Creation 1: Trinity and Creation

Creation 1


In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  (Gen.1:1)

By faith we understand that the universe was created by the Word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.  (Heb.11:3)

 You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.  (Neh.9:6)

In some ways the most mysterious of the confessions of the Nicene Creed is the first:  We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is: seen and unseen…  this deceptively simple clause sets up two of the most foundational teachings of the Christian faith.  After alluding to the Trinitarian nature of Almighty God, we immediately confess that He is Creator.  In this the Creed wisely and deliberately follows the pattern of Scripture.  Genesis opens not with any philosophical defence of God’s existence, or any deliberate attempt to explain Him, or to justify belief in Him.  There is instead the rather understated declaration that, ‘In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.  And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light’ (Gen.1:1-3).  Again the simplicity is illusory; again the affirmation that God is Creator is placed deeply in the context of His being Trinity. 

 That deep interplay between God as Trinity and God as Creator resonates throughout the Scriptures.  It echoes throughout the Old Testament (e.g. Is.48:12-16), and is the assumption that lies behind the story of Jesus of Nazareth (e.g. John 1:1-3).  What Christians mean when we say we believe ‘God created’, is very different from what anyone else means when they say those same words.  As Trinitarians we mean something like: ‘The Father creates through His Son (the Word) by the Spirit’.  That shapes everything we can say about the heavens and the earth.  Creation is what it is, it works and looks the way it does, reacts the way it does because it is created by the God who is Trinity.

The current crisis in our relationship with both creation, and with our own created-ness, is rooted in the rending asunder of what God has joined together in His word and in our confession of faith.  As soon as we begin to marginalise the doctrine of God as Trinity, our capacity to understand our world and to live in it effectively and fruitfully is chronically undermined.  Our bond with the rest of creation becomes subversive.  We struggle to understand our world, which is ironic given the huge advances made through scientific research.  We don’t know how to live as creatures in creation. 

 Even in our own human sized and human shaped bits of creation, we feel betrayed.  We don’t understand ourselves, and can so easily feel trapped, confused and alienated by our relationship even with our own minds, bodies and spirits.  We live in ways that tend to self-destruction, struggling to understand how to relate to ourselves, or to one another.  Neither do we know how to engage with our environment.  So much of our interaction with our environment seems to be inevitably destructive.  We consume enormous resources, create colossal amounts of waste and crave meaning in our indulgence without hope of satisfaction.  We create structures of exploitation and injustice; we court meaninglessness and rail against futility.  On the one hand we tamper with the fundamental structures of life and genetics, thinking we can overcome the curse by our own ingenuity, yet on the other we remain unwilling to solve the most elementary problems of basic human provision and healthcare.  We can’t make our world work, and many have given up even trying. 

 Is this what the living Trinity had in mind when He created the heavens and the earth as our home?   What has gone wrong with our world, and with our engaging with it, so that we are so catastrophically incapable of understanding how to live in it?  Can we fix it?  How is it that the study of the created order has come to be seen as antithetical to faith in the God who created it, so that those who investigate ‘nature’ most deeply are often portrayed in the media as those most hostile to faith?  

 Can we reclaim our place in the created order?  Can we overcome the crisis we face in the doctrine, and in our experience of creation?  Yes, but only when we rediscover our vision of the Creator, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  And to understand that is after all, a peculiarly Christian act of faith.


 Do you agree that the ability to recognise God as the Creator of heaven and earth is a step of faith?  Or do you think that you could prove intellectually from the evidence of and in the world that there must be a creator, so that whether someone was a Christian or not, they could agree that ‘God created the world’?

Do you think that creation bears witness to the glory and goodness of God?  What would you say to someone who thought that nature was a brutal and cruel thing, and that they couldn’t understand how we could worship a ‘god’ who made a world like this one?

Read Psalm 19

 What does David mean when using phrases like: ‘the heavens declare …’ (v.1), ‘the skies proclaim the work of His hands’ (v.1, see also vv. 2 & 4 for similar phrases)?  How much of God and the Gospel is revealed in Creation?

What do we learn from the sun (vv.4-6)?  Why does David compare it to a bridegroom and a champion (v.5)

Can you think of other examples in the Bible where the dynamics of the seen creation are used to illustrate spiritual reality?

Why does David shift the focus of the Psalm from the heavens and the skies (vv.1-6) to the Law, statutes, precepts etc. of the Lord (vv.7-10)?

How does the consideration of the heavens and the Words of the Lord together lead to confession of sin and pursuit of holiness (vv.12-13)?  Or do you think these verses are a response only to vv.7-10?  If so, what is the point of vv.1-6?

What is the connection between the words of the heavens & skies; the words of the Lord, and the words of the Psalmist (v.14)?  When would you use this Psalm in your own life of worship?

Memory Passage:

 I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.  He will not let your foot be moved;

He who keeps you will not slumber.  Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

Ps.121: 1-2


For further reflection:

 We often fall into the trap of thinking that we can deduce, and indeed argue for, the fact of God’s (i.e. a creator) existence from the fact of creation’s existence: ‘Look at the beauty of this sunset.  How can you not believe in God?’  The philosophical name for this kind of thinking is the ‘cosmological argument’.  Closely related to it is another kind of argument that seeks to infer from the complexity, purposefulness and intricacy of this world an intelligent, intentional designer.  These arguments have been employed by Christians and non-Christians alike…  that in itself should give us pause for thought.

 Pagan philosophers such as the ancient Greek thinker, Aristotle; Islamic scholars such as Al-Ghazali in the Middle Ages; and Deists such as William Paley in 19th century have all used these kinds of arguments.  Deists believe in a distant and probably disinterested god who created the universe and then left it to run its course.  That view of god is encouraged by Paley’s famous ‘watch’ argument:  if you found a discarded watch that bears the characteristics of design and intention you would naturally assume it was created for a purpose – even if you didn’t know what a watch was.  Paley argued that as we observe the universe, we could by analogy reasonably assume the existence of designer.

 But do arguments like this help us as we seek to proclaim Jesus?  Even if we do manage to convince someone that ‘god’ exists, are they closer to believing in the Living God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Belief in God is not necessarily a good thing.  There are many people in the Bible who believe in god.  Not all of them are Christians.  Many are idolaters.  And idolatry is a sin.  We cannot be content with such arguments.  Indeed it might be that we need to reason in the opposite direction, that we need to begin with our understanding of God, and then move to this God creating.  Only then can we understand our world.

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Creation 2: Creation and Grace

Creation 2

Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.  (I Cor.8:6)

In these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.  (Heb.1:2-3)

We have already begun to think about how creation is revelation.  Not revelation in some general, non-specific sense as if creation bore witness to ‘god’ as a vague, indistinct notion.  Creation is not idolatrous.  The God to whom it points is the Living God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  But the created order is not just revelation.  It is in itself the expression of the grace of God to us in Christ.  The Father was under no obligation to create.  There was no external compulsion or demand.  In one sense there is nothing inevitable about creation.  God remains God with or without creation.

 We sometimes hear careless talk of God creating (and creating humanity in particular) so that He could have someone to love; or even more carelessly, so that He could have someone to love Him.  But the Living God doesn’t create out of some kind of need, or in order to compensate for any impoverished aspect of His experience of life.  We can only speak of God as love because He is Trinity.  And because He is Trinity He doesn’t ‘need’ anyone or anything outside of Himself to love, or indeed to love Him.  For everlasting ages before creation, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit fellowshipped and loved and enjoyed each other in the fullest (infinite) measure.  Through the Spirit, the Father eternally loves the Son (John 3:35; 5:20 etc.) who is the exact representation of His Being. 

 One of the most powerful expressions of that love is at the baptism of Jesus, when, as the Holy Spirit descends to anoint the Son, the Father declares Him beloved.  The Son in turn loves the Father (John 14:31), the Spirit loves… well, you get the idea.  The key thing to realise is that the decision to create is born out of love, not the need to love (still less to be loved).  It is the expression of the love between the Persons of the Trinity.  It was the free and uncompelled act of grace to call creation into being.  As the ancient theologian Tertullian taught, it is a gift, an act of gracious generosity that flows out of the unsearchable riches of His life and being.

