Open the Bible to the first book, first chapter, first line. Notice: it says nothing about Christ dying for our sins, nothing about the Second Coming, nothing about His bodily resurrection from the grave. It says nothing about the state of the dead, the Day of Atonement, or even the seventh-day Sabbath.
The first words of the Bible don’t talk about these teachings because they, and the truths associated with them, are meaningless apart from what the first words of the Bible do talk about—and that is, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
Creation is the foundational truth of Scripture. All other biblical teachings—the Incarnation, the Cross, the Second Coming, and every other biblical teaching, as well—are founded upon the truth that our world was created by the Lord.
That’s why Creation appears not only in the opening pages of the Bible but in the first five books of Moses, in the prophets, in the Psalms, in the Gospels, in the Epistles, in Acts, and in Revelation. And, in almost all cases, the theological context demands that it be taken literally.
For instance, Paul wrote that “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come” (Rom. 5:14, NKJV). Paul not only links a literal Adam to a literal Jesus, but his context in Romans 5 ties that link to the plan of salvation, a crucial doctrine that we understand in the most literal sense, as well: we are fallen beings who face eternal destruction or eternal life—literally!
And here’s Jesus Himself quoting from Genesis 1 and 2: “And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning “made them male and female,” and said, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh’” (Matt. 19:4-6, NKJV). If Jesus accepted and taught the Creation account as literal, how can those who claim to be His followers do otherwise?
Our name, Seventh-day Adventist, itself bears direct witness to a six-day creation. Though some voices may urge us to incorporate evolution into our theology, Seventh-day Adventism and Darwinism are inherently contradictory. Logically one cannot hold both views at the same time.
Thus, this quarter’s lessons delve into the doctrine of creation as depicted in Genesis 1 and 2 and explores its implications for a number of our beliefs—including morality, sin, marriage, stewardship, and more. Although working on the assumption that the story is literal, the quarter will show, again and again, how the central message of the Bible is built upon the historical truth of the Creation story.
Take, for instance, the gospel. According to Scripture, humans were created better than we are now. Jesus came to rescue us from the death brought by the sin of Adam and Eve. But in an evolutionary model, the Lord incarnates into an evolved ape, created through the vicious and painfully murderous cycle of natural selection, all in order to abolish death, “the last enemy” (1 Cor. 15:26). But how can death be the “enemy” if it was one of God’s chosen means for creating humans? The Lord must have expended plenty of dead Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, and Homo neanderthalensis in order to finally get one in His own image (Homo sapiens). If evolution were true, then Jesus came to save humankind from the process that God used to create it in the first place.
We can see here that mixing biblical truths with non-biblical views generates logical absurdities that should be of concern to the honest seeker of truth. As we go through this quarter, we’ll see even more reasons why a literal six-day creation is essential to all that we believe and why to compromise on creation is to undermine the basis of the gospel and teachings that make us what we are.
L. James Gibson is director of the Geoscience Research Institute (www.grisda.org) in Loma Linda, California. He has written numerous articles on the relationship between Creation and science.
(This is the Introduction to this Quarter's lessons on Origins from our Index page)
Lesson 1 *December 29-January 4
Read for This Week’s Study: Gen. 1:1; Heb. 11:3; Ps. 19:1-3;John 1:1-3, 14;Col. 1:15, 16;John 2:7-11.
Memory Text: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, NKJV).
Only something greater than what it creates could have created it. Thus, only a Being greater than the universe could have created the universe. And that Being is the God who is revealed in the Bible, the God whom we worship and serve because, among other things, He is our Creator.
We also learn that this God—the One who created the universe, the One who has spun those billions of galaxies across the expanse of the cosmos—is the same One who came to earth, to live among us as a human being and, even more amazing, to bear in Himself the punishment for our sins.
Sometimes we hear of things that are “too good to be true.” What could be better, though, for us as sinful beings in a fallen, painful world than to know the wonderful truth of our Creator’s love, a love so great that He would come down in the person of Christ and link Himself to each of us with ties that never can be broken?
In response to such a wondrous truth, how are we to live our lives?
*Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 5.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1).
There are many deep truths in that simple text, one of the most profound being that the universe itself had a beginning. While that idea might not seem so radical to us today, it goes against the long-held belief in an eternally existing creation. Not until the twentieth century, when the “Big Bang” model of origins took hold, did the notion that the universe had a beginning gain general acceptance. Until then many believed that it had always existed. Many people resisted the concept of the universe having been created because that implied some sort of Creator. (In fact, the name “Big Bang” was intended to mock the notion of a created universe.) But the evidence that the universe had a beginning has become so strong that nearly all scientists have accepted it, at least for now (scientific views, even those once deemed sacrosanct, are often changed or refuted).
Read Hebrews 11:3. What does that tell us about God and the creation of the universe?
