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In the last two weeks, we did a background to the book of Genesis and saw four things about the book. Moses is the author of the book. The theme of the book is beginnings or origins. We saw that Genesis is a book of history and that the book is divided into two parts (primitive history and patriarchal history). We are done with the introduction and today we begin to study Genesis itself but we will not get too far. We are only going to look at one verse, the first verse of Genesis.
It is a short verse. It only has ten words in English. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” In fact, it has only seven words in Hebrew: Bereshith bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’aretz. It is short. It uses simple, non-technical language. A child can understand it. It is powerful. There is a lot in these ten words. Genesis 1:1 is one of the most important verses in the entire Bible. What it says is also very radical. It was radical in Moses’ day and is radical even today. IWhat is so radical about the words: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth?”
Why Genesis 1:1 is Radical
1) It says that the world had a BEGINNING.
Many Greek philosophers in the ancient world said that the world was eternal. That is what Aristotle believed. He was one of the greatest philosophers of all time. Genesis 1:1 says that the universe had a definite beginning.
2) It says that the world was created BY GOD.
Not everyone accepts that idea. Most evolutionists think that it just happened by chance spontaneously from non-living chemicals. They believe that nothing times nothing equals everything. Genesis says that creation was not accidental but intentional. It is not a product of random chance but intelligent design by a Creator.
3) It says the world was created OUT OF NOTHING.
That is a hard concept for some to grasp. How can something be created out of nothing? The Roman Epicurean philosopher Lucretius said around 50 B.C., “”Nothing can ever be created by divine power out of nothing.” Most of the ancients believed that creation was done with preexisting materials (like a lump of clay). That is what Plato believed. The biblical worldview is different.
Four Parts of the Verse
The structure of this verse is very easy to understand. We are going to pretend for the moment that we are all back in school in English class. This verse has four parts. I am going to ask you four questions about this verse.
What is the subject of the sentence? The subject of the sentence tells us who is doing the action. It is God. It tells us where creation came from.
What is the verb in the sentence? The verb tells us what God did. What did God do? He created something.
What is the direct object in the sentence? The object of the sentence tells us what he created. What did He create? The heavens and the earth.
What is the adverb in the sentence? The adverb tells us when He did this. When did He create the heavens and the earth? In the beginning. The first verse of the Bible tells us these four things. Let’s look at each of the key terms in this verse.
IN THE BEGINNING
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. What do we learn from those three words “in the beginning”? We learn that the universe had a beginning. It had a starting point in time. There was a time when it did not exist. That tells us that matter is NOT eternal. The universe may be old but it is not eternal. The Bible teaches that it had a beginning and it will have an end.
Modern cosmologists agree with Genesis on this point. Modern science believes that there was a beginning, not only for the earth, but for the entire universe. The Big Bang Theory teaches that it had a beginning in some cosmic explosion. They may place that beginning at fifteen billion years ago but they agree that it had a beginning.
The question everyone wants to know is this: When was the beginning? How old is the earth? Some Bibles have the date of creation in their margins but the fact is that Genesis doesn’t tell us when this took place. It tells us that the earth had a definite beginning in time but does not tell us when that time was. Genesis gives us the FACT of creation but does not give us the DATE of creation. Genesis is silent on that question. It doesn’t say that the earth is old and it doesn’t say that the earth is young and that is very significant.
God could have given us the answer to that question but He didn’t. What is the lesson here? There are some things that are revealed and some things that are not revealed. Many focus on what God has not revealed. They spend all of their time giving arguments for an old earth or a young earth. If it was important, the Bible would tell us how old the earth is. It doesn’t.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. The universe was created out of nothing but it was not created by nothing. It was created by God. Who is this God? The NT tells us. It was Jesus. John 1:3 says, “Through Him ALL THINGS were made, without him NOTHING was made that has been made” (NIV). He did not just create some things, He created ALL things.
In fact, Paul tells us that Jesus not only created things we can see, He created things we can’t see. He created the visible and invisible things, like angels. Colossians 1:16 says, “For by Him all things were created, things in heaven and things on earth, visible and invisible” (NIV). That goes beyond what Genesis tells us.