 It is an act of grace, but it also becomes the arena of grace.  It has long been a slogan of the Church to declare that creation is the theatre of God’s glory, and the story of redemption is the play that is enacted on the stage.  Both acts of the drama arise from the heart and mind of the same God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  Both are deeply entwined.  We experience creation as a series of moments, but the Living God experiences it in its entirety.  He is the Alpha and the Omega.  He is as eternally present at the end as He is at the beginning, and ‘He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will’ (Eph.1:11).  Because of this, He always knew that creation would require redemption.  Nothing about human sin caught Him unawares.  Christ is ‘the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world’ (Rev.13:8).  All of creation is structured for the cross.  It is ‘cross-shaped’.  It is what it is so that the cross can be what it is. 

 Creation is the work of the whole Trinity, but it stands in peculiar relationship with Christ (see e.g. Dt.32:6 for Father and Ps.104:30 for Spirit).  Creation is spoken of as being ‘in Christ’ in a way that it is never spoken of as being ‘in’ the Father or the Spirit (Col.1:16-17, note that both the fullness of God and creation are held within the life and being of Christ, vv.16 & 19).  He is the ‘firstborn’ (i.e. heir, vv.15-16) of creation, all things being created in Him and for Him.  He is the ruler of God’s creation (Rev.3:14).  And it is the Son who uniquely becomes a part of that creation in His incarnation.  The deep unity of the purpose of creation is embedded in the fact that Jesus is both the agent and mediator of both creation and re-creation. 

 If we grasp this, we begin to understand how gracious an act creation is, and how deeply it is entrenched it is in the revelation of God.  Not only does it reveal God in Christ in itself, but it exists to be the arena into which God comes in Person, reveals Himself in His incarnation, and most profoundly in His death on the cross.  It becomes the stadium in which the Son’s love for the Father can achieve its deepest expression as, through the eternal Spirit, He offers Himself unblemished to the Father (Heb.19:13).  The glory of Christ, the Beloved of the Father, is the purpose of creation.


Do you agree that the world was created for the cross, or do you think God had some other purpose or reason in mind? 

Read Eph.1:11 again.  When Paul says ‘everything’, do you think he has in mind evil and suffering as well? 

Read Isaiah 45:9-25

 What do you think it means to ‘quarrel with [your] Maker’ (v.9)?  Can you think of some examples of what it would look like?  Why do you think it would be such a serious thing to do that it warrants such a rebuke?

When is it legitimate to ‘question’ our Maker (v.11)?  …and when not?

The Lord’s reasoning in vv.11-13 seems to be that because He is Creator, He is not to be challenged in what He does with His creation.  What do you think about that?  Does it leave you feeling secure or vulnerable?  Why do you think you react the way you do?

What attitude do you think the Lord is seeking to cultivate in his people and in their relationship with Him?

Why is the LORD described as one who hides Himself (v.15)?

The Chapter weaves together the themes of creation (v.9-12, 18), revelation (v.15, 19, 21) and salvation (v.15, 17, 21, 22-25).  What do you think are the connections?  According to Isaiah (and the LORD speaking through Him), could He be Saviour if He wasn’t also Creator, or Revealer?  Why do you think this is?  And why does it matter?

What does all of that mean for those who worship other gods? 

What would you say to someone who argued that Isaiah wasn’t writing about Jesus in this chapter?

Memory passage:

 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.  He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.  For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.



For further reflection:

All of creation is caught up in the scope of the cross.  Jesus speaks of the renewal of all things (Matt.19:28); and following His Master’s lead, Paul speaks of how ‘all things’ will be reconciled to God through the death of Christ (Col.1:20).  Creation (and so re-creation) is all about Christ.  The foundation and goal of all that is finds its meaning and purpose in Him.  Without Christ all is meaningless.  Everything done without Christ in view is futile.  Life outside of Him is wearisome; and those who live that life will not be remembered.  That at least is the analysis of the book of Ecclesiastes.    Life under the sun (i.e. without reference to the LORD enthroned in heaven) is bleak and hopeless.

 It is only when we lift our eyes above the horizon of this age that we find our authentic purpose and meaning in life.  It is the fact that we will stand before Him that gives dignity (Eccl.11:9 & 12:14).  Have we lived in a way that resonates with the purpose of creation, leaning into our created-ness as a gracious given, or have we refused such wisdom?  Solomon’s antidote to such despair is ‘Remember your Creator in the days of your youth’ (12:1).  For many of us it is too late for that.  Youth is but a memory.  But we can still remember Him before the silver cord is broken… and the spirit returns to God who gave it (12:6-7).   Hear the conclusion of the matter:  Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind (12:13).  It is more than our duty.  It is our joy, and it is the only way to share in the renewal of all things.

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Creation 3: Creation and Providence

Creation 3

Tell them this: “These gods, who did not make the heavens and the earth, will perish from the earth and from under the heavens.”  But God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.  (Jer.10:11-12)

By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth … Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the people of the world revere Him.  For he spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.  The Lord foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of the peoples.

But the plans of the Lord stand firm for ever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.  (Ps.33:6-11)

We can sometimes think that God created the world for one purpose, but that humanity somehow threw creation off course when we sinned.  According to this way of thinking, there is a sense that the characters in the Divine drama took on a life of their own, and refused to be limited by the script the Author gave them.  Instead they wrote their own lines, acted out of character, and the play took an unexpected (or at least an ‘unhoped for’) turn, which meant that God had to re-evaluate the purpose of creation and re-write the play so as weave in the drama of redemption. 

 In contrast to this, we saw last time that there is in fact a deep continuity between creation and redemption.  Creation is structured from the beginning for the cross.  We began to negotiate the idea that everything happens in accordance with gracious wisdom and righteous counsel of our Faithful Creator (Prov.8:12, 22-31; I Peter 4:19).  Other gods cannot shape this world because they did not create it.  God can because He did (Acts 4:27-28).  Creation is what it is because that is how God created it, and as such it becomes a means of grace.  By the Spirit, it (like Scripture, I Cor.2:10-12) reveals the mind and character of God, and becomes the arena for the revelation of the grace of God in Christ. 

 As we learn to trace the handwriting of the Triune God through the pages of providence and history, our response can only be one of worship (Rev.4:11; Ps.104; Ps.136; Neh.9:5f etc.).  There are no mistakes, wrong turns, or dead ends in God’s dealing with His creation.  Everything is, and can only be, as God created it.

 This is confirmed for us when we realise that Gen.1-2 forms a kind of overture to the whole symphony of Scripture.  It reassures us that nothing slips through the fingers of sovereignty.  The whole story of the history of creation is told in these opening days of the life of creation.  God creates; but the creation brought into being ex nihilo is not yet the world that God will later declare to be good.  In Gen.1:1-2, it is formless, empty, and chaotic.  It is barren and desolate, shrouded in darkness (darkness is not called good, yet God creates it, Is.45:7; cf also Ps.74:16).  The only sign of hope is the gracious presence of the Holy Spirit, hovering eagerly over the waters.  Across this vast and lifeless ocean, echoing through pre-history, the Word of God resounds.  Light comes into the darkness, life into the barrenness, order to the formless chaos, fruitfulness fills the emptiness.  

 What we often think of as the story of creation (Genesis 1-2) is in fact the story of God’s hauling creation out from the experience of the abyss in which it is brought to being.  It will not be abandoned to the formless emptiness.  Through the Spirit hovering over the waters, and by a second Noah, creation will enjoy a new birth.  The story begins in darkness, but out of the darkness creation will be formed, until at last God can look and see that it is very good (Gen.1:31).  Many years of creation’s life pass into history before we see again the Spirit hovering over the waters; and again the Voice of the Father is heard; and again the Light shines in the darkness.  Christ is baptised with water and the Spirit, and the Kingdom of Heaven has come upon us (Lk.11:20)

 But only when all things are renewed (Matt.19:28) and everything in heaven and earth is united under Christ (Eph.1:10), will the Father be able to declare that it is very good.    Only then will the darkness have finally been separated from the light, the emptiness finally filled, and the chaos finally ordered. 

