Adam: Created in the Image of God

6 min

Adam is the father of us all. No matter our language and nationality, we are all descendants of Adam and Eve. We inherit from Adam the curse of sin, the sting of death, and the certainty of the grave. But from Adam we also inherit the image of God, the hope of eternal life, and the promise of redemption.

On the sixth day of Creation, 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 fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (Genesis 1:26). God existed before time and outside of time. He had no beginning. Man, by contrast, did not exist until all the rest of Creation was finished. Mankind had a definite beginning that was ordained by God.

Genesis 2:7 records the moment when God formed Adam of the dust of the ground: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” The name Adam means “red dirt.” It is the same word used in the Bible for red (the color) as well as for the earth itself. In the formation of Adam, we have a unique blend of the temporal and the eternal, the earthly and the heavenly, and the physical and the spirit. Adam was formed from the dirt, but it was God’s Own breath, breathed into the man’s nostrils, that gave Adam life. Without God’s spirit, Adam was only a lump of clay. But with the breath of God’s spirit, Adam became “a living soul,” endowed with an eternal destiny.

Adam not only was given life by his Creator, but he was also given a purpose, ordained by God. He was made in the “image” of God and was to reflect God’s character and nature. Unlike the animals, man was created to stand upright, with a consciousness of eternity, a rational mind, and with an ability to live forever. God placed man in a place of dominion over the animal kingdom and gave him the duty to dress and keep the garden.

“And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed” (Genesis 2:8). In this garden, the Garden of Eden, Adam was given his first task, “to dress it and keep” it. Even in a perfect world, Adam was created to work. Not only was he given the task of maintaining the Garden of Eden, but God also brought the animals to Adam to carry out the job of naming them. “And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof” (Genesis 2:19). The Hebrew names of the animals give testimony to the insight and wisdom granted to Adam. He called the lion “the strong one.” He called the dog “the whole-hearted one.” He called the camel “the burden bearer.”

God not only gave Adam work to do, He noted that “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). After finishing the task of naming the animals, Adam was given the blessing of a “help meet for him” (Genesis 2:18). In the creation of Eve, God gave man his greatest blessing, a woman to stand at his side and be his lifelong companion. Adam expressed his delight in the first recorded words spoken by a human being: “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23).

Given every blessing imaginable—life, purpose, responsibility, abundant food, a perfect place to live, a help meet for him, and a close relationship with his Maker— Adam was also given a command. “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16–17). Adam, even in his original state, had limits upon his freedom. Although he was created in the image of God, there were certain things that God knew were beyond his human knowledge. There were certain things that Adam could not know, ought not know, and must not do.

The next chapter of Genesis gives the account of Satan’s temptation and man’s Fall. Eve, tempted by Satan, offered the forbidden fruit to her husband, and Adam ate what God commanded that he should not eat. In that moment, a wall of separation came between God and Adam, and Adam began to die. He died spiritually as his relationship with God was severed. He died physically in the sense that his body was cursed by sin and he was destined for the grave and eternal separation from God.

But God in His mercy did not leave Adam helpless, guilty, and alone. The Creator sought out fallen man. He called Adam out of his hiding place and held him responsible. “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:17–19).

This curse of death was accompanied by the hope of eternal life through a coming Messiah. Called the protoevangelium (the “first good news” or “first Gospel”), this promise gave the hope that one day the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent (see Genesis 3:15).

God expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. The Lord posted a guard of cherubim with flaming swords to guard the entrance to Paradise. Animals were slain to provide the guilty pair coats of skin for a covering. This shedding of blood to cover the couple was the foreshadowing of Christ shedding His blood to cover the sins of men.

Adam and Eve labored outside the Garden, where they now dwelt under the consequences of their sin. They were taught to make sacrifices and to pray. The couple saw the curse of death dramatically displayed when their firstborn son Cain killed their second son Abel in a fit of rage and jealousy. Yet they clung to God’s promise of redemption. God gave them another son, whom they named Seth.

Adam lived a total of 930 years and long enough to see eight generations. He possibly knew Lamech, the father of Noah, as a grown man! Yet, according to the curse, the day came when Adam died. But he died aware of the promise of a coming Messiah and he passed that hope along to his children and his children’s children.

When the fullness of time was come, God sent forth His Son. The Apostle Paul called the Lord Jesus “the last Adam.” Like Adam, the Lord Jesus had a body prepared for Him by His Father (see Hebrews 10:5). He was fully man and “made like unto his brethren” as our merciful and faithful High Priest. In the Garden of Eden, Adam had said, in essence, by choosing to disobey God, “Not Your will but mine be done.” Jesus, wrestling with temptation in the Garden of Gethsemane, said to God the Father, “Not My will but Thine be done.” Jesus, the last Adam and the perfect Man, was the fulfillment of the promise made to Adam: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19). Just as the account in Genesis begins with Paradise lost, so the record in Revelation ends with Paradise restored and the Tree of Life open to all.

Like Adam, Jesus stands as representative for the entire human race. Just as Adam passed to us the curse of death, Jesus passed to us the blessing of life everlasting. In discussing resurrection and the hope of eternal life, Paul wrote, “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (I Corinthians 15:21–22).

From Adam, we inherit death and sin. From Christ, we inherit His righteousness and eternal life. Like our first father, we live under the curse, but we also live with a glorious promise of eternal life—a promise that we should embrace and pass along to our children and children’s children.

This article is from our Matters of Life & Death teaching series.

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