THE FIRST BOOK of the Bible, Genesis, is literally an account of origins, of beginnings. In it are chronicled both the creation of the world and the course of history that encompasses the birth of the race of people whom God chose to be His own elect representatives before all nations.
The inspired narrative is introduced with the sublime words "In the beginning," followed immediately by the transcendent name "God," the divine title of the sovereign Majesty of the universe. Then follows a statement of the nature of the grand productive activity in which the omnipotent Deity "created the heaven and the earth."
These ten matchless words depict the whole story of origins: When? In the beginning, before which there can be no prior computed time; Who? God, other than whom there can be no greater; Did what? created, brought into existence that which had no previous tangible existence; What did He create? the heaven and the earth, the magnitude of which achievement surpasses both our comprehension and our most vivid imagination.
Verses 3 through 26 present a summary description of the creative acts performed during the first six days of the world's history. In sequence these were: introduction of light to the water- covered, erstwhile dark and cloud-en shrouded earth (see Job 38:4, 9); establishment of an atmosphere, a firmament-heaven for control of water in its liquid and vapor forms, and including gases for the later respiration requirements of living things; elevation of land areas to establish demarcation of seas and watercourses; and creation of the first living things of earth plant life to clothe the land and provide food in anticipation of the needs of subsequent animal life; letting two great lights appear "in the firmament ... to rule over the day and over the night"; creation of animal life to populate the sea and the atmosphere; then "God made the beast of the earth . . . , and cattle . . ., and every thing that creepeth upon the earth." Last, as the crowning act of Day Six, "God created man in his own image . ..; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, . . . Have dominion over . . . every living thing that moveth upon the earth" (Gen. 1:17, 18, 25, 27, 28).
To better appreciate the part that the several members of the Godhead acted in that creative work, we first note that throughout the Genesis account the Hebrew word translated into English as "God" is the plural 'Elohim. The corporate plurality of the Deity is likewise indicated in verse 26, which deals with the creation of mankind, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness."
As one of the active participants in the creative work, "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters" (verse 2). That the divine member who subsequently was incarnated as Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of man, was the immediate agent in Creation is most clearly asserted in the Epistle to the Hebrews (chap. 1:2); in Paul's letter to the Colossians (chap. 1:13-17); in the revelation of Jesus Christ through John (Rev. 3:14, "the prime source of all God's creation" N.E.B., and other versions); and in the Gospel of John (chap. 1:1-3, 14). Christ, the eternal Word, the divine Mouthpiece, was the one who spoke the energy-packed creative words. The Psalmist assures us that "by the word of the Lord were the heavens made. . . . For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast" (Ps. 33:6-9).
With this thought in mind, these words in the first chapter of Genesis take on renewed meaning: "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. . . . And God said, Let there be a firmament. . . . And it was so. ... And God said, Let us make man. . . ."No fewer than nine times it is recorded that "God said."
In the final survey of all the work of those six days, He "saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." Such is the degree of perfection of the handiwork of God the Creator. Within the limits of our feeble humanity, we also are admonished to "be . . . perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matt. 5:48). One out standing feature of that perfection, that perfectedness, is completing, finishing, the tasks to which we are assigned and dedicated. "Since on the seventh day God was finished with the work he had been doing, he rested on the seventh day from all the work he had undertaken" (Gen. 2:2, The New American Bible).* The New English Bible reads: "On the sixth day God completed all the work he had been doing, and on the seventh day he ceased from all his work. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, be cause on that day he ceased from all the work he had set himself to do" (verses 2, 3).+ Several other translations use either the word ceased or desisted in this context.
In common conversation we often em ploy the word rest in the sense of relaxation or of recuperation from fatigue. However, the basic idea underlying this word as it is used in Genesis 2 is to cease, desist, quit, stop. A lawyer rests his case upon completion of presentation of pertinent evidence and argument. A musician pauses at a rest in the score. A police officer arrests or halts a wrongdoer. So when God accomplished, ended, and completed the planned work of creating this world, with its physical features and inhabitants, He rested, ceased, desisted, from that productive activity.
In like manner those who are loyal to their Creator are commanded to "re member the Sabbath day," to "do all" our "work in six days" and during the day of rest, of cessation from common labor, to "do good on the Sabbath days." It is significant that the Hebrew word that is translated as "rest" or "cease" is shabath, perhaps most literally meaning to "sabbatize." That primary concept is emphasized in the words of Isaiah (chap. 58:13, 14, N.E.B.): "If you cease to tread the sabbath underfoot, and keep my holy day free from your own affairs . . . , if you honor it by not plying your trade, not seeking your own interest or tending to your own affairs, then you shall find your joy in the Lord." When we have fulfilled the divine command to work during the first six days and in that time do all of our secular personal work, we shall be ready to rest, to stop and delight ourselves in the Lord.
Terrestrial Creation Is Not Now Going On
There is another profound lesson revealed in the relation of God's creative work to His resting, or cessation, from that activity. One widely espoused be lief held by contemporary philosophers and likewise by many churchmen is that creation is a continuing, unceasing process with no prospect that it ever will attain completion. In the view of such persons, the realm of nature had no actual beginning its origin simply is to be dated from an epoch at which matter in some undefined prior state or condition began to be transformed, or to change itself autogenuously into forms comparable to those which we can now observe. It is presumed that at such a "beginning," that which was started to become what is in accord with a universal evolutionary process acting throughout the realm of nature.
