“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” That is how the book of Genesis introduces God, who is the main character not only of the Bible but in all of reality. In the previous lesson we mentioned that all three divine Persons—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—were involved in this work of creation. For instance, Paul writes:
for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist,
and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.
(1 Cor. 8:6)
We might say that creation was by the Father, through the Son, and in the Holy Spirit. This is true for all that God does. The Father takes the initiative, the Son performs his work, and the Spirit brings it to completion.
The Apostles Creed connects God’s creating work and power especially to the first Person of the Trinity: I believe in God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as we keep in mind that the Son and the Spirit are also involved in that work.
The Heidelberg Catechism explains this article about God the Father in q&a 26. It speaks about his work of creation, but not only that. The catechism also highlights in a beautiful way that God the Creator remains involved in our lives and in our salvation.
The Creator is my Father.
1. He is the almighty Creator
2. He is my Saviour’s Father
3. He is the faithful Provider
He is the almighty Creator
We, the world around us, and even the whole universe, are creatures, created, brought into existence by the Creator. Even angels, which are not part of the physical world and whose home is in heaven, outside of the universe, were created by God at the beginning of time. But God himself is different. He is not part of the created order. He is not bound to space and time. He is beyond all these things; in theological jargon, we say that God is transcendent. In line with the Bible, Christian theologians have always emphasized the Creator-creature distinction, the absolute difference between the self-existing God and all other things, which exist because of him. Blurring that line leads to all sorts of false religion.
We can use many words to describe how God is different from us. He is eternal, which means that he is not limited to time, has no beginning and no end. He is almighty (or omnipotent) able to do everything he wants. He is omnipresent, able to be present everywhere at once. He is holy, uniquely good, beautiful, and majestic, unlike anything on earth. And so on.
God decided to bring into existence the universe. The Bible says: the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. (Heb. 11:3) God did not use raw materials to make the universe; he created it out of nothing, simply by speaking his word. His powerful Word, with capital “W”, you might say; because the Bible reveals that the Word of God through whom everything was made, is the Son of God, who eventually appeared on earth as Jesus Christ (John 1:3ff).
Echoing the Bible (Gen. 1:1; Ex. 20:11), the catechism says that God created heaven and earth and all that is in them. The words “heaven and earth” can be understood in three ways, which are closely related. The basic meaning of these words is “sky and land”, the ceiling and the floor of the world where we live. But “earth” can also stand for all of the physical universe and “heaven” for the spiritual dwelling place of God and angels. Finally, “heaven and earth” is a typical Hebrew way of saying: “everything that exists”. God the Creator made everything that exists by his almighty and powerful word.
The Bible gives no details about the initial creation of the universe. It simply states that God created all of it out of nothing. But Genesis 1 elaborates on the way God transformed the dark, wet, and wild world he made into a beautiful, rich Paradise in just six days. What a wonderful display of the power, majesty, and goodness of God!
On the seventh day God finished the work that he had done, and he rested (Gen. 2:2). That day marked the end of the work of creation in the narrow sense. But in a broader sense, God’s creative work never stops. He is still busy in this world. The catechism says that God still upholds and governs his creatures. He sustains their life, and makes sure that everything follows his design. We can think about the way animals and people find food and shelter; God provides for them. We can think about the way history develops, toward the goal and purpose for which God made all things, in spite of evil people and powers. There is no atom in this world that escapes this governing rule of our God.
The earth is the LORD’s, and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein, says Ps. 24:1. This has obvious consequences for the ways we look at ourselves. We belong to God, so we should live according to his design. Our food, shelter, family, and possessions come from God, so we should depend on him for those things and give thanks to him. The world around us belongs to God, so we must treat everyone and everything with respect for its heavenly Owner; we must work in this world in a responsible and considerate manner.
He is my Saviour’s Father
In pagan religions, the main deity was often called the “Father” of everything. Just as a father brings forth a son, so the creator-god brings forth everything, including people. The Old Testament almost never calls God “Father”. This is probably to avoid the suggestion of pagan worship, that our life comes from God in an organic way—a view that contradicts the Creator-creature distinction.
The Bible says that God is like a father, to express his profound love for his people, and his authority over them. In Hosea 11:1, the Lord calls the nation of Israel “my son”; by setting them free from Egypt, God had as it were “brought forth” a nation, so he is their father in a manner of speaking. But the name “Father” is not used for God in the Old Testament, except in the context of the Israelite kings. In 2 Sam. 7:14, the LORD promised to David about his successors: “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.” This special language of adoption was reserved for the anointed kings, the sons of David.
But when Jesus came and preached about the Kingdom of God, he intimately spoke of God as “my Father”. This was revolutionary. Many people in Jesus’ audience took offence; the gospel of John reports: This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because … he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (John 5:18) That is the right conclusion. If God is truly the Father of Jesus, then Jesus, too, must be God.
