A Few Thoughts on God and Creation

What does the Bible say about creation?

1. God created the universe out of nothing.

  • Genesis 1:1 – “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Hebrew Bara – translated “created” means “creation from nothing” (Latin ex nihilo – “out of nothing”)

2. God created the universe by the power of his word. 

  • Genesis 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26 – “And God said” and “Let there be” or “Let the. . .”
  • Hebrews 11:3 – “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.”
  • Psalm 33:6, 9 – “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. . . For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.”
  • Psalm 148:5 – “Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created.”

3. God created the universe to show his glory. 

  • Psalm 19:1 – “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
  • Revelation 4:11 – ““Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.”
  • Jeremiah 10:12 – “It is he who made the earth by his power, who established the world by his wisdom, and by his understanding stretched out the heavens.”

Take Away: God created the universe out of nothing by the power of his word to show his glory.

What does creation reveal about God? 

God is the only God. God is Trinitarian. God is eternally uncaused. God is living. God is independent. God is transcendent. God is immanent. God is personal. God is powerful. God is beautiful. God is holy. God is a prophet. God is gracious. God is a sovereign king.

Transcendent – majestic and holy, far greater than his creatures.

  • Ps. 113:4 – “The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the Lord our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?”

Immanent – near and present, fully involved with his creatures.

  • Acts 17:27–28 – “Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring.”

Take Away: Creation is distinct from God, yet always dependent on God.

How did God describe creation after he created it? 

  • Genesis 1:31 – “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.”
  • 1 Timothy 4:4 – “For everything created by God is good. . .”

Take Away: The universe God created was very good.

Some Major Take Aways on the Doctrine of Creation

1. God created the universe out of nothing by the power of his word to show his glory.

2. Creation is distinct from God, yet always dependent on God.

3. The universe God created was very good.

Above are a blend of notes from Driscoll and Breshears’ Doctrine and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. All scripture references are from the ESV.  Obviously much more could and should be said about God and creation, but I found these thoughts helpful and I pray they draw you closer to the Creator.


Joseph is Underrated

Not many Sunday School flannel graphs, in my experience, have been dedicated to the importance of Joseph’s role in Jesus’s life and ministry. That is my poor excuse for not really thinking very deeply about Jesus’ adoption before now. But now the Lord has called me and my family to adoption, and the Holy Spirit is moving and teaching us many things about adoption.

I’ve been reading Russell Moore’s Adopted for Life, and it has a killer chapter in it: Joseph of Nazareth vs. Planned Parenthood. As I thought about it, it’s mainly the focus of the worldview that differentiates these two. One has God in the sights, the other has man. One has obedience and the other has convenience. What really had the biggest impact on me from this chapter is how much God accomplished through Joseph’s simple, albeit difficult obedience.

Moore said, “When Mary tells Joseph she is pregnant, his first reaction isn’t a cheery ‘It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.'” After I stopped laughing, reread Matthew 1, and thought through it; It’s pretty amazing what happened.

No, he wasn’t singing Christmas carols; he sought to divorce her until God came to him and explained his plan. Did God explain it all at once for Joseph? Nope – just what he needed for that time. He didn’t explain that in the coming months or so, you’ll need to take a small self-guided, self-funded tour of Egypt. That bit Joseph got when he needed it. But in the mean time, Jesus’ adopted dad was acting in obedience to his heavenly Dad.

What did Joseph accomplish? The obvious is that he protected the Christ, God in human flesh, from being killed. He fulfilled Hosea’s prophesy: Out of Egypt I called my son. (Hosea 11) Lastly, and the one that I like the most: In adopting Jesus, Joseph fulfilled another major prophesy about the Christ; namely, that he would be a descendant of David (Isaiah 16). You may agree pretty quickly as I did, but as I thought about it – well, Joseph wasn’t his biological father…

Wait a minute. The Scriptures are putting adoption on the same level as biological conception for purposes of inheritance and belonging. That probably sounds familiar, doesn’t it? When we, as Christians, place our faith in what Christ has done for us, we are adopted into God’s family and are fellow heirs with Christ (Galatians 3:29, Romans 8:16-17). [[The implications for how we are to think about, talk to, and consider adopted children in light of this truth is worth another post altogether – another time, God willing.]]

