By Dr. J. Rodman Williams
Chapters: 1 -
2 - 3 - 4
- 5 -
6 - 7 -
8 - 9 -
We have spoken of God, His reality, His being, His character. We come
now to creation. Let us consider this under three heads: its origin,
its nature, its climax.
I. The Origin of Creation
In Genesis 1:1 the origin is clearly statednamely, God. "In the
beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Hence:
(1) the universe is not eternal, and (2) the universe is not a result
There are those who hold that the universe in some form has always
existed. Its pattern may have varied, they assert, but there was something
always there. One form of energy changes into another in a kind of eternal
procession. To inquire where it came from originally is meaningless;
the universe always has been.
The Christian faith answers no: the universe is not eternal. At a certain
moment called "the beginning," God created. Out of preexistent
material? No, out of nothing. As another verse of Scripture puts it,
"(He) calls into existence the things that do not exist" (Romans
4:17). Further, the universe is not a chance event, coming into existence
by some kind of spontaneous generation. Rather it came from God, according
to His will and purpose.
If this be the case, as Christian faith affirms, then the universe
takes on an entirely different cast. Without God it is a bit terrifying
to contemplate that there is nothing beyond but billions of stars and
planets and satellites almost lost in the unimaginable vastness of space.
It all seems cold, and our little earth ridiculously smalland everything
rather meaningless. But when one understands and believes that God is
its Maker and that He must have had reason for creating it all, then
the universe becomes friendly, and warm, yes, even purposeful.
This becomes even more heartwarming when one realizes that (to put
it a bit peculiarly) "all of God" was involved in the act
of creationGod as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We say in the Apostles
Creed, "I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and
earth." But we also believe that God the Son was in it, for the
New Testament account of creation (John 1) says: "In the beginning
was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was
in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without
him was not anything made that was made.And the Word became flesh and
dwelt among uswe have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from
The Word and the Son are identical; hence, though the account of creation
in Genesis 1 does not mention the Son by that name, God does create
through His word. "And God said" is a phrase that precedes
every act of creation throughout the chapter.
Surely God the Holy Spirit was also active, for though the word Holy
is not used this early in the biblical narrative, the Spirit of God
is shown as participating in creation"The earth was without form
and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit
of God was moving over the face of the waters" (Genesis 1:2).
The Psalmist put it beautifully in saying, "When thou sendest
forth thy Spirit, they are created" (Psalm 104:30).
"All of God" was in it, which is only another way of saying
that creation was no casual act of an unconcerned God. Rather God, humanly
speaking, "threw Himself into it." Such makes us rejoice all
the more as we contemplate the vastness of our universe.
Our universe is no chance incident without reason or cause, with nothing
out there but unspeakable vastness and pinpoints of light. It is rather
the deed of God.
II. The Method of Creation
The method wherein God created the heavens and the earth is clearly
that of progressive acts. Creation does not happen all at once;
rather it follows an order in the mind and word of God. Over a period
of six days creation occurs, from the creation of light to the creation
of man, in a succession of acts.
Here it seems important to add that the six days cannot refer to six
twenty-four-hour days, since the sun which makes day as we know it is
not created until the fourth day. The six days of Genesis 1 refer then
to six periods of time during which God did a certain work. As 2 Peter
says, "With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand
years as one day" (3:8). Indeed a day could be a million, a billion,
a trillion years, depending on Gods ways of working.
Understanding this truth, one finds no contradiction with the scientific
view of lengthy geological eras prior to the coming of man. Rather is
this confirmation of the way creation has been continuing over a long
period of time.
Striking also is the manner in which Genesis depicts the creation of
life, beginning with plants and trees, then moving on to the living
creatures first of the waters, then of the sky, then of the land, and
finally man himself. This progression is confirmed by biological study
which shows that man is a relatively late arrival on the scene. Behind
him is all the process of creation which climaxes in his coming.
Incidentally, Christian people have sometimes been very much disturbed
by doctrines of evolution, fearing that they contradict the Bible. To
be sure, if such doctrines deny the creative power of God they are in
contradiction. But if evolution be understood to mean that creation
has taken a long, long time through one species after another, then
this only confirms the Scripturewhich has been saying the same thing
for lo these many centuries. The method of creation in Genesis is that
of progressive actsand much biological science has been able to give
us illustration of how that progression might have occurred.
The method again: God creates through His Word (His Son), with His
Holy Spirit moving over everything. The creation develops from the formlessness
and void and darkness of Genesis 1:2 to the creation of man in Genesis
Every step along the way was a good step as God worked His plan out.
Perhaps we think upon the ice ages of the past, great convulsions of
the earth, prehistoric monstersand tend to shudder. Was it not all
a kind of tangled-up, godless world for a long time? But no, says Genesis,
it was leading up to the creation of man: it was all good. Over and
over in Genesis 1 an act of creation contains the sentence "And
God saw that it was good." When it was all done, the Scripture
reads, "And God saw everything that He had made, and behold, it
was very good" (1:31).
The method of creation: the progressive acts of the Triune Goda marvel
III. The Climax of Creation
The climax of creation, as already mentioned, is the creation of man.
Now we may add: the creation of man in the image of God.
"Then 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 birds
of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth....So God created
man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female
he created them" (Genesis 1:26, 27).
Before inquiring as to what this means, another description of mans
creation should be added from Genesis 2: "The Lord God formed man
of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of
life; and man became a living being" (2:7).
This latter description points to mans creaturelinessthat he is of
the earth as are all other of Gods creatures. This is not to be forgotten
or denied: man is an animaleven if the highest and most advanced. He
belongs to the animal kingdom.
However, it is also said of man that he was created in the image of
God. In that respect he is different from all the rest of creation,
for of no other created thing is this affirmed. Herein lies mans distinctivenesscreature,
yesbut also made in the divine image.
But just what does this mean? Doubtless it refers to some likeness
between God and man"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness."
This makes no reference to physical similarity, because "God is
spirit" (John 4:24). Mans body therefore cannot be fashioned after
God. There are indeed references in the Bible to Gods hand, His face,
His eyes, His finger, and so onbut these (as noted previously) must
be understood in a figurative manner. They are used occasionally only
to make more concrete the reality of God.
Again, then, what is the meaning of mans creation in the image of
God? One possible answer is that since God is Trinity in Unityman is
somehow a trinity too. Note that the verse does say "in our
image, after our likeness," and then farther on "in
his own image." God is both more than one and yet also one.
Various trinitarian aspects of mans inner nature are sometimes mentioned,
such as, man is body, mind, and spirit; again, that he is a thinking,
feeling, willing creature. A trinity outside mans own nature is that
of his relationship to God and his neighbors, so that man is actually
man only as he stands in a vital relationship to the Other above and
the other about. The verse in Genesis speaking of mans creation in
Gods "own image" proceeds to say, "In the image of God
he created him; male and female he created them." This would imply
that man is only man in dualitywith another personand therefore in
trinity: man with God above and his neighbor about (in this instance,
at least, the neighbor being the other sex). God is Trinity within HimselfFather,
Son, and Holy Spirit; man is trinity without himselfexisting in a relationship
to God, to neighbor, and to self.
Whether this is precisely what the Scripture is saying is hard to know
for certain. But of this we can be sure: that man is greatly different
from all other creatures in that he is made for Godindeed, cannot really
live without Himand he is made for his neighbor and cannot really live
without him either.
Note next that man is given a very high place in creation. Just after
the words "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness"
follows "and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and
over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth,
and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." Is not
this still another aspect of mans being created in Gods image? God,
who has dominion over all things, has given man dominion over the living
creatures of earth. Man images God in that he is made to rule, to be
the master of Gods creation, albeit under Gods final rulership.
At times man may seem rather small, even insignificant, in comparison
with the vastness of Gods universe. Recall how the Psalmist felt (Psalm
When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers,
the moon and the stars which thou hast established;
what is man that thou art mindful of him,
and the son of man that thou dost care for him?
But then he goes on to marvel at mans high stature(his creation in
the image of God, if you will)
Yet thou hast made him little less than God,
and dost crown him with glory and honor.
Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
Then does the Psalmist end by crying
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is thy name in all the earth!
Man, "little less than God," having dominion over Gods own
works: such is the climax of Gods act of creation. Dust of the earth,
creature alongside other creatures, but by Gods will made in the divine
image: such is the grandeur and glory of man.
If this be his grandeur and glory, mans joy and happiness lie in the
wonder of his relation to God and his neighbor. For in this relationship
of faith and love man fulfills his God-given nature.
The origin of creationGod; the method of creationprogressive
acts; the climaxman in the divine image. To God be the glory!
Chapters: 1 -
2 - 3 - 4
- 5 -
6 - 7 -
8 - 9 -
Content Copyright 2003 by J. Rodman Williams,
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