Creation and the Decree

February 24, 2017

In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,(1) for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness,(2) to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good.(3) [Second London Confession, Chapter 4, Paragraph 1]

1. John 1:2, 3; Hebrews 1:2; Job 26:13
2. Romans 1:20
3. Colossians 1:16; Genesis 1:31

 

Creation as Involved in God’s Decree

God’s decree, according to Chapter 3, includes “all things whatsoever come to pass” which embraces creation, providence, and redemption. Others of the reformed faith have made a more direct statement of this relationship between the decree of God and creation. Berkhof states, “The decree of God is His eternal plan or purpose, in which He has foreordained all things that come to pass. It is but natural that God, who controls all things, should have a definite plan according to which He works, not only in creation and providence, but also in the process of redemption. This plan includes many particulars, and therefore we often speak of the divine decrees in the plural, though there is but a single decree.”1 The reason for referencing the “decree” as “decrees” is for one’s understanding of the successive events in addressing things such as creation and providence. “The decrees of God are the eternal plans of God whereby, before the creation of the world, he determined to bring about everything that happens. This doctrine is similar to the doctrine of providence, but here we are thinking about God’s decisions before the world was created, rather than his providential actions in time. His providential actions are the outworking of the eternal decrees that he made long ago.”2

Berkhof and others make the clear connection of God’s decree first with creation and then with providence. The order of chapters 3, 4, and 5 in the Second London Confession reflects this understanding. The Baptist Catechism, a valuable summary of the Second London Confession, gives its instructions in the same order.

Q.11. What are the decrees of God?

A. The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby for His own glory, He has fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass. (Ephesians 1:11; Romans 11:36; Daniel 4:35)

Q.12. How does God execute His decrees?

A. God executes His decrees in the works of creation and providence. (Genesis 1:1; Revelation 4:11; Matthew 6:26; Acts 14:17)

Q.13 What is the work of creation?

A. The work of creation is God’s making all things of nothing, by the Word of His power, in the space of six days, and all very good. (Genesis 1:1; Hebrews 11:3; Exodus 20:11; Genesis 1:31)3

The Scriptural statement of “the counsel of His will,” so Berkhof argues from Ephesians 1:11, refers to the decree as being founded in immutable divine wisdom. This catechism, like the Confession, locates the execution God’s decrees in the works of creation and providence. Both emphasize the orderly succession decree, creation, and providence.

 

Creation Involved God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

The Trinitarian participation in creation is noted throughout Scripture beginning with Genesis 1. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). “God” is ELOHIM and indicates God’s majesty but also at least permits the concept of “Trinity” as other Scriptures reveal. This verse presupposes God’s existence and reveals His being the source and power of Creation as the Creator. The creation, according to Psalm 8:1, testifies to the glory of God: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens.” One of the most referenced Scriptures concerning God’s glory is Psalm 19:1: “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Descriptively God is revealed to be unique when observing the testimony of His creation: “Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing” (Isaiah 40:26). The LORD, YAHWEH, the self–existing One, the everlasting God, ELOHE, the Creator, BOWRE, is identified and described: “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable” (Isaiah 40:28).4

The Scriptures indicate that the LORD, YAHWEH, used His wisdom, understanding and knowledge in the act of creation: “The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens; by his knowledge the deeps broke open, and the clouds drop down the dew” (Proverbs 3:19–20). God has made himself evident within every part of creation with such clear and orderly omnipotence that none of the fallen race can plead ignorance of God. Romans 1:19, 20 enforces this truth in this Pauline summary: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So that they are without excuse.”

Seven times one observes in the days of creation in Genesis 1 the statement “and God said, Let,” emphasizing that God spoke things into existence “out of nothing,” EX NIHILO—they had no existence, and by his word they began to exist. This is documented in the New Testament, “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” (Hebrews 11:3).