 Of course, once the overture is finished the story proper begins.  We see the darkness, emptiness and chaos crawl back into the world that God had declared to be good.  Sin and death are born as creation lurches back towards the Abyss.  This would always be the opening scene.  But those who can read the storyline of grace in the pages of providence wait for the Light to shine in the darkness once more.  For we know that darkness cannot overcome it.


 Do you think this is the best world that God could have created?  We know that He can create a world where there is no possibility of sin (see the New Creation), so why has He not created that world here and now?

If we take seriously the idea that God is in total control of all things, can we believe in ideas like luck, chance, or fortune?

Does this make God responsible for the reality of sin and suffering?

Read Genesis 1:1-13

 What was God doing before creation?  J

What can we say about God from these opening verses of the Bible?

If the sun, moon and stars were not created until v.14, what is the source of the light in v.3?

If creation is ‘good’ as the Lord forms it (v.4; 9; 12 etc.) should a Christian attitude to creation be to leave it as undisturbed as possible?

How do you interpret the ‘days’ of Genesis 1?  Why do you have that opinion?

Do you think it matters whether we interpret the details of Genesis 1-2 literally or not?  What, if anything, do we gain or lose depending on how we choose to interpret these opening chapters of the Bible?

If trees, seed-bearing plants and vegetation are created on the third day, how can they survive without the sun (created on the fourth day)?  In fact, how can there be ‘days’ (or ‘nights’) at all before there is the sun / moon?

How does the story of Noah reflect the story of creation?  What are we being taught through such vivid resonance?

Memory passage:

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:1-5

For further reflection:

 The idea that God is in control of everything that happens is often presented as a problem for us.  How can we believe in such a God when the world is as it is?  Historically though it is handled as a source of great comfort and encouragement for the Church.  In a world so fraught with both physical and spiritual danger, it is only the providence of God that ensures our safety.  From a pastor of a previous generation:

 ‘Innumerable are the evils that beset human life; innumerable too the deaths that threaten it.  We need not go beyond ourselves, since our body is the receptacle of a thousand diseases…  Now wherever you turn, all things around you not only are hardly to be trusted, but almost openly menace, and seem to threaten with immediate death.  Embark on a ship, you are one step away from death; mount a horse and if one foot slips your life is imperilled.  Go through the city streets and you are subject to as many dangers as there tiles on the roofs … [in the countryside] all the fierce animals you see are armed for your destruction.  If you try to shut yourself up in a walled garden, there a serpent may lie hidden.  Your house, continually in danger of fire threatens in the day time to impoverish you and in the night to collapse on you.  Your field, exposed as it is to hail, frost, drought and other calamities threatens you with barrenness and hence famine.  I pass over ambushes, robberies and open violence, which in part besiege us … amid these tribulations, must not a man (sic) be most miserable since but half alive, he weakly draws his anxious breath, as if he had a sword perpetually hanging over his neck?’

 We can easily translate this into the language of more contemporary experience.

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Creation 4: Creation and Physicality

Creation 4

‘You heavens above, rain down my righteousness; let the clouds shower it down.

Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness flourish with it; I, the Lord, have created it.  (Is.45:8)

He who forms the mountains, who creates the wind, and who reveals his thoughts to mankind, who turns dawn to darkness, and treads on the heights of the earth – the Lord God Almighty is his name.  (Amos 4:13)

In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  (Jn.1:4)

When creation is first called into being it is ‘formless and empty’ (1:2).  The first three days have brought order and structure to what was without form.  The second three days are about filling what is empty.  The connection between light and life is forged, as is the connection between life and time.  Whether ‘time’ existed before creation or not, it is part of creation and is embedded into our experience of life in creation.  It isn’t something we invented and imposed onto the natural order of things.  It is built into creation by the LORD as He fills the emptiness.  And this is not a marginal thing.  From our perspective some of the most visible features of creation measure the passing of history.  Sun, moon and stars (in an extraordinarily brief understatement) are cast into the vault of the sky.  Seasons (sacred times?), days, and years are God-given milestones that mark our pilgrimage through creation.  This was declared to be good. 

 The immense and diverse life that fills the sky and water (Day 5) and the land (Day 6) beggars belief.  The account of its creation (vv.20-25) also raises the contentious issues of evolutionary theories, the age of the earth, the interpretation of Genesis 1-2, and the wider questions of the relationship between ‘science’ and ‘religion’ – which our culture often seems to assume are fundamentally incompatible. That sort of claim is of course patent nonsense, and betrays a frightening naiveté and disturbing levels of confusion about the nature of science, religion and our world.  We’ll be considering these questions together at our Deep-Church evening on 30th June, although I suspect there will be some discussions in our home-groups before then!  The danger is that these discussions become so dominant that we are deafened to any other agenda or insight, such as the deep intentionality and sense of purpose in Creation’s coming into being.  It is never a static or immobile phenomena.  Creation is itself on a journey, moving from darkness to light, from barrenness to life.  It is created with its destiny in view: to be the home of both God and humanity. 

 The physicality of creation isn’t a problem for us or for God.  The ancient pagan philosophers taught that physicality was intrinsically inferior, temporary and ultimately to be done away with.   They taught that the ‘real’ world (and the real us) was spiritual, and their great hope was to be liberated from the physical realm so that they could fulfil their potential in a purely ‘spiritual’ existence.  No-one reading Gen.1-2 can settle for such dualism.  The richness and beauty of physical creation, and the time and attention God gives to forming and filling it teach us that it is much more significant than paganism allows.  The physical creation has a future.  And it has a purpose and a reason for being.  It is not something that God (who is spirit, Jn.4:24) at any point disengages with.

 The same God who creates the physical world will become a part of it in His incarnation (and so it becomes a part of Him).  After reading these opening chapters of the Bible, that intimacy shouldn’t surprise us; in fact we’d be shocked and confused if having formed it and filled it, He then refused to have anything more to do with it unless directly petitioned.  As Christians we can sometimes think this is the case.  We assume God is separate from physical creation, but reluctantly re-engages from time to time in response to the prayers of His people, before retreating from it once again. 

 But the Trinity love being constantly engaged in the life of the creation.  Creation only continues to exist as it does because He is deeply involved in its structures, sustaining and shaping them.  It wasn’t created as a place for humanity to live in isolation from God, but to be the arena in which both God and humanity could live in relationship.  A physical creation is a natural environment for us both (Rev.21:3).  God is not demeaned by His contact with creation.  He creates such beauty and diversity not just as a gift for humanity in Christ, but also as the context within which He will give humanity the greatest gift of all: Himself in Christ.  God will dwell with humanity throughout the everlasting ages of the renewed, physical creation.


 Do you think there are godly and sinful ways of relating to time?  How does the fall affect our relationship with time?  What changes would we need to make to help us live out this aspect of our discipleship with greater integrity before God?

How can we pray for and support Christians who have been called to work in the fields of scientific research and education?

How would you respond to the idea that Genesis 1-2 can’t really teach us anything more than the idea that God is creator?  Do these chapters have anything to teach us about how God created, and if so, what?

Read Gen.1:14-25

 What do you make of the fact that the vast entirety of creation outside earth’s atmosphere is dismissed in a single sentence, ‘He also made the stars’ (1:16)?

On Day 1 Light / Dark are separated.  On Day 4 Day / Night are separated.  Why do you think there will be no more night in the New Creation (Rev.22:5)?

How different do you think creation is before the fall, from our experience of it now?

How can the Bible speak of inanimate aspects of creation and animals, plants etc. ‘praising the Lord’ (e.g. Ps.148)?  What does this mean?

