1. ‘Much of the Power and Wisdom of God’1
‘In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.’ With these words the Bible begins. The doctrine of Creation must therefore have considerable significance in relation to the whole revelation which God has given in the Scriptures. Manifestly, the first two chapters of Genesis focus on this fundamental doctrine: that ‘it pleased God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good’.2
As we look around on this world which God created for us, with all its varied beauty – or as we consider its marvellous complexity – we should recognise the power and the wisdom of the Creator. And as we look up at the heavens, we should come to the same conclusion. Thus Thomas Manton points out: ‘The sun, moon and stars are the natural Apostles; though they cannot preach Christ, yet they preach God.’3
Yet a man like Ebenezer Erskine, who lived consistently under the influence of Scripture, could, so to speak, listen to the stars preaching God to him and then go on to preach Christ to himself. His diary entry for 14 December 1714 includes the following:
Betwixt six and seven at night, I opened my closet window, and it being a clear night, I delighted myself awhile in contemplating the glory of the eternal God in the stars. I saw much of the power and wisdom of God therein, and of His admirable and adorable majesty. O what an infinite and incomprehensible Being is He, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders! From them I was led on to think upon Christ – that this great God should have come in the person of His eternal Son and tabernacled in our nature in the form of a servant, that He should ever have humbled Himself and become obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. My soul was filled with amazement at His love and condescension.4
Manton and Erskine were both no doubt thinking of the words of Romans 1:19,20. Paul has begun to speak about those who are ‘holding (or suppressing) the truth in unrighteousness’, and he goes on to explain: ‘For that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead’. Here David Brown comments:
Two things are thus said to be clearly discovered to the reflecting intelligence by the things which are made – First, That there is an eternal power; and, secondly, That this is neither a blind physical ‘Force’ nor a pantheistic ‘spirit of nature’, but a living, conscious Divine Person, whose outgoing energy is beheld in the external universe’.
Paul wrote to the Romans close on 2000 years ago; clearly no one in the church in Rome who listened to that Epistle, when it was first read to them, needed modern scientific knowledge to recognise from the world around them, and from the sun, moon and stars above them, that there is a God who created all things. As the Apostle emphasises, those who in their minds suppress such evidence are ‘without excuse’ (Rom. 1:20), for they already have sufficient evidence. Thus Charles Hodge comments,
God . . . has never left Himself without a witness. His existence and perfections have ever been so manifested that His rational creatures are bound to acknowledge and worship Him as the true and only God.5
Yet modern knowledge does provide further evidence, and we may glance at a few fragments of that evidence. Let us note first that the earth is at the right distance from the sun (93 million miles) to make life possible. However, Mercury, just 36 million miles from the sun, has no atmosphere and is subject to huge fluctuations in temperature – going from -180oC at night to 430oC during the day. And Venus, nearly 63 million miles from the sun, has a thick atmosphere with a high proportion of carbon dioxide, which has the effect of maintaining an average surface temperature of 480oC. Mars, on the other hand, is much farther from the earth than the sun (142 million miles), has a thin atmosphere and is permanently cold (-50oC). The Creator clearly has positioned the earth in such a way as to make life possible and has given it a suitable atmosphere, while its nearest neighbours do not have the necessary conditions for life.
Let us note another example of fine tuning. The earth spins on an axis which is about 23o off the perpendicular. This is what causes the seasonal variations which we experience, making harvests possible over much more of the world than would otherwise be the case. Relatively speaking, our moon is the largest in the solar system and exerts a remarkable stabilising effect on the earth. Without it, the varying gravitational pull of the much-larger planet Jupiter would result in the earth’s angle of tilt varying wildly – to as much as 90o, when the entire ice cap at the North Pole would melt, with consequent catastrophic flooding of coastal regions everywhere.6
Much more could be said along similar lines.7 I wish, however, to focus on Scripture and especially to demonstrate that its teaching on Creation is most certainly not confined to the early chapters of Genesis but is integral to the whole revelation of Scripture, which ‘holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost’ (2 Pet. 1:21).
