The Doctrine of Creation
The Doctrine of Creation
When I was in High School, I took an elective called Small Engine Repair. We learned how engines worked, took turns working with different parts, and so on, until the end of the year, where the final project of the class was that each of us had to round up an engine of our own, and with a partner, take it apart, clean it up, replace any broken or worn parts, put it back together, and get it running again.
I asked my dad if we could tackle the engine from the rototiller our family had. It hadn’t been working, and I think somewhat reluctantly he let me take it to school. I had assured him it would be okay because the partner I had picked on this project said he had done a lot with engines before and knew what he was doing.
Well, he didn’t.
By the time the project was over, we had a very clean engine that didn’t work. After we put it all back together, we had several random pieces still lying on the table and neither of us had any clue where they were supposed to go. This was before YouTube, so we couldn’t go there for help. My dad was out a bunch of money for parts and still didn’t have a working rototiller. He was not impressed with me or my class partner.
I’m sure others of you have struggled like that to put a desk or something from IKEA together, or to repair an appliance or something you tried to DIY around your home.
It takes effort for us to build things or repair things or figure out how things work. It takes time, tools, materials, instructions, trial and error, fastening and unfastening, and oftentimes we need an extra set of hands.
And yet when we pick up the Bible and read the very first chapter of the very first book, what we find is a Creator who made everything out of nothing but his words.
The doctrine of creation says that it pleased God to create an unbelievably complex universe with no materials, no tools, no instruction manual, no architect or engineer or blueprint, no sweating or getting tired, no Menards to run to when he ran out of supplies, no trial and error – with only his word and declare that it was very good.
- Psalm 33:6-9 – The heavens were made by the word of the Lord, and all the stars, by the breath of his mouth. … let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spoke, and it came into being; he commanded, and it came into existence.
- Romans 4:17b-ish – God… calls things into existence that do not exist.
- Hebrews 11:3 – By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.
The earth was formless and empty (Genesis 1:2) when he started, and everything else came to be because he told it to. That kind of power would have been really handy before I had to take that tiller engine home to my dad.
If you’re like me, you’ve started a new Bible-reading plan so many times that Genesis 1 is the chapter of the Bible you’ve read the most. And so even as Natalie read that for us a minute ago, it’s easy to sort of gloss over it and miss the absolutely mind-blowing magnitude of what we’re reading.
You Must Deal With God
And while I would enjoy spending time going through Genesis 1 looking at each day and everything God created to explore it in detail, I don’t think Genesis 1 and 2 are meant to point us to creation as much as they are meant to point us to the Creator.
Sometimes people, even Christians, like to argue over these chapters, trying to figure out the when and the how of creation… Was it billions of years or thousands of years or somewhere in between? What process did God use to create things – Was it through an evolutionary process that God directed? Was it completely random chance? Or did God make the world fully mature from the beginning?
And maybe to your disappointment, I’m not going to spend much time there today, because the reality is scripture doesn’t tell us specifically the when or how things were created. But the question the Bible DOES answer for us, over and over and over, is the question of WHO created the world, and WHY.
You’re not one complete sentence into the Bible and already you are face to face with God. In the beginning, God…You have to deal with him. No matter what origin story or method of the world coming into being you want to pursue, you still have to deal with God… either by honoring him, ignoring him, or erasing him.
As we read the rest of scripture, the entire narrative of the Bible is the unfolding story of a personal and loving and holy and powerful and eternally existing God who interacts personally with his creation, setting out to redeem fallen humanity on a daily basis, and creation is simply the backdrop, the staging, for that story
And so what begins here in Genesis 1:1 carries on throughout the rest of scripture, and as it does we learn more about this God :
Psalm 24:1 - The earth and everything in it, the world and its inhabitants, belong to the Lord.
- If God is the creator, then nothing I am and nothing I have belongs to me. I don’t own my personality, my emotions, my marriage, my children, my singleness, my education, my gifts, my skills, my finances, my drivenness, my strengths… everything I am, everything that, when all put together, makes me “me” belongs to the Lord. I don’t have any “rights” per se, because I am not my own.
- We live in God’s world, as God’s possessions, handling God’s things (Tripp, 202, 210). My house, my money, my cars, my land – my children, like we talked about with child dedication a moment ago – it’s not mine. I am a manager of God’s things, including my own body and mind.
- The doctrine of Creation calls us to live like nothing belongs to us – even ourselves (Tripp, 213). We get ourselves into all kinds of problems when we start acting like the things we have belong to us.
Genesis 1:28, God is speaking to Adam and Eve – God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”
God gave Adam and Eve authority over creation. They were to rule over it. In the next chapter, it adds that they were to work the garden and watch over it.
