Our Belgic Confession describes the creation of man in this manner, “We believe that God created man out of the dust of the earth, and made and formed him after his own image and likeness, good, righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will, agreeably to the will of God.” This follows closely the language of Scripture. We read, “And God said, let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and rover the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them,” Gen. 1:26, 27. To this is added, “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,” Gen. 2:7.
OUT OF THE DUST
Our reaction to the description of man’s creation given in the Belgic Confession might very well be mixed. “God formed man out of the dust. . . and formed him after his own image.”
The material which God used in creating man wasdust! We might be inclined to react as did Naaman the Syrian when told to go wash in the Jordon River seven times. He said, “Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel, may I not wash in them and be clean?” II Kings 5:11, 12. We read the creation account and learn how God spoke by His creative word and the things came into being with a mighty display of power. The sea brought forth birds and the earth brought forth animals. Of man we read, “God formed him out of dust.” We might react and say, why didn’t God call forth His mighty creative word and with great power bring forth man out of nothing? Whydust?
Let’s observe the following.
First, God created man as part of the creation. If God wanted man to live independently from the creation, he. could have created man out of some other substance, as for example the angels were. God did not want man to live on the earth and not be part of it, but the very opposite. The whole of God’s creation is organically related. The earth holds the sea in its bosom. The forest provides a home for the animals. The plants take in carbon dioxide and convert it to oxygen, so essential to life on the earth. The whole of the earth and its inhabitants are wrapped up in the firmament. God created man to be part of this creation. Hence, the material for man was dust.
Secondly, we learn from this creative act that man’s life is dependent upon the earth. In order for him to live, he needs oxygen, he needs the food the earth produces, he is dependent upon the earth to provide all the essential elements for his well-being. This is being pointed out in our day, so acutely, by the problems of ecology. We need clean air, water, and earth if we are to live here. This is our home. The Psalmist expressed it this way, “The heaven, even the heavens are the Lord’s, but the earth hath he given to the children of men,” Ps. 115:16.
Thirdly, it follows from the above, that we are earthly because of our creation, and therefore we like it here. Our space program helps us understand this. We may travel to other heavenly bodies, but it is a hostile environment; it is brown and drab. We have to take our own environment with us or we cannot survive. Wasn’t that a beautiful picture of earth taken from the moon? The earth is our home, it is the most beautiful of the heavenly bodies that God has created. It is colorful, it is adorned in beauty from pole to pole. Because God made us from the dust, we enjoy being here. We will do anything to stay alive. Satan may have said it, but it is true, “Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life,” Job 2:4. Death has to grab us away from this home; we won’t volunteer to leave. Yes, we are of the earth, earthy, I Cor. 15:47.
In the fourth place, since the material for our creation was dust, the scope of our perception is earthly. This does not rule out the place of faith; that was included in creation, for God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life. We mean by this that we cannot understand the heavenly. Who can fathom eternity, the omnipresence of God, the souls of God’s people in glory, ‘the angels’ presence in heaven and earth, the ultimate resurrection of the dead? These things are “heavenly” and we are earthly. We believe them by faith, but cannot even picture them in our minds. This will have to await for the change from earthly to heavenly.
GOD FORMED MAN
Added to the above, we read, “God formed man out of the dust of the ground.” If the material used in creating man might seem to demean his existence, certainly this addition would change all that. Let’s consider how this is true.
First, God contemplated the act of creating man before doing it. It was introduced by God speaking with Himself as triune God, “And God said, Let us make man,” Gen. 1:26. This constituted a definite break in the creative process. Two things can be pointed out here. The creation of man was so important to God that He discussed it with Himself before carrying it out. This was unique. It also indicates to us that this was a distinct creative act which in no way can be connected with the creation of the animals that preceded it. The creation account does not allow any form of evolution, as if man has his ancestry in the animal.
