Why should we respond with awe and wonder to God’s creation? What false philosophies and ideas are refuted by verse 1? What are two interpretations of verse 2? What is the meaning of verse 2b? What phrases are repeated throughout verses 3–31? How did God create by speaking the word?
1:1: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Because this verse is so familiar to Bible students, there is a danger of passing quickly over it without feeling a sense of awe and wonder in this great affirmation. These words are the foundation of what we believe.
In the beginning refers to the beginning of the universe, not the beginning of God. Our God is eternal and existed before the beginning of the universe. This boggles the mind, but it is clearly the meaning of this verse. Psalm 90:2 declares, “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, thou art God.”
God is the word Elohim, the usual name for God in the Old Testament. This name emphasizes the sovereign power of the Creator.
A key word in Genesis 1 (1:1, 21, 27 [three times]; 2:3, 4) is the word created. The Hebrew word is bara. It is used of a new creative act. In the Old Testament this word is used only of God. He is always the subject and the word refers to His creative work. God is not a manufacturer who made something from existing material. He had nothing with which to begin. He created all things out of nothing. We speak of a craftsman as “creative.” But only God is the ultimate Creator. Only He could create all things out of nothing.
The phrase the heaven and the earth describes not only planet earth but also the entire universe.
Genesis 1:1 refutes many of the world’s false ideas and philosophies, and affirms some of the basic truths of God’s Word. It refutes atheism (the denial that God exists) and agnosticism (the claim that one will believe only if convinced by scientific proof). Over against these false notions, the Bible never argues or seeks to prove God; it assumes the reality of God. The Bible refutes naturalism, secular humanism, scientism, and naturalistic evolution. These views assume that God did not create the universe but that it came into being and developed by purely natural forces.
Genesis 1:1 also refutes polytheism (the belief in many gods) and declares the reality of the one true God. The religious writings of pagan religions contain creation accounts in which various gods used pre-existing materials in creating. These many pagan “gods” lacked the wisdom of God.
Genesis 1:1 refutes pantheism (the belief that everyone and everything contains some of God). In this view, God created everyone out of Himself and put some of Himself in all people and in all things. This view is held by many New Age people. On the surface this sounds plausible. After all, didn’t God create us in His own image? But this biblical statement does not mean that each person is divine. God cares for His creation—living and nonliving—but that doesn’t mean each person is divine. God created the universe, but He alone is divine.
Genesis 1:1 also refutes dualism (the view that good and evil are locked in an eternal conflict). Evil is not eternal, but came when created beings rebelled against God. Evil is not eternal; only God is eternal.
1:2: And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
Both parts of verse 2 can be translated and interpreted in more than one way. One view about the first part of the verse is that it represents a long and chaotic time resulting from the rebellion of Satan, who disrupted the creation for a while. In this view, the word was is translated “had become,” without form, and void refers to a chaotic state, and darkness represents evil. The other view is that without form, and void (“empty,” NIV, HCSB) describes the initial stage of divine creation—that which God created in the beginning. Darkness was the condition at the time. Then from this formless emptiness, God proceeded to create what is described in the following verses. Thus the formless emptiness was not a disruption of creation but the first stage in it.
In the second sentence of verse 2, the Hebrew words are ruah elohim. Ruah can mean either “wind” or Spirit. There are several translations possible: “a mighty wind” (NEB), “a wind from God” (NRSV), and the Spirit of God. God’s Spirit is pictured as “hovering over the face of the waters” (NKJV). The Spirit was not just an influence but the presence of God.
1:3–4: And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness.
Several groups of words recur throughout the creation account in Genesis. One of the most important of these recurring phrases is and God said. Following these words is the word let and a description of what God created. How did God create? He spoke the word and called the universe into being. Psalm 33:6 states, “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made.” Hebrews 11:3 says, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God” . The creation of the all things out of nothing by speaking the word is a sign of tremendous power. The more we learn about the size and complexity of the universe the more we see the power and wisdom of God.
God created light on the first day of creation, but He did not create the heavenly luminaries that provide us light until the fourth day (Gen. 1:14–17). How can there be light without the sun, moon, and stars? There are at least two ways of explaining this. One way is to assume that the heavenly luminaries were actually created on the first day but were obscured until the fourth day. Another way is to realize that God Himself is light (1 John 1:5). He wears light like a garment (Ps. 104:2). Thus the light of Genesis 1:3 is the shining forth of God’s glory.
Verse 4 illustrates another recurring theme of the creation account. God repeatedly referred to His creation as good. It was good in every sense of the word. It was beautiful. It was right. It was all that God wanted it to be.
As you read through Genesis 1:3–2:3, you will be struck by the order and sequence of God’s work.
The astronauts of Apollo 8 faced a daunting mission. They were to go to the moon and orbit it ten times. Then they were to return to earth. They got some good photographs of the moon, but the most memorable picture is of the distant earth, looking like a blue ball in a sea of darkness. They and all who saw it on television were awed. The three astronauts—Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders—sent back a message to earth. Millions were moved by their reading of Genesis 1:1–10. The message came on Christmas Eve 1968. “Twenty-five years later, Borman reminisced, ‘I had an enormous feeling that there had to be a power greater than any of us. That there was a God, that there was indeed a beginning and that maybe even our choosing to read from Genesis wasn’t a haphazard thing. Maybe it had been ordained in some way.’ ” Their decision was not haphazard, and the creation itself was not haphazard but purposeful.
Those who accept only naturalistic theories of the universe claim that we believers have a blind, gullible faith and that their view is based on scientific fact. But we do not exercise blind faith, for there are evidences of divine design in the creation. As for me, it seems that theirs is the view based on blind faith. It takes more gullibility to believe that reality came about through purely naturalistic forces than to believe that a creator God created the universe.
What are the lasting truths in Genesis 1:1–4?
A biblically based worldview begins with the conviction that everything was created by a personal, all-powerful, purposeful, and good God.
2. Within this larger purpose we can see why we are here.
3. Believing in divine creation refutes ancient and modern false philosophies.
4. This faith is at least as—if not more—credible than naturalistic theories of the origin of the universe