The manner in which the Holy Scriptures open is worthy of their Divine Author. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and that is all that is here recorded concerning the original creation. Nothing is said which enables us to fix the date of their creation; nothing is revealed concerning their appearance or inhabitants; nothing is told us about the modus operandi of their Divine Architect. We do not know whether the primitive heaven and earth were created a few thousands, or many millions of years ago. We are not informed as to whether they were called into existence in a moment of time, or whether the process of their formation covered an interval of long ages. The bare fact is stated: "In the beginning God created," and nothing is added to gratify the curious. The opening sentence of Holy Writ is not to be philosophized about, but is presented as a statement of truth to be received with unquestioning faith.
"In the beginning God created." No argument is entered into to prove the existence of God: instead, His existence is affirmed as a fact to be believed. And yet, sufficient is expressed in this one brief sentence to expose every fallacy which man has invented concerning the Deity. This opening sentence of the Bible repudiates atheism, for it postulates the existence of God. It refutes materialism, for it distinguishes between God and His material creation. It abolishes pantheism, for it predicates that which necessitates a personal God. "In the beginning God created," tells us that He was Himself before the beginning, and hence, Eternal. "In the beginning God created," and that informs us he is a personal being, for an abstraction, an impersonal "first cause," could not create. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and that argues He is infinite and omnipotent, for no finite being possesses the power to "create," and none but an Omnipotent Being could create "the heaven and the earth."
"In the beginning God." This is the foundation truth of all real theology. God is the great Originator and Initiator. It is the ignoring of this which is the basic error in all human schemes. False systems of theology and philosophy begin with man, and seek to work up to God. But this is a turning of things upside down. We must, in all our thinking, begin with God, and work down to man. Again, this is true of the Divine inspiration of the Scriptures. The Bible is couched in human language, it is addressed to human ears, it was written by human hands, but, in the beginning God "holy men of God spake, moved by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). This is also true of salvation. In Eden, Adam sinned, and brought in death; but his Maker was not taken by surprise: in the beginning God had provided for just such an emergency, for, "the Lamb" was "foreordained before the foundation of the world" (1 Peter 1:20). This is also true of the new creation. The soul that is saved, repents, believes, and serves the Lord; but, in the beginning, God chose us in Christ (Ephesians 1:4), and now, "we love Him, because He first loved us."
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth," and we cannot but believe that these creations were worthy of Himself, that they reflected the perfections of their Maker, that they were exceedingly fair in their pristine beauty. Certainly, the earth, on the morning of its creation, must have been vastly different from its chaotic state as described in Genesis 1:2. "And the earth was without form and void" must refer to a condition of the earth much later than what is before us in the preceding verse. It is now over a hundred years ago since Dr. Chalmers called attention to the fact that the word "was" in Genesis 1:2 should be translated "became," and that between the first two verses of Genesis 1 some terrible catastrophe must have intervened. That this catastrophe may have been connected with the apostasy of Satan, seems more than likely; that some catastrophe did occur is certain from Isaiah 45:18, which expressly declares that the earth was not created in the condition in which Genesis 1:2 views it.
What is found in the remainder of Genesis 1 refers not to the primitive creation but to the restoration of that which had fallen into ruins. Genesis 1:1 speaks of the original creation; Genesis 1:2 describes the then condition of the earth six days before Adam was called into existence. To what remote point in time Genesis 1:1 conducts us, or as to how long an interval passed before the earth "became" a ruin, we have no means of knowing; but if the surmises of geologists could be conclusively established there would be no conflict at all between the findings of science and the teaching of Scripture. The unknown interval between the first two verses of Genesis 1, is wide enough to embrace all the prehistoric ages which may have elapsed; but all that took place from Genesis 1:3 onwards transpired less than six thousand years ago.
"In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is" (Exodus 20:11). There is a wide difference between "creating" and "making": to "create" is to call into existence something out of nothing; to "make" is to form or fashion something out of materials already existing. A carpenter can "make" a chair out of wood, but he is quite unable to "create" the wood itself. "In the beginning (whenever that was) God created the heaven and the earth"; subsequently (after the primitive creation had become a ruin) "the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." This Exodus scripture settles the controversy which has been raised as to what kind of "days" are meant in Genesis 1, whether days of 24 hours, or protracted periods of time. In "six days," that is, literal days of twenty-four hours duration, the Lord completed the work of restoring and re-fashioning that which some terrible catastrophe had blasted and plunged into chaos.
