The wider culture would have you think that man is nothing more than a glorified germ. Your grandfather was an amoeba that sprang from the primordial soup. Essentially we all are huge freaks of nature; the accidental by-products of random cosmic occurrences.
Of course, when you keep telling people that, there will be consequences. People will start living like they are meaningless and insignificant creatures.
But when we look into the Scripture, we find something different. We see something radically different.
This morning we are going to be involved in developing a right anthropology, a right view of man. And we are going to talk about how God created man. And there are 4 things I want you to notice about yourself from this passage. The first thing I want you to notice is that you were created, in the image of God.
I. In his image
In verse 26 it says, "Let us create man in our image, after our likeness." Then, as if to highlight the significance of it, the words are repeated in verse 27, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him."
I will admit that theologians have spilled a great deal of ink on this matter. There has been a great deal of discussion throughout the history of the church as to what this means. I want to say up front that there is one thing upon which virtually all of them agree. This demonstrates that you a creature of insurmountable value.
The imago dei expresses the inherent dignity of man.
We acknowledge that all creation has a certain amount of value. After all, whatever there is, has been created by God and created good. But here we find that man is designated as having the likeness of God himself. It tells us that man is of more worth. Man, in receiving this distinction, is marked out as having an inherent dignity and value to which nothing else in the creation can compare.
And it is this attribute of man that gives credence to the sixth commandment, “Thou shall not murder.” Life is precious and ought to be preserved because we are made in his image. To put it another way, “To attack man, be it with words or weapons, is to attack God himself.”
Think of a woman who gets mad at her boyfriend after he breaks up with her. She then goes through her house cutting him out of all the pictures that she has. What is she doing? As she violates his image, she is ultimately saying something about how she feels about him.
A similar thing can be said when it comes to God and us, as his image bearers. To assault man is to assault the God whose image man bears.
This is why we forbid doing needless harm to ourselves and to others. This is why we do not tolerate the unjust killing of men. This is why we oppose things like abortion and euthanasia. This is not the time to have a full discussion on such things. However, it ought to be noted that our culture would have us dispense with the unborn and the aged or ill without much of a thought. However, this ought not to be so. We do not give up on life simply because it is unwanted. Man is made in God’s image. Since this is so, his life is sacred. And his dignity ought not to be compromised in the least degree.
This much we are all agreed upon. Though we might differ on our understanding of the nature of the image of God, we do not compromise on this application
But what does it mean to be created in the image of God?
The first thing we can say is that it does NOT mean we physically look like God. When a child is born, we can sometimes say, “He looks a lot like his dad.” By that we mean that we can see something of the form of his dad, we can see something of his dad’s image, in the physical make up of the child.
That is not what we mean. The Bible tells us that God is a Spirit and does not have a body like us.
However, we can sometimes say that a child is “just like his father.” By that we mean that there are certain attributes and characteristics that they have in common. And this is how we are to understand what the Bible is saying here.
When we look at the New Testament it helps us a little. In the book of Colossians it says, “[you] have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” And a parallel passage is to be found in the book of Ephesians. It says, “Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness, and holiness.”
So the New Testament tells us that the image of God consists in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. That is to say, we are rational, moral, and spiritual creatures—just like God. We have a mind to think (knowledge), we have a conscience whereby we make choices between good and evil (righteousness), and we have a spiritual orientation whereby we relate to God (holiness).
That is the "bare bones" of what it means to be created in the image of God. As I said before, much ink has been spilt over what this means. Much more could be said. But that is the mainstay of what is encapsulated in this doctrine.
It is important that we deal with what is intimately connected to the idea of being made in the image of God. If you look at the passage, you will see that connected to the idea of being made in the image of God is the fact that we were created male and female.
II. Male and female
Read with me verse 27. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”
The thing that immediately stands out is that God has established a difference of gender. By his creative act he has distinguished men from women. As a result, we say that there are males and there are females. And because God has assigned each, there is no confusion between the two.
To many of you this may go without saying. However, this must be emphasized because there has been a virulent attack on the idea of gender in recent years. It is becoming more and more common in our society to think of one’s sexuality and sexual orientation as not being pre-determined or limited to one’s physical make-up. Instead of being knit into the fabric of the created order, many are relegating gender to the area of personal preference.
Some of you might have seen some of the news reports that have come out lately that reveal how far people are taking this. There have been a numerous reports of parents trying not to impose gender on their newborn child, despite the child’s physical make up. For instance, one story talks about the birth announcement one set of parents sent out. It included all the normal things one might find in a birth announcement, such as the height, weight, and name of the child. However, the birth announcement did not include the child’s gender. The parents are attempting to keep the child’s gender under wraps so that they might not influence him/her one way or the other. Despite the clear indications of the child’s physic, they want to allow the child the opportunity to choose his or her gender by himself (or herself, as the case may be).
This mentality is part and parcel with an evolutionary worldview. If everything is in flux and change is an essential aspect of the universe, then it follows that gender is not a fixed thing.
However, this kind of thing is incomprehensible from a Biblical standpoint. This Scripture here tells us that gender is not an accident. It is not “up for grabs.” These differences in gender are etched in the rock of God’s creative order. And therefore we are obligated to acknowledge and affirm them.
And it is necessary to do so because, as I mentioned earlier, of their intimate connection to the image of God.
We often talk about the battle of the sexes. When we talk male and female, we often pit them against each other. However, we should realize that the two sexes are not in opposition to one another. They are complimentary in the truest sense of the term because both are necessary for an accurate portrayal of God’s character.
