Some books have such famous opening lines that many people can name them just from hearing the first words of the book. See if you can name some of these books from their first lines:
— “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.” (Tale of Two Cities)
— “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” (Pride & Prejudice)
— “Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.” (A Christmas Carol)
— “You don’t know about me without you have read a book by the name of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; but that ain’t no matter.” (Huck Finn)
I hope we all know this one: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” As memorable as some of those other opening lines may be, there are no more important ones to be found anywhere in human language than those in Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God.” In the very first words of the Bible we find so many foundational truths about God which affect our lives:
I. THE CENTRALITY OF GOD
First of all, it is significant that the Bible does BEGIN WITH GOD, which shows us the CENTRALITY of God: “In the beginning, God …”. If there is one thing the Bible tells us, right off the bat, it is that it is all about God; it is not all about us.
Our universe is what scientists call a “helio-centric” universe – (“helios” = sun). That means sun is the center. In our solar system, everything revolves around the sun — all the planets, everything. The sun gives us light; and without it, nothing would live. The sun is central in our universe; everything revolves around it.
Now for some years, many people thought that the Earth was the center of the universe, and that everything revolved around us. That caused some problems that were never solved until they came to understand that the earth is not the center of the universe, the sun is.
One of the big problems people have today is that they have made the same kind of mistake about the spiritual center of our universe. We tend to be “ego-centric” (“ego” means “I”) — that everything revolves around ME. We want a God who revolves arounds us; a Bible that revolves around us; a religion that revolves around us. Well, the Bible has news for you: it’s not all about you! Life is NOT an “ego-centric” enterprise; it is THEO-Centric! GOD is the center of our existence. He is like the “sun” of our universe. It all revolves around GOD, not us! “In the beginning, God …”.
Back in the 1980’s Pastor Rick Warren wrote a book that became a best-seller: The Purpose-Driven Life. People like and dislike various things about that book, but I will say one thing: it has a great opening line of its own, that gets right to the heart of the matter. Its very first words are: “It’s not about you.”
And that’s right. It’s not all about you. Things don’t all revolve around you: what you think; what you want; what’s most comfortable and best for you. Just like there were a lot of things in this earth that didn’t make sense until we realized the sun was the center of the universe, so there are a lot of things in your life that you will never get right — in your marriage; in your family; in your job; in your religion; in so many areas of your life — until you understand that life does not revolve around YOU! You are not the center of the universe; GOD is! And you will never really get things right in any of those areas of your life until you put God back in the CENTER of Your life where He is supposed to be!
II. THE TRIUNE GOD
And also right off the bat, the Bible lets us know some things about this God. He is one God, the one true God, as we find later in His word. But there is also something else about Him that we begin to find out early on, even right here in Genesis 1. And that is that there is also somehow a “plurality” in this One God:
— For example: the very word that the Bible uses of Him here in Genesis 1:1, the Hebrew word “Elohim”, is actually in the plural form.
— And then :2 speaks of “The Spirit of God” — this is God, and yet somehow almost distinct from God.
— And then in :26 this Elohim God says: “Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness.” Interestingly enough, the plural is used THREE times in this verse: “Us … Our … Our.” It almost seems as if God is speaking in a conference among Himself.
And indeed He is. For right here in the first words of the first book of the Bible we find these tell-tale signs of one of the most important things we learn about God in the Bible: that he is a TRIUNE God. “Tri-une” means “3 in 1”; “3 yet 1.” And we find this fleshed out in the rest of the Bible. As some are quick to point out, the word “trinity” does not appear in the Bible — but the teaching of Trinity IS found throughout the Bible:
— The Bible strongly and clearly teaches in Deuteronomy 6:5 that “Yahweh our God is ONE.” There is ONE God.
— But it also teaches us very clearly that this One God exists eternally as 3 distinct Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus calls God His Father, and God calls Him His Son: yet not only is the Father God, but John 1 makes it very clear that Jesus also “is God.” And here in Genesis 1:3 we read of “the Spirit of God”, whom the New Testament tells us is God, and yet is also a distinct Person as well.
So the Bible clearly teaches us that God is a Triune God: ONE God, who exists eternally as 3 Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is no small matter. The Christian belief in a Triune God is what separates us from all the other world religions. Many religions believe in some kind of “God.” But only Christians believe in a Triune God who brings us salvation: a God the Father who loved us, and sent God the Son to die on the cross to save us, so that God the Holy Spirit could come and actually live inside of us! No other religion believes that.
Think for the example of what is probably the single most famous verse in all the Bible, John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son …”. That’s the most basic, most well-known verse there is on salvation. And yet, who is this “Son”? “God the Son;” the Second Person of the Trinity. God the Father, gave God the Son that we might be saved. Right there in the most basic verse on salvation, you’ve got to have the Trinity to bring about our salvation.