- At your workplace your boss or manager may entrust a certain part of their company to you, but you are still under their authority, and you answer to them for the job you do in their company.
- And so in giving humans this authority, it is clear that God is still the final authority. They will still answer to him.
- If God is the Creator, then whether you are a parent, spouse, teacher, boss, politician, manager, pastor, judge, law enforcement, or some other authority figure, you do not have the right to wield your power and position however you want. Those expressions of authority should reflect and represent God’s values, purposes, and character. Every single authority answers to God’s authority. So even when earthly authorities go off the rails or abuse their power, they answer to an authority who is holy and good and righteous and just.
- If God is the Creator, we will answer to him for how we cared for his world. We will answer to him for how we managed the creation around us, how we managed resources and finances and our words.
Eph 1:11 In him we have also received an inheritance...according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will,
- Any artist or builder will tell you that everything they create has a purpose. We fix cars for the purpose of someone being able to get from point A to point B. We build houses for the purpose of someone living in them. We draw and paint and create music for the purpose of telling a story, expressing some emotion, or simply someone enjoying the piece.
- If God is the Creator, then it’s not up to me to define myself or choose what I want to do with my life. My being happy or not being happy really isn’t the point. As we talked about with the doctrine of God’s providence a few weeks ago, God has orchestrated all the pieces of human history, directing it toward his purpose, and that purpose should be the driving factor behind everything I do and say and think.
- If God is the creator, only he has the right to tell me how to live. I do not have the right to create or live or define “my truth.” Truth doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the Creator.
- When I first started reading to prepare for this series, it was back in May as we were getting ready to celebrate the graduates here at River City, my son being one of them. And I thought, what a dangerous thing we do to high school seniors when we ask them “Do you know what you’re going to do next year?” or “What are you hoping to do for a career?” What if instead we asked them, “How do you sense God is leading you to participate in his story of redemption?” or, “What do you think God is calling you to after high school?”
- I’m not suggesting that the answer would be easier, but I’m saying it would be one way we could help our teens and ourselves remember that our purpose and direction in life isn’t something that is ours to determine simply based on what we “want to do.”
- Secondly, God may call us to do something that really isn’t our passion. He may call us to something he hasn’t yet gifted us to do. He may call us to something that is waaaaay out of our comfort zone. He may call us into suffering for his name.
And so, this “doctrine of creation is not just about origins, about how we got here, about how the world came to be. It’s also about how you think about and approach everything in your life” (Tripp, 210).
Genesis 1 and 2 remind us that we are just witnesses to something we had no part in. The world didn’t begin with us. God didn’t ask us how we would like things to go. He didn’t need or ask our permission for anything. The doctrine of creation says we are not at the center of anything, including our own lives. We are not the main actors even in our own stories.
The Why: Part 1 – His will
So if it’s true that God created everything visible and invisible, and that he has ownership and authority over all things, directing them toward his glorious purpose, let’s finish this out by tackling the “why” of creation, exploring this purpose of God.
Moving all the way to the back of the Bible, Revelation 4:11 “Our Lord and God, you are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because you have created all things, and by your will they exist and were created. Part one of the “why” of creation is that it was simply God’s will. You created all things, and by your will they exist and were created. We could stop right there, and leave it at that… that God created all things because he wanted to.
But that doesn’t say anything about how God relates to his creation. As Revelation 4:11 says, He is worthy to receive glory, honor, power because he created all things with no physical or mental effort, only words; he wanted to create, so he did; period. But the Bible says more than that. Here’s part two that tells us about what was happening in God’s mind before he actually created anything:
The Why: Part 2 – Redemption
Ephesians 1:3-14 -
3 Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ.
That’s the blanket statement over what all is happening next. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ (that’s the qualifier). There is no other way to receive these spiritual blessings he’s talking about. But here’s what the apostle Paul writes:
4 For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world,
So this is pre-”Let there be light”, this is pre-”formless and void” before the foundation of the world, he chose us in him…
to be holy and blameless in love before him. 5 He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,
So this plan is coming together… he is choosing, predestining for adoption, look at verse 4 and 5… he chose us in him, to be blameless before him, predestined for adoption through Jesus for himself… in him, before him, for him, according to the good pleasure of, there it is again, his will.
But what is he driving at? What is the purpose, the “why?” What is he hoping to accomplish through all of this? Verse 6…
6 to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.
And there you have what God’s will is aimed at. There you have the answer to the question, “Why are we here?” So that, in Jesus’ living, dying, rising, God could lavish on us his glorious grace, and we wouldn’t just see it, we would like it. We wouldn’t just read about it, we would sing about it. Talk about it. Dream about it. Write about it. Pray about it. Tell others about it. Preach about it. Think about it. And Praise him for his glorious grace!
