By Bobby Witherington
But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). Yes, God is! He exists. Yea, the evidences which unanimously and unmistakably argue the existence of God are so great that only a “fool” would say “in his heart, There is no God” (Psa. 14:1).
However, the God Who “is” is not a disinterested, uninvolved Being, Who is content to continue His Own existence while manifesting no interest in anything or anyone else. The God Who “is” is a God of action! with regards to the total works of God, Jesus’ words, “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (Jn. 5:17), surely constitute an understatement. In fact, the first verse in the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1), emphasizes the works of God – in this case, the works of God in creation.
Even as the finite can not fully comprehend the infinite, neither the Person of God nor the works of God can be fully comprehended by mere man, nor can they be adequately set forth in one short article, or in a vast series of lengthy articles. “The works of God” encompass many areas of endeavor. However, we shall confine our remarks to the works of God in two realms the works of God in creation, and the works of God in redemption. Concerning each aspect of God’s work, huge volumes could be written (and have been); hence, the greatest difficulty will be in determining what to exclude.
Before discussing specific works of God, for the sake of clarification, we point out that the word “God” in Genesis 1:1 is translated from the Hebrew Elohim. This word is a plural noun, and it signifies a plurality of Persons Who constitute the “Godhead” (cf. Acts 17:29; Rom. 1:20; Col. 2:9). “God” in the Persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Heb. 1:1,2; John 1:1-3,14; Gen. 1:1,2) “created the heaven and the earth.” Together they constitute the one God (Deut. 6:4), or the one Godhead (Rom. 1:20). Each of them is called “God” because each constitutes Deity and Divinity. Expressed differently, each of them is “God” because each possesses the qualities of Godhood. If we can accept the fact that one humanity consists of many humans (each possessing human-hood), then we should have no problem accepting the fact that one Godhead can consist of three Persons (each possessing Godhood). With this in mind, we should have no difficulty understanding Genesis 1:27 wherein God (Elohim) said, “Let us make man in our image . . . .” Hence, in our discussion of “the works of God in Creation and Redemption” we will not in every instance, in our usage of the word “God,” distinguish between the respective persons of the Godhead. Suffice it to say that all three Persons of the Godhead were intimately involved in the creation of the material universe, and in the redemption of lost sinners.
The Works Of God In Creation
The Bible appropriately and uniquely begins with these words, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Thus, the Bible begins with God. It does not begin with mere change. It does not begin with matter. It does not begin with nothing. It begins with God! However, it does not begin with the beginning of God, for God had no beginning. He is “from everlasting to everlasting” (Psa. 90:2). He is the eternal “I AM” (Exod. 3:14). So in “the beginning” God already was. Hence, “the beginning” of Genesis 1:1 is the beginning of the material universe, but before that “beginning” there was God! God is the first Cause that caused everything else. Acknowledge this sublime truth and everything else falls into place; deny it, and nothing makes sense, including our very existence. That which creates, of necessity, must come before the creation.
“God created (Heb. bara) the heaven and the earth.” Of the word bara (“created,” Gen. 1:1), we note these comments: “This verb is of profound theological significance, since it has only God as its subject. Only God can `create’ in the sense implied by bara. The verb expresses creation out of nothing, an idea seen clearly in passages having to do with creation on a cosmic scale” (Nelson’s Expository Dictionary of the Old Testament, p. 84). It is significant that the first verb in the Bible is bara (“created”), which means to bring something out of nothing! Thus, is it any wonder that the first four words in the Bible are “in the beginning God”? Only God could be the subject of Genesis 1:1!
“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day” (Gen. 1:2-5). Thus, in words so few, yet so profound, the events which occurred on “the first day” of the creation week are told. In a deliberate effort to avoid profuseness, we simply call attention to the organizing work of the Spirit of God to deal with that which was “without form, and void,” to the creation of light, and the dividing of the light from the darkness – all in immediate response to what “God said.”
And in similar matter-of-fact language the events which occurred on the other days of the creation week are succinctly related. Hence, on the “second day” God “made the firmament,” the expanse, or the space above the earth which we call the sky, and which probably contains the first and second heavens (cf. 2 Cor. 12:2). On the “third day,” God gathered the waters “together unto one place,” caused the dry land to appear, brought forth plant life, and established His decree that everything would bear fruit “after his kind” (Gen. 1:9-13). On the “fourth day,” God decreed that there be “lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night,” that they would “be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years,” and made “two great lights,” the greater light to “rule the day,” and the lesser to “rule the night.” He also made the stars (Gen. 1:14-19). On the “fifth day” God brought forth fish life and fowl life, and decreed that each should bring forth “after his kind” (Gen. 1:20-23). On the “sixth day,” God created animal life, and “every thing that creepeth upon the earth,” and He created man in His own “image” (Gen. 2:2). God did not rest because He was tired. “. . . the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary. . .” (Isa. 40:28). God “rested” in that He ceased creating. However, the fact that He ceased creating does not mean that He withdrew Himself from the creation, never to show further concern. Even now God upholds “all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3), “ruleth in the kingdoms of men” (Dan. 4:25), and “giveth to all life, and breath, and all things” (Acts 17:25).