So it is important that we recognize this truth. It’s not just a matter of believing some “doctrine” that somebody says is important. The Bible says that the God who will really save you is the Triune God. It’s like if you were in trouble somewhere, and called 911, and they said the police were on the way to save you; and you said, “Of all the cars that are coming, how will I know them?” And they said, “Well they’ll have a black-and-white car with a siren on top, and a guy will get out with a uniform, and he’ll have a badge. That’s the one to look for. That’s the one who will save you.” So the Bible says that of all the “gods” and religions that you will encounter in life, the one God who will save you is the Triune God; one God, who exists eternally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. HE is where salvation is found.
So We need to learn to say with early Christian theologian Gregory of Nazianzus: “When I say ‘God,’ I mean Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” When Christians talk about “God,” we need to know we mean the Triune God.
So watch for the doctrine of the Trinity as you read through the Bible this year. You will find it taught on page after page — including right here on the very first page of Genesis 1 (and we also saw it in our first week in Matthew 3 as well.) As we read through the Bible together this year, we will see repeatedly how God shows in His word that He is a TRIUNE GOD.
III. THE CREATOR GOD
And what does the Bible say that this Triune God did? “In the beginning, God CREATED the heavens and the earth.” He is the CREATOR God. He made everything that is.
John 1:3, speaking of God the Son, Jesus Christ, says “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” He made everything. Everything that has come into being — that is, everything that has been created, HE created. The only uncreated being is the One Who created everything else. HE Himself never “came into being.” He Himself has always been. “In the beginning, God.” When the beginning came, God was already there. He made everything else, and He made it out of nothing.
Genesis 1:1 says: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” The word “created” there is the Hebrew word “bara”, which means to create, or initiate something new — as opposed to just “fashioning” or modifying something already in existence. Significantly, this word is only ever used of GOD, never of man. Only God creates something out of nothing. This is the doctrine that theologians call creation “ex nihilo” — a Latin term meaning: “out of nothing.” God made everything, out of nothing.
If that sounds fantastic, do you know what the alternative to that is? That everything just arose out of nothing, on its own! This is actually the stated “belief” of materialistic scientists today.
World-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking wrote in one of his best-selling books, The Grand Design:
“The universe can and will create itself from nothing … Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.”
“Spontaneous creation.” That means they believe that Creation just “happened.” There was nothing, and then all of the sudden, there was this “big bang,” and Creation appeared. Last week I read where a Christian who used to be an atheist said, “I just didn’t have enough faith to keep believing that!” People make fun of Christians for believing in a God who created the universe — but their alternative is that it all just arose out of NOTHING — that is supposedly so much more intelligent?!
The title of Hawking’s book, The Grand Design, is very ironic. Because if it is indeed as he says, that the universe just arose out of nothing and “created itself,” then there IS no “grand design.” There was no Designer; there is no design; there are only accidents and chances, that somehow arose out of nothing!
You need to understand how important this belief is: what you believe about the doctrine of Creation means everything, one way or the other, because beliefs have consequences:
— If God created us, then we are HIS, then we belong to Him. It is not “my body, my choice;” no, your body is GOD’s. He made it.
— If God created you, then your gender is not some random decision on your part. It was assigned to you by your Creator, and to reject that is to reject one of the most fundamental things about His purpose for your life.
— If God created you, then you are NOT insignificant — no matter how much people or circumstances might try to make you feel that way. David, knowing that God made him, could say say in Psalm 139: “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it very well.” If God made you, His works are wonderful — therefore YOU are wonderful, because GOD MADE YOU!
— If God created you, then your life, and every life, has meaning and purpose. On the other hand, if God didn’t create you; if every one of us is merely here by some evolutionary accident, then you have no meaning or purpose at all. There is no reason to respect any life; to observe any kind of morality; there’s no reason to refrain from killing or injuring anyone; or to seek any “purpose” in life. There IS no “purpose” in a godless, random universe.
And this is not just a “preacher” saying these things; these are their words. The atheist Bertrand Russell wrote: “Unless you assume a God, the question of life’s purpose is meaningless.”
See, what you believe about Creation has consequences. And that is exactly why some today are doing everything they can to reject the concept of God’s creation: for the simple fact that they do not wish to be accountable to God. The fact is, their disbelief in God is not based on “science” — there are thousands of scientists today who still believe in God, and who have strong evidence that the facts point to an Intelligent Designer. No, their disbelief is not based on science; it is based on the fact that they do not want to be accountable to God for their morality and their lifestyle.
Again, those aren’t just my thoughts. Friedrich Nietzsche, the atheistic German philosopher wrote in the late 1800’s: “We deny God; in denying God we deny accountability”.
What he wrote there is exactly what is behind this: secular materialists accuse Christians of being “prejudiced” in our view that there is a God; but if they are honest they will admit that they too are prejudiced in THEIR views. They are predisposed to want to DENY that there is a God, because they do not want to be accountable to Him and to His commands!
So make no mistake: What you believe about the beginning is no small issue: it will affect everything else you believe and do in your life. And so the Bible makes it very clear; it leaves no doubt about it: it settles this issue in its very first words: “In the beginning, GOD CREATED”!
IV. THE REDEEMING GOD
There is much, much more which God reveals about Himself in His word, but let’s look at one more thing He shows us in the early pages of Genesis: that He is The Redeeming God.