Think about what this means. The one who died on the cross and cried out “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” was the same one who created the world. Let’s think about one more thing. Acts 17:30-31 says, “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.” (NIV)
If we put all of that together, what do we see? The one who created the world is the same one who redeemed the world and He is the same one who will one day judge the world. Our Creator is our Redeemer and will be out Judge.
Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. What do we know about this God from creation? If we just read the first few chapters of Genesis, what would we know about God? Genesis 1 is not just a revelation of creation; it is a revelation of the Creator.
What Creation Says about God
1) God is a person
How do we know that from Genesis 1? Just look at the verbs used here. God CREATED (1:1). God SAID (1:3). God SAW (1:4). God CALLED (1:5). God SEPARATED (1:7). God MADE (1:16). God SET (1:17). God BLESSED (1:22). Behind creation is a real person, not just some impersonal force. He has volition. He has a will. He talks, acts, works. He is personally involved in the creation of man, forming him from the dust of the ground. After he created Adam, He talked to him. He had a relationship with him in the garden. He is a person.
2) God is eternal
“In the beginning God.” The heavens are not in the beginning. God is in the beginning. God existed before creation existed. He existed before the earth existed. He existed before man existed. He existed before matter, space and time existed. He is not just a person, He is an eternal person. Psalm 90:2 says, “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.”
3) God is omnipotent
You can tell that by looking at the enormous size of the universe. God created a universe that is huge. It took a big God to create the universe. Creation is an awesome display of power. He created the earth with a diameter of 8000 miles and a total surface is an area that measuring 197,000,000 square miles, hangs it on nothing, as Job 26:7 says, as it travels through space at 66,000 miles per hour.
Genesis 1:16 says, “God made two great lights…He also made the stars.” He did not just make a few stars. There are one hundred billion stars just in our galaxy alone and billions of other galaxies in the universe. Albert Einstein estimated that there are more stars in the sky than grains of sand on the world’s beaches. The amazing thing is that God says that He knows each one of those stars BY NAME (Psalm 147:4). That is amazing. That is like saying He knows each grain of sand on the ocean individually.
Creation is an incredible display of power. Romans 1:20 says “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 people are without excuse.” (NIV) Jeremiah 27:5 says, “With my GREAT POWER and outstretched arm I made the earth and its people and the animals that are on it, and I give it to anyone I please.” (NIV)
Not only did God create a universe that is so big that it is mind-boggling but He did it by Himself. He did not ask anyone for help on how to create the world. He did it on His own and He made everything effortlessly OUT OF NOTHING. God didn’t have to lift a finger to create the universe. He spoke it all into existence. He did this just with his words and with nothing else. He didn’t need any materials. He just said a few words. That shows infinite power. Frank Turek calls Genesis 1:1 “the greatest miracle in the Bible.”
What is the application? Nothing is too hard to God to do. If God can do that, he can do anything “Ah, Sovereign Lord, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jeremiah 32:17). “This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’ (Jeremiah 33:2-3)
4) God is omniscient
Creation does not just show power, it shows intelligence. Jeremiah 10:12 says, “God made the earth by his power; he founded the world BY HIS WISDOM and stretched out the heavens BY HIS UNDERSTANDING.” Proverbs 3:19 says, “BY WISDOM the Lord laid the earth’s foundations; BY UNDERSTANDING he set the heavens in place.” Creation is not the result of random chance but intelligent design. The planet was designed by an intelligent Creator.
5) God is artistic
The heavens not only proclaim the incredible power of God, they proclaim the glory of God. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” All you have to do is to look at creation to see the fantastic beauty in creation to know that God is an artist. He is a master artist. He created everyone so different. God loves variety.
There is incredible variety to creation. Everyone’s DNA is different. Every snowflake is different. Every flower is different. Every raindrop is different. Every sunrise is different. God paints a different picture each morning. He gives us a different finger painting in the sky to look at every morning.
6) God is sovereign
He rules the world. He is in control of it. He chose to create it. He didn’t have to create it. The world exists because He wiled it. Revelation 4:11 says, “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.” God made man. Man did not make God.
7) God is good
Where do we see this in Genesis 1? Six times in this chapter, we see the words “IT WAS GOOD” (1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25). At the end of the six days, God says “IT WAS VERY GOOD” (1:31). When God created the world, everything was perfect. There was no sin, no death. At the end of every day of creation, we are told that it was good. When we make things, they are not perfect. They have all kinds of flaws, mistakes and errors. God did it right the first time.