 With the vision of such a vastly creative God before us:

·       Is creativity per se a good thing, so that every creative act can be said to reflect God?  If your answer is ‘No’, then what criteria does ‘creativity’ have to meet before it does reflect the creativity of God?

 ·       How should we encourage Christians involved in creative arts? 

 ·       Should creative arts feature more prominently in our worship?  If so, how?  Can you think of any example from the Bible of God’s creativity being used to justify ‘creativity’ in worship?

Memory Passage:

 Praise the Lord.  Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights above.  Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his heavenly hosts.  Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars.  Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies.  Let them praise the name of the Lord, for at his command they were created, and he established them for ever and ever – He issued a decree that will never pass away.

Psalm 148:1-6


For further reflection:

 As with so much, the Tabernacle can help us visualise the relationship between God and the world, and the depth to which He takes up residence within creation (you might find it helpful to listen to the Leviticus sermons series at    

Isaiah (40:22), and the Psalmist (104:2) both liken God’s stretching out the heavens to a tent (lit: Tabernacle) in which God would dwell.  Repeatedly Moses is reminded he must ensure the Tabernacle is made exactly as he was shown it on Mount Sinai (e.g. Ex.25:8-9).  Hebrews 8-9 explains why.  It is a schematic model of the world, and particularly of how God relates to it.  The Father (enthroned in the Holy of holies), sends the Son (Table of Showbread) and the Spirit (Lampstand) from heaven to reveal and redeem earth (which is still called the Holy Place).  While God cannot be limited to the experience of creation (I Kings 8:27), there is a deep integrity in His indwelling it.  A Trinitarian vision of God shows us how God is both immanent and transcendent (Is.57:15).  This also helps us see why Jesus is consistently referred to by Himself and by others as the one sent by the Father, with the Spirit (Is.48:16; John 3:34; Lk.4:18, citing Is.61 etc.).  The curtain dividing the Holy and Most Holy Place is of course ripped at the death of Christ.

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Creation 5: Creation unseen

Creation 5

You alone are the Lord. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.  (Neh.9:6)

Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?  (Job 38:4-7)

Whilst the idea of ‘universe’ isn’t unheard of in the Bible (e.g. Heb.1:2; 11:3) the much more common way of referring to creation is in terms of ‘the heavens and the earth’ (Dt.32:1; Is.48:13; Jer.4:23; II Pet.3:7 etc. or a variation on that theme e.g. Dt.10:14).  Scripture constantly reminds us that there is far more to this world than what our senses tell us.  As we confess in our creed: Creator ... of all that is: seen and unseen.  Creation is richer and more complex than we are usually aware of.  It is humbling to realise that the greater part of creation is beyond our empirical observation and interrogation.   Because it is generally beyond the limits of our awareness there have always been those who deny its existence (Acts 23:8).

 It might not have occurred to us that heaven is a part of this creation.  It was created at the same time as the earth (Ex.20:11), and will need to be renewed with the rest of creation (Matt.19:28).  Further, the heavens are not vacant places (Dan.7:10; Rev.5:11).  They are heavily populated with a vast array of creatures, and are places of dynamic action (Eph.6:12).  There seems to be a militancy to life in the heavenly realms (Josh.5:13-15; Dan.10:13&20; Rev.12:7-9), and if we are to think of angels it should generally be as elite warriors, rather than babies.

 Because these arenas of creation are generally beyond our awareness, we face all kinds of problems as we think about it.  We face the temptation to either ignore it (and so be functionally atheist), or to replace our lack of knowledge not with the careful study of Scripture, but with a pseudo-pagan ‘theology’ that is more akin to superstition that Christianity.  Over the years we have probably all been exposed to theories about angels and demons and how they relate to the seen creation that we recognise have no foundation in the Bible.  Either of these options will leave us confused about creation and our experience of it, or at best, deeply impoverished.  We need to be careful too of a passivity, or laziness, or arrogance that concludes we don’t need to know about things God has been careful to reveal in His word.

 The interaction between the seen and the unseen parts of creation is constant and causal.  Things happen on earth because of what is decreed and enacted in the heavens.  My own sense is that these things are spoken of incidentally in the Bible, and are rarely the focus of what is being revealed.  We are told about angels (and demons) because they are real, not because they are to become the focus of our attention or spirituality.  Angels (i.e. messengers) relentlessly and joyfully point our worship, attention and service to Jesus, who is of course, THE Angel of the Lord (I Pet.3:22; Rev.19:10; 22:7-9)

 These dimensions of creation have been as deeply affected by the fall as the earth, and the creatures that inhabit it, though ‘angels’ do not have the opportunity to be redeemed.  We should resist the temptation to sort the legions of angels (unfallen and fallen) into ranks; to seek to discover their names; to hunt them out; to initiate communication with them; or to deal with them directly, unless they make themselves known to us.  And if this is true for those angels who serve the Lord and the Church, how much more is it the case when we are relating to those spiritual forces that are arrayed against Christ and His people (II Peter.2:11).  There is a capacity to deceive and mislead that is incredibly dangerous for us as Christians (II Cor.11:14-15).  The pattern in the Gospels and the Acts is to lead with the Gospel, and if there is some kind of spiritual interaction we simply deal with it and move on (Acts 13:4-12).  We need to walk a careful line between awareness of the unseen parts of creation, and an interest and focus that would take us beyond what the Bible warrants.

 Although ‘heaven’ needs to be redeemed, it is filled with the glory of the Lord.  The heavenly host is fully and joyfully aligned with the will and purposes of God.  At the moment we pray ‘You will be done on earth as it is in heaven’ (see also Ps.72:19), but the day is coming when ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord’ (Hab.2:14).  Creation long divided will be re-united, and heaven will come to earth (Rev.21:1-3).  That is our hope.


 Why do you think ‘heavens’ is so often in the plural?  Why does Paul stipulate that it was the third heaven he was caught up to (II Cor.12:2)?

Read Col.1:19-20. Why do ‘things in heaven’ need to be reconciled to God?  Why does there need to be a ‘new heaven’ as part of the new creation (Rev.21:1)?

Do you think it is confusing to speak of Jesus as the Angel of the Lord?

Why do you think angels won’t be redeemed?

Read II Kings 6:8-23

 Do you think that there is a constant ‘fiery’ activity co-existing throughout the ‘seen’ creation, or do you think this is a rarer event, perhaps limited to times of particular crisis for the Church?

What difference did it make to Elijah’s servant (and would it make to God’s people generally) if they had an awareness of the presence and activity of the host of heaven’s armies?

If awareness of them would have a beneficial effect, why do you think they are hidden from us so much of the time?

Can you think of other passages where the Church is made aware of the unseen dimensions of creation?  What effect – if any – does it have?

Can you think of times in the life of Jesus when angels minister to Him?  Do you think Christians can expect similar attendance?  How would that manifest itself?

What do you think Hebrews 13:2 means when it talks of Christians showing ‘hospitality to angels without knowing it’?

Given that so much of this aspect of reality goes on without our knowing it, how much should our faith in it affect our day to day lives?

Memory passage:

 Praise be to you, Lord, the God of our father Israel, from everlasting to everlasting. Yours, Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the majesty and the splendour, for everything in heaven and earth is yours. Yours, Lord, is the kingdom; you are exalted as head over all. Wealth and honour come from you; you are the ruler of all things. In your hands are strength and power to exalt and give strength to all. Now, our God, we give you thanks, and praise your glorious name.

I Chron. 29:10-13


For further reflection:

 The uniqueness of humanity in this respect is that we are the one point of creation where the seen and unseen live in a single reality.  We are created from the dust of the earth.  In that sense we belong very much to the earth.  In fact the name ‘Adam’ derives from the Hebrew word meaning ‘ground, earth or soil’.  This is so fundamental to his created-ness, that Paul simply designates him ‘the earthly man’ (I Cor.15:47-48).  But our existence cannot be reduced to the earthly.  We are also heavenly – or at least we were before the fall.  Since then we have been locked into an earthly existence, exiled from heavenly realities.  

