Saturday Sermon: John Piper on Genesis 1:26-28
Though some may believe that moving the science/faith dialogue forward is best left to scientists, scholars, and theologians, we at BioLogos recognize that our pastors play an invaluable role in the conversation. Across the globe, pastors are helping their congregations work through difficult issues of science and faith with honesty, insight, and a gentle spirit. To this end we present an ongoing series recognizing sermons (and the pastors who give them) that are helping to promote the harmony of science and faith. Today's sermon comes from Rev. John Piper, author and Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Click above to hear an excerpt. Below, is a brief summary written by BioLogos editorial staff. The full sermon, which we highly recommend can be downloaded here. Finally, if you know a sermon or podcast related to science and faith that has especially spoken to you, please let us know.
Genesis 1:26-28 states that God created human beings and placed his image within them, both male and female. Although these Biblical statements are not exclusive to Christian belief, Dr. John Piper argues that they point to Christianity. In this eloquent sermon, he examines these related, but distinct truths in Scripture (creation, creation-in-the-image-of God, and creation-as-male-and-female) and demonstrates how they obtain completion and significance in the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Piper begins with a discussion about God’s purpose in the creation of humankind. The assertion that God designed people pleads the question: for what purpose or end have all human beings been formed? The Old Testament indicates that humanity was made to steward the things of the earth and to reflect the glory of God in the world. It speaks of being created to show forth the glory of God (Isaiah 43:7). It also speaks of how the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord. (Habakkuk 2:14). However, the Hebrew Scriptures end with creation utterly unfinished and the hope of glory still to come. Stopping the story there, begs for the rest to be told, and it is, but only in Christ:
For it is the God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” who has shone this light in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. (II Corinthians 4:6 NRSV.)
Then, Piper speaks about how God has created us in his image, and this, he says, must have something to do with why we are here. His purpose in making us must have something wonderful to do with our uniqueness. We, alone out of all his created beings, are made in the image of God. The current state of the world, however, shows what a mess we have made of this dignity. We have marred God’s image “almost beyond recognition.” This causes one to wonder: can a person truly be in the image God when evil abounds? Piper answers this by referring to the words of God to Noah in Genesis 9:6: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image." This verse fully affirms God’s likeness in humanity. Even in a world where sin abounds, humankind is still created in God’s image—badly distorted, true, but still the image of God. Piper expounds:
Do you feel that you are like God in the way you should be? So here again the belief that we were created in God's image begs for a completion—in this case a redemption, a transformation, a kind of re-creation. And that is exactly what Christianity brings. "By grace are you saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works . . . Put on the new nature created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 2:8–10; 4:24 RSV).
So knowing that we were created in the image of God, our dilemma begs for an answer. And Jesus, he says, is that answer; he begins the reclamation project called sanctification that will end in the glory that God intended for humankind in the first place.
Next, Piper focuses on how God created us male and female. And this too, given the alienation depicted as the story of Adam and Eve comes to a close, begs for completion and points to Christ. How? It does so in at least two ways. The first comes from the “mystery” of marriage. The other comes from the historical ugliness of male-female relationships when sin abounds.
First is the mystery. While Genesis 2: 24 sets forth the institution of marriage saying, “…a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh,” it does not fully explain the significance of it. For this reason, the Apostle Paul describes marriage in Ephesians 5: 31 as a great mystery. Paul then describes how marriage is symbolic of Jesus Christ’s covenantal relationship to the Church. The story of man and woman in marriage begs for completion, and it is only fulfilled in Christ’s covenant with his people, his commitment to the church. So that’s the mystery, and it is only fully realized with the coming of Jesus.
Second is the ugliness that too often characterizes male/female relationships in sin. Piper goes all the way back to the beginning where in Genesis 2:24 Adam disgustingly blames woman, not himself, for his sin. There, Piper says, is the beginning of all domestic violence—man blames woman for his own failures. One consequence of Adam and Eve’s sin is a curse upon man and woman’s relationship in Genesis 3: 16(NASB): “…In pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” Piper makes it clear that the model of a domineering man and a devious woman is the result in marriage when sin has its way. However, Jesus came to reverse the curse and heal the twisted relationship between men and women that has created inequality and oppression. In 1 Peter 3:7, Peter describes man and woman as fellow heirs of the grace of life that is found in Jesus. Therefore, it is in Christ that equality, complementarity, harmony, mutual respect, and love exist between man and woman.
So the fact of being created in God’s image in Genesis, cries out for completion as the Old Testament ends.
- Humankind is created to manifest the glory of God, but the work is clearly unfinished.
- The image of God has been deeply marred by self-centered rebellion against God (sin). The work of God cries out for completion
- The male/female relationship is damaged by the desire to dominate, but it points to completion in the mystery of Christ and the bride for which he gave his life—the Church.
In all cases, creation only moves to completion, as we are “utterly and radically and uniquely devoted to the Lord.”
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1, 2, NASB)
John Piper has been Senior Pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota since 1980. He attended Wheaton College as an undergraduate, majoring in literature with a minor in philosophy. After, he completed a Bachelor of Divinity degree at Fuller Theological Seminary. Through Dr. Fuller he discovered the writings of Jonathan Edwards, his most influential "dead" teacher. John did his doctoral work in New Testament Studies at the University of Munich in West Germany. His dissertation, Love Your Enemies, was published by Cambridge University Press and Baker Book House. Upon completion of his doctorate, he went on to teach Biblical Studies at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota for six years.