I like the way Wayne Grudem puts it in his Systematic Theology, “We see aspects of God’s character reflected in each [the man and woman’s] lives. If we lived in a society consisting of only Christian men or a society consisting of only Christian women, we would not gain as full a picture of the character of God as when we see both godly men and godly women in their complimentary differences together reflecting the beauty of God’s character.”
So far from being grounded in own opinion or particular inclination, gender is grounded in the created order. And ultimately, the genders are grounded in God himself.
A Christian anthropology then begins with the fact that man is created in the image of God. Then it proceeds to affirm the validity of the genders. But, as you see here, these males and females were not supposed to stand alone. Our text tells us that these males and females were to procreate.
III. To multiply
You see in our passage that they were given the charge to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” (v.28) God’s plan—God’s will!—was that men and women are to have offspring. We are to create families. And these families are to produce clans. And these clans were to produce tribes. And these tribes were to continue to reproduce and increase in number.
And this is a teaching that we must really take to heart. For it is a teaching that is rarely spoken of, even in Christian circles. It is important that we understand that God’s design is that we should have children and build families.
Now, we recognize that there are some who, for some reason or other, cannot have children (or cannot be as fruitful as others). The providence of God can prevent people from bearing a child or multiple children.
But all too common in our day is that people do not want children. They may very well want a large home, but they do not want a large family. In other words, they are more infatuated personal pleasure and they are out to accumulate as much stuff as they can. Sure they want a big home, but their aim is to fill it with a bunch of stuff, not children.
You know, I love the fact that there are so many mini-vans and conversion vans in our parking lot. But not many people have that kind of mentality. Not a lot of people will say, “My dream car is a 15 passenger bus.” They are thinking Lexus. They want the Maserati.
It is interesting where we are today. Instead of seeking to increase the size of one’s family, the tendency today is typically towards limiting it. And we are replacing children with materialism. Think about it this way: In 1900 the average family had 6-7 children. Yet the average house was just under 1,000 square feet. Today, the average house is double that size, but the number of children is less than half of what it was in 1900.
There is certainly nothing wrong with having a big house. However, we need to realize that there has been a worldview shift in our country. And I want us to be aware of it. God’s original intent was that we should have children! God’s design was that we multiply and fill the earth.
And part of the reason for doing that is because God has also charged us with dominion.
IV. With dominion
You see this idea repeated in our text. It is first mentioned in verse 26. It says, “Let him have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” That’s pretty all encompassing. There’s not one item in creation over which we do not have dominion.
The second mention of it is found in verse 28. And you will note that it is further explained. Look at what it says. “And God blessed them. And God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth."
You see, the word dominion is complimented now with the word “subdue.”
Now, the word dominion means “to rule” or “to subjugate.” And the word subdue has the idea of “to force.” So, you get the idea you are to overpower the earth and tame it. You almost get the feeling that all the creation is still a little rough. It almost sounds a bit wild and need taming.
You moms should know what this means. You are the queen of the home. You rule over it. But sometimes your kids get a little rowdy. So you have to subjugate them and subdue them. You must force them to sit down and do their lessons. Sometimes your dominion of your house needs to be a little more proactive, so to speak.
That is the idea that is being communicated here. We are to subdue the earth. We are, in a sense, to do what God has been doing in his work of creation.
Remember again, God started with a heavens and earth that was formless and void. Then he started to demonstrate His dominion by forming it and fashioning it the way it was supposed to be. You might say that he subdued it by his word. He spoke and the waters were forced apart. The sea was subjugated in that it was given a boundary. It was pushed back and not permitted to come any further.
Now, in these verses, we see that God puts that same sort of responsibility in our hands.
This is what is often referred to as the “cultural mandate.” By that we mean that God calls us to create culture. We are to take the resources that God has given us in his creation and build culture with them. So the sand on the beach is for us to subdue. Someone can subjugate it so that it becomes a microchip to power a super computer. Another person can take a tree and subdue it. He can apply force it and forge it into a chair. God wants that. He wants us to stop up rivers with damns and force it through channels so that it produces energy. This is the charge that God has given us.
It is because of this doctrine that western culture is what it is today. This is what has made it surge beyond all other cultures in technological advances and prosperity. The dominion mandate spoken of here is what causes economies to thrive and cultures to advance.
And this doctrine important to remember because it reminds us that we should not feel guilty for engaging in dominion oriented occupations. Unfortunately there is a tendency in evangelicalism to exalt missions and ministry above every other kind of work. We tend to think that preaching the gospel is more important than digging ditches or interior design. That is not the case though.
We do believe that the great commission is important. And it is very important that the ministry of the word have its place. But, as you see here (from the very first commission!), being behind a pulpit is no more holy and no more important than turning a wrench for a living. Each has his place in God’s economy, and each has his role in fulfilling God’s plan for the world.
With all that is said here regarding man, you can most certainly tell that he is not an afterthought of creation. We can deduce nothing more than that God has created man to be the crown of creation.
Having looked at what we have, and seen the splendor with which we have been endowed, it ought to lead us now to worship our King with greater vigor.
 A hearty thanks to Greg Johnson and his article on the cultural mandate:
Calvin also said that he considered looseness with words no less a defect than loosness of the bowels! Now that’s lucid brevity!
