Creation: Understanding the Power of God’s Word

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Hebrews 11:3

INTRODUCTION: Last week we began our new series on Hebrews chapter 11 entitled “Growing in Faith.” No other chapter in the Bible addresses the topic of faith as completely and exhaustively as Hebrews 11. We saw last week that verse one gives us a working definition of faith. Faith is a deep conviction or certainty about realities that we cannot see.

These may be present spiritual realities that we cannot see because they are not visible to human eyes. Some examples of present spiritual realities that we cannot see would include the forgiveness of our sins, the enthronement of Jesus in heaven, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the presence of angels among us.

Or they may be future realities which we cannot see because they are future. Some examples of future realities that we cannot see would include the second coming of Christ, the resurrection from the dead, the glorification of our bodies and eternal life in heaven.

And so, faith deals both with unseen present realities which are spiritual in nature, and unseen future realities that have not yet happened. As we said last week, if you can see it, then it’s not faith. And if it’s not real, then it’s not faith. Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of realities that we do not see.

Hebrews 11 goes on in verse two to say that this type of faith is what the Old Testament believers were commended for. They did not live perfect lives. They failed miserably in many ways, but each of them was commended for their faith.

And then Hebrews 11 proceeds to work its way through the major persons and events of the Old Testament to show how this faith operated in each of their lives, which leads us to verse three, our verse for today. Verse 3 begins where the Old Testament begins – with the creation of the world. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (Hebrews 11:3)

This verse answers a very important question for us about faith that we left unanswered last week. If true biblical faith deals with realities that we cannot see, how do we know what is real? How do we know what is real and what is not? How do we know what to believe in?

For example, we said that “being sure of what we hope for” refers to future realities that we cannot see. We can’t see them because they haven’t happened yet. Well, if they haven’t happened yet, how do we know they are real? How do we know they will happen?

“Being certain of what we do not see” refers to present realities that we cannot see. We cannot see them because they are spiritual in nature and we are physical beings who discern reality through our physical senses. Well, once again, if we are limited in our ability to discern reality, if we cannot actually see these spiritual realities, how do we know they are real? That’s the question we are exploring today. On what basis do you exercise faith as a Christian?

“Faith is always based on the word of God.” (example: saving faith in Romans 10:17)

Verse three points us to the answer. Faith is always based on the word of God. True faith is always based on the word of God. For example, the Bible tells us that saving faith is based on the word of God. Romans 10:17 says: “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)

If it were not for the word of God, you could not have saving faith in Jesus Christ. You would know from history that a man named Jesus lived about two thousand years ago. You would know that he performed many miracles, and that he was hailed by the people as a prophet. You would know that he was crucified and then seen alive again, but you would not know what any of that means.

It is only when we read or hear the word of God that we understand that Jesus is the Son of God who died to pay the penalty for our sins. It is through the word of God that we are told the unseen reality behind the historical events. Now we can exercise faith in Christ and be saved.

True faith is always based on the word of God. That is how we know the reality of things unseen, because our faith is based on the absolute certainty of God’s word.

I. Understand the power of God’s word in creation: God created the world out of nothing by the power of his word

So, how do you know that you can trust God’s word? You begin with creation. Do you want to grow in your faith as a Christian? Then first of all, understand the power of God’s word in creation. Understand that God created the whole world out of nothing by the power of his word.

Look at verse 3 again: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.” (Hebrews 11:3) Those two words, “by faith,” compose the refrain of our whole chapter. Nineteen times in Hebrews 11 we read those two little words, “by faith.” They may be small words, but they represent giant accomplishments, giant works of God in the lives of the Old Testament believers.

Each section of Hebrews 11 begins with those two little words “by faith.” And each section tells us what that specific person did or accomplished by their faith. And so, as we study each of these sections, we will learn more of what faith means in our lives and how we also should live by faith.

This first section deals with the creation of the world. By faith we understand that God created the universe out of nothing by the power of his word. That means he did not need or use any pre-existing material. That which is seen – the physical world, the entire universe as we know it – was created out of absolutely nothing. Hebrews 11:3 says that we understand this by faith.

The reason we understand this by faith is that none of us was here to see it. We have no eyewitnesses of creation among us. There were no historians writing down each step of creation as it happened. There were no news teams filming the event to show it all later that night at 11:00 p.m. No, God’s creation of the world out of nothing by the power of his word is an unseen reality which we really only know because God has told us about it. Once again, faith is always a response to God’s word, and so we understand this creation event by faith.

