In addition to the written teaching below, here’s the audio to tonight’s CUMO Mid-Week Bible Study.
To go along with this week’s study, I prepared a chart to make it easier to follow along with the teaching. You may want to print it out for easier viewing as you read or listen to the teaching.
WHAT IS THE POINT OF GENESIS 1?
Genesis 1. The account of creation.
Why is it in the Bible?
What was the point of Moses writing, “In the beginning, God created…”? Why did Moses write about creation the way he did?
Was it written so that we would all be creationists, taking the account literally and matching it up with science, proving that God did in fact create everything? If so, then how many creationists believe in and espouse a flat earth supported by pillars with a dome on top of it? For, that is what the account of creation (as seen elsewhere besides Genesis 1) and the science of the Bible say.
Was it written to tell us, to help us know and understand, the scientific processes by which God created the universe? “See, first God created light, which is energy. He did this because you need energy before anything else. Then…”
Was it written to tell us the age of the universe and, therefore, the earth? Was it written so that we would have ammunition to defend a belief in a young earth because God created in seven literal days or an old earth because we found a gap between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 that would for billions of years to have taken place?
Job 38:1-4 says, “Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: Who is it that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you…”
And, for two chapters, God mocks the debate between Job and his friends with question after question regarding Job’s knowledge about how God created the heavens and the earth and how he maintains different aspects of his creation.
Therefore, to understand the story of creation in Genesis 1, we need to remember what the Bible is and is not. First, the Bible is not a science book. Treating it, and in particular Genesis 1, as if it is about science creates an argument that is a distraction to the real purpose of the account of creation and the Bible. Instead of being a book of geology, biology, ecology, exogeology, etc., the Bible is a book of theology. It is a book by which we study God. Therefore, the Bible is a revelation of who God is. And, in Jesus’ own words, it is a book that bears witness of him (John 5:39-40).
So, the point of Genesis 1, the reason it was written, is that we would know God and have a witness to Jesus.
The first thing the Bible tells us about God is that he is a creator. This tells us something very special about God as he is the only one that ever creates in the Bible (a study of the Hebrew and Greek words for “create” will show this, but that is another teaching).
So, what did God create?
Let’s look at just the first three days of creation in Genesis 1. You will understand why I want to focus on the first three days below.
On day one, God said, “Let there be light.” God separated light from darkness.
On day two, God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters.” God created an expanse, or a firmament, that separated the waters above from the waters below.
On day three, God said, “Let the waters under the havens be gathered together into one place and let the dry land appear.” God separated the seas and the dry land appeared.
So, on the first three days, God brought forth light, a firmament, and dry land. All were brought forth through a process of separation. God creates by separating.
GOD’S INVISIBLE ATTRIBUTES
Romans 1:19-20 says, “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
So, God has invisible attributes. Paul says these attributes are God’s eternal power and divine nature. Further, these invisible attributes have been known since the creation of the world. “The creation of the world.” That’s Genesis 1. So, somewhere in the six days of creation (I would argue the first three) we should be able to know, or clearly perceive, God’s invisible attributes.
Do you clearly perceive them? I didn’t think so.
To do so, we need to get more specific about exactly what are God’s invisible attributes. I propose there are three.
- God is light. According to 1 John 1:5, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.”
- God is love. According to 1 John 4:8, “Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
- God is life. According to 1 John 5:20, “He is the true God and eternal life.”
As you read, remember the order that 1 John lists God’s invisible attributes – light, love, life.
Now that you know God’s invisible attributes, do you clearly perceive them in Genesis 1? I will give you light, but I doubt you see the other two.
JOHN: THE NEW GENESIS
To see God’s invisible attributes in creation, we need to understand that the gospel of John is the new Genesis. How so?
Genesis 1 starts “in the beginning” which is followed by a series of days. Just like Genesis 1, John 1 starts “in the beginning”. But, did you know that “in the beginning” in the the gospel of John is also followed by a series of days? Maybe you haven’t noticed because the days are spread out over several chapters instead of clustered together like Genesis 1. This is John’s clue that he is writing a new Genesis about a new creation.
Further, when we understand that John is writing the new Genesis and we read the Bible in the language of Son, with the understanding that the entire Bible is a witness to Jesus, then we understand why Genesis 1 was written. It’s real purpose is to bear witness to Jesus.
So, let’s compare the account of creation in Genesis with the account in the gospel of John.
In Genesis, on day one God calls forth light and separates it from darkness.
On day one, John 1:4-5, 7-9 says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not over come it…He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not that light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.”
On the first day of John’s gospel there was light. And, when the light shined in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it, light and darkness were separated. John tells us that this light is Jesus, equating Jesus with the light called forth on the first day of creation.
Therefore, the first day established light as one of God’s invisible attributes that could be known through creation.
In Genesis, on day two, God made the firmament and separated the waters above from the waters below.