Properly speaking, God the Father is called “Father” because he brought forth the Son. If we confess that Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God, we also recognize that God the Creator is the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The names “God the Father” and “God the Son” remind us how intimately connected they are, how much they are like each other, and how deep their mutual love is.
The so-called “Social Gospel” is therefore quite mistaken when it declares that God is the Father of all people. We were not brought forth by God in the way of birth; we were created by God. Created in his likeness, but not created as little gods. There is only one who was born of God, only one natural Son of God; our Lord Jesus Christ.
But then Jesus taught believers to address God as “Father” in their prayers. “When you pray, say ‘Abba’”— the Aramaic word for “the Father”. That is a wonderful thing. If we belong to Jesus, we share everything with him. We may even think of his Father as our Father. Later in the New Testament, Paul fleshes this out in much more detail. He says that we have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry: Abba, Father! (Rom. 8:15)
The Heidelberg Catechism encourages us not to think of God the Creator as a God who is far away; rather, the creator God is the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and he is, for the sake of Christ his Son, my God and my Father. That is a most amazing thought: the God who made everything out of nothing, has lovingly adopted me to be his dear son or daughter.
He is the faithful Provider
We often speak of providence as the general care of God for his world: God provides for his creatures; “he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Mat. 5:45)
But if you are a believer, you may expect much more than mere providence. If God is our perfect Father, he will take perfect care of us. Jesus preached that in many ways.
Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. (John 16:23)
If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Mat. 7:11)
The very Creator of the world will use his almighty power to provide me with all things necessary for body and soul, says the catechism in q&a 26. The Father knows that you need food and drink, clothes and shelter, friendship and love, and many other things. He also knows that, as a sinner, you need his grace and forgiveness, and the Holy Spirit to strengthen your faith. All of that he will provide.
How can we be sure of that? The catechism gives a two-step argument: God is able and he is willing. If God were almighty but did not care much about us, we couldn’t hope for much. If God loved us perfectly but not powerful enough, that would not help us. But he is both powerful and loving, he is both almighty God and faithful Father. Whenever we are worried, we may remind ourselves that God will indeed take care of us:
He is able to do so as almighty God,
and willing also as a faithful Father.
“But let’s be real,” you may say. “Even believers don’t always get what they need. Some starve to death, others face the dangers of war. If God is able and willing to do anything, we does he allow any of us to suffer?” That is a very good question. Our earthly life is indeed often a life of sorrow; the catechism acknowledges that, too.
But remember what we learned in q&a 1: “Without the will of my heavenly father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation.” That is true even for the difficulties, the pain, the suffering in your life. They do not escape the notice of loving Father. In his wisdom, he may decide to allow our suffering; that can be hard, and we may not understand why. But in the end, he will lead us through that pain to the glorious endpoint of our life, perfect fellowship with him.
We will study this in more detail in the next lesson. For now, the catechism simply confesses: he will also turn to my good whatever adversity he sends me in this life of sorrow.
When we focus our attention on the first Person of the Trinity, we see our God and Saviour in his almighty power. He is so great, so much beyond what we can even understand; he has made the mind-bogglingly huge universe and designed the earth where we live with all its fascinating detail. Almighty Creator, indeed!
But at the same time, he is the Father of the Son, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. And Jesus opened the way to the Father. He brings us into close fellowship with him. He makes us family! If we belong to Jesus, we may think of the Almighty Creator as our faithful Father.
The fact that God is the creator of everything has many important consequences for how we live and how we deal with the world around us. But the most important thing to hold onto is that this God and Father is able and willing to care for us perfectly. In good times and bad times.
As we understand that better, we learn to set aside our worries and fears, and instead grow confident and happy. Then we learn to say, as the catechism does: In him I trust so completely as to have no doubt that he will provide for me. For the sake of Christ his Son.
- In what ways is God absolutely different from the things he created?
- In what way is God’s creative work still ongoing?
- Why were the Jews angry when Jesus spoke of “my Father”?
- In what way is God our Father?
- What is the practical meaning of the fact that God is our Father?
- How important is it to believe that God created people, instead of them evolving out of lower-level animals?
Suggested Bible reading schedule
|Monday||Psalm 33. How does this psalm highlight God’s creative power, his eternal counsel, and his providence? What response does it expect from us?|
|Tuesday||Isaiah 40:12-31. What practical comfort can God’s people derive from the fact that he is the almighty Creator?|
|Wednesday||Deuteronomy 32:1-9. In v. 4 God is called “your father”. Who is this verse speaking of? In what way is God a father here? Why does this poem bring up God’s fatherhood?|
|Thursday||Psalm 148. For what purpose did the LORD create everything?|
|Friday||Isaiah 24:1-9. What new work of creation does the LORD announce here? How is this prophecy fulfilled?|
|Saturday||Matthew 10:16-33. What gifts will the Father give to us?|