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Genesis 1:1

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Simple enough for the youngest child to understand and yet sufficiently profound to inspire the greatest thinkers to ponder its ramifications, Genesis 1:1 is certainly one of the most beloved and consequential sentences ever written. We often pass over this text quickly, so accustomed are we to the fundamental idea of the Christian worldview — that God is the Creator and we are His creatures. Yet we must pause to consider this verse lest we miss its enormous implications. Genesis 1:1 is one of the proof texts for question and answer 26 of the Heidelberg Catechism, and the catechism does a good job of outlining some of the consequences of understanding that God is “creator of heaven and earth.” First, we find in the catechism that Genesis 1:1 tells us God made everything out of nothing. In the beginning, the verse tells us, there was nothing else besides the Almighty Himself. We read nothing of angels, human beings, or any physical material. Even time itself did not exist before the Creator acted to bring something out of nothing. Moses can only speak of a “beginning” in Genesis 1:1 because of God’s intervention to get things started. Prior to His work of creation, the Lord alone was, and He was from all eternity. As Hebrews 11:3 tells us, “The universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” Question and answer 26 also explain that since God is the Creator, He upholds all things. We will say more about this next week, but today we note that God’s sustaining providence means that every created thing depends on something outside itself for its origin and continuation. This something is God. Unlike His creation, however, our Creator depends on nothing outside Himself for His existence. He is self-existent, having the power of being in Himself. We were created in time, and in God “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:22–34). God, however, is. We know Him by His covenant name, “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). There never was a time when He was not, and there never will be a time when He will not be. As dependent creatures, we rely on the Lord for our standards of right and wrong, our knowledge, and much more. We know our place in the universe only when we remember that He is our Creator and we are His creatures.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

The Creator-creature distinction is fundamental to biblical theology. Every act of sin arises when we forget that we are not the Creator and then attempt to live by our own rules. Every orthodox summary of theology submits itself to what God the Creator has said and not to our own ideas of goodness, truth, and beauty. True worship begins when we see that we are but creatures and owe our Creator thanksgiving and praise.

For Further Study
  • Deuteronomy 32:6b
  • Ecclesiastes 12
  • Isaiah 40:28
  • Romans 1:18–32

Augustine on Faith and Reason Part II

Turning Adversity to Good

Keep Reading The Self-Centered Life

From the March 2012 Issue
Mar 2012 Issue