What follows in the remainder of Genesis 1 is to be regarded not as a poem, still less as an allegory, but as a literal, historical statement of Divine revelation. We have little patience with those who labor to show that the teaching of this chapter is in harmony with modern science—as well ask whether the celestial chronometer is in keeping with the timepiece at Greenwich. Rather must it be the part of scientists to bring their declarations into accord with the teaching of Genesis 1, if they are to receive the respect of the children of God. The faith of the Christian rests not in the wisdom of man, nor does it stand in any need of buttressing from scientific savants. The faith of the Christian rests upon the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture, and we need nothing more. Too often have Christian apologists deserted their proper ground. For instance: one of the ancient tablets of Assyria is deciphered, and then it is triumphantly announced that some statements found in the historical portions of the Old Testament have been confirmed. But that is only a turning of things upside down again. The Word of God needs no "confirming." If the writing upon an Assyrian tablet agrees with what is recorded in Scripture, that confirms the historical accuracy of the Assyrian tablet; if it disagrees, that is proof positive that the Assyrian writer was at fault. In like manner, if the teachings of science square with Scripture, that goes to show the former are correct; if they conflict, that proves the postulates of science are false. The man of the world, and the pseudo-scientist may sneer at our logic, but that only demonstrates the truth of God's Word, which declares, "but the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned" (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Marvelously concise is what is found in Genesis 1. A single verse suffices to speak of the original creation of the heaven and the earth. Another verse is all that is needed to ac-scribe the awful chaos into which the ruined earth was plunged. And less than thirty verses more tell of the six days' work, during which the Lord "made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is." Not all the combined skill of the greatest literary genius', historians, poets, or philosophers this world has ever produced, could design a composition which began to equal Genesis 1. For reconditeness of theme, and yet simplicity of language; for comprehensiveness of scope, and yet terseness of expression; for scientific exactitude, and yet the avoidance of all technical terms; it is unrivalled, and nothing can be found in the whole realm of literature which can be compared with it for a moment. It stands in a class all by itself. If "brevity is the soul of wit" (i. e. wisdom) then the brevity of what is recorded in this opening chapter of the Bible evidences the divine wisdom of Him who inspired it. Contrast the labored formulae of the scientists, contrast the verbose writings of the poets, contrast the meaningless cosmogonies of the ancients and the foolish mythologies of the heathen, and the uniqueness of this Divine account of Creation and Restoration will at once appear. Every line of this opening chapter of Holy Writ has stamped across it the autograph of Deity.
Concerning the details of the six days' work we cannot now say very much. The orderly manner in which God proceeded, the ease with which He accomplished His work, the excellency of that which was produced, and the simplicity of the narrative, at once impress the reader. Out of the chaos was brought the "cosmos," which signifies order, arrangement, beauty; out of the waters emerged the earth; a scene of desolation, darkness and death, was transformed into one of light, life, and fertility, so that at the end all was pronounced "very good." Observe that here is to be found the first Divine Decalogue: ten times we read, "and God said, let there be," etc. (vv. 3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 14, 20, 24, 26, 30), which may be termed the Ten Commandments of Creation.
In the Hebrew there are just seven words in the opening verse of Genesis 1, and these are composed of twenty-eight letters, which is 7 multiplied by 4. Seven is the number of perfection, and four of creation, hence, we learn that the primary creation was perfect as it left its Maker's hands. it is equally significant that there were seven distinct stages in God's work of restoring the earth: First, there was the activity of the Holy Spirit (Genesis 1:2); Second, the calling of light into existence (Genesis 1:3); Third, the making of the firmament (Genesis 1:6-9); Fourth, the clothing of the earth with vegetation (Genesis 1:11); Fifth, the making and arranging of the heavenly bodies (Genesis 1:14-18); Sixth, the storing of the waters (Genesis 1:20-21); Seventh, the stocking of the earth (Genesis 1:24). The perfection of God's handiwork is further made to appear in the seven times the word "good" occurs here—verses 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31—also the word "made" is found seven times in this section—Genesis 1:7, 16, 25, 26, 31; 2:2, 3. Seven times "heaven" is mentioned in this chapter—verses 1, 8, 9, 14, 15, 17, 20. And, it may be added, that "God" Himself is referred to in this opening section (Genesis 1:1-2:4) thirty-five times, which is 7 multiplied by 5. Thus the seal of perfection is stamped upon everything God here did and made.
Turning from the literal meaning of what is before us in this opening chapter of Holy Writ, we would dwell now upon that which has often been pointed out by others, namely, the typical significance of these verses. The order followed by God in re-constructing the old creation is the same which obtains in connection with the new creation, and in a remarkable manner the one is here made to foreshadow the other. The early history of this earth corresponds with the spiritual history of the believer in Christ. What occurred in connection with the world of old, finds its counterpart in the regenerated man. It is this line of truth which will now engage our attention.
1. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." As we have already observed, the original condition of this primary creation was vastly different from the state in which we view it in the next verse. Coming fresh from the hands of their Creator, the heaven and the earth must have presented a scene of unequalled freshness and beauty. No groans of suffering were heard to mar the harmony of the song of "the morning stars" as they sang together (Job 38:7). No worm of corruption was there to defile the perfections of the Creator's handiwork. No iniquitous rebel was there to challenge the supremacy of God. And no death shades were there to spread the spirit of gloom. God reigned supreme, without a rival, and everything was very good.