We see this in Genesis 3, when God is judging Adam, Eve, and the serpent for their disobedience. In verse 15 God said to the serpent: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall crush you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” In other words, you are going to bruise his heel —you’ll hurt Him; but He will crush your head — you will be totally defeated by Him!
These words here in Genesis 3:15 are what theologians the “protevangelium.” That is Latin for “the first gospel.” This is the first indication in the Bible that God was going to send Someone, of “the seed of Eve” (in other words, from the race of mankind), who would CRUSH the head of the serpent who had deceived man, get the victory over him, and put man back in the right with God.
And so after Adam & Eve left the Garden, in Genesis 5 we see these genealogies begin to appear in scripture: from Adam & Eve, to Seth, to Enosh, to Methuselah, to Noah, and Shem and Ham and Japeth. WHY do we keep seeing these genealogies? They appear here early in Genesis, other places in the Old Testament — and even in Matthew in our New Testament reading opens with a genealogy! WHY is that?
These genealogies all show us that the promise God made in Genesis 3:15 was coming to pass. That “your seed” — the offspring of Eve — was indeed producing Someone who was coming; Someone Who was prophesied in Genesis 3:15, and all throughout the Old Testament:
— in Genesis 12 when God told Abraham that all the peoples of the earth would be blessed through his “seed.”
— in Deuteronomy 18:15 when Moses told Israel that one day would be a prophet like him, only greater; whom they must listen to!
— in Psalm 110 when David said that there was coming One would be his “Lord” and yet somehow his son?!
— And Isaiah prophesied in Chapter 53 that there was coming One on Whom “the Lord would lay the iniquities of us all upon Him.”
All throughout the the Old Testament, these scriptures were pointing forward from this “protevangelium” in Genesis 3:15, towards this Someone who was coming who would crush the head of the serpent, and who would bring man back to God.
So Matthew 1, the first chapter in the New Testament, opens with these words: “The genealogy of Jesus Christ …”. Jesus is the fulfillment of that “protevangelium”, that “first gospel”; Jesus is the One to whom all these genealogies and prophecies in the Old Testament pointed, who came to defeat Satan and buy us back to God.
And that is exactly what Jesus did. Jesus did not just come to earth to be a great teacher. He didn’t come just to sympathize with us, though He did both of these things, but He was also so much more.
Jesus said “The Son of Man has come to give His life a ransom for many.” Jesus came to Earth, God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity, but through the Virgin Birth, also a 100% real human being — “the seed of Eve,” fulfilling the promise God made in Genesis 3:15. He then went to the cross, where Satan had his way with Him: He was tortured and humiliated and killed — but as bad as all that was, Satan didn’t get the victory; he just “bruised His head.” For after “bearing our sins in His body” (I Peter 2:24) as the “seed of Eve”, on the 3rd day Jesus rose from the dead, fulfilling the scripture which says: “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Just like God promised in Genesis 3:15, the head of the serpent was CRUSHED by Jesus Christ: “the seed of the woman.”
So now every one of us who follows Jesus is forgiven of our sins, reconciled with God, and will live forever in heaven walking with God in the cool of the day just like He originally wanted us to in Genesis. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”!
THAT is what Genesis 3:15, the “protevangelium”, is about. This first promise is what the whole rest of the Bible is all about: How mankind fell into sin, but God raised up a people, and taught them, and prepared them for this Promised One who would one day come and crush the head of the enemy and give us the victory over sin. If you don’t get that, you really don’t get what the whole Bible is all about. So many people see the Bible as just a bunch of “random” stories and verses, and it never really makes sense to them, because they are missing that there is one unifying message which runs through it all:
— God created the world good (just as we see here in Genesis 1 & 2)
— We ruined it with our sin (as we see in Genesis 3)
— But God promised a Redeemer who would make us right with Him again. (Genesis 3:15)
That’s really what this whole book is about, if you want to summarize it in a simple way: God made things good; we messed it up; but He sent Someone to fix it. And that Someone is Jesus. We’ll see that whole story unfold, page by page, as we read through the Bible this year.
But what you’ve got to see is that’s not just the story of the Bible — that’s the story of YOUR LIFE too! God made you to know Him and live with Him forever in heaven. But you messed it up, by sinning and rebelling against God. But God still loved you, and sent Jesus to die on the cross, to save you and put you back right with Him.
See, just like some people see the Bible as just a bunch of random stories, because they don’t know how it fits together; so most people see life that way too: they see it as just a bunch of random events and feelings: I wanted to do this; I felt like doing that … but there’s no real consistent meaning or direction to it. And it will never really make sense for you until you see how it all fits together.
That’s why God gave us this Book: so you could see what your life is supposed to be about. It’s supposed to be about making God the center of your life. You got “out of orbit”, trying to go off your own way. But it’s not been working, has it? Because the only way it will really work is to put God back where He is supposed to be: as the Center of your life; as the “sun” of your “universe”, by following Jesus as your Savior. Things will never come together for you; things will never make sense in your life; until you really get back to the meaning of the very first words of this Book: “In the beginning, GOD …”.