Creation: God Makes

Genesis 1:1

December 2, 2012 | Brian Bill

I’d like you to think about the following situation: A fox compliments a crow by telling the crow that he has a lovely voice.  He then asks him to sing a song.  Can anyone tell me what the meaning of this is?  

  • Perhaps the fox wants to eat the crow and his flattery is a ploy to get the crow to drop its guard.
  • Maybe the fox simply wants to encourage the poor crow.
  • It’s possible that he’s trying to begin a choir among the forest animals.

It’s impossible to know unless one understands that this event happens in one of the stories of Aesop, commonly known as Aesop’s Fables.  Here’s the storyline: There’s a famine in the forest and the crow is perched in a tree with a chunk of cheese in his mouth.  Various animals try to get the cheese from the crow to no avail.  The fox decides to compliment the crow and the foolish bird opens its mouth and begins to sing.  The cheese falls out and the fox runs away with it.  The moral of the story is this: Don’t be deceived by flattery.  Michael Goheen uses this exercise to illustrate that an event can only be understood in the context of its narrative framework.

Likewise, the best way to understand the Bible is not by just looking at small sections of Scripture but by seeing the overarching story.  One writer puts it like this: “We have fragmented the Bible into bits — moral bits, historical bits, narrative bits and preaching bits.  When the Bible is broken up in this way there is no comprehensive grand narrative to withstand the power of the comprehensive humanist narrative that shapes our culture.”

We’re kicking off a new series today called, “Ancient-Future Christmas.”  Here’s a synopsis of what we’ll learn during this Advent Season: “Christmas doesn’t begin with the manger and it doesn’t end with the wise men.  Christmas is rooted in Creation and extends far into the future to the new creation.”

This week I gave some thought to what makes for a good story.  In essence, a super story must have substance and yet touch the reader in some way; it must have compelling characters, a powerful plot containing conflict and resolution, and a fabulous finale.  It must be something that the reader can relate to and it ought to have a hook to get people interested.   The Scripture story certainly has every one of these elements…and more!  

Ken Burns, who is known as a master storyteller using documentaries on the civil war and baseball, shares his formula for spellbinding storytelling: “1 + 1 = 3, or a story where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”  That’s a good summary of the Bible, isn’t it?  Michael Goheen writes: “Thus, the biblical story is not to be understood simply as a local tale about a certain ethnic group or religion.  It begins with the creation of all things and ends with the renewal of all things.”

Pastor Tim Keller says this: “Many people think of the Bible as a book of moral teachings with stories sprinkled through to illustrate the teachings.  But it’s a lot better than that…the Bible is a single story with teachings sprinkled through to illustrate the story.”

Let me be quick to add that while the Bible is a story, it’s not make-believe.  It doesn’t start with “Once upon a time…” or “Imagine if you will…”  But rather with these words: “In the beginning God.”  It’s also much more than just a nice novel as it’s an inspired and inerrant collection of narrative and non-narrative material like prayer, poetry, prophecy, songs, laws, commands and ethical codes of conduct.

The story of Scripture can be told in six acts.  We’ll be using different words to describe this movement during the series but here’s my summary in an easy-to-remember format:

Act I Creation

Act II Catastrophe

Act III Covenant

Act IV Coming

Act V Church

Act VI Completion

Friends, history is really “His-Story” and it’s headed somewhere.  The Bible tells one unfolding story of redemption set against the backdrop of creation.  Turn with me to Genesis 1 and follow along as I read the opening verses.  Remember that this is not a fable but fact.  I’ll insert the Hebrew name for God as I read:  “In the beginning Elohim created the heavens and the earth.  Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of Elohim was hovering over the waters.  And Elohim said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  Elohim saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.  Elohim called the light ‘day,’ and the darkness he called ‘night.’”  

This name for God is used more than 2,500 times in the Bible, 32 times in the first chapter of Genesis alone.  Most scholars believe Elohim derives from the word El, which in turn comes from the word for “strong.”  Specifically, this name means that He is the strong Creator God.  When we pray to Elohim we remember that He is the One who is creatively powerful, completely sovereign, and gloriously great.

The Book of Genesis gets its name from the Hebrew – It’s the book of “beginnings.”   Someone has called it the “seed plot of the Bible.”  This book is also a battleground today because many in our culture reject its clear teachings.  We don’t have time this morning to dig into its depths but suffice it say that you have a choice.  You can either believe what the Bible teaches, and swim against the current of our culture; or you can follow the crowds, and be at odds with Elohim.  There are at least three foundational building blocks in this opening introduction that the rest of the Bible story is built upon.