Joseph modeled obedience and in doing so he played a major role in the history of the redemption of God’s children. Did he know that he was fulfilling so many prophecies, or realize the impact of his actions on me and the world? I doubt it. Nobody’s writing songs about him. No best sellers. No ‘Hail Josephs’. Only cameos in nativity scenes for the father, the chosen father of the Savior of the world.

Have I mentioned he’s underrated?

Trinity, Person, etc, as necessary to unmask false teachers

With all the fuss of late on the Trinity and Elephant Room II, I have found it interesting that my reading of Calvin’s Institutes this year has brought me to a particular section.  Book I, Chapter 13, Section 4 is titled “The church has regarded expressions like “Trinity,” “Person,” etc., as necessary to unmask false teachers.  As you probably know nothing is new under the sun.  Enjoy the section.

4. Such novelty (if novelty it should be called) becomes most requisite, when the truth is to be
maintained against calumniators who evade it by quibbling. Of this, we of the present day have too
much experience in being constantly called upon to attack the enemies of pure and sound doctrine.
These slippery snakes escape by their swift and tortuous windings, if not strenuously pursued, and
when caught, firmly held. Thus the early Christians, when harassed with the disputes which heresies
produced, were forced to declare their sentiments in terms most scrupulously exact in order that
no indirect subterfuges might remain to ungodly men, to whom ambiguity of expression was a kind
of hiding-place. Arius confessed that Christ was God, and the Son of God; because the passages
of Scripture to this effect were too clear to be resisted, and then, as if he had done well, pretended
to concur with others. But, meanwhile, he ceased not to give out that Christ was created, and had
a beginning like other creatures. To drag this man of wiles out of his lurking-places, the ancient
Church took a further step, and declared that Christ is the eternal Son of the Father, and
consubstantial with the Father. The impiety was fully disclosed when the Arians began to declare
their hatred and utter detestation of the term μ . Had their first confession—viz. that Christ
was God, been sincere and from the heart, they would not have denied that he was consubstantial
with the Father. Who dare charge those ancient writers as men of strife and contention, for having
debated so warmly, and disturbed the quiet of the Church for a single word? That little word
distinguished between Christians of pure faith and the blasphemous Arians. Next Sabellius arose,
who counted the names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as almost nonentities; maintaining that
they were not used to mark out some distinction, but that they were different attributes of God, like
many others of a similar kind. When the matter was debated, he acknowledged his belief that the
Father was God, the Son God, the Spirit God; but then he had the evasion ready, that he had said
nothing more than if he had called God powerful, and just, and wise. Accordingly, he sung another
note—viz. that the Father was the Son, and the Holy Spirit the Father, without order or distinction.
The worthy doctors who then had the interests of piety at heart, in order to defeat it is man’s
dishonesty, proclaimed that three subsistence were to be truly acknowledged in the one God. That
they might protect themselves against tortuous craftiness by the simple open truth, they affirmed
that a Trinity of Persons subsisted in the one God, or (which is the same thing) in the unity of God.

Text copied from CCEL PDF version.  Slightly different translation than the McNeill version linked above at WTS Books which I am reading.

Interpreting the Parables in the Gospel of Mark

Dr. Hans Bayer, Professor of New Testament at Covenant Seminary, did a lecture on Interpreting the Parables in the Gospel of Mark. If you have 52 min. and 28 sec. it would be worth your time checking it out here. This is just a broad introduction to interpretation of parables in Mark, but I hope it will encourage you to spend more time in the parables in Mark.

Bayer has a forthcoming book on the Theology of Mark, that is on my “To Buy” list. Keep an eye out for it too.

How does all this fit together?

Have you ever looked at the Bible and thought, “How does all this fit together?” This is an honest question and many theologians have used the diversity of the Scriptures to force their views of disunity on Scripture. However, is there a theme that displays the unity of diversity in the Bible? Dr. John Frame of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando highlights how Reformed theologians have found the covenant motif as a helpful way to see unity in Scripture:

Traditionally, these writers have found in Scripture two major covenants, sometimes called the covenant of works and the covenant of grace. The former embraces the pre-fall period. In it God offers an eternal life of blessedness (symbolized by the tree of life) to Adam and Eve on the condition that they abstain from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. After the fall into sin, God sets forth the covenant of grace: a promise of redemption through the divine Messiah received through faith alone. 

The covenant of grace, in turn, encompasses, on the traditional view, all the post-fall historical covenants, including those with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, and the “new covenant” effected by the blood of Jesus himself, of which the earlier covenants are but anticipations. 

