“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ
Those words were written down by a man named Moses over 3450 years ago. They introduce the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible. In Genesis we see truths which shape far more than the foundations of the ancient people of Israel. Genesis reveals the foundational truths given to all people for all time. It is written for everyone. It contains the record of our origins and the workings of our Creator God. I invite you to join me for the next six weeks as we look at the first three chapters of Genesis. There we will see foundational truths which shape the rest of Scripture and the root of all the Christian faith.
Before we dig into Genesis, we need to make clear what we are reading. Make no mistake, Moses wasn’t just some man writing down his own ideas about the Creator and the origins of this universe. The Bible makes clear that Moses wrote as he was carried along by the Holy Spirit. This is God’s Word. And today we examine what it reveals about God himself.
It might be somewhat striking how God chooses to reveal himself at the beginning of the Bible. He doesn’t start off by explaining why there must be a God. Instead he takes it for granted that we know there must be a God. That’s because everyone can see the work of his hands. The Scriptures declare, “the fool says in his heart there is no god.” (Psalm 19) God has revealed himself through his creation as a powerful, wise, and divine being. All people know that by nature. The knowledge of God goes out into all the world as every human being sees his powerful and wise hand in all of creation. The big question on our minds shouldn’t be, “How can we know God exists?” It should be, “What is our God like?” Genesis answers that question right away.
You might also note that Moses doesn’t try to reveal everything about God right from the start. Genesis chapter one doesn’t begin with an initial list of God’s qualities. We don’t have any explanation of his divine characteristics or his attributes. He simply is called God. Moses only reveals that God was there at the beginning of time. But as we go through the account of the creation, we see God showing his nature and his character through his works.
It should be clear that our God is a God of order. He plans and acts according to his good purposes. Did you catch the sense of order as we read through Genesis chapter one earlier this morning? Genesis is not, as some claim, an apparent disorderly accumulation of myths about how the world began. The record in Genesis is an orderly arrangement that reveals a God who makes plans and carries out his plans just as he designs. This world is not just some haphazard experiment by a divine being. It is laid out just as God intended from the very start. God first created matter, darkness, and light. On a corresponding fourth day he set the stars and planets and everything with them in the universe that regulates the dark and light. Then on the second day he formed the sky and sea. On a corresponding day, the fifth, his filled them with life. Finally, on the third day he created dry land and plant life. On the corresponding sixth day he filled the land with living beings. Two groups of three days form the creation account. What was once formless, empty, and dark and covered with water was shaped, filled with light and life. The darkness regulated with light, the water with land.
God carried out his plan and calls it all very good. Life and the universe were in perfect harmony. God then created the first human beings. (We’ll look at that in more detail next week). God set in motion his blessing so that life would continue and flourish. And it has to this very day. In six orderly days he completed all his work of creation. And should anyone ever doubt it was finished after six ordinary days it is emphasized that he ceased his work of creating by the seventh day.
Mankind is still trying to discover all the wonders of God’s creation. There are many things that we still don’t fully understand. The power and wisdom of God to set all of this together is beyond our understanding. Even the most intelligent theoretical physicists still struggle to grasp the wisdom of God. His ways and his thoughts are far above our ways and our thoughts. God is wise and powerful. The creation account makes that clear.
The creation account reveals more about God than power and wisdom that is beyond our understanding. In Genesis we begin to see something which no human mind would have ever guessed. Hidden in the background of the creation account is a teaching about God himself that is beyond our understanding. God is one. But there are three persons.
Did you catch it as we read through the start of the Scriptures? God doesn’t reveal everything about himself here, but he does begin to make it clear that he is not like any God the human mind has ever conceived. Within the first three verses of the Bible we can find what has been called the Trinity. Yes, the word trinity isn’t found anywhere on the pages of Scripture. But what the term is used to describe is found from the very first to the last pages of the Bible. There is only one God, but there are three persons. Each person is distinct. There are not just three ways that one God reveals himself. The one God reveals himself with three different persons. And in each of the first three verses of the Bible you see one of each of those persons. “In the beginning God created…” God the Father is credited as our Creator. He gave all creation life and breath and we aptly call him our Father, though we do not deserve it. “The Spirit of God was hovering over the waters…” The Holy Spirit is also God. He is mentioned throughout Scripture as a distinct person yet is with the Father as one God. “God said let there be light…” God spoke. Along with the Father and the Spirit is the Son of God. The Scriptures make clear that through him all things were made. He is a distinct person different from the Father and the Spirit, but he is also along with them One God. John begins his letter echoing the words of Genesis “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 everything was made.” (John 1)
All three persons in the Trinity are equally God. They are all honored as God and have the attributes of God. All three do what only God can do. The Son, along with the Father and the Spirit are one God. Each one is mentioned throughout the pages of Scripture as a distinct separate person. Yet they all do what only God can do. The Father was active in creation. The Spirit was active in creation. The Son was active in creation. All three persons are equally eternal and were there at the very beginning from eternity. All three persons are worshipped and honored as God.
