Creation In The Canon
Grace and peace to you.
My apologies this one took so long to publish. It shouldn’t have but it did. I hope to be better in the future with balancing work and writing, but for now, let’s look at our chosen topic for this lesson- Creation. In sticking with the with/broadness of the topic we will be looking at a broad selection from the Canon of Scripture. Beginning with who was behind the beginning in Colossians 1.
The Cornerstone of Creation
“13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
It is common within the Church to couple the teaching of Creation with the retort of evolution; and while this teaching is important I wonder if we perhaps miss the main point of Creation, Christ, in doing so. (Moreover, in my personal opinion, we as the Church have way bigger fish to fry). The NT is the chief commentary on the OT; for this lesson, we will follow Paul’s example and look not so much at the controversies of the modern-day regarding Creation but rather view Creation as a real-life illustration of the Preeminence (incomparability, or supremacy) of Christ.
First, notice the past tense of 1:13, “delivered” and “transferred” and then the present tense of 1:14 “we have redemption (which is defined as) the forgiveness of sins.” The objective reality of our redemption gives us the subjective experience of forgiveness. Though every Christian is indeed redeemed or forgiven, we do not always feel this reality. The root of our righteousness is not in ourselves but in the Incarnate Redeemer.
Many in Paul’s day thought it was strange that the Redeemer should take on flesh or that He would be a physical being rather than some sort of spirit or ghostly appearance because of the common Greek philosophy that the body, the physical self, is evil and should be done away with if one were to be truly “spiritual”. This idea is also found in Gnosticism where the body matters not but only the spirit of man. This belief resulted in a whole list of gross sins (that Paul sharply rebukes in Colossians 3:5-6). To counter Greco-Gnosticism Paul emphasizes the Incarnation of Christ in this opening passage.
I would argue that the Incarnation of Christ is one of the most overlooked, or assumed, doctrines of the Christian faith today (this has also led to a rise in Gnosticism- the belief that the physical body is bad and should be done away with- within the Church. A fuller rebuke of Gnosticism will have to be dealt with at a later date when we get to our study in Colossians). Which, of course, begs the question, why did Christ take on flesh for our salvation?
Christ took on human flesh so that He would be like us in bearing out sin in His physical body and thus obtain our redemption.
Christ took on human flesh so that He could secure and give us His righteousness and, moreover, His sympathy in our temptation for He was tempted, in His body, in every way we were “yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Christ took on human flesh so that He could die a true, human death and therefore resurrect Himself into a glorious, new, perfect body. Thus, also showing and securing the promise of our own future resurrection on the last day (John 5:28-29).
When we think of Creation we should first and foremost think of the Incarnate Savior who was, “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. [Who] suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried; [Who] descended into hell (by taking on the wrath of God). He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty... (Apostles Creed 200-300AD). All of the great benefits and riches of Christ that are given to us are because of the Incarnation-the great, mysterious cornerstone of Creation.
Now, let’s continue on in Colossians and look at Christ in Creation.
Christ in Creation
“15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 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. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister” (Colossians 1:15-23).
Continuing on with Paul’s Preeminence of Christ we see Paul describe the divinity of Christ in describing Him as “the image of the invisible God” that is He is the copy, or representation, of the Father to us as well as “firstborn of all creation”, meaning that He is of the highest rank, or of the most important in existence; even the Angels whether holy or fallen in 1:16. Thus, in 1:15-16, we see Christ as the Creator as well as Divine.
While Genesis would seem to teach that God is the Creator given the nature of Christ and His Divinity this is no contradiction but rather a proof of the Triune nature of the God-head. God acted through (or in conjunction with) the Son in Creation. Moreover, He is not only the Divine Creator but also the Divine Sustainer in 1:17. Without God, not only would we not have spiritual/eternal life but also physical life itself; for without Him we can not even draw a single breath. We are eternally dependent upon the Divine Savior for all things; here is a good cure for self-pride!
Paul then makes a masterful move from Christ in Creation to Christ as head, or leader of, the Church. As if to say, “Creation is glorious but look at the Church! See what a marvelous work of art He has created there (Ephesians 2:10)!” We are often captivated by nature and beautiful paintings and pictures thereof; are we, in a similar manner captivated by the beauty of the Church?
Creation parallels the formation of the Church in that they are both of God, purposeful, intentional, good, and beautiful. And, moreover, we will live with Him in resurrected bodies that prove His awesomeness and faithfulness forever, for this is what Paul means when he writes, “the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.” (1:18).
Paul closes this passage with a description of the deity (1:19), the deliverance and the death of Christ (1:20), and then finally the duty of the Christian in light of all this in 1:21-23. When we think of Creation we should think of the Incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ as well as His creation, or formation, of the Church and be captivated by the condescension of the Incomparable Christ. But what should we think about the rest of Creation?
