|"Let there be light," and there was light.|
Out of Nothing at His Command
Latin-loving theologians call this creation ex nihilo — or, to translate, creation "out of nothing"— meaning that God did not use preexisting materials. If God had created from material that was already there, his creation of the universe wouldn’t be the beginning, would it?
Undergirding the existence of everything is God’s will (Revelation 4:11). God decided to create the world, not because of any need he had, but because he had a purpose he wanted to accomplish through it. He wanted to show his own glory through the things he made (Romans 11: 36; Psalm 19:1).
Based on his free choice to create the universe, God simply spoke, and the universe appeared. "Let there be," he said, and there was. He called out things that didn’t exist and so they began to exist (Romans 4:17).
It’s mind boggling, isn’t it? J. I. Packer writes, "To say that [God] created 'out of nothing' is to confess the mystery, not explain it."1 So if you can’t wrap your mind around something coming from nothing by means of God’s spoken word, you’re in good company.
One Triune Creator
The creation account in Genesis leaves room for only one God — the God who created everything. What we don't know from Genesis (although there are hints), is that the one God who created the universe exists as Trinity. Later, in other parts of scripture, we begin to see that all three persons of the Trinity were active in creation. For instance, 1 Corinthians 8:6 teaches that all things exist from the Father and through the Lord Jesus Christ. And it’s God’s Spirit who makes us and gives us life, says Job 33:4.
The three persons, however, did not work independently. Quoting Louis Berkhof:
The work [of creation] was not divided among the three persons, but the whole work … is ascribed to each one of the three persons.2I’m not sure how this works, either. It’s another of the mysteries of God’s creative work.
Ruling the Universe
The God who creates everything that exists owns everything that exists. All creation and all creatures belong to him, and he rules over them. From a Mark Dever sermon on the book of Genesis:
[W]e should not be surprised to find him sovereign over what he has made. The author of all has authority over all.3One way God rules the universe is by unfolding its history according to his plan. He accomplishes his will in every single thing that happens throughout creation in all of time.
Another way he rules his creation is by sustaining it and providing for the creatures in it. Creation only continues to exist because God continues to uphold it (Hebrews 1:3). Creatures continue to eat only because God feeds them. Creation is completely dependent on God who created it.
We Owe Him Everything
He made us; he sustains us. We owe him big-time.
Like the rest of creation, we were made to glorify God. We can glorify him
- by acknowledging our dependence on him and trusting him to provide for us.
- by being thankful for all his material gifts to us. God pronounced the material world good so we should receive his material blessings freely, with thanksgiving.
- by living according to his purposes for us. We were made for God, so we should be God-focused people, finding our fulfillment in him.
- by worshipping him for what he has made. To quote D. A. Carson: “The more we know about the created order — its vastness, its complexity, its physics … the more our response ought to be adoration and genuine awe.”4
Here are a few ways to learn more about God’s work of creation:
- Read Genesis 1 and 2.
- Read up on creation in your favorite systematic theology. Louis Berkhof’s chapters on creation—Creation in General, Creation of the Spiritual World, Creation of the Material World—may be more difficult reading than a contemporary systematic theology, but they are especially thorough.
- Watch or listen to The God Who Made Everything by D. A. Carson.
1] Concise Theology by J. I. Packer, p. 21.
2] Systematic Theology by Louis Berkhof, p. 129.
3] The Message of the Old Testament by Mark Dever, page 71.
4] The God Who Is There by D. A. Carson, p. 21.