Genesis 1 is a simple and majestic opening to the Bible. It introduces the two main subjects of Scripture, God the Creator and humans as his creatures, and sets the scene for their long relationship. Clearly the interests of the author are focused primarily on the patriarchs, given the amount of material allocated to their story (Gen.12-50), but the background is that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is no mere localised or tribal deity, but is the sovereign Lord of the whole earth (Gen.1-11).
There were a number of creation and flood myths in existence in ancient Mesopotamia that the author would have most likely have been aware of. One of the major goals of the Genesis creation story is to counter these mythical accounts of creation with an alternative worldview about God, the world and humankind. This story shows God as having no peer or competitor. It denies that the various forces of nature are gods or that man was created as an afterthought to serve the gods. Humans are presented as the climax of creation. God cares for and provides for them. He also empowers them to be His delegated representatives on the earth. This creation story is a triumphant affirmation of the power and wisdom of God and the wonder of His creation.
The first creation story (Gen.1:1–2.4a) looks at the story from a heavenly and divine perspective, while the second creation account (Gen.2:4b-25) looks at the story from an earthly and human perspective. The order of creation is also different. These are two versions of the same story. In the six days of creation there is a pattern, the first three days are occupied with forming while the second three days are about filling what has been formed.
When it comes to the creation of the cosmos, Genesis tells us who created the world and why. The author does not tell us when (timing) or how (method). Over the years, a variety of views have developed among people of faith concerning God’s creation of the world, the three primary ones being (“Intelligent Design” is not really a separate view – www.discovery.org/csc):
1. Young Earth Creationism (see www.answersingenesis.org and www.creation.com). This group believes that God created the world in six literal 24-hour days and that the earth is only 6,000-10,000 years old. God created the earth as already appearing ‘old’ and this was enhanced by the effects of a global flood.
2. Old Earth Creationism (see www.reasons.org). This group believes in an old earth (possibly 13.8 billions years old) and that the days of creation were extended periods of time or at least that there were periods of time between each day.
3. Theistic Evolution (see www.biologos.org). This group also believes in an old earth and that God initiated the ‘big bang’ and created the world through the process of evolution. They view Genesis 1-2 as inspired Scripture but as poetic literature rather than as a literal description of what took place in the beginning.
Many people in each group are convinced that their view is the correct one and that the others are wrong or even heretical. However, each view has its strengths and weaknesses. The author of Genesis was not seeking to answer many of the questions we have today in the modern world. They are more interested in us know the Creator of the world and His purposes for us. Science and faith don't need to be opposed to each other. Science simply explains how things work while faith is the foundation of our relationship with God and provides us with a sense of meaning and purpose, something science cannot provide.
Reflections from Creation
1. God is sovereign over creation. Our God rules over the world and the entire universe that he created. He has no rivals and everything is under his control. He is working – in history and even in nature. Of course, we understand that sin has affected our world and everything is not as it was when God created it. It is broken and damaged yet God is working towards restoring everything to its original purpose. God will once again bring order out of chaos. Ultimately, good will triumph over evil.
2. Creation is dependent on God. There was a beginning to the universe. It is not infinite in time. God created everything and therefore everything owes its ongoing existence to Him. God also cares for His creation and the welfare of humans in particular. God actively sustains the universe (Acts 17:28. Col.1:15-17).
3. We were created for a purpose. Genesis clearly shows us that we are here (Gen.1:26-28):
a. For Relationship – God created us to have a relationship with us and for us to be in relationship with each other. God is seen as close not distant, like pagan deities. God wants us to know Him. He makes covenant with his people and promises to bless them.
b. To Reflect God – humans were created in the image of God and given dignity beyond the animals and the rest of creation. All people, regardless of race, gender or social status are equal in value and are to be treated with respect and honour. We have the capacity to mirror our Creator.
c. To be Fruitful – God commands us to be fruitful and multiply (Gen.1:28). He wants a large family and wants us to fill the earth with loving community, something God later judged the people at Babel for not doing (Gen.11:1-9).
d. To Steward the Earth - Since we are God’s representatives, ruling over His world, we must treat the world as his, not ours. We are stewards of his planet, a responsibility that requires us to neither worship the earth nor ruin and destroy it. We are living in Someone else’s house and need to treat is as such. Creation care is important.
4. The Sabbath is sacred time. The creation story finishes with the establishment of the Sabbath – holiness in time rather than a holy space. God models for humans the need to rest and enjoy the beauty of God’s world. Sabbath is about ceasing from work and giving worship and honour to God.
Sample Reflection Questions
1. What impacts you most about the Genesis creation story?
2. Consider the three creation theories. What is your personal opinion and why? Do you see this is a core issue of faith in Christ or a secondary issue?
3. Why do you think there is such a battle between faith (or religion) and science today?
4. What does the creation story tell us about God? What is he like?
5. Reflect on the four-fold purpose for humans mentioned above. How can followers of Christ outwork their God-given purpose more effectively in the contemporary world?
6. Read Galatians 3:26-29. How does the work of Christ seek to bring us back to God’s purposes in creation, a world free of racism, gender wars, and the divide between rich and poor?
7. How important is the principle of the Sabbath today? What should this look like for the follower of Christ?