8) God is compassionate
God created an earth for Adam that had oxygen and food. He created an earth that had dry land. He didn’t create Adam one day one when the earth was full of water and there was no dry land and expect him to treat water or swim for five days.
Even if Adam could have done that, he could not have survived because there was no atmosphere on the first day. He would not have been able to breathe. He waited until there was land and air before creating Adam. Adam was not put on the earth until the sixth day when the earth was ready for him.
He created a perfect world for Adam and Eve to live in. God created a wife for Adam because he was lonely. He was compassionate even after Adam and Eve sinned. He gave them some clothes to wear, so they weren’t naked. He made it from the skin of an animal.
9) God is orderly
There is order to the universe. God created the earth orderly with natural laws (laws of gravitation, laws of motion, laws of genetics, laws of chemistry). If you throw a ball up into the air it comes down every time. What goes up must come down. Every day, the Sun rises and sets. The creation week was very orderly. It didn’t begin that way. It started off with chaos. In six days, God brought order out of chaos. What is the application?
God likes order, not disorder. The Bible says that God is a God of order (I Corinthians 14:33). That is why he created government. That is why police officers are called “God’s servants” in the Bible, so that cities that are lawless and full of disorder will have order. He created order in the universe. He wants order in the local church and order in society.
Any time we do that, we are like God. If you garden and go from weeds to flowers, you are bringing order out of chaos. If we take a messy room that is all chaotic and clean it up and bring order to it, we are acting like God.
10) God is patient
God created the world in six days. He could have done it in one day but He didn’t. God did not need six days to create the world. He could have created the world instantaneously but He did not do it. He created the world gradually over a whole week. What God did on the first day was not the final form of creation. In fact, when He began it was formless and empty. It had no distinct shape or inhabitants. Creation was in stages. It was a process.
11) God is moral
God created Adam and Eve and gave them some rules to follow. He writes the Bible and gives it to the world. He says that there are certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong. He could have been like a permissive parent and said, “You can do what you want.” Instead, He gave them some rules. He told Adam “this is what you are to do” and “this is what you are not to do”.
12) God is righteous
After Adam and Eve sinned, He judged them. He kicked them out of the garden. He is holy. God not only created the world, He drowned the world in a Flood of water and burned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah with fire. If you just see God as love and not as holy, you have the wrong view of God.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”. Create is the second word of the Bible. God is the one who creates. We cannot create anything. We use the term “create” for things we do. For us, it just means to make something. We can create a website or a great work of art. We write books. Architects create designs for houses but all of those things were done with existing materials. It takes paint and a brush to “create” a painting.
The Bible only uses this word for God. Only God can create things. In the Bible, the subject is always God. That is interesting because the NT says that Jesus created the world. That shows that He must be God.
What does the word create mean? Does it always mean to make something out of nothing? No. The Hebrew word for “create” (bara) does NOT always means to produce out of nothing. It is used in many different ways. It does not always mean “to make something out of nothing,” even in Genesis. Adam and Eve were made from a pile of dirt and from a spare rib (2:7, 21-22). The word is used of God creating the nation of Israel (Isaiah 43:15).
God did not create Israel out of nothing but that is what the word “create” has to mean in Genesis 1:1. We know that from Hebrews 11:3: “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen WAS NOT MADE OF THINGS THAT ARE VISIBLE.” (ESV)
Many believe that the Bible says WHO created the world but does not say HOW He created the world. That is a very common view. Is this true? No. Genesis tells us how creation took place as well. It gives us the PROCESS of creation, as well as the FACT of creation. Genesis describes creation by speech. God used his WORDS to create things. He SPOKE the universe into existence.
“AND GOD SAID, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” (1:3 NIV)
“AND GOD SAID, ‘Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water’… And it was so” (1:6, 7 NIV)
“AND GOD SAID, ‘Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.’ And it was so.” (1:9 NIV)
He created the world by speech. God did not have to speak the universe into existence. He could have just thought or willed the universe into existence but He chose to speak it into existence. Why doesn’t it just say that God made light? It says that God supernaturally spoke light into existence.
The phrase that occurs over and over again in the chapter is the words “and God said.” It is found eight times in six days (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26). That was God’s method of creation. Many other verses in the Bible say the same thing.