John 1:29-34 details the second day in John’s gospel. Verses 29 and 31-33 say, “The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!…I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ And John bore witness: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.”‘”
So, Jesus, the Lamb of God, gets baptized on day two of John’s gospel. Jesus’ body went down into the water and separated the water. Jesus’ baptism, in which the body of the Lamb of God separated the waters, links day two of John’s gospel with the waters being separated on day two of Genesis.
Throughout the Bible, waters being separated represents baptism.
Exodus 14:22 says, “And the people of Israel went into the midst of the sea on dry ground, the waters being a wall to them on their right and on their left.”
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2 that this was Israel’s baptism. “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.”
Therefore, when we read that the waters were separated on day two in Genesis we should immediately think of baptism. But, what separated the waters in Genesis? The firmament, which is key to linking Jesus’ baptism on the second day in John’s gospel with the “baptism” that took place on the second day in Genesis 1.
To see the connection, recall that baptism is symbolic of death. On the second day of John’s gospel, John the Baptist declares Jesus to be the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. Jesus, the lamb of God, that was baptized and symbolically died on day of two of John’s gospel, fulfilled this symbolism when he died on the cross.
On the cross, Jesus cried out with a loud voice, breathed his last, and yielded up his spirit. Right then, according to Matthew 27:51, “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” Now we have a connection between Jesus’ baptism, his death on the cross as the lamb of God, and the veil being torn in the temple.
What was the veil? The veil was what separated (there’s that creative word again) the holy place from the most holy place, the place of God’s presence. The priests were allowed into the holy place, but only the high priest, and that once a year with an offering of blood, was allowed beyond the veil into God’s presence. Hebrews tells us that Jesus Christ is the high priest that took an offering of his own blood beyond the veil into the presence of God. Here is another connection between Jesus’ body and the veil.
What does this have to do with the waters being separated by the firmament in Genesis?
Psalm 78:69 says, “He built his sanctuary like the high heavens, like the earth, which he has founded forever.” The psalmist is saying that God built his earthly tabernacle, the one Moses built, which was patterned exactly after the heavenly one, think Jesus, just like he built creation. In the tabernacle, there was a veil that separated the holy place from the most holy place, the place of God’s presence. This veil is just like firmament in that separated the earth from the heavens, the place of God’s presence. So, now we have a connection between the veil and the firmament to go with our connection between Christ’s body and the veil.
But, to drive the point home even further, Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above [the same word as firmament or expanse in Genesis 1] proclaims his handiwork.” The firmament proclaims God’s handiwork. What is God’s handiwork? Hebrews 10:5 says, “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you not desire, but a body have you prepared for me.'” The firmament proclaims the work of God’s hand, which is Jesus, the lamb of God to be offered up for the sins of the world. Like Jesus’ death tore the veil giving us access to the most holy place, so to did Jesus’ death tear the firmament, reconnecting the heavens and the earth.
So, the second day in Genesis is linked with the second day of John’s gospel through baptism and the crucifixion of the Lamb of the God.
(As an aside, have you ever noticed that God did not call anything that happened on day two good in Genesis? I believe that is because this day spoke prophetically of the death of God’s son.)
So, how does this reveal one of God’s invisible attributes on the second day of creation?
1 John 3:16 says, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us.” And, 1 John 4:9-10, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
The death of Jesus, the event of day two of John’s gospel and Genesis, is how we know love.
Therefore, the second day established love as one of God’s invisible attribute that could be known through creation.
In Genesis, on day three, God gathered the waters below and the dry land appeared.
Finding the equivalent of day three in John’s gospel gets a little tricky.
John 1:35 says, “Again, the next day…”
John 1:43 says, “The following day…”
John 2:1 says, “On the third day…”
We need to know two things about John. First, he uses a lot of symbolism in his writings. Second, John is not writing an historical account of Jesus like we would today. In John 20:31, he tells us exactly why he wrote the gospel, “But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” John is writing more a theological treatise than an historical account.
Given those two points, it is important to note that John 2:1 is the only place that any of the days in John’s gospel is numbered. This is important because when you read through the Bible you will notice that an incredibly large number of events happen on the third day.
Given the great theological significance of the third day, it is not by chance that John marked out this day in John 2 with a number. By specifically identifying this as the third day, John is telling you to pay very careful attention to what happens on it.
John 2:1 says, “On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee.” This is familiar story. Jesus, his mother, and his disciples attended a wedding where they ran out of wine. One thing led to another, and Jesus tells the servants to fill six water pots with water, which he turned into wine. John 2:9-10 says, “When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine…the master of the feast called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves the good wine first, and when have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept good wine until now.'”
Jesus turned water, which is ordinary but necessary for life, into wine, which is much sweeter and richer than wine, or better life. Wine, because it is sweeter and richer than water, is often a symbol of spiritual revival. While we are alive right now, Jesus gives us eternal life through the resurrection. Day three of John’s gospel is speaking to the resurrection of Jesus and the new life he gives. This is why John 2:11 says, “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory [eternal life]. And his disciples believed in him.” This first miracle, turning water into wine, was such a big deal to the disciples precisely because it spoke to Jesus’ resurrection and the eternal life he would give.