1. Elohim is Eternal (Genesis 1:1a).

“In the beginning God…”  By the way, this is the first instance of baseball in the Bible – “in the big inning.”  This is a declaration that God has always been; He’s had no beginning and He will have no end.  This is stated strongly in Deuteronomy 33:27: “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”  Augustine was once asked what God was doing before He created the world.  He thought for a moment and replied, “He was creating it for people who ask questions like that.”

Did you notice that Genesis 1:1 is a simple declaration that Elohim exists, and does not provide an explanation for His existence?  That Bible just assumes that He is.  A number of years ago, in his unforgettable style, E.V. Hill spoke for 40 minutes at a Promise Keepers event in Chicago.  He preached on just two words: “God is.”  He repeated this phrase over and over, whispering it and shouting it and daring anyone to deny it.  

Friends, God is.  He is eternal.  That reminds me of the boy who once prayed, “Dear God, please take care of my daddy and my mommy and my sister and my brother and my doggy and me.  Oh, and please take care of yourself, God.  If anything happens to you, we’re gonna be in a big mess.”  Aren’t you glad that nothing will happen to the Holy One?  He is here today.  He was here yesterday.  And He will be here tomorrow.  He was, He is, and He will be.  You can count on Him.  As Psalm 14:1 says, only those who are foolish doubt God’s existence: “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”

Listen.  The story of Scripture begins with God, not with us.  It doesn’t begin with humans and work up to God.  It starts with God and works down to us.

2. Creationism is Correct (Genesis 1:1b).

Because God alone is eternal; that which is created is not.  Look at the last part of Genesis 1:1: “…created the heavens and the earth.” The Hebrew word for “create” means “to create out of nothing.”  In Latin the phrase is ex nihilo.  God created instantaneously without any preexisting material.

Elohim brings design out of disorder

Elohim brings design out of disorder; He created the cosmos out of chaos, instantaneously without any preexisting material.  He birthed beauty out of barrenness, and He continues to do the same in lives today.  

How did He do this?  Was it through evolution?  No.  It was through Elohim.  He spoke and it was created.  He works through His word.  Psalm 33:6, 9: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth…For he spoke and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.”

It is no accident that the first thing God wanted us to know about Himself is that He is the Creator.  The whole story of Scripture is rooted in this fact, from Genesis to the Book of Revelation.  

Psalm 95:6: “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker…”

Ecclesiastes 12:1: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth…”

Isaiah 45:9: “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker…”

Revelation 4:11: “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.” 

The early church viewed the doctrine of Creation as the beginning point of theology, and a bedrock biblical belief.  Its importance is summed up at the very beginning of the Apostle’s Creed: “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth…”   

Former Atheist Lee Strobel, in his outstanding book called, “The Case for a Creator,” concludes that when he researched the central pillars of evolutionary theory they “quickly rotted away when exposed to scrutiny” (Page 279).  I wish I had the time to share with you all the exciting recent developments in the world of science as scholars are discovering what the Bible has always said: The universe was made by an intelligent designer!  Students, remember this: Evolution is just a theory and many of those who have argued for it are now declaring that it doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny.  

On Christmas Eve, 1968, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the dark side of the moon and headed for home.  As their tiny capsule floated through space, they gazed on planet earth.  What do you think they said?  They did not quote Einstein, Shakespeare, Darwin or one of Aesop’s Fables.  There was only one statement that could capture the magnificence of that moment.  As billions of people all around the world listened, an astronaut acknowledged Elohim as Creator as he read these words: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Illustration from Ray Pritchard).

Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”  His fingerprints are everywhere.  The earth is marked, if you will, by a sign that declares in bold letters: Made by God.  Romans 1:20 states that the evidence for Elohim’s creative power is clearly evident:  “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.”  

If you’re willing to look, you will see.  And because He is the Creator, He is greater than that which He has created.  That means you can trust Him because there is nothing in your life that is greater than He is.  He can solve whatever problem you have, if you will but trust Him by faith.  Hebrews 11:6: “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”

By the way, Bill Nye, “The Science Guy,” recently slammed Genesis 1:1 in a video called, “Creationism Is Not Appropriate for Children.”  Unbelievably, he said this: “Your world becomes fantastically complicated if you don’t believe in evolution.”  Actually, just the opposite is true.

