1. Creation and Restoration
The manner in which the Holy Scriptures open is worthy of their Divine Author. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and that is all that is here recorded concerning the original creation. Nothing is said which enables us to fix the date of their creation; nothing is revealed concerning their appearance or inhabitants; nothing is told us about the modus operandi of their Divine Architect. We do not know whether the primitive heaven and earth were created a few thousands, or many millions of years ago. We are not informed as to whether they were called into existence in a moment of time, or whether the process of their formation covered an interval of long ages. The bare fact is stated: "In the beginning God created," and nothing is added to gratify the curious. The opening sentence of Holy Writ is not to be philosophized about, but is presented as a statement of truth to be received with unquestioning faith.
"In the beginning God created." No argument is entered into to prove the existence of God: instead, His existence is affirmed as a fact to be believed. And yet, sufficient is expressed in this one brief sentence to expose every fallacy which man has invented concerning the Deity. This opening sentence of the Bible repudiates atheism, for it postulates the existence of God. It refutes materialism, for it distinguishes between God and His material creation. It abolishes pantheism, for it predicates that which necessitates a personal God. "In the beginning God created," tells us that He was Himself before the beginning, and hence, Eternal. "In the beginning God created," and that informs us he is a personal being, for an abstraction, an impersonal "first cause," could not create. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and that argues He is infinite and omnipotent, for no finite being possesses the power to "create," and none but an Omnipotent Being could create "the heaven and the earth."
"In the beginning God." This is the foundation truth of all real theology. God is the great Originator and Initiator. It is the ignoring of this which is the basic error in all human schemes. False systems of theology and philosophy begin with man, and seek to work up to God. But this is a turning of things upside down. We must, in all our thinking, begin with God, and work down to man. Again, this is true of the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures. The Bible is couched in human language, it is addressed to human ears, it was written by human hands, but, in the beginning God "holy men of God spake, moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Pet. 1:21). This is also true of salvation. In Eden, Adam sinned, and brought in death; but his Maker was not taken by surprise: in the beginning God had provided for just such an emergency, for, "the Lamb" was "foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Pet. 1:20). This is also true of the new creation. The soul that is saved, repents, believes, and serves the Lord; but, in the beginning, God chose us in Christ (Eph. 1:4), and now, "we love Him, because He first loved us."
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and we cannot but believe that these creations were worthy of Himself, that they reflected the perfections of their Maker, that they were exceedingly fair in their pristine beauty. Certainly, the earth, on the morning of its creation, must have been vastly different from its chaotic state as described in Genesis 1:2. "And the earth was without form and void" must refer to a condition of the earth much later than what is before us in the preceding verse. It is now over a hundred years ago since Dr. Chalmers called attention to the fact that the word "was" in Genesis 1:2 should be translated "became," and that between the first two verses of Genesis 1 some terrible catastrophe must have intervened. That this catastrophe may have been connected with the apostasy of Satan, seems more than likely; that some catastrophe did occur is certain from Isaiah 45:18, which expressly declares that the earth was not created in the condition in which Genesis 1:2 views it.
What is found in the remainder of Genesis 1 refers not to the primitive creation but to the restoration of that which had fallen into ruins. Genesis 1:1 speaks of the original creation; Genesis 1:2 describes the then condition of the earth six days before Adam was called into existence. To what remote point in time Genesis 1:1 conducts us, or as to how long an interval passed before the earth "became" a ruin, we have no means of knowing; but if the surmises of geologists could be conclusively established there would be no conflict at all between the findings of science and the teaching of Scripture. The unknown interval between the first two verses of Genesis 1, is wide enough to embrace all the prehistoric ages which may have elapsed; but all that took place from Genesis 1:3 onwards transpired less than six thousand years ago.
"In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is" (Ex. 20:11). There is a wide difference between "creating" and "making": to "create" is to call into existence something out of nothing; to "make" is to form or fashion something out of materials already existing. A carpenter can "make" a chair out of wood, but he is quite unable to "create" the wood itself. "In the beginning (whenever that was) God created the heaven and the earth"; subsequently (after the primitive creation had become a ruin) "the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." This Exodus scripture settles the controversy which has been raised as to what kind of "days" are meant in Genesis 1, whether days of 24 hours, or protracted periods of time. In "six days," that is, literal days of twenty-four hours duration, the Lord completed the work of restoring and re-fashioning that which some terrible catastrophe had blasted and plunged into chaos.
