“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If you own a home, your deed is the legal declaration of your ownership. Genesis 1:1 is God’s deed of ownership. It is also a doctrinal foundation and confession of faith. Finally, it is a short statement of methodology – He created it.
An Introductory Statement
One must look into the sentence construction in order to understand the meaning of Gen. 1:1. Is it a dependent or an independent clause? If it were a dependent clause, it would read: “When God began to create the heaven and the earth, the earth was without form and empty.” Translating it this way would mean that the world existed as described in verse 2 before God created. This would mean that God did not create ex nihilo – out of nothing. So we insist on solid exegetical ground that Gen. 1:1 is an independent clause; it stands alone as a grand summary statement introducing the creation account of Genesis 1 and the Bible.
Formless & Empty
Gen. 1:2 is a description of the world as God initially created it. “The earth was formless and empty, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters.” Gen. 1:3 then begins to describe the activity of God in fashioning and filling the earth on the creation days to receive God’s image bearer – man. Verse 2 is an important description of the initial creation under the care of the Spirit of God.
Basic Creation Theology
Gen. 1:1 teaches us four foundational facts of faith. The first is that everything that we are and have had a beginning. This means that things are temporal and people are mortal. The second is that God had no beginning, He is eternal. The very thought of eternity is staggering. Whether eternity if timelessness or unending time makes little difference. This makes theology the “Queen of the sciences!” Nothing is more important than the study of theology, reading and understanding the Bible. The third is that God brought the heavens and the earth into existence out of nothing. This is the foundational and essential doctrine of creation in the Bible. Christians may discuss and disagree about certain creation issues, but this one is essential, otherwise God is not God. Finally, Gen. 1:1 teaches us that the earth is the exclusive and distinct object of God’s purpose. The earth looks just like any other celestial body from outer space, but the Lord looks down from heaven (Ps. 33:13) and sees all the sons of men.
Living in the Light of Creation
Since everything had a beginning, then everything has a purpose. Every person must live his life here learning the purpose for every thing, institution, and relationship in human existence. The Creator shows us the purpose of life, of time, man, woman, children, things, work, leisure, marriage, government, worship, and everything else that occupies us in life.
Since everything had a beginning, then everything will have an end. We all know this about ourselves, though men try to suppress it in denial of God. But on a much bigger scale, we must know that the world will end. The Creator tells us so in His word. He will destroy sin and its curse on the creation, and create all things new.
Since God created everything, we are stewards of His creation. Gen. 1:1 is God’s statement of ownership, and the gift of life on this earth is our summons to stewardship. God lets us enjoy and use His world. Since we are created in His image, we re-create, design and develop, and employ ourselves in God’s world. And as stewards we will give an account of our stewardship.
In Christ, we are sons, not just stewards. The Gospel makes me an “heir of God and fellow-heir with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). Christ is the Creator and Owner of the universe (Jn. 1:3); “All things were made through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16); “all things belong to you” (1 Cor. 3:22). We are children of the God who owns the universe. “For God, who said, light be, is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). Creation & Christ – Have you had this new beginning in Christ? This is the only way to live in God’s creation now and be prepared for the end when God makes all things new for HIs glory and those who are His sons and daughters in Christ.