On this understanding, the whole Bible, diverse in content as it may appear at first sight, can be seen as a story of God making covenants and man responding to them. The books of law show what God expects of his covenant people. The books of history indicate man’s actual response. The psalms contain the praise, the laments, the questionings, the blessings and cursings that should be on the lips of a covenant people. The wisdom books contain applications of the covenant lawsuit against the covenant-breakers while at the same time promising covenant renewal. The Gospels and Acts present the history of the new covenant, which is applied to believers and to world history in the Epistles and Revelation (John Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God, p.146-147)

I found this explanation helpful and I pray it blesses you. If this is true and I believe it is, how will we respond to the contra-conditional and covenantal love of our Triune God?

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! (Psalm 34:8 ESV).

Sweet spot? The Bible by Chapter 3, Verse 16

Your favorite album, your second favorite album, and that album that you really hate for the most part has a sweet spot in it. If you haven’t already noticed, it’s track 8. Track 8, 94% of the time, is the sweet spot. I was noticing that the Scriptures have an interesting, not-to-be-taken-so-seriously similarity. Of course we must feel the truth of 2 Tim 3:16, but the third chapter and 16th verse of each book (where possible) seems to be quite the sweet spot. In other words, verses that we hold quite dear.

I’ll include just the NT in this post. Hopfully this will encourage you dig further into those passages, for a verse alone is only part of a whole truth being communicated by God. So, dig in, drink deep, and be satisfied. Enjoy!

[All verses are from the English Standard Version translation, Chapter 3 verse 16, unless otherwise noted]
And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him;

He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter);

John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

in their paths are ruin and misery,

1 Corinthians
Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?

2 Corinthians
But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,

Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

1 Thessalonians (3:13)
so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

2 Thessalonians
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.

1 Timothy
Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

2 Timothy
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,

Titus (3:15)
All who are with me send greetings to you. Greet those who love us in the faith.

Phelemon (1:16)
no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother—especially to me, but how much more to you, both in the flesh and in the Lord.

For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?

For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.

1 Peter
having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.

2 Peter
as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.

1 John
By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

2 John (1:13)
The children of your elect sister greet you.

3 John (1:15)
Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends, every one of them.

Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints.

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.

The Sovereignty of the Savior

Let me ask you some questions: Do you struggle with anxiety, people pleasing, inordinate anger, lust for influence, or hunger to rule? If so: Do you trust in the King of God’s Kingdom or are you trusting in the knockoff kings of your perceived kingdom? Who or what is the lord of your life? Your heart is giving allegiance to someone or something at all times. Is your allegiance in Messiah, who has come from heaven to earth to reconcile you to God?

In John 3, Jesus is clear in his discussion with Nicodemus; Jesus has authority to speak on the necessity of the New Birth because he is the Sovereign of God’s Kingdom. Jesus has absolute rule and ultimate power. Remember, Jesus is God in flesh. This is all true, but the way Jesus goes about ruling his subjects is counterintuitive to the monarchs of this world. Look at John 3:14-15 to see what I mean: “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” Now, Jesus is referring to a disturbing story out of the book of Numbers in the 21st chapter. Moses was leading the people in the desert after they were brought out of Egypt. This is when God miraculously redeemed the Israelites out of slavery and they were on the way to the promised land. Although God had provided the Israelites with both drink and food while they journeyed, the grew incredibly discontent and irritable. So much so that they spoke against Moses and God, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.”

Whats Up with the Fiery Serpents?

Then the LORD sent the snakes, not just any snakes but “fiery serpents.” Maybe some of you have a different translation, where it describes the snakes as “venomous.” This is true as well, but the literal Hebrew here is “fiery serpents.” What is the big deal? Its not that these snakes where on fire, but they set you on fire when they bit you, in a figurative sense. The symptoms were scorching inflamed swelling around the bite that spread. Also, it wouldn’t be long until the victim would have a raging fever and unquenchable thirst. This all added up to what felt like a consuming fire within and eventually you would die. Some of you are thinking, “all of this because some kids in the cafeteria complained about the lunch at school.” On the surface it might come across as an overreaction, but this was the way God chose to show the Israelites what was ultimately killing them, the poison in their souls: the venom from the Serpent in the Garden of Eden.

