An older friend of ours now deceased used to say, “If one doesn’t believe the first five words of the Bible, the rest doesn’t matter.” Truer words could not be spoken.
The stage for the universe, earth, man and woman, and their respective purposes is set from the beginning of the Bible. God doesn’t explain Himself; the inspired author (Moses) simply begins with facts concerning His creation of all things in an orderly fashion, and assumes the reader believes in Him.
Genesis 1 answers questions that plague many people, and one’s belief or disbelief of this chapter actually determines what one’s “world view” will be toward a number of topics. Consider the following questions definitely answered by Genesis 1.
1. From where did the material universe come? Logically, it has to be either eternal – it was always here, or it was made. Genesis 1 answers that God existed before the universe, and made it. The universe had a “beginning,” and it was begun by God.
2. Why are plant and animal life in existence? Plant and animal life were made for man’s use and are to be under his dominion (1:26-31).
3. What position does mankind have in relation to the earth? Evolutionists would have us believe that mankind is only a part of the earth, perhaps a higher link in an evolutionary chain of events, and was an accident, a product only of the earth times chance times millions of years. Genesis 1 teaches differently. The progression and organization of each day’s events indicate purpose. God created the earth and populated it with lower life forms the first five days and part of the sixth day. Finally on the sixth day, He created man and woman differently from lower life forms. He created them in His own image. Therefore, the lower creation (earth and lower life forms) is to serve man’s needs as stated above, and to be under his control. It was made adequate for man’s habitation, good, and sustenance. Furthermore, since man has dominion over the earth, is to “subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea,…birds of the heavens, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth” (ch. 1:28), he is obviously not to worship the earth or any life form beneath him. Rather, he should thank God for His wisdom in making everything on earth for his good.
4. What position does mankind have in relation to the Creator? The fact that mankind was created by the very word of God to be “in His image,” indicates that God wanted this special creation to be like He is in character. “In our image, after our likeness” will be explained later. We also could infer from this, especially when considering the rest of the Bible story, that He wanted mankind to love Him, have a relation with Him, and that we would want to live with Him. Answers to evolution, theistic evolution, and the place of man in the grand scheme:
1. God created the earth full grown. It was miraculous. Therefore plants and trees created on the third day could appear to be months or years old on the fourth day, when in fact they were only a day old. God did not intend to deceive us; this was rather the result of the miraculous creation of the earth in a state ready to be inhabited immediately by mankind.
Based on uniform rates of pressure under the earth’s surface (which many believe are necessary to form coal, diamonds, and other deposits), and erosion that occurs above the earth’s surface now (caused by water forming channels, rivers, seas, etc.), and without any outside forces operating on them such as a global flood, geologists make tremendously long estimates as to years necessary for these things to occur.
However, these estimates are based on presuppositions. One is that matter must be eternal; it was not brought into existence from nothing, but has always existed in some form. However, opposed to this idea is the fact that the act of creation was instantaneous. Further, natural processes of erosion, uniform rates, etc., are only possible after matter, with all its properties and laws, is brought into being. Creation of the earth in a fully developed state answers the “time” evolutionists demand for the earth to have come to its present appearance.
A second supposition is that all living creatures had to evolve from a simpler to a more complex existence, and that nothing began fully grown.
However, this chapter teaches that God not only spoke the dry land, plants, trees, animals and man into existence in days, but that all things began fully developed. Therefore, a tree created on the third day and cut down on the eighth day, might have forty rings. Under uniform rates now, it would appear that the tree grew from a sapling at least for forty years, when actually it had been created fully grown only a few days previous.
The same principle would apply to various rocks found under the earth’s surface. Under uniform rates of pressure now, it might take millions of years for coal deposits to form. However, God could have created these deposits to be under the earth’s surface and for our use by the power of His spoken word on day three.
One must discount standard uniform rates of pressures and erosion now when considering what happened during the week of creation. Miracles suspend natural laws and explanations.
