Catechetical sermons preached in PCC Evening Worship Services, Feb 2013 to Dec 2017
WSC 8 & 9 of 107
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. … 31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.Genesis 1:1-26
WSC 8. How doth God execute His decrees?
A. God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence.
WSC 9. What is the work of creation?
A. The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good.11 Gen 1; Heb 11:3.
We are on a series of messages based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. In the last two messages, we saw that we hold some doctrines to be fundamental and non-negotiable, which many who claim to be Christian do not believe.
We considered the doctrine of the Trinity. We noted how many who profess to be Christian today do not believe in it. Christian cults and liberals do not believe that God is triune. They are not truly Christian in the biblical sense of the word.
We also considered that God is sovereign and has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass, including man’s actions. We saw that many professing Christians who believe in the Trinity do not believe in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. Instead, they think of God cooperating with man in the salvation of sinners and the outworking of history.
Today, the Lord helping us, we want to consider something which many of us would consider to be very basic, but is, sadly, no longer accepted by many professing Christians, including many who profess the Reformed Faith.
I am referring to the doctrine of creation. This is first introduced in question 8 and expanded in question 9 of our catechism:
WSC 8. How doth God execute his decrees? A. God executeth His decrees in the works of creation and providence.
WSC 9. What is the work of creation? A. The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good.”
The obvious place to look for this doctrine is, of course, Genesis 1. In this chapter, which opens the Bible, we see how God created the world out of nothing in six days.
We must spend some time to see what the Spirit of Christ wants us to learn from this chapter. But before we do that, we must consider briefly what those who do not believe that God created the world in six literal days say.
So this sermon will have two parts. First, we will consider the contrary views, and then we must consider the biblical view.
1. Contrary Viewpoints
First of all, many unbelieving scientists in the world do not believe that God exists. Many claim that the universe came into existence through a big bang about 13.7 billion years ago. Others claim that the universe was born not just once, but multiple times through an endless cycle of contractions and expansions.
The problem with these views is that they must conclude either that matter is eternal or that something came out of nothing, which is illogical.
In any case, for these atheistic scientists, the earth is an accident. We just happened to be at the right place at the right time. And life is also an accident. It just happens that one or two billion years ago, some chemicals reacted in such a way as to become life. And these lower life forms evolved by natural selection and mutations over hundreds of millions of years to become the life forms we know today.
These scientists based their theory on fossil records and geological observations. They claim, for example, that if you cut a column out of fossil-rich rock, you will find that the deeper you go, the lower the life forms will be, and the nearer to the surface you look, the higher the life forms will be.
Now, we believe it is wrong to conclude evolution from this evidence. We believe most fossils were formed during the worldwide flood in Noah’s day. Fill a bottle with water. Put some sand and a few marbles into it. Shake the bottle sideways. Will the marbles sink to the bottom, or will they remain at the top? The smaller particles will undoubtedly go to the bottom, whereas the bigger ones will be at the top. This is why the larger bones are at the top!
Other scientists claim that evolution can be observed in, say, bacteria, birds and tortoises. Charles Darwin sought to prove evolution by demonstrating that the different species of finches of the Galapagos must have a common ancestor. But that is not cross-species evolution. They are still birds. In fact, they are still finches. What Darwin observed is adaptation or micro-evolution, for which we have no problem. No scientist has proven one instance of macro-evolution, where there is a change in kind—a fish to a lizard; or wolverine to a whale; or a rat to a cat; or bacteria to amoeba.
The theory of evolution is not true science. There is no observable or replicable evidence. Evolution is simply faith in unbelieving college professors rather than faith in God!
But in any case, many professing and educated Christians are sold to the idea—especially to the theory of evolution. Some of them hold it to be true because that is the only theory of the origin of life they were taught from young. Others hold it to be true because they find the unbelieving scientists’ arguments too compelling to reject.
Some of these professing Christians totally reject the creation and flood accounts of the Bible as myths. These are the liberals.
But there are other professing Christians who are more sincere in their profession. These soon find themselves in a dilemma: for what they believe about the origin of the universe and of life clashes with what the Bible says!
Something must give way.