This has resulted in an unreconcilable difference between the beliefs of creationists and those of materialistic philosophers. The creationist concept is that the origin of the entire cosmos, and of the world in particular, was achieved completely through the immediate agency of a supernatural, omnipotent Creator, who is ever entirely independent of the whole material realm of nature. On the other hand, evolutionists postulate that the present order of things, both physical and biological, is the result of inherent, intrinsic tendencies displayed by primeval matter, destitute of any identifiable source and operative through interminable time.
The well-known paleontologist G. G. Simpson summarized it in these words: "Nothing in the recorded history of life arises de novo. All is transformed from what went before. . . . The problem of order is that of uniformitarianism or of immanence in a special guise. It has certain built-in characteristics that came we know not whence or why but that are determinable and have not changed during the course of recover able history." —Evolution After Darwin (University of Chicago Press, 1960), vol. 1, pp. 173, 174.
Christ-centered creationist belief is more realistic than that, for it recognizes not only an actual beginning but also a real end, a completion of God's terrestrial creative activity. Confidence that "his work was finished from the time he created the world" (Heb. 4:3, T.E.V.)$ at the close of Creation week, is a firm bulwark against many of the philosophical delusions now current in the world, a few of which have insinuated themselves into the thinking of God-fearing men and women. Some of these are particularly insidious because they often are couched in apparently sound, unimpeachable language. The subtlety of certain naturalistic philosophies is seldom recognized.
It must always be remembered that God never endowed any creature with either major or minor primary creative ability. Such power lies only with the omnipotent Creator Himself, else the creature would possess the prerogative of its Creator. Reproductive capability was bestowed by Him in abundance upon all living things. Furthermore, organisms were endowed with varying degrees of capability for adaptation to changes in environment. But on no account must these capabilities be con fused with the presumed ability of a living organism to change its form or structure.
Even among a few highly motivated defenders of Biblical creationism, it is supposed that living things have been so equipped by the Creator that when ever adverse conditions are encountered, a species is able to surmount those difficulties to the extent of changing its structure or form. In collusion with its environment, the creature is presumed to become a creative demiurge enabling it to change, modify, or convert its tissues and organs into forms that will better fit it to survive. In this manner, it is claimed, a new species is developed. And it has been insisted that assent to such subsidiary creation, or evolution, is a perfectly sound and acceptable adjunct to creationist doctrine.
It is true that tissues and genes may be injured or lose their ability to function properly and habits may differ as new conditions arise, but living organisms have no power to transform their own structures or to devise or originate new ones for emergency purposes, either in one generation or over a succession of many generations.
No Emergency With God
At the outset the Creator provided each creature with means for meeting the normal exigencies that it might en counter. There is no real emergency with God. He has foreseen and provided in advance for every need, both physical and spiritual.
The foresight and forehandedness of the omniscient Creator may be illustrated by an imaginary visit with Adam sometime after his exclusion from Eden. He could have been taking a walk through a woodland when suddenly he discovered that he had stepped on an ugly thorn or a sharp rock. As he sees the blood flowing freely, he may well have said to Eve, "This is getting serious. I'll have to do something about it, and quickly, or I'll bleed to death!" But by then it already was too late for him to develop a substance in his blood to form a clot that might stem the flow. It also was far, far too late for him to en code a genetic mechanism whereby his posterity would be enabled to produce such a protective material in their blood.
But Adam did not need to concern himself with adapting or changing his structure. The foreseeing Creator and Provider had made provision for such circumstances when He created man. In Adam's blood He included thrombogen, a prothrombin that upon exposure to the air at the site of an injury could produce a clot of blood. That life- saving biochemical is but one example of the myriads of Creator-implanted substances and functions that are essential for protection and maintenance of living creatures. Other examples are digestive enzymes, hormones, healing agencies, "antibodies," and a complex sensory system. In addition to all these we possess memory, consciousness, and the ability to honor and obey the Creator of so marvelous a system.
God planned neither sin nor the in juries occasioned by it, but in His wisdom and meticulous design He provided in advance for the needs that Adam and his descendants would encounter. All this is but one aspect of the finished creation achieved solely through the foreknowledge of an all-wise Creator. God does not operate on an ex post facto principle. His plan is in sharp contrast to the idea that development and realization of a remedy are instigated by belated awareness of a need. No creature can improve upon the achievement of its Creator.
The grandest example of God's fore knowledge and foresightedness is the plan of redemption from sin through provision of "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). When God does, something He completes it. He is the "author and finisher of our faith" (Heb. 12:2). There is a new creation now in progress. It is the preparation of inhabitants for a new earth wherein only righteousness may dwell (see John 14:1-4; 2 Peter 3:10-14; Isa. 65:17; Rev. 21:1, 2, 5). When soon the redeemed share the glories and peace of that renewed world the Creator and Redeemer will say with finality: "It is finished! I am the A and the Z the Beginning and the End" (Rev. 21:6, T.L.B.).
* From The New American Bible 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Wash., D.C. All rights reserved.
+ From The New English Bible. © The Delegates of the Ox ford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge Uni versity Press 1970. Reprinted by permission.
$ From the Today's English Version of the New Testament. Copyright American Bible Society 1966.
§ From The Living Bible, Paraphrased (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971). Used by permission