9@God the Creator
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
The Bible begins with this statement. In this statement God's work or activity in the beginning is described with the Hebrew verb 'barah'. This Hebrew verb is usually translated as 'create', but there is a phrase in the New Testament that makes its meaning even clearer.gHe (Abraham) believed God, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.h(Rom.4:17b) Here Paul, the author of the Roman letter where this phrase appears, uses the verb 'to give life to,' whose meaning I discussed in my previous message, message No.8. It means 'to give life where there is no life', and so it is included in the expression 'to call into existence the things that do no exist.'
The phrase 'in the beginning', that translates Greek 'en arche', points to God's ultimate and fundamental work 'to call into existence the things that do not exist' before the beginning of time. Time began when all things in heaven and on earth began to exist. The word 'God' does not refer to an entity that belongs to the realms of existence but, instead, to the all-encompassing process of calling into existence the things that do not exist. God is pure creation as he brings into existence everything in heaven and on earth, myself included.
Thus 'God' is the name for the all-encompassing ultimate creative activities. But when He acts on the human beings that are the personal beings, He begins His work by calling them with His words as a personal subject. In the personal relation between God and men, God is always the subject and we are the object of God's working, hence such locutions as "I will make you a great nationhand gI will bless you.h God worked on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the forefathers of Israel. God appeared to them, called upon them, and guided them with His words throughout their lives. They believed in God and followed His guidance. God accepted them and called them righteous.
When His chosen people, the Israelites, were oppressed in Egypt, He worked on His people and revealed Himself as their liberator. He chose Moses and, through him, freed His people, revealed Himself to them as 'Yahweh'. God addressed them in the following fashion:gI am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.h(Exodus 20:2) Upon completion of their Exodus, people of Israel referred to their God as 'Yahweh' and worshipped 'Yahweh' in the splendid temple of Jerusalem.
The worshipping of Yahweh by the Israelites was radically altered, however, when they entered Babylonian captivity. Yahweh had been their god, a god mightier than any of the gods of all surrounding nations. He had always seen to their victory in the battlefield and promised them prosperity. But when Israel was defeated by Babylon, the temple of Yahweh in Jerusalem was destroyed and the people of Yahweh were forced to live in Babylon, Yahweh could not be their nation's god anymore. To them He must reign now, not only over Israel but over all nations in the world through His sovereign will and power. God must be the everlasting God and the creator of the end of the earth(Is.40:28).
Since then Israel developed the concept of God the creator and put it at the beginning of their Holy Scriptures, "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." We, human beings, all are the creatures of this creator, whose ultimate work calls into existence the things that do not exist. This God the creator worked or carried out the deliverance or salvation of mankind in the last days as He had delivered Israel from Egypt. Through His work in Jesus the Christ, He delivered us from the bondage of sin (betraying God) and death (result of the separation from God). The gospel we proclaim here is one that pertains to the action of God the creator who has carried out this saving work in Christ.
Those who believe the Gospel and throw themselves into Christ will experience this delivering act of God in themselves. God is spirit, therefore God's action in us is spiritual. God works in our spirits and transforms our inner self radically. We call God's inner workings within us "Holy Spirit." We call this transforming work of the Holy Spirt 'the baptism with the Holy Spirit' (Message No.3).
Every nation has its own mythology of creation. Every nation has fathomed out some manifestations of a supernatural power in its existence and given it the name of a deity. For example, Jupiter as an incarnation of thunder, Xronos(Chronos) for time, Demeter for harvest and so on. Their experiences are fragmentary, therefore the names of their gods are many, and their religions have morphed into polytheism. Moreover each human community had their own gods. There are innumerable names of gods in the religious history of mankind.
Israel also has its own mythology of creation, as can be found in the first book of its Holy Scriptures(Gn.2:4-3:24). However, Israelites hold a unified view of their various experiences in history and understand them as the works of their God Yahweh. They even perceived their periods of captivity as an integrate part of Yahweh's work, a punishment for their betrayals. Yahweh, their God, was sovereign over the entire world and the one that would bring upon the end of the earth. Their religion became monotheist. There was only one God in the world. This sole God created the heaven and the earth, and reigns over the history of the world.
This sole sovereign God has accomplished His work of redemption in Jesus the Christ. This is the gospel we proclaim. What doesgredemptionhmean then? The verb 'to redeem' originally means 'to get back' or 'to recover.' In the Old Testament, this verb was often used in the context of captives being freed after a ransom had been paid. In the New Testament, this verb takes on a deeper meaning: God's freeing those who are imprisoned in sin (having betrayed God) and have been excluded of the fellowship of God as the result of this betrayal.
In the New Testament, we often see very complex discussions about the redemption power of Christ. For example in Rom.3:23~25, Paul states,gSince all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, they are justified (rekindle their fellowship with God) by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as an expiation by his blood.hIn short, God worked out, in Jesus Christ, all the necessary means for us to rekindle our fellowship with God. As the result of God's redemption in Christ, those who believe in the gospel and live in Christ can rekindle their fellowship with God, the root and foundation of our life. This is eternal life in us.
In Christ, we are delivered from the bondage of all the spiritual powers that fill the universe. Only one whose might exceeds all of those powers can deliver captives from their yoke, God the creator of the universe himself! The creator of the heaven and the earth can deliver humankind from any form of bondage. Here we have to recall Paul's statement, "The gospel is the power of God!h(Rom.1:16). Only the power of God the creator can deliver or save us from the power of sin that leads us astray of our Father and the power of death. It is the second Isaiah, the prophet that existed during the era of Israel's Babylonian captivity, that claimed that their God would deliver them from the bondage of Babylon because their God is their creator(Is.43:1, 54:5).
Paul uses the Greek word 'dynamis' in Rom.1:16, "The gospel is the power(dynamis) of God.hHe uses another Greek word "energeia" to point to God's powerful activity in his Philippian letter,gthe Lord Jesus Christ who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power (energeia) which enables him even to subject all things to himselfh(Phil.3:21). Our faith manifests itself in a total reliance on the powerful acts of God the creator. God is the
ultimate process that calls into existence everything that does not exist. Only God the creator will set us free from the bondage of sin, the negation of the fellowship with God, and will make mortal men live in the fellowship with God for ever. The statement of Gn.1:1,gGod created the heaven and the earth,his the foundation of our faith in every respect.