Let us, first of all, follow Barnabas and Paul into Lystra as they evangelised in what we might nowadays describe as a district of southern Turkey. Paul healed a man who had been a lifelong cripple, which resulted in the townspeople concluding that the Apostles were, in fact, gods; they decided that Barnabas was Jupiter and Paul was Mercury. How were Paul and Barnabas to disabuse the people’s minds of this superstitious notion? They first pointed to themselves as ordinary human beings and then intimated that the message they had come to proclaim included a call to turn from these false gods to the true God. The apostles described these false gods as ‘vanities’, a word which conveyed the idea that these gods were worthless.
And they went on to distinguish, in two ways, the false gods worshipped in Lystra from the true God. Their second point was that the true God was the one who in his providence provided such good things as rain and food, and made happiness possible. But, let us notice particularly, their first point was that he was the Creator of all things. They asked: ‘Why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein’ (Acts 14:15). There have been many false gods in the history of the world, and the people of Lystra worshipped several such gods, but what fundamentally distinguished all these deities from the one living and true God was the fact that he was the Creator of all things, while all other gods were ‘vanities’. They were utterly worthless; they had no real existence; they were purely the product of human imagination.
The people of Athens were clearly afraid that the group of gods whom they worshipped was incomplete. Accordingly Paul found in that city ‘an altar with this inscription, TO THE UNKNOWN GOD’ (Acts 17:23). J. A. Alexander represents Paul’s thinking thus:
I perceive from one of your neglected altars that you recognise another God (or other gods) besides the many which you worship formally by name, and I announce to you that under this indefinite description falls the very Being whom you ought to serve to the exclusion of all others.8
And Paul identified this Being to them as the Creator; the Apostle described him as the ‘God that made the world and all things therein’.
Accordingly, Paul went on: ‘He is Lord of heaven and earth’, implying that it was their duty to acknowledge this God exclusively as their God and to worship him. As Alexander expresses it, if God is the Maker of the universe, then ‘by necessary consequence’ he is its Sovereign. Indeed Paul went on to declare that the true God was commanding ‘all men everywhere to repent’ – and that included Paul’s hearers in Athens – and he did so on the basis that this God was the Creator of everything.
Thus we see that, when Paul and others were evangelising Gentiles who had no knowledge of the revelation which God had given in the Old Testament Scriptures, they began by proclaiming him as the Creator. Clearly this has implications in a generation which claims to reject belief in the God of the Bible, and particularly reacts against the doctrine of Creation.
- The first part of a paper delivered by the Editor at the Theological Conference in 2008. In a year when the two-hundredth anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth (in 1809) is being commemorated widely and also the publication of his Origin of Species 150 years ago, we do well to give renewed attention to the clear testimony in the Bible to divine creation. The other three articles from this paper can be found on the Banner of Truth website:
Part 2 – ‘Through Faith We Understand’.
Part 3 – The Consistent Scripture Testimony.
Part 4 – ‘God Has Given Me All Things’.
- The Westminster Confession of Faith, 4:1.
- Thomas Manton, By Faith, (Banner of Truth, 2000), p. 73.
- Donald Fraser, The Life and Diary of the Rev Ebenezer Erskine (1831), p. 112.
- Charles Hodge, A Commentary on Romans (Banner of Truth reprint, 1983), p. 37. [Currently being reprinted – August 2009]
- The data in the last two paragraphs have been taken from Alistair Fothergill, Planet Earth (BBC Books, 2006), pp. 14-17. The information is presented there in an evolutionary framework, attributing to ‘simple cosmic luck’ the fact that the earth is ‘at just the right distance [from the sun] for life’!
- See, for instance, Stuart Burgess, Hallmarks of Design, Evidence of design in the natural world (Day One Publications, 2000).
- A Commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, (Banner of Truth reprint in the ‘Geneva’ series, 1980), p. 149.
Rev Kenneth D. Macleod is editor of The Free Presbyterian Magazine, from the August 2009 edition of which the above article is reproduced with kind permission.
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