For this midweek message, I wanted to tie it in with the Bible Reading Challenge which our church has just kicked off this week. If you have not heard, we’re inviting anyone who wants to join us in reading through the Bible over the course of this school year.
We begin, then, where the Bible begins. After all, this is God’s story to tell, and we are commanded to listen to the story, as He told it, in order that we might not let one word fall to the ground. I want to draw out four important truths which are gleaned from the first chapter of the Bible.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that [it was] good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. … 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 over 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. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, 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.
Father, Son, and Spirit
From the outset, God is the main actor on the stage. But because we are fallen creatures, man will not hesitate to fudge on the details. God made the world, but man likes to find ways to get around that fact. He does this by making up his own creation myths, which ape the truth. This is what the ancient religions did. All those ancient myths relied on some deity arising out of the eternal universal. This made the universe ultimate. But a moment of reflection should show what a feeble idea that is.
After Christ came, the early church was immediately challenged to explain how God could be both Father and Son. “Surely, the Son must be a creation of God,” the heretics claimed. But here in Genesis, we are forced to moor ourselves to a doctrine which pervades Scripture. God is One, and God is three. We have here God the Speaker, God the Word, and God the Breath.
John Calvin highlights how Christ the Word must have been present at creation, “Nothing, therefore, is more intolerable than to fancy a beginning to that Word which was always God, and afterwards was the Creator of the world. But they think they argue acutely, in maintaining that Moses, when he says that God then spoke for the first time, must be held to intimate that till then no Word existed in him. This is the merest trifling. It does not surely follow, that because a thing begins to be manifested at a certain time, it never existed previously. I draw a very different conclusion. Since at the very moment when God said, ‘Let there be light,’ the energy of the Word-was immediately exerted, it must have existed long before. If any inquire how long, he will find it was without beginning.”
Here we have God making the world, the Spirit hovering over the void, and by God’s Word (i.e. logos) bringing into being the light. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together made the heavens and the earth. The foundations for the doctrine of the Trinity are here, if you have ears to hear it.
God also begins to reveal his triune nature in the creation of man: God says, “Let us make man…” The Rabbis all puzzled over this language. Is there plurality in God? Other scholars have argued that this was God inviting the angelic host to witness the creation of man, or God using a “royal we”. Here in seed form is what will come to fuller bloom with the coming of Christ, and the revelation He gives us of the Godhead, by declaring that it is into God the Father, Son, and Spirit into which we must be baptized.
Made by God
The second thing which we are confronted with is the fact that God is the Maker, of all things visible and invisible. In other words, when Moses retells the creation of the heavens and the earth, he is rebuking man’s pride by reminding us that we are not the focal point of this world. We are not the originators of it. Man, as it were, woke up in the Father’s house. It was all assembled, prepared for us, so that we might be kings and priests to God.
To put it in more philosophically familiar terms, God is the Causer. God made the world. It wasn’t some primal urge within the universe which occasioned all we see. Otherwise, meaning would be meaningless. It was by God’s will and power which brought all things into being. From His eternal being, the heavens and earth were given their being.
Further, note that Moses––though using lovely poetic language––makes clear that this creation was bounded, by God’s decree, in evening and morning cycles which we call day. Many people try to squeeze into this poetry some notion that these days were eons of time. But there is no need for us to make elbow room in the text for unbelievers to make their unbelief comfortable. God chose to make within the bounds He appointed. He did so in six literal days, roughly 6000 years ago (give or a take a month or two).
We don’t gain anything by trying to make out that “a day” here in Genesis 1 actually means 10,000,000,000,000 days. God was making a world for man, and from the beginning man has been brought face to face with evening and morning, day after day. God wanted this world inhabited by men, and in the retelling of His creative work, Moses tells us why there are seven days in a week, because God said so.
One other objection is often the “order” of the days. How could the sun not come into being until day four, but plant life was made on day three? The answer is fairly clear. Man’s myths would love to attribute creation to something as glorious as the sun. God will have no other gods before Him, so in Moses’ recounting of creation, it is made clear that the Egyptian myths were false, the ancient pagan notions were false. God alone was to be worshipped and revered as Maker.
Man Created in an Office
This leads to an important truth we are confronted with, when it comes to creation of man. Man was made in relation to God. My children, as soon as they start getting the hang of saying words, learn to answer this question, “Who made you?” They answer, “God.” This begins to teach them that they are answerable to their Maker. They are made for a purpose. They aren’t the gunk that fell off the gears of time and random chance. They have meaning, and a chief end: to glorify and enjoy God.
He is the Creator, you are His creation. As one theologian put it, “Animals and plants also stand in relation to God. But in the case of humanity, that relation if a relationship and a post or office.”
This means that there is no such thing as a self-made man. Thus as the Psalmist declares, it is He who made us, and not we ourselves (Ps. 100:3). Furthermore, God made us in His image. He made us to be in relation to Him. To hold a post. To represent Him to the rest of creation.
You don’t get to say who you are supposed to be. You don’t get to make up what you are supposed to do. You are given a job to do, a role to play. So from the beginning God made man to stand in relation to God. We cannot escape that reality, no matter how hard we try. It is only through Christ, now, that we can fulfill the role which God has laid out for us to do.
Our Redemption is Grounded in Genesis
Which brings me to my final point. Our redemption is grounded in these first lines of Scripture. God gave man a commission, an office, a throne. God saw all He had made, and it was very good.
We need to only take a second to reflect on our own inner experience, or take a look at the world around us to know that although this world is certainly beautiful…something is broken. Something is “off”. It ain’t good. There are viruses, and deaths, and mobs, and wars, and hatreds, and envies, and oil spills, and decay, and ruin. This can’t be the way it is supposed to be.
Which is why the story of God’s creative power is so vital for us to found our faith on. God made a good world. God placed man in a garden sanctuary to serve God by tending this world as a priest-king. Man rebelled from his office. The whole world was ruined. So, God became a man, to make it all good again.
Our redemption is grounded on the fact that God made this world for a reason. That reason was for His own glory, and for the good of the crown of His creation: mankind. Now, in Christ, God is restoring man to the height from which we fell. Let me quote Jonathan Edwards here: “The persons of the Trinity were, as it were, confederated in a design, and a covenant of redemption. In this covenant the Father had appointed the Son, and the Son had undertaken the work; and all things to be accomplished in the work were stipulated and agreed. There were things done at the creation of the world, in order to that work; for the world itself seems to have been created in order to it.” To sum up, the triune God made the world by His glory, in order that by the redemption story He would tell in it, He might win for Himself a greater glory. That is the story we are in. So, heed His story. Remember He’s the main character. And play your part, by looking to the script He gave you. Your stage directions are fairly simple: look to God your Creator and your redeemer. Look to Christ, and be ye saved.