“In the Beginning – lessons from Genesis 1”
Genesis 1:1-5, 24-27
A 10-year old girl asked her father, “Where do humans come from?” Her father replied, “God made Adam & Eve & they had children & then grandchildren, & so on.” Two days later the girl asked her mother the same question, “Where do humans come from?” Her mother answered, “Many years ago there were monkeys from which humans evolved.” The little girl was now confused, so she went back to her father & said, “Dad how is it possible – you told me humans were created by God, & Mom said we evolved from monkeys?” Her father replied, “Well, dear, it is very simple. I told you about my side of the family & your mother told you about her side of the family.”
Actually, this joke may sound silly, but the question the little girl asked is a very important question. It is a question that people have asked all through human history – “Where do we come from?” Some people choose not to believe in God or in a Creator & they comfort themselves by believing instead that we are all the result of the blind forces of evolution. Actually for them the theory of evolution becomes like a god. If they want an explanation for anything – they just say it is the result of the forces of evolution.
Famous Oxford Professor C.S. Lewis, who was an atheist before he became a Christian, came to regard evolution as not just a theory but a “myth”. For Lewis it was impossible to believe that such a complex universe came about by aimless, blind chance & that “against the hostility of nature & without purposeful direction or design” life somehow moves “... from the amoeba up to the reptile, up to the mammal.” Finally, by another “millionth, millionth chance” man appears. Lewis came to regard evolution as being illogical with no scientific basis. Lewis wonders how we can trust what our minds tell us if our minds are the product of an irrational, purposeless, blind process.
There are many other important questions, similar to the one we have just been asking. Not only do people ask where we come from – they also ask “What is the purpose or meaning of life?” “Is there a God, & if He exists, what is He like?”
The amazing thing is, these questions & many more are answered in the Bible. In fact in the first few chapters of the Bible we find answers for these & other vital questions.
So today I have two headings. First of all, let us consider:
1. The Existence & the Nature of God (Genesis 1:1-5)
The Bible begins with these words, “In the beginning God created the heavens & the earth.” The Bible never tries to prove the existence of God. It simply tells us that He exists. This does not mean of course that the Bible never presents any evidence for the existence of God. In fact the Bible gives plenty of evidence. However, the Bible begins with a simple statement – “In the beginning God.” The worldview of the Bible begins with God.
The Bible also tells us that God created all things. Genesis 1:1 says, “In the beginning God created the heavens & the earth.” As scientist Professor John Lennox of Oxford University, who is a committed Christian, points out, “This is not only a truth claim about God; it is a truth claim about the physical universe.” The phrase “the heavens & the earth” is a simple way of referring to everything that exists. God made it all. What exists came out of nothing.
Hebrews 11:3 says, “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.” What we see, what is visible – in other words, the material universe – was made out of nothing. It was not made out of something that already existed.
What all this means is that God is the ultimate reality, not the material universe. The material universe cannot explain itself, as secular atheists try to claim. For example, Professor Stephen Hawking of Cambridge University has said: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can & will create itself from nothing.” What we can ask Professor Hawking is: “Where do these laws come from? Who designed & implemented the laws of physics (gravity, etc,)? And who made the material upon which gravity acts?” For example, who made the apple that falls down from the tree?
Another atheist, Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion argues that if God created everything, we would have to ask who created God. But as Professor Lennox points out, “…the very asking of this question reveals that Dawkins has in mind a created God: ‘Who created God?’ Created gods certainly are a delusion.” If a god has to be made in order to exist, then it is not God. It is simply an idol. The fact is the God of the Bible was not created. He created time & space. He is not confined inside of time or space. He is eternal.
The God of the Bible is also distinct & separate from His creation. He is not like the gods of Hinduism, for example, which are part of the universe. Such a view is called pantheism. Pantheism sees God in everything. It believes nothing exists outside of God.
The Bible, as I said, teaches that God is separate from & outside of His creation, not part of it. However, this does not mean that He is a remote God who made everything & then withdrew from the scene, letting what He made continue without Him. The Bible clearly teaches that God continues to uphold the universe & to watch over His creation. And God intervenes in human history. This is the wonderful message of the Bible. God is not far away, unknowable & immovable – like the god of Islam, Allah. The God of the Bible loves us & wants to be in relationship with us. That is why Jesus came – “The Word became flesh [became a human being] & lived among us, full of grace & truth.” (John 1:14) Yes, God can be known. He is not an abstract force. He communicates. He loves.
When we come to Genesis 1:2-4 we learn something more about God. We read, “Now the earth was formless & empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, & the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. 3 And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ & there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, & He separated the light from the darkness.” The Spirit of God was “hovering over the waters.” The Spirit is involved in creation.
In Genesis 1 we also see that God speaks – “And God said, ‘Let there be light.’” This phrase “And God said” comes at least 9 times in Genesis 1. It comes at each of the different stages in the creation process. This reminds us of what John writes in the beginning of his Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, & the Word was with God, & the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him.” (John 1:1-3a) So Jesus, the Word, was involved in creation. In Colossians 1:15-17 Paul writes of Jesus being “…the image of the invisible God …For by Him all things were created, in heaven & on earth, visible & invisible …all things were created through Him & for Him.” So Jesus, the Word, was involved in creation.
The Bible teaches us that God is a tri-unity, a fellowship of Father, Son & Holy Spirit. This tri-unity, or to use the Latin word Trinity, is also hinted at in Genesis 1:26 where we read, “Then God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.” God the Father was involved in creation. So was the Spirit, & so was Jesus the Son.
