“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).
The opening words of the Bible — “In the beginning God” — are among some of the most important in the Bible. They form the seedbed for every vital Christian doctrine.
Consider with me, for instance, that the creation account in Genesis is vitally connected to 1) the holiness of God, 2) the happiness of man, and 3) the heart of the gospel.
The Holiness of God
“In the beginning God.” This cannot be said of anything or anyone else in the entire universe. We can’t say, “In the beginning dirt,” or “mountains,” or “stars,” or even “angels.” This God who is introduced to us in the Bible is distinct from and superior to, his creation. This God is holy.
Perhaps nowhere in the Bible is this connection between God-in-the-beginning and the holiness of God made any clearer than in the book of Job. After chapters and chapters of Job and his friends pondering and questioning the ways and wisdom of God, God shows up and asks Job: “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” (Job 38:4). And God continues with questions like: “Does the rain have a Father?” (Job 38:28). Or (I love this one because it puts both God’s power and God’s humor on display), “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’?” (Job 38:34-35).
As Creator, God has the right to dictate his will, without being questioned by his creatures (Isaiah 45:9). “In the beginning God” is vitally connected to the holiness of God.
Revelation 4:11 reminds us, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” You and I exist at the pleasure of God (we might call this “the privilege of existence”), and we exist for the pleasure of God (we might call this “the privilege of purpose”).
Millions of people across the globe, and in every generation, are seeking for the meaning of life, the purpose of their existence. Yet every time we have the opportunity to participate in, and feel the fulfillment and joy of, praising the worthiness of God in Jesus Christ — we are experiencing the highlight of human existence.
The Happiness of Man
Happiness is not found, and never will be, in aspiring to be gods. Yet, we are as humans constantly reenacting the garden of Eden, with an even worse starting point, in order to seek fulfillment apart from God and his will. We are constantly believing the lie that if we pursue our own way, rather than God’s way for us, that we will be independent, self-satisfied, self-actuating. But the happiness of humanity is found only in the purpose and support of our Maker.
Consider God’s words to Joshua, as he takes on the role of leadership over Israel: “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you” (Joshua 1:7).
There is a striking clash between God’s words to Joshua and the concepts of strength and courage that persist in current Western pop culture. Whether in movies, TV shows, or novels, the idea is continually touted in our day that the one who is strong will make his or her own way, do his or her own thing, and not bow down to any authority. Teenagers are strong if they stand up to their parents, and employees are courageous if they defy their employer.
But God tells Joshua the way of true strength and of great courage is the way of obedience and loyalty. I have placed Moses over you, God says to Israel, and so you are to obey the law that he has given to you. The more strong you are, the more obedient you will be; the more courageous you are, the less you will question my authority or veer from my commandments.
We find our greatest happiness as humans in fulfilling the purpose of, and seeking greater fellowship with, the God who made us.
The Heart of the Gospel
The New Testament introduces to us Jesus, the God-man. And as the God-man, he is also the one who creates and sustains everything. Interestingly, the Bible goes on to explain that Jesus-as-Creator is one of many assurances to us that He alone has the power to save:
He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created … all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:13-17).
Notice the logical connecting word “for.” The fact that Jesus created “all things,” assures us that “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” And so “in the beginning God” has direct implications for the heart of the gospel. The God who reveals himself as God in the Bible created you and me, and this same God also revealed himself as Savior in the person of the God-man Jesus.
Jesus alone has the power and position to reconcile idolatrous creatures with their holy Maker and God. Is your hope in the only hope that God gives us for salvation?