Secondly, God became personally involved in man’s creation. We realize this was true of all creation, by virtue of the creative voice of God. God personally spoke and it was done, Ps. 33:9. Nevertheless, God’s act of creating man was distinctive. We read that God, “formed man out of the dust of the ground.” Notice here that dust was not so demeaning that God would not put His hands into it. We realize that we deal with the wonder of creation. Rather than poking fun of Scripture’s description of it, as godless science does, we understand this description to be God’s. He describes in our language the fact that He did not only speak in creating man, he also acted. He became more personally involved in this creation. By His own mighty hand he fashioned, out of the dust, the nature of man, making him of the earth, earthy.
Thirdly, the results of this special creative act of God can be seen in man, the most wonderful creature God made. God intended that man should not only be part of the creation, but the king of all creation. So great was the creative act, that He made man able to reign over all things. This is staggering to contemplate. Certain things indicate this.
God made man able to walk erect. This cannot be said of any animal. Some may hop about in great strides, as the kangaroo, others may swing from branch to branch, as the monkey, still others may use all fours in amazing speed like the deer, but only man walks erect. What an insult against God to say that man belongs in the category of animal. He is unique in his place. There is kingly majesty even in his erect disposition.
Think of man’s face. It tells a great deal about the man, more than the face of any animal.
There is a reason for this. God created man to be a human person. When God formed man out of the dust of the ground, He provided Adam with a nature that would enable him to personally enter into covenant fellowship with God. He gave man the faculties of friendship. This included such things as the human body, the brain and nervous system. This marvelous and complex part of man’s creation provided the necessary tools by which the human mind is able to function. The ability to reason, to retain sense impressions as memory, to recall them in the future, to talk intelligently, to listen and understand, all are included in this creation of man. His face showed it. Man possesses certain likes and dislikes which are influenced by his own will. The face indicates this. Emotions run deeply within man’s body and soul and these are reflected in his face. The human person communicates by a face to face encounter both in relation to the neighbor and God. God made man this way.
God also gave man a body with which to work. Certainly one can examine the animal world and find many industrious animals. Does not the Bible tell the sluggard to visit the ant, Prov. 6:6? The squirrel provides for winter and the beaver nibbles industriously to build his dam. Yet, man is altogether distinct. His body is controlled by his intellect and not by instinct. His hand has the skill of a surgeon or the brute power of the hewer of wood. God made Adam as the workman in His kingdom. To him was given the command, “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth,” Gen. 1:28.
Now we can understand that man was created by a marvelous act of God. He came forth out of the earth, yet capable of subduing it. He came out of the dust, yet he was made the king of all the creation.
THE IMAGE BEARER OF GOD
To this we must also add that God did more, He also breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. It was by this aspect of man’s creation that God lifted man above the earth and made him conscious that God existed and that he was not king in his own right, but king under God, to serve Him in loving obedience.
The Belgic Confession adds, “and made and formed him after his own image and likeness, good and righteous, and holy, capable in all things to will agreeably to the will of God.”
God created man in one act, which in turn is distinguished as having two parts: the first is that God formed him out of the dust of the earth, the second is that He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life. The first part has reference to the fact that God made man capable of bearing God’s own image, the second describes how God enabled man to actually bear that image.
In our next article we will consider what is involved in this image of God in man. In conclusion now, we may understand that what is sometimes referred to as the “image of God in the wider sense” could better be described as man’s capability of bearing God’s image. By forming man out of the dust of the ground, God gave to man all the gifts he needed to function as servant king under God. He gave to man his entire human nature, body, soul, and spirit.
When God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, God unified the entire complex life of man into one human personality. This personality He directed to Himself, so that by the use of his human nature man could glorify God His creator.
Little wonder that the church of all ages has delighted in making this an object of our confession. To contemplate our origin makes us realize how great our God is, and how dependent we are upon Him. We do well to conclude with the words of David: though referring to his conception and birth, they apply to our original creation as well, “I will praise thee: for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are thy works, and that my soul knoweth right well,” Ps. 139:14.
We believe that God created man out of the dust of the earth.