 But if we are now united with Christ, the Heavenly Man, then in our spirits are already ‘raised … with Christ and seated with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus’ (Eph.2:6, also Col.3:1-3 etc).  If you go back to the plan of the Tabernacle in last week’s study, you’ll notice a fourth article of furniture that we didn’t refer to: the Altar of Incense.  It is tucked in right next to the curtain that separates heaven (the Most Holy Place, where the Father is enthroned), from earth (the Holy Place).  Here is the Church in her characteristic posture of prayer (see Rev.5:8; 8:4).  We are close to the heavenly reality as we can get while still in these ‘lowly bodies that are subject to death’ (Phil.3:21 & Rom.7:24).  The great hope of the Church is for the day when that curtain is torn down completely, and the full reality of our existence as the Church is available to us.  We will be then as heavenly as we are earthly now…and as earthly as we are heavenly now!

 It is to the creation of humanity ‘in the image of God’ that we shall turn to next in our studies together.

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Creation 6: Creation and meaning

Creation 6

He chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight.  (Eph.1:4)

 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  (Eph.2:10)

We began the term with a brief look at Psalm 19, which celebrates the way in which the heavens declare the glory of God, and in so doing, creation brings God near to us and indeed, us near to God.  Psalm 8 by contrast could seem to be overshadowed by a tinge of threat.  When we consider the vast expanse of creation – even those aspects of it that we are aware of – can we really claim significance for humanity?

 As we have lost touch with the teaching of Scripture, we have increasingly felt unable to affirm any such significance.  Indeed, even the attempt to do so can seem misplaced.  Dr Adam Rutherford, geneticist and broadcaster writes, ‘To assume there is meaning to the universe is to misunderstand our cosmic insignificance. It’s just self-centred and arrogant … The universe is indifferent to our existence’.

 The secular humanism that dominates our public discourse is not conducive to the sense of human dignity.  We are informed that we share 99% of our DNA with chimpanzees, and 98% with gorillas (, although the figures are heavily disputed, and the significance of those figures more so).  We are not so different, we are told, from any other animal.  The question of our origins is reduced to chance and the random application of impersonal physical laws.  The possibility of destiny is derided, and the idea of accountability to anyone beyond ourselves is denigrated as philosophically incoherent. 

 Which means there is no meaning.  It doesn’t matter who I am.  We become who we make ourselves, and what we want to be.  The very foundation of personhood, and the basic categories of humanity are undermined.  Technology gives us an ever greater sense of potential, yet so often devalues life and degrades the person.  Rather than liberating us, we are plunged into a titanic struggle for purpose, identity, relationships and a worth beyond our earning potential.  Meanwhile, the ethics of life and death spin uncontrollably into ever increasing complexity, and our significance becomes ever more elusive.

 As we face a seemingly unprecedented ecological crisis the importance of the human race is increasingly called into question.  Our assumed superiority has precipitated an environmental collapse.  We are told we should recognise our place alongside, or even below other species and concerns within nature.  Perhaps we are the enemy, a parasite threatening the system we depend on for survival.  Perhaps our extinction would be the best thing for the planet..? 

 What is humanity?  Do we have significance beyond our own arbitrary creating?  Does it matter who we are…  or even that we are?  What is our relationship with our environment?  Are we part of the answer, or part of the problem?  In what ways are we like the rest of creation (Ecc.5:18-21), and in what ways are we different?  The questions of origin and destiny are foundational to our rediscovering our dignity, and finding our place in creation.  We cannot hope to understand the journey if we don’t know where we came from, or where we are going to. 

 Christ designed us for life in this world, and that same Designer created other creatures to also live in this world with us (which might explain commonalities in DNA sequences).  Understanding both the Designer and His wise intention in our design, and in the design of our environment is critical to living rightly.  He is mindful of us.  The incalculable expanse of creation (much of which is undiscovered and unexplored) does not intimidate us, or leave us feeling insignificant, or unimportant.  He is mindful of us. 

 That is the deep resolution to the insignificance I am tempted to in the light of the vastness of creation.  The desolate meaninglessness of a world that suppresses the knowledge of Him (Rom.1:18-20) gives no substantial answer to that insignificance.  It is only reiterated and by some at any rate, embraced.  And rightly so.  If there is no Creator then there is no meaning beyond what we create for ourselves, and the question of meaning proves to be an irrelevance.  In a world of such cosmic immensity, I have purpose only if He has purpose for me.  I matter only if I matter to Him.  I have dignity only if I am created by Him.  I have meaning only if it is defined by Him.  That is what it means to be human.


 What provokes feelings of insignificance for you?

What would you say to someone like Adam Rutherford, who believed there was no need for meaning or for a sense of significance in life, and that to search for it is ‘self-centred and arrogant’?  How would you share the Gospel with someone who thought this?

Do you agree that our culture is making it harder to believe in the dignity of the human race?  Where do you see it most under threat?

Read Psalm 8

 How does the praise of children silence the foe and avenger (v.2)?

Do you think the threatened sense of insignificance (vv.3-4) is an authentically human response to grasping the immensity of creation, or is it a result of our fallenness?

Why does our relative position to angels matter?

What does it mean to be crowned with glory and honour?

Do you think humanity does rule over the works of God’s hands?

Read Heb.2:5-12.  How does the experience of Jesus relate to the rest of humanity?  Do you think Psalm 8 is about us? …about Jesus? …about both Jesus and us?   Why does it matter?

Of course, the question of God’s being mindful of us is a two-edged sword.  It was this thought that tormented Job (14:5-6).  How does suffering affect our sense of being watched over by God?  Is it a comfort to know He is mindful of us, or does it cause you problems as a Christian?


Memory Passage:

 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So he became as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs.

 Hebrews 1:1-4

For further reflection:

 He is mindful of us.  That question is settled.  The more poignant question is whether we are mindful of Him?  To fail here is to fail everywhere.  There is a certain futility in people who are not mindful of Christ seeking to diagnose the problems of the world, and to chart a way through them.  Even the deepest analysis from such a perspective falls hopelessly short of understanding the situation we find ourselves in.

 Only when our relationship (or lack thereof) with Christ is the context and content of our thinking can we begin to grasp the devastating nature of our impact on the world.  Our impact on the environment is far deeper than mere ecology!  If our footprint was only carbon, and our ravaging of creation were only environmental, we might navigate a way through.  But the roots run far deeper.

The crisis is theological.  The catastrophe will not be averted by the abdication of humanity, still less by our extinction.  Only by our redemption can creation be delivered from the curse.  In so many ways we seek to negate the effects of the curse by ourselves: education, reforestation, conservation, recycling.  The only thing in this scenario that is more superficial than the diagnosis is the prognosis.  Do we genuinely think we can liberate creation from its bondage to decay (Rom.8:21) by recycling?  Is our grasp on the severity of the situation we are facing so tenuous?  Passages such as Dt.28 and Lev.26 alert us to the fact that much more profound dynamics are at play. 

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Creation 7: Creation and Humanity

Creation 7

The Lord … stretches out the heavens, who lays the foundation of the earth, and who forms the human spirit within a person…  (Zech.12:1)

 Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.  (Is.43:7)

 For this is what the Lord says – he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited – he says: ‘I am the Lord, and there is no other.  (Is.45:18)

We return to the narrative of Genesis.  The sixth day is not completed even with the creation of the living creatures.  All is declared good, fit for purpose.  But then the apex.  Only after the creation of mankind in His own image, male and female, is creation declared to be not just good, but very good (1:31).  With the forming from the dust of the ground, and the breathing of life, we come to the boundary between the rest of creation and the beginning of history.  All that has been summoned into existence has been providing a habitat for this crowning moment (Is.45:18).  It is hard to overestimate the centrality of humanity in the project of creation.  All else is formed with this one great climactic moment in mind.  All serves this one ambition of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – the creation of mankind in His image and likeness (Gen.1:26).  This is done so that (note: causal intention) they may rule over all aspects of earthly life.  That is our purpose, and no amount of fashionable angst, insecurity or guilt can change it.

