“What Was Before The Beginning?” Gen.1:1
Sunday, February 10th, 2008– We got a letter from our son, Luke, stationed at Fort Benning, GA. yesteday. He was writing from his inprocessing station where he was placed as platoon leader of his line of 60 soldiers. He is experiencing some of the challenges of being in charge of a bunch of undisciplined, unruly young men! His year of being the manager of his store has already given him some experience with leadership, so I am not surprised that he is already being entrusted with some extra duties. By now he has reported to his basic training battalion so we hope to get his real address soon.
Here are my notes from Sunday School this morning. We seemed to have a good class today, more people got involved with some questions, comments and scripture readings. These notes began as a sermon at my former church from 1993.
Redeemer Church Sunday SchoolGenesis: Finding Answers to Life’s Crucial QuestionsSemester One: Genesis 1-11 “Beginnings”
Read Hebrews 1:1-5; Pray
Introduction: Each week we are beginning by taking just a little bit of time to share something about ourselves so that we get to know each other. The first week I started by sharing my testimony and a bit of my life story. Today the question is, “Under what circumstances did you come to Christ.” I am not looking for a full testimony nor am I looking for a theological dissertation on the how of salvation. Let me give you an example of what I am looking for: I was raised by Christian parents, always went to church, and the Lord saved me in a revival in a Baptist Church when I was 8 years old. Now I am going to go around the room with this QQ but if you are a little bit shy or just would prefer to not speak you politely as to wait for another time and we will skip by you with no pressure.
Review: We have now met for 3 weeks, today being week 4 so let’s review where we have been. On week one we gave an introduction to Genesis and on week two we gave a detailed exposition of verse 1. Last week we finished that exposition and then examined four laws or rules that would help us as we seek to prove the existence of God.
1) The Law of non-contradiction, A cannot be A and non-A at the same time and in the same relationship.
2) The Law of Causality that says every effect must have a sufficient cause. And from that Law we also asked the question “Why is there something instead of nothing” and used the cosmological argument to show that God must necessarily exist.
3) Our sense perception is basically sound and can lead to truth. Here we see that the scientific method relies on our sense perception and this is part of the created order because God gave Adam the 5 senses and at the end blessed his creation and called it very good. Also keep in mind that I said that in Romans one we see the foundation for the doctrine of General Revelation that tells us God has sufficiently revealed himself in nature so that man is without excuse. Our sense perception and logic is enough to prove that God exists and that knowledge, though it cannot save us, does condemn us if we continue to reject Christ.
4) The use of analogical language means that God has revealed himself to us in space and time in ways that we can understand. God is not “wholly other”, we are created in his image and his Word, the Bible, is not only true, but is understandable and sufficient for us to know what we need to know about God and Jesus to be saved. I might add that without the power of the Holy Spirit, we will never get saved on our own just by looking at General Revelation or even the Special Revelation that we have in the Scriptures. Salvation is always a miracle of the working of the Holy Spirit using the Word.
Next, last week we looked briefly at some of the arguments for the existence of God. I asked some Crucial questions like “Can you prove there is a God?” “Should you even try to prove there is a God?” “Why is there something instead of nothing?” and then we briefly looked at the various proofs for God.
1) We saw the Ontological Argument- from the medieval scholar Anselm and goes like this: “God is that than which no greater can be thought, and he must, therefore, exist, for otherwise he would not be that than which no greater can be thought. In other words, God alone is the greatest conceivable being in the universe. Which is greater: to exist as an idea in the mind only or to exist in reality? And if existence in reality is greater, which is greater: to exist necessarily or to exist unnecessarily?”
2) The Teleological Argument of Design tells us that when we see something that is beautiful, that is complex, that functions and has a purpose, we can assume that it has a designer. Design is not accidental, but intentional. William Paley in the early 19th century came up with the watchmaker analogy that says if you were walking on the beach and found a watch you would assume there is a watchmaker because the watch is complex, functional and shows intelligent design.