We see more support for the connection between the third day of John’s gospel and Genesis in Psalm 104. This psalm is a retelling of the days of creation.
- Day 1 – verses 1-2
- Day 2 – verses 3-4
- Day 3 – verses 5-18
- Day 4 – verses 19-23
- Day 5 – verses 24-26
- Day 6 – verses 27-30
- Day 7 – verses 31-35
What happens on day three in this psalm? Verses 14-15 say, “You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth and wine to gladden the heart of man, oil to make his face shine and bread to strengthen man’s heart.” The psalmist writes that on day three of creation there was “wine to gladden the heart of man.” That’s exactly what Jesus did on day three of John’s gospel.
Further, in Isaiah 25, the Lord prepares a feast for those that have come out of the city of confusion. Isaiah 25:6 says, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.”
Aged wine is better tasting wine. This is what the master of the feast said about the wine Jesus served. And, this is the wine that the Lord serves to those that come out of the city of confusion, to those enter new life.
I should note also that in Genesis it said the waters were gathered and the dry land appeared. In a sense, the dry land came up out of the water, speaking to new life or resurrected life after death or baptism. But, it very specifically says that the dry land appeared. Jesus appeared on the third day to his disciples on the third day after his death.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” People have long struggled with what Paul meant as there is no one scripture that says Jesus would rise on the third day. But, could Paul be referring to Genesis 1?
Therefore, the third day established life as God’s attribute that could be known through creation.
Now we see how creation has made known the invisible attributes of God. And, when we put them all together:
When the light of God shines on the love of God it produces the life of God.
Also, we can read what Paul wrote in Colossians 1:15-20 in even greater wonder.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn form the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of the cross.”
As we have seen from all of the above, Jesus is the image of the invisible God and the firstborn of all creation.
JESUS IS LIGHT, LOVE, AND LIFE
In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
Light and truth are closely related throughout scripture. As examples, see Psalm 43:3, John 3:21, 1 John 1:6.
Love is taking an action on behalf of another at the expense of oneself. Love is giving of oneself. God and Jesus are gratuitously self-giving. They do exceedingly, abundantly more than we could ever ask or imagine. Love is the way Jesus has lived from before the foundation of the world.
Jesus is eternal life.
Do you see what Jesus is saying in John 14:6?
I am the way, the truth, and the life is the same as saying I am love, light, and life.
When the truth of Christ shines on the love of Christ we get the life of Christ.
Jesus makes another similar statement in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life.”
What is the resurrection? It is Christ raised life after defeating death by forgiving us for our murdering him. The resurrection is light shining on love, the truth shining on the way, which leads to life.
WHAT CREATION SAYS ABOUT YOU AND ME
In the first sermon preached, Peter told the Jews that they crucified Jesus, the one who is the Messiah, the one who was sent from God to be their king. But, death couldn’t hold him and he was raised to life. The people that heard Peter’s preaching were cut to the heart and asked what they should do.
In Acts 2:38-39, Peter answered, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”
What is repenting?
A change of mind. Understanding. Light.
What is being baptized?
Paul tells us fully in Romans 6:3-11, but the short answer is baptism is being baptized into Christ’s death, which is how we know God’s love.
What is forgiveness and receiving the Holy Spirit?
The life of God. The life of Jesus. God’s forgiveness knows no end. That Jesus forgave us for killing him is how he defeated death and was resurrected to life.
So, repenting, being baptized, and receiving the Holy Spirit are the same as light, love, and life.
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, “Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But, it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.”
Another way to think of ourselves and creation is being transformed and conformed.
Paul writes of the veil being removed and the light of the gospel shining out of the darkness into our hearts. In 2 Corinthians 4:3-6, he writes, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Then, in Romans 12:2, Paul writes, “Be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” The Greek word for transformed is where we get our word for metamorphosis. That is to go from state of being to a completely different state of being.
To be transformed is to repent and be baptized!
What are being transformed into?
Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, “But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”
One turns to the Lord and the veil is removed – repentance, light. Being transformed – baptized. Into the same image. Being conformed to the same image as Jesus, the son of God, life.
In Romans 8:29, Paul writes that we are predestined to be conformed to image of God’s son so that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. We are to have the same attributes as Jesus – light, love, and life.
2 Corinthians 5:16-20 sums all that I have written above:
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them [forgiveness], and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
God’s creation made known his invisible attributes – light, love, and life. That creation bears witness that Jesus is the image of these attributes. He is the way, the truth, and the life or the resurrection and the life. If we repent, are baptized and receive the Holy Spirit, then we are in Christ and therefore a new creation of light, love, and life. As new creations, we have been given the same ministry of reconciliation as Christ. Therefore, we are his ambassadors.