In the Beginning
September 25, 2016
Part 1: Back To The Future
The first three chapters of the Bible are important. And I’ll give you three reasons why.
First, the beginning of Genesis is important because it sets down the basic plot of the entire Bible. Every story is driven by it. Every verse expands upon it. Every human writer is mindful of it. Every detail is connected to it. Genesis 1-3 is like the anchor for the entire Bible. And to avoid it or forget about it is like skipping episode 1 of Stranger Things or whatever show or series that you’re just dying to watch. Why on earth would anybody get into an amazing drama without starting from the beginning? Genesis 1-3 sets down the basic plot of the entire Bible. So that’s the first reason why it is important.
The second reason why the beginning of Genesis is important is this: without it our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ makes no sense. Without it we lose the context of the person and work of Christ. Without it the reason for and the meaning of his death and resurrection becomes unclear. Without it, we have no one to blame but ourselves when we tell a non-believer, “Jesus loves you,” only to be met with “I don’t care.” Genesis 1-3 helps us to make sense of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. So that’s the second reason why it is important.
Finally, the third reason why the beginning of Genesis is important is this: whenever we go back to it, we go back to the future. During these last several months, I have been consistently introducing you to the gospel truth that a better world is coming. A new heavens and a new earth. A homeland and a better country without suffering or sin. A place and a time to look forward to with faith, hope and love. The cool thing about Genesis 1-3 is that it contains all of this wonderful gospel truth about eternity. As one scholar put it, “You find the end wrapped up in the beginning.” So as we go through this series on the first three chapters of Genesis, please do not feel like we’re taking a step backward or going back to square one. Because we’re not. We’re not going back to the start. We’re going back to the future. So that’s the third reason why Genesis 1-3 is important.
It is usually not a good practice to preach a sermon from one bible verse. But Genesis 1:1 is the grand exception to the rule.
Let us look at the four parts of this verse: in the beginning, god, created, heavens and earth.
Part 2: In The Beginning
When you think about it, these three words, “In the beginning,” are mind-blowing. For before anything in creation existed, there was only God. There was nothing behind him. There was nothing supporting him. There was nothing that caused him. God was just there.
But not really, because there was no such thing as “there.” And there was no such thing as “was.” And there was no such thing as “before creation.” For space and time are created things. But God is not created.
There is a fascinating exchange in Exodus 3, where Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
The name “I AM” means that God is self-existent. The name “I AM” means that God does not depend on anything else for his own existence. The name “I AM” means that no one gives God a name. Amazing. God is self-existent. There are no eternal realities that he swims in. He requires no context. There is no manual on how to be God. He is not perfect or holy or loving because he has to be. He is perfect and holy and loving because… God - because “I AM.”
Brothers and sisters, these facts about God call for our worship and adoration. With our finite brains and with our human language, let us be in awe of who God is. Let us recognize that there is no one else like our God. And in the words of the Westminster Confession of Faith, let us fathom how the distance between God and the creature is so great. Brothers and sisters, let us worship and adore God as our minds get blown away.
Part 3: God
The subject of the first sentence of the Bible is God himself. This means that it’s all about him. God is the main character of everything. God is the central subject and person in the universe. God is the king over all things. It’s all about him.
Brothers and sisters, do you know what this means for you? This means that it’s all not about you. You are not the main character of everything. You are not the main character of your own life. The universe does not revolve around the subject and person of you. You are no king. It’s not about you. You were created by God. You were created for him and for his glory. You have a purpose. God does not have a purpose. All things come after him. All things exist for his glory.
Let this fact compel us to stop living for ourselves. Let us put away the idea that we are the main characters of whatever it is that we are trying to do with our lives. It’s not about us. It’s all about God.
Part 4: Created
When God created the heavens and the earth, he made it all out of nothing. This is really, really amazing. In one sense, anyone can make a hamburger. You grab a bun, grill a patty of meat, get some vegetables and maybe a slice a cheese, put it all together, and voilà. You’ve just made yourself a hamburger. In one sense, anyone can make a hamburger.
But in another sense, no one can make a hamburger. Because no one can make it out of nothing. I’ve yet to hear of a human being say, “Let there be a hamburger,” and then there was a hamburger - and it was good. We as humans can make a lot of cool stuff. We can make fast cars, tall buildings, and smart computers. And yet, isn’t is fascinating that we can’t make light. We can’t make water. We can’t make space. We can’t make time. We can’t make life. We can’t make anything out of nothing. And yet, God did.
God made everything out of nothing. And to us that is an amazing mystery and an astounding miracle. But I know a good word for it: power.
Brothers and sisters, it is important to know that our God is that powerful. When Moses wrote the book of Genesis, he wrote it for the early nation of Israel. He wrote it for a people who knew nothing but slavery in Egypt. He wrote it for a people who saw other nations worshipping hundreds of other gods and were tempted to ask, “Is our God any different? Is our God better than the rest? Can our God deliver us? Does he really have ultimate and sovereign power?” Moses wrote Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy to be like the constitution for the nation of Israel. And every Israelite should have been put in his or her place upon reading the majestic opening of Scripture: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Every Israelite should have thought: “Our God is above all other gods. Our God is the only true and living God. Our God made everything. Our God is powerful. Our God is the best.” And every Israelites should have been comforted and uplifted and strengthened by such truth.
Let us receive the same kind of comfort and strength for today. Let us be reminded that our God is powerful. He created the heavens and the earth. He forgives your sins. He raises the dead back to life. He defeats the enemy. He makes you a new creation. And he will bring you home. Praise the Lord!
Part 5: The Heavens and The Earth
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. It is worth nothing here that God created visible and invisible things. The earth is visible. The earth is real. And we can see it. But the heavens are invisible. And we cannot see the heavens - at least not yet. The fact that there are two realms in creation, the heavens and the earth, the invisible and the visible, is huge. Because as we will find out soon in this series, the invisible realities are a patterning force for the visible realities. And we cannot understand the visible without understanding the invisible. These two realms are the reason why we walk by faith and not by sight. These two realms are the reason why we do not merely worship in 820 South Milwaukee Avenue - we worship in the heavenly Mount Zion and in the heavenly Jerusalem. These two realms are the reason why we pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” These two realms are the reason why, according to 2 Corinthians 5, we groan in this world, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling - and longing to see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ face to face.
It is huge to know that there is something above and beyond this world. Something greater than this world. And it is huge to know that while in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, in the end God will create a new heavens and a new earth. In Isaiah 65:17, it is written, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” And in 2 Peter 3:10-13, it is written, “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
Brothers and sisters, the new heavens and the new earth will be a time and a place without sin or death. It will be an everlasting kingdom of Christ. We will have new resurrection bodies. We will have perfect communion with God. This is the future. And the future is coming soon.
Part 6: The Beginning of The End
I would like to close with the grand application of today’s sermon. And you can already guess at what it should be. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Let us be amazed by this. Let us have marvel with awe and wonder over God’s act of creation. Let us be humbled by the fact that we are a part of his creation and that we are not God and not like God with regards to this verse. Let us give God our praise and worship for the simple fact that he is the Creator of all things.