In the series Introduction, “The Greatest Story Ever Told” we saw how the central message of the bible, the gospel, is best understood as a story or a four-act drama that displays the historic unfolding of God’s creative and redemptive work in the world. And how you can never fully understand the meaning of your personal life story until you understand how your story fits with God’s story. We turn now to the first act of the greatest story ever told.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1).” The first act in the drama of history is God’s act of creating and sustaining “all things visible and invisible” (Nicene Creed). Note that the story of the gospel does not begin with Christ and his salvation but with God and his creation. This is because you cannot fully understand Christ’s salvation until you first understand its relationship to God’s creation.
The essence of salvation is the outworking of God’s love by restoring his creation from all the horrible consequences of sin. The goal of God’s redemptive plan is the gracious removal of all the effects of Satan and sin upon mankind and creation. It is the restoration of all things as God originally intended them to be.
In the gospel grace restores nature; salvation is re-creation. -Herman Bavinck
In the beginning God created everything and it was good. How good was it? The Hebrew word “shalom” gives us a glimpse into how good the original state of creation was. The word shalom can mean total peace, completeness and wholeness. It’s a word that can be used to describe a situation where mankind exists in a perfect environment including perfect relationships with God, others and creation.
God’s creation included not only the natural world—the physical and biological world. It also included a creative order for the way things are supposed to be. This means that in creation God ordained things like the institution of marriage and even political order as examples of his creative order (1 Tim 4:3-4, Rom 13:1, 1 Pet 2:13) so that mankind would flourish in all the realms of life God has created.
As the pinnacle of his creation, God created mankind in his image to be in a loving relationship with him and others and to rule over his creation. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen 1:27). Being created in the image of God is what separates humans from animals and the rest of creation.
Being created in God’s image means that we are the crown of God’s creative handiwork. When mankind was originally created we were created “very good” (Gen 1:31). Being created in God’s image means that we have been given by God characteristics such as an immortal spiritual being (soul) that has the capacity for intellectual reasoning, affectionate motivation and volitional choices.
This is why humans are rational, moral creatures with a conscience. It is only when we recognize mankind as made in the image of God that we have true value, personality and freedom. This means that your life, and all human life, is sacred. It is endowed with inherent worth, great dignity and purpose as an image bearer of God.
To fulfill God’s divine purpose, mankind was originally created with true knowledge, righteousness and holiness (Col 3:10, Eph 4:24). This means that mankind was originally created to know God and fulfill his purposes in the world by means of having a right standing (righteousness) before God and a pure heart (holiness).
In the original creation everything was the way it was supposed to be. There was no pain, suffering, disease, sickness or death. Mankind originally obeyed God’s will perfectly in thought, word and deed. Adam and Eve reflected God’s image by showing godly knowledge, righteousness and holiness in all their relationships—with God, self, others and creation.
These relationships are the building blocks for all of life. When they are functioning properly, you experience the fullness of life that God intended because you are being what God created you to be. Because you have been created in God’s image, you have been created for a high and holy purpose.
In Gen 1:28 we see the first description of that purpose: “And God blessed them. And God said to them,”Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Here we learn not just the sanctity of marriage, and the sanctity of childbearing, but also the sanctity of being a co-worker with God to develop this world into a paradise that displays the fullness of His glory. We were created in God’s image to make a difference by ruling over the rest of creation.
Although God’s original creation was perfect, it was also incomplete. So in Genesis 2:15 we learn that God created a Garden in Eden and put human beings in it to “cultivate it and keep it”. To do this today means that you manage whatever facets of creation God places before you (your marriage, family, work, leisure, art, music, government, etc.) in order to develop them to their fullest God-ordained potential.
You were created by God with great dignity to find your deepest satisfaction in life by knowing him, loving him, loving others and making a significant impact in this world that brings great honor to him.
God made you to display his image as you rule over your world under his gracious guidance and love. In the beginning God created perfect people who had perfect relationships with God, self, others and creation. But something horrible happened that broke those vital relationships of life.
To learn what happened in Act 2 of the greatest story ever told, click here: The Fall: The Way Things Are Not Supposed To Be.
A Look Ahead:
- In the Introduction to the All Things New series “The Greatest Story Ever Told” we saw how the central message of the bible, the gospel, is best understood as a story or a four-act drama that displays the historic unfolding of God’s creative and redemptive work in the world. And how you can never fully understand the meaning of your personal life story until you understand how your story fits with God’s story.
- In Act 1 of the All Things New series, The Creation: The Way Things Are Supposed To Be, we learned that the essence of salvation in Christ (the gospel) is the outworking of God’s love by restoring his creation from all the horrible consequences of sin (the fall). And how you can never fully know the riches of Christ’s salvation until you more fully grasp God’s original intent for mankind to be in perfect relationship with God, self, others and creation.
- In Act 2 of the All Things New series, The Fall: The Way Things Are Not Supposed To Be, we learned that because of sin, mankind’s 1) perfect standing with God was lost (resulting in condemnation, guilt, and separation), mankind’s perfect life with God was lost (resulting in death, captivity, and corruption), and mankind’s perfect world with God was lost (resulting in alienation from God, self, others, and creation).
- In Act 3 of the All Things New series, The Redemption: The Way Things Are (The Already), we will learn how God, through the person and work of Jesus Christ, by his Holy Spirit, graciously provides a redeemed standing, a redeemed life, and a redeemed world.
- In Act 4 of the All Things New series, The Restoration: The Way Things Will Be (The Not Yet), we will catch a life-changing glimpse of the consummation of this grand story in God’s gift to mankind of a new standing, a new life, and a new world–as he makes all things new.
Adapted from the upcoming book © 2015 All Things New, Steven L. Childers