Text: Genesis 1:1-3
Preached at Reformed Presbyterian Church of Bowie (PCA)
(This is the complete manuscript.)
There is a lot that we can learn from Genesis 1, but tonight we will focus on what I believe to be its heart message: That in the story of creation, God, who alone created us by His Spirit and word, guarantees the total completion of His work of new creation in Christ by His Spirit and word.
The Israelites in the wilderness, between Egypt and the promised land, were the original recipients of the Torah or the first five books of the Bible, which includes Genesis. They were children of Abraham, to whom God gave the promise of a seed or offspring. That promise goes way back to Genesis 3:15 where God said to satan, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Then in Genesis 12, God promised to make Abraham into a great nation, and that in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed. And that will come about through Abraham’s offspring who is the same offspring of the woman who will defeat satan and reverse the curse of the fall.
God did make Abraham into a great nation. He freed his descendants, the Israelites, from slavery in Egypt, and He was now about to take them to the promised land. But so much more than the promise of land, the Lord was going to do good on His promise to send Abraham’s seed, who will defeat satan, reverse the curse of the fall and bring about a new heaven and a new earth.
But having been former slaves, the Israelites were poor and powerless compared to the great pagan nations that God said they will defeat and dispossess. They were overwhelmed with doubts and great fear. To comfort and strengthen His people, the Lord gave them His word, the means of grace. He inspired Moses to write the Torah, and it starts with Genesis 1, the story of creation.
The whole Bible, is all about God. Genesis 1 is all about Him.
In Genesis 1:1: “God created.”
In verse 2: “the Spirit of God was hovering…”
Verse 3: “God said…”
Verse 4: “God saw… and he separated…”
Verse 5: “God called…”
Verse 6: “God said…”
Verse 7: “God made…”
Verse 8: “God called…”
Verse 9: “God said…”
And on and on and on. It’s God, God, God, God, God. It’s all about God!
God is Elohim in Hebrew. It’s plural. The singular form is El. But the Bible does not say, “El created… And the Spirit of El was hovering… and El said… and El separated… and El saw,” etc. No, it says, “Elohim… Elohim… Elohim… Elohim…”
Out of context it can be translated as “Gods created… And the Spirit of Gods was hovering… and Gods said… and Gods separated,” etc. But we cannot translate Elohim as Gods because the Bible teaches that God is one. Moreover, the Hebrew word for “created” is bara, which is singular. The same is true of the Hebrew word for “said,” “separated,” “saw,” etc. So Elohim is plural, but the Hebrew verbs that tell of his deeds are singular. It’s grammatically irregular, but that is how the Lord chose to reveal Himself — as the infinitely great and incomprehensibly powerful God! As Elohim, and not just El.
Now why is that?
Some say that it’s just a plurality of majesty. You see in ancient times, plural nouns and pronouns were used of kings. So when the works of Pharaoh were spoken of, for example, they did not say that he built a temple. Instead, they said, “They built a temple,” although Pharaoh was just one person. It’s called the plurality of majesty.
Now, the plural noun Elohim does tell of God’s infinite majesty. But it’s so much deeper and greater than that. You see, the pagan nations that surrounded and constantly threatened Israel also had their own creation stories. And all of them say that the gods (elohim) created the universe, using existing materials. But even if every individual god (el) worked together, they couldn’t complete the work of creation. And so they had a meeting. And in that meeting they decided to create man, and as their servants they would have human beings complete the work of creation. And so they created human beings, and as servants of the gods (elohim), mankind completed the work of creation that the gods (elohim) could not complete.
Well, Genesis 1 told Israel, and it tells us today, that that’s not what happened. God is one, but he is not just El. He is Elohim. He is of such infinite greatness and power that even if you combine all the greatness and powers of all the gods of the pagan world, they are of no match to our one, true and living Elohim. And He created the universe completely and perfectly, all by himself, out of nothing, without the use of preexistent matter. As Hebrew 11:3 declares, “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.” Moreover, God (Elohim) created the universe without the help of angels, human beings or any creature. He “finished” his work of creation all by himself, by his Spirit and word.
Now think of this? If all the gods (elohim) of the pagans together could not complete the work of creation, how much less a single, individual god (el). And so when they got sick, they went to pray and give offerings to a god of healing, but that’s all that that individual god could do — to heal. When they needed money, the god of healing couldn’t help them. For that, they had to go, offer gifts and pray to another god — the god of money. Then during times of drought, they needed to pray and give offerings to the god of rain. And for safety and deliverance from natural calamities, they needed to pray to yet another god. And so they had so many gods to serve and please and pray to.
