God’s Good Creation
Genesis 1:1, 31; 2:1-3
INTRODUCTION: Each year at our annual meeting I ask people for suggestions for sermons or sermon series for the New Year. I don’t make any guarantees on which suggestions I might actually follow up on, but it is always helpful hearing what is on people’s hearts and minds.
Well, our very first sermon series for the year comes from one of those suggestions this time. Someone asked if we could spend some time looking at God’s creation and how that affects us as believers. So today we will begin a four week series on God’s Good Creation.
Some of the questions we will be addressing along the way are: What does it mean that God created all things good? What is our place in this world? How does the fall and mankind’s sin affect creation? As Christians, how should we view environmental concerns? How can we know God better though his creation? Where does the gift of creativity come from and how can we use it for God’s glory? I am looking forward to preaching this series and am glad that someone suggested it.
So, with that said, please take your Bibles and turn with me to the very beginning: Genesis 1. Today is the first Sunday of the New Year, a new beginning in 2008, and so in many ways it is appropriate that we go back to the beginning – the beginning of the Bible, the beginning of creation, the beginning of all the good things that God has done for us.
Genesis 1:1, 31; 2:1-3 – “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth …
God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day.
Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.”
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) These are some of the most significant words in the whole book of Genesis, some of the most significant words in the Bible, some of the most significant words ever written. The beginning matters because it lays down the principles and foundations for everything else that follows. History is important. Origins are significant. There is a reason God recorded how our world began, and that reason is we must know where we came from in order to understand our present purpose and place in this world as well as our future destination.
I. It all starts with God (Genesis 1:1a)
And so we come back to Genesis 1:1 this morning to look at the beginning. And what we find is that it all starts with God. Those first four words in the Bible say it all: “In the beginning, God.” If we do not get that right, we will not get anything else right in life either.
A. Three philosophical choices
There are three philosophical choices when it comes to the origins of the universe. Either: 1) God has always existed, 2) the universe has always existed, or 3) something came from nothing. That is basically it. There are many variations on each of those options, including multiverse theories and even the recently proposed theory that our entire universe is nothing but a giant computer simulation in someone’s future X-Box, but it all comes down to one of these three choices. Either: 1) God has always existed, 2) the universe has always existed, or 3) something came from nothing.
Let’s take a quick look at each of the options. Choice number one says that God has always existed – that before the world was created, there was God: an infinite, eternal being who has always existed. God has always been, and the world came from him. This view says that the universe had a beginning whereas God does not.
Choice number two says that the universe has always existed – that matter is eternal, that the stuff of our universe has just always been there. This option is becoming harder and harder to defend these days as all of the evidence of science points toward a definite beginning point for the universe. Some try to get around that by pointing to the big bang as the beginning of everything, but before you can have a big bang, you still have to have something that can go bang. You still have to have some stuff to get it all started. So where did that stuff come from? Others try to get around it by saying that our universe has had many beginnings, expanding and contracting over and over again, but that only delays the problem. Where did the stuff come from that started it all?
That leads us to choice number three. Choice number three says that something came from nothing. Choice number three says that neither God nor matter is eternal. At first there was nothing, not even God, and then all of a sudden there was something. Something came from nothing.
So which of these makes the most sense logically? Let’s work our way backwards through the options. Does it make sense for something to come from nothing? If there was a time when there was nothing, not even God, does it make sense that something could just simply have appeared? Of course not, and even the most basic laws of our universe deny that something comes from nothing.
Well how about option two then? Could the universe have always existed? We have already pointed out that all the scientific evidence points to a beginning for the universe, but what about matter? Could matter have just always existed and then exploded in the big bang to create what we now know as our universe? But how could matter exist forever? Does it make more sense for matter to exist eternally or for a self-existent God who is defined by his eternal nature to exist eternally?
Which leads us back to the first option: God’s very nature is eternal, and so there is no logical problem in God having always existed and then having created at a point in time.
B. One biblical choice
What does the Bible say about these three options? There is only one biblical choice, and it just happens to be the most logical of the three philosophical choices. The Bible says, “In the beginning, God.” God has always existed. Could many “gods” have existed? It is interesting, the word “God” in Genesis 1:1 is plural in the Hebrew, but the verb “created” is in the singular. There is something mysterious in the plurality of God in this opening verse of Scripture, and yet the singular verb makes it clear that God is one being. And so what is the one biblical choice? The one true God has always existed, and he created the world in which we live. It all starts with God.
II. God created all things (Genesis 1:1b)
Genesis 1:1 goes on to say, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The word “created” in verse 1 is a special word in the Hebrew that is used only of the creating work of God. Man may make or fashion various items from God’s creation, but only God does the special type of creating we find expressed in Genesis 1.
Some people get confused over the word “heavens” in the phrase “heavens and the earth.” Does that mean heaven as in the place where God lives, or does it mean the heavens as in the stars in the sky and all the various galaxies in the universe, or does it mean the heavens as in the sky or atmosphere around our own world? Those are good questions.
And the answer is that the phrase is just another way of saying everything in the universe. Old Testament Hebrew does not have an actual word for the universe, and so the phrase “heavens and the earth” is one of the phrases the Bible uses to refer to “all things.” We see this in Isaiah 44, where God says: “I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself.” (Isaiah 44:24) And so Genesis 1:1 is telling us that God created all things. Everything in the universe came from God – every atom, every galaxy, every planet, every star.
