Creation versus Salvation

The Bible begins with Creation, but Christian theology has, for centuries, had other priorities. Many believe the primary story of the Old Testament is the election of Israel. This election of Israel as an emphasis reduces Creation to an afterthought, a mere accessory to the weightier biblical concern of human salvation. Salvation History is the key concept and the governing theme in this outlook. The story of Creation stands as only a prologue. 

Then naturally, the questions that we should be asking ourselves is: “Why is God so invested in the world that he is worried about our salvation?” “Why would God send Jesus to this earth to die?” “If we and the world happened by chance, then why is God so concerned about you and me?” These are the three fundamental questions I should be asking myself, and we all should be asking each other. These questions become the key to our understanding of salvation and even of God Himself.

Therefore, the Bible begins with seven words in Hebrew. In English, it is ten words that describe God’s action. Genesis begins by stating: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”(Genesis 1:1). Upon reading the Bible cover to cover, I see that it also ends with a story of Creation. This time re-creation as the earth is remade to its former glory (see Revelation chapters 21-22).  Therefore Creation must be important to God, as he uses Creation to bookend all that happens within the Bible.

God said, “Let us make humanity in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created humanity in His own image; in the image of God he created him (him being a Hebrew derivative of humanity); male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.’ . . . Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good, So the evening and the morning were the sixth day” (Genesis 1:26-28, 31).

As we can see, God has a vested interest in this planet. Why? First and foremost because he invested time, energy, and resources into its existence.  Second, after completing the physical construction of all that is around us, he next created humanity.  But He did not just make two human beings. No, it goes beyond that, for the family of God invested themselves into humanity in that they created humanity in their image.

For this reason, all of heaven has a vested interest in us.  You don’t infuse your image into someone, then walk away.  In a perfect world, that doesn’t happen.  And indeed, this was a perfect world. God even said so in Genesis 1:31, where God viewed Creation and said, “It is very good.”

Creation serves as the reason God has such an interest in you and me.  He longs for us to be saved. He longs for us to want salvation. Therefore Creation serves as the reason God spends so much time and energy and devotes so many Bible pages to salvation. Because He created humanity in His image, he has invested Himself in us and to us from the start.  Therefore He was and is willing to die for us that we be recreated in His image.

Mediation and Prayer

The book of Hebrews gives us a glimpse into Christ’s heavenly ministry.  Hebrews 8:6 says, “But now He (Christ) has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.”

What is Jesus mediating?  The common Biblical belief is that Jesus is mediating between the Father and us. But this does not reflect the truth regarding the Father.  In Genesis 3:8, who is it that ran upon hearing God in the garden?  Remember, verse 8 comes after the fall story in verses 1-7.  The ones running were Adam and Eve, his wife.  God came in the cool of the evening as he always came.  He came to them.

Since then, has God’s character changed that he no longer is as he was in the garden with our first parents?  No, the Bible says, God is unchangeable.  He is the same today as he was yesterday, and he will be tomorrow. So Jesus came to reveal to us the Father.  And what was the result of Him showing us the Father? Jesus was nailed to the cross. They didn’t want to change their understanding of who God is.

The Bible is clear. The problem is not how God sees us but rather how we see God. So then, what role in heaven does Jesus play as our mediator?  To “mediate” means to move. Since Jesus came to reveal who the Father is, they work together along with the Holy Spirit.  Therefore they must be working together to cause something or someone to move. 

This causes me to ask another question, this time concerning prayer.  Does God only understand Heavenize as a language, not English, German, Spanish, or any other language spoken by humanity? Is Jesus standing before the Father interpreting our prayers so that God can understand?  Jesus having attained this ability because He became one like us through birth. Is this what the Bible teaches? Is this our understanding?

Let’s look at it this way, Jesus meets with the Father, Jesus meets with the Holy Spirit. All three, in partnership together, work on us flawed, imperfect, misguided humans to change our understanding of who God the Father is.

So, this naturally causes another question to be asked. What causes our thinking to be transformed into what God desires.  Isaiah chapter six gives us this transformative shift in understanding because the Holyness of God does not destroy Isaiah. Instead, something comes from God’s presence and is placed upon Isaiah’s mouth and transforms Him.  So instead of Isaiah as a sinful man being destroyed, he is transformed.  This transformation then allows Isaiah to do his ministry.

Later in the Bible, we see Jesus himself coming from the presence of God to touch the impurity of life here on earth. He touches the leprous, the crippled, the blind, the mute, the deaf, even the dead body, he touches, and the impurity of life’s infirmities is taken away. Instead of Jesus being polluted or contaminated, He remains pure, and the infirmities and impurity around Him are removed.