Of course this is immediately qualified by the realisation that our rule is derived and contingent.  The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it (Ps.24:1), and it is so in a far more profound sense than it is ours. Yet neither can that all important qualification undermine the reality of the Lord’s delegation to his image bearers.  There is no ambiguity in His purpose.  Gen.1:26 reveals the internal counsel of the Trinity, and makes plain His objective.  Those who bear His image, and His likeness will rule in His stead.  They will literally be God-like in their relationship

with all else that is created.  The destiny of all that God has made in the hands of these creatures of the dust.

 The magnificence of 1:28 is breath-taking.  For the first time in the everlasting ages of eternity, God speaks to someone outside of Himself.  This is not the same as His declarations of the previous 5 days.  His decrees were to that which though it bears witness to His glory, does not bear His image.  But here He speaks with someone, a person who is external to the immediate life of God Himself.  Such a thing is almost beyond belief.  The first words of command underline the relationship between creation and Creator, but what is truly staggering is that humanity is mandated to continue the very work of God. 

 Remember from Study 4 how we noted that in some ways Genesis Ch.1 was the story not so much of God creating ex nihilo (out of nothing, finished in Gen.1:2, cf. Romans 4:17, [God] calls into being things that were not).  It is rather the story of God filling what is empty and bringing order out of the formless chaos.  It is the story of God filling His creation with light and life.  Now these image-bearers are caught up into the work of God.  They too must ‘be fruitful, increase in number; fill the earth…’.  As image bearers they take forth the light of God, and in their fruitfulness they fill the emptiness of the earth.  But they are also to ‘subdue [and] rule over…’, bringing order and structure to the remainder of the earth (we’ll revisit this in our next study).  They play the role of God, representing God’s gracious and life-giving decree to all that God has given them…  which is everything (Gen.1:29)!

 These creatures of the dust, that moments ago were not even in existence, have been gifted with the entirety of God’s earthly creation.  The highest heavens belong to the Lord, but the earth he has given to the human race (Ps.115:16).  We find it near impossible to disentangle the wisdom of this mandate from the chaos of human history.  We only have the history of fallen humanity to measure it by.  But this was so glorious a delegation that at the time, the Lord Himself felt free to step back, declare it ‘very good’, and entrusting all to his vice-regents, to rest.  We were trusted to be the guardians of the entire ecological matrix of the planet.  It’s not as if we were limited to a passive ‘maintain the status quo’ vision.  We were mandated to proactively shape the life of earth, to enrich the experience of its ‘vast array’ (Gen.2:1).  How much we must have squandered.  How desperately far we fell on that first Sabbath.


 What do you think it means to be human?  What is it that separates us from the rest of creation?

As a Christian, what do you make of the gender revolution our culture is currently undergoing?  How do you navigate it?

It is argued that Christianity bears the guilt for the environmental crisis because of the sense of entitlement that comes from the idea that we are ‘superior to nature’.  As one scholar writes: ‘We shall continue to have a worsening ecological crisis until we reject the Christian axiom that nature has no reason for existence but to serve man (sic) … the Christian arrogance towards nature means that no solution for our ecological crisis can be expected from them alone’ (Lynn White, The Historical Roots of our Ecological Crisis, 1967).  Do you agree?  Why / why not?

Read Genesis 1:26-2:3

 What do you think is the ‘image of God’ in which we are made?  …how, if at all, is it different from His likeness?   Do you think it is significant that ‘likeness’ is not mentioned in Gen.1:27?

In our fallen state, do you think humanity retains anything of that image?  Or did we lose it all?  Or did we take on a different image?

‘male and female He created them…’  What distinguishes ‘male’ and ‘female’?  Is it more than physical differences?  Should those distinguishing characteristics have any impact on our roles within family, Church or society?  If so, what?

Do you think it is possible to change from ‘male’ to ‘female’, or vice versa? 

Note the end of v.30: Do you think Christians should be vegetarians?

On the seventh day He rested.  Do you think Christians should honour the Sabbath (or by virtue of Christ’s resurrection, the Lord’s Day)?  Why / why not?  If you think we should, how?

Memory Passage:

 That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.


For Further Reflection:

 Even this short foray into the creation of humanity has given us a sense of the deep crisis that confronts our thinking about ourselves.  The questions of who we are and what it means to be human have challenged the mind of every generation.  It has been suggested that no age knows so much about humanity, whilst simultaneously knowing so little about what humanity is.  As we have lost (suppressed) our knowledge of God, we have been left with no object more worthy of study than ourselves.  Paradoxically, as we lose our understanding of God, we lose precisely the capacity to understand what we are and why.  The Church has long taught that we can only understand ourselves in relationship with our understanding of God. 

 Contrary to Lynn White, it is only from Christians that we can expect a solution to the ecological crisis, and to every other crisis we face.  Only Christians understand who God is, and so only Christians can hope to understand humanity, who we are, and what has gone wrong. 

 But it isn’t just about knowledge and understanding.  We need more than knowledge.  We need implementation.  And it is only in Christ can we hope to experience the change necessary to bring the resolution our world so desperately needs.  Only Christians can become what humans were created to be.  As the Apostle Paul wrote so long ago: those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Rom.8:29, see also Col.3:10).


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Creation 8: Creation and Eden

Creation 8

 The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.  (Is.51:3)

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  (I Pet.2:19)

As we move into Genesis 2, we find the narrative pausing, and taking us back to look more closely at the creation of mankind in the image of God, as male and female.  This is so significant a moment that we cannot simply pass over it.  We are taken back to reflect more deeply on the creation of Adam and Eve, and their place in creation, and more specifically, in Eden.  Many of us have given Eden little thought.  Perhaps we wonder on occasion whether it was a real, or a literal, place?  Maybe we’ve read an article or two that suggests its geography, or claims to have rediscovered its location?  We probably think of it as an amazing garden, perhaps with elements of a farm… and then move on. 

 While it is in fact a garden, actually the whole phenomena of Eden is something far more dramatic.  Eden was the point of overlap between the heavens and the earth, an interface in which the seen and the unseen coalesce.  Here, humanity and the God who they represent to the rest of creation could enjoy fellowship and conversation in each other’s presence.  The seemingly casual mention of the LORD walking in the garden by His Spirit (Gen.3:8, often unhelpfully translated as if Moses had in mind a cool evening breeze!) is in fact a colossal theological affirmation.  Eden is the dwelling place of God.  Leviticus 26:11-12 underlines the connection: ‘I will put my dwelling-place [lit: Tabernacle] among you … I will walk among you and be your God’.  The Tabernacle / Temple that is such a feature of the life of the Old Testament Church is the enduring reality of Eden after the fall.  Or to put it another way, Eden was the primal Tabernacle / Temple (there are a host of other connections between the Tabernacle and Creation – perhaps another time J) .

The lines of thought that converge here are almost too many to mention, but include the fact that both Eden and the Temple are spoken of as ‘the mountain of God’; both are eastward facing; both are God’s dwelling-place; both have a river of life and healing flowing out of them; both have a tree of life, and precious stones; both are marked by the presence of Cherubim who belatedly function to prevent fallen humanity entering ‘heaven’…  and on it goes.  The upshot of it all is that while we tend to think of Adam primarily as gardener / farmer, it is likely more helpful to think of him as priest.  This is part of the reason why Christ, as our Priest is spoken of as a second Adam, and as the Son of Man (Adam) as in Daniel 7:13-14 where He is given dominion, glory and a kingdom that stretches to the ends of the earth (Ps.2:8).

