The doctrine of creation is important to understand, because it not only sets the tone for everything else to follow, but it also gives all believers profound insight into the Who, what, when, where, how, and why of our very existence. If you are starting a business, you begin with a primary aim that guides all of your business activities. If you’re building a tree house, you start with the thought of what you want to build in your mind, and your successful material execution follows that intangible blueprint. Every step that you take is structured and ordered from a single origin, a concrete focal point from which everything else flows. Creation is that concrete focal point of the human experience.
The doctrine of creation answers our most important questions: Who made us, why do we exist, how did we come into being, and for what purpose—in other words, this doctrine deals with the whole meaning of life. Certainly, a life that is unexamined will lead to frustration, confusion, and discontent. A life that is examined will lead to wisdom, knowledge, and understanding—and a life that is examined with the original blueprint from the Creator will lead to peace, happiness, joy, and fulfillment.
What Christians should know is that the doctrine of creation says God made the entire universe out of nothing. It says that He made it in order to glorify Himself, and that He originally made everything very good.
The creation narrative is located in the beginning of the book of Genesis, the Bible’s first book. In Genesis, there are two major calls from God: (1) He calls the world into being. (2) He calls a special people to faithfully be His. As I will explain, the calls involve a gift given to creation, the stipulations that lay within the gift, and the divergent responses to that gift. The question then becomes how we will respond—with recalcitrant self-assertion or faithful obedience. The former response tends to dominate the narrative, leading to adverse consequences. The calls are rooted in a basic premise of the Bible that everything that follows is built upon: God and His creation are inextricably linked in unique and fragile ways.
Creation is a story about beginnings, and the story should be treated as a totality. So, when Genesis speaks about an individual, they should be regarded as representative of all creation, the part for the whole.
I. In the Beginning
The Bible starts in Genesis 1:1 by saying, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The first thing we should notice is that “In the beginning” is a phrase in Hebrew that denotes an indefinite period of time. (And speaking of time, we know that God is eternal and timeless. This means that when our universe was created, our time also began, which is why, for example, in each of the days of creation, there was a morning and an evening—both temporal events). In that beginning, Who was there? God was. He was present at the start, before our universe existed, because He created. The Bible begins with God, just as everything that we think, say, do, or believe ought to begin with God.
The heavens (plural) and the earth (singular) refers to the entire universe: our planet, celestial bodies, space, the stars, distant galaxies, and everything else that exists “out there.” Heavens also implies the heaven where God dwells, angels, the invisible spiritual realm, and other heavenly beings.
“In the beginning God created” also tells us that when God did create our universe, He made it out of nothing. The Hebrew word for created is bara, which means to shape, fashion or create something from nothing. This is why throughout the Scriptures this word is only used with God as a subject. The Latin phrase ex nihilo is a fancy way of saying “out of nothing,” which indicates that when God made the universe, nothing else existed but Him. This is why in John 1:3 the Bible says, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”
Psalm 33:6 & 9 say, “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of His mouth all their host … For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.”
Colossians 1:16 says, “For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.”
Why did God make anything? We are given insight into His motivation in Revelation 4:11: “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created” (italics mine). In essence, all of creation is intended to reveal the glory of God. God made people specifically for His glory, and the Psalms tell us that the inanimate creation is telling of God’s glory as well. The creation demonstrates the limitless power of God, His authority, His wisdom, and above all else, that what He has done well exceeds what could ever be conceived of or executed by any part of the creation. The creation essentially reveals to us how great God is—yet He did not have to do any of it, because God does not need creation. In spite of this, He still gave all of us the free gift to enjoy.
And if anyone has ever wondered why people have an innate sense of creativity, the desire to do “big things” or the yearning to make things that are beautiful, then all you ought to do is consider Who made you. And, both at the end of each day of creation and at the end of His six-day creative work, God saw all He had made and that it was good. Yes, sin now exists in the world, but that does not negate the goodness of creation. This realization frees us all from a false sense of asceticism that seeks to reject the material world. This is why in I Timothy 4:4-5, Paul says, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.” The point is that creation can be used in sinful, perverse, selfish, and destructive ways, but that does mean the creation itself is inherently bad. Rather, it is how we use creation—either in a God-centered or a self-centered way. More on this a bit later.
A key point to be derived from the above verses is that the entire universe exists because of God, was created by Him, and was therefore dependent on Him to come into being. Without Him, there would be no us. And from a logical standpoint, this has to be the case because if anything existed before God or alongside Him, this would contradict the Biblical assertion that God is sovereign and rules over all. Accordingly, nothing within or from creation should ever be worshipped, because it is subordinate to God. Further, the denial that God made the universe ex nihilo means that something else is also eternal just like God. The implication, then, is that God is not sovereign, independent, or the only One worthy to be worshipped. And, since God made everything, we can be confident that all things come together for God’s good purposes. To deny that God made everything means that some things “just happened,” are subject to chance, and are not part of His divine plan. The purpose of creation is already decided.
Because creation is dependent, God is distinct from it. This does not mean, however, that God made everything and then went on break. God is immanent, or in other words, He remains in creation. As it says in Job 12:10, “In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?” Several other verses affirm the immanence of God.
