The Purpose of Man

by Robert Andrews

(This is Part Two of a series. Click here to read Part One.)

The purpose for the family is summarized clearly in one of the foundational Scriptures of the Bible, Genesis 1:26-28, where God speaks into existence man’s multi-faceted purpose:

1. To bear the image of God. This image not only includes the fact that God is a family, but it includes His personality as well. He has a will (He can choose or decide), He has an intellect (He can know or comprehend), He has emotion (He can love) and He is a creator. We have this same capacity (though only God can create ex nihilo—out of nothing), because we are made in His image. Though that image is warped by sin, by looking at man we can get some idea of what God is like. He is like we are, because we were made in His image!

Do you see that God is not some unknowable Deity that we cannot comprehend? Our human nature was meant to be a reflection of our Father’s nature, so that we exhibit the family characteristics. God’s very character is worked out in our personality. Jesus could say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9), not because He was God, though He certainly was, but because He was man, as God intended man to be! He reflected perfectly the character of His Father. God desires that you and I also be a reflection of that Divine nature in our humanity, through our personality, so that when people see us, they see the image of God. That is our birthright. It is a lifelong process, but a goal which He will accomplish in us as we walk ever more consistently by faith in Him to achieve His great eternal purpose.

2. To have dominion over God’s creation. Man, made in God’s image, is the crowning jewel of God’s creation, designed to be the steward over God’s earth and to extend His rule from pole to pole.

This is not a popular message today. We hear on every hand that we should live in harmony with nature, realizing that we are nothing more than another rung on the evolutionary ladder, and our concerns are no more important than those of the spotted owl or the coyote or the snail darter. Men are, in fact, said to be the villains for killing those poor cows and pigs who have just as much right to live as we do.

This thinking has its roots in eastern mysticism and is making serious inroads into our culture through the environmental movement. New Age thinking, which is the driving force for many environmentalists, is nothing more than Eastern Pantheism (God is a part of nature, not transcendent over it), dressed up in Western garb.

Toys for Tots

The Scriptures tell another story. They teach that man is far different from the rest of God’s creation. He alone bears God’s image. He alone can become a child of the living God. He alone is a joint heir with Jesus Christ. He alone can become a partaker of the divine nature as the Holy Spirit takes up residence in his life. He is not simply another part of creation, but the vice-regent appointed to rule over it in God’s stead. Adam was given the task in the Garden of Eden to exercise God’s rule first over the Garden, and then extending it over all the earth, and since he was to become a child of God and a joint heir with Jesus Christ, the earth and all it contained were for him!

I can still remember distinctly the day Jill and I brought our first child, also named Adam, home from the hospital. We had spent weeks preparing his nursery: new paint job, new drapes, changing table, crib and rocking chair at the ready, toys in place all around the room (as if a new-born would notice). We even had hung a mobile over his crib before he was ever in it! That his room would reflect our love for him and the significance we placed on his arrival was very, very important to us.

However, when we finally brought Adam home and put him in that crib, and saw his little body actually asleep there, the room and all it contained suddenly paled into insignificance. The one for whom the room was created, the one who was made in our image, who bore our likeness, had arrived!

Adam did not live in harmony with his mobile, or his changing table, or his toys, as if they were all somehow equal to him in value. No, they were for him. They were there only because he was there, for without him they would have absolutely no meaning. What good is a mobile, or a changing table, without a baby?

You can see the application, can’t you? We are the climax of God’s creative effort. We are His masterpiece, His crowning achievement. Everything that had come before during that week of creation was but a beautiful setting for man, God’s ultimate jewel. The trees, the mountains, the fields, the rivers, the plants and animals, are all for us. They are for our use, our enjoyment, and our training, and Genesis 1:26-28 says that we are to rule, to have dominion, over all of them for God.

Make no mistake, ruling for God means proper stewardship of His possessions, the earth and all the resources it contains, for we will answer to God for every stewardship responsibility He has given us. As he grew, we taught Adam not to destroy his toys, to clean up his room, and to care for all his belongings, but we did not teach him that they were equal to him in value, or that he must live in harmony with them. No, he was superior in every way to his environment, and a part of his training was to be able to rule over, or have responsibility for, all of his possessions.

The logical result of evolutionary thought is to deny this uniqueness of man and to see him as simply one step in an ever-changing process. Since evolution has been taught almost exclusively in our public schools for the last fifty years, it is easy to see how this biblical view of man has been lost. Still, we must recover it, for it is a very important concept in the proper functioning of a family.

No Draft Dodging

As I mentioned earlier, a part of man’s ruling function on the earth from the beginning was to do battle with God’s enemy, the devil. The first skirmish was a disaster. Through trickery and deceit in the Garden of Eden, Satan succeeded in wresting Adam’s right to legally rule over the earth from him (Genesis 3), and, in the process, captured Adam and Eve and their descendants as his slaves (Romans 6:16). Because of their sin of rejecting God’s love and care and wanting to live independently from Him, Satan could legally hold them and their progeny in bondage with eternal death as their certain future (Hebrews 2:14,15; Romans 5:12).

Jesus, as the Perfect Man, succeeded where Adam failed. Through his constant trust in His Father, even unto death (Philippians 2:8), Jesus defeated Satan definitively, stripping him of his power and authority (Colossians 2:15). He restored that legal commission as vice-regent over the earth back to man—this time the new man, made up of Jesus and His body, the church. Satan is no longer “the ruler of this world” (John 16:11), for he has met defeat at the cross. Satan is now an illegal usurper, and Jesus is seated in victory at God’s right hand in Heaven. His church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, will actualize Satan’s defeat, in time, on the earth (Ephesians 1:15-23).

Too many Christians today do not see this aspect of man’s purpose and therefore cannot pass an understanding of dominion on to their children. We see our salvation as being for ourselves—or what we get; not as being for God—what He gets. We are saved to be about our Father’s business—extending the righteous rule of Jesus Christ over the whole earth. We have been told that the gates of Hell will not prevail against our attack (Matthew 16:18); that we are to disciple whole nations and teach them to obey the law of God (Matthew 28:18-20); that Jesus is now reigning at His Father’s right hand; that He will reign there until His enemies are under His feet (1 Corinthians 15:24-28), and that to bring that about is the job of the church of Jesus Christ. We are to push back those principalities and powers, and extend the rule of the legitimate King, which simply means doing things in obedience to Him in every sphere of activity on this earth. This is extending His dominion.

Read Part Three

Recommended further reading:

Robert Andrews: The Family-God’s Weapon for Victory
Michael Green: Thirty Years that Changed the World
Andy Crouch: Culture Making

More articles related to this topic:

  1. God’s Family Business
  2. Armed for Battle
  3. Revolutions in the Home
  4. The Enemy of Control
  5. Love is Not an Emotion

Incoming search terms: