Thursday, September 27, 2007

Building a Culture of Faithfulness (Part 3)

Creation, Mankind, and the Fall

Along with recognizing who God is, recognizing what God does is a most important part of our understanding of life. God planned, created, and controls the universe with a special creature in it – mankind. Here is where we come into the story as we know it.

God Created the Universe

Before time began, when God was all that was, God planned this great universe in which we live. God has a single, all-encompassing purpose or plan (Eph 1:11; 3:11; Rom 8:28), which was freely made (Eph 1:11; Ps 115:3; 135:6; cf. Isa 40:13-14; Rom 11:34). It is eternal (Isa 22:11; 37:26; Acts 15:18; Eph 3:11; 2 Tim 1:9; 1 Peter 1:20), and it does not change (Ps 33:11; Isa 14:24; 46:9-10; Acts 2:23; Jas 1:17). God has no plan B, nor could he ever need one. This plan is universal (Prov 16:4; Rom 8:28; Eph 1:11). It includes the material universe (Ps 119:89-91), the rise and fall of rulers (Acts 17:26; Rom 13:1), the length of one’s life (Job 14:5; John 7:30), the circumstances of each one’s life (James 4:13-15), the manner of one’s death (John 21:19), the free acts of men whether good (Isa 44:28; Eph 2:10) or evil (Gen 50:20; Lam 2:17; Amos 3:6; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; Rom 11:25-26, 31), the salvation of believers (Eph 1:5; 1 Peter 1:2), the doom of the ungodly (1 Peter 2:8), great world events (Rev 13:8; 17:17), and even the most trivial circumstances (Job 36:32; Prov 16:33; Matt 10:29-30).

Furthermore, this plan is unconditional or absolute. It does not depend upon any pure contingency (Eph 1:11). My systematic theology professor in seminary, Rolland McCune, whose ghost walks through many of these pages, said, “If one speck of cosmic dust is on the loose in an area of pure chance, then everything else is affected to a lesser or greater degree. If one raindrop or snowflake falls with absolute randomness, then the whole universe is suspended on a lesser or greater degree of randomness.” God’s plan also incorporates the means to the desired ends (Prov 16:9; Ezek 36), as well as the results of any planned event or entity (e.g. Acts 2:23). Therefore, this plan makes certain everything that happens (Isa 14:27; 43:13; Dan 4:35; Acts 13:29).

We must note carefully, however, that this plan does not impair human responsibility in the least. In fact, it actually establishes man’s responsibility to God. God’s plan makes all things certain, but God does not force, coerce, or compel men against their wills. Men are free to choose according to their own natures. Men are always responsible to God for their choices (Matt 18:7; Luke 22:22).

From this we can see that the universe God planned is the direct opposite of the universe according to the evolutionary hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, everything that happens takes place according to random chance. But “chance” or “luck” does not exist in God’s universe.

God did not leave his plan on the drawing board. He put it into action by creating the universe. Creation is the Triune God’s free act of making all things out of nothing in six days, all very good, for his own glory (Gen 1:1-31; Col 1:16; Rev 4:11). This creation was made out of nothing (ex nihilo). It was supernatural and instantaneous (Gen 1:3, 6, 9, etc.). It was after its kind (Gen 1:11, 12, etc). It had the appearance of age (Gen 1, 2), and it was very good (Gen 1:31). It was perfectly suited for God’s intended purpose.

It is very important that we understand the relationship between God and the universe that he made. The proper relationship can be illustrated this way:






CREATION IS DISTINCT FROM GOD YET ALWAYS DEPENDENT ON GOD[i]

Once God created his universe, he did not leave it to go its own way. He controls his universe. This is usually called his providence. He preserves his universe by upholding all of properties he gave to the universe (Neh 9:6; Heb 1:3). This means that God is at work in and through everything that happens. And as he upholds his universe, he controls everything he has created in order to fulfill his perfect plan (Ps 103:19; Prov 19:21; 21:1; Rom 8:28). Everything we experience, from sunshine and wind to automobiles to love, is ultimately from God’s hand.

All of this underscores the fact that what God does, he does as the Lord (Exod 6:7; Deut 6:4-5; Rom 10:9)! God is the living and active God, and in all his actions he acts as God. We will never come to grips with the realities of this world (i.e. gain wisdom), if we do not observe and respond to God as Lord.

God Created Mankind in His Image

In addition to understanding who God is and what he does, we must also make sense of who we are and what we are to do. God directly and supernaturally created man as male and female in holiness in his own image (Gen 1:26-30; 2:7, 18-25; Matt 19:4). All human beings are descended from Adam and Eve (Gen 3:20; 9:19; Acts 17:26). To be “in God’s image” means that mankind was created as a personal, spiritual, and moral being in order to relate to God and be his representative ruler on earth (Gen 1:26-28; 5:1; 9:6). Therefore, the ultimate reason for man’s existence is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever (Ps 63:1; 1 Cor 10:31; Rev 4:11).

Many crucial points flow from this biblical teaching. Mankind has not evolved. He has dignity and is qualitatively distinct from animals. He has a specific nature and purpose given by God according to which he must function. He is responsible to God. He was created to have a relationship with God. But…

Mankind Rebelled Against God

Mankind and the universe are not now like God created them. Why not? The answer is what we call the Fall. Adam and Eve fell from their state of holiness by sinning against God (Gen 3:1-6).

“Sin is any failure to conform to the moral law of God in act, attitude, or nature”[ii] (1 John 3:4; 5:17). Sin is fundamentally refusing to honor God as God. Because Adam was the representative of the human race, God reckoned (imputed) the guilt of his sin to all mankind. In addition, every person receives from Adam by birth a corrupt nature, leading to all kinds of sins (Ps 51:5; Rom 3:23; 5:12-19; 1 Cor 15:21-22). Because of sin, all men are separated from God and are the objects of his wrath, and so are subject to all miseries in this life, to death, and to the torment of hell forever (Rom 6:23a; Rev 20:15). Everyone is totally depraved, alienated from God and under his condemnation, and completely unable to do anything to contribute to salvation (Rom 1:18-32; 3:10-19; Eph 2:1-3).

Mankind’s sin not only affected humans; it affected all of creation (Gen 3:14-19; Rom 8:20-22). There is not a rock in the dirt that has not been impacted by God’s curse in response to sin. Besides the material world around us, sin has affected all forms of human society (Gen 4-11). Human societies are inveterately idolatrous, constantly replacing the worship of the one true and living God with worship of creatures and created things.

As we interpret the world around us, we must always remember that it was created good but has been corrupted by evil. All human activities are tainted by sin.

Excerpt from The Buried Life

Matthew Arnold (1822-1888)

But often, in the world’s most crowded streets,

But often, in the din of strife,

There rises an unspeakable desire

After the knowledge of our buried life:

A thirst to spend our fire and restless force

In tracking out our true, original course;

A longing to inquire

Into the mystery of this heart which beats

So wild, so deep in us – to know

Whence our lives come and where they go.



[i] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 268. See Grudem for illustrations of the false relationships between God and the universe in materialism, pantheism, dualism, and deism.

[ii] Ibid., 490.

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