but he created a race that closely resembled its Creator.
David wrote in Psalms 8:4-5 “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the sons of man that you care for him? Yet you have made him a little lower than (Elohim) and crowned him with glory and honor.”
The biblical manuscripts of Psalms have the word Elohim in verse 5. Many translations of the Bible and the Septuagint incline to translate this phrase as “angels” or “heavenly beings.” This appears to be a humble approach to the text and err on the side of caution to conservatively portray what man was created to be.
However, judging by context, linguistics, and early manuscripts, translating the verse “a little lower than God” appears to be an accurate representation of the text.
What this fact Means:
Man is not God. He is not close to God. God has immutable characteristics that he can not share in his creation. Adam was not omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and was peccable, or able to sin. God can not sin, so Adam’s fall is an excellent distinction between the beauty of humanity and its limitations. However, man in his created state was given the capacity to accurately reflect the glory of his Creator.
The Tragedy of the Fall
It is hard to imagine now, but the nature of humanity was not created with sin. Sin is an addition to human nature but not an original ingredient. For example, Jesus Christ was 100% human yet was without sin. Sin is a hijacking of proper human nature. Because of Adam’s rebellion, mankind now has inherited a black, disgusting heart. The source of all of our actions, thoughts, and beliefs is flawed. Nothing we do apart from God can bring him glory.
The worst part of mankind’s sin is that although we resemble God, our hearts spew nothing but evil. What a slap in the face of the Almighty when he sees his created image-bearers doing “only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). We can never know how much we have hurt Yahweh with our rebellion. We also can never fully understand his grace and mercy towards our souls to rescue us from judgment.
Christians need to have a biblical understanding of humanity for several reasons.
1. Proper view of ourselves- We must understand that the depravity of man does not equal the worthlessness of man. We must not mutilate our bodies or walk around in depression all the time. God made us for a purpose and can give us the grace to live our lives properly.
The biblical view of humanity leaves no room for theistic evolution. Either man was made in the image of God or he resembles a reptile. If man evolved from lower life forms, then he was not created in the image of God.
2. Proper view of others- No matter what someone looks like, they are an image bearer of God. Mentally handicapped, elderly, or physically maimed individuals have the same love of God as anyone else. We cannot support abortion no matter the cost because to kill an unborn baby is to kill an image-bearer of God before his or her life has a chance to fulfill God’s purpose for them.
Side note: We should also avoid supporting pro-life advertisements that advocate pro-life usefulness of life. In other words, God does not care if “Johnny” will end up in the NFL like Tim Tebow or if he works at McDonald’s 6 days a week. He is an image-bearer of God and God has a purpose for his life.
3. Proper view of God.
Once David finished reflecting on God’s creation of man in Psalms 8:5, he turns around to worship God. “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”(Psalms 8:9). We have no room for pride in a biblical understanding of humanity. Any beauty we have is from God. Any goodness found in us is a reflection of our Creator. He alone is to be magnified and praised, and may our redeemed lives be his greatest masterpiece- to the praise of his glorious grace.