Creation by the Word
- Main text: Genesis 1:1-2:4a
- Accompanying text: John 1:1-5
What this passage means to us
First things first.
Both the Hebrew and the Greek words traditionally translated as “beginning” in Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1 (transliterated as “reshiyt” and “arche” respectively) take us back to first principles. “In the beginning”— the starting point for the discussion. Originally. In our finite way of thinking, we think this must involve time — if we go back to the beginning of time, this is how it all began. If, however, we see space and time as being part of the created order and not above it in some way, it begs the questions: how and why? If, however, we view space and time as being constants that are above creation, do we thereby limit God and make him subject to space and time and therefore part of creation instead of his being the unique Creator? The biblical view is God first. God is on top of all created things. God filled up chaotic emptiness with his created order and, in that way, everything, including space and time, began.
It’s worth noting some different translations/renditions of Genesis 1. Together these or other selections could form a biblical reading for church services. “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (KJ21); “In the beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth” (AMPC); “In the beginning, God created everything: the heavens above and the earth below. Here’s what happened” (VOICE): “First this: God created the Heavens and Earth — all you see, all you don’t see. Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness” (MSG).
This week’s lectionary readings remind us that God is the Creator. God is not a created being. Both the Genesis record and the introduction to John’s account of Jesus’ gospel are written as documents of faith and they are not meant to be scientific textbooks. They concern faith and revelation. They reveal that, as Paul would point out, that “in him (Jesus Christ, the incarnate Word of John 1:14) all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16-17). Note the idea that “he is before all things”. Before space and time. Also note Colossians 1:25-27 where Paul explains, “I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness — the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”. Having understood the “how” of everything, which originates in and with God, we see an indication of the “why”: God’s purpose, the mystery of the ages, is the new creation of Christ in us, the hope of glory. The working of the Creator in us — of Christ in us — is this mystery revealed. The apostle John, who refers to Jesus as the Word who was first and who was with God and indeed was God (John 1:1), notes how Jesus highlighted this mystery of the ages in his prayer of John 17. At the beginning of this prayer Jesus says, “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began” (v.5). He goes on to pray, in reference to those who would believe in him and in his redemptive message, “that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity (vs 21-23). Christ in us. The “why” of our creation. Our hope of glory. The mystery of why we were born. The mystery of the ages revealed.
Thoughts re application today
We all have our favourite scriptures that discuss how God is our Creator and what this means to Christians today. What with the sometimes-muddled teachings of Christianity combined with modern secular philosophies, it can be easy to lose sight of the Majesty of our Creator God and of the “how and why” of his creative work. We can emphasize the fallen state of the world more than the miracles of creation and be challenged more by the findings of science than by our call to faith in Christ. “For much of Western Christianity, the doctrine of creation (a biblical term) has been eaten alive by the doctrine of the fall (not a biblical term). In other words, creation’s downfall resulting from human sin has eclipsed its original glow as God’s handiwork, radiant with God’s glory…God’s creation loses its sacredness as God’s beloved artwork…as a result, in many circles, about the only time the word creation comes up these days is before versus evolution. The God-affirmed goodness of creation, the beauty of creation, its priceless preciousness and meaning as God’s own handiwork — these values are seldom heard” .
The Apostle Peter, in writing to Christians who were suffering due to their adherence to the faith in a world that seemed ignore the Gospel, had this to say, “So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1 Peter 4:19). His message rings true for us today!
- Hebrews 11:1-3
- Job 38
- 1 Peter 4:19
Other GCI resources:
Footnotes and references:
- Brian C McLaren, a Generous Orthodoxy published by Zondervan, USA, 2004:264-265.