When we turn our attention to the words before us this morning, we might think that the Lord took Calvin’s advice to heart. It is interesting to note that we are half way through the whole of the creation account. In comparison to other ancient accounts of the beginnings, the one that is before us is rather short. Typically, among the pagan religions, you find large tomes dedicated to elaborate stories of how the world came to be.
In contrast, the Christian account is rather short. It is a total of 70-80 verses. But despite its brevity, there is a great deal to be found in it. The text is rich with teaching; a veritable gold mine ready to be excavated.
And this morning, we are going to attempt to unearth just a few of the truths that may be found within the creation account. As you read this passage, you can’t help but notice that a few things stand out. There are a few lessons that God really stresses.
I. Creation’s God
There is one thing that would have really stood out to the Israelites when they heard these words. It probably doesn’t stick out as clearly to us, but it would have been blazingly clear to them due to their context. To them this passage would have been a definitive declaration that their God was the supreme God.
Each of these five days is an attack on the polytheism of Egypt. On day one the god of light and darkness is dismissed. On day two, the gods of sky and sea. On day three, the earth gods and gods of vegetation. On day four, the sun, moon, and star gods. Days five and six dispense with the ideas of divinity within the animal kingdom.
You might say that the creation account targets the gods of Egypt and picks them off one by one.
We used to play a little game when I was young. It was called King of the Hill. You started at the bottom of the hill and everyone raced to the top. Once you got there, a battle ensued. Your goal was to throw everyone else down off the hill so that you were the only one left at the peak of the little summit. In doing so, you were the king of the hill.
That’s really what we have going on here in these verses before us. God is showing himself to be King of the hill. None of the other god’s can come close to competing with him. He throws them down one by one so that all may see that he alone is supreme.
Of course, this emphasizes what we said in weeks past; that we owe all allegiance to God. But it also reminds us of our chief expression of allegiance we owe to him; that of our praise.
As we read this passage, we, like the Israelites, ought to be moved to adore our God as that Supreme creator. It should cause us to join the saints in singing,
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.
Besides telling us something about the God of creation, the passage also says something about the length of creation.
II. Creation’s length
Now when it comes to how long it took to create the world there is a great deal of controversy. There are people who hold to a young earth and those who would be considered old earth people. That is to say, there are some who would say that the earth is less than 10,000 years old, and then there are those who would like to say that the earth is a couple billion years old.
I personally am a young earth guy, and this is why: The passage seems to indicate that the Lord created everything in six 24 hour days. As we read, you heard the refrain, “it was evening and it was morning, the first day.” “It was evening and it was morning, the second day.” Etc.
I recognize that there was no sun or moon for the first three days, but the language that is used here seems to indicate a natural phenomena to which we are accustomed. And the passage gives us no indication that we should read it any way other than a normal day. Certainly the Israelites would have naturally taken it this way when they heard it. They would not have understood it to be long periods of time.
Now, I understand that there have been many solid Christians in the history of the church that have held to an old earth position. I was amazed this week during my study to find such men as BB Warfield, Charles Hodge, and Francis Schaefer to name just a few. And, there may be a few even in our midst who might hold to an old earth position.
Knowing that there can be disagreement on the issue among the brethren requires us to have a bit of charity to one another—just as we do when it comes to our views of the end times. We have a variety of views represented here when it comes to the end times, and we still are able to maintain good fellowship with one another.
At the same time, I believe it is important to express my concern about an old earth position. I believe my old earth brethren should be warned about their method of interpretation. I would suggest to you that those who hold to an old earth position violate the text in order to justify their position.
The process would go like this: An old earth person would say, “Modern science tells us that the earth is really old. We know that in other passages of Scripture the Hebrew word for “day” can sometimes mean “a long period of time,” rather than a 24 hour day. And the Bible does say that a thousand years is like a day to God. They then bring all that information back here and read the Genesis account in light of all that.
I would suggest to you that this is not the appropriate way of interpreting Scripture. The chief way we interpret Scripture is by letting the context decide the meaning of a word. Before we go outside the text, we must first consider if there is anything in the immediate context that would frame the way we should understand the words and phrases. And when it comes to the word day, it is qualified by the phrase, “morning and evening.” Meaning is already assigned to the word. So giving it another meaning would be a violation of the rules of interpretation.
Moreover, we should be very careful about having our interpretation of Scripture framed by what contemporary science tells us. We believe that the Scripture is to be the final authority for life and faith, not the speculated theories of modern scientists. We must remember that the evolutionary processes and the time tables given by modern science are merely speculations. There is no absolute proof that their guesses are correct. And those who advocate such things most certainly have their own religious bias that we must factor in.
Ultimately, I believe that the reliability of Scripture is what is at stake. The question must be asked, “Can God’s word here be trusted?” If the text does not mean what it says, then we have opened the door to throw doubt on the rest of Scripture as well. If we can question the plain teaching of what is said regarding creation, then we can question other parts of Scripture too, such as the virgin birth or the resurrection of Christ.
Now you see why I want to argue for a young earth position. I think that the text is clear, and that there are some grave dangers inherent in an old earth position.
I recognize that what I have said here may not cover everyone’s curiosity or questions. It is by no means meant to be exhaustive. There is so much information out there, and I didn’t even begin to scratch the surface.
Yet I think it is enough to say that the natural, and more probable reading of the text is six literal days. And we should not be ashamed to follow the text of Scripture as it is presented regarding the length of days, despite what the world today says.
Another thing that stands out in our text is the order of creation.