2. Some attempt to reconcile demands of evolution to the Bible account of creation. This is called theistic evolution. It basically states that God made the universe, but He did it through an evolutionary process taking millions, perhaps billions of years. Genesis 1 then must be bent to this view. The theory assumes that each of the six “days” of creation took millions of years. The “days” do not refer to our usual twenty-four hour periods, but to long epochs or ages, it is assumed. There are a number of flaws with this theory. One would never derive the idea of the days of this chapter being ages from a simple reading of the text. While the word “day” can sometime mean something other than a twenty-four hour period, the Hebrew word for day (“yom”) always means a twenty-four hour day when used in conjunction with a numeral such as first, second, etc. The term “evening and morning” points to a twenty-four hour day. What would be the evenings in a period of millions of years? If the theory is correct, then hundreds of thousands (or even millions) of years would pass for plants to be in darkness! They could not live. Exodus 20:11 states: “in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore Jehovah blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it.” The seventh day was obviously a twenty-four hour day because a parallel or similarity had to exist between God’s “rest” and the day of rest for the Israelites. The context would demand the term “six days” to mean basically six twenty-four hour days. Adam was created on the sixth day. If each day represents lengthy geological ages, then how long would years have been? According to this theory, Adam lived through part of one “age” (6th day), all of another (7th day), and evidently part of another (8th day)! If the days of Genesis 1 are to be understood as millions of years, then how old would Adam have been when he died (Gen. 5:5)?
3. Genesis 1 teaches the dignity of man and his elevated status over the lower creation. Evolution, either atheistic or theistic, denies this. According to evolution, man is simply a higher link in an evolutionary chain of events. This is not where the Bible places us! “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth” (vs. 26). “In our image, after our likeness” are not likely two different ideas, but synonymous phrases combined to intensify two related thoughts. First, the creation of man was patterned after God Himself. Man has similarities to God. This does not mean that God looks like humans, because God is an incorporeal spirit (John 4:24) and a spirit does not have a material body (Luke 24:39). Therefore, the phrase emphasizes the inner and spiritual essence of man as it relates to God. We understand many differences between ourselves and the lower creation – speech, higher degree of intelligence, self-consciousness, freedom of the will, ability to discern good and evil, and a part of us that is eternal, our spirits. Such attributes allow us to understand Who God is and to worship Him. While we are not immediately like God in moral characteristics, He made us with the capacity to be similar to His character (Col. 3:10). A second related idea is this: If God created man in His image and unlike His creation of the earth and other life forms, then it follows that man should be over the lower creation and use it for his good. This is emphasized in verses 28-31.
4. Genesis 1 also teaches that every piece of God’s creative work has its assigned place, its purpose. It answers at least two of life’s age-old questions: “Where did we come from?” and “Why are we here?”
5. There is organization and symmetry to God’s creation. God did not merely “throw” the earth together without organization. The structure and symmetry He used for each of the six days of creation is spellbinding. Genesis 1:2 states that the earth was “without form, and void,” or “empty.” The six days of creation can be divided into two corresponding divisions or triads, showing how God remedied the “formlessness” and “emptiness” of the earth.
It is always best not to attempt to reconcile the Bible to theories of men which often come and go. The safe route is to understand the meaning of Bible words in their primary and simple use first, then when a context demands a figurative use be understood, apply that use. From Genesis 1 we learn that the earth and everything living (excluding man) was made for man. Even the heavenly lights (sun, moon and stars) were made for us – to be for “signs, seasons, days and years,…and to give light upon the earth” (vss. 14-19). This staggering exalted position made the psalmist declare, “When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, The moon and the stars, which thou has ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou has made him but little lower than God, And crownest him with glory and honor” (Ps. 8:3-5). Rather than worship “Mother Earth” as so many do, we are to use what God created for us on earth for our good here, and use ourselves in His service and unto His glory for our spiritual good here, looking to eternal life in the hereafter. — Phillip Owens