 When the LORD God put Adam in the Garden of Eden ‘to work it and take care of it’ (2:15), it isn’t necessarily horticulture He had in mind.  His work isn’t limited to the agricultural working of the ground (2:5), and keeping the flowers looking nice; but includes guarding Eden from pollution and corruption, and keeping His commands so that the wrath of God would not be on creation (see Num.18:4-6, although the NIV obscures the verbal resonance).  This is what makes his dereliction of duty in Genesis 3 so devastating.  He has failed in primary responsibility to obey the LORD and to keep the sanctuary from defilement. 

 But Adam’s priestly responsibility wasn’t limited to Eden, or the Garden planted there.  It was to include the whole earth, making the entirety of it a sanctuary in which the LORD could walk by His Spirit.  As those in the image of God, humanity was to continue God’s iconic work, subduing the chaos, giving it form and order (by speech, Gen.2:19-20, echoing 1:5, 8, 10), and filling it.  We never made it out of the garden.  Adam could not subdue, but was in fact subdued by another. 

 Of course, God’s vision for creation is not frustrated by our failure!  Even a cursory reading of the last two chapter of the Bible can’t help but note that much of the New Creation is presented to us in Eden / Temple language: the re-presentation of the river, the tree of life, the recurrence of the gold and precious stones, the Holy of holies, the lifting of the curse, and of course the dwelling of God with His people who serve Him.  At the end of the Bible we see the commission of Genesis 1-2 finally fulfilled through the second Adam, our glorious Priest and King, and the image of the invisible God.  Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.


 Do you think Adam and Eve were actual people?

…and that Eden was an actual place?

Does it matter whether we think of these as actual historical events and narratives, or not?

Read Genesis 2:4-25

 You may have heard the idea that Gen.1, and Gen.2 represent two different (and perhaps contradictory) accounts of creation, from two different sources, that have been put together by an editor.  What do you think about this?

Why does the LORD God put Adam in a garden, rather than simply somewhere in the earth?

What is the significance of both the man and animals being created from the ground (v.7 & 19)?

Why does LORD God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden at all?  Why not either put it somewhere remote and inaccessible, or not have it at all?

In what sense will Adam die if he eats from that tree (v.17)?

Why do you think Adam is created in the way that he is, and why is Eve created in the way that she is?  Why not create her directly from the dust of the ground as well? 

How does the sequence of events in 2:18-24 lay the foundation for our vision of marriage?

What is the connection between being naked and feeling no shame (v.25)?


Memory Passage:

 But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation.  He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, so obtaining eternal redemption ... [T]he blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, [will] cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!


…taken from Hebrews 9:11-14

For Further Reflection:

 In Romans 15:16, Paul describes His evangelistic work as a priestly duty (see also his use of sacrificial language to describe those who become Christians, e.g. Phl.4:18).  That would seem to tie it into humanity’s creation mandate in Eden, and to the life of the Tabernacle / Temple.  Why was this?  The life of the Tabernacle was the demonstration and declaration of the Gospel throughout generations of the ancient Church under the Mosaic Covenant.  Here we learn what the sacrifice of Christ will achieve, we understand the His ministry as our Priest and High Priest, we experience what it meant to be clean so that we could approach God, we are able to visualise how the God who is Father Son and Holy Spirit catches the Church up into their life together.  This is why the LORD is so angry with His people when it falls into disrepair (Hag.1:1-6, Mal.3:6-12 etc.), silencing the Gospel.

 It was the priest’s job to ensure the drama of the Gospel was performed faithfully and consistently before the nations of the world, to explain it and teach it and proclaim that Gospel… and it was their job to facilitate your response to the Gospel and to lead you as you trusted in the coming Messiah. After the fall, this was how the Genesis mandate would be fulfilled, and the second Adam subdue the earth, and fill it with His children. 

 And all this, Paul now does for the Gentiles.  And in so doing, He is caught up into the priestly work of Christ – as are we all in the task of making disciples.  We are, after all, a priesthood, and priestly work is what we were created for.

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Creation 9: Creation and Fall

Creation 9

If, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!  (Rom.5:17)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.’  (Gal.3:13)

How long can we study the doctrine of creation before the incongruity of the situation becomes unbearable?  We study and reflect, discuss and learn, and realise increasingly that our experience of creation bears little, if any resemblance to the Bible’s teaching.  We have hinted at this more than once in our studies to date.  It is time to look it straight in the eye.

 Creation is not as it was when God declared it to be very good (1:31).  We can safely assume that God would not look at the world as it is and declare it ‘good’.  We are not as God made us, and the world is not as God made it.  Standing between that original creation and us is the cosmic trauma of the fall.  In Genesis 3 we see the formless chaos, the barren emptiness of Genesis 1:1 creep back into the world.  We aren’t surprised by this.  It is the DNA of this creation that it begins in darkness and desolation, and becomes by the work of God, a place of light and life.

 But what does that darkness and desolation look like?  What will life be in a world of sin and death?  What does God make it?  It is worth noticing that the new dynamics of the curse are determined and proclaimed by God.  The same God who has called creation into being, now decrees what that creation will be like in its fallen state (3:14-20).  It is He who curses it.  This is the point Paul makes in Romans 8:20, ‘Creation was subjected to frustration not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it…’.  This is not simple cause and effect, impersonally implemented by a latent law of the spiritual universe.  God is personally and deliberately involved.  What had only been the capacity for death and degeneration becomes its experience.

There is clear knowledge that something has gone desperately wrong.  Humanity knows shame.  They seek to hide themselves from each other (fig leaves) and from God (among the trees He caused to grow, 2:9).  There is fear, evasiveness and guilt.  The psychology of Adam & Eve is different.  Their eyes were opened.  They not only saw, but knew, experienced and imbibed evil.  They become sinners.  Bearing His image, but no longer in His likeness.

 The LORD God’s invitation to confess and repent is spurned, blame is passed, responsibility abdicated.  But ‘Death and Destruction lie open before the Lord – how much more do human hearts!’ (Prov.15:11).  He too sees, and He judges.  The serpent’s every move will be characterised by humiliation and will bear the mark of defeat.  And for humanity, the very dignity of their image-bearing, and the mandate that came with it, becomes the pain and humiliation of their curse.  The privilege of fruitfulness, the command to increase in number and the decree to fill the earth are blighted by pain and sorrow.  The unity of husband and wife will be a perennial source of frustration and struggle.  The exercise of authority will become abusive and self-serving.  Dominion over the earth will result in creation’s resentment of feeding us.  Our quest to subdue is subverted, and life is now to be lived under the encroaching shadow of death.

 But even in the degradation of exile there is hope.  Before the curse there is the promise.  ‘Take, eat’ will eventually become the anthem of salvation.  But before that can be the case, there must be another Adam, another Image-bearer, another garden, another battle with temptation, another tree.  Born of a woman, crowned with thorns, with sweat like drops of blood, He returns to the dust.  The second Adam bears the curse, becomes the curse and redeems us from the curse (Gal.3:13).  In His death will be the death of death.  It is only after the promise that she will bear the serpent-crusher, the death-killer, is given that Adam gives his wife the name ‘Eve’, mother of the living.

 But there is yet one more act of grace.  Death strikes its first blow.  The LORD God Himself acts as Priest, and slays the first animal.  God will clothe the sinner, but only at the cost of sacrifice.  To open the way to the tree of life once again, the LORD God will plunge the flaming sword into His own breast on the tree of death, that His Bride might be clothed with His own life, the dwelling place of God may be among people (Rev.21:3), and the purpose of creation find fulfilment.


 Can we really expect people to take the Bible seriously when one if its deepest stories that claims to explain the crisis of creation centres on a talking snake?

 How much should we work for environmental renewal and causes when we know that fundamentally the problem is theological and spiritual?

From Genesis 3, how would you respond to the argument that people are basically good, and that evil comes from our environment?

Read Genesis 3:1-24

 How much time do you think has elapsed between the events recorded in Gen.2, and those in Gen.3?

Was Satan already a fallen creature before his approach to the woman in 3:1?

 What are the mechanics of temptation?  How does the serpent move Eve to a place where she is prepared to disobey her God?  What can we learn from this for our own battles with temptation?