What follows in the remainder of Genesis 1 is to be regarded not as a poem, still less as an allegory, but as a literal, historical statement of Divine revelation. We have little patience with those who labor to show that the teaching of this chapter is in harmony with modern science—as well ask whether the celestial chronometer is in keeping with the timepiece at Greenwich. Rather must it be the part of scientists to bring their declarations into accord with the teaching of Genesis 1, if they are to receive the respect of the children of God. The faith of the Christian rests not in the wisdom of man, nor does it stand in any need of buttressing from scientific savants. The faith of the Christian rests upon the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture, and we need nothing more. Too often have Christian apologists deserted their proper ground. For instance: one of the ancient tablets of Assyria is deciphered, and then it is triumphantly announced that some statements found in the historical portions of the Old Testament have been confirmed. But that is only a turning of things upside down again. The Word of God needs no "confirming." If the writing upon an Assyrian tablet agrees with what is recorded in Scripture, that confirms the historical accuracy of the Assyrian tablet; if it disagrees, that is proof positive that the Assyrian writer was at fault. In like manner, if the teachings of science square with Scripture, that goes to show the former are correct; if they conflict, that proves the postulates of science are false. The man of the world, and the pseudo-scientist may sneer at our logic, but that only demonstrates the truth of God's Word, which declares, "but the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Cor. 2:14).
Marvelously concise is what is found in Genesis 1. A single verse suffices to speak of the original creation of the heaven and the earth. Another verse is all that is needed to ac-scribe the awful chaos into which the ruined earth was plunged. And less than thirty verses more tell of the six days' work, during which the Lord "made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." Not all the combined skill of the greatest literary genius', historians, poets, or philosophers this world has ever produced, could design a composition which began to equal Genesis 1. For reconditeness of theme, and yet simplicity of language; for comprehensiveness of scope, and yet terseness of expression; for scientific exactitude, and yet the avoidance of all technical terms; it is unrivalled, and nothing can be found in the whole realm of literature which can be compared with it for a moment. It stands in a class all by itself. If "brevity is the soul of wit" (i. e. wisdom) then the brevity of what is recorded in this opening chapter of the Bible evidences the divine wisdom of Him who inspired it. Contrast the labored formulae of the scientists, contrast the verbose writings of the poets, contrast the meaningless cosmogonies of the ancients and the foolish mythologies of the heathen, and the uniqueness of this Divine account of Creation and Restoration will at once appear. Every line of this opening chapter of Holy Writ has stamped across it the autograph of Deity.
Concerning the details of the six days' work we cannot now say very much. The orderly manner in which God proceeded, the ease with which He accomplished His work, the excellency of that which was produced, and the simplicity of the narrative, at once impress the reader. Out of the chaos was brought the "cosmos," which signifies order, arrangement, beauty; out of the waters emerged the earth; a scene of desolation, darkness and death, was transformed into one of light, life, and fertility, so that at the end all was pronounced "very good." Observe that here is to be found the first Divine Decalogue: ten times we read, "and God said, let there be," etc. (vv. 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 14, 20, 24, 26, 30), which may be termed the Ten Commandments of Creation.
In the Hebrew there are just seven words in the opening verse of Genesis 1, and these are composed of twenty-eight letters, which is 7 multiplied by 4. Seven is the number of perfection, and four of creation, hence, we learn that the primary creation was perfect as it left its Maker's hands. it is equally significant that there were seven distinct stages in God's work of restoring the earth: First, there was the activity of the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:2); Second, the calling of light into existence (Gen. 1:3); Third, the making of the firmament (Gen. 1:6-9); Fourth, the clothing of the earth with vegetation (Gen. 1:11); Fifth, the making and arranging of the heavenly bodies (Gen. 1:14-18); Sixth, the storing of the waters (Gen. 1:20-21); Seventh, the stocking of the earth (Gen. 1:24). The perfection of God's handiwork is further made to appear in the seven times the word "good" occurs here—verses 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31—also the word "made" is found seven times in this section—Genesis 1:7, 16, 25, 26, 31; 2:2, 3. Seven times "heaven" is mentioned in this chapter—verses 1, 8, 9, 14, 15, 17, 20. And, it may be added, that "God" Himself is referred to in this opening section (Gen. 1:1-2:4) thirty-five times, which is 7 multiplied by 5. Thus the seal of perfection is stamped upon everything God here did and made.
Turning from the literal meaning of what is before us in this opening chapter of Holy Writ, we would dwell now upon that which has often been pointed out by others, namely, the typical significance of these verses. The order followed by God in re-constructing the old creation is the same which obtains in connection with the new creation, and in a remarkable manner the one is here made to foreshadow the other. The early history of this earth corresponds with the spiritual history of the believer in Christ. What occurred in connection with the world of old, finds its counterpart in the regenerated man. It is this line of truth which will now engage our attention.
1. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." As we have already observed, the original condition of this primary creation was vastly different from the state in which we view it in the next verse. Coming fresh from the hands of their Creator, the heaven and the earth must have presented a scene of unequalled freshness and beauty. No groans of suffering were heard to mar the harmony of the song of "the morning stars" as they sang together (Job 38:7). No worm of corruption was there to defile the perfections of the Creator's handiwork. No iniquitous rebel was there to challenge the supremacy of God. And no death shades were there to spread the spirit of gloom. God reigned supreme, without a rival, and everything was very good.
So, too, in the beginning of this world's history, God also created man, and vastly different was his original state from that into which he subsequently fell. Made in the image and likeness of God, provided with a helpmate, placed in a small garden of delights, given dominion over all the lower orders of creation, "blessed" by His Maker, bidden to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, and included in that which God pronounced "very good," Adam had all that heart could desire. Behind him was no sinful heredity, within him was no deceitful and wicked heart, upon him were no marks of corruption, and around him were no signs of death. Together with his helpmate, in fellowship with his Maker, there was everything to make him happy and contented.
2. "And the earth became without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." Some fearful catastrophe must have occurred. Sin had dared to raise its horrid head against God, and with sin came death and all its attendant evils. The fair handiwork of the Creator was blasted. That which at first was so fair was now marred, and what was very good became very evil. The light was quenched, and the earth was submerged beneath the waters of judgment. That which was perfect in the beginning became a ruin, and darkness abode upon the face of the deep. Profoundly mysterious is this, and unspeakably tragic. A greater contrast than what is presented in the first two verses of Genesis 1 can hardly be conceived. Yet there it is: the primitive earth, created by God "in the beginning," had become a ruin.
No less tragic was that which befell the first man. Like the original earth before him, Adam remained not in his primitive state. A dreadful catastrophe occurred. Description of this is given in Genesis 3. By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin. The spirit of insubordination possessed him; he rebelled against his Maker; he ate of the forbidden fruit; and terrible were the consequences which followed. The fair handiwork of the Creator was blasted. Where before there was blessing, there now descended the curse. Into a scene of life and joy, entered death and sorrow. That which at the first was "very good," became very evil. Just as the primitive earth before him, so man became a wreck and a ruin. He was submerged in evil and enveloped in darkness. Unspeakably tragic was this, but the truth of it is verified in the heart of every descendant of Adam.
"There was, then, a primary creation, afterward a fall; first, ‘heaven and earth,' in due order, then earth without a heaven—in darkness, and buried under a ‘deep' of salt and barren and restless waters. What a picture of man's condition, as fallen away from God! How complete the confusion! How profound the darkness! How deep the restless waves of passion roll over the wreck of what was once so fair! ‘The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt'" (F. W. Grant).
Here, then, is the key to human destiny. Here is the cause of all the suffering and sorrow which is in the world. Here is the explanation of human depravity. Man is not now as God created him. God made man "upright" (Ecclesiastes 7:9), but he continued not thus. God faithfully warned man that if he ate of the forbidden fruit he should surely die. And die he did, spiritually. Man is, henceforth, a fallen creature. He is born into this world "alienated from the life of God" (Eph. 4:18). He was born into this world with a heart that is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jer. 17:9). This is the heritage of The Fall. This is the entail of Adam's transgression. Man is a ruined creature, and "darkness," moral and spiritual, rents upon the face of his understanding. (Eph. 4:18).
3. "And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Here is where hope begins to dawn. God did not abandon the primitive earth, which had become a ruin. It would not have been surprising, though, if He had. Why should God trouble any further about that which lay under His righteous judgment? Why should He condescend to notice that which was now a desolate waste? Why, indeed. But here was where sovereign mercy intervened. He had gracious designs toward that formless void. He purposed to resurrect it, restore it, refructify it. And the first thing we read of in bringing about this desired end was, "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." There was Divine activity. There was a movement on the part of the Holy Spirit. And this was a prime necessity. How could the earth resurrect itself? How could that which lay under the righteous judgment of God bring itself into the place of blessing? How could darkness transform itself into life? In the very nature of the case it could not. The ruined creation was helpless. If there was to be restoration, and a new creation, Divine power must intervene, the Spirit of God must "move."
The analogy holds good in the spiritual realm. Fallen man had no more claim upon God's notice than had the desolated primitive earth. When Adam rebelled against his Maker, he merited naught but unsparing judgment at His hands, and if God was inclined to have any further regard for him, it was due alone to sovereign mercy. What wonder if God had left man to the doom he so richly deserved! But no. God had designs of grace toward him. From the wreck and ruin of fallen humanity, God purposed to bring forth a "new creation." Out of the death of sin, God is now bringing on to resurrection ground all who are united to Christ His Son. And the first thing in bringing this about is the activity of the Holy Spirit. And this, again, is a prime necessity. Fallen man, in himself, is as helpless as was the fallen earth. The sinner can no more regenerate himself than could the ruined earth lift itself out of the deep which rested upon it. The new creation, like the restoration of the material creation, must be accomplished by God Himself.