III. Creation’s order
Last week we looked at verse 2. And we saw there that God created the heavens and the earth, but it was formless and void. It is interesting that the passage before us shows us the forming and filling of the earth.
In the first three days he forms the different realms of the world. On the first day God gives us light. Then, on the second day, he forms something of an atmosphere by separating the watery spaces. The third day he forms land.
In the next three days he fills those realms. In the realm of light and darkness he puts the sun, moon and stars. Then on the fifth day he fills the sky with birds and the water beneath is filled with all kinds of sea creatures. Finally, on the sixth day, the land is filled with its little creatures.
So there is the order of forming and filling. But there is also the order that exists among the things that were created. As we read the text we find that each thing that was created was formed “according to its kind.” There is a designation of kingdom and species, so to speak.
Even today we still see the handiwork of God. We cannot avoid how orderly the creation is. And maybe, we are blessed to see it in greater detail. Through the advances we have in science we understand how exactly precise the creation has to be ordered.
It is said that the earth is tilted at an angle of 23 degrees. This is what gives us the seasons. And scholars say that if it were not at this exact angle, life on earth would be impossible. You know from your schooling that the tides are controlled by the moon. I’ve heard that the tides would daily deluge whole continents if it were any closer to the earth.
All this order reflects something of the nature of God himself. We read elsewhere in the Bible that He is not a god of chaos, but of order.
But most of all, the ordering of Creation is for our benefit. The forming and filling of the earth is for our enjoyment. I mentioned last week that the judgment of God is often shown to be the removal the form and fullness of the world. He strips the wicked of these graces. The opposite could be said here today. All this order is for our benefit. The beauty and stateliness of it is established so that we can delight ourselves in the works of God.
You know, my wife says that 90% of her job as wife is to clean up after me. I have to admit, it is true. I’m not the best when it comes to keeping things tidy. I can’t tell you how many times a day I lose my keys. My wife is to be commended for keeping our place in order. And I appreciate that, because her work in keeping things orderly allows me to enjoy it more.
That is something of the glory of God’s creation, and the blessing he has given us in it.
And ultimately, it points us to the orderly state of the final redemptive state. This is part of the reason why I believe Ezekiel’s vision of the temple is a vision of the end times. Ezekiel has a vision of a perfectly ordered temple. It is a perfect square and all the rooms are perfectly ordered within it. And I believe it emphasizes the point that there will be no deviations or abnormalities due to sin in the future world.
Whatever you may think of that, this is for certain: All creation will be restored to its rightful state on the last day. It will not be lacking in order. That, as we saw last time, is only an attribute of hell. Heaven is a place of perfection. And the future kingdom will be a place that is perfectly ordered. And we will have opportunity to enjoy all the glory of it forever.
As we look at our text we not only see something of Creation’s God, creation’s length, and creation’s order. We also should note that we see how things came into being. This is what I call creation’s instrumentality.
IV. Creation’s instrumentality
You cannot escape the fact that all of this happened at the command of God. God said, “Let there be…” and there was. God spoke it into being. It all happened by the power of his word. Creation is a testimony to the inherent authority of God’s word.
Many people will say that creation began with a big bang. But there is something much more explosive that is to be credited with the creation. The Word of God is powerful, and creation reveals its glorious nature.
I want to emphasize this because it should be something that orients us towards the word that has been given to us. God might not speak audibly to us, like he does here. But he does speak. And his word should have the same authority with us. We should give heed to it, just as the creation gives heed to it.
The voice that echoed through the universe is the same voice that echoes through the pages of Scripture. It is the same one that comes through this sounds system every week. And when God speaks, we should listen with the reverence it commands.
The next thing I want you to notice is the benediction that is repeated throughout the passage.
V. Creation’s benediction
As each day comes to a close we hear, “And God saw that it was good.” God gives his stamp of approval to everything that he created. It is his little way of showing the worth of what he had made and how much he delighted in it.
This little phrase directs our attention to the care that we ought to have for the environment in which we find ourselves. There is a big to-do made about being conscientious about the environment. Being “green” is all the rave. I recognize that a lot of it is insanely misguided. However, there is at least a speck of truth in it.
We ought to do our best to respect the world in which we live, and we as Christians ought to be the best when it comes to such things. As Christians, we should be some of the greatest caretakers of the planet. Because of what is said here, and because of what we know about the nature of the planet, we should know that we have a responsibility towards the created world.
You do know that the rest of the world has no grounds for doing so. To them, it is just a random product of evolution. It is just bunch of stuff that can be treated with the same disregard they have for an unwanted pregnancy.
However, to us it is the very handiwork of God. This vast creation is the resplendent craft of God; a piece of art that bears the Creator’s name. Each leaf, each rock, as well as every other nook and cranny is good. And because it is such we should understand that it ought not to be profaned. To treat it with disregard or with a flippant attitude is a blasphemous thing.
I mention this because I know that die hard Republicans like to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction, just to snub the so called “environmental wack-o’s.” I hear people say that they just want to cut down a nice big old Redwood, just to defy the tree huggers.
That, my friends, is sacrilegious. And we should not even joke of such things. That God created this world, and that he created it good, ought to be a reminder to us that we must treat our surroundings with the utmost reverence.
There is one last thing that I want you to note about this passage. We should not leave here without saying something about Creation’s redeemer.
VI. Creation’s Redeemer
We do live this side of Genesis 3. We live in a world that is under the curse of sin. And this creation is subjected to pains because we are sinners. But the God of this creation, has also become the redeemer of the world.
