Saturday, January 2, 2016

THREE PROVOCATIVE SCRIPTURES


People commonly misunderstand the intent of the Bible when it comes to teaching us about the origins of life. The way in which the origin of life is described to us in the first chapters of Genesis is simply that God spoke, and it was done. Several times the phrase is repeated, “God said, ‘let there be’…and it was so.”

That is exactly how it happened. This is the origin of our planet and the origin of all that we can see. The difficulty that many people have with these words is that they expect this to be a complete and detailed explanation and description of every aspect of the origins of life. It is these people who attempt to wring the finest of nuances out of every word, such as the meaning of the word “day,” or whether or not there might be gaps of time at certain times in the creation process.

Certainly, I have my own opinion regarding some of these questions. But they are just that – my opinions. It would be helpful if all of us would remind ourselves of this concerning our opinions when discussing some of these issues. What happens often is that people put their own opinions about these matters on the same level as Scripture itself. Some people will even tell you if you do not agree with them on some particular fine point of their own understanding, they even doubt if you believe that the Scriptures are the Word of God. 

THE PURPOSE OF THE BIBLE

We must keep in mind that the Bible was not written to educate us as to the finer points of our origins. That is not its purpose. Rather, the purpose of the Bible is to show us God’s history of involvement with our lives. That is why it was written. The creation account of Genesis was never intended to give us a detailed explanation of just how everything happened in God’s creative act. If God would have included every detail as to how he created the universe and how he created us, there would be volumes and volumes of books that we must work our way through to try to understand it all.

What God does is to tell us those aspects of our origins which are critical for us to understand in order for us to come to know him and renew a lost relationship with him. That is the message of the Bible. Concerning the creation, for instance, it is critical for us to know that we are actually the product of a creative act and not of random chance.

Exactly how God created us, this we do not know. And if he would have described it to us in greater detail, I am sure none of us would be able to sit through the lecture. The process was infinitely more involved and complex than we have even the capacity to understand. We only know that God spoke, and we came into being. That is as detailed of a description that is given to us.

THREE DIFFICULT SCRIPTURES

I am saying all of this by way of introduction, because the Scriptures that we are looking at today include some matters that are completely beyond our capacity to understand. They include some references to events that occurred at a time and in a sphere of existence that we know nothing about. There are many things concerning the words of these Scriptures about which we would like to know more. The few words that we read in the Bible concerning these events tease us, in a certain way, because they show us that there is much more to the matter than what we can presently see. They are provocative words in that sense.

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No one can explain these words to us, though many have tried. Many of the explanations may be helpful, because they examine some concepts that we may not have before considered. However, many other explanations not only are not helpful, but they are hurtful, because they purport something that is false.

These three Scriptures that we will look at today all allude to matters that are beyond our understanding. 

THE LIGHT OF CREATION
 
The first of these is the very Scripture that I have already mentioned – the first chapter of Genesis: 

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 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.

God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5 ESV) 

On this very first day of creation, God called forth the light to come upon an earth that previously had no form and which apparently consisted only of water, at least on the surface. This must have been so, because it was not until the third day that the land masses emerged from the water as the seas were gathered into great basins on the surface of the earth.

We do not know the exact nature of this light that appeared on that first day, but it was not light in the ordinary sense as we think about it in our everyday lives. Any natural light that we know of today is that which emanates from our Sun, or other celestial suns and stars. But we know the light of the first day was not from any of these, since God did not create these heavenly bodies until the fourth day.

But if not from the Sun, what then was this light of the first day? As I said before, we are not told anything else about the nature of this light. The only thing that I can say about it is that it was the first step that God used in bringing order out of chaos. Previously to the coming of the light, the earth was “formless and void.” It is only after the coming of the light when creative order began. 

THE LIGHT OF THE WORD
 
I am going to leave that Scripture where it sits for the moment and quote to you another. This one from the New Testament book of John: 

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. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:1-5 ESV) 

This is the introduction to John’s gospel. As he continues to write, he will tell us more about this Word, but for the moment, there are four things that we can say about the Word. The Word existed in the beginning, it was both with God and was God, all things were made through him, and in him life existed. Those four things we can see from this passage.