Listen, dear brothers and sisters in Christ. Our God is not just El. He is Elohim — infinitely vast in greatness and majesty, in knowledge and wisdom, in power and ability, in everything that is good and holy. So when you are tempted and weak, you turn to him alone for help and strength. When you’re in need of provision, you turn to him alone as well. He’s got everything that you need! He is all that you need! Whether your sick, troubled, depressed, anxious, fearful… In whatever condition you may be, and no matter how big or small your problems and challenges are… He is the answer, and it is to him alone that you must turn. And you can be sure that he is more than able to help, guide, protect, comfort, strengthen and sustain you. Why? Because he is not just El. He is Elohim, the one, true and living God, infinite in majesty and power, who alone created everything that exists by his Spirit and word, out of nothing. You don’t need another god. He is everything that you need. In him, you have everything!
But so much more than help and deliverance from temporal matters, our infinitely great and powerful Elohim, out of nothing, without needing the help of angels or us or anything outside of Himself… By Himself alone, He is able to bring about the new creation. That was His promise to Israel, and that is also His promise to us under the new covenant. The total completion of His work of new creation is 100% guaranteed because He is not just El. He is Elohim — infinitely vast in majesty and power. And we rest on that!
Now, aside from it being a revelation of God’s infinite majesty and power, I strongly believe that Elohim also points to the doctrine of the Trinity.
Look at Genesis 1:1. It says, “Elohim created…”
Now look at verse 2. It says, “[T]he Spirit of Elohim was hovering…”
Then, verse 3: “And Elohim said…”
It’s Elohim, Spirit of Elohim and then Elohim, Elohim, Elohim, Elohim, Elohim, Elohim, Elohim all through out the chapter and onto chapter 2 verse 3. Why? Why not Elohim all through out? Why Elohim in verse 1, and then the Spirit of Elohim in verse 2, and then from verse 3 all the way to the end of the passage in chapter 2 verse 3 it’s all Elohim? In fact, the Spirit of Elohim is not referred to again until Genesis 6:3. So really, the reference to the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2 looks like a brief insert or parenthesis. But that tells us that the role of the Holy Spirit in creation is both crucial and essential. God spoke, and everything that He commanded into being came into being because the Holy Spirit hovered, brought them forth and gave them life.
Listen, the Elohim who created the heavens and the earth in Genesis 1:1 is not the same divine person as the Spirit of Elohim who was hovering over the face of the waters. They are one God but two persons.
Moreover, the Spirit of Elohim in verse 2 is not same person as the Elohim who said, “Let there be light,” in verse 3. Instead, it’s the Elohim of verse 1 who said, “Let there be light,” in verse 3. And so, while the Spirit of Elohim in verse 2 was hovering, the Elohim of verse 1 spoke the universe into existence. And everything that Elohim said came to be because the hovering Spirit of Elohim brought forth and gave life to everything that Elohim commanded into being.
Then we have the testimony of the Bible regarding the Angel of the Lord, whom Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua and others saw. Clearly, He is presented to us in the Scriptures as another person of the Godhead.
Finally, we have God’s fuller and more complete revelation in the New Testament, the chief of which is John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word (Jesus), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
So there you have it! The work of creation is not just the work of God the Father. It is the work of all the three equally glorious and equally divine persons of the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And as the infinitely majestic and powerful Elohim, the three persons of the Trinity created the universe, out of nothing, without needing the help of angels or us or anything outside of Himself. This moves our hearts to rest in Him and worship Him in all His glory, beauty and splendor! And there’s more…
“In the beginning” is just one word in Hebrew: Bereshit. It refers to the beginning of time. Yes, time had a beginning! There was a time when there was no time. And that time before time is not time. Because before God created time, there was no time. Before God created time and space and everything else in heaven and on earth, there was nothing. There was just God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is timeless. That’s what we mean when we say that God is eternal.
Listen to this: God’s eternity is different from our eternity. Our eternity is time without end. God’s eternity is His timelessness. And so before creation, there was nothing. No time, no space, no heaven, no earth, no angels, no human beings. There was nothing! There was just God. And then God created time and space. And then He created heaven and earth. He created everything, both visible and invisible.
And so before Genesis 1:1 there was no time and space. And then out of nothing, God created time and space. And so God is outside time, and He is also inside time, which He created out nothing. He is outside space and also inside space, which He also created out of nothing. The Bible says that God dwells in heaven, but His word also reveals to us that heaven dwells in God, because God is greater than heaven, because God also created heaven out of nothing. God’s word also tells us that He dwells with us, His people, on earth; but actually, the whole universe dwells in God. That is how great and awesome our God, our Elohim, is!