Yes, the works of God are clearly depicted in the creation. In Genesis 1 the words “God created” occur five times (vv. 1, 21, 27). The words “God called” appear four times (w. 5,8,10). The expression “God made” appears five times (vv. 7, 16, 25, 31). The words “God said” occur nine times (w. 3,6,9,11,14,20,24,26,29). Other verbs of action also appear in Genesis 1. But the greatest emphasis is on what “God said” or on the power of His word. In the words of Psalms 33:9, “He spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” With regards to the material universe God’s word was irresistible. In fact, man alone has the power to resist (Rom. 13:1,2), and to neglect the word of God (Heb. 2:1-4). However, man does not have the power to resist the dire consequences of his actions!
With no desire to yield to bumper-sticker triteness, I must say “God is a good God!” He created a big, beautiful universe. He framed the world with order, elegance, and variety. He established the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms. He provides for man’s every material need. The crowning work of His creation was the creation of man in His Own image. And man is “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psa. 139:14), having been made a “little lower than the angels . . .crowned . . . with glory and honor,” and made “to have dominion over the work” of God’s hands (Psa. 8:5,6). And God created woman as man’s perfect counterpart (Gen. 2:21-24), and made it possible for husband and wife, in harmonious marital bliss, to be “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Pet. 3:7). Is it any wonder that the Psalmist exclaimed, saying, “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!” (Psa. 8:1,9).
The Works Of God In Redemption
With regards to the material universe, the works of God are “great,” “manifold,” “marvelous” and “holy” (Psa. 92:5; 104:24; 139:14; 145:17). However, the Bible is not primarily a record of God’s work in creation; rather it is a profound and glorious treatise on the works of God in redemption. And these works are even greater, for they illustrate how great is God’s love, how sinful sin is, and the awesome extent to which Divinity was willing to go in order to redeem fallen humanity.
How wonderful it would have been had inspiration’s beautiful picture in the first two chapters of Genesis remained unblemished by the ugliness of sin! But, alas! such was not to be. In Genesis 3 Satan, the deceiver, the “father” of lies (Jn. 8:44), our “adversary” (1 Pet. 5:8), appeared, lied, and tempted Eve through “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn. 2:16; Gen. 3:3-6). Eve, and then Adam, ate of the tree of which God had said, “Thou shalt not eat” (cf. Gen. 2:17). With God’s law having been transgressed, sin entered the world (1 Jn. 3:4; Rom. 5:12), and in its wake came all the woes, disappointments, and miseries which have befallen man, including death, both physical and spiritual. And to think, “fools” still “mock at sin” (Prov. 14:9)! But they won’t be in hell one minute until they learn how unfunny sin really is!
But wait! All is not lost. God, even before driving our first parents from the garden, promised a redeemer, the “seed” of the woman who would “bruise” the serpent’s head, and make human redemption possible (Gen. 3:15; cf. Gal. 4:4; Heb. 2:14).
Time passed, until ultimately man became so wicked that “it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth,” so God said, “I will destroy man whom I have created from the earth” (Gen. 6:5-7). However, thanks be to God, there are always a few who refuse to run with the herd and who choose to walk with God. Noah was such a man, and to him God gave directions concerning how to be saved from the ravages of the flood. When the flood waters receded there were eight souls left remaining on earth, plus the remnant of the animals which had also been taken on the ark. So “God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth” (Gen. 9:1). Hence, we soon begin to read of “the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth,” and of those born unto them after the flood (Gen. 10:1). Everyone on earth descended from Noah through these three sons. From Shem descended Terah, the father of Abraham (Gen. 11:11-32). To Abraham, God said, “I will make of thee a great nation” and “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” God also promised the land of Canaan to his seed (Gen. 12:1-7), a promise that was fulfilled completely (Josh. 23:43-45). Abraham fathered Isaac, who fathered Jacob, whose name was changed to “Israel” (Gen. 32:28), and from whom came the nation of Israel, a nation which in time truly became “a great nation” (Gen. 12-Exod. 1; 1 Kings 10). To the Israelites God gave the law of Moses that it might serve as a schoolmaster or a tutor to bring them unto Christ (Ex. 20:1-7; Deut. 5:1-21; Neh. 9:13; Gal. 3:19-25).
