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Functional Purpose

Words By Ellie Di Julio Illustrations by Marie Warner Preston

Have you ever wondered why an all-sufficient God chose to create us? In this first day of our Genesis Bible reading plan, Ellie Di Julio considers the answer to this defining question, inviting us to return to our original function: to rule and reign as image-bearers through Christ.

I am currently the proud owner of a non-existent house. Oh, you can locate it on a map—you can even go inside. But when you do, you’ll find walls and floors ripped up, air ducts missing, and water and electricity shut off. It’s totally uninhabitable. It doesn’t serve the purpose of a house (yet), so functionally, it doesn’t exist.

This example sounds silly to a modern mind, which equates existence to physical matter, but to the audience for whom Genesis was originally written, functionality was their focus: Does a thing serve a purpose? Who or what is it serving? If a thing did not have a clear purpose, then it had no bearing on reality. For these ancient Hebrews, the who and why of Creation was more important than the how.

When we look at the days outlined in Genesis 1 through this lens of function rather than form, a pattern of purpose begins to emerge. First, God speaks the division of time (vv.3-5), the formation of weather (vv.6-8), and the establishment of food (vv.7-13). He then populates Creation with heavenly bodies (vv.14-19), sea creatures and birds (vv.20-23), and land animals (vv.24-25).

This is truly awesome. No mortal being could create order from chaos this way. But the lingering question is why? God is perfect; He has no needs. If for a thing to exist in the ancient Hebrew conception it must serve a purpose, whose needs will be served when Creation is finished?

We find our answer in the sixth day as humanity is given its own purpose: to rule and reign as the very image of God (vv.26-27). Each day of Creation, each thing God speaks into being finds its purpose in service of mankind. By establishing time, weather, food, and a dominion to rule, the needs of humans are met.

Yet a further question remains. Creation’s function is fulfilled in service to humanity, but what is the divine function of humans? How do we know who and why we are?

Through Christ.

In our materialistic modern culture, it’s easy to focus on the form of our existence—our house, job, family, church—and feel like we serve what is intended to serve us. We forget our function, our aching soul spiralling into existential crisis. It is only through turning our focus ever back to Jesus that we can hope to be restored to our original purpose.

Unnamed yet all-important, Jesus is present in the beginning. He is the Word God speaks to imbue the material of Creation with purpose (John 1:1; Genesis 1:3-31), the One through and for whom all things were created (Colossians 1:16). Though He has no needs, He desired to create us for relationship with Him—and that was enough.

And He continues to desire us. It would have been just for God to discard humanity once we became dysfunctional, His image in us marred after the Fall into sin. But because of His unfailing love and mercy, Jesus shed His blood to rescue us from that death, that non-existence, and restore us to life and purpose (Ephesians 2:13).

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1), purposing them to serve humanity and for humanity to be in relationship with Him. Through the salvation of Christ, present in the first breath of Creation, we are restored to our original function, able to truly image God and to reign with Him. Before time began, Jesus bestowed on us our true purpose as divine image bearers, and He continues to uphold it in the moments when we forget who we are and why we’re here, ever willing to remind us as we continue to put our faith in Him.

For our good and His glory—since day one.

Take a moment to brainstorm all the words that spring to mind when you think about ‘purpose.’ Now consider how these align with your God-given purpose of reflecting Christ and reigning with Him and through Him. Are there any changes you need to make in your thinking or habits to better enable you to fulfil your original function?

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Nichole Gillanders
Nichole Gillanders
Mar 29, 2022

Love it , Ellie! I seem to be surrounded by messages of 'purpose' this week!

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