You see, if eternity is not timelessness, or if eternity is time without a beginning or an end, then time and space pre-existed with God. If so, then perhaps we must not only worship God. Perhaps, we must also worship time and space because they are co-eternal with God. And if time and space were not created, then creation was not out of nothing. God had materials to use in creation, and He is not the sole origin and source of life. If that is true, then we did not come from God alone. We came from God and space and time.
But that is not what the Bible teaches us. It starts with “in the beginning God.” There was no time. There was no space. There was just God — Father, Son and Holy Spirit, equal in power, glory and essence. And God created time and space out of nothing. And that marked what both Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1 calls “the beginning.”
And so, the words “in the beginning” clearly teaches and emphasizes that creation was out of nothing. God alone is our Creator. There was no time, no space, no heaven, no earth, no angels, no human beings, no creatures whatsoever. Nothing! Just God. He did not use any pre-existent materials to create us, and He did not need anyone to help Him. He alone created heaven, earth, angels, man and everything else in the incomprehensibly vast universe.
Now listen carefully, brothers and sisters in Christ… God who alone created us out of nothing… He, of Himself and by Himself, is re-creating us. In creation, He did not use pre-existing materials, and He did not need anyone to help Him. In the new creation, He also does not need anything and anyone to help Him save and re-create us. He does not need anything and anyone to help Him bring about the new heaven and the new earth! Creation was out of nothing; in the same way, the new creation is out of nothing. Creation was by God alone; in the same way salvation is by God alone. They’re both monergistic!
Think about this. How did the new creation come about. It starts in Genesis 3:15, the first proclamation of the Gospel, preached by God Himself, the promise of the serpent-crushing offspring of the woman. And Eve did have two sons, but her older son Cain killed her younger son Abel. Then God gave her a new son, Seth. And Seth was a faithful Son. Through him, God brought forth a line of faithful sons. Later on, however, Seth’s descendants intermarried with Cain’s descendants, and they brought forth an evil generation that God destroyed through the Flood. Only Noah and his family were saved by God from the Flood. But like Seth’s descendants, Noah’s descendants became unfaithful and rebellious to God as well, and He scattered them from the unfinished Tower of Babel. And so from Genesis 1 to 11, God’s word teaches us that man was totally depraved and ever increased in sin and wickedness. Man was nothing and could do nothing to save, change or improve himself. But out the nothingness of the ancient world, the Creator spoke to one man, and He made him the recipient of His grace and promise. From this one man, God promised to bring forth the promised seed, the Savior and Re-Creator of His fallen creatures.
Now that one man, Abram was very old, about a hundred years old; and his wife Sarai was barren. They were nothing. “Good as dead”, Paul tells us in Romans 4:19. But out of the nothingness of Abraham and Sarah, God brought forth the nation of Israel.
But Israel was also like Cain and all the wicked people of the ancient world. They were totally depraved and ever increased in sin and wickedness. They were nothing, and can do nothing to save, change or improve themselves. They were nothing and could do nothing to bless the nations, as God promised to Abraham. But out of the nothingness of Israel, God brought forth the Messiah, who is both the New Creation and the New Creator.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are, in our sinful human nature, like the wicked people of the ancient world and Israel. Without Christ, we are nothing. We are dead and barren, unable to do nothing to save, change or improve ourselves. But we thank God that we are not without Christ.
Dear believer in Christ, the very same Elohim of Genesis 1 gave His Son in order to save you and make you a member and partaker of His new creation. And Christ, who was with Elohim in the beginning, and was Himself Elohim according to John 1:1, came and lived a perfect life for you. He died on the cross to pay for your sins and rose again for your justification. And He gave you His Holy Spirit, the very same Spirit of Elohim in Genesis 1:2 who was the Life-Giver of creation. He hovered over you and made you alive in Christ. He regenerated you and gave you faith. Now, He constantly sanctifies you, forming and conforming you to the image and likeness of Christ. Finally on the second coming, He will glorify and make you perfect like the Lord Jesus.
How shall we each respond to such a news of infinite goodness?
- Let us confess before the Lord that we are all hopeless sinners without Him.
- Let us acknowledge God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) as our sole Creator and sole New Creator.
- Let us be thankful for His free gift of atonement and new birth in Christ by the power of His Holy Spirit.
- Let us trust and claim His word of promise with unshakable faith and assurance: In and because of Christ, our salvation is total, complete and irreversible.
- Finally, to overcome our nothingness, formlessness, emptiness and darkness, let us grow in grace and sanctification by being diligent and constant in both our individual and corporate reading, study, meditation, faith, obedience and application of God’s word, the Bible, the means of grace.
Remember: Both creation and the new creation are by God alone, through His Son, His Spirit and His word.