And although Genesis 1:1 is most likely speaking of the physical universe, the New Testament makes clear that God created all things that exist outside of the physical universe as well. Colossians 1:16: “For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.” God created all things. Everything that is came from God.
The fact that God created all things is important for several reasons. First of all, it means that God is prior to creation. Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” Our God is an eternal God. That is part of his nature. He has always existed, and he always will. God created all things in the beginning, because God was already there before the beginning. God is prior to creation.
Secondly, God is separate from creation. The fact that God created all things means that the universe is not an extension of God but rather a creation of God. Therefore we are not to worship the universe or anything in the universe. Worship is reserved for God alone. This means that any kind of idol worship or sun worship or worship of any created object or being is wrong. It also means that any philosophy or religion teaching that God is part of his creation is also wrong. We call that pantheism. Pantheism does not teach that God created all things separate from himself but that God is part of all things. The more extreme forms of pantheism teach that God is all things and that all things are God. But that is not what the Bible teaches. God created all things. Therefore, God is separate from creation.
And thirdly, the fact that God created all things means that God is over all creation. Nehemiah prayed to God: “You alone are the LORD.” Why? Because “You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.” (Nehemiah 9:6) Isaiah 45:18 says, “For this is what the LORD says — he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth … he says: ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other.’” Acts 17:24 says, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth.” God created all things. Therefore, he is Lord. He over all creation.
III. God created all things good (Genesis 1:31-2:3)
But there is another very important thing Genesis 1 teaches us about God’s creation. Not only did God create all things. God created all things good.
We see this throughout Genesis chapter 1. We see it first of all in the days of creation where God brought order in creation. First there was the creation of the material for the universe. But then we read in verse 2 that: “The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” (Genesis 1:2) God’s Spirit hovered over the waters ready to bring order out of disorder, form out of chaos.
First God created the light and then separated the light from the darkness. Then God made the sky and separated the water under the sky from the water above it. Next God separated the water from the dry land, causing the dry land to produce vegetation, seed-bearing plants and trees bearing fruit with seed in it. Next God created the sun, the moon and the stars to separate the day from the night, to serve as signs to mark the seasons and days and years. Then, having prepared the earth and the seas for animal life, God created the creatures of the sea and the birds of the air. Next, he created the creatures that live on the land, and then finally, as the crown of all creation, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27) God’s creation is good first of all because God brought order in creation.
Notice that this was a process involving a primary creative act and then a number of individual creative steps along the way. There is a valuable lesson for us in all this, because our lives are also in process. Sometimes things do not look good in our lives. But if you are a Christian, then you are a new creation in Christ, and God is still in process with you. 1 Corinthians 14:33 says, “God is not a God of disorder but of peace,” and God is continually bringing order to our disordered lives. That is why Paul could say in Philippians 1:6 that he was “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
God not only brought order to his creation. God approved his work of creation. At every step along the way, we read the repeated refrain, “And God saw that it was good.” That means not only was each individual step good, but that the process itself was good. And when God finished creating man and woman, we read in Genesis 1:31: “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning — the sixth day.” God not only approved each individual step in the process of creation, but when he had finished creating, he stepped back and looked at it all, and said, “It is good. It is very good!” God put his own stamp of approval on his work of creation. And trust me, God has very high quality control standards!
And that leads us to the third part of God creating all things good. God completed his work of creation. A job half-done is not good. We read in Genesis 2: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.” (Genesis 2:1-3)
God did not leave anything mid-process. Think about it. If God had stopped mid-process, it would not have been good. If God had left the earth formless and void, that would not have been good. If God had not separated the light from the darkness, that would not have been good. If God had just created Adam and not Eve, that would not have been good. (That would have been terrible!) But as God brought order to creation, he paused at the end of each step along the way and affirmed the work that he had just done. And when God finished his work of creating, he was able to approve it all. God was able to look at everything he had made and pronounce that it was all good. He had completed his good work of creation. And that in itself was good!
CONCLUSION: Those are our beginnings. That is our origin. 1) It all starts with God. 2) God created all things. 3) God created all things good. That is the basis of everything that follows. That is the basis that will help us to answer the questions we began with today, questions such as: What is our place in this world? How should we view the environment? How can we know God better though his creation? How can we use our creative gifts for God’s glory?
Of course, through all of this we must remember that two very profound things happened between the time that God completed his creation and pronounced it good and the present time in which we live. The first of these was that sin entered the world and profoundly altered God’s creation. As Paul said in Romans 8:20, “the creation was subjected to frustration.” God’s creation is still good, but it has been distorted and defaced by sin. Although we can still see God through his creation, the glass has been dimmed, and we do not see as clearly as before. Not everything is perfect and good anymore. We must take sin into account if we are to understand God’s good creation today.
So the first profound thing that happened was that sin entered the world. What is the second? The second profound thing is that Christ entered the world. Christ entered the world to rescue this present world from the debilitating effects of sin. Christ came to redeem the world from sin. And we must take that into account also if are to adopt a Christian understanding of God’s creation.
Would you like to hear the whole the history of the world in just three words? Here it is:
God created all things good. We have damaged God’s good creation by our sin. Christ came to redeem creation by his death on the cross. That is the history of our world in a nutshell. It all starts with God, and it all ends with God. And we must learn how to live in God’s good creation in the meantime.
© Ray Fowler
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By Ray Fowler. © Ray Fowler. Website: http://www.rayfowler.org