3. The Lord made light. 

I won’t take time to develop this point but look at Genesis 1:3-5 to hear the first words that God speaks: “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good.  And God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night.  And there was evening and morning, the first day.”

Every Story Whispers His Name

Please turn in your Bibles now to John 1:1-5 and follow along as we pick up the story.  I’m excited to show you how these verses correspond to the account of creation because the coming of Christ has always been part of God’s story: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”

Check out how the first chapter of John corresponds with the introduction to Genesis.  Christ is inexorably linked to creation.

John 1 Genesis 1

The Infant is Infinite (1:1-2) Elohim is Eternal (1:1a)

Christ is the Creator (1:3) God is the Creator (1:1b)

The Lord is Life and Light (1:4-5) The Lord made Light (1:2-5)

1. The Infant is Infinite. 

For many years I thought that Jesus got his start when He was born.  The fact of the matter is that Jesus Christ has always existed according to verses 1-2: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.”  Jesus is before the beginning of time as He said in John 8:58: “Before Abraham was born, I am.”  He is eternal, or infinite because He has always existed.  This passage immediately reminds us of the opening words of Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning God…”  

The word “word” is the Greek “logos,” which refers to Jesus Christ, the second member of the Trinity.  In Greek culture, logos, was that which gave meaning to all things.  The philosopher Philo saw the logos as a bridge between a transcendent God and the material universe.  John is using a term that everyone would be familiar with and yet he expands and transcends its meaning.  Since a word is an audible or visible expression of a thought, Jesus perfectly revealed what was going on in the mind of God.  He’s the bridge between God and us.

The “Word was with God,” indicates that Jesus Christ existed in a face-to-face relationship with the Father.  Jesus was not only in the closest possible fellowship with God, the “Word was God.”  We don’t have time this morning to explore the majestic intricacies of the doctrine of the Trinity, but suffice it to say that Jesus is not a creation of God, but is God Himself.  Verse 2 summarizes and repeats verse 1 in order to make sure we grasp the magnitude of this truth: “He was with God in the beginning.”  The Infant is Infinite.

2.  Christ is the Creator. 

We see in verse 3 that Christ is also the Creator: “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”  This verse brings us back to the truth of Genesis 1:1 and to Colossians 1:16-17: “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.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”  Jesus is both the creator and sustainer of all things.  

Rodney Buchanan writes: “The Creator who made Mary is now carried in the womb of Mary.  The One who inhabited the universe, is now confined to a stall.  He who owns the world now finds no room in the inn.”  Augustine echoed this same thought centuries ago in a poem called “Incarnation.” I’ll read just the opening words: “Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun.  In the Father he remains, from his mother He goes forth.  Creator of Heaven and earth.”

3. The Lord is Life and Light.

The infant is infinite, Christ is the Creator, and thirdly, the Lord is life and light.  Look at verses 4-5: “In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.”  The story of the Bible begins with physical darkness in Genesis 1.  To correct this darkness God said, “let there be light.”   

Spiritual darkness spilled into our world in Genesis 3 and can only be removed by the Lord who is life and light.  As the light, Jesus shines into the darkness, and those who have not yet received Him are still in the dark and cannot understand Him.  Many people today do not comprehend the real meaning of Christmas.  It’s because the world in general has no place for Christ.

The word, “understood” means “to lay hold of, to seize or grasp.”  Something can be seized either for hostile purposes, or in order to possess it.   It can refer to resistance or refusal.  The darkness cannot ultimately put out the light because light is more powerful than darkness.  Darkness by its very nature refuses to come into the light because darkness and light are mutually exclusive.  If you have one, you do not have the other.  Those in darkness cannot readily understand the Lord who is life and light.  Light and darkness are recurring themes in the Gospel of John.  People love one or the other, but not both.

Responding to Jesus

Let’s look now at three responses to Jesus.

1. Immanuel is ignored. 

With all the tinsel of Christmas, it’s easy to blow right past the birth of Immanuel

The infant is infinite, Christ is the creator, and the Lord is life and light.  Unfortunately, verse 10 reveals that Immanuel is often ignored: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.”  With all the tinsel of Christmas, it’s easy to blow right past the birth of Immanuel, which means, “God with us.”  

There has always been a great divide in the human race.  The majority has never recognized Jesus for who He really is.  When He came the first time, Herod hated him, the scribes ignored Him, and there was no room for Him in the inn.  Only the shepherds and the wise men, the poor and the foreigners, welcomed him to earth.  Not much has changed today as we see the birth of Jesus slipping from our cultural discourse.  He came to the world He created, and the “the world did not recognize him.”  

