Where Did It All Come From?
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(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q: 9-10)
by Bob Burridge ©2011
We live in and are a part of an amazing universe.
It was all created by God. Every part of it is declaring the Creator’s glory and power all the time.
God’s Creation holds mysteries that have intrigued humans ever since God put us here. It is so vast that we have only seen a tiny part of all he made. Yet, what we see is awesome and beyond our comprehension.
Distant things in our universe totally unknown a century ago have been declaring God’s glory for eons.
Though Pluto was demoted from planet to plutoid, another category became available for classifying the diverse objects that fill our solar system. Eris was added to that group along with Makemake and Ceres. We’ve observed volcanoes erupting on the planet Mercury, ice on Mars, and distant white dwarf stars that are changing our understanding of how stars mature.
We have learned to take the rocks and minerals in God’s world and make amazing things out of them. They rage from tiny computer chips that power our telephones, game machines and home computers, to huge bridges, buildings, and orbiting space stations.
We’ve mapped the detailed chemical structure of DNA molecules that code the human body. With electron microscopes we can see the detailed structures of disease organisms. We can even watch the heat and electrical flow in a living human brain as it thinks, and monitor the flow of blood through a beating human heart.
There are many things we haven’t seen yet, and many of them we will probably never see. Yet they are there evidencing God’s glory in wonders beyond our present comprehension.
Science tries to observe things carefully and measurably. Then it develops mathematical models to predict how things are expected to behave under different circumstances. The work of real science simply observes, measures, fits things together, and tests its predictions, so it can’t possibly conflict with what the Bible teaches.
However, science is often confused with things people assume about God’s universe. Some who don’t want to believe that God created it all out of nothing are forced to come up with evolutionary theories that make it all an accident, the result of irregularities in whatever came before our physical universe. That is why evolutionary theory is more a philosophy than what we properly call science.
Of course there are many different views of evolutionism, and there are many different views about creationism. If you’re interested in a detailed study of the different views of Creation you can go to our Genevan Institute web site to read some articles in our Commentary on the Westminster Confession about that in the unit about God’s decree of creation. Though there is room for theories, the Christian must keep them within the boundaries of the basic facts God gives us in his written word.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, Questions 9 and 10, deal with God’s work of Creation. It summarizes the basic Bible facts this way:
Question 9: What is the work of creation?
Answer: The work of creation is God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.
The most basic fact is that God made everything.
The first two verses of Genesis say, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”
Without arguments or debate, the plain fact is undeniable: God made everything. The word for God here is the Hebrew majestic plural Elohim (אלהים). The God of Scripture is one God, amazing and supremely wonderful.
He exists eternally in three persons.
All three persons of the Trinity were involved in the work of creation.
God the Father worked in creation. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:6. “… there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; …”
God the Son also worked in creation. John 1:3 describes Jesus as the Word. It says, “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.”
Colossians 1:16-17 is talking about Jesus when it says, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.”
God the Holy Spirit worked in creation too. Genesis 1:2 tells us that in creation, “the Spirit of God was hovering over … the waters.” In Job 26:13 it says, “By His Spirit He adorned the heavens; …”
These three persons, the One True God, created everything out of nothing.
When we make something, a table, a fence, a radio, a table decoration, or a meal, we first need to get the raw materials we need to make it. If it is a piece of furniture or a tree house, you need the lumber and hardware. If it is a good hamburger you need beef, a bun, and whatever condiments you like on it.
However, what did God start with when he made this universe? What ingredients did he have? That’s the amazing thing — he had nothing outside of himself.
Psalm 33:6 says, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, And all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.”
God had his eternal intention and his infinite power — nothing more. He made all things, visible and invisible, out of nothing.
The first thing God made was light. He simply willed it into existence. Genesis 1:3-5 says, “Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.”
God’s creation was organized into work done in the space of six days.
He laid out the cosmos in an orderly way to display his glory. The writers of the confession, regardless of their personal beliefs, used very simple wording here to stay faithful to scripture. The Hebrew word translated here as “day”, is used in many ways in the Bible. In Genesis 1 it seems to refer to specific normal 24-hour days of some sort. In other biblical references to creation the word allows for a less precise measurement of time. The King James Version and almost all other translations sometimes translate the same Hebrew word yom (יום) as “era, years, time” and other such words.
There have been many ideas about the age of the earth and universe. Many who firmly believe the Bible to be the infallible and inerrant word of God hold to different interpretations about how long the days of creation were. Genesis 1 is very difficult to put on an absolute time-line.
One group of interpretations is that it refers to six 24-hour days.
- Some see the days as happening one right after the other, a total of 144 hours.
- Some believe the 24-hour days are separated by long ages maybe billions of years long.