What gives way is usually a literal interpretation of Genesis 1. There are a few popular views. Each of these, we must understand, is an attempt to interpret Scripture against so-called scientific discoveries, or at least an attempt to allow the so-called science of evolution to be fitted into Scripture.
Let me introduce three of these views. They are actually overlapping and much more complicated than what we can cover in a few minutes, but I think it is good for us to know they exist because they are so popular.
a. First, there is what is known as the Gap Theory. The Gap Theory suggests a gap between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
Those who hold to this view say that verse 1 speaks of God creating a perfect world. But Satan fell. He corrupted the world, and it became formless and void, or God destroyed it, so it became formless and void. God then re-create the world from verse 3 onwards.
Why was this theory popular? This theory was popular because it gave an explanation for fossil records. Evolutionists say the earth is 4.6 billion years old, and dinosaurs lived between 225-65 million years ago. Those who hold to the Gap Theory say: “Fine! Dinosaurs did indeed live so long ago. But they were part of the Old Creation that God destroyed before He created the present world. Those fossils are not part of the present creation.
This sounds ingenuous. But there is a real problem. When God has created the world, He declares that it’s all very good, verse 31. How could everything be very good if there were billions of bone fragments testifying of death and sin in the earth even before man fell?
Well, we do not believe that the earth is that old. We believe that dinosaurs existed, but they lived together with man. The ancient book of Job actually describes one such dinosaur in Job 40:15. He calls it the behemoth. It was a great animal with a tail that was as thick as the trunk of a cedar tree. Contrary to what some claim, it could not have been a hippopotamus or an elephant. Think of the tails of these animals! It was probably a Diplodocus, Ultrasaurus or Brachiosaurus.
b. The second theory that is very popular is known as Theistic Evolution. Basically, the idea is that God made use of natural evolution to bring the world about. It is just like God made use of natural biological growth to bring you to the maturity you have today.
Now there are many different attempts to fit this idea with Genesis 1. The most crude would be to think of each day in the creation week as representing millions of years. This is known as the Day-Age Theory. But it does not take a lot of effort to see that this cannot be the case since plant life was created on the third day, whereas the sun was only created on the fourth day. It wouldn’t make sense for plant life to exist for millions of years without the sun.
Most theistic evolutionists will speak of Genesis 1 simply as a poetic description that does not reflect the actual sequence of creation.
In any case, the idea that God made use of evolution to create the present world runs contrary to the plain reading of Scripture, not just in Genesis but elsewhere. Turn, for example, to Psalm 33:6:
6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.…9 For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.Ps 33:6-9
Isn’t it clear that creation was instantaneous, not over long aeons?
Or consider the Fourth Commandment in Exodus 20. We are told to keep one day in seven holy because God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh (Ex 20:11). God could have created the world in six picoseconds, or six nanoseconds or six million years. Why did God take six days? Apparently, He did so because He would set a pattern for us to set aside one day in seven for a holy Sabbath. The point is that the plain reading of Scripture leads us to see that God intends for us to understand that He created the world in six literal days. All things came about initially in an instant by the word of His power.
c. The third theory that is very popular today is the Framework Hypothesis. This theory was first developed by a Dutch theologian named Arie Noordtzij in 1924. In the 1950s, it was popularised by the American Theologian Meridith Kline and another Dutch Theologian, Herman Ridderbos. So this is a prevalent theory with big names associated with it.
Basically, this theory is designed to give a credible non-literal interpretation of Genesis 1 so that Christians do not need to worry about reconciling creation with evolution. In other words, it is designed to take away from Scripture any sequence or timeframe of creation by saying that the account is just a stylistic snapshot of the work of creation!
Think of a car. A stylistic description of the manufacture of a car may be: Step 1, make the engine; step 2, assemble the body and install the engine; step 3, fit the tires; step 4, do the glasswork; step 5, wire up the electrical system; and step 6, furnish the interior. You may realise that no one actually makes cars in this order. Most manufacturers will do different parts simultaneously. But the stylistic description may be useful for advertisements for investors or children who want to know how the parts fit together.
Those who promote the Framework Theory claim that Genesis 1 is like that. They claim that there is a correspondence between the first three days and the next three days. On day 1, light is created; on day 4, light sources are made. On day 2, sea and air are created; on day 5, fish and birds are made. On day 3, land is created; on day 6, land animals are created. At first glance, this seems quite neat and makes a nice chart.
