by J.I. Packer
How many are your works, O LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. PSALM 104:24
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). He did it by fiat, without any preexisting material; His resolve that things should exist (“Let there be…”) called them into being and formed them in order with an existence that depended on His will yet was distinct from His own. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were involved together (Gen. 1:2; Ps. 33:6, 9; 148:5; John 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-16; Heb. 1:2; 11:3). Points to note are as follows:
- The act of creation is mystery to us; there is more in it than we can understand. We cannot create by fiat, and we do not know how God could. To say that He created “out of nothing” is to confess the mystery, not explain it. In particular, we cannot conceive how dependent existence can be distinct existence, nor how angels and human beings in their dependent existence can be not robots but creatures capable of free decisions for which they are morally accountable to their Maker. Yet Scripture everywhere teaches us that this is the way it is.
- Space and time are dimensions of the created order; God is not “in” either; nor is He bound by either as we are.
- As the world order is not self-created, so it is not self-sustaining, as God is. The stability of the universe depends on constant divine upholding; this is a specific ministry of the divine Son (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3), and without it every creature of every kind, ourselves included, would cease to be. As Paul told the Athenians, “He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else…. In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:25, 28).
- The possibility of creative intrusions (e.g., miracles of creative power; creating new persons through human procreative activity; reorienting human hearts and redirecting human desires and energies in regeneration) is as old as the cosmos itself. How far God in His upholding activity actually continues to create new things that cannot be explained in terms of anything that went before, it is beyond our power to know; but certainly His world remains open to His creative power at every point.
Knowing that God created the world around us, and ourselves as part of it, is basic to true religion. God is to be praised as Creator, by reason of the marvelous order, variety, and beauty of His works. Psalms such as Psalm 104 model this praise. God is to be trusted as the sovereign LORD, with an eternal plan covering all events and destinies without exception, and with power to redeem, re-create and renew; such trust becomes rational when we remember that it is the almighty Creator that we are trusting. Realizing our moment-by-moment dependence on God the Creator for our very existence makes it appropriate to live lives of devotion, commitment, gratitude, and loyalty toward Him, and scandalous not to.
Godliness starts here, with God the sovereign Creator as the first focus of our thoughts.