Editor’s Note: This post is part of a series on faith. Previous post. Next post.
“By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Heb. 11:3).
Creation sings a beautiful story. Every detail of it was designed by a masterful artist whose artistic abilities are high and above the most skilled human painter. Not a stroke of color is wasted. Every layer of wispy blue and white in the sky is intentionally designed; every verdant hue of green in the dew-dipped grass is there on purpose; every shade of color in the wind-swept flowers of the field was put there like a well-stationed singer in a choir. Creation sings a beautiful story, and the author and perfecter of that story is God Himself in Christ. But what does creation sing about?
John Calvin was rather fond of using the theater analogy for talking about creation and its relationship to God. He referred to creation as the “theater of the glory of God.” In this theater, God is the great artist-conductor, and every scene of the play is designed to reflect the glory of God. Every actor on stage is there to help set the stage for the lead actor and the main event—the coming of God into history in the person of Jesus Christ. Calvin would also refer to creation as one of “two books” that reveal something about God. The first book is creation. As Psalm 19:1 states, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Creation is described almost like a preacher—powerfully and descriptively declaring the truth that there is a God in heaven who has made all things for His own glory. Creation did not just “happen” upon some random occasion; it was intentionally brought into existence by God who knew the end from the beginning and designed all things well.
This appears to be the underlying point of Hebrews 11:3. It is “by faith” that we understand that God created the world not out of visible things but by His own creative word. As one author puts it, God “preached” the world into existence. God spoke—and the universe became. That which formerly did not exist began to exist when God called it into being. The universe was brought forth from nothing by His voice and began to teem with life. This theology of creation is pastorally significant in the book of Hebrews for several reasons. First, the author of Hebrews reveals that the God who created all things and upholds them by the word of His power is the same One who redeemed us in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:1–4 makes this point rather clearly. Jesus is not a redeemer whose power is limited; He is the eternal Son through whom the world was created and is now upheld.
This powerful point was also repeatedly made by Moses in the Pentateuch: the One who redeemed Israel from their bondage in Egypt is not bound by time or space. His power extends to the ends of the earth because He created heaven and earth. The same redemptive word that brought Israel out of Egypt is the creative word by which the universe is upheld. In this respect, the God of Israel is not like the time-trapped and geographically limited gods of Egypt and Canaan. Thus, Israel was to trust in God and take Him at His word—no matter what circumstances seemed to overtake them. The same point is being made in the book of Hebrews: no matter in what circumstance the church finds herself, she must trust and obey the voice of the living God who not only created all things but upholds them in the palm of His hand. As long as today is still called “today,” the church must follow Christ’s words, for those words are just as “living and active” now as they were when they were first spoken.