In Gen.1:26 God said, ‘Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness…’.  The LORD God’s lament in Gen.3:22 is that ‘the man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil’.  Humanity is like God both before and after the fall.  So what has changed?

Is God over-reacting?  What would you say to someone who thought the curse was too extreme a response for one mistake?

Have you heard of the idea of ‘original’ sin?  What do you think this is about?  Do you think it is something the Bible teaches?  Do you agree with it as an idea?

How badly has humanity been corrupted by sin?  How does that affect your view of people who aren’t Christians?  How does it affect your view of the cross?  How does it affect your view of your own experience of sin?


Memory passage:

 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.  For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.  For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.


For Further Reflection:

 We will be coming back to spend the whole of our next JCL term reflecting on the Bible’s teaching about sin.  We don’t need to figure it all out in this one study.  At this stage we are simply trying to get a handle on what happened at the fall, on getting the story straight, and beginning to draw out some of its implications for the life of creation (including humanity).

 But it is worth noting that no-one has ever over-estimated the effect of the fall, and the unleashing of sin and death into creation.  No matter how terrible a thing we think this is, I suspect we aren’t even close to grasping the horrific extent of the impact of these moments recorded for us in Gen.3.  In fact, quite the opposite.  Most of us have never got close to appreciating how much changed on that day.

 Our view of ‘sin’ tends to superficiality (in part because we have no real sense of the height from which we fell).  We minimise the sense of its impact on God, on us as human beings, but also on the entirety of creation.  The problem with doing this is that it leaves us with an inadequate explanation for both our experience of creation as it is now, and for the cross of Christ.  Put bluntly, if sin isn’t that big a problem, the cross isn’t that big a solution. 

 We need to keep a delicate balance.  We desperately need to recognise the catastrophe of sin and death for what it is.  But if that is all we have in view we will despair.  We must also keep hold of the glory of our origins, and of our destiny.  These give us an unassailable hope in the love of God for us in Christ.  It is to the question of our destiny that we turn for our last study in this series.

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Creation 10: Creation and recreation

Creation 10

Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  (Matt.19:28)

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.  (Col.1:19-20)

No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him.  (Rev.22:3)

When we think about the cross there is a danger that we reduce the extent of its work to a few human shaped and sized bits of creation.  We often see the good news of the Gospel as God saving people.  He does, and that is indeed glorious good news.  But it is by no means the entirety of the good news.  The reality is that through the cross, God is at work to implement a much more epic vision of the future.  His will and purpose is to unite all things in heaven and in earth under the glorious reign of His Son, Jesus Christ (Eph.1:10).  Redemption is a truly cosmic reality.  We’ll need to spend a whole term just on this later.

 When the Scriptures paint a picture for us of the new heavens and the new earth, it incorporates not just the saints made perfect, resurrected and renewed in their likeness to the Son (Heb.12:23, I John 3:1-3), but envisages the renewal and rebirth of the entire creation.  The Gospel doesn’t just reconcile us to God through Christ, but it liberates all of creation from its bondage to decay, and brings it into the freedom and glory of the children of God (Rom.8:21).  All creation shares the Christian hope.  The Bible anticipates the renewal of social, animal and plant life of earth…  a totally redeemed ecology, that provides the sanctuary in which the marriage of Christ and His bride can be fully and finally realised. 

 Which is to say that this creation has a future.  We need to think carefully about this, and I suggest we start by focussing on the only bit of the physical New Creation future that is already in existence: the resurrection body of Christ.  This gives us a sense of both the continuity and discontinuity between the creation in this age, and in the one to come. 

 At one level there is a profound continuity between the body of Jesus before and after His resurrection.  It is the same body that He took in the Incarnation, made from the dust of this creation.  Christ doesn’t create a new and different body for His New Creation life.  He returns to the tomb to claim His body from it.  And yet it is profoundly different, transformed.  There are times when Jesus is no longer recognisable even to those who had been closest to Him.  It has properties and abilities that we can barely visualise, let alone understand.  It would be as well to acknowledge that the glorified biology, chemistry and physics of the New Creation life are probably a little beyond our ability to grasp at the moment.  But that isn’t to say we can’t know anything about creation’s future.  In terms of our own resurrection future, meditating on I Cor.15:35-58 might be a good place to start.

 The body of Christ is the first-fruits of the New Creation (I Cor.15:20-28).  The same tension between continuity and discontinuity will characterise all of creation in its resurrection.  It will go through the ravages of death; it will be purified, having all vestiges of the curse stripped from it, all scarring of sin, all shadow of death and decay.  The structures of evil that are so deeply embedded will be utterly dismantled, and creation itself will endure a cosmic destruction.  In the same way as our bodies are destroyed in death, creation is destroyed, laid bare (II Pet.3:10).  Like a garment taken off to be washed, it is cleansed and changed (Heb.1:11-12).  It is hard to overestimate the work of renewal that needs to be done, the cataclysmic dislocation between the ages.  For us this world is normal.  We are so accustomed to sin and death, sorrow and decay.  We may not like the cruelty and brutality of this world, but neither have we known anything different.  But the LORD God knows this isn’t ‘normal’.  He knows that there is a different life, a life without death, or mourning, or crying or pain.  He knows that everything needs to be made new.  This whole order of things needs to be done away with (Rev.21:1).   Like a phoenix that dies its fiery death only to be re-born from the ashes, so the creation, consumed by the illimitable glory of the returning Christ, rises renewed to be again the dwelling place of God with His people.  What began in darkness, finishes in light.


 Why do you think we spend so much time and energy thinking about our origins (e.g. discussions about age of the earth, evolution, historicity of the Genesis accounts), but so little time thinking about our destiny?

How should our vision of the renewal of the whole creation affect our relationship with that creation in this age?

How does our vision of the New Creation affect our attitude to problems, sacrifices and sufferings in this age?

How does it shape our attitude to discipleship generally?

Read Revelation 21:1 – 22:5

 Why do you think there is no sea in the New Creation (21:1)?

In 21:8 & 27 we are confronted with the reality of exclusion, judgement and the second death as part of the inauguration of the New Creation.  How would you respond to someone who was concerned they wouldn’t be able to enjoy life in the New Creation if they knew there was a ‘hell’?

Why is there no night (21:25 & 22:5)?

What is the connection between the tree of life in 22:2, and the tree of life in Gen.3:9.  What are we being taught?

Can you spot any other features of the New Creation that resonate with Eden?

…and anything that is new or different?  Why do these differences occur?

What about features that resonate with other passages in the Old Testament, or with the teaching of Jesus?

What about this vision of the New Creation excites you the most?  Why?

Memory Passage:

 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.  Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat.  But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells.

 II Peter 3:10-13

 For Further Reflection:

 We live in the overlap of the ages.  Already the new Creation has come (II Cor.5:17). Already we have begun to experience the presence of God dwelling in the Church. ‘In Him, you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit’ (Eph.2:22).  Already we can begin to live the resurrection New Creation life.  But only begin to.  We are still tied into this old, fallen creation.  Our body is still under the reign of death (Rom.7:24).  But soon… 

 Soon the Light, the radiance of the Father’s glory (Heb.1:3), will shine once more into the darkness of this world.  The Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in His wings (Mal.4:2).  Like a Bridegroom, a Champion, fighting back the darkness once and for all on behalf of his people, Christ will step back into the theatre of God’s glory.  ‘Wake up O sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you’ (Eph.5:14).  The darkness will be separated, banished, never to return. 

 Many will not want to rise to face the wrath of the Lamb.  They will cry out for creation to cover them, but it will not harbour them (Rev.6:16).  Longing to be liberated finally from all remnant of the curse, it will drive them from itself to face Him who sits on the throne.  The righteous too will rise.  We were taken from the dust of the earth, we returned to the dust (Gen.3:19), and we will be raised from the dust, to share in the glorious future of the creation of which we are so joyfully a part; and to receive by grace from the second Adam, what we reached out for in the first Adam, but could never attain.  We will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

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