Let us briefly review. In Eden, following the fall, God promised the “seed” that would bruise the serpent’s head. Years later God spoke of the blessing which would come through the seed of Abraham. He raised up a nation, and gave it a law by which to be guided “til the seed should come to whom the promise was made” (Gal. 3:19). 1500 years later the Spiritconceived, virgin-born Son of God, incarnate in human flesh, as a babe, was laid in a manger in Bethlehem (Matt. 1:21-23; Luke 2:1-7)! This blessed One descended from Abraham (Matt. 1:1-17), and was the particular “seed” of Abraham through Whom the spiritual promises would be fulfilled (Gal. 3:16-29). His entrance into the world was “in the fulness of time” (Gal. 4:4), and all that expression signifies.
Jesus was born “under the law” (Gal. 4:4; Luke 2:21-24), and He fulfilled the law (Matt. 5:17-18). By His perfect life the righteous demands of the law were fulfilled. By reason of His death, the law was blotted out and nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14), and He is now the mediator of the New Testament (Heb. 9:15-17).
But, specifically, why did God send His Son into the world? “Because He loved the world,” someone replies. And that is correct! (Jn. 3:16). But, more specifically, why was it necessary for Jesus to enter this world of sorrow and woe?” So that He might die for our sins,” another answers. And that, too, is correct (Isa. 53:6,12; Matt. 26:28).
Now we are getting to the heart of the gospel, as well as to the “divine dilemma” with regards to human redemption. “All have sinned. . .” (Rom. 6:23), and “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). Being a just God, God could not wink at sin. but being a merciful God, God longed to save sinners. However, God “cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13), which means that His extension of mercy would have to be offered in a manner in keeping with His own nature. In brief, the “divine dilemma” (as I call it, for want of a better expression) involved the matter of God being “just” while at the same time being a “justifier.” Unless the demands of justice were met there is no way that God could justify the sinner and at the same time be true to Himself. But what was sufficient to meet the demands of justice, and make human redemption possible? “Nothing but the blood of Jesus!” (cf. Rom. 3:23-26; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:20; Heb. 9:22; Matt. 20:28).
Of course, more is involved than the mere shedding of Christ’s blood (as if there were anything “mere” about death by crucifixion!). It was through His death, burial, and resurrection that the gospel became a reality (1 Cor. 15:1-4). His blood purchased the church (Acts 20:28), and were it not for His death there would be no new covenant (Heb. 9:1517). Hence, those who are saved by the blood of Christ are those who contact the blood in gospel obedience (Rom. 6:1-18), are added to the blood-bought church (Acts 2:47; 20:28), which is the “one body” wherein is reconciliation (Eph. 2:16), and who then enjoy the continued cleansing effects of His blood by walking “in the light” (1 Jn. 1:7).
All of this is in keeping with that “mystery” which had been in the mind of God from “the foundation of the world,” which included the Gentiles being fellow heirs and of the same body, and which was ultimately brought to fruition and “revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Eph. 1:4; 3:3-6). Hence, when God first mentioned the “seed” of woman He had human redemption in mind. The same was true when He announced the blessings that would come through the “seed” of Abraham, when He gave the law to Israel, and when “the King of the Jews” was born in Bethlehem of Judea. And this is what was in the mind of Christ when He allowed Himself to be nailed to a wooden cross. Being the Son of God, and being the One by Whom God “made the worlds” (Heb. 1:2), Jesus had the power to strike all His enemies dead and remove Himself from the cross. But His death reflected the abundance of love – not the absence of power. So “for the joy that was set before him” Jesus endured the cross (Heb. 12:2), and that “joy” was in His anticipation of saved souls His death would make possible.
What infinite wisdom! What amazing grace! What abounding love! All other stories pale into insignificance when compared to the story of the works of God in human redemption. No wonder Paul determined “not to know anything. . . save Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2), and all that verse signifies! No wonder he refused to “glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . ” (Gal. 6:14)! But the best is yet to be! Only in heaven itself, when the eternal conflict has ended, and the redeemed are gathered to glory, will the full extent of the marvelous works of God be realized. Indeed, “Won’t it be wonderful there!” Let us therefore “cast off the works of darkness,” unsheathe our spiritual swords, rise to the challenge before us, “fight the good fight of faith,” and “be thou faithful unto death,” so that God may be glorified, we will be saved, and others whom we influence may be among the eternally grateful and infinitely happy beneficiaries of the redemptive works of God!
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 2, pp. 45-47, 52
January 17, 1985