So, too, in the beginning of this world's history, God also created man, and vastly different was his original state from that into which he subsequently fell. Made in the image and likeness of God, provided with a helpmate, placed in a small garden of delights, given dominion over all the lower orders of creation, "blessed" by His Maker, bidden to be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth, and included in that which God pronounced "very good," Adam had all that heart could desire. Behind him was no sinful heredity, within him was no deceitful and wicked heart, upon him were no marks of corruption, and around him were no signs of death. Together with his helpmate, in fellowship with his Maker, there was everything to make him happy and contented.
2. "And the earth became without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." Some fearful catastrophe must have occurred. Sin had dared to raise its horrid head against God, and with sin came death and all its attendant evils. The fair handiwork of the Creator was blasted. That which at first was so fair was now marred, and what was very good became very evil. The light was quenched, and the earth was submerged beneath the waters of judgment. That which was perfect in the beginning became a ruin, and darkness abode upon the face of the deep. Profoundly mysterious is this, and unspeakably tragic. A greater contrast than what is presented in the first two verses of Genesis 1 can hardly be conceived. Yet there it is: the primitive earth, created by God "in the beginning," had become a ruin.
No less tragic was that which befell the first man. Like the original earth before him, Adam remained not in his primitive state. A dreadful catastrophe occurred. Description of this is given in Genesis 3. By one man sin entered the world, and death by sin. The spirit of insubordination possessed him; he rebelled against his Maker; he ate of the forbidden fruit; and terrible were the consequences which followed. The fair handiwork of the Creator was blasted. Where before there was blessing, there now descended the curse. Into a scene of life and joy, entered death and sorrow. That which at the first was "very good," became very evil. Just as the primitive earth before him, so man became a wreck and a ruin. He was submerged in evil and enveloped in darkness. Unspeakably tragic was this, but the truth of it is verified in the heart of every descendant of Adam.
"There was, then, a primary creation, afterward a fall; first, 'heaven and earth,' in due order, then earth without a heaven—in darkness, and buried under a 'deep' of salt and barren and restless waters. What a picture of man's condition, as fallen away from God! How complete the confusion! How profound the darkness! How deep the restless waves of passion roll over the wreck of what was once so fair! 'The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt'" (F. W. Grant).
Here, then, is the key to human destiny. Here is the cause of all the suffering and sorrow which is in the world. Here is the explanation of human depravity. Man is not now as God created him. God made man "upright" (Ecclesiastes 7:9), but he continued not thus. God faithfully warned man that if he ate of the forbidden fruit he should surely die. And die he did, spiritually. Man is, henceforth, a fallen creature. He is born into this world "alienated from the life of God" (Ephesians 4:18). He was born into this world with a heart that is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9). This is the heritage of The Fall. This is the entail of Adam's transgression. Man is a ruined creature, and "darkness," moral and spiritual, rents upon the face of his understanding. (Ephesians 4:18).
3. "And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." Here is where hope begins to dawn. God did not abandon the primitive earth, which had become a ruin. It would not have been surprising, though, if He had. Why should God trouble any further about that which lay under His righteous judgment? Why should He condescend to notice that which was now a desolate waste? Why, indeed. But here was where sovereign mercy intervened. He had gracious designs toward that formless void. He purposed to resurrect it, restore it, refructify it. And the first thing we read of in bringing about this desired end was, "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." There was Divine activity. There was a movement on the part of the Holy Spirit. And this was a prime necessity. How could the earth resurrect itself? How could that which lay under the righteous judgment of God bring itself into the place of blessing? How could darkness transform itself into life? In the very nature of the case it could not. The ruined creation was helpless. If there was to be restoration, and a new creation, Divine power must intervene, the Spirit of God must "move."
The analogy holds good in the spiritual realm. Fallen man had no more claim upon God's notice than had the desolated primitive earth. When Adam rebelled against his Maker, he merited naught but unsparing judgment at His hands, and if God was inclined to have any further regard for him, it was due alone to sovereign mercy. What wonder if God had left man to the doom he so richly deserved! But no. God had designs of grace toward him. From the wreck and ruin of fallen humanity, God purposed to bring forth a "new creation." Out of the death of sin, God is now bringing on to resurrection ground all who are united to Christ His Son. And the first thing in bringing this about is the activity of the Holy Spirit. And this, again, is a prime necessity. Fallen man, in himself, is as helpless as was the fallen earth. The sinner can no more regenerate himself than could the ruined earth lift itself out of the deep which rested upon it. The new creation, like the restoration of the material creation, must be accomplished by God Himse