When God created everything, it was perfect and good. Humanity was in perfect communion with God where he was their father and they were his children. Their was no need for a new birth, because the first birth was not tainted by any sin. But something terrible happened. The Serpent came into the garden and his venom passed into the souls of humanity and since then we have been born with a consuming fire within our souls of deep discontent and dissatisfaction with God. Thus we live with an unquenchable thirst for something to satisfy us and we never find it because apart from deep communion with God, we will be forever discontent, forever irritable and forever grumbling. This is what was wrong at a soul level with the Israelites and the same goes for us. God sent the fiery serpents so they could understand what was really wrong with them and we can learn about us through this story as well. So what happened next?

What the Bronze Serpent Was, I am

The people realized what they had done and they confessed to Moses they sinned against him and God. They asked Moses to ask God to take away the snakes. But God had a better plan. Instead of just taking away the snakes, he provided a way for all those already infected with the poison to be healed. We see here that God knows that forgiveness is not enough for us, we need to be healed of the damage that sin has caused in our lives. So he told Moses to “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” Really?, make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole? Does this sound a little disturbing to you? Make a huge representation of the very thing that was killing them and by looking to it they would be healed, what is going on here? This would have been disturbing to the Israelites as well, the serpent represented evil and the animal was an unclean animal by the standards in Leviticus. But remember, Jesus connected himself to this story by basically saying, “What the bronze serpent was, I am.”

Paul helps us make sense out of the story of Numbers 21 and how Jesus references himself to it. In 2 Corinthians 5:21, Paul writes: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” Do you see what is happening here? On the cross Jesus does not become sinful, but he becomes sin. We see on the cross a huge legal representation of what it killing us and if we look to him we will not only be forgiven, but we will be healed as well. We see here that there is a great exchange happening on the cross. Jesus, in our place, on our behalf, takes the poison of sin upon himself so we would not ultimate die of it. Although completely righteous, he takes on the punishment of our evil. Although he is spotless, he absorbs the wrath of the unclean who eventually look to him.

Jesus is the Savior King of the Kingdom of God, So Trust Him

All the Israelites had to do to be healed was look at the bronze serpent. Moses did not say that those who could climb the pole at touch the serpent at the top would be healed. This would leave the weak dying and only the strong would live. Moses didn’t tell the people to do anything but look at the bronze serpent. Jesus’ shifts the word “look” to “believe” and the word “live” to “eternal life.” So what does Jesus mean here? He wants us to realize that all the other oppressive rulers of our hearts, the ones we trust more than him are really a sham. He wants us to realize we have been bitten by the Serpent and there is an evil poison within us that is swelling with fire, raging in fever and creating in our souls an unquenchable thirst for everything but God. And the only remedy, the only medicine that will forgive us and heal us his Jesus. This is repentance. Then he wants us to stop trusting in our doing, and start trusting in what he has done for us. This is faith. Based on the story Jesus alludes to in Numbers 21, this is the essence of what he means by “believe”: repentance and faith. Here is the main point of verses 9-15: Jesus is the Savior King of the Kingdom of God, so trust him.

Yet many of us have been truly born again and yet we still continue to sin and we still feel the effects of the Serpent’s poison. Although God has imparted new spiritual life within us, we live in a fallen world and are still people who sin. Until we await the New Heavens and the New Earth as depicted in Revelation 21, where there will be no sin and God will be with us; how do we deal with the Serpent’s poison in the here and now? The same way. Let me ask you some questions: What are you grumbling about? Why are you so discontent? What is the Egypt of your life that you want to return to as if your life will be better? What oppressive slavery do you find yourself running back to? Your chains are gone, the prison cell is unlocked and yet you willingly walk back in and shut the door behind you? God has provided so much sweet manna for you and you want to turn back on him in your complaining and nagging and never-ending grumbling about your situation. You are exchanging the truth for a lie and it is killing you. The Serpent’s poison has entered your system and your situation is on fire, you are flaming hot and are experiencing an unquenchable thirst. Nothing will cure it, you have tried everything. Jesus is saying, all your unbelief and doing will never heal you. You must admit you are poisoned and you must admit the only cure is Jesus. Look to Jesus and he will heal you and continue to heal you. As you believe the gospel more fully and consistently, God puts to death the sin that is killing you. Obviously, we will not reach perfection in this life, but those who are born again will see the results of repentance and faith, which leads to godliness – not the other way around.  Oh, how we should rest in the Sovereignty of the Savior!

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