Creation and Redemption
Creation is first an eternal thought in the mind of God; He willed or decreed every creature in the entire, vast universe. Creation is second a word which God has spoken; without the Word which was in the beginning was not anything made that was made. Creation is third an act of God; He gave separate existence, by the Word and through the Spirit, to every creature that He conceived of in eternity. Now the question is, why did God do this? Our assigned subject requires that we answer in terms of salvation or redemption.
The biblical doctrine of creation is as plainly set forth in the Scriptures as the doctrine of salvation. In fact, the act of the Triune God in creating touches at many points on the work of the covenant God in saving His elect church in Jesus Christ. This is not an accidental relationship, nor is this a casual observation. Let me illustrate. In Romans 4:16 we read that Abraham believed God “who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.” The act of quickening the dead is regeneration. That God “called those things which be not as though they were” is a description of regeneration, the mighty act of God whereby His call makes living saints of dead sinners. But the words “those things which be not as though they were” is also an unmistakable reference to God's work in creating, as set forth in Hebrews 11:3 “…so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.” Thus the Canons of Dordt call regeneration “supernatural, most powerful, and at the same time most delightful, astonishing, mysterious and ineffable; not inferior in efficacy to creation, or the resurrection from the dead” (Canons III-IV, Art. 12). As in creation God spoke and it was done, so in regeneration God speaks and the dead are raised as new creatures!
The relationship between creation and salvation is seen in the calling that the redeemed child of God has to praise the Lord “which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth forever” (Psalm 146). As those who were made a little lower than the angels but are destined to be higher than the angels in Jesus Christ, we exclaim, “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth: who has set thy glory above the heavens” (Psalm 8). Also, our calling is to enter into the rest that God has prepared in Jesus Christ, especially by keeping the Lord's day holy. According to the fourth commandment, this is a creation ordinance; God created in six days, and rested the seventh day by entering into the enjoyment of His perfect, creative work. Under the new covenant the people of God enter into the enjoyment of Christ's perfect, atoning work, and in the refreshment of that strength go forth to work the next six days.
The parallel continues. The Heidelberg Catechism in Lord's Day VII maintains that among those things necessary for the Christian to believe is that “God the Father, Almighty, (is the) Maker of heaven and earth.” And Lord's Day IX explains the first article of the Christian faith in terms of comfort and reliance. This Almighty God and faithful Father “who of nothing made heaven and earth, with all that is in them” is my God and Father, so that I need have no doubt but He will provide for me and will make all those things which He sends me in this valley of tears to turn out to my advantage. The Scriptures also teach that redemption in Christ is not only a redemption for the new humanity of the elect, but also a redemption in which the entire cosmos shares (Romans 8:19-22). Further, because God has created man in His own image and after His own likeness, man is accountable and responsible before God. If man is the product of evolution of any kind, accountability to God is impossible to maintain, and all moral standards are lost. Finally, when Jesus taught us the lessons of the kingdom of heaven He used parables; the Master threw alongside each other earthly creatures and heavenly verities, either explaining His point very patiently, or leaving it for the Spirit to reveal to the church His meaning. Clearly, God created the earthly creation with a view to the heavenly; the present creation is a temporal picture of the new heavens and earth wherein dwelleth righteousness (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21).
The foregoing makes clear that whenever we say something about the creation, about its present state and its final end, about the act of God in creating, about the claims of scientific theories, and about the so-called fossil evidence, we had better be aware that we are not only speaking of creation but we are at once speaking of redemption in Jesus Christ! The two are so closely related and intricately interwoven in the Scriptures that an attack upon one is an attack, with equal force, upon the other. Another point must be made here. It is certainly true that God speaks in creation and God speaks in Holy Scripture. However, these two means by which God makes Himself known unto us are not equal in power or in purpose or in clarity. The word of God in creation and the word of God, the Bible, do not stand on the same level! This must be kept in mind when men study the creation through scientific investigation. Although Scripture must be used to cast light upon the study of creation (Calvin said that the spectacles of Scripture must be on our noses when we study creation), the results of the study of creation may not be used to understand the Bible! The rule for theology and for science is Scripture alone! Different scientific views change often and radically; the truth of Scripture remains unchanging. And the truth of Scripture is derived, not from what man discovers or thinks he discovers in the study of creation, but it is derived from the study of Scripture in the light of other Scriptures! A denial of Genesis 1-11 as the literal word of God; or the setting forth of these chapters as a word of God enlightened by theistic evolution or the period theory, will result in the denial of all the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God. You cannot have it both ways: a Bible, on the one hand, that is trustworthy, infallible, and clear when it speaks to us of gracious salvation, and a Bible, on the other, that is flawed, untrustworthy, and obscure when it speaks of creation, during the history of which that redemption is worked out. The revelation of God is always in Jesus Christ, and that revelation is a unity! One denies this unity to his peril!
