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The Beginning

Creation and the Fall  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  28:25
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This morning its good to be back and be able to start a new year with a new series. For the next several weeks we’re going to be moving through the beginning of our Bibles. We’re going to be spending a lot of time in the first few chapters of Genesis - and I will forewarn you that we’ll be going slow. There’s so much there.
Of course we will be discussing Creation and we will also look at the Fall. In discussing Creation we will look at the biblical narrative and we will ask questions of the text and try and unravel what is the purpose of the text - what does it tell us?
Let’s read our text for this morning:
Genesis 1:1–2 ESV
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis Literary Introduction (1:1)

IN THE BEGINNING. It sounds so simple, yet behind it lurk many of the ultimate questions of philosophy, theology, and metaphysics. Unfortunately, it is often the sad duty of the exegete to penetrate the sublime in pursuit of the tedious. The moment we begin to ponder the phrase, its cloudlike simplicity dissipates to reveal rugged mountain peaks. In the beginning of what?

Two major translations of this passage are believed today.
“When God began to create the heavens and the earth, the earth was formless and empty.”

This translation focuses on the state of the earth before God began the creative activity that is recorded in the Genesis account. Those who accept this translation believe that God’s historical involvement with creation began after the earth already existed in a formless and empty state. That is, the earth was formless and empty, and then God began to create. According to this view, Genesis does not address how the earth originally came into existence in its formless and empty state, but what God did with a world already in existence.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty, a formless mass...”
Note that the punctuation is a bit different here. We often forget that the original Hebrew was void of paragraphs, punctuation, even chapters and verses. (Something to remember when doing your Bible Studies).

This traditional translation teaches that God created everything out of nothing. Therefore, his first step was to create the earth, which prior to that time did not exist, and he created it without form and population (empty). God then proceeded to shape and populate the world he had made as witnessed by the Genesis account.

As we compare these texts...
Neither of these translations can be proven by grammar or syntax alone, the second translation however is preferred for several reasons.

Although the validity of either translation cannot be proven by grammar and syntax alone, the second translation is preferred for several reasons. First of all, a literary comparison of “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (1:1) and “This is the account of the creation of the heavens and the earth” (2:4a) supports the idea that Genesis 1:1 is the first part of a literary framework within which the creation account is presented. Genesis 2:4a stands as the closing phrase for this literary unit and it refers backward, not forward, ending the account of creation begun at 1:1.

This framework with its beginning and ending sets verse one as independent of verse two. It is a title of sorts, not a simple introduction.

Another argument supporting the second translation points out that the phrase “heavens and the earth,” in 1:1, functions much like the English idioms “A to Z” or “top to bottom.” It is a phrase that covers not only the “heaven” and the “earth,” but everything in between as well. This reveals that God created, that he created in the beginning, and that his creative work involved the heavens, the earth and everything in between.

As we read the Creation narrative we read those opening words...
“In the beginning...”
Immediately our minds our drawn back to a place that we’ve never been before.

That the Bible should speak of the beginning provokes the world, provokes us. For we cannot speak of the beginning. Where the beginning begins, there our thinking stops; there it comes to an end.

We have been brought up in a scientific age, and ours is to ask the question, “Why?” We do this of everything to solve any problem. What was the initial cause. But the truth is you and I cannot conceive of a beginning. “The question, why,…only gives expression to a series of questions that could be pushed back endlessly, yet would not reach the beginning” (Bonhoeffer).
We no longer live in the beginning, instead, we have lost the beginning and now find ourselves in the middle. No one likes the middle. It is a place where we not only don’t know the beginning, we don’t know the end. We see our life as determined by these two factors, and the only thing we know for sure is that we don’t know them.
Bonhoeffer said:

Humankind knows itself to be totally deprived of its own self-determination, because it comes from the beginning and is moving toward the end without knowing what that means. This makes it hate the beginning and rise up in pride against it.

I am convinced that the reason so many in our human state spend so much time trying to disprove Creation is to disprove a Creator and therefore rid ourselves of any form of objective standard of how we ought to live or any standard of right and wrong. We are left totally to ourselves to determine how we shall live. As long as this self determination “does no harm,” and doesn’t interrupt another's self determination then it’s considered right.
In other words we live in our “own reality” which by definition cannot be - and though we understand this in our heart of hearts we don’t want to. That’s our sinful nature coming out.

In the beginning...

So not only are we thrown by the first three words that mean we can not ask why any further, then we hit the fourth word - God.
So what we have is that we are no longer at the beginning of all things, just at the beginning of what we know, something or rather someone, existed before. God.
The entirety of how we understand the Bible, indeed our world, is built upon this opening sentence.

The nature of the Bible’s teaching on creation is at once theological, doxological, and factual.

Theologically the Bible counters pagan cosmological theories both ancient and modern: this world is not ultimate reality. Doxologically not only the creation itself declares the glory of God, but even the teaching of creation in Scripture is presented as praise to God. For instance, scholars recognize the pleasing literary symmetry in the structure of the creation days in Genesis. Factually the biblical texts reveal something about God’s creative and formative actions in this world. Therefore, though the doctrine of creation is more than science, it is not unscientific—otherwise biblical theology and doxology are groundless.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised I. Theistic Creation Versus Other Views

The doctrine of creation—of the origin and persistence of all finite existences—as the work of God, is a necessary postulation of the religious consciousness. Such consciousness is marked by deeper insight than belongs to science.

Why? Because science can only trace the continuity of sequences in nature. Once we’re at the beginning of creation there is no more “why” that we can follow the sequence of. We’re at an end. In creation this law of continuity must be transcended and the world viewed as product of divine intelligence.
“The existence of God is not the conclusion of a syllogism, but the assumption behind all that the Bible says.”
References to the creation narrative can be found not only in Genesis in the Old Testament, but in the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Amos; in the Psalms, in Job, and Nehemiah; and in the New Testament, John, Acts, Romans, Colossians, Hebrews, and of course Revelation.
As we read the Scriptures we need to ask ourselves - what is the purpose of the writing. Is the purpose of Scripture to tell us about our world?
It’s not very difficult to see even in this beginning sentence that much of Scripture is to point us to God and finds its purpose in not only showing us who God is, but also how God relates to the Creation from the beginning and will until the end, and beyond to the New Creation of a New Heaven and a New Earth.
How we understand these opening words will reflect in how we treat each other - are we random happenings? OR are we truly unique, fearfully and wonderfully made creations with a divine purpose?
I hope you’ll join us for the remainder of the series.
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