Hebrews 11:3 says: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed.” The word “formed” here means something that is completed or accomplished. We find a similar word in Genesis 2 right after we finish reading the creation account in Genesis chapter 1. Genesis 2:1 says this: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array.” (Genesis 2:1)

And how was the universe formed or completed? Hebrews 11:3 says, “at God’s command.” The word translated “command” here is a word which usually refers to speech or utterance, so we could translate it this way: “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at the spoken word of God.” God spoke, and it happened. At first, there was nothing but God. Then God spoke, and the universe came into being by the power of his word.

So, how do we know this is true? Did God really create the world out of nothing by the power of his word? We may not have been around to witness the creation of the world, but God has given us some strong confirmations concerning this truth that we have just learned from Hebrews 11:3.

   A. The Bible confirms it
      – Genesis 1; Psalm 33:6,9, 148:1-5

First of all, the Bible confirms it. Now for those of us who believe in God’s word, even if Hebrews 11:3 was the only place that taught about God speaking the world into existence, we would still believe it. Our faith is a response to God’s word. If God said it even once, that should be enough for us.

But our faith is strengthened by the fact that God’s word bears a consistent testimony to the truth that God created the world out of nothing by the power of his word. For example, just look at the creation account in Genesis 1. Just as the words “by faith” are the continuing refrain in Hebrews 11, so the words “and God said” are the continuing refrain in Genesis 1. We read in Genesis 1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth . . . And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light . . . And God said, ‘Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water.’ . . . And it was so . . . And God said, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so.” (Genesis 1:1-9) Again and again throughout Genesis 1 we hear God speak, and as he speaks forth each command, the world is created and formed.

Other Scripture passages also confirm this truth. Psalm 33 says this: “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth . . . he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.” (Psalm 33:6,9) Or Psalm 148. Psalm 148 is a joyful song of praise to God for his creation. Listen to verses 1-5: “Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights above. 2 Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts. 3 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars. 4 Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. 5 Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created.” (Psalm 148:1-5)

How do we know God created the world out of nothing by the power of his word? First of all, the Bible confirms it.

   B. Nature confirms it
      – Romans 1:20

And then secondly, nature confirms it. The Bible confirms it, and nature confirms it also. Romans 1:20 says this: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

And so, the creation itself testifies to God’s eternal power and divine nature. The vastness of creation is a testimony to God’s infinite power. The detailed order and intricacies of the universe bear testimony to God’s divine nature. Everywhere you look in nature, you see intelligence, purpose and design.

Isaac Newton was a scientist who was also a firm believer in God. And in his study Newton had this beautiful replica of the then known solar system done perfectly to scale. There was a large golden ball in the center representing the sun, and then the known planets revolved around it through a series of cogs, belts, and rods. It was an amazing machine.

One day a friend who didn’t believe in God stopped by for a visit. The man marveled at the machine and asked, “Who made this?”

Newton replied, “Nobody.”

“Nobody?” his friend asked.

“That’s right,” Newton said, “all of these balls and cogs and belts and gears just happened to come together, and wonder of wonders, by chance they began revolving in their set orbits with perfect timing.”

What was Newton’s point? If it was obvious that even just a scaled-down model of the solar system had to be made by somebody, how much more obvious is it that the real solar system also had to be designed by somebody. The more we learn about the complexity of design in the universe today, whether on the grand scale of spinning galaxies and rotating planets, or on the microscopic scale of cells and atoms and biochemical reactions, the more nature confirms what the Bible has said all along – that this world is the product of an intelligent, purposeful creator and not just a big accident in process.

Anthony Flew was a famous philosopher from England who passed away in 2010. He wrote many books promoting atheism and lectured all around the world. He once even debated C.S. Lewis on the existence of God. The London Times described Flew as “one of the most renowned atheists of the past half-century, whose papers and lectures have formed the bedrock of unbelief for many adherents.” I just love that phrase, “the bedrock of unbelief,” as though could have a foundation for unbelief.

Anthony Flew was one of the most famous atheists in the whole world. But what is interesting is that Flew, who had been a lifelong atheist, changed his mind about God a number of years before he passed away. In the year 2004 he came to believe in an intelligent creator. And when he was asked why he would embrace belief in a creator God after all his years of atheism, he cited the complexity of design as found in nature. It was all about the evidence.

