Man: Created to Worship

Who are we? Why are we on this earth? What were we created for? This makes all the difference in our perspective of how we should live our lives. That is why having a proper doctrine of anthropology - the theology of man - is crucial. When we understand ourselves, we will better understand how we can have fellowship with the God who created us.

I’m starting a three-post series on the doctrine of man and how man was created to worship his Creator, abdicated that responsibility to instead worship himself, and how Christ as the true Worshipper, restored and fulfilled man’s mission to glorify God and enjoy Him - so that together with the Son and through the Spirit, redeemed mankind can praise the Father forever and ever.

In this first post, I’ll be talking about how God set up man as the pinnacle of creation, to be His steward and vicegerent (subordinate ruler) over the earth. This took place in the Garden of Eden when God created Adam and Eve and gave them a commission to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the earth and subdue it, having dominion over it (Gen. 1:28).

God, of course, since He is perfect and lacks nothing, being in eternal fellowship with Himself in the three persons of the Godhead, did not need to create man (Acts 17:24-25). Yet His love richly overflowed, and He deemed it good to create beings who would worship Him and give Him the glory that He deserves. Thus, God created Adam out of the dust of the earth, to remind him of his humble beginning and dependence on his Creator, and set him up as the pinnacle of all Creation - indeed, as the very image of God Himself (Gen. 1:27; 2:7). Adam’s function was not just to take care of the earth and the lesser creatures under him, but also to act in a priestly function by promoting worship of God. Eve was created from him and placed alongside him to assist in this work as a full partner, and the fruit of their union was originally intended to produce children who would also take up that work which God had first given to Adam. Thus, Adam himself, created in God’s image and according to his likeness, was a “vicegerent” - one ruling in the place of a higher ruler. He was meant to display God’s holiness and attributes, so far as they could be expressed in a creaturely manner.

However, Adam’s priestly responsibility as a worshipper was not limited to just positively taking care of the earth and spreading the knowledge of God among his progeny; there was also a negative function he had to exercise, and that was the test he had to fulfill by obeying God and driving out the serpent from the Garden which God had permitted to enter to tempt him and Eve. God had set up a covenant with Adam when he was created, that Adam was free to partake the fruit of all the trees in the Garden and enjoy the benefits of creation - except one: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17; Hosea 6:7). If Adam ate of that fruit, he would be cursed and doomed to death; if he obeyed God, he would be blessed with eternal life. This is what Reformed theology calls “the covenant of works” - a pact that God made with man at the beginning which offered a promise for keeping it (eternal life), and a curse for breaking it (death). Thus, when Satan entered the garden under the guise of a serpent to tempt Adam and Eve, it was Adam’s responsibility, as the chief priest of God entrusted with a holy covenant, to uphold true religion and worship by crushing the serpent and casting him out of the Garden. Adam had to exercise righteous zeal and demonstrate his love for his Creator by destroying all opposition to Him. Sadly, as we all know, Adam disobeyed God and failed to uphold his priestly role, bringing the curse upon all of us (Rom. 5:12-14).

Although we no longer can fulfill Adam’s original function today because of our sinfulness, our actions still show that we do try to exercise lordship over the creation. We still set up cities and governments, we still seek to manage our natural resources, we still see the evidences of God all around us and within ourselves and seek to live according to rules and standards (i.e, Romans 1). Even those who deny the created order and our unique status as the pinnacle of creation still tend to regulate their daily lives and interact with fellow human beings in an orderly manner. We cannot fully escape from what we were created to be, even if we have become distorted and broken. We cannot ontologically change ourselves to be completely different creatures - sin doesn’t make us non-human. We were created in God’s image and know this within ourselves, for that is exactly how God created us. But we are nevertheless unable to fulfill complete lordship over the creation, for the earth is broken along with us, thorns and thistles grow up, and wild beasts often terrorize us (Gen. 3:17-19; Rom. 8:22). Such was the terrible result of Adam’s sin, completely severing us spiritually from our Creator and robbing us of the power to control a sinful world. Yet thanks be to God that we are still human beings created in His image and can be redeemed solely because of His boundless mercy and amazing grace!

In the next post, I will talk in further detail about how man now seeks to worship himself rather than God, and make some contemporary applications to today’s world.

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