We have been thinking about the existence & the nature of God. Now under one more heading, let us think about:
2. The Purpose & the Nature of Mankind
It is clear from the account of creation in Genesis 1 that God did not make everything at once. There is a sequence marked by the days of creation. The account starts with the words, “In the beginning God created the heavens & the earth.” We are told that “…the earth was formless & empty.” Then God starts to speak. As we saw earlier, each time this phrase “God said” comes it introduces a further step in the process of creation whereby God shapes & fills the earth with plants & then living creatures. The final step is when God creates human beings. Human beings are the pinnacle of God’s creative work. It is only human beings that are said to be formed in God’s image. Clearly human beings are far superior to animals. We are unique & special in God’s creation. We are different to animals. Some of the characteristics that make us so special include: 1. Self-awareness & self-worth; 2. Concerns about death & the after-life; 3. Spiritual awareness & the need to worship; 4. Awareness of right & wrong – conscience; & 5. An ability to think, reason & be creative.
These traits or qualities are found in human beings, but not in animals. Do you think our neighbour’s cat would ever feel guilty about doing its stuff in our garden? Or would it ever ask itself, ‘I wonder where I will go when I die?’ No, only humans think about such things because God has made us special, with moral & spiritual awareness. Every human being has value in God’s sight. And each one of us individually is also unique – with a unique finger print & a unique DNA. We are special & so is Planet Earth.
Genesis not only informs us about the fact the universe was created but it tells us why. The earth was created with the ultimate purpose of being home for human beings. In outlining the basic order of creation, Genesis 1 shows how God was making the earth suitable for human habitation. As Professor Lennox says, “Planet Earth has to be given a certain form – light separated from darkness, dry land from sea, visible lights in the sky, plant life to eat – in order for human life to thrive & function as God intended.” Modern-day science shows how incredibly fine-tuned the universe is. It is “just right” for human habitation.
Nobel Prize-winner for Physics, Arno Penzias says, “Astronomy leads us to a unique event, a universe which was created out of nothing, one with the very delicate balance needed to provide exactly the right conditions required to permit life, & one which has an underlying (one might say ‘supernatural’) plan.” Talking of the incredible fine-tuning in the universe – it is totally impossible for this to be the result of the blind forces of nature, or evolution. If you want to read more about this I recommend John Lennox’s book “God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?” Do not to be afraid of science. Truth is truth. The facts of science are not in conflict with the truth of Scripture. Of course the theories of science & some of our interpretations of Scripture may clash, but, as many Christian scientists affirm, science & biblical faith are friends, not enemies.
As we think about the nature of mankind, there is a very important truth in v.26. It says, “God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness.’” And vrs 27 & 28 continue, “So God created mankind in His own image, in the image of God He created them; male & female He created them. God blessed them & said to them, ‘Be fruitful & increase in number; fill the earth & subdue it.’”
God made us male & female. Men & women are different but we are complementary. One is not better than the other. We are equal in importance & worth, but we are different. This is where marriage comes from – it comes from the very beginning of human history when God made the first man Adam & the first woman, Eve. You can read all about this in Genesis 2. God knew it was not good for man to be alone so He made woman. Marriage is: one man & one woman in a complementary, exclusive & life-long relationship. The Bible tells us this, but so do biology, culture & psychology. Biologically every child has a father & a mother, & all reliable research points to the fact psychologically & sociologically children do best when living in a stable home with both their parents. Of course there are various reasons why some marriages & some families do not enjoy God’s ideal. God knows about this & He cares. And not every man is able to be a father nor is every woman able to bear children. However this does not make them any less a man or a woman.
Jesus Himself affirms the importance of gender & of marriage when He says to the Pharisees, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning made them male & female, & said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father & his mother & hold fast to his wife, & the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matthew 19:4-6)
The Bible tells us that we are unique. We have incredible value. The galaxies are vast beyond measure compared with us. However, we know they exist, but they don’t know that we exist. You are more significant than a galaxy. Why? Because God made you in His image & not only that, He loves you & sent His Son to be your Saviour. Yes, God made you for a purpose & He made you special. He loves you & has a plan for your life. He wants to be in a relationship with you.
One other thing about mankind, that is explained in Genesis 3, is the fact we are fallen. We have been tainted by sin. Adam & Eve disobeyed God & sin & death came upon mankind as a result of this tragedy. Man’s close relationship with God was broken. But the wonderful message of the Bible is that God in love sent Jesus, the Word involved in creation, to earth as a man. He died on the Cross taking our sins & the punishment we deserved, opening the way for us to come back into relationship with God.
On a cold night, after a hot shower, our bathroom mirror gets misted over. Imagine if my wife Elizabeth came into the bathroom & saw on the mirror the shape of a heart with the letters P & L & E. Would she call me & say, “Peter, come & see this. A heart shape has evolved on the mirror & it has letters P, L & E. Isn’t evolution great!” No, of course not. Immediately she would know someone drew that heart shape & put in the letters in order to get across a message to her. The message was Peter loves Elizabeth.
Dear friends, when you look at the incredible beauty & intricacy of the universe, & when you think of how special you are, I hope you get the message God is trying to get across to you. So, as we close then let me ask you, “Do you know God? Have you discovered the wonderful truth that He loves you & wants to have a relationship with you? Have you met Jesus? Have you discovered His purpose for your life? Is He not just your Creator but also your Saviour?”
If you are able to say “yes” to these questions you will want others also to discover what you have discovered. This is why today we are having a special lunch to welcome those of you who are students & young adults. We want all of you, & everyone else of course, to know about our amazing Creator, to know that He loves you & wants you to respond to His love by making Jesus your Lord & Saviour.