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This article is from
Creation 20(3):22–24, June 1998

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Editor’s note: As Creation magazine has been continuously published since 1978, we are publishing some of the articles from the archives for historical interest, such as this. For teaching and sharing purposes, readers are advised to supplement these historic articles with more up-to-date ones suggested in the Related Articles and Further Reading below.

Unfolding the plan

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Skeptics, liberals, and others sometimes claim that man’s concept of God is something which evolved, and that the Bible is merely man’s efforts to provide himself with a religious prop to explain the otherwise unexplainable or to ease the burden of life.1 However, nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible is a book from God about God, His glory, and His plan of salvation for sinful humanity.

When we read the Bible, we find that God does not tell us everything about these things all at once. He gives us successive revelations. A name for this is ‘progress of doctrine’, which simply means that we learn more about God and His dealings with us from each book, as we read through the Bible.

This concept can be likened to the raising of a blind in a dark room. Outside the sun is shining. As the blind goes up, it does not increase the amount of light emanating from the sun, but it does let more and more light into the room. Let us see how this works out with regard to four things that God tells us about Himself in Genesis, thus affirming the crucial nature of this foundational book.

1. God is Creator

The first thing God tells us about Himself in Genesis is that He is Creator. The very first verse of the Bible reads: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1).2 The rest of chapter 1 details what God created and how He did it, namely by His Word,3 as well as over what time frame.4

As we read through the Bible, we learn that ‘the Word’ is a title given to Jesus Christ (John 1:1-14), and that it was through Jesus that everything was created (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2).

We also learn, following the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, that God began a new creation—those who repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ are described as being a ‘new creature’ [new creation] (2 Corinthians 5:17).5

Finally we learn that, at some time in the future, God will create a new heaven and a new earth, as prophesied in Isaiah 65:17, and described in Revelation chapters 21-22.

2. God is Lawgiver

A second thing God tells us about Himself in Genesis is that He is Lawgiver,6 when He says to Adam: ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die’ (Genesis 2:16–17).

Practically this was a test of Adam’s love for God, that would be shown by whether or not he obeyed this one command.7 In essence, however, this was the first declaration to humanity of the moral law of God and of God’s right to impose His law upon mankind. The moral law of God may be defined as ‘the expression of God’s will, enforced by His power, for His rational beings (angels and men).’8

Someone may ask, ‘What right has God to impose His moral law upon mankind?’

The answer is that God is Sovereign, and whatever He does is right. The fact that God is man’s Creator gives Him the right to be man’s Lawgiver (Ecclesiastes 7:29; Ephesians 4:24). The fact that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8) means that His laws are in our best interests.

Jesus summed up God’s moral law for His followers in the words: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind … and … thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,’ citing Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 (Matthew 22:37-39).9

3. God is Judge

God tells us that He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness.

A third thing that God tells us about Himself in Genesis is that He is Judge. After Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, the record states: ‘And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed … Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow … And unto Adam He said … cursed is the ground for thy sake … and unto dust shalt thou return’ (Genesis 3:14-19). This role of God as Judge is seen throughout the Bible.

In Genesis 6–9, God judged the wickedness of the people of that day with the Flood.

In Genesis 11, by causing the confusion of languages, God judged the people of Babel, who had refused to obey His command to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1).

In Genesis 18-19, God judged the blatant homosexual behaviour of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah—‘because their sin is very grievous’ (Genesis 18:20) and they ‘committed abomination’ (Ezekiel 16:50)—by destroying those cities and everyone in them.

In Exodus 5-14, God judged the nation of Egypt with various plagues for its refusal to obey the Lord and let His chosen people go.

In the Old Testament, God judged the nation of Israel for its idolatry.

In the Gospels, the death of the Lord Jesus on the Cross is the expression of God’s judgment upon mankind’s sin. Christ, our substitute, paid the full penalty which we, each one, deserve.10

Further on in the New Testament, God tells us that He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness and that the judge will be the person whom He raised from the dead, namely the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 17:31; Romans 14:10).

Finally, in Revelation, the last universal judgment of ‘the dead, small and great’ is seen in what the Bible calls the ‘great white throne’ judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).

4. God is Saviour

Struggling to harmonize Scripture with evolution

Atheists use the Bible’s progress of doctrine to justify their belief that Christianity itself evolved in the mind of man, with doctrine becoming more sophisticated as people and their culture evolved.

What about theistic evolutionists? At a meeting of the Teachers’ Christian Fellowship in South Australia in the early 1980s, there was a mini-debate involving a creationist and a professing Christian evolutionist.

The evolutionist speaker claimed that progress of doctrine demonstrated that evolution was a fact. ‘As man’s brain grew bigger and bigger,’ he said, ‘he gradually understood more and more of what God was trying to tell him.’

