The Basic Gospel- There Is A God, Gen.1:1
Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
The Gospel begins with God, not man. It is not centered on man’s need, rather, the Gospel is focused properly on who God is and what he has done, is doing, and will do. The Gospel is God-centered from first to last. Therefore, the beginning of the Gospel is the no longer to be taken for granted belief in the eternal existence of God himself. God is.
In my childhood and youth, in the 1960’s-70’s, people were still quite exposed to the Scriptures, and generally speaking accepted that the Bible was God’s Word. You could begin sharing the Gospel with a mutual point of contact- the Bible. Today we live in a post Scripture (a post literate) American culture. While the Bible remains the powerful Word of God, and the Holy Spirit can, and does, use the Word in evangelism without any pre-evangelism, it is increasingly the case that evangelism must be conducted with a search for some common ground. Truth itself is so commonly questioned and doubted that pre-evangelism these days may even begin with Pilate’s ancient question, “What is truth?”
While still less than 10% of our population are atheists, a far greater percentage are practical atheists who do not know what they believe about God and live their lives accordingly. In our diverse, multicultural milieu where toleration for every kooky religion, and the dangerous ones too, is the norm, the very existence and definition of God needs to be explained very often as an initial step in evangelism. Apologetics is an important assistant for evangelism and cross cultural missions. I want to stress what I said earlier, that sharing the Word of God, the Gospel as presented in Scripture, is what is used by the Holy Spirit to bring people to Christ, but we can give answers to the questions people ask about our hope, and that is where apologetics comes in.
Hence my first step in presenting the Gospel here- There Is A God, Gen. 1:1.
While most people we meet believe in god as a concept, few believe in the God of the Old and New Testaments. Some will even use the words God or Jesus but have a totally different definition in mind from what the Bible gives (Muslims and Mormons for example). Therefore it is good, when presenting the Gospel, to not assume the person with whom you are sharing, shares your definition of God and this requires that we begin the Gospel by defining God in biblical terms.
The Bible’s opening verse assumes the presence of God: “In the beginning, God…” In pre-suppositional apologetics we start with some pre-suppositions, some underlying gridwork, the frame from which we view reality. These would be that the Scriptures are the Word of God, fully inspired, inerrant, infallible and authoritative, and wWe also assume the existence of God. Gen. 1:1 would support that view of apologetics but I believe that it also supports the various rational and evidential arguments for God as well.
I am quite fond of the Cosmological Argument for the existence of God:
“The cosmological argument is less a particular argument than an argument type. It uses a general pattern of argumentation (logos) that makes an inference from certain alleged facts about the world (cosmos) to the existence of a unique being, generally identified with or referred to as God. Among these initial facts are that the world came into being, that the world is contingent in that it could have been other than it is, or that certain beings or events in the world are causally dependent or contingent. From these facts philosophers infer either deductively or inductively that a first cause, a necessary being, an unmoved mover, or a personal being (God) exists. The cosmological argument is part of classical natural theology, whose goal has been to provide some evidence for the claim that God exists.
On the one hand, the argument arises from human curiosity as to why there is something rather than nothing. It invokes a concern for some complete, ultimate, or best explanation of what exists contingently.”
While certainly I could go on and on into the depths of the cosmological argument, that is not my purpose today; I just want to look at this verse devotionally and how it relates to apologetics. The basic idea of the verse is that prior to there being a universe, God already was in existence. Science shows that with the Big Bang, matter, space and time all simultaneously popped into existence. Science cannot say how or why absolute nothing all of a sudden had a physical, material universe “happen”.
From Genesis 1:1 we see that there was never a time when there was “absolutely nothing”. God was. Because God is Spirit, and not material, he could exist without space, without matter, and without time. There was never a time when there was absolutely nothing, else there would be nothing today. Nothing comes from nothing because nothing is no thing.
Perhaps it is better to describe it in terms of cause and effect. The universe is caused, it is contingent, not necessary; it is an effect of a sufficient cause. In Gen. 1:1 the word “created” bara in Heb., is much more beautiful and meaningful than “caused”, but it is still helpful to discuss the universe as caused, or as an effect of a sufficient cause. The ways that we use the word cause can imply an accidental cause that is non-personal, non-intentional, and non-intelligent, or it can be purposeful, intentional, deliberate, personal and intelligent. Furthermore, causes must be sufficient and all too often we see things that we think are causes but actually work with other causes in a very complex process to bring about the desired end or effect. A sufficient cause is a cause without which the effect could not come to pass. This universe is large, complex thing, rich in life and beauty. The evolutionists have failed to present a sufficient cause for the universe apart from God.
The biblical God of Gen. 1:1 is the sole and sufficient cause for the universe. Here is good news, we are not here by accident. We are not insignificant, we were made by a spiritual, eternal, all-powerful being on purpose. The beauty, complexity and diversity we see in the universe, and the intricate laws that explain how it functions in chemistry, physics, and mathematics exist because of God’s creative act. We are not alone.
If the cosmos was a giant accident without a sufficient cause, nothing would make sense, there would be no grounds for hope. The Gospel gives us hope because it is rooted in the God who was, in the beginning.