As with Genesis 1:1, Hebrews 11:3 is full of mystery and things that are unexplainable by our present knowledge. Yet, the text does seem to tell us that the universe was not formed from pre-existing matter. The universe was created by the power of God’s Word; that is, both matter and energy were brought into existence by God’s power.
Creation from nothing is known as creation ex nihilo. We often credit humans with the creation of various things, but humans are incapable of creating from nothing. We can change the form of pre-existing matter, but we have no power to create ex nihilo. Only the supernatural power of God can do that. This is one of the most dramatic differences between God and humans and reminds us that our very existence depends on the Creator.
In fact, the verb created in Genesis 1:1 comes from a Hebrew root word that is used only in reference to the creative activity of God. Only God, not humans, can do that kind of creating (see also Rom. 4:17).
Why is a supernatural Creator, One who exists above and beyond the creation, the only logical explanation for the Creation? Bring your answer to class on Sabbath.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard” (Ps. 19:1-3, see also Rom. 1:19, 20). How have you experienced the truth of these texts? How has modern science helped us to even more appreciate the power and wisdom of God as Creator?
Not just any kind of universe would be capable of supporting life. In fact, it seems that the universe must be extremely well-designed in order for life to exist. First, the building blocks of all matter—atoms—must be stable enough that stable material objects could be created. The stability of atoms depends on the forces that hold the parts of the atoms together. Atoms contain charged particles that both attract and repel each other. The forces of attraction and repulsion must be carefully balanced. If the attractive forces were too strong, only large atoms would form, and there would be no hydrogen. Without hydrogen, there would be no water, and thus no life. If the repulsive forces were too strong, only small atoms would form, such as hydrogen, and there would be no carbon or oxygen. Without oxygen, there would be no water and no life. Carbon is also essential for all forms of life as we know it.
Not only must the atoms be stable, but they must be able to interact with one another in order to form vast numbers of different chemical compounds. There must be a balance between the forces that hold the molecules together and the energy required to break up the molecule in order to permit the chemical reactions upon which life depends.
The precise fitness of our universe for life has gained the admiration of scientists and has led many of them to comment that the universe appears to be designed by an intelligent Being.
The world also must have been wisely designed in order for life to exist. The range of temperatures must be compatible with life; so, the distance from the sun, the speed of rotation, and the composition of the atmosphere must all be in appropriate balance. Many other details of the world must be carefully designed. Truly, God’s wisdom is shown in what He created.
Read Jeremiah 51:15, 16 and Psalm 33:6, 9. In addition to wisdom, what other attribute of God is mentioned in the Creation? How was this attribute expressed in Creation? More important, what are the implications of this truth for us?
Though we cannot know exactly how God created, we are told that it was through His powerful word. All the energy in all parts of the universe had its origin in the word of God. All the energy in all our fuels came from God’s power. All the gravity throughout the universe, every star guided in its course, and every black hole result from God’s power.
Perhaps the greatest amount of energy is within the atom itself. We are justifiably impressed by the power of nuclear weapons, in which a small amount of matter is converted into a large amount of energy. Yet, scientists tell us that all matter contains large amounts of energy. If a small amount of matter can produce the vast energy of a nuclear weapon, consider the amount of energy stored in the material of the entire world! But that is as nothing when compared with the energy stored in the matter of the universe. Imagine the power of God utilized to bring the universe into existence.
Many scientists believe that anything God may do in the creation is restricted by the “laws of nature,” but this idea is contrary to the Bible. God is not restricted by natural law; instead, God has determined natural law. God’s power has not always followed the patterns that we call the “laws of nature.”
For example, one of the fundamental “laws of nature” is the “Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy.” This law states that the total amount of matter and energy in the universe remains constant. But how could the universe appear from nothing if this law were inviolable? God’s creative word is not bound by the “laws” of science. God is sovereign over all His creation and is free to carry out His will.
Dwell (the best that you can) on the size of the universe. Think about the incredible power needed in order to create it. And to think that the God who wields such power loves us, even died for us. How can you learn to draw comfort from this amazing truth?
Read John 1:1-3, 14; Colossians 1:15, 16; Hebrews 1:1, 2. How do the New Testament writers identify the Creator? What are the implications of the answer?
