The Act of Creation
God created the universe out of nothing. Scripture teaches this via strong implication. God made all things, thus prior to His creative work nothing but Him existed. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1). “You alone are the Lord. You have made the heavens , the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them and the heavenly host bows down before You” (Neh 9:6). “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” (Ps 33:6, 9). “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” (Jn 1:3). In these passages it seems plain that all things had a beginning. All things were created by God, and prior to His creative work, none of these things existed. Therefore, we say that God created all things ex nihilo, “out of nothing.”
Physical and Spiritual
Christians make terrible naturalists. Scripture seems to clearly divide creation into physical and spiritual. God made both. “The God who made the world and all things in it…” (Ac 17:24). “By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible” (Heb 11:3). “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” (Col 1:16). “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” (Rev 4:11). “‘O Lord, it is You who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all that is in them’” (Ac 4:24). “Or who enclosed the sea with doors when, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; when I made a cloud its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and I placed boundaries on it and set a bolt and doors, and I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop’?” (Job 38:8-11).
Lastly, consider Psalm 90:2. “Before the mountains were born or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” The Psalmist clearly ascribes to God a pre-creation existence. Before creation, there was God. God gave birth to the earth and the world ex nihilo. Creation has no pre- or post- in relation to God.
In all that God created, the crown of His work was mankind. Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” After God made man, He made woman: “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man’” (2:21-23). The glorious mark of mankind is that he bears God’s image (Gen 1:26). This means that humans naturally exhibit something that is true of God.
In addition to creating man and woman (Gen 1:18), God also created the first institution: marriage. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed” (v.24). God created marriage to be a reflection of His own relationship to His people (Eph 5:31-32). It is a holy institution: exclusive and restricted to all outside of its contract (Prov 5:15-20). It is of God, not man (Matt 19:6), to the extent that the breaking of the marriage contract is a grievance to God (Mal 2:16) and has been allowed only to those of hard, unrepentant hearts (Matt 19:8). God’s intention for marriage has always been that a man and a woman would be united together under covenant until death, as a living/breathing example of God’s relationship to His people: the wife submitting to the husband as the church submits to Christ and the husband unconditionally loving the woman as Christ loves the church (Eph 5:22-33).
As we look at creation, it would be unfaithful to not consider it in the context of God as being triune: three persons in one being, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Father served as the main initiator and orchestrator of the creative work. We see His sovereign will being submitted to within the economic Trinity. “And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will’” (Matt 26:39). “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor 11:3). It was the Father Who initiated and orchestrated the creation of all things, just as He did in the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ (Jn 3:16; Ac 2:23) and will do in the end of all things (Matt 24:36).
The Father created all things through the Son. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from His nothing came into being that has come into being” (Jn 1:1-3). “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” (Col 1:16). Heb. 1:2, “In these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world” (Heb 1:2). The relationship between the Father and the Son, concerning the creation of all things, can also be seen in 1 Corinthians 8:6, “Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him” Consider Andrew Davis’ words: “In some mysterious way God spoke the universe into existence out of nothing, and Christ was the word by which God did this powerful creative speaking. The universe was created for Christ, and God appointed Christ ‘heir of all things.’ So, in some astonishing way, every atom in the physical universe and every entity in the spiritual realm belongs to Christ by rights” (Creation, The Gospel Coalition Booklets, pg. 10).
The Spirit’s role in creation is much more vague and nuanced in Scripture. However, we know that He was involved (Gen 1:1-2). We can say that His role was the completing, filling and giving life to creation. “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life” (Job 33:4). “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the ground” (Ps 104:30). “The testimony of Scripture to the specific activity of the Holy Spirit in creation is scarce. The work of the Holy Spirit is brought into much greater prominence in connection with the inspiring of the authors of Scripture and the applying of Christ’s redemptive work to the people of God” (Grudem, 267).
THE PURPOSE OF CREATION
After studying the act of creation, it is now important for us to understand why God created all things. What is the purpose? What reason did God have in creating the world?
For His Will
Consider first that God has absolute right over His creation: “Does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?” (Rom 9:21). God clearly has a right to do with creation as He desires. “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps 115:3). The purpose of creation is to adhere to His will. Whatever God pleases to happen, creation is to conform to it. Solomon understood this: “The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person” (Ecc 12:13).
For His Glory
Part of God’s will for creation is the manifestation of His attributes: putting Himself on display. “Since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20). From the beginning of time itself, all of creation has served as a canvas for the attributes of God! “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge” (Ps 19:1-2). Also, Isaiah 46:9-11 testifies that God knows the future because God accomplishes the future. Creation was created and is being orchestrated according to the will of God; no one can reverse it (43:13). Creation also glorifies God, but there is a special part of creation that especially brings God glory: His people.
Consider Isaiah 43:6-7, “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.” Although all of creation glorifies God in some way, God’s people are a special creation in relation with His glory. Consider these texts: Ex. 14:4, 18; Ps. 25:11; 106:7-8; 1 Sam. 12:20, 22; 2 Sam. 7:23; Isa. 43:6-7, 25; 48:9-11; 49:3; Jer. 13:11; Ezek. 20:14; 36:22-23; Rom. 9:17; Eph. 1:4-6; Phil. 1:9, 11. Also, consider Jesus Christ’s own concern for His Father’s glory: Matt. 5:16; Jn. 7:18; 12:27-28; 14:13; 17:1, 24; Rom. 3:25-26; Rom. 15:7. The church of God has been entrusted with a solemn charge: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor 10:31). It is also clearly expected that all creation should glorify God. Scripture warns lest we think otherwise (Ac 12:23; Rom 1:22-23; 3:23).
“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” (Rev 4:11).