Today we begin a new topical sermon series: What Are People For? We will be talking about people, men, women, relationships, children, and family life. We will be looking at what the Bible says we were created for and specifically how salvation by grace through faith in Jesus gives people purpose, mission, vocation, usefulness, in other words, what Paul and Jesus call good works (Mt. 5:16, 20, Eph. 2:8-10). And as Jesus insists, these good works are central to calling the world to faith.
The Blessed Image
When God created people, He said that they had basically three jobs: image bearing, taking dominion, and eating, and all three of these go closely together (Gen. 1:26-29). Bearing God’s image is explained as having God’s likeness (Gen. 1:26). Of all the wonderful, glorious things God has made, you should always remember that people are as close as you get to seeing God in this physical world. They are most like Him. This likeness includes differentiation between male and female (1:27). The fact of male and female is not in tension with this image and likeness. It is expressly the way He intended His image to be displayed in the world (1:27). Attacks on the gifts of manhood and womanhood are direct attacks on God’s image. This image bearing as male and female should also be understood as God’s special blessing (1:28), and this blessing is intended to be on full display through men and women ruling over the world. The global task of bearing God’s image and glory in the world is carried out through the more immediate task of ruling the world. This includes being fruitful, multiplying, filling the earth, and subduing it (1:26, 28). We see Adam beginning to fulfill this in naming the animals (2:19-20).
Food as Beginner Dominion
But in order to fulfill this enormous mission, God gives an even more immediate task in the gift of food (1:29). In other words, for all the grandiose visions of adventure and discovery and invention, the foundational act that men and women must perform is eating. This is first of all because people must eat to stay alive. But food is not merely an arbitrary fuel. Food is immediately given to unfallen man and women as a first step in fulfilling both the image of God they bear and the mission they have been given. How does this work? The entire world is a gift from God, but food is actually the first present explicitly addressed to people (1:29). God repeatedly pronounces His creation good and very good, but though animals are given food too (1:30), it is only people who may join God in evaluating creation and agreeing with Him in its goodness. Adam would have been doing much the same thing in naming the animals also (Gen. 2:19-20). In other words, beginning with food, man and woman are created to receive the world as a gift, give thanks to God for the gift, and taste and see that the gifts are good, agreeing with God’s word and participating in His blessing. In other words, food, and by extension the whole world, is given to people as communion with God. Every square inch of creation is an opportunity to receive a gift, give thanks for it, enjoy its goodness and extend God’s blessing on it and through it. This is what the Bible calls worship. Man was created as a worshiping being, homo adorans. Therefore, by worship, communion with the Triune God, through His gifts, people rule the world rightly and bear God’s image. What’s wonderful is the fact that God also created people hungry. God offers food not only because we need and enjoy it, but because we desire it. But hunger was never meant to be merely biological urge, it was meant to drive us back to God.
Old Creation vs. New Creation
But rather than hungering for and receiving the gifts of God and giving thanks and living under His blessing, our first parents grasped food that had specifically not been given. They listened to the word of a false god who lied and promised false blessings of becoming like god on their own terms and instead fell under the curse of sin and death (Gen. 3:1-24). This why the fundamental problem in the world is idolatry: refusing to give thanks to God as the Giver for the creation as a gift and instead worshiping some part of creation rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:21-25). This stems from doubting God’s goodness, doubting His Word, and placing our trust in other words or our own instincts or judgment. The central problem with idolatry is that people become more and more what they worship (cf. Ps. 135). You become what you commune with. Ps. 115 says that idols have mouths but don’t speak, eyes but can’t see, ears but can’t hear, hands but can’t touch… and “They that make them are like them; so is everyone that trusts in them.” (Ps. 115:8) But the good news of the gospel is that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new (2 Cor. 5:17, cf. Gal. 6:15). In Ephesians, Paul says God has raised us from being dead in our sins and seated us in heavenly places, as His new “workmanship” (Eph. 2:5-10). This is not merely true of individuals but implies communities and cultures (e.g. 1 Cor. 12:13-21).
People Are For Glory
The image of a body with many different parts working together implies gifts, talents, purpose, vocation, good works. This is part of what it means to be a “new creation” in Jesus Christ. In Christ, not only are your sins washed away, you now have a purpose in life. When people grow in their gifts and realize what they are for, this is what the Bible calls glory. Glory is rejoicing in the gifts of God to you in a way that results in rejoicing by everyone around you. This is how your bodies become living sacrifices and you offer continuous worship (Rom. 12:1-2, Heb. 13:15). But this glory only grows by gratitude to the Giver of all good gifts. This is why we say that worship is central. Lord’s Day worship is our weekly memorial of what is true all the time: the world is our Christmas, to receive with thanks, to agree on its goodness, and to share and extend the blessing to the ends of the earth. This is what our worship embodies so that we can learn to do it everywhere, turning every square inch of the universe into an altar of praise. That’s what we’re for. And this kind of glory is highly contagious (Mt. 5:16). You and all people were made for glory.
[Note: The audio for this sermon is available here.]