Flew said in a 2005 interview in Christianity Today (April 2005): “Since the beginning of my philosophical life I have followed the policy of Plato’s Socrates: We must follow the argument wherever it leads.” In this case the evidence led him to believe with Einstein in “an Intelligence that produced the integrative complexity of creation.” In 2007 he co-authored a book called, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind.

As far as I know Flew never become a Christian. He never embraced Christ as his Savior. But he did take a good, hard honest look at the evidence of nature, and turned from atheism to belief in a creator God. Why? Because nature confirms the truth of God’s creation.

   C. Science confirms it
      – evidence that the universe had a beginning

How do we know God created the world out of nothing by the power of his word? 1) The Bible confirms it. 2) Nature confirms it. 3) And then, science also confirms it. One of the axioms of science is that in the physical world nothing comes from nothing. All matter and energy are conserved. So, scientists who do not believe in God have a problem. If nothing comes from nothing, then where did everything come from?

For a while, many scientists postulated that the physical matter of the universe did not come from anywhere, rather, that matter is eternal, that the universe has no beginning. This idea was popularized by the well-known scientist Carl Sagan who passed away back in 1996. Sagan was perhaps best known for his public television series, “The Cosmos.” Sagan opened that series each week intoning these famous words: “The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.”

What is that except blatant belief in the eternal nature of matter and the universe? And so, these scientists would say, “The universe didn’t come from anywhere; it just always existed.” Now in a sense they had to believe this, because if the universe is all that there is, and if the universe had a beginning, then that would mean that something came from nothing. But nothing comes from nothing. So that would mean the universe came from something outside of the universe, and that would mean God.

Well, this idea of an eternal universe may have worked fine for a while, but guess what scientists have discovered the more they examine the universe? They have discovered that everything in the universe points to the fact that it did have a beginning. All the evidence demonstrates that the universe is not eternal but that it began at a point in time. This means that matter is not eternal but came from somewhere. And science cannot explain that. Science can do a lot of things, but it cannot explain how something from nothing.

There’s an old joke which I think illustrates this point pretty well. One day a group of scientists got together and decided they no longer needed God, so they picked one scientist to go tell him. So he told God, “God, we don’t need you anymore. We can cure diseases, we can clone people, we can create life, so why don’t you just pack up your things, go on your way and leave us be?” God listened to the man and said, “Very well. But first let’s have a man-making contest. We’ll do it just like I did back in the old days with Adam.” “Sure, no problem,” the scientist said as he bent down to scoop up a handful of dirt. God stopped him and said, “Oh no you don’t, go get your own dirt!”

Once again, nothing comes from nothing. Science is discovering that the universe did have a beginning, and therefore matter did come from somewhere. And this creates an insurmountable difficulty for scientists who do not believe in God.

Those scientists who do believe in God, however, understand that God created the physical world and all of its properties out of nothing. In fact, the knowledge that God created the world is what prompted scientific inquiry to begin with. Scientists reasoned, “If God created an orderly world, then we can study God’s world and find the order and wisdom behind it.” Science was birthed from a Christian worldview. The pagan religions did not produce modern science. Christianity did.

Hebrews 11:3 tells us that God created the world out of nothing. He did not use any pre-existing material because there was nothing to use. God simply spoke, and the universe came to be.

Now folks, that is power. The Bible confirms it. Nature confirms it. And science confirms it. We weren’t there to see it, but that does not make it any less real. It is an unseen reality that we understand by faith. Remember, if you want to grow in your faith as a Christian then you must understand the power of God’s word, because true faith is always based on the word of God.

II. Understand the power of God’s word in your own life

So that’s our first point this morning: 1) Understand the power of God’s word in creation. And then our second point is really an application of the first point. 2) Understand the power of God’s word in your own life.

   A. Learn to trust God’s promises
      – Numbers 23:19

One of the ways God’s word functions in our lives as believers is through the promises of God. As Christians we need to learn to trust God’s promises. If God says something, then we know that it is true. It is impossible for God to lie. If God promises something, then that promise is certain.

Now you or I might make promises and not keep them for a variety of reasons. Perhaps we never intended to keep the promise. Or perhaps we made the promise with good intentions but later changed our minds. Or perhaps we tried to keep the promise but future events which we could not foresee at the time intervened.

God never has any of these problems. When God makes a promise, he always intends to fulfill it. He never changes his mind. And because God knows the future, he is never caught off guard or surprised by future events. God makes his promises with the future in mind, and he has unlimited power to fulfill his promises perfectly.