Have you been ignoring Jesus this year?  Don’t let this Christmas pass by without figuring out why Jesus came.

2. The Revealer is rejected. 

While some are apathetic and ignore the Christ of Christmas, others reject Him outright.  Look at verse 11: “He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” The idiom “came to his own” means “to come home.”  It’s been said, “Home is where, when you go there, they have to take you in.”  Jesus came to the people who should have known Him best, but they wanted nothing to do with Him.  Jesus came “home” to his own people and they wouldn’t take Him in.  

They should have known better because they knew He was coming.  Every book in the Old Testament testifies to this one great truth: He’s coming.  One day God would send His Messiah to deliver His people Israel.  And when Jesus finally arrived, they didn’t receive Him because they didn’t want to.  To not receive means, “to reject.”  Instead of welcoming Him home they drove Him away.

3. The redeemer must be received. 

While it is true that the world ignored Him and His own people rejected Him, there have always been some who will receive Him.  John 1:12 is one of the most helpful verses in the entire Bible because it explains clearly how someone can become a Christian: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”  

Notice the three key words.

  • Received.  This is an active word with a deep meaning.  It literally means, “to take, or to seize.”  Those who receive Christ are those who welcome or accept Him into their lives.  Jesus is God’s gift to us at Christmas.  We can choose to ignore Him, or reject Him, or we can take what has been freely offered to us.  Have you taken hold of Him?  Have you received Him into your life?
  • Believed.  To believe means to engage our total being so that we put our trust completely in Christ by committing our lives to Him.  It involves more than just intellectual assent or an emotional response.  Biblical belief always involves receiving, or responding to what God in Christ has done for us.
  • Right.  This word means “honor” or “privilege.”  The moment you receive Christ into your life, God gives you the honor of becoming a member of His family.  We are given permission to become a child of God when we believe and receive.

Believe, Receive, and Become.  We must first believe that Jesus is the only way to a relationship with God the Father.  Then we must actually receive what He has done by personally appropriating the gift of salvation.  Then, we become children of God.  

The story begins in Genesis 1 where we learn that Elohim is eternal, creationism is correct, and the Lord made light.  In John 1, the story continues with these truths: The infant is infinite, Christ is the creator, and the Lord is life and light.  Don’t ignore or reject Him.  There can be no neutrality.  No one “drifts” or stumbles into Christianity by accident and God has no natural-born children.  At some point you must consciously believe and receive Jesus as your Lord and Savior.   In order to fully understand the reason for Christmas, we must respond to the reality of Christ and be born again.  

Lord Jesus, for too long I’ve kept you out of my life.  I confess that I am a sinner and that I cannot save myself.  No longer will I close the door when I hear you knocking.  I repent by turning from the way I’ve been living.  By faith I gratefully receive your gift of salvation.  Thank you, Lord Jesus, for coming to earth.  I acknowledge that you are infinite; that you’re the creator, and that you’re life and light itself.  With all my heart I believe you are the Son of God who died on the cross for my sins and rose from the dead on the third day.  Thank you for bearing my sins and giving me the gift of eternal life.  I believe and now I receive so that I can become your child.  I commit to follow you as my Lord and Savior.  Amen.

If you received Christ you have entered into the greatest story of all time. 

In order to affirm our faith today and into the future we look back to an ancient document called “The Apostle’s Creed.”   Let’s stand and recite this summary statement of Christian belief together.   Believers first stated this right before they were baptized as part of their confession of Christ.  What we read may be a bit different from what you remember because this is the “Modern English Version.”

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy universal church,

the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. AMEN.

And now let’s prepare our hearts for communion.  As we participate let’s look back, way back to creation and then let’s focus on the cross and then push ahead in your minds to the future completion.   Let’s affirm the six acts of redemption again.

Act I Creation

Act II Catastrophe

Act III Covenant

Act IV Coming

Act V Church

Act VI Completion

Jesus has come.  And He will come again.  It’s ancient and yet future.  And that’s no fable because He came in the stable and then died on the cross for you and for me.  Bishop Melito wrote these words in A.D. 170: “He who hung the earth in place is hanged.  He who fixed the heavens in place is fixed in place.  He who made all things is made fast on a tree.”  And He did all that for you…and for me.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?