April 14, 2010

Reflecting on the Bible – Part 6 – Genesis 1 and Your Faith

Genesis 1 and Your Faith

  • Creation is the first and perhaps most difficult article of faith. The author of Hebrews writes, “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” (Heb 11:3). The first thing the Bible commends to us, and expects us to believe is that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. That by his word he created the visible world, not forming it out of preexistent matter, but simply calling it into existence. If we actually believe this, should anything else be in doubt? Augustine takes up this line of though as he argues that it is absurd to deny that God works visible miracles in the world, while holding that he is the creator of the world:

    For we cannot listen to those who maintain that the invisible God works no visible miracles; for even they believe that He made the world, which surely they will not deny to be visible. Whatever marvel happens in this world, it is certainly less marvelous than this whole world itself,—I mean the sky and earth, and all that is in them,—and these God certainly made. But, as the Creator Himself is hidden and incomprehensible to man, so also is the manner of creation. Although, therefore, the standing miracle of this visible world is little thought of, because always before us, yet, when we arouse ourselves to contemplate it, it is a greater miracle than the rarest and most unheard-of marvels. For man himself is a greater miracle than any miracle done through his instrumentality. Therefore God, who made the visible heaven and earth, does not disdain to work visible miracles in heaven or earth, that He may thereby awaken the soul which is immersed in things visible to worship Himself, the Invisible." (City of God, Book X, Chapter 12)
  • Belief in God’s wisdom, as manifest in creation, calls us to trust him. When we don’t understand what God is doing, or why he has done something a certain way, we are called to “stop and consider the wondrous works of God” (Job 37:14). Remember the Person who has done them, the One whom we can know and love. Seek him and trust him. In the darkest hour, commit your soul to the faithful Creator (1 Peter 4:19). This is the way of our Lord Jesus, who in the darkest of hour of all, under the weight of the sin of the world and under the righteous indignation of his loving Father, c omitted his soul to God (Luke 23:46). This is also the way of those who follow in his footsteps, as Stephen did (Acts 7:59). Those for whom the LORD is shepherd, can rest in the fact that he is with them and that, however dark the valley, he knows the path and is leading the way (Psalm 23:4).
  • As Christ is heir of all that is God’s, those who are united to Christ by faith are heirs of all things with him. As we saw in Part 3, Jesus Christ is heir of all that is God’s. Even more amazing is the testimony that those who trust in the name of Christ have been born again into God’s family (John 1:12-13; 1 John 5:1) by the gospel, the “living and abiding word of God...the good news that was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:23-25). This new birth is a new creation, in many ways parallel to the first creation, with God commanding light to shine in the darkness of our hearts that we might see and rejoice in the glory of God in Christ (2 Cor 4:4-6). The promise as children of God is that we have become co-heirs with Christ in glory. The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.(Rom. 8:16-17; See also Gal. 4:6-7; 1 Pet 1:3-5).

April 2, 2010

Reflecting on the Bible – Part 5 – Genesis 1 and You

Genesis 1 and You

So far, we’ve learned quite a bit about God from the Bible’s reflection on Genesis 1. Can we learn anything about ourselves from this passage?

  • God created us in his own image. In the flow of the narrative in Genesis 1, the creation of mankind is the crowning achievement, the climax to which the rest of the story has been building to this point. It’s almost as if all of the preceding creative activity took place to prepare the environment for human beings. The repetitiveness of Gen 1:26-27 underscores the significance the author places on being created in the “image of God.” The uniqueness of humanity when compared with the other aspects of creation is firmly established in the first chapter of the Bible. Any notion that we are just like the other animals, only a bit more evolved, is incompatible with the biblical view of mankind. There is a fundamental qualitative difference.
  • God’s image in us is the foundation of respect for other humans. In Genesis 9:6, God declares that those who commit murder shall receive the death penalty, and his reason for this is that man is created in God’s image. From the beginning there is a requirement that human life be respected. But this respect goes beyond simply respecting life, but covers the respect of the whole person. James says that we should not even curse others, since they are made in the image of God (James 3:8-10). That’s as far as a Christian needs to go to determine how they should treat others. Without respect for age, ethnicity, social status, or capabilities (physical or intellectual), all who fall under the category of human are image-bearers and therefore should be treated with respect and dignity.
  • God appointed humanity as his representatives over creation, giving them dignity and solemn responsibility. God said, “Let them have dominion” over the rest of creatures on the earth (Gen 1:26). His first directive to humanity was to “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground” (Gen 1:28). It’s worth noting that this first command is actually a blessing (“And God blessed them…”). The gift of children is a blessing from the LORD (Psa 127:3). Beyond that, he blessed them with the dignity of being his agents in ruling creation. We know that “the earth is the LORD’s,” but he has delegated authority to mankind, his viceroys. When the psalmist contemplates the awe-inspiring works of God, and the smallness of humanity, he is led to ask, “What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4). He cannot comprehend why God has given men such dignity as to be his kingly representatives over the created world (Psa. 8:5-8).
  • The fact of creation forms the foundation of Christian scientific inquiry. The command to fill the earth and subdue it, and the fact that we were created to worship our Creator, form the foundations of Christian engagement in science. In one respect, science is needed to understand how creation works, so that we may subdue, cultivate, and care for creation. At the same time, the fact that we understand the operation of nature to be the providential work of our majestic Creator leads us to an act of worship in which we are awed by the wonder of creation, while also seeking to discover the ways in which God works, much as a child desires to learn how his father does his work.
  • God created us good, but we have fallen into corruption through sin and rebellion. Understanding the truth of human sin is fundamental to gaining a clear view of the world in which we live. Without it, you’re bound to come up with the wrong diagnosis of the problem and will be unable to recognize the correct solution. The preacher declares that “God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes” (Eccl 7:29). Made in the very image of their Creator and crowned with dignity and honor, humanity chose to worship other creatures (including itself) rather than give praise and honor to the Creator (Rom 1:21-23). From Genesis 3 to Revelation 20, we see the effects of sin on every page. Though the image was not completely lost, it was marred and corrupted, such that the sin which plagues us is universal. One need look no farther than their own to see that corruption, and a simple perusal of the newspaper headlines will provide sufficient confirmation of the Christian doctrine of original sin. We were all “by nature children of wrath” (Eph 2:3).
  • Jesus Christ is the perfect image of God, and in him the marred image is being restored. He is the perfect image of God (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15), or as the author of Hebrews describes, “the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3). He is fully and truly man, yet without sin (Heb 4:15). If we want to know what humanity ought to look like, we should look to Jesus. He is also fully and truly God, sent by the Father to redeem out of sinful humanity a people for himself that would have the image of God restored, so that we will be his people and he will be our God. When we are born again we are given new hearts, a new self, which is “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:24; also Col 3:10). The purpose of God’s plan of salvation from the very beginning, and the thing for which we seek, is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29). Genuine humanity, as it was created to be and as we find it in Jesus, is the goal of the Christian life.