So, if God says that something will happen, it’s going to happen. Future events foretold by the power of God’s word are just as real as past events which took place because of the power of God’s word. The Bible is filled with examples of fulfilled prophecy which demonstrate the power of God’s word over and over again.

Numbers 23:19 tells us this: “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?” (Numbers 23:19)

The Bible is full of God’s promises to you as a believer. And when God makes a promise, you may trust God to fulfill it. Remember, faith is your response based on God’s word. God spoke, and the whole world came into being. That is ultimate power. God can easily fulfill all of his promises in Scripture.

   B. Learn to trust God’s power
      – Romans 4:17-21

And that leads us to our final point this morning. We not only need to learn to trust God’s promises. We also need to learn to trust God’s power. Sometimes we look at the situations in our life and we don’t see any answer. We don’t see any way out. We say, “God, how can you possibly make a difference? There is nothing here for you even to work with!”

Well, guess what? God doesn’t need anything to work with! That is part of what Hebrews 11:3 is teaching us this morning. This is why creation is the supreme example of God’s power, because in creation God made something from nothing.

And he not only made something, look at what he made! Look at the vastness of the universe which God created! Your problems in life may seem pretty big, but they are dwarfed by the size of the universe. If God can speak and cause the entire universe to come into being, God can take care of you as well.

God does not need anything to work with, because God can simply speak and cause that which is not to come into existence.

Abraham in the Bible is a good example of this. God promised Abraham a son, but there was one problem, actually two. Sarah was barren, and Abraham was an old man.

But Romans 4 tells us that: “[Abraham believed in] the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were…. Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.” (Romans 4:17-21)

We will be looking more at Abraham’s faith in the weeks to come, but for now I want you to notice a few key phrases from Romans 4. Romans 4 says that Abraham believed in the God who “calls things that are not as though they were.” Why can God do that? Because God can speak that which is not into existence.

We also read that Abraham was “fully persuaded.” There’s that deep conviction and certainty that we looked at last week in Hebrews 11:1. And Abraham’s faith was not a blind faith based on his own hopes and wishes. Abraham’s faith was based on the promise and power of God. Abraham was strengthened in faith and gave glory to God because he was “fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.”

Once again, this is such an important principle. True biblical faith is always based on the word of God. It is not a shot in the dark, but it is a reasonable response to the sure and certain word of God, that same word which had the power to create the entire world out of nothing. Do you want to grow in your faith? Then understand the power of God’s word in creation as well as in your own life.

CONCLUSION: Let me close with two applications from today’s message.

1) You are accountable to God as your creator
   – Romans 1:18-20; 2 Peter 3:3-5

First of all, you are accountable to God as your creator. Creation testifies to God’s existence, his eternal power and divine nature. Therefore, the Bible says that you are without excuse. If you live in this universe, then you have evidence of God all around you. You can try and suppress the truth. You can try and forget that God created the world by the power of his word, but you are still accountable to God.

Romans 1 says this: “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:18-20)

The book of 2 Peter also speaks about your accountability to the God who created all things by speaking. We read in 2 Peter 3: “In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4 They will say, ‘Where is this `coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ 5 But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed.” (2 Peter 3:3-5)

So that’s our first application. You are accountable to God as your creator.

2) You can trust God’s word even when you cannot see it
   – Hebrews 11:1

And then our second application is this. You can trust God’s word even when you cannot see it. If God made the whole world out of nothing just by speaking, then you can trust God’s word – even when you cannot see it. Remember, what we learned from Hebrews 11:1. If you can see it, it’s not faith! When God speaks something into existence, it is real, whether you can see it or not.

Of course, this is especially true when it comes to Jesus Christ, that God sent his Son Jesus to die for your sins so you could be saved, so that you could be forgiven. Yes, you are accountable to God for your life. You are accountable to God for your sin, but Jesus died for that sin. Maybe you can’t see it! Maybe you don’t understand how it all works. But by faith you can receive Jesus Christ as your Savior.

So, what is faith? Faith is being certain of realities we cannot see. And how do we know these realities are true? Because of the word of God. By faith we understand the power of God’s word in creation and in our lives. By faith we trust God’s promises and his power in our own lives, even when we cannot see the solution.

If you take last week’s message and this week’s message and put them together, what do you get? What are our two big lessons? 1) Faith is being certain of realities you cannot see. 2) And faith is always based on the word of God.

© Ray Fowler

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