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?
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.