That creation is the product of an omnipotent, intelligent, and benevolent deity is a matter of general revelation observed in the natural order. That it is an accomplishment of inherently shared acts of a triune God is a matter of special revelation. God the Son is identified on several occasions as being an active agent in creation. The following texts are examples: John 1:1–3 states robustly, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” That his authority in creation and over it subserves his appointment as redeemer is seen in Paul’s argument in Colossians 1:15–18: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through him and for him. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.”

The writer of Hebrews in 1:1–3 also emphasized the unbroken connection between Christ as Creator and Christ as Redeemer: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3He is the radiance of the glory God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

Largely in the works of creation and redemption we find the substance of John’s affirmation, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth …. No one has ever seen God; the only God who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:14, 18). The word for “He has made known” in Greek is EXEGESATO, meaning He, Jesus, has explained or expounded God. Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man.

God the Holy Spirit is also revealed to be involved in creation. His activity is initially noted at the very beginning of the creation statement in Genesis: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The translation in the Old Testament for the word “Spirit” is frequently “wind” or “breath.” “By the Word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap, he puts the deeps in storehouses” (Psalm 33:6–7). The use of “breath” in verse 6 may be a reference to the Holy Spirit. The supernatural activity of God the Holy Spirit is wonderful in the virgin conception of our Lord Jesus Christ: “And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’ And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy–the Son of God (Luke 1:34–35).” He was conceived by God the Holy Spirit. God the Holy Spirit took part in creation. Psalm 104:30, 31 reveals “When you send forth your Spirit, they were created, and you renew the face of the ground. May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works.”

The previous Scriptures reveal that as Chapter 4 Of Creation states, “it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” to make creation. Also, the Scriptures reveal that “the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible” was included in God’s purpose in creation.

 

Creation Accomplished in Six Literal Days

The writers of the 1689 Second London Baptist Confession accepted the statement of Scripture that God created everything in six days and it was all very good. Stating that the creation was in the “space” of six days indicates the writers were persuaded that “days” indicated real twenty–four hour periods of time. When the confession was written theories of modern day evolution were not existing. Although there were some Christians over the preceding centuries who questioned the days of creation in Genesis 1. In “modern” times there are a plethora of views by Christians and non–Christians that deny the “days” of Genesis 1 are literal days as one normally understands a “day.” They opt rather for extreme periods of time. There are Secular Evolutionist, Theistic Evolutionist, Progressive Creationist, Day–Age Theorists, etc., to name a few. This writer believes Christians should reject the model of evolution and its various Christian forms. Evolution denies God as creator and non-six day creation views contradict the clear sense of Scripture.

When God created things, did He give them the appearance of age as with Adam? It appears He did so and the universe was fully functional when He spoke it into existence out of nothing. There were seedlings, saplings, and full grown trees of various stages of development. There were old stars and young stars; there was the light of stars seen from earth and light of stars at various distances to the earth that in time will be seen. The Secular Evolutionist does not believe in the Bible and his concept of God is too small, anti–supernatural or non–existent.

What are some reasons one should believe the Genesis creation account? Christians who generally believe in six literal days of creation normally believe the Bible is inspired or God–breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). They also believe the Bible is infallible. They believe the original autographs are inerrant. They don’t believe the Bible is to be understood according to one’s private interpretation. The Bible states that God “created” the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). The language of Genesis 1 for each of the six days states, “God said” and literally spoke things into existence that did not previously exist in any manner, except in His plan. God created them out of nothing into a reality of existence in space and time. This is consistently described by literal creation adherents as God speaking his creation into existence out of nothing, EX NIHILO.

The structure of the language used in the Genesis 1 days of creation account persuades the reader to adhere to six literal days. The Genesis account states over and over that there was “evening” and “morning,” the numerical day such as first day and second day and the normal use of the word “day,” YOM. YOM can be used in the Bible to mean an extended period of time, such as, one today might say “back in the day” one did this or that thing. A context could demonstrate that the use of the word “day” was not a twenty–four hour period of time. However, the triple descriptive construction of the words first, second, etc., and the words “evening” with “morning’’ and the word “day” which normally means a day, is persuasive context of language to bring one to the conclusion that these days are literal days.

