“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” Genesis 1:1.
We have here one of the deepest and most profound truths to be found anywhere. By it every being is affected.
To be sure, there is something within us that would rather it were not so. In his natural way of thinking man much prefers to look upon the universe as a sort of neutral, self-existent, no-man’s-land; one to which he can claim squatter’s rights and call his own. In fact, so addicted is man to this outlook on life that only a crushing and transforming convulsion of his own inner being will ever free him from it. Man wants desperately to be sovereign, like God, in his own little world and universe.
But the Bible will have none of this. Its opening verse here stands in direct contradiction, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” The implications are immense.
Psalm 100:3 tells us what this means in the first place, “Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.” In turn, Psalm 50:10-12 carries it further, “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.” This is God’s world. He has designed it, and He has brought it into being. He alone really understands its proper function and is able to lead it in a way that is good. If anyone truly wishes to deal with this world in a real way, he must simply go to God and say, “Teach me, O LORD, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end,” Psalm 119:33. It is this that Genesis 1:1 demands finally of every man.
“In the beginning” is the first phrase in the Bible, and it does much more than merely designate the first moment of time. It does that, and this must be maintained against various attempts that are made to suggest some kind of a pre-Adamic world and history. The beginning, the first moment of time is right here in Genesis 1:1; but the phrase involves more in its depth. We read of “the beginning” more often in Scripture. Most familiar, of course, is John 1:1-3, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Although in quite different context, we find a closely related thought when Christ speaks to John in Revelation 1:8, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and. which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” In turn, we find several significant passages in the Old Testament such as where Wisdom speaks in Proverbs 8:22, 23 and says, “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” And then there is Isaiah 46:9, 10, “‘Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”
The thought through all this is that the creation did not in the strictest sense come “out of nothing.” At the beginning there was something there, or someone, as the source from which alone the creation could come forth. There was Wisdom, there was the Word, there was the Counsel of God, there was the Alpha and the Omega, the Almighty one. As it says, “In the beginning God.”
Further, we should realize that God here is not just one person of the Trinity; He is the Triune God.
We tend, perhaps, to be misled by the confession of the Apostolic Creed, “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.” The impression is so easily left that accordingly there is only one person of the Trinity, the Father, who is active in creation. And that certainly is not so. The Scriptures make very plain that creation is the work of the Triune God.
Actually, there is good reason why the Creed speaks of the Father as Creator. It is because His personal characteristics as Father come most distinctly to the fore in the work of creation. He does not perform the work alone, apart from the Spirit and the Son, but because of what He is within the Godhead He stands on the foreground in creation. So the Scriptures speak most often of Him as the Creator, too, as in Isaiah 45:18, “For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens: God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain.” Or one can listen to the Gospel of the angels in Revelation 14:7, “Fear God, and give glory to him . . . worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.”
But certainly the Father is not alone in creation. SoJohn 1:1-3 reads, “In the beginning was the Word . . . All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” In Colossians 1:16we read of Christ that, “By him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, . . . all things were created by him, and for him.” Hebrews 1:2 in turn speaks of “His Son . . . by whom also he made the worlds.” Certainly the Son was active in creation, too.
Nor is the Spirit without His part in creation. Already in Genesis 1:2 we read, “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” One of the great Psalms reflecting on creation is Psalm 104 and, after making mention of all the great expanse of created beings, it says in verse 30, “Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth.”
Nowhere do we have a nicer summation of the Triune activity in creation than in Psalm 33:6. All we have to remember is that the “word” here is Christ according to John 1:1, 14 while the “breath” is throughout Scripture a figure of the Spirit. So we read, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all three together the Creator of this world.
But what is the act of creation? What did God do when He created the world?
Actually Genesis 1 is quite vivid in its description, “And God said, Let there be light: and there was light…. And God said, Let there be a firmament…. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass … etc.” Genesis 1:3, 6, 11. Accordingly Psalm 33:9 describes the creative act in this way, “For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” In turn when we go on to Hebrews 11:3 we find the faith of the child of God described in this way, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
There is reason why Hebrews 11 gives creation as the prime example of the content of true faith; it is so tremendously difficult to believe that God could actually bring this world with all of its intricacy of detail into existence by the mere utterance of His voice. Neither is there any way in which man can really go back to verify it to be so. All one can do is believe.
Not indeed as though man has not had dreams of this same power for himself. In fact one wonders if the very history of this world could not be analyzed rather completely in terms of man’s search for words of this kind of power, words that will realize the human dream. Certainly many different efforts of this kind have been tried. At times it has been the search for words of magical incantation, at times for words of spellbinding influence, or philosophical perception, or scientific application, or anything that man might come up with that may give to him power to realize his dreams. But in the end, it never really happens. I Corinthians 1:19, “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”
And yet, as much as man dreams of it for himself, to recognize such power as belonging to another, even if He be God, is more than man can do. To admit that God has, and can, and does succeed where man only fails is like bowing one’s head and dying; and that man of himself will never do. It takes grace to believe that God does possess that creative power which can say, Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
What we must understand, moreover, is that God and His creative act stand behind the existence of everything. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and that is all inclusive.Nehemiah 9:6 puts it this way, “Thou, even thou, art LORD alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein, the sea, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all.” In fact, the Scriptures never tire of expanding upon the extensiveness of God’s creative power. Psalm 74:16, 17 says, “The day is thine, the night also is thine: thou hast prepared the light and the sun. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth: thou hast made summer and winter.” AndPsalm 89:11, 12 goes on, “The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine: as for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them. The north and the south, thou has created them.”
The result is that the creation is very literally filled with the glory of God. Psalm 19:1, 2 is very true, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth his handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night showeth knowledge.” Paul puts it this way in Romans 1:20, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead.” And then when we come to Revelation 4:11 we find that this remains the content of the song of the elders in glory, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power; for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.”
But one thing must be remembered; it takes faith to see this glory. No, we don’t see it all the time, maybe very seldom. It is that strange fact of spiritual perception. Whenever we walk about with pride in our hearts and personal ambition guiding our lives our eyes become blind to the glory of God. All we see is a cold world lying under a curse which sends chills of fear deep into our souls. But when, by God’s grace, we turn in repentance to lay hold upon the redeeming power of the love of Christ, the whole world before our eyes is at the same moment transformed, II Corinthians 5:17, “Old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” With the swell of joy there whelms forth the song of praise,Psalm 24:1, 2, 10, “The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods … The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.”