Observing the Awe of God
Let’s look at Creation proper in Psalm 19:1-2 where David writes, ``The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. 2 Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” Here is a classic verse on Creation. The heavens have no mouth but they must proclaim His handiwork. They have no speech but still, say much. The sermon of the sky is the glory, eternal power, and divine nature of God Almighty (Romans 1:20). Not only is the sky a great preacher but also a great illustrator for us in many ways. When we look up, we see one of two witnesses- Day or Night.
The Day shows us the light given to all nations as the Gospel is given to all nations as well as its life-giving effects on the plant life. And the Night to show us the power of God in His providence; working in the darkness as well as the light as well as the grand back-drop of the promise to Abraham “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven…” (Genesis 22:17).
Moreover, both of them show us that God is never without a witness. Someone will always be here on Earth to give Him His proper praise! David applies the beauty of Creation to show us the beauty, value of the word. We are often amazed at pictures and paintings of Creation; do we have this same amazement at the word? Should you happen to find Creation too dull, or boring, then merely look closer for eventually, you will have something unique, beautiful in it. The same is quite true of the word as well.
Let us continue to meditate on Creation as an illustration, or sign, made for us in Romans 8:18-25.
Physical signs of promises made
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”
Not only does Creation proclaim glory (Psalm 19:1) but also groans for glory fully realized (8:18, 30) when the full plan of redemption of God is complete. Indeed, the glory we will experience is incomparable to the suffering all of the Creation experiences now. Meaning, that however bad, disastrous, or evil the present age may seem glory will be extraordinarily, exceedingly more wonderful!
But in the meantime, all of Creation waits eagerly for God to save His elect. I think we ourselves have waited for the return of Christ for about a decade (give or take a few years); though I’m not sure I personally can say I have waited eagerly, excitedly for it. An Elephant is more eager for the Eschatological End than I am. How are we to gain this eagerness that Paul speaks of in 8:19? By understanding the depravity, slavery of sin, and the hope/plan of God in it.
God, in His wisdom, foreordains whatsoever comes to past both good and evil. Whatever evil, bad, or tragic things God foreordains to come to pass He intends and certainly will bring something even better, and more hopeful to be brought out of that. Though our sin is deep and enslaving and misery-bringing to all of Creation out of this sin good and greater things will come to pass out of it including “freedom”, “glory”, “adoption” (8:21), “the indwelling Spirit”, and “the redemption of our bodies” (8:23). Glory awaits for us at the end of all the groanings. And while this is a hope, a promise that we do not see right now (8:24-25) we will one day see it. Creation shows us His goodness in creating, His truthfulness/faithfulness in groaning with us for freedom from sin and glory at the end of days. Let’s now glance at the final end of groanings.
Physical fulfillment of promises kept
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5 And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also, he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” (Revelation 21:1-5).
Garden, Groaning, Glory-this is the story that Creation tells us. Though we are in the midst of groaning now we will be in the midst of glory, the Church triumph, Heaven, and Christ later and forever. To groan for God now is good, though difficult and bitter, thing; but to dwell with the Divine later this is very good, easy and sweet.
Matthew Henry comments on this passage, “The new heaven and the new earth will not be separate from each other; the earth of the saints, their glorified, bodies, will be heavenly. The old world, with all its troubles and tumults, will have passed away. There will be no sea; this aptly represents freedom from conflicting passions, temptations, troubles, changes, and alarms; from whatever can divide or interrupt the communion of saints.
This new Jerusalem is the church of God in its new and perfect state, the church triumphant. Its blessedness came wholly from God and depends on him. The presence of God with his people in heaven, will not be interrupted as it is on earth, he will dwell with them continually. All effects of former trouble shall be done away. They have often been in tears, by reason of sin, of affliction, of the calamities of the church; but no signs, no remembrance of former sorrows shall remain.
Christ makes all things new. If we are willing and desirous that the gracious Redeemer should make all things new in order hearts and nature, he will make all things new in respect of our situation, till he has brought us to enjoy complete happiness. See the certainty of the promise. God gives his titles, Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, as a pledge for the full performance” (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary). Creation teaches us that God is good and will fulfill His promises and that we will dwell in His presence forever.
Like I said, sorry this took so long to publish. Anyhow, our next study will be published by 11/21 on Jude since I’ll be filling in for Jacob that week. And then we’ll pick up with Obadiah shortly thereafter. Thanks for continuing this study with me guys.
Prayer requests and highs and lows.
Paul states that creation “groans in the pains of childbirth”. Living a godly life is hard, is there any way we can help/minister/encourage you in the faith?
In the same way, God spoke the world into existence so Christ spoke eternal life into us in our salvation (John 5:21). Do you think salvation displays a greater glory than creation? And if so, how?
David, in Psalm 19, tells us that there is a great reward/benefit for those who keep His word. What is this benefit and how have you personally experienced this benefit?