Read This Week’s Passage: Acts 7:20–36
A pattern emerges in the creation account of Genesis 1: first God identifies what He is creating, and then He gives its purpose or mission. First He called out the light, which, divided from the darkness, was to demarcate the day from the night. The identity of what He was creating (i.e. the firmament) was established before He elucidated its purpose (i.e. to divide the waters from the waters).
Given the sequential manner in which God creates—the light before the plants, and the plants before the animals, for instance—it becomes apparent that He is intentional. God already knows the purpose of His creation and creates with that purpose in mind. The pattern of introducing the identity of the creation before its purpose is maintained throughout the chapter. We may deduce that God intended for the reader to recognize that identity precedes mission.
Before we are introduced to Adam and Eve’s mission to “be fruitful, and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion...” (Gen. 1:28), we are introduced to their identity
(Gen. 1:27) as beings created in the image of God. This differentiates their mission to “be fruitful and multiply” from that given to the sea creatures and winged fowl (Gen. 1:22). Whereas the mission is limited to physical fruitfulness and multiplication for the fish and birds, it has intellectual and spiritual implications for humans who are created in the image of God.
Mission cannot be understood fully until identity is understood. By the same token, a misidentification will lead to a mischaracterization of the mission. Put differently, we do not know what we should be doing if we do not know who we are.