Multiple Scriptures indicate a six day creation. Exodus 20:9–11 is based on a univocal use of the word “day.”

Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Not only does one observe that the creation is stated to be in six days but the seventh day is a day set apart by the LORD. God instructed His people to rest on a literal seventh day in context patterned after His creation and rest in seven days. Exodus 31:17 reaffirms that creation was in six days: “It is a sign forever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested and was refreshed.” Jesus states that male and female were from the beginning of creation. Adam was created on day six. From this we surely infer there were not long periods of time nor the macro evolution of man: “But from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6).

Evolution includes mankind through the evolutionary process and yet the Bible states mankind came from one man: “and HE made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). Since all sin and death came from one man, then the one who was created on the “sixth day” of Genesis 1 would be the head of the human race. Therefore all mankind descended from that one man, Adam. The following verse is senseless if evolution is true. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned– (Romans 5:12).” There are many, many other passages that press the reader of Scripture to believe in a literal six day creation. This writer knows Christians who do not believe in a six day creation period. One must be gracious in this matter but also contend for what is clear in the Scriptures. Hermeneutics is paramount in this discussion. If one follows the hermeneutics of passages that are interpreted concerning miracles, the Trinity and Salvation, etc., in interpreting the six days of Genesis 1, this writer believes you will be a creationists holding to six literal days of creation.

Creation as a Necessary Pre–requisite to the Implementation of the Covenant of Grace

Without the pre–requisite of creation to the implementation of the Covenant of Grace how would there be a Covenant of Grace? In the decree of God His plans are from eternity. Since Creation and Providence are the executions of God’s decree in eternity past they are unique in that God’s knowledge, plans, and counsel have causal priority. “In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible…”5 When considering the Covenant of Grace it provides clarity to address the Covenant of Redemption. The Covenant of Redemption is to be considered in the context of the Decree of God. “The covenant of redemption may be defined as the agreement between the Father, giving the Son as Head and Redeemer of the elect, and the Son, voluntarily taking the place of those whom the Father had given Him.”6 This has causal priority to the execution of Creation and Providence exercised over that creation according to will, design, purposes, and “after the counsel of His will” (Ephesians 1:11).

Creation of the world and all things including human beings is a requirement when one considers the plan of God concerning our redemption and the execution of the details for that redemption by His plan for sinfully fallen humanity. If there is no plan or power for creation in God’s decree then how can there be redemption, the means of it, or the Covenant of Grace? “The counsel of redemption is the firm and eternal foundation of the covenant of grace. If there had been no eternal counsel of peace between the Father and the Son, there could have been no agreement between the triune God and sinful men. The counsel of redemption makes the covenant of grace possible.”7 Ephesians 3:7–11 draws a direct connection between the Gospel of redemption, the Covenant of Grace, and God’s act of creation:

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all saints, this grace was give, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Apostle demonstrates the Covenant of Grace in the context of his ministry of the gospel “to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things (Ephesians 3:9).” Paul ties the gospel, God’s plan, God’s eternal purpose, and Christ Jesus our Lord to the statement “God who created all things.” God’s decree and the Covenant of Redemption with creation are a pre–requisite to the Covenant of Works, and then the Covenant of Grace.

NOTES:
1 Louis Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985, reprint), 84.
2 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI, 1994), 332.
3 The Baptist Catechism, Benjamin Keach Catechism, reformedreader.org, accessed December 3, 2016. www.reformedreader.org/ccc/keachcat.htm
4 All quotations from Scripture are taken from the English Standard Version.
5 1689 Baptist Confession, www.arbca.com, Chapter 4: Of Creation, 1.
6 Louis Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine, 271.
7 Ibid., 270.