“By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by THE BREATH OF HIS MOUTH (Psalm 33:6 NIV)
“Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the Lord, for AT HIS COMMAND they were created” (Psalm 148:2-5)
“By faith we understand that the universe was created BY THE WORD OF GOD, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” (Hebrews 11:3 ESV)
That verse is interesting because in Greek there are two different Greek words for “word”. In Greek, there is a way to say “written word” (λογος) and there is a way to say “spoken word” (ρημα). Hebrews 11:3 in Greek, says, “by faith we understand that the universe was created by the spoken Word of God.” Creation by speech shows the incredible power of God’s Word.
When we speak, nothing happens. I can be in a dark room and say “Let there be light” all day and nothing will happen. I can say, “Let there be a million dollars in my wallet” but that will not make me rich. When God speaks, things happen and they happen immediately. That shows us the incredible POWER of God’s Word. God’s Word has power. Isaiah 55:11 says that God’s Word goes from His mouth and does not return void. It does not return empty but accomplishes what He wants it to accomplish.
“And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ AND THERE WAS LIGHT.” The text does not say, “Let there be light and eventually after billions of years light finally appeared”. It came immediately. Adam and Eve did not have to wait a million years for the light to reach earth. God does not have to wait for light to travel. He can make it appear instantly, just as He made Adam appear instantly as an adult without having to grow up.
It did not take a million years for the light to obey God’s command. God spoke. It happened immediately. There was light. It was not sunlight. It was non-solar light. The sun was not created until the fourth day. God does not need the sun to make light. He can make light without the sun and He made it immediately. “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ AND THERE WAS LIGHT.”
He just spoke the word and His will was accomplished. We see the same principle in the NT. There are several beautiful illustrations of this principle from the life of Jesus. The first example took place when Jesus stilled the storm.
Jesus fell asleep on the boat with his disciples. He must have been really tired and He must have been a sound sleeper because there was a big storm taking place and the boat was shaking but it did not wake him up. The disciples were afraid. They woke Jesus up and what did He do?
He rebuked the wind. Jesus rebuked the forces of nature like we would rebuke a person. He spoke to them. He commanded the winds and waves to be quiet and be still. Instantly, they stopped (Mark 4:39). The universe obeyed the Word of God, just like the wind obeyed Jesus’ word. Jesus was the one who created the world in the first place. All things were created through Him (Colossians 1:16).
Another example of this is the healing of the Centurion’s servant. The Centurion had a sick servant and He went and told Jesus. Jesus offered to come and heal him but he refused. He told Jesus just to say the word and his servant would be healed (Matthew 8:8). That’s exactly what Jesus did. Jesus said the word and his servant was healed instantly. She was healed THAT HOUR, not a month later (Matthew 8:13). The same thing happened when Jesus turned water into wine. It happened instantly.
THE HEAVENS AND THE EARTH
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 mentions time (beginning), space (heavens) and matter (earth). Matter is made of solid, liquid, gas. Space has length, width, height. Time has past, present and future.
Genesis 1:1 is so powerful that this one verse without apology contradicts nine different human philosophies. I do not know any other verse in the Bible that does this. Ten philosophies are refuted by these seven simple words. What are the philosophies?
Biblical Worldview of Genesis 1:1
1) It contradicts ATHEISM
Atheism says, “There is no God. Genesis says, “In the beginning, God”.
2) It contradicts MATERIALISM
Materialism teaches that there is no substance but matter. The only substance which exists is material. Materialists do not believe in anything that is immaterial. They deny the existence of the soul and the afterlife. As the astronomer Carl Sagon once said, “The universe is all that is or ever was or will be”. Genesis says, “In the beginning, God.” God is an immaterial spirit. This is a problem for some. How can an immaterial being create something material?
Normal Geisler answers this objection. He says that it is no more difficult to believe that mind produced matter than it is to believe that matter produced mind. It is no more difficult to believe that an immaterial being could manifest Himself in material things than it is to believe that our minds can reveal themselves in literature or art. Our physical body has all kinds of immaterial emotions (love, hatred)
3) It contradicts NATURALISM
Naturalists try to explain the origin of the world based on natural causes alone. They teach that the universe can be explained in purely in terms of natural laws and processes. This verse says that the universe does not have a natural cause. It has a supernatural cause. “In the beginning, God CREATED the heavens and the earth”. The material world was created supernaturally. It took a stupendous miracle.