But the question is: Does God the Holy Spirit intend for us to read Genesis 1 according to this framework without believing that He created in sequence? I do not think so.
In the first place, if you read the text carefully, you will see that the second day is not about the creation of the sea, but of the atmosphere. The sea was created on the first day together with the earth (v. 1)!
In the second place, this chapter is filled with Hebrew vav-consecutives (translated as ‘and’ at the beginning of each statement), which indicates that it is intended to be a narrative account.
You see, the Hebrew vav-consecutive is generally used in the Old Testament in narrative accounts rather than poetic ones. The vav-consecutive is translated as “and” but serves like the English “then.” A child writing a composition may say: “I went to school, then I entered the classroom, then I opened my books.” In Hebrew, he would use the vav-consecutive rather than the “then.”
Almost every verse in Genesis 1 begins with the vav-consecutive. This is why the verses begin with “And.” This shows that it is intended as a narrative. By contrast, the ostensibly poetic Genesis 49 has fewer vav-consecutives, and none are used to begin a new poetic block.
To state things simply: Even if you see a pattern that looks like a table in Genesis 1, it is not intended to be read as a stylistic snapshot, but as a narrative.
So then, we see all these attempts to marry so-called scientific theories with Genesis 1 failing. Gap-Theory, Day-Age Theory, Framework Hypothesis and all sorts of Theistic Evolution theories are all found to be wanting.
What remains then is for us to see what the Scripture says.
2. The Biblical Viewpoint
The Bible begins with the words: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
This beginning is the beginning of space and time. God began to create everything at the beginning. Before the beginning, there was nothing except God. Even time did not exist. Time began when God started to create the world.
God created everything out of nothing. We read in Hebrews 11:3:
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
God started His work of creation by making the heaven and the earth. I think the heaven represents the spiritual realm, whereas the earth represents the physical realm. In an instant, God created the entire spiritual realm and the entire physical realm. The physical realm has the earth in the centre and nothing else because this is where God would place His elect. Remember that God’s plan for creation centres upon the elect whom He has ordained to enjoy fellowship with Him for all eternity. The apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3 that God created all things by Jesus Christ with the intent that the manifold wisdom of God may be displayed through the church (Eph 3:9-11).
The earth was initially a shapeless blob of water hanging in a vast and empty universe.
Then the Spirit of God moved over it and began to embellish and populate it. He did so in six days.
- On the first day, God also created light (v. 3-5).
- On the second day, He created the earth’s atmosphere (v. 6-8). The water cycle and clouds were made on this day.
- On the third day, He created dry land and vegetation (v. 9-13). All kinds (baramins1) of trees and flowers and plants were made on this day.
- On the fourth day, He created the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars and the massive galactic systems (v. 14-19).
- On the fifth day, He created all kinds of birds and insects, and fishes, whales, dolphins, and other sea-dwelling creatures (v. 20-23).
- On the sixth day, He created all kinds of land-dwelling animals—elephants, hippos, lions, dinosaurs, monkeys, snakes, lizards, etc.; and then He created man (v. 24-26).
This is what the creation account says. But now, whenever we come to this chapter, some questions come to mind which will be profitable for us to answer.
First, let us ask ourselves: When were the angels created?
Well, I believe God created all the angels that ever existed on the first day when He created the heavens. We know this because God tells us that the angels were witnesses of His creation of the world. See Job 38:4-7. This is part of God’s question to Job:
4 Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? … 7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.Job 38:4-7
The sons of God here, no doubt, refer to angels. The angels were present when God laid the foundations of the earth. Therefore, the angels must have been created on the first day before God made the earth.
Secondly, we must ask: Why did God create man last?
The Scripture is silent on this question, but we can make a reasonably good guess.
I think man is made last to show that the rest of creation exists for man. For six days, God was preparing the beautiful world where He wanted man to live.
It is like a man who has a prized fish and an aquarium. He would not put the fish into the aquarium immediately. Instead, he pours gravel into the tank, fills it with water, and then arranges plants, rocks and driftwood to make the tank beautiful. Then, and only then, when everything is settled, does he release his fish into the tank. Otherwise, the fish may die while the tank is being set up.