I mentioned that the graces mentioned here are for us and that God takes them away from those he condemns. We should remember that Jesus underwent that curse on our behalf. You may remember that while Christ was on the cross a thick darkness came upon the land. Though it was mid afternoon, and supposed to be the brightest part of the day, the sun was hidden and it was pitch black.
There in those moments Jesus lost the very first grace of creation. The wrath of God descended upon him. And just as a criminal is stripped of his privileges when he is sentenced, Jesus was stripped of the blessing of light.
We must remember that this was for us and for our salvation. That darkness was the curse that was due to us for our sin. Yet Jesus took it upon himself.
The Scripture promises that those who come to him will never have to suffer such. Instead they will have the right to enjoy the new heavens and new earth; a place where the light forever shines and there is absolutely no darkness at all.
 Hughes, Genesis. Crossway books. p. 26
It is interesting that in our passage a similar thing is done. Last week we were able to gaze into the vast depths of the universe, as it were. We considered the fact that God made the heavens and the earth. Our minds were thrown to the outer regions of the universe, and we felt ourselves hurtling through space like the Voyager 1 spacecraft.
Yet, in the verse before us, we turn to focus our attention on our planet. But as we do so, we find it to be anything but a pale blue dot. Our passage presents us not with a spec that is seemingly lost in space. We are given what seems to be an extreme close up on the very heart and focal point of the universe.
At the same time, we do not see an inviting atmosphere of an inhabitable planet. We are made to gaze on the primordial state of our world. It is dark; fluid; a bit amorphous. It kind of has the feeling of something ominous, except for the fact that the lens of Scripture allows us to see something you could not see with the naked eye. It is the breath-taking presence of the Holy Spirit tenderly hovering over it.
The text before us is one that naturally invokes curiosity. Just like every opening line of any good book, you are hooked and you automatically want to read on. However, it is important that we pause here today and consider what it has to say. For this portion of sacred Scripture tells us much about the nature of God’s creation, providence, and redemption.
The first thing we need to do is consider the nature of God’s creation.
I. The nature of God’s creation
What I want you to understand is that verse 2 is describing the state of God’s original creation. You could say that God created the raw materials with which he was going to work.
It is sort of like a potter and his clay. Before a potter begins, he takes a slab of clay and throws it on his spinning wheel. At that point it is lacking the form and fullness of beauty that he will eventually give it.
That, I believe is the image here. This verse is simply describing the state of things before God gave it is full form and beauty.
I mention this because that is not the way a lot of people take the verse. In recent times many people have advanced what is called the “gap theory.” For those of you who do not know, the gap theory says that there is a gap of time that exists between verses 1 and 2. And they read verse 2 slightly different from what I read to you. They would read it like this, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth became formless and void.”
That makes it sound a bit different, doesn’t it? It makes it sound like there was some sort of cataclysmic event that disrupted the creation. It suggests that something caused the creation to go from a state of brilliant glory to this chaotic state. And people who hold to the gap theory place the fall of Satan here. That, they say, is what caused this massive disruption in the creation. Satan led a rebellion against God and he took with him a legion of angels. But God threw him down. And as He did so, the Lord shook the world like a child would shake one of those glass ant farms.
And they would also argue that this would fit well with the findings of contemporary science. Modern science says that the fossil record would support a much older earth. And with the gap theory, you have a way of aligning the bible and modern science.
Now, it should be noted that this verse may permit such a translation. A case can be made so as to support this. And it should be noted that many evangelicals, some of whom I deeply respect, have argued such
However, I would suggest to you that the gap theory is untenable for a couple of reasons. Perhaps the most significant refutation of the position is that this view proposes that there are two different creation stories. There is the creation of Genesis 1:1. Then there is what would amount to be a re-creation in verses 3-25. Do you see what I mean? The gap theory says that God created everything, then there was a fall and disruption, and then there was a re-creation to set it all back in order. This seems to be foreign to the text, no matter how you translate it. The natural reading of the text seems to present us with one unified creation story. It may occurs over several days, certainly. But it is still one unified event.
And that has been the consensus of most of the church throughout her history. Whether it be Jews, Catholics, or Protestants, most have seen this as pertaining to a single creation story.
Moreover, the rest of Scripture seems to speak against a long intermediate period of time. In the fourth commandment we read, “In six days the Lord made heaven and earth and he rested on the seventh.” The fourth commandment seems to point to the original creation, not a secondary one. And it puts some definite parameters on the amount of time for that creation.
There are some other things we could say. For instance, such a view would allow death to occur before the fall. It would also suggest that the creation was subject to pain due to Satan’s fall, rather than Adam’s.
For these reasons, I think it is better to understand verse 2 as describing verse 1. God created the heavens and earth. What was it like? It was formless and void. It did not yet have the shape and fullness that he would bestow upon it.
I take the time to mention this because I believe it is important for understanding what I’m going to say next. We’ve addressed this question people have had regarding the text because I want you to really understand the truth that is asserted within the text.
Now that we understand the nature of God’s creation, we can talk about his Providence!
II. The nature of God’s providence
What I want you to see in the text is the Almighty hand of God. I might better say, the Almighty and active hand of God. This second verse reminds us of God’s providencial dealings with the world. That is to say, God daily acts to sustain his creation.