In What Christians Should Know Part II, I discussed Who God is and all of His attributes. We therefore know that God is wholly good, so anything that He makes will be good. God didn’t begin creating out of malice or evil, because that would contradict His character. He began creating out of love—hence, in His infinite wisdom, God made you and me for something. To deny that reality means you accept as fact that your existence is pure happenstance and therefore devoid of meaning. Because if you weren’t made for something, then all of reality is an exercise in futility that happened because of nothing and is doomed to become nothing. Therefore love, morality, trust, kindness, motivation, hope, faith, and family have absolutely zero meaning because they came from nobody and will all equate to nothing upon death. To deny that God exists, and that He has a positive intent for the world, is the most depressing, dehumanizing, wicked, malicious, and destructive ideology ever invented—because the way things are now is the best they will ever get, and the apex of existence rests on the shoulders of the inherent iniquity of humankind.
After God created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:1, the Bible says in verse 2 that “the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” (The reference to Spirit denotes Trinitarian activity). Formless and void is a phrase that means an uninhabitable wilderness. So, from what was uninhabitable and devoid of life, God will now proceed to make what is inhabitable and vibrant.
Genesis 1:3-26 consists of the account of the six days of creation. At the start of each day, God speaks something into existence. For example on the third day, verses 9-13 says, “Then God said, ‘Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them’; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.”
On the first day, God separated the light and darkness, thereby making day and night; on the second day, God created an expanse that separated the heaven above it and the waters below it; on the third day, God made dry land, the seas and plant life; on the fourth day, God made the sun, moon, and all the stars in the sky; on the fifth day, God made sea animals and birds; and on the sixth day, God made the land animals and also formed Adam and Eve.
On each day we notice several recurring themes: (1) The entire process is structured and ordered, so there is no randomness that generates order. Hence, not only is there intelligent design, but the Designer is well beyond our comprehension. Each day has an assigned task, and only certain things are made in each day. (2) There is distinction and separation. Different things are different, so God clearly distinguishes them. Light is separated from darkness, and the heavens are separated from the waters. (3) Each day has a beginning and an end signified by the fact that there was “evening and morning.” In other words, within each segment of creation, there was a clear start and stop time. God stopped creating a particular thing when the day was over and did not go back to create more. (4) God spoke everything into existence with the exception of humans. (5) What God made was already mature and fully developed. And when God spoke, things happened immediately. He didn’t make baby stars that would grow up to be big stars—He made them fully formed. The same is true of living creatures—birds, cattle, and creeping things were created fully formed. He didn’t make prototypes of things that would evolve or “improve” into better versions. To suggest anything else means that God made what wasn’t good, and therefore had to get better. This ties in to the final point: (6) Everything that God made was good. Because God is good, He is only capable of making what is good, and thus He didn’t make anything that was subpar, inferior, or questionable. Also, within the goodness of creation is a unity, and that unity is ethical as well as aesthetic.
II. The Bible versus Science
If one reads Genesis 1 and a science textbook, it would seem that the two narratives are incompatible. Genesis seems to suggest that God made the world in a week, and that everything happened quickly. Evolutionary science tells us that the Earth is billions of years old and things happened very, very slowly. There are actually many different ways …
Dr. C. H. E. Sadaphal
For Further Reading
Walter Brueggemann, Genesis: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2010).
 Walter Brueggemann, Genesis: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2010), 11.
 Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:2; Isaiah 57:15; I Timothy 1:17
 Nehemiah 9:6; Psalm 103:21, 148:2-5; Acts 4:24; Revelation 10:6
 Isaiah 43:7
 Psalm 19:1-2
 Jeremiah 10:12, 14-16
 Genesis 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31
 Romans 8:28
 Ephesians 1:9-10
 Acts 17:25, 28; Colossians 1:17; Ephesians 4:6; Hebrews 1:3
 Genesis 1:31
 John 10:11
 Genesis 1:28
 Genesis 1:29
 Genesis 2:21-22
 Genesis 1:28
 John 14:16, 15:26, 16:7
 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 490.
 I John 3:4
 I John 5:17
 Romans 2:17-29
 Romans 2:15
 James 4:17
 Deuteronomy 32:4
 Romans 6:23
 Walter Brueggemann, Genesis: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2010), 46.
 Psalm 51:1-5, 58:3; Ephesians 2:3
 Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 7:18; Ephesians 4:18; Titus 1:15
 Isaiah 64:6; John 8:34, 15:5; Romans 8:8; Ephesians 2:1-2; Hebrews 11:6
 I Kings 8:46
 Romans 3:9-18
 John 19:11
 Matthew 5:19
 Leviticus 18:22
 Isaiah 59:2
 James 1:15
 I Peter 2:11
 Leviticus 18:24-25
 Romans 6:19
 John 8:34; Romans 6:16
 Ephesians 4:30
 I Corinthians 6:9-11
 Revelation 21:8
 Jude 1:7
 I Peter 2:1-5
 Genesis 3:12-13
 John 5:8, 14
 Galatians 5:19-21
 Romans 5:12-21
 Revelation 12:9
 Walter Brueggemann, Genesis: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 2010), 41-42.
 Romans 8:28
 Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28:12-19
 Job 20:28; Proverbs 11:4, 24:10, 25:13; Ecclesiastes 7:14; Isaiah 2:12, 13:6, 9; Joel 1:15, 2:1
 Genesis 5:5
 II Peter 3:8