4) It contradicts POLYTHEISM
Polytheism says that there are many gods. Polytheism was widespread in the ancient world, especially in ancient Egypt where the Jews lived for four hundred years. The ancient Egyptians worshipped the planets. They worshipped nature. They worshipped animals. They worshipped their leaders (Pharaoh). Pagan myths about creations involve many gods and the gods are usually at war with each other before creation. Genesis says that one God created the world. “In the beginning GOD (not the gods) created the earth”
5) It contradicts PANTHEISM
What is pantheism? Pantheism is part of Hinduism and the New Age Movement. Pantheism is the opposite of atheism. Atheism says that there is no God. Pantheism says that everything is God. A tree is God. A rock is God. The flowers are God. He is not only everywhere present. He is IN everything. Pantheism confuses the creature with the Creator. If that is true, every time you cut down a tree, you are killing God. Every time you have dinner, you are killing God.
Genesis 1:1 refutes pantheism. God is distinct from the world. He is not part of creation. He is separate from it. God is separate from nature. God created the heavens and the earth. He is not the heavens and the earth. The sun, moon and stars are not God. They were created by God. He is the God OF creation, not the god IN creation.
In fact, Genesis 1:2 says, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” (NLT) Immediately after creation, the Spirit is not in the waters but is hovering over the surface of the waters. Even though it was dark and wet, the Holy Spirit was there.
6) It contradicts GNOSTICISM
What is Gnosticism? Gnosticism was a heresy in the early church that taught that matter is evil and the body was evil. They believed that people should reject the material world and embrace the spiritual world. The Bible teaches,“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Matter cannot be evil because God created it. The material creation was good. It came from God and everything God created was not only good, it was “very good”.
7) It contradicts DEISM.
What are deists? Deists believe in God. They believe that God created the world and the world is controlled by immutable laws but they also believe that God is no longer involved with the world. He doesn’t intervene in the world (no miracles). He is not communicating with anyone today (no Bible, no answered prayer). They live their life relying on reason, rather than revelation.
Genesis refutes that notion. What do you notice right away? God is involved in the world He created. He is active in the world through his Spirit, “In the beginning God 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 God was moving over the surface of the waters.” (Genesis 1:1-2). Jesus did not create the world and walk away. He is still involved in sustaining the world. He keeps it running (Colossians 1:17).
8) It contradicts HUMANISM
Humanism is a philosophy that says that man is the ultimate reality. It is a world view that rejects God and the supernatural. The Greek philosopher Protagoras (5th century BC) said, “man is the measure of all things.” Man is the standard of good and evil. Man, rather than God, is the ultimate source of value. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth”.
God is the ultimate source of authority. He created the world. He owns it. He makes the rules. If there is no God, there is no right or wrong. There is no absolute standard. You cannot say murder or rape is wrong. You can’t say that the holocaust is wrong. If there is a God, there is an absolute standard of morality and we are accountable to Him.
9) It contradicts EVOLUTION
“In the beginning, God CREATED the heavens and the earth.” We were created. We didn’t evolve. There is a big difference. One is a completely natural process and the other is a supernatural process. One is a process that takes billions of years. The other is a process that God did in six days. One involves random chance. It says that we got here by a cosmic accident. The other involves design. We will look at this more in two weeks.
10) It contradicts NIHILISM
Nihilism is a form of existentialism. It says that there is no meaning or purpose to life. We are nothing more than animals. Nietzsche and Kierkegaard were nihilists. According to Genesis 1:1, we are not here by chance. We are created by God with a purpose and one day we will all be accountable to our Creator.
 Lucretius, On the Nature of Things (Book I).
 Psalm 102:25-26; II Peter 3:10; Revelation 20:11; 21:1.
 The word occurs about fifty times in the Old Testament. It is used five times in Genesis 1 (1:1, 21, 27 )and once in Genesis 2 (2:4). It is used of God creating the heavens and earth, the sea creatures, birds and Adam and Eve.
 Carl Sagan, Cosmos (New York: Random House, 1980), p. 4
 Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, II, 443-444.
 The word for God in Hebrew (elohim) is plural but the noun “created” is singular, which shows that we are dealing with one God.