Verse 1 tells us that the Lord created everything. But verse two tells us that he created it in such a way that it is just a bunch of stuff. And the text says that all the stuff is “without form and empty.” That is to say, you have this mass of stuff that is sort of fluid like.
Think about it this way, “How do you hold something that is formless?” Young people, have you ever tried holding water? What happens? It all runs through your hand, doesn’t it? Why is that? It is because water doesn’t have any shape or form. It naturally runs out because it doesn’t it cannot be held together. The only way to keep it from going every which direction is to put it in a container.
And our passage says that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the deep.” The word hovering there is a word that is used to describe a bird in her nest with her young. She flutters her wings so that she is suspended over the nest. So you have the idea of the Spirit of God being right there. He is acting as that governing force which keeps the chaotic mess from sprawling out.
Listen to what one prominent theologian has said,
[When God created the] world it was an undigested mass; he now teaches that the power of the Spirit was necessary in order to sustain it. For this doubt might occur to the mind, how such a disorderly heap could stand… He therefore asserts that this mass, however confused it might be, was rendered stable… by the secret efficacy of the Spirit. 
The passage reminds us that God is not just the creator of this world, but he is also the sustainer of it. And we are reminded here that we owe all thanks to him for his daily governance of the world.
Many of us have been trained to think that the world holds itself together. Modern science has told us that the world is held together by atoms and protons and the natural powers of molecular physics. But that is not altogether true. It is much more than that. The Apostle Paul says as much in the book of Colossians. Paul said, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.”
We are to understand from this something of the tender providence of God. We call ourselves Providence Church. By doing so we tell the world that there is a God in the heavens who daily sustains the world. And it by his governance that the subatomic particles remain where they are. Were not the Spirit of God here everything in this world would scatter like a bunch of marbles dumped on the kitchen floor.
It is amazing to think that our God is that great. It is always good to keep in mind that the universe is daily dependent upon Him and that we are in the care of this God at every second of our lives.
And you know, that leads us to the lesson that we glean from the text. We’ve talked about the question that some have posed. And we’ve said that there is no gap or disruption of the universe. Everything was simply created. The stuff was brought into existence. And we just got done talking about the truth that is asserted here—that God, by his all-powerful government, sustains his creation and holds it together.
Now I want you to understand how this passage illumines the redemptive work of God.
III. The nature of God’s redemption
Remember, this was written to give comfort to God’s people. It was written to give them hope and peace of mind. The Israelites had just come out of Egypt. They were a mass of people (perhaps 2-10 million in number) sitting out there in the desert. Really, you couldn’t have a bigger rag tag band of wanderers. In a sense, they were formless and void as a people. They had no real organization. Things were rather chaotic. But there, hovering right over them, was a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day. The Spirit of God was there in their midst.
In hearing what is said here in this passage those Israelites would have understood that God was not only telling them about the original creation. But they would have made a direct application to themselves and their situation. They would have said, “God’s hand is holding us together. And he is about to begin a new creation. He is about to bring order out of our chaos.”
In sum, God was not just telling them about his power to create. He was reminding them of his power to redeem.
You can imagine what good news that would have been to these ex-slaves. That they were under the supreme government of an affectionate God would have been a great comfort.
But you know what? These words should have the same effect for us today. As a matter of fact, they should be even more powerful because of Jesus Christ.
Most of you are familiar with the story of Jesus’ baptism. Just before Jesus started his earthly ministry he went out to the Jordan River. He went to John the Baptist and was baptized. And do you remember what happened as he came up out of the water? The Bible says that the Spirit of God descended upon him like a dove.
I believe that this is an allusion to these opening words of Scripture. It was the Lord’s way of saying, “Here is the man of the new creation.” Here is the man who is able to sustain and give life to sinners whose lives are formless and void.
The people coming out to John to be baptized were confessing that very thing. They recognized that they were sinners. They were confessing that they had made a wreck of their lives, that they were living empty, godless lives. And right there before them they had an affirmation that Jesus is the one who is able to give order to people’s lives. Here before them is the life giver himself.
The Apostle Paul tells us, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, and the new has come.”
And the message that comes to us today is not just that God is the all powerful creator and sustainer of the world. He is also the redeemer of sinners like you and me.
We must remember that we are sinners. And to be a sinner is to be one who has revolted against God’s order. It is to shun the light of God.
Moreover, it is to be under the judgment of God. And in Scripture, the judgment of God is often presented as the revoking of creation’s order. When God judges, he strips away the blessings of creation's fullness and form. Your environment is reduced to the pains of the primoridal world.
For instance, the bible compares hell to the Abyss. It was a watery realm that was full of confusion and disorder. Jesus said that the wicked would be thrown into the outer darkness, a place where there would be weeping and gnashing of teeth. That’s an image of having lost the blessings light and life.
But Christ comes as the man of the New Creation. He presents himself as the one who restores the things lost in the fall. He presents himself as the one who revokes the judgment of chaos and darkness.
All who rest in him have the blessing of being a new creation. And in him we look forward to the ultimate restoration. The day when we enter the New Heavens and a New Earth. Not that this world is bad. But it is plagued with disorder and darkness due to sin. And one day Christ will clear all that away. Life will no longer be subject to such things.
 John Calvin
Once the fight commenced this fighter really began to really show off his dexterity. It was almost as if you were watching a gymnastics performance rather than a fight. At one point he did a cartwheel and backflip combo that immediately turned into a one handed handstand! Then he made his way towards his opponent with a nimble whirl and twist of a great performer. And then, right in the middle of one of his spiraling rotations his opponent advanced and struck him in the face. The acrobat immediately hit the floor. He was out cold. His stillness was a radical contrast to his fluid agilities moments before.