So it is with man. God took six days to create a stable environment for man, and then He created man.
And once man is created, he is appointed to look after the rest of creation:
…and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.
But secondly, man is made last, no doubt, so that man may be kept humble. This is also why man is made from the soil, unlike everything else.
Though all things are made for man, Man must know his place. We must know that we are really nothing but dust.
Our attitude should be like that of Job, who asks:
What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?Job 7:17
Or, like the Psalmist who says:
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?Ps 8:4
We should be filled with gratitude and wonder that God should be so kind to us. We are but dust, yet God has exalted us over His creation and given us the privilege of knowing Him and serving Him.
We should, therefore, serve Him with all our heart, soul and mind.
c. Thirdly, let us ask: Isn’t it a contradiction that light is created before the sun and stars?
This is a question that some sceptics ask. How could light be created before the sun and the stars, since all light comes from the sun and the stars? Surely this account must have been written by an ancient writer who was ignorant of this scientific fact!
But such a criticism is simply too naive, for Moses certainly knew that daylight comes from the sun. He writes in verse 14 regarding the creation of the sun:
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: 15 And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
So it cannot be due to ignorance that Moses speaks of light as being created on the first day and the sun on the fourth day.
He wrote under the inspiration of God. He wrote according to God’s revelation to him. And God is always right.
But how do we account for the light of the first day if the sun had not yet been created? Genesis 1 is silent on the question. However, elsewhere in the Scriptures, we are repeatedly told how God can cause light to shine supernaturally (i.e. not through an existing natural means).
For example, (1) When Moses descended from Mount Sinai after receiving the two tablets of the Law from God, “the skin of his face shone” (Ex 34:29); (2) When the angle of the Lord came to the shepherds to announce the birth of the Lord Jesus, “the glory of the Lord shone round about them” (Lk 2:9); and (3) When Saul of Tarsus met the Lord on the road to Damascus, there shone about him a great light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun (Acts 26:13; cf. Acts 22:6, 9; Mt 17:2).
Was the light of the first day, the light of God’s glory? We do not know. But we know that light does not necessarily come from the sun or anything that should naturally emit light.
Moreover, light or electromagnetic waves that enable us to see things in the physical realm was created on the first day. Whether or not it shined on the first day, it was created on the first day. If light were not created first, nothing would emit light, for there would be no such thing as light.
God made light and the whole magnetic spectrum on the first day. Light sources and light bearers were created later. This makes sense, does it not?
But in any case, I believe God made light first because He would remind all His creatures of the greatness of the True light. Who is the true light? He is the revelation of God to His creation. The apostle John reminds us that Christ “was the TRUE LIGHT, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (Jn 1:9). I believe that John had in mind Genesis 1 when he wrote those words. Just look at John 1:1, and you will get the idea. The light that was created on the first day was but a shadow of the true light. Christ is the true light from whom we have truth and life and joy everlasting.
The most important thing in creation is light. Without light, man cannot fully enjoy the physical realm. God made light so that we may enjoy His creation. Yet, this light is but a shadow of the true light, Christ Jesus, to whom all man must look, to whom all man must derive comfort, truth and life.
Light is created on the first day that we may be reminded to seek Christ first above anything else.
Dear brethren, children and friends, does it not thrill your heart as you consider what a great and loving God we serve?
He made all things. He ordered all things for his glory. The evidence of creation is everywhere, for God has, as it were, left His fingerprints everywhere.
And God did not create the world instantly when He could have done so. He did not create the world haphazardly.
He created the world in seven days to teach us to rest and worship one day in seven.
He created the sun and stars only on the fourth day that man may be dissuaded from worshipping it.
But He created light on the first day that we may look to the true light to whom the created light points.
He created man last to show us how the world is created for us and that we may know our place. We were created last. We were made of dust that God had already made as dust. We are but dust.
But praise the Lord that though we are but dust, He has shown us great things.
Praise the Lord that though we are but dust, He has made us appreciate how He created the world so that we may glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.
These are some of the lessons we can learn from the work of creation, as summarised in our catechism:
WSC 9. What is the work of creation? A. The work of creation is, God’s making all things of nothing, by the word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good.