I do not think that I am being too presumptuous when I say that there seems to be a correlation between the first light of creation that we read about in Genesis, and the light of the Word that we see here in John. Both shined in dark places and both overcame the darkness. Both also were present in the very beginning and in some manner both were involved in the creation.

But there is also a fifth thing concerning the Word that John writes about, because the entire phrase reads, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

I cannot tell you what the connection there is between this life and the light that was in the Word, only that John make them synonymous. 

THE RECEPTION OF THE LIGHT OF THE WORD

We now continue with what John writes about the light of the Word: 

The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:9-12) 

John speaks of the light as being the creative light. This light that first had made the world, next came into the world. Astoundingly however, the Word of light was not recognized as the creator. He came to the very people that he created, and they rejected him.

By now, you undoubtedly recognize that, in speaking about the Word, John is speaking of Jesus Christ. However, John has not yet come right out to say this. Up until this point, he is only connecting the Word with the light of life who was an integral part of the creation. This Word was both with God and indeed was God. John does not explain how it is possible to be both with God while at the same time being God; he just states that it was so. 

CHOSEN BEFORE EXISTENCE

Now I would like to introduce a third Scripture to these first two. This one is another introduction to a book of the Bible. It is from one of the Apostle Paul’s letters. It also has to do with events that happened not merely during the creation of the world, but even before: 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will. (Ephesians 1:3-5 ESV) 

As we are contemplating those words, let us go back to the Genesis account and read about the creation of the first man and the first woman: 

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness…”

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1: 26-27 ESV) 

Up until this time of creation, which was in the sixth creative day, no human existed. At least, this is our understanding. To make it more personal, you did not exist and I did not exist. Yet in his letter to the Ephesian church, Paul writes here that believers were chosen in Christ even before the foundation of the world. That means, if you are a believer in Christ, he chose you to be his even before there was a you to choose! 

THE ORIGIN OF OUR RIGHTS

Does the fact that God chose us mean that we have no part in all of this? Does it mean that we simply were destined by God’s choosing us to be adopted by him? In some regards, it seems to be that way. Nevertheless, John, in his gospel and after writing about the many who did not receive the Word, then tells us this:

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13 ESV)

TWO "ACTION VERB"
 
There are two actions here that John speaks of as being important for people to do in order that they would have the right to become the children of God. They must receive the Word that came to live among us, and then they must believe in his name. Believing in his name speaks of more than simply acceding to the fact that Jesus was an historical figure. It means that you have placed your every confidence of life and existence in him alone. It means that you understand that without this Word, life itself cannot exist. The Word is the very source of life.

Nevertheless, even though these actions are required on our part, in a manner that we do not understand, this does not detract from the sovereignty of God. He has chosen us, and it is he who gives us the right to be his children. This new birth for us as his child does not take place because we have willed it or by anything that we have done, but because He has willed it. He is God and he is sovereign.

WHAT IT MEANS TO HAVE "RIGHTS"

It is important here to understand what it means to have the “right” to be God’s children. To have this right is not in the same sense that we usually think of having a right to something today. There is a lot of talk of rights today. We talk of the right of citizenship and the different aspects of the “Bill of Rights” in our constitution. These are privileges given to us simply by virtue of us living in America.

But this is not the same sense when John speaks of having the right to be a child of God. John uses here a Greek word meaning, “having the power to act” (exousia).  True children of God will act in a certain way. They will conduct themselves different than other people who are not children of God. However, the ability to be this way does not come from some inner resolve or inner strength. It comes from what John has been calling the Word. It comes from the same creative force that brought the entire earth into existence

The name of the Word, we have already guessed, but now John mentions it: 

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:14, 17).

A GOD WHO CAN BE KNOWN
 
These three Scriptures speak of some very profound teachings, much deeper than we are able to comprehend. It is intriguing, at least to me, to consider these concepts, even though I know I shall never understand them completely. How would it be possible for me to do so? We long to see a God that for the present cannot be seen. Nevertheless, that which is critical for me to know can be seen. It was for that reason Jesus came to live among us.

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory,” John tells us. “Glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:14, 17-18)

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