The clearest Word of God on the relationship between creation and redemption is found in Colossians 1:16: “For by him (Christ) were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him.” The entire passage, Colossians 1:15-19, takes us into the eternal counsel of God. There we must take our stance, there we must walk very carefully, and there we may do so without fear as we confine ourselves to God's own revelation of these mysteries. Then we find that before the worlds were, when there was only God, He is pleased to heap glory upon His Son in our flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ: He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature; He is before all things and by Him all things adhere or hold together; He is the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning; He is the firstborn from the dead. All things were created by Him and for Him, as that glorious image of the invisible God and Head of the church. And God's purpose in this arrangement and appointment is “that in all things Christ may have the preeminence” and “that in Him all fullness should dwell.”
Scientists demand a climate of academic freedom in which to pursue their work, and lately theologians are insisting upon exegetical freedom with which to delve into the Scriptures. Where these freedoms have been granted or taken, the results have been that the Bible has been so interpreted that its clear meaning is lost and its single message is denied. The word of man replaces the Word of God, and all the revelation of God in Christ is lost. Oh, for a time various subterfuges are tried, all kinds of theories are foisted upon the Scriptures, but in the end Scripture must go. No matter in what field a man is busy, he must know himself to be bound by the Word of God. And for those in the Reformed tradition, this means that they are also bound by the Three Forms of Unity. This is not a disadvantage or a stumbling block, but when a man bows in a humble faith to the Word of God, when he knows that everything outside of that Word is darkness, when he labors to extol the Creator-God and the Lord Christ, then is he free indeed! True scholarship is believing scholarship. Never dare a man peer through a microscope or a telescope without this Word of God in his heart and mind: “All things were made by Christ and for Christ!”
The passage in Colossians 1 reveals that the whole work of God in salvation flows forth out of His counsel. In that counsel Christ is first, for it is the good pleasure of God to unite all things in Christ as the head of His church and as the head of all creation. The earthly creation was not first in God's counsel, the heavenly creation was. Adam was not first in His counsel, Christ was. In Him must all things be perfected and glorified. Therefore what is first in God's counsel (the glory of His grace in the salvation of the elect church in Jesus Christ) is last in time (the glorification of that church with the coming of Christ). And what is last in that counsel (the creation of the heavens and earth and all they contain) is first in time (in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth). Christ is the Alpha and Omega of all things! In Him all creatures must be united into one heavenly kingdom. And to that purpose of God everything else is subordinated in His counsel and in time: creation, the fall of mankind into sin, the promise of redemption, the raging of the devil and the unbelief of the world, redemption at the cross, every event of history. All things for Christ! In Him all things consist and have their meaning. He is the beginning, the principle, or fountain source of everything that happens from the beginning of creation to the end of it. How precious the Son of God in our flesh is to the Father! What pre-eminence is bestowed upon Him!
We read recently a short “chronology of origins.” About twenty billion years ago, our universe was concentrated in a very small volume. Then something led to a “big bang” which led to long periods of expanding and cooling. About six billion years ago our galaxy, the Milky Way, was formed. Around four and a half billion years ago the history of the planet earth begins. Around three and a half billion years ago single-cell life forms appear. The primates about sixty-seven million years ago, and man in various stages of development from two million to a hundred thousand years ago. We ask you to compare that chronology to the chronology that God gives us in the Bible. We ask you to read the Bible with a childlike faith. We ask you to have your children read the Bible, and tell you what they understand it to mean. As one of our seminary professors used to say, that is a good test for the true meaning of the Bible! Then we learn that creation took place in six ordinary days, and creation took place by the almighty, speaking God! He spoke and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast! And God spoke in Jesus Christ, the Word which was from the beginning. He spoke a creative word, and the creature He had in mind eternally appeared immediately. Staggering thought! Incomprehensible to our puny minds! The word of the almighty God in His Son! Received by faith!
By Christ and for Christ. Would the all-wise God use twenty billion years to evolve a universe and an earth on which the history of redemption shall take place, the history of which is a mere six or seven thousand years? Would the all-wise God take such time to prepare the foundation, when the house of His glory takes only a few thousand years to complete? Not only do we find this antibiblical, we find this contrary to the revealed purpose of God. Immediately after the Fall God comes with the Christ-centered promise; respectfully we say, God could not wait! Before the full three days and three nights were passed, God raised His Son from the dead; respectfully we say, God could not wait! God suffers long with His people, forbearing the wicked, before He sends Christ to make all things new; respectfully we say, God can not wait! Christ must have the pre-eminence! And He does!
By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth. For he spake and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast. Psalm 33:6, 9