Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
(Genesis 1: 26-28 ESV)
When God made humans in His image, He intended us to rule the earth as His representatives or vice-regents.
Our Creator set us apart from all other creatures and crowned us with glory and honor as ruler of the earth.
Now to rule over every living thing on the earth does not mean we are permitted to exploit the earth and its creatures to satisfy our greed, for the fact that we were made “in the image of God” rather implies the divine expectation that we will use the earth wisely and govern it with the same sense of responsibility and care that God has toward the whole of His creation.
Nevertheless, as the story continues, we soon find out that our original parents, Adam and Eve, fail to exercise this authority over all the beasts of the field.
A cunning serpent arrives and directly contradicts what God has commanded regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Where the LORD God says, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die,” the serpent instead says, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
It is ironic that the serpent should say that our original parents will be like God, considering that they have been made in the image of God, and so, in this way, they are already like God.
Our original parents were expected to exercise authority over all the beasts of the field, which includes the serpent. By heeding the serpent’s words and thus obeying him, however, they betray the trust placed in them by God. This is not merely an act of disobedience; it is an act of treachery. Those who were meant to govern the earth on God’s behalf instead rebel against their divine King and obey one of His creatures.
As the apostle Paul would put it later:
“For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.”
(Romans 1:21-25 ESV)
The world that God made was pronounced “very good,” but with this disastrous inversion of the created order where man served the creation (especially himself and the serpent at this stage) instead of the Creator, the harmonious relationships that once governed the creation have now been disrupted, damaged, and distorted.
Now, the LORD God could have justly let the story end here with mankind and the serpent reaping the bitter consequences of their actions, but He promised that He would send a Savior through Eve that would definitively defeat the serpent and redeem us from our woes.
But until that Savior arrives, humans would have to live with the consequences of sin.
Instead of the leadership role of the husband and the complementary relationship between husband and wife in the marriage relationship, there would be conflict in the roles between the two parties.
The woman will have the sinful desire to oppose man and to assert leadership over him, reversing God’s plan for man’s leadership in marriage.
Man will abandon his God-given, pre-fall role of leading, guarding, and caring for his wife and instead possess a sinful, distorted desire to “rule” over woman.
In other words, there would be a mutual, ongoing, and damaging conflict between husband and wife in marriage, driven by the sinful behavior of both in rebellion against their respective God-given roles and responsibilities in marriage.
Essentially we find in ourselves an innate desire to put ourselves first before others. Such selfishness naturally leads to seeking control and power at the expense of others typically through deceit, fraud, injustice, violence, war, and murder.
As for the relationship between mankind and nature, instead of the abundant productivity of Eden, we have thorns and thistles, drought and famine. (It would not be a stretch to consider natural disasters such as floods, tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and hurricanes as a logical extension of this curse.)
As for work, there will be hardship, frustration, pain, and boredom that accompanies our work.
Out of this dismal world portrayed, (which is not unlike our current world in many ways, and in fact, is precisely our world), we humans are meant to look to a Savior, one of us, to reverse the effects of our original parents’ rebellion against the LORD God.
Looking back at the promise our Creator made to Adam and Eve regarding the Savior coming as one of their descendants, this statement was said pertaining to Noah at his birth:
“Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”
(Genesis 5:29 ESV)
Here, we see already, that the generations after Adam and Eve anticipated the day in which one of their own would be the prophesied Savior who would overcome the serpent and redeem mankind from its sins and reverse the effects of the Fall.
It would not be Noah, however, that would ultimately fulfill the prophecy that God spoke to our original parents, but rather one of his descendants.
The generations go on from Noah to Shem, eventually to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and through Jacob’s son, Judah, eventually to David, and then from David eventually to Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of the Savior prophesied after the fall of mankind.
He lived a life in perfect obedience to God the Father on our behalf.
He died the death and suffered the wrath reserved for us.
He rose from the dead to show that death has no claim over Him nor over those who will put their faith in Him.
His righteousness was imputed to us while our sins were imputed to Him.
In so doing, He satisfied the demands of God’s righteousness and justice and made it possible for us humans to be reconciled to our Creator and enjoy fellowship with Him once more.
Jesus Christ succeeded where Adam failed.
As Adam’s trespass led to condemnation for all men,
so Jesus’ one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
Where Adam failed to rule over the serpent,
Jesus crushed the head of the serpent.
Where Adam failed to lead, guard, and care for his wife, Jesus loved His bride, the church, and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Adam and Eve were once given dominion over the created order, but now that right of dominion belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ.
As the author of Hebrews puts it:
It has been testified somewhere,
“What is man, that you are mindful of him, or the son of man, that you care for him?
You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.”
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:6-9 ESV)
It is interesting to consider what caused sin in the first place and what solves it in the end.
If God originally intended us to love, worship, and obey Him, then what sin does is invert this relationship and prompt us to love, worship, and obey the creation (whether that be ourselves, in one aspect or another, and/or the serpent) instead of the Creator.
As Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience, died a sinner’s death, and rose victoriously from the grave, God draws our attention away from the creation back to the Creator. He draws our hearts after Himself in the redemption He achieves.
Then after reconciling those who would place their trust in Him, Jesus sends them the Holy Spirit to enable them to begin to reverse the effects of sin and the Fall in their own lives.
Naturally this would mean that believers now have the foundation they need to begin to kill the sin that remains in their life and thus provide a watching world a small taste of restored Eden.
Believers are meant to love one another,
instead of putting their own interests before those of others.
Husbands ought to lead, guard, and care for their wives, instead of dominating over them.
Wives ought to humbly submit to their husbands, instead of opposing and asserting leadership over them.
Instead of finding our work hard and boring, we begin to see it more as enjoyable and meaningful as we redeem it through thanksgiving, prayer, and the word of God.
Eventually the creation itself will follow after the restored example that the adopted children of God have set. For we know that “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21 ESV)
Someday, believers will no longer see natural disasters, diseases, crime, and violence run rampant in the world. The great privilege that God bestows upon believers, is that He gives us the opportunity to play a part in this restoration through our personal obedience by the Spirit’s enabling.
Thus we see that sin is, in a sense, a departure from the very good creation paradigm that God intended for mankind, and the salvation that Jesus Christ procures on the behalf of those who trust in Him is the means by which mankind can be restored to that paradigm.
Adam’s sin led to curses on mankind and creation; Jesus’ obedience leads to blessings on mankind and creation, and He gives the church the privilege and responsibility to work out that victory, with the Spirit’s help, in our own lives.