- Some see the days as referring to an actual 24-hour day at the end of each creation period. On a specific day, God named or inspected what he made and pronounced it to be “good”.
Others don’t think it means that the days were 24 hours long at all.
- Some think the word day there refers to long periods of time.
- Some believe they were just figurative descriptions with no indication of time at all.
Could God have done it all in 144 hours? Of course he could have. The real question is not about what he could have done, but how long did he actually decide to take? The Bible doesn’t directly answer that question.
We need to be very cautious when we deal with matters not addressed in God’s word. We need to content ourselves with what’s directly stated. or what can be determined by necessary deduction from Scripture. Beyond that we get into areas of dangerous speculation.
The clear teaching here is that God made all things in an orderly way. Then God stopped creating and established the Sabbath Day. It is a day for us to stop the work we do on the other six days of the week. On that day, we should remember what God did in making all things by the word of his power to carry out his eternal plan and to reveal his glory.
After each stage of Creation, God announced that all he made was very good.
That is the repeated pattern after he made each group of things. God saw all he made and said it was “good”.
The word for “good” there is “tov” (תוב). It means that each group of things he made exactly fulfilled all he intended for it to be and to do. The result is an intricate and complex display of God’s power and glory. There is a uniformity in the design, pattern, and behavior of all the things God made.
Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.”
In Romans 1:20 Paul tells us that God’s invisible attributes, his eternal power, and the nature of his Godhead are clearly seen in the things he created. They so clearly reveal him, that it leaves the unbeliever without excuse for failing to give him the glory for all he made and has done.
Very specially, God made us humans.
The Bible teaches that God created man, male and female.
Adam was made from the “dust of the earth”. That means from the elements found in God’s physical creation: carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, calcium, iron and many other basic elements. He was not made from “lower life forms” or from any other already living things.
Eve was made from the genetic material of Adam. Some translations say from “his side”. But it’s not such a precise term in the inspired Hebrew text. The fact is, all humans come from that one act of creation by God.
God’s word says he made us in his own image.
The next part of the catechism question clarifies what this means:
Question 10: How did God create man?
Answer: God created man, male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.
We were made with the ability to know things as God reveals them in nature, by providence, through his word, and in our conscience. We were made without rebellion in our hearts. There was no sin in either Adam or Eve when he made them. They were personally innocent, righteous, and holy.
Of course that changed when the first humans fell into sin. Adam represented us all. In Adam we lost our righteousness, and our ability to gain it back by our own efforts. So in Christ the Messiah we gain it back by being clothed in his righteousness.
This is the gospel, the good news you possess to tell your neighbors, those you meet every day. The damaged image of God in the lost troubled heart can be repaired by faith in him. We add nothing to that faith. It is by God’s grace and power that we come to him.
The same God who displays his power all around us can transform us. Psychology, medicine, social activism, politics, financial comfort miserably fail when divorced from the power of the gospel. They might make us feel more comfortable in our sin, but they cannot change our hearts. But a sincere faith in the Living Savior can and does.
And when God made us, he gave us dominion over the creatures.
This is our human duty and privilege. We are commanded to responsibly use what God put here to sustain us, and to improve circumstances in our communities and homes.
Today this duty is horribly distorted and challenged. Some abandon every concern for using God’s resources responsibly. They waste food, leave discarded trash around, and kill for sport rather than for food. They compromise the safety of others for their own selfish advancement.
Others go to the opposite extreme. They raise creation up over humanity. They would rather see humans suffer than to make use of what God provided. They put humans who were created in God’s image on the same level as creatures here for their provisions. They can’t be consistent with their evolutionary assumptions. While they protect snails and quails, they without hesitation know they need to fight to the death against bacteria and viruses. They often ignorantly use up natural resources faster than most while saying they are saving the earth. They ignore real science while choosing only the measurements that support their cause.
We are neither to abuse nor to abandon our responsibility. God commanded us to represent his dominion over the earth, and over all he put on it.
We have a mandate as the special creatures God made us to be.
We are here to appreciate his revealed glory in all of creation. We need to take time to appreciate its intricate wonder and complexity. We need to remind others about who made it all, and why he made it.
We are assigned the job of caring for creation as those charged with dominion over it. We are to use it wisely for our provisions, while respecting the needs of others around us. We are to worship the Creator at all times, day and night, as we consider its majestic wonder, and while we live in the humble service of the Savior, the one who died in our place to enable us to see the truth and the glory of it all.
Don’t let any day, specially any Sabbath Day, slip by without filling it with worshipful prayer and appreciation for all God made, and with humble thanks that he made you and those you love.
(The Bible quotations in this lesson are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)