What is this glorious grace he’s talking about? He explains in verse 7: In [Christ] (there’s that qualifier again) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace 8 that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding.
Grace is Not Stingy
I hope you can see that when he mentions forgiveness for sin, he mentions God’s riches of grace twice. He wants you to know that you will never out-sin his grace. You will never need so much forgiveness that God says, well, hang on. I have to sort of spread this out over a lot of other people. God’s grace is not stingy – he is lavishly, richly pouring it out on us, not randomly, not by a roll of the dice, not by obligation or force, but with wisdom and understanding.
His ways and his wisdom and his knowledge is so far above anything we can understand. There are things he easily understands that if you put it right in front of us we wouldn’t be able to comprehend. That’s what he’s accessing when it comes to his grace. But that’s not it. God doesn’t hide from us either.
9 He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ 10 as a plan for the right time — to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth (and here’s that qualifier yet again) in him.
So the plan of redemption through Christ’s blood, forgiveness of sin, riches of grace poured out, revealing to us what he was doing when he made the world about how Jesus would come and die and rise and ascend, bringing humans and God back into harmony with each other, ALL TOOK PLACE BEFORE THE WORLD WAS FORMED!
God Knew About Sin
It means God knew about sin before he created the world. He knew the wheels would fall off. He knew people would hate him and rebel against his authority, his ownership and his purpose.
God knew you would be a sinner before he made you. For that reason, there is no sin that you can commit that God is surprised, appalled, or slowed down by. He never has to step back and think about a person, hmm, should I or shouldn’t I, before he moves toward them. He moved toward you before you ever sinned! So you can never commit so great a sin that God gives up on you. He knew every single one you would do before you were born, and the cross of Jesus is big enough to save you from them all.
It’s also why you don’t have to perform in order for God to approve of you or give you his attention – God turned his attention toward you, with the approval earned by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, BEFORE you had done a single thing RIGHT! If it’s true that he made plans to adopt you as his son before you did a single good deed for anyone, then there is no amount of good you can do to “get on his good side,” either.
You think that’s cool, he’s not done. He doesn’t only forgive you. Remember the adoption part in verse 5? Here’s how that played out: 11 In him we have also received an inheritance, (why?) because we were predestined according to the plan of the one who works out everything in agreement with the purpose of his will, 12 so that we who had already put our hope in Christ might (and here it is for the second time) bring praise to his glory.
So that we would delight in God and what he has done! I know, there’s a lot going on, and you would think, wow, okay that’s a lot to get my head around, but he’s still not finished…
13 In him you also were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and when you believed. 14 The Holy Spirit is the down payment of our inheritance, until the redemption of the possession, (Shocker, here it comes a third time:) to the praise of his glory.
He blessed us with every spiritual blessing by choosing, predestining, lavishing, redeeming, forgiving, pouring out grace, making known his will, bringing unity, working everything out, adopting us and sealing us with the Holy Spirit, which guarantees that every good blessing in the heavenly places that he’s blessed us with will be ours, AND THAT BOTH NOW AND FOR ETERNITY we would praise him for his glorious grace.
So the goal of Creation was that you would:
- Hear the word of truth, which is the good news of what has been done for you, in Christ
- That you would believe it
- That you would praise him for his glorious grace.
That was the plan. That’s why you’re here!
And to set stage for the grand story, God made the skies which declare the glory of God, he made stars to show his greatness, he made marriage which declares his unconditional love, he made turtles and mountains and rivers and fish and otters and all kinds of birds as the staging and props for this story of redemption, so that we would look around us and be amazed at the goodness and beauty and power of this God who has saved us by his glorious grace.
We are so tempted as humans to find a part of God’s good creation that we enjoy and make it into something it’s not. Whether it’s money or food or sports or sex or work or reputation or the way our property looks compared to the neighbors or our kids or our homes or our cars or our hobbies or our grades – we are constantly tempted to take a piece of the backdrop and make it the reason we are here, and it’s absurd. Sin is foolishness.
But the doctrine of Creation says before he made the world, God knew we would try to hijack his story. He knew we would reject his purpose for creation, but he also knew that there was enough grace in his character, enough mercy in his will, enough power and wisdom and understanding in his nature, enough redemption in the blood of Jesus, that he could richly pour out his grace and forgiveness on any sinner who repents.
If that’s you today… if you are hungry for the grace and forgiveness of your heavenly father who created you, as I’m praying, you can pray too and ask him to open your eyes to see him more clearly today.
Gregg Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011)
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994)
Paul David Tripp, Do You Believe? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2021)