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God’s Work of Creation

God’s Creative Work

 

The work of creation is a work that was engaged in by all three members of the Triune Godhead, thus it needs to be briefly treated here, as we discuss Theology Proper.  Within this category, there are four things that we must principally discuss:  The Setting of creation, the Act of creation, the Purpose of creation, and the Destiny of creation.

 

The Setting of Creation

When we speak of the setting of creation, we are speaking of the state of existence prior to creation from which God began his creative work.  In this case, there was nothing apart from God.[1]  All things that are were created by God and from nothing.  In other words, there was no preexistent matter from which God began his creative work.[2]  This fact rejects the Gnostic and Greek notion of the Pleroma, it rejects any sort of polytheism, and it rejects the notion of the universe being eternal[3] and ongoing.  In modern science, it also rejects the notion of the universe’s origin being a “Big Bang” as the theory hinges on the idea of a preexistent singularity from which the universe came.  Similarly, this rejects naturalism, as God is outside of and not bound within nature.  Simply speaking, God existed in perfect harmony and satisfaction in his Triune state for eternity prior to his work of creation; he is the self-existent being from which all that exists finds its origin.

 

The Act of Creation

There are several things that fall under this heading: first, the cause of the act; second, the means by which the act was performed; and third, the act itself.

First, we must note that there was no outside cause that brought about God’s act of creation, nor was there anything lacking within God that precipitated a need for him to create.  He made the decision to create purely for his own eternal purposes and to show his own glory.  There are some who would portray God as being needy without the praises of his people or as being desirous of a relationship that was outside of himself, yet this is not the Biblical presentation of God’s sovereign being or act of creation.

Second, we must address the means by which God created.  Scripture affirms that God spoke all creation into being[4] by the word of his power[5], which is Jesus Christ.[6]  Scripture does not portray God as creating through other powers, it does not portray God as creating by forming preexistent matter, nor does scripture present God as creating through an interplay with or against evil powers.  Instead, scripture presents God in the sovereign act of creating and then pronouncing that which he created as good.[7]

Finally, we see the act itself, by which God made all things.[8]  There is a great deal of debate as to the nature of this act.  Did God directly create all things by divine fiat?  Did God begin the work of creation miraculously and then guide the natural development of the world through secondary causes?  Did God begin creation and set the natural laws and then leave development to take place in a natural way?  Is the world relatively young of is the language of Genesis 1 metaphorical?

It is not possible, within the scope of this discussion to address all of these issues as much ink has been spilled over these debates.  The answer to this question falls largely into the question of which one holds to have priority.  Do we interpret scripture according to man’s reason and scientific understandings or do we submit our reason and scientific understanding to the authority of scripture?  We must ask, “which is translated by which?”  There are faithful Christians on all sides of this debate.  If one holds that scripture is primary, then science must be interpreted in light of the revelation.  If one holds otherwise, then one is free to hold various interpretations of Genesis 1.  See appendix for a defense of a literal (seven 24-hour days) position on the time and order of creation and the importance of holding to such a position.

The Purpose of Creation

There are really only two answers that can be given to the question of the purpose of creation.  The first is that God created to glorify himself[9] and that the second is to honor Christ.[10]  While there may be many secondary and subordinate plans and purposes that God has worked out in his world, like that of bringing us into a relationship with himself, the primary purpose of creation is to honor the one who brought it into being—to honor the one who rightly deserves praise and adoration.  Even in our fallen state, one thing that we understand well is that it is right and proper to honor the artist or maker of a great work of art.  Hence, names like Michelangelo and Rembrandt, Bach and Mozart, or Chaucer and Shakespeare are well known to us, though many years have passed since they created their masterpieces.  Even the most ardent unbeliever understands that it is proper and honorable to give words of acclamation to someone who is an accomplished musician, athlete, or painter.  Thus, when we see the created order and understand it to be the infinitely wonderful masterpiece that it is, how much infinitely more proper it is to praise its artist, God himself, for his work.  Even more so, how much more wonderful is the infinitely perfect character of God himself than the character of his creation, and how we should praise him simply for who he is even apart from what he has done!  Indeed, how much more rude and conceited it is when we refuse to honor God properly than when we refuse to give a human artist his or her due.  Likewise, Christ, as the radiance of God’s glory[11] and the perfection of God’s image[12] deserves our praise.[13]

 

The Destiny of Creation

The discussion of the end of the created order begins with God’s initial creation.  For God created all things and pronounced them to be very good[14] and gave mankind the responsibility of subduing it[15], essentially extending God’s garden of Eden—paradise—to the whole of the created order.[16]  In other words, creation, while very good in every way, needed to be given order and further cultivation.  Man and woman, in taking dominion over the world, were to imitate God in his gardening activity by making the planet paradise.  Yet, Adam and Eve fell and as the created order was under their regency[17], the created order fell with them.  Yet, God has promised through Christ that the created order will be remade perfectly at the time his Son returns[18], Jesus as King in Adam’s place, remaking the world into paradise.  Hence the language of Revelation picks up on much of the Old Testament imagery of the Garden of Eden.[19]  Thus, the destiny of the created order is never-ending paradise under the dominion of Christ.


[1] Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-2.