4. "And God said, let there be light, and there was light." First the activity of the Holy Spirit and now the spoken Word. No less than ten times in this chapter do we read "and God said." God might have refashioned and refurnished the earth without speaking at all, but He did not. Instead, He plainly intimated from the beginning, that His purpose was to be worked out and His counsels accomplished by the Word. The first thing God said was, "Let there be light," and we read, "There was light." Light, then, came in, was produced by, the Word. And then we are told, "God saw the light, that it was good."
It is so in the work of the new creation. These two are inseparably joined together—the activity of the Spirit and the ministry of the Word of God. It is by these the man in Christ became a new creation. And the initial step toward this was the entrance of light into the darkness. The entrance of sin has blinded the eyes of man's heart and has darkened his understanding. So much so that, left to himself, man is unable to perceive the awfulness of his condition, the condemnation which rests upon him, or the peril in which he stands. Unable to see his urgent need of a Savior, he is, spiritually, in total darkness. And neither the affections of his heart, the reasonings of his mind, nor the power of his will, can dissipate this awful darkness. Light comes to the sinner through the Word applied by the Spirit. As it is written, "the entrance of Thy words giveth light" (Ps. 119:130). This marks the initial step of God's work in the soul. Just as the shining of the light in Genesis I made manifest the desolation upon which it shone, so the entrance of God's Word into the human heart reveals the awful ruin which sin has wrought.
5. "And God divided the light from the darkness." Hebrews 4:12 tells us, the Word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." This is not a figurative expression but, we believe, a statement of literal fact. Man is a tripartite being, made up of "spirit and soul and body" (1 Thess. 5:23). The late Dr. Pierson distinguished between them thus: "The spirit is capable of God-consciousness; the soul is the seat of self-consciousness; the body of sense-consciousness.'' In the day that Adam sinned, he died spiritually. Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body; spiritual death is the separation of the spirit from God. When Adam died, his spirit was not annihilated, but it was "alienated" from God. There was a fall. The spirit, the highest part of Adam's complex being, no longer dominated; instead, it was degraded, it fell to the level of the soul, and ceased to function separately. Hence, today, the unregenerate man is dominated by his soul, which is the seat of lust, passion, emotion. But in the work of regeneration, the Word of God "pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit," and the spirit is rescued from the lower level to which it has fallen, being brought back again into communion with God. The "spirit" being that part of man which is capable of communion with God, is light; the "soul" when it is not dominated and regulated by the spirit is in darkness, hence, in that part of the six days' work of restoration which adumbrated the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, we read, "And God divided the light from the darkness."
6. "And God said, let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters . . . . and God called the firmament heaven" (Gen. 1:6, 8). This brings us to the second days work, and here, for the first time, we read that "God made" something (Gen. 1:7). This was the formation of the atmospheric heaven, the "firmament," named by God "heaven." That which corresponds to this in the new creation, is the impartation of a new nature. The one who is "born of the Spirit" becomes a "partaker of the Divine nature" (2 Pet. 1:4). Regeneration is not the improvement of the flesh, or the cultivation of the old nature; it is the reception of an altogether new and heavenly nature. It is important to note that the "firmament" was produced by the Word, for, again we read, "And God said." So it is by the written Word of God that the new birth is produced, "Of His own will begat He us with the Word of truth"(Jam. 1:18). And again, "being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God" (1 Pet. 1:23).
7. "And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. And God said. Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself" (Gen. 1:9-11). These verses bring before us God's work on the third day, and in harmony with the meaning of this numeral we find that which clearly speaks of resurrection. The earth was raised out of the waters which had submerged it, and then it was clothed with vegetation. Where before there was only desolation and death, life and fertility now appeared. So it is in regeneration. The one who was dead in trespasses and sins, has been raised to walk in newness of life. The one who was by the old creation "in Adam," is now by new creation "in Christ." The one who before produced nothing but dead works, is now fitted to bring forth fruit to the glory of God.
And here we must conclude. Much has been left untouched, but sufficient has been said, we trust, to show that the order followed by God in the six days' work of restoration, foreshadowed His work of grace in the new creation: that which He did of old in the material world, typified His present work in the spiritual realm. Every stage was accomplished by the putting forth of Divine power, and everything was produced by the operation of His Word. May writer and reader be more and more subject to that Word, and then shall we be pleasing to Him and fruitful in His service.
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