A fourth thing that God tells us about Himself in Genesis is that He is Saviour. Amid the judgment set out in Genesis chapter 3, the Lord God gave the promise of the Saviour who would come and defeat Satan, while He Himself (in the person of Jesus Christ) would suffer in the process—the so-called ‘Protevangel’ spoken to the serpent: ‘And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel’ (Genesis 3:15).11

The role of God as Saviour, in the person of Jesus Christ, is a major theme of the Bible.12 The Old Testament points forward to this through many ‘types,’ such as the sacrificial lambs, the priesthood, the tabernacle, etc. Then in the Gospels, we have the historical record of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. This was God’s fulfillment of His promise of Genesis 3:15.

Finally, after the outworking of all that was involved in the missionary task of teaching, preaching, and planting churches as exemplified in the rest of the New Testament, Revelation portrays the ongoing triumph of the Creator/Lawgiver/Judge/Saviour Jesus Christ over the powers of evil and His enthronement with His redeemed people, first in Heaven, and later in Heaven-on-earth (Revelation 21). Thus what God began at the commencement of the Bible in Genesis 1 is fulfilled, consummated, and perfected at the end of the Bible in Revelation 21-22.

Conclusion

The Bible is not just a book about ‘religious ideas’ or emotions, it is a book about God, and His dealings with humanity and humanity’s home (the universe), from the beginning to the end of time. The early chapters of Genesis are crucial to a proper understanding of these dealings. These chapters are totally reliable and may not be manipulated to make them conform to the temporary wisdom of any particular age.

To the person willing to submit to its authority, the Bible, revealing the consistent unfolding of God’s plan, shows itself to be a self-authenticating, utterly trustworthy whole, from beginning to end.

References and notes

  1. E.g. Sigmund Freud, ‘Like an idealized father, God is the projection of childish wishes for an omnipotent protector.’ Cited from Encyclopaedia Britannica, 19:570, 1992. Return to text.
  2. Note that the Hebrew word used for God in Genesis 1 is elohim, which is a plural form meaning ‘more than two.’ The doctrine of the Trinity is thus intimated in the very first verse; it is more clearly set forth in the Gospels. Return to text.
  3. See also Grigg, R.M., Creation—how did God do it?, Creation 13(2):36-38, 1991. Return to text.
  4. See also Grigg, R.M., How long were the days of Genesis 1?, Creation 19(1):23-25, 1997. Return to text.
  5. Of course, this was always God’s plan and purpose (Ephesians 1:4). Return to text.
  6. We are here discussing moral law, not physical or natural law, which relates to the material universe. This also emanates from God, and is something which He sometimes supplements by miracles. Return to text.
  7. See also Grigg, R.M., Why did God impose the death penalty for sin?, Creation 15(1):32–34, 1993. Return to text.
  8. Note that the term ‘law’ has several meanings in the Bible. It can refer to the revealed will of God with respect to human conduct. It can refer to the law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments, which were the terms of God’s covenant relationship with His chosen people, Israel (Exodus 34:27–28; Deuteronomy 9:9-11), along with the Levitical ceremonial legislation, laws of the priesthood, and laws of purity. This covenant ended with the coming of Christ and the establishment of the New Covenant of grace under which the Christian has imparted to him all the grace he could ever need (Romans 5:1; 8:1; Colossians 2:10). In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul tells us that the law was given to reveal the sinfulness of sin (Romans 5:13; 7:7), to show the holiness of God (Romans 7:12), and to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The law served to prepare those under it for the coming of Christ. Return to text.
  9. The Bible teaches that Christian believers are not under the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13; Romans 7:4; Ephesians 2:14ff). This does not mean that the Ten Commandments have no relevance today. They instruct us as to what the will of the Lord is, but are not precepts that we are to try to keep in order to become righteous. A society which repudiates them quickly sinks into moral degradation and anarchy. Christians have received the adoption of sons, and with that adoption comes the mind of the Spirit (Galatians 4:5ff), through whom we produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22ff; Ephesians 5:9). Return to text..
  10. God cannot forgive sin merely because someone repents, because sin carries the death penalty. Being perfectly just, God can forgive only when this penalty is first paid. The Christian Gospel is that the Lord Jesus paid the repentant sinner’s penalty when He died upon the Cross. The resurrection is God’s affirmation of this (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). Return to text.
  11. Jesus is indeed the seed of a woman, as He had no human father (Matthew 1:18–25; Luke 1:26–35) Return to text.
  12. We learn many other things about God as we read the Bible, e.g. that God is self-existent and eternal; that He is merciful, righteous, and just; that He is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent; that He is good, He is truth, and He is love. However, the most wonderful thing of all in the Bible, as far as we human beings are concerned, is that God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is Saviour of all those who repent of their sin and put their trust in Him. Return to text.