“How can this be?” many have asked. The idea that God would be triune in nature is so hard for the human mind to grasp that it can only reject it. But should that surprise us? The Trinity isn’t the only teaching in Genesis chapter 1 that is foundational to the faith but is rejected by the sinful mind. How many have looked at the first chapter of the Bible and rejected the idea that God created everything we now see in just six days and did it only a few thousand years ago? Many foolishly discredit the creator and think they need to give him a few million more years to get the job done. They claim that for every time it says, “Morning and evening” or an ordinal number appears with the ordinary word for “day” it must mean something else. They reason that because we can see micro evolution, namely great variance within kinds, that macroevolution, changes beyond kinds must have occurred. God’s revealed power and wisdom in creation is dismissed. Others look at this creation account and charge God’s evaluation of “very good” and say that creation needed more time to perfect itself. They argue that God did not create a perfect and orderly world, but did his best. They deny the power and wisdom of God to create something wonderful and perfect without sin. Should it surprise us that they also deny that God mysteriously reveals himself as three-in-one?
God’s nature and his being isn’t irrational. It is super-rational. It is beyond the scope of our understanding. The problem isn’t that God failed to reveal himself clearly to us. The problem is that we fail to grasp his revelation and try to confine him to our own ideas. Recall how the Scriptures say, “The fool says there is no God.” It is also a fool who thinks that they can comprehend God. When we try to reason out God and his working, we need to repent along with Job who God had to rebuke by asking, “Where were you mere man when I laid the earth’s foundations? Surely you know! (sarcasm from God) for you were already born! Tell me if you know all these things!” (Job 38) So it is with the teaching of the Trinity. We aren’t asked to understand it or make it fit human reason. We are asked to accept and trust what he has made known.
How do we overcome our limited understanding of God? God does that as he uses the power of his Word. And in his Word, we find the most important truth about our Triune God. Genesis begins by showing us how God wills to act in love on our behalf. God made all things for us. God blessed the world for us. God also acts for us to restore us.
Some struggle with the creation account because they see a God who failed to make all things perfect. Humankind ruined the perfection that God had given us. Look at the world today. It feels anything but very good. But God did not fail. We did. When we, by our own will chose to ruin the goodness of creation everything fell into ruin. The perfect creation fell under a curse. Our bodies and minds fell into corruption. Our hearts and minds fell into darkness.
Yet, far beyond all human understanding the Trinity took action for the benefit of us all. Not only did he create this world, but when mankind ruined it, he took action to restore it. The Father gave up his Son to rescue this fallen world. The Son, the Word of God, acted once more on behalf of his creation. He came in human flesh to deal with the curse of sin.
Within the Trinity you have from eternity what God is. God is love. The Father, Son, and Spirit in perfect love. But that limitless love of God reached down to his Creation and included us in the eternal sphere of his love. In love the Son willingly took our place and took the curse of sin in our place. Love caused the Father and the Son to send the Spirit into our hearts to call us to repentance and faith.
This restoration becomes ours not by our working. It becomes ours through the power of the Word of God. Notice that God carries out all of creation by his powerful Word. God speaks and “it was so.” God directs and arranges his creation in order “…and it was so.” The same God who said, “let light shine out of the darkness” made his light shine in our hearts. (2 Cor 4) By that same powerful Word, the Holy Spirit has created new life in our hearts. And that light shows us the glory of our Triune God.
We could never fully comprehend such an amazing God with such amazing love for us! God so loved the world. We see that love in the very beginning. He created it all for us. And he went into action for our benefit in ways we can never fully comprehend by saving us. The Triune God is wise, powerful, and his three-in-one nature is beyond all human wisdom. And this Triune God graciously has made us the center of all his plans and his working. With this truth the foundations of the Christian faith are laid down.