Rev. Key is pastor of the Protestant Reformed Church of Randolph, Wisconsin.
It is unquestionably true, as one who subjects himself to the revelation of Holy Scripture can easily see, that man occupies a unique place in God’s creation. For that very reason Scripture gives special attention to the account of man’s creation. In doing so, Scripture demonstrates the importance of having a correct understanding of Adam, the first man, and of his place in the creation and before his God.
A scriptural view of man is essential. That is true not only in order that we might gain a correct biblical understanding of ourselves, who are descendants of Adam. But to have a correct understanding of man is essential also to a true knowledge of Jesus Christ.
This last statement would certainly find its objectors in our day. Many theologians and preachers in our day see no relationship between Adam and Christ. “The important thing,” they say, “is that we know Jesus. There is no need to know Adam, if only we know Jesus.”
There are several reasons for this disinterest in Adam. For one thing, it is indicative of a general disinterest in biblical doctrine. For another, the Old Testament, with all its rich revelation, has fallen on hard times in the church today. This portion of the biblical canon is largely neglected, if not outright rejected.
But a significant reason for much of the disinterest in Adam is that men have elevated their theories of science to the level of a god, and they insist that the biblical account of man’s creation cannot be understand literally. Even in Reformed circles in recent years it has become popular to deny the Bible’s literal account of man’s creation in an attempt to compromise in one way or another with the philosophy of evolution.
In 1988 a committee was appointed in the Christian Reformed Church to investigate for the Board of Trustees of Calvin College and Seminary the teachings of three professors on the subject of creation and evolution. In the “Report of the Ad Hoc Committee” which contained the conclusions and recommendations of the committee as a result of the investigation, Dr. Clarence Menninga, one of the professors being investigated, stated his thoughts concerning Genesis 2:7, where we are told that “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground.” Dr. Menninga stated, “Maybe the dust is a figure of speech and maybe God formed Adam by enabling a more primitive mother to give birth to an offspring who possessed the image of God.” Immediately after recording Menninga’s thoughts, the committee concluded that Dr. Menninga interprets the Scriptures in harmony with the Reformed creeds and synodical guidelines.
Another professor investigated by that Committee, Dr. Howard Van Till, states in his book The Fourth Day, “I see no reason whatsoever to deny that the creation might have had an evolutionary history or that morally responsible creatures might have been formed through the processes of evolutionary development.” Professor Van Till also was judged by the Committee “to be submissive to the Word of God as interpreted in the Creeds and by the synodical guidelines.” The Ad Hoc Committee showed itself utterly incapable of defending the Genesis account of man’s creation.
According to others — and Howard Van Till also fits in this category, as his book demonstrates — the record in Genesis must be so interpreted as to deny the literal, historical account. It must be made a literary device, a sort of poetic art form into which the theories of man can be made to fit, while setting aside the literal interpretation of the biblical account.
But what is so deceitful about all these presentations is that they are made under the guise of exegesis, faithful attempts at biblical interpretation; while, in fact, they are no exegesis whatsoever, but the introduction of mere human speculation, anti-biblical speculation. They are attempts to force upon the Bible various theories and views which plainly contradict what the Bible states so clearly.
Clearly, these men are so uncomfortable with what the Bible teaches concerning Adam and Adam’s origin and Adam’s God-given place in creation that they will do anything to deny that biblical revelation.
So we hear their cries: “It doesn’t matter what we believe concerning Adam; for we all believe in Jesus!” Such talk is bold to the extreme. It is the talk of sinful man, standing in rebellion against God by openly despising His Word, and yet still claiming Christ. God was not clear enough, except in revealing Christ. God was not clear enough in His account of man’s creation. After all, His account doesn’t quite measure up to the “evidences” of science. “But we all believe in Jesus!” Such is their thinking.
Let us understand, even the simple call of the gospel, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,” presupposes a wealth of doctrine. Back of this gospel call lies the doctrine of man, the doctrine of his fall into sin, and the effects of that fall. Behind the call of the gospel lies the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty, the doctrine of Christ’s anointing, of Christ’s headship, of Christ’s relationship to the first Adam.
We must realize, therefore: You cannot understand the gospel unless you have at least a basic understanding of biblical truth, also concerning man. When one reads I Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive,” he cannot understand life in Christ, unless he understands Adam and his death. “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit” (I Cor. 15:45). All these comparisons — and there are others — show us that our knowledge of Adam is essential to true knowledge of Jesus Christ. And true knowledge of Christ is life eternal!
How urgently necessary it is, therefore, to bow before what God teaches us in Scripture concerning the creation of man!
Indeed, man is himself a unique creation of God. Adam was created by God to stand at the pinnacle of all earthly things, as the highest earthly creature. Man is God’s masterpiece, a significant and unique masterpiece according to God’s sovereign and eternal counsel.
Adam was created to occupy a position at the head of the whole human race.
Oh yes, Adam was created an individual, with his own personal characteristics. And he was personally responsible for all that he did over against his God. But Adam was more than an individual. He was created to stand in a unique relationship to all those who would follow him in his generations.
In the first place, Adam was created the head of all mankind, our representative head. God created Adam to stand as our legal head. That is evident from Romans 5:12ff: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” All sinned in Adam. We must develop that truth further at a later date. When we study the consequences of man’s fall, we must certainly consider the question: How can I be guilty for that sin which Adam committed some 6,000 years before I was even born? But the very brief answer to that is this: Adam stood as the legal, representative head of the human race, a unique creature. Because he is our head, his guilt is also ours.
In the second place, God created Adam the father of the human race, and therefore the root of the organism which is the human race. Out of this one man the whole human race developed organically, even as a tree develops as one organism from a single seed. The apostle Paul referred to that truth in his sermon to the Athenians, when he said (Acts 17:26) that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.”
The whole human race finds its root in Adam.
To put it in clear terms, no matter what color or nationality we may be, we are all related. The biblical truth concerning man rules out any false ideas of a superior race when it comes to skin color or nationality. God has made of one blood all nations of men.
That is also a truth that comes to most beautiful expression in the redeemed church as the elect body of Christ, gathered from all nations, tribes, and tongues. In fact (just to show how all Reformed doctrine stands related), the truth of the communion of saints is actually rooted in the truth of God’s creation of man. Even as the human race is one in Adam, so we who are redeemed in Christ Jesus are one body. There is no individualism. This is a very practical point when it comes to the truth of the church. All individualism and refusal to be one with the body of Christ is rebellion against God who created man an organism, and redeemed an elect organism in Christ Jesus. Regardless of what men may say, and what we may think, we do not stand by ourselves in this world. The human race is an organism with its root in Adam, even as the church is an organism with Christ as its organic head.
So man, the first Adam, occupied a unique place in God’s creation — the representative head, and the first father, the organic root.
The uniqueness of man’s place is also signified by his very creation. Man was created by a special act of God.
You will notice in the creation account of Genesis 1 a significant pause immediately before the record of man’s creation. That pause is found in Genesis 1:26, where God speaks to Himself. In the fellowship of His own Triune Being He communicates in love. The God who is One in Being and yet three in Persons speaks within Himself concerning the place that His next creature will occupy. “And God said (within Himself [SK]), Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.”
Man is to be distinct from all other creatures. God created him in distinction from the angels. He created man in distinction from the animals.
Man was created in the image of God. It is to that truth that we must turn our attention next time, God willing.