Helpful Resources

Readers’ comments

Clifford R.
The article was simple in format and excellent. We struggle to explain who God is, understanding primary traits as pointed herein brings clarity to the explanation.
I have always said an easy way to understand who God is is to think of attributes of him but think of an attribute as a lowest common denominator.
1- His first attribute is righteousness or the law giver
2- His second attribute is justice; because he created the laws there by he judges man through them therefore he is judge
3- His third attribute is mercy; because nobody can stand before him in judgement mercy is essential for him to provide a means for man to withstand judgement
4- His fourth attribute is Grace; Grace provides the means for him to show mercy in his judgement of his laws.
As is illustrated In this article through “law giver and judge” and in the psalm Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.
Chuck R.
"He makes nations great, and destroys them; He enlarges nations, and guides them." (Job 12:23)
In the most ignored book of the Bible, Job reveals a far deeper and greater understanding of God than anyone can claim today.
"For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God,
Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (Job 19:25-27)
Job was well aware of his need for a Redeemer, his security in salvation, and the Resurrection.
My concern is the belief that we are somehow more knowledgeable and enlightened than those in Old Testament times.
Michael B.
God's purpose statement is made in Genesis 1:26 "Let Us make man in Our Image after Our likeness"
He has never deviated from this purpose as we see in Romans 8:28 that all things work to forming us into the image of Christ.
And finally will be completed when He gathers His own to Himself that we shall be like Him for we will See Him as He is. 1 John 3:2.
Nothing went wrong in the garden but all has its purpose in His divine sovereignty.
Thank you for your faithful ministry in keeping Brothers and Sisters pointed to His Truth.
Your Brother in Christ,
Michael
Bill P.
The Word of God (The Bible) tells us that at one time man had a face to face, heart to heart loving relationship w/The Creator of all things even us in His Own Image. Man blew it when he willingly believed the lie from the father of all lies & thought we could be our own gods, (the same thing Satan did). Yes it is true Adam's sin was the beginning but if sin was a pile of bones ALL of mankind has added so much to what began w/Adam that this pile of bones now reaches unto the very throne room of God. I say this because I have heard many say over the yrs. "Why should we suffer because of what Adam did" ? We are all guilty children of Adam. The one exception is The Only Begotten Son of God Jesus Christ. (I sometimes wonder w/Adam living to be over 900 yrs. old what he must have thought as he watched humanity grow in evil, even witnessing one of his own sons killing his brother). I have no doubt he lived w/regret.
Before he died he did learn that God had made a way to bring humanity back into that fellowship he once had w/our Creator & I'm sure understood it was our Creator who would give up His Glory to pay the required price Himself for our sin. God created us & it would take God Himself to save us.
The problem is that man refuses to honest about his nature. Man is taught the lie that inherently we are good, some men believe they are gods, many believe we came from slime (evolution) & there is no judgement, & the hardest of all humanity refuses to look honestly in the mirror, & admit we are all evil, & that we all need a Savior, WHO IS God in the flesh, JESUS CHRIST !
Why does humanity refuse eternal life given freely w/Love as God gave His own life on the cross on our behalf ? Repent & believe & choose life, quit blaming God for OUR SIN !
TY CMI
Phil P.
You have said it all Jeremy. I can only agree. If we follow God's plan we will never regret it.
Phil P
Harvey R.
For the natural person, awareness of the world evolves as one grows and matures. I have watched little children playing and it seems as if they live inside a little bubble . They cannot see further than their eyes can see. As they grow, their bubble grows and they can see further as they are touched or affected by things around them. As they learn the bubble gets stretched and they begin to realise that there is more than the eye can see, and of course throughout their education, more and more is revealed.
I am glad that God was revealed to me at an early age and that spiritual bubble was gradually enlarged. in line with my ability to take it in. in tandem with my knowledge of the physical world. Of course God was always there but I could only see a little.
When my baby sister died I was 5 years old. Mum explained that God had taken her to Heaven because He had a better plan for her. Of course we hurt but soon came to understand that God had a plan for each of us. Mum told us about the rapture. She did not call it that but explained how Jesus would one day come to meet us in the air and so we would all be with Him for ever. I still remember that conversation but thrilled when I first read it in scripture as an adult and recognised it as the Blessed Hope of the Saints.
I avoid using the word 'church' because it lacks clarity for many. I refer to the original word ekklesia (the called out ones) which is consistently translated as church in all the Bibles I read but I have learned to' seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness' and realise that there are many churches (even self- acclaimed satanic churches). God adds to my understanding as I diligently seek Him .
His love for us was sure, even before the tiny bubble of our beginning.
Jannie S.
Animals do not seem to have any awareness of God. Humans, being more intelligent than animals (more "evolved" according to evolutionary theory?), obviously do. This would seem to tie God-awareness in a directly proportional relationship with intelligence which in turn seem to contradict the evolutionists' position that "man's concept of God is something which evolved". Our God-awareness should therefore be increasing as we supposedly "evolve", not decrease as the proponents of a purely materialistic universe (Dawkins, et al) propose.
Jeremy B.
‘To the person willing to submit to its authority, the Bible, revealing the consistent unfolding of God’s plan, shows itself to be a self-authenticating, utterly trustworthy whole, from beginning to end.’
Amen. The Bible is so much more than a mere ‘religious book’. Thank you for a wonderful article.

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