It is my belief that what happened in that ring is exactly the kind of thing that we have occurring in the passage before us this morning. The words that we just recited are some of the most profound words that have ever been penned. They are some of the most powerful words that man has ever read. They compose the single most significant philosophical statement there ever was. In sum, they serve as a power punch that silences all the other worldviews that clamor and hoot for acclaim.
With this one sentence the Lord declares himself to be the supreme God. With just a few words he shows us that he is the only God and he alone is to be feared.
That is exactly what the Israelites needed. Keep in mind that this book was written to the escapees. The Israelites had just emerged out of their captivity in Egypt. They had been there for 400 years. For 400 years they had been immersed in the Egyptian culture. No doubt they had heard the tails of the Egyptian gods. They had no doubt been indoctrinated in the theologies of its paganism and pantheon.
Into this situation God speaks. He breaks forth to set the record straight once and for all. And by it the Lord imparts a true understanding of Himself, his world, and his people.
And though 3000 years have passed, the words still serve the same purpose. These words are here to calibrate our minds. They are here to set the record straight for us. The times may have changed, but the truth is, we are just as susceptible to the same cultural trappings. We need to have our minds rightly calibrated to the same realities.
Most particularly, the nature of God. And that is exactly where this passage begins. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
I. The Lord calibrates our understanding of Himself
It is no accident that the first line of Scripture is about God. Our minds are immediately directed toward God. And we are given the impression that he is that mighty champion. This passage does a great job of declaring the God-ness of God. You could say that almost everything we need to know about God is found right here.
I was speaking to Mark this week about the passage and he and I concurred that we could preach 10-12 sermons on this passage alone. It says so much about God. I just want to hit a few highlights though.
The first thing that we learn about the nature of God is that he is personal. God has revealed himself. That means that he wishes to be known. He wants to interact. He could very well have left us in the dark as to his existence, but he didn’t. He brings us this word about himself so that we might relate to him.
How different this is from what is advanced in today’s culture. In today’s world we are told that there is nothing out there except deep space. All there is is a vast impersonal realm that was created billions and billions of years ago. Despite the vast numbers of stars and galaxies that fill the universe, such a godless perspective makes it seem rather empty.
In opposition to this, we find here that there is a God and he is not silent. He reveals himself to us, and he does so for the purpose of establishing a relationship with us.
But not only do we see that this God is personal, we understand here that he is Trinity. Well, at least the passage hints at the fact that there is a plurality in the Godhead. The word for God here is the word “Elohim.” And it is in the plural. The normal word for God is the word El. But when you add the “him” it is like adding an “s” in English. It makes it plural. But the word for “create” is in the singular. So the passage is saying that there is one God, but he exists as a plurality.
The rest of Scripture will flesh this out as to exactly what it means. But it is interesting to note that the very foundational teaching of Christianity is given some expression right here in the first word of the Scripture.
The passage also indicates something of God’s immensity. By that I mean that God is bigger than time and space. That God is before the beginning reminds us that he is eternal. That God created the heavens and the earth speaks to his inability to be confined to the material world.
A number of weeks ago I ended the message here by telling you about the Mormons who were in the neighborhood. I said that they turned down another street and that I wanted to run after them. Well, low and behold, that very day I told you that they came to my house. As a matter of fact, my daughter came to get me and she said, “Your wish came true.”
They wanted to go through their spiel like they always do, but I stopped them. I said, “How would you like to do this: Let’s have a challenge. You want to serve the greatest God, do you not? So let’s do this: If your god is bigger than my God, I’ll convert to your religion. If my God is bigger than yours, you convert to mine. Would you do that?” He said, “I don’t know. But I’m very interested in what you have to say.” I began by saying this, “Where is your god?” After a long pause (may I say, pregnant pause!), he said, “Ummmmm. Heaven, I think?”
I wanted to say, “You don’t even know where your god is?” Instead I said, “My God is everywhere. As a matter of fact, he is so big that all heaven and earth cannot contain him. He is so big that he created time and space.” And I pointed them to this verse right here.
They responded with stares. I think they understood that they had just lost the challenge.
The Mormons believe that god is basically just like us. He has a body and you never know where he is going to be. And when you compare the two, he ends up looking quite puny by comparison.
Truly, the God that is described here is much greater. And much more worthy of our trust.
One more quick thing I’d like to mention about the nature of God. This passage helps us on one of the most basic questions people ask. You kids might ask, “Who is God’s god?” Or you might have someone say to you, “Who created God?” The answer to that is “No one!” This passage shows us that God is self-existent. He is not dependent upon anyone or anything for life. He always was and always will be because he has life in and of himself.
We probably could say much more about the nature of the Creator. And as we go along, we will. But it is important that we say something about the creation.
This passage not only calibrates our minds as to the nature of God. It gives us a particular perspective of reality.
II. The Lord Calibrates our understanding of reality
All worldviews must attempt to answer the question of metaphysics. Metaphysics is the study of reality. And everyone must try and give some definition to reality. For instance, Plato said that there were two realms. There was the realm of ideals. And there you had things that were perfect. There was a perfect chair there in that world. And Plato said that everything in this world was a poor copy of the ideal world. So we have lots of chairs, but they are just bad attempts to replicate the ideal chair. (some of you are probably saying, “Yes, these chairs are extremely poor copies of the ideal chair!)