With Christ’s death upon the cross, the temple concept changed to wherever Jesus is, is the temple.  Therefore when He resides in our heart through the power of the Holy Spirit, our heart becomes transformed. A temple of the living God. 

Therefore, all of us as living temples of God have the transforming power of Christ living in us and through us.  As we live our life, we have a transforming influence upon the communities in which we live.  We are called to be the salt, a preserving agent to the world.

So, then prayer, how does prayer fit into this?  When we see situations around us beyond our human ability to solve, we can direct our prayers to God. God will hear our prayers, and all of heaven will strive on our behalf to change the situation, change the condition around us.  The more prayers raised in unison together, the more power heaven can exert on our behalf. 

Therefore through prayer, we partner with God to effect change as Christ instituted change around Him when He was on earth.  Through prayer, God can direct us to where we can be most helpful in His service.

Therefore through prayer and Christi’s mediation, we enter into partnership with heaven to effect change on the lives of those we touch.

God’s Desire for Intimacy

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.’ So God created man, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:26-27). Mere chance could not direct Creation toward such heights, nor was such a possibility seriously proposed until recently. For God’s personhood lies at the heart of this account. A person is at work. An impersonal power would not free to terminate the process. Therefore the impact of the seventh day stands out more by the fact that God completed God’s work than by what was begun.  While God’s power certainly is the implied premise of Creation, the rest of the seventh day serves as an expression of God’s personhood more than of God’s infinite power.

The text says that God Sabbathed.  Most English versions state that God “rested” (Genesis 2:2). However, “Resting” conveys an aura of passivity. This “Resting” seems anticlimactic in the context of what has happened throughout Creation.

Moreover, it is a word that does not precisely capture the original idea. Repeatedly it has been shown the word “desisted” or “ceased” is a better fit, and either of these words has a richer connotation. A closer look at the original language leads one to believe that the seventh day brought quiet after what had been a hectic week of establishing order out of chaos, bringing forth out of nothing, all that there now was. Not to say that Creation was done haphazardly or chaotically.  It was anything but those things, for Creation was done with purpose and intent. A master plan was involved for God-created forms and borders.  He filled the forms and placed within these forms borders or limits upon which they could not move beyond.  He separated the water from the water and created dry land to keep the water within its boundaries. 

Think of it this way.  A river needs to be crossed so people, goods, and services can flow from one side of the river to the other.  Workers begin to build the bridge. They plan. They work to execute that plan. They establish the resources necessary to create the bridge.  Finally, the bridge is finished or completed.  Their work ceases, but the result of their work remains. On both sides of the river, the people and the builders can now enjoy what was created for their benefit. So it was at Creation.  God planned, purposed, brought together the resources for making the earth, and then Created humanity. Then on the seventh day, he ceased from the work which he had done. Now on the seventh day, with all creative work completed, all Creation, humanity, and God enjoyed what he had created. 

In addition to the transition from activity to quietude, one person’s expectancy is longing to see the other.  The relational implication of the seventh day is often overlooked, dwarfed by the tendency to prioritize God’s power, sovereignty, and majesty as more representative features of Creation.  Power and sovereignty are attributes of God, but from God’s side, it is not power that is projected most forcefully in the institution of the seventh day. When God ceases creating, hallowing the seventh day, we see God coming into an enduring relationship with Creation. By resting on the seventh day, God is thereby shown to have entered into the time of the created order. In this scenario, intimacy threatens to eclipse majesty. At the very least, we are led to see God’s desire for intimacy in the seventh day. To the point that God’s awesome power and majesty are veiled and held in the background to not intimidate as humans approach. But get this. After the fall in Genesis chapter 3, we see God coming down to review with humans as to what happened.  If God was willing to come after the fall to comfort His Creation, think what it was like on the first seventh day. The day when He ceased His work to establish an intimate relationship with humanity.

There is a need to take this insight further because theological tradition has so one-sidedly stressed divine majesty that the relational element is rarely seen. Perceiving the seventh day as a relational marker enriches the theology of Creation, promising to rectify the distortion in which the emphasis on sovereignty implies detachment. The God who rests in His Creation does not dominate the world on this day: He feels the world, and He allows himself to be affected, touched by each of His creatures. He adopts the community of Creation as His own environment. Humility does not negate majesty, and the self-emptying intimation in the seventh day does not reduce divine sovereignty to nothing. But humility and self-emptying are the bigger surprises, most unexpected, and the most neglected features baked into the seventh day in the Creation account. The creating God is the acting God and the reacting God, the God who responds to what has been created. The seventh day has an interactive character and intent to incarnate God in human beings’ ongoing experience.

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