3) The moral argument for God tells us that we all have a sense of oughtness. We have a conscience and a sense of justice that screams when we are victimized. We all feel guilt when we violate the law which we know to be true. Our feelings of justice and of guilt in this life lead us to know that there must be some ultimate justice and Truth out there somewhere after we die. There must be a perfect judge who knows all and has all power and is holy. And of course in our study of Genesis we will come to chapter 2-3 which presents to us God’s law and man’s sin and the consequences thereof.
And we had previously discussed the cosmological argument in our discussion of cause and effect. So really I gave you 4 good arguments for the existence of God, none of which is presented in the Scripture directly. In Gen. 1 God is simply assumed.
Now, this morning, I want to ask kind of an odd question, a question that we have sort of already asked and answered, but I want to spend more time on. It is a question from a child’s perspective that will lead us into some deep and sound doctrine. QQ: “What was before the beginning?” Well obviously, from our studies of verse one, we know that :in the beginning God…” and we have already seen that in order for there to be anything in existence today, there must be something that was not caused by anything else, something that is eternal and necessary, that caused everything else. That something is God. That is the idea I want to track down this morning.
So by this time I hope that you see my method. This class is not just a simple exegetical study of the verses in Genesis. I want us to look at the philosophical foundations and assumptions of the text, and then examine the doctrinal implications of each text. Hopefully we will also have time, eventually, to look at the historical uses and implications of the texts.
Imagine that your small child looks up at you with those cute, inquisitive eyes one day, and asks you the question, “Where did God come from?” or “What was God doing before he created the world?” or, “What was before the beginning?”.
In the various cosmologies or theories of the universe there are 3 kind of stand out. The steady state theory that says the universe has always been like it is now. Matter is eternal. Some of the ancient cosmologies, stories of creation assume that along with the gods or the chief god there was chaos which is the eternal unformed matter of the universe. In fact, the mormons believe that the matter of the universe is eternal and that each god gets his own solar system to form and fashion. Then there is the oscillating universe model that says the universe expands and contracts forever. The problem with these first two theories is that it makes time eternal and that is an impossibility. Then you have the Big Bang model that says the universe popped into existence by chance. This allows for the original beginning but gives an insufficient cause. Only our key verse, Gen. 1:1 gives us the truth here. And the rest of Scripture gives us some clues about our key question for the day.
I. The Eternality of God
Let’s look at some verses: Psalm 90:2; Rev. 4:8; Isa.46:9-10 and Gen. 21:33.
Gen. 21:33 “The everlasting God” El Olam. This name for God is unique to this verse. Right away we see that the eternality of God is not merely some doctrine, God includes his eternality in one of his revealed names, El Olam. We post-modern people of the 21st century have a tendency to think of the ancients as not being as smart as we are. Come to think of it teenagers kind of act the same way towards their parents. But do you know how much serious thought is required to ponder the concept of eternity? You can get your mind seriously wrapped around the axel over this idea. We tend to think of eternity in a linear fashion, more years added on at the end, never ending. But if the scientists are right who say the universe is between 14-20 billion years old, that isn’t even a drop in a bucket compared with eternity. If you tried to subtract those 20 billion years from, or add them to, God’s eternity, he not be diminished nor increased for he lives outside of time. Time has no effect on him. He created time. By the way, this is one reason why when scientists say the universe is 20 billion years old, it doesn’t challenge my faith in the least. God is eternal, what diff does a few billion years here or there matter? But some folks get all upset by that.
Psalm 90:2 “from everlasting to everlasting, you are God” Certainly some of the Geeks understood that there had to be a first cause or a prime mover, you cannot have an infinite number of causes. But here is the concept as best as humans can express it, that God Is, from as far back as you can go to as far in the future as you can go. Similar to how God treats our sin, as far as the East is from the West, so far does he remove our transgressions from us (Ps.103.12).
Isa. 46:9-10 I am God and there is no other- there is only room for one supreme being, one God, one eternal all powerful Creator of heaven and earth. “I make known the end from the beginning” Parade illustration. Here we see that this also implies God’s sovereignty, that he has pre-written history so to speak. I believe that every detail of the entire universe for all of time is constantly before the mind of God, nothing catches him by surprise.
Rev. 4:8 God’s holiness is eternal, He WAS and IS and IS TO COME.
