In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
I. A FUNDAMENTAL QUESTION. What is the origin of things? Perhaps the sublimest question mortal man can ask. A profoundly religious question, going down to the very roots of Truth, and Science, and Theology, and Character, and Worship.
II. THE PRECISE PROBLEM. It is not touching the shaping of matter already existing; it is touching the origin of matter itself.
III. IMMENSITY OF THE PROBLEM. The universe, practically speaking, is infinite.
IV. THE PROBLEM ITSELF. Here are sixty or seventy elements which, so far as we know at present, make up the existing universe. And the point to be exactly observed is this: not one solitary atom of these elements which make up the universe can man make. All that man can do is to operate on these elements, compounding them in various proportions, using the compounds in various ways, shaping them, building with them, and so on. In short, man must have something on which, as well as with which, to operate. Here, then, is the mighty question: "How account for this tremendous fact? Whence came this inconceivable amount of material?"
1. The question is legitimate. We cannot help asking it. Every effect must have a cause. Here is a stupendously measureless effect: what caused it? Not one man, not all mankind together, with the most perfect machinery conceivable, can make one solitary atom of matter. Where, then, did all this measureless, unutterable, inconceivable quantity of matter composing this material universe come from? Suppose you say it came from a few cells or germs, or perhaps one. That does not answer the question. The axiom, "Every effect must have a cause," implies another axiom: "Effects are proportional to their causes" — that is to say, causes are measured by their effects. If the whole material universe came from a few germs and from nothing else, then the weight of these germs must be equal to the weight of the universe. You cannot get out of a thing more than is in it.
2. Only two answers are possible.
(1) The answer of logic. The first is this: Matter never had any origin at all; it has always existed. It is the one and only conclusion at which the logician, trusting solely to the logical processes and denying miracles, can possibly arrive.
(2) The answer of Scripture. The other answer is the first verse of the Book of God: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Ah, here comes out the infinite difference between man and God: Man is only a builder, constructing with materials; God is a Creator, constructing without materials. God creates atoms; man fashions molecules.
3. Grandeur of the answer. Thus this word "create" is the divinest word in language, human or angelic. It is the august separatrix between the creature and the Creator, between the finite and the Infinite. Well, then, may our text stand forth as the opening sentence of God's communication to man. For all theology is wrapped up in this one simple, majestic word — Created. It gives us an unbeginning, almighty, personal, self-conscious, voluntary God.
4. Final cause of creation. Why did God create the material universe? Let us not be wise above what is written. And yet I cannot help thinking that there is a reason for the creation in the very constitution of our spiritual nature. We need the excitation of sensible objects. We need a material arena for self-discipline. As a matter of fact, we receive our moral training for eternity in the school of matter. It is the material world around us, coming into contact with our moral personalities through the senses of touching and seeing, and hearing and tasting, which tests our moral character. And so it comes to pass that the way in which we are impressed by every object we consciously see or touch probes us, and will testify for us or against us on the great day. But while this is one of the proximate causes of the creation, the final cause is the glory of God. It is the majestic mirror from which we see His invisible things, even His eternal power and Godhead (Romans 1:20).
(G. D. Boardman.)
Parallel VersesKJV: In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.