Today, there are people who say something completely different about the world. They say that there is no other realm. As a matter of fact, they would deny that there is anything except matter. The only things that exist are the things you can taste, touch and see. And when it comes to angels, heaven, or any other intangible thing they simply do not exist.
All these people are trying to understand the world in which we live. And that is a good thing. But how are we tounderstand the world in which we live? How do you know that one day you are going to wake up and find out that you are really an alien that has been dreaming the whole time.
Sounds odd, doesn’t it? But it’s a good philosophical question. What is real? What is the nature of the universe? Thankfully, we don’t have to grope around for the answer to this question. God gives us the answer right here.
The first thing the passage says regarding the universe is that God created everything out of nothing. Or, to use the old Latin phrase, it was created is ex nihilo. The word for create is an interesting word. It is a word that is used only in reference to God. It means to give being to something new. So, before this time, there was nothing. God was the only thing that existed. Then, at his command, everything popped into existence.
This, of course, means that we do not agree with our atheistic and materialistic friends who say that all things began with a big bang or that matter is eternal. We believe that God is the source of all things. Or as the book of Hebrews 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.
But not only is it created out of nothing, but it is created with a purpose. You notice that things didn’t appear randomly or by chance. Things came into being intentionally. There was deliberate action on the part of God.
And you realize that this flies in the face of what is propagated by almost every textbook in America. The consensus of contemporary society is that chance governs all things. The world came into being completely by accident. And since it was a random happenchance, things today have no real direction or purpose.
And this mentality has led people like the French philosopher Albert Camus to believe that we as humans do not have any purpose. He even said, “The main question is not so much if we should commit suicide, but when.” He understood the logical consequences of this kind of thought. If the world had a unintentional beginning, then our lives our meaningless and there is no use in continuing to live.
That’s what makes this a very important point. The world does have purpose. God was intentional about his creation. And keeping that in perspective is imperative if we want to live life to its fullest.
The last thing we should understand about the universe is that it was created in distinction from God himself.
This verse reminds us that the world is not God and God is not the world. It’s the distinction that pantheism misses. A lot of Eastern mysticism was imported into the United States in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. It came under the cover of what was the “New Age” movement. And it is just as prevalent today. If you don’t believe me, just go and watch the Star Wars movies. As Steven Spielberg develops the notion of the Force, he is playing on the idea that there is a hidden power inherent in the very substance of the universe.
Our day is filled with pantheistic thinking. The prominence of things like Yoga, where you try to transcend the world and unite with the world, tells us that pantheism is very much alive and well today. And you can look to many people associated with environmentalist movement today and find some pantheistic tendencies.
That’s why it is important that our text brings out this Creator-creature distinction. God created the heavens and the earth. He brought it into existence, but, as is clear here, he is not to be identified with it.
So you see that this passage has a lot to say about the nature of the universe. We learn a lot about the world in which we live. Again, it is like a punch that drills all the other worldviews and sends them to the ground in silence.
But there is one other thing that we should note about this passage. It not only calibrates our minds to a right understanding of God and his world. It should calibrate our understanding of ourselves.
III. The Lord calibrates our understanding of ourselves.
This passage wasn’t just designed to tell us everything we’ve just talked about. It wasn’t simply for the communication of brute facts. It’s here to remind us that we must fear God and keep his commandments.
My daughters have a cd they like to play. It has some children’s bible songs on it. And one of the songs is entitled, “Jesus is the Boss.” Its basic premise is that, since God created everything, he’s the one who gets to call the shots. He is the boss. He is the one to whom we must give homage.
My friends, it is imperative that you not walk out that door today thinking, “Hmm, that was interesting.” This passage is here to remind us that we owe our very existence to God. He is the one who is our Sovereign, and as such we must love and serve him always.
I believe that this is the main reason why we are embroiled in the battle of the beginnings. This is why people will fight to the death for things like evolution. People will hold to evolution, no matter how scientifically untenable it may be, because it allows them to avoid God’s sovereignty over their lives. Evolution is their best attempt to erase God. It is not the scientific data that convinces them of its truthfulness. They are first and foremost convinced that they want to live their own lives. Evolution is simply the cover they use to justify their autonomy.
This passage is set before us so that we might rightly understand that we have no autonomy. We do not have the right to do what is right in our own eyes. Jesus is the Boss.
There was a man who lived in New York and he attended a Presbyterian church pretty much all his life. He was a successful man by the world’s standards. As a lawyer he had made a name for himself and established a good deal of wealth from his labors. But one day the minister of that church announced that he was going to do a series of messages from the book of Genesis. And as he read this opening line, that lawyer had a flash of insight. He realized that, though he had attended church almost all his life, he never really had acknowledged the Lord as God. He had lived as if he were his own sovereign and God made little to no difference to him.
After hearing these words he realized that such a life was not right. He realized that he needed to submit himself to the Lord. And from that day on he began prosperously serving Christ as his Lord.
That is the design of this passage.
In hearing these words it is as if you have looked right into the eyes of God today. To turn your head away and not acknowledge him would be a grievous sin. These words are here to tell you that Christ is the King who sits upon the throne. He is the champion that cannot be matched by any other. Because he is such, you must turn away from your autonomous living and submit yourself to him.
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Matt is blessed to be a husband, father, and pastor in Ashland, Ohio.