II. The Eternality of God’s Son
John 1:1-3 John consciously words his opening to resemble the opening of Gen. The Word is how John introduces Jesus to his readers. Here is a tie into both Genesis and classical Greek culture and thought. In Ge. 1:3,6,9,14,20,24,26 we see these words “And God Said-“ With a word , The Word, God created all that is. That Word is the Son of God. For the Greek philosophers the Word was the Logos, the fundamental principle of reason and logic that pervades the universe. John was attempting to explain Jesus to his contemporaries and root that explanation in Genesis for his Jewish readers and in the Logos for the Greeks. What was before the beginning? The Word.
John 17:5 In Christ’s own words we see that he claims to be eternal, that he existed with the Father prior to the creation of the world. He claims this divine glory for himself, making himself co-eternal with the Father and glorious. The glory of God existed before creation so there was no outside need that God felt to gain more glory for himself. He already had glory and does not need more. You can say that creation proclaims the glory of God for his own good pleasure, but it does not add to his glory and if he had never created anything, his glory would not have been diminished.
Col.1:15-17. Here we find that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. Now many groups will misuse and misinterpret this passage. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses may use this verse to try to prove that Jesus was a created being, that he is not eternal and that there was a beginning for Jesus. Unfortunately I had an experience when I was in seminary at the church we attended 20 years ago where a Sunday School teacher, who was a godly man and highly educated in a science field with a PhD, taught the class that Jesus had a beginning. This is one of the passages he used. In that class of about 30-40 folks nobody raised a hand, so of course not being the timid sort, I raised my hand and gently and respectfully questioned the teacher on this. He reinforced his position and was not particularly interested in being corrected by a 28 yr. old seminary student. After class I approached him again, gently, but he insisted on the idea that Jesus had a beginning. Folks, this was a Baptist church, a fundamentalist Southern Baptist Church with a pastor who was a leader in the movement. But this teacher did not know sound doctrine in this regard. Jesus is co-eternal with the Father!
What this verse means when it uses the term “firstborn over all creation” is that Jesus has the position of priority and precedence over all creation. Firstborn in ancient cultures refers not merely to a birth order, but to a place of honor and prestige, power and influence. It is similar to the idea of the crown prince who rules for his Father. This verse also teaches us that Jesus was the creative agent for God in Genesis 1:1.
Heb.13:8. Here we see that Jesus is unchanging, he is the same in essence yesterday, today and forever. Because he is eternal, he is unchanging in essence and that means that his love for you has always been. We can rest assured that our salvation is forever because it is rooted in his unchanging eternal nature.
Rev.21:6 Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He uses the I Am formula, the covenant name for God, in reference to himself and takes in all time as existing in himself. Jesus is beyond the boundaries of time.
III. The Holy Spirit Is Co-Eternal with the Father and Son.
Matt. 3:16-17; 12:28; 28:19; Lk.1:35; John 3:5-8; 16:7,8,13,14; 1:32-34; Acts 5:3-4; 1Cor. 12:3-6; Gal. 4:4-6 and going back to Genesis 1:1-2, we see the Spirit hovering or brooding over the waters and again the use of the plural in verse 26.
IV. So What’s the Point?
The doctrine of the Trinity and the eternal nature of each member of the Trinity is absolutely crucial for Christianity. Virtually every cult group has either twisted ot abandoned the doctrine of the Trinity. Though the word Trinity is not used in Scripture, the idea is there. God forever exists as three divine persons in one godhead or one divine essence- Father, Son and Holy Spirit. What existed before the beginning? The Trinity and therefore love, communication, glory, diversity and unity. Therefore, God did not need to make us because he was lonely, there was sweet, holy communion between the Father, Son and Spirit. Personality was in existence in the godhead before the creation. The atheistic materialists cannot explain the existence of personality. How can personality, love and beauty arise from a primordial soup struck by lightning? Dead rocks cannot produce life let alone personality.
Before creation there existed God’s plan for redemption.
Titus 1:2 What was promised and when? The promise of eternal life, before the ages began.
Eph.1:4 You were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world.
2Tim.1:9 God’s purpose for us and his grace were given before the ages began.