John refers to Jesus as the Word ("Logos”) and equates Him with God. More specifically, Jesus is the One through whom all things were created. In John’s day, the term logos was commonly used to represent the creative principle. John’s readers would be familiar with the concept of logos as a creative principle or even as a creator. John applied this familiar concept to Jesus, identifying Him as the true Creator. Jesus, the Logos, the Incarnate One who lived among us, was not only present in the beginning, He was the One by whom the universe was created. This means that we could read Genesis 1:1 as “In the beginning, Jesus created the heavens and the earth.”Paul’s words in Colossians 1 resonate with those of John in the identification of the Creator as Jesus Christ. By Him, all things were created. Paul adds two other attributes of Jesus. First, He is the image of the invisible God. In our sinful state, we cannot see God the Father, but we can see Jesus. If we want to know what God is like, we can study the life of Jesus (John 14:9). Second, Paul calls Jesus the “firstborn” of creation (Col. 1:15). In this context, “firstborn” does not refer to origin but to status. The firstborn was the head of the family and the heir of the property. Jesus was the “firstborn” in the sense that, as Creator and through the Incarnation (His taking upon Himself our humanity), He is the rightful head of the human family. Jesus was not a created being; rather, from eternity He was one with the Father.
Hebrews 1:1,2 repeats the same points as in the Colossians passage. Jesus is appointed heir of all things and is the One by whom the world was created. In addition, He is the exact representation of the Father’s nature, another way of stating that He is the image of God.
How would you respond if someone were to ask you, “What is your God like?” What justification could you give for your answer?
Read John 2:7-11, 6:8-13, 9:1-34. What do these texts reveal about the creative power of God?
Each of these miracles gives us a glimpse of God’s power over the material world that He Himself created.
First, what kind of process would be required to change water directly into wine? None that we know of. Indeed, it took an act outside of the laws of nature, at least as we now know them, to do what Jesus did here.
In the miracle of the fish and loaves, Jesus started with five loaves and two small fish and ended with enough to feed a multitude and have 12 baskets of leftovers. All the food was made of atoms and molecules. At the end, there were many times more atoms and molecules of food than when Jesus started to feed the crowd. From where did the additional molecules come, if not by the supernatural intervention of God?
Furthermore, what physical changes occurred to the blind man when he was healed? He was blind from birth; thus, his brain had never been stimulated to form images from the messages sent by the eye through the optic nerve. So, his brain had to be rewired in order to process the incoming information, form images, and interpret their meaning. Next, there was something wrong with the eye itself. Perhaps some photoreceptor molecules were produced incorrectly as a result of a mutation in his DNA. Or perhaps some mutation had occurred at birth in the genes that control the development of the parts of the eye—the retina, optic nerve, lens, etc. Or perhaps some mechanical damage had occurred that prevented the eye from functioning properly.
Whatever the details of the man’s blindness, the words of Jesus caused molecules to form in appropriate places, forming functional receptors, neuronal connections, and brain cells so that light entering the eye would form an image, and the man would have the ability to recognize images that he had never before seen.
Miracles are wonderful when they happen, but what is the danger of making your faith dependent upon them? Upon what, then, must our faith depend?
Further Study: “The work of creation can never be explained by science. What science can explain the mystery of life? “The theory that God did not create matter when He brought the world into existence is without foundation. In the formation of our world, God was not indebted to pre-existing matter. On the contrary, all things, material or spiritual, stood up before the Lord Jehovah at His voice and were created for His own purpose. The heavens and all the host of them, the earth and all things therein, are not only the work of His hand; they came into existence by the breath of His mouth.”-Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 258, 259. “Just how God accomplished the work of creation he has never revealed to men; human science cannot search out the secrets of the Most High. His creative power is as incomprehensible as his existence.”-Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 113.
A pastor in a difficult, mostly non-Christian country was studying with a young man who had shown an interest in knowing about Jesus. Things were going well until the boy's father returned home from prison, where he had been serving a sentence for murder.
At first the young man's father was impressed with the changes he saw in his son. But when he learned that his son had been studying with a Christian, he became furious. He felt he had to save his son from the dangerous ideas Christians have.
The father tried talking to his son. When that didn't work, he yelled, then he beat his son. But the young man refused to give up his new faith in Christ. His father knew if he kept on beating his son, he would soon kill him. And what good would that do?
Then the father had an idea. He would kill the pastor instead. It would be worth another prison sentence to save his son from the Christians' heresy.
The father staked out the pastor's house and learned his schedule. He sharpened his long knife. When the time was right, he drove to the pastor's house, waited for him to get into his car, and then blocked the pastor's driveway with his own car. When the pastor got out of his car to see what the problem was, the angry father grabbed him and forced him into his own car.
The pastor recognized the man and guessed why he had attacked him. The pastor tried to share some Bible verses with the man, but the man yelled at him as he reached for his knife. Suddenly the man's hand froze midair; his arm went numb, and he couldn't move it.
The pastor calmly continued sharing scripture with the man until his attacker began to weep.
A few months later the father was baptized. As the members publically welcomed him into the church, he asked for the microphone. "I have a gift for the pastor," he said. Carefully he unwrapped the long, sharp knife and said, "This is the sword I was going to use to kill you. But you have a longer, stronger, sharper sword—a two-edged one, which is the Word of God. That sword killed the old man in me. I am now a new man. Praise God!"
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