[2] See the unit on Symbolics for more on God’s creating ex-nihilo.

[3] Note that there is a difference between time and eternity: time being created and eternity being a state of timeless-ness, it simply is.  This is important to note, as Augustine points out in his Confessions, for otherwise we must ask why God waited “so long” to begin his noble task of creation.  Time is simply the measure that finite beings use to mark the sequential progression of their existence.  Eternity describes the state of God’s being.

[4] Genesis 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24,26.

[5] Hebrews 1:3; Psalm 33:9.

[6] John 1:14.

[7] Genesis 1:31.

[8] Note that in the discussion of God creating all things, we are including the spiritual realms as well as the physical realms.  Though it is not entirely clear as to on which day God created the spiritual world and populated it with angels, given that God is the only pre-existent being, it is understood that they were created at some point within these seven days.  See appendix for more on angels and the spiritual realm.

[9] Revelation 4:11; Isaiah 43:7.

[10] Colossians 1:16.

[11] Hebrews 1:3.

[12] Colossians 1:15.

[13] Note that while some would consider God to be conceited and prideful for demanding our praise, we need to remember two principles.  First, conceit and pride come as a result of a disproportionate emphasis on self to the exclusion of the rightful honor of others, and certainly this is not so with God.  Secondly, praise is in our best interests, for when we praise that which is good, we find great joy.  Thus the greatest of joy can be found in praising that which is the most praise-worthy: God himself.

[14] Genesis 1:31.

[15] Genesis 1:28.

[16] Genesis 2:15.

[17] Romans 8:20.

[18] 2 Peter 3:10.

[19] Revelation 21:1, 22:1-3.

Jesus created Time: Hebrews 1:1-4 (part 7)

“through whom he also created the ages.”

 

When we think of Christ being the means, or the Word, of creation, typically, we think in terms of material “stuff” that is all around us.  We think of rocks and trees, of birds and clouds, of stars and of everything else in this wonderful creation from the greatest heavenly body to the smallest microbe, quark, and string.  But, oftentimes, we do not think of time in the context of God’s creation, yet, indeed, it was.  Prior to the God’s creative act, time simply did not exist.  God dwelt in perfect satisfaction in eternity prior, with no beginning, end, or middle.  For most of us, that begins to make our heads hurt just a bit.  Yet, time is a description of a progression of events with a definite beginning and a possible end.  Eternity has no such progression, for to suggest eternity is bound by time, and hence God as well, is to suggest that God has a beginning, and such is not the case.  In the beginning (of time) God was—he simply was, no temporal markers defined his existence, he simply existed (Genesis 1:1).  And as God is the beginning, the great Alpha and Omega, all things, including time, flowed forth from his creative process—indeed flowed forth through the Son of God—the Word.

It is interesting, when we think of time, to see the difference between the way we usually behave toward time and to the way in which the Bible speaks of time.  In scripture, there is a sense of time’s fleetingness.  We are told over and over that time is short, that the return of our Lord is near, that the life of man is but a vapor and passing quickly, etc…  Yet, despite all of these warnings and testimonies in God’s word, we usually go about our daily activities as if time were in abundance.  We put off much that we ought to do today until tomorrow and then into the following weeks if it is not pressing.  We usually do not conduct our affairs as if time is running out.  Thomas Manton, the Puritan divine, once reflected that if a town were on fire and the fire was spreading, people would not go about their daily affairs at the usual pace.  Instead, they would spring to action, alerting all of the imminent danger and would find a renewed vigor as they sought to do their duty in saving the town. 

Beloved, we have been lulled into a slumber while the enemy is burning down our nation and indeed even the church.  What is it that we are doing to alert our neighbors and fellow villagers?  Are we doing our duty and joining the bucket brigade to extinguish this fire?  Are we running through the village, joining the town crier, proclaiming, “Danger is Near!  Danger is Near!”  To change the analogy to one from our own national history, will you be like Samuel Prescott, and join Paul Revere and William Dawes on their ride to warn the valiant defenders of our land that the enemy is coming?  Do you recall, that it is only Samuel Prescott who completed his ride to Concord?  Dear friends, will you remain in your slumber, or will you shout loudly and proclaim that danger is upon us!  Loved ones, we do not know how the War for Independence might have proceeded had Prescott not rallied himself from his slumber and joined the ride.  Loved ones, the scripture cries to us that time is short and that even though many may mock you and proclaim that nothing has changed since their father’s day and nothing is bound to change, these are lies worked by enemies of God who are destined for judgment (2 Peter 3:1-7).  No, loved ones, in this battle we need not fear the approach of the redcoats, but instead the fire of God’s impending judgment.  You who are born again in Jesus Christ are ready, but what of those around you?  Are they ready as well?  And you who have been born again, are you prepared to present yourself as a faithful servant before our God, having studied to show yourself approved (note the importance of studying God’s word to our lived out sanctification!)?  If not, count this as your clarion call as well.  Awake beloved, our Lord has created time and has set its boundaries, and whether our Lord returns before the end of the day or whether he tarries another thousand years (or more), we have been given a job to do—to go into all the world and to make disciples of all men—a task that begins at home and extends to every corner of the earth; it is a task we will not succeed in if we slumber through the days that God has granted to us.