In the Beginning
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.[i] (Genesis 1:1, NLT)
This statement opens the book that God gave to us.
This is the foundation.
If a child asks, “Why should I obey my parents?” We might answer, “Because I told you so.” Or, we might answer, “Because your parents are bigger.” Or, we might say, “Because your parents know best.”
There has to be a better answer.
If we ask, “Why am I here?” We might answer, “Because a big bang happened, some chemicals happened, some reactions happened, and you came about.” Or, we might say, “I have no idea.”
If we ask, “Why should I share?” We might answer, “Because.” Or, we might say, “If you do not share, your life will be miserable.”
Why should I get up today?
Why should I go to work?
Why should I love my neighbor?
Why should I brush my teeth?
This statement, “In the beginning God,” can have a great effect on how we view all of these questions.
These are all questions of purpose.
What is the reason for our existence? Is there an explanation?
The basic assumption that the Bible starts out with is, “in the beginning God.”
This is a hotly debated topic. It always has been.
Recently the movie, “God’s Not Dead,” came out. In the movie, a freshman philosophy student refuses to sign a statement required by his Philosophy professor to the effect that God is dead. When he refuses to sign the statement, he is required to defend the antithesis. God is put on trial in the class room with the students as the jury. In the movie, the best arguments for and against the existence of God are presented. In the end the whole class votes that God is not dead.
I have listened to arguments on both sides of the question. The presentation made in this movie is as good as any I have seen from either side of the question.
As the story line unfolds, the student challenges the professor with the question, “Why do you hate God?” In the movie, this is the issue. The professor hates God. The question then becomes, “Why do you hate someone who does not exist?”
While we as men argue about the existence of God, God himself has an interesting comment. Through the Apostle Paul He says:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools.[ii] (Romans 1:18-22, ESV)
“What can be known about God is plain to them.” God’s argument or answer to the argument is “His invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.”
On this question hang all the issues of life.
The book of Proverbs in the Bible is a collection of wisdom. This book is about how to live life. In it, the wisest man who ever lived shares his secrets. He starts out with the thesis of his book. He says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge.” (Proverbs 1:7, ESV)
To put it in my own words, he is saying, acknowledging God is where we start.
The greatest king Israel ever had, possibly the greatest king ever, David, said it this way, “1 The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalm 14:1, ESV)
Every decision we make is influenced by our attitude toward this fact, “In the beginning God.”
Do we live for ourselves or do we live for God?
This issue is so important that God made it the first and greatest commandment. “5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:5, ESV) This commandment is there for our sake not God’s.
The book of Genesis contains the history of the beginning of the world, the beginning of mankind, the beginning of the nations and the beginning of the people of Israel. While going through these beginnings, the book of Genesis is laying the foundation for our understanding of God’s plan of salvation. His plan for restoring what has been broken by sin and evil.
This foundation is essential to our understanding of the world and of life in general.
We get the statement, “In the beginning God,” from the Bible. Because of this, I want to address the question, “How do we know the Bible is true?”
First, let me restate a fact that I have already pointed out:
“What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.” (Romans 1:19-20, ESV)
The creation and all that God has made is evidence enough to establish His existence.
The question about the Bible then is, “Has God spoken?” And, “Has He spoken in the Bible?”
The book “From God to Us,” starts out with this statement:
The Bible is a unique book. It is one of the oldest books in the world, and still it is the world’s best-seller. It is a product of the ancient Eastern world, but it has molded the modern Western world. Tyrants have burned the Bible, and believers revere it. It is the most quoted, the most published, the most translated, and the most influential book in the history of humankind.[iii]
Although there are many books that claim to be from God, the Bible stands out as unique in many facets. The Bible is one story, but it was written over a period of more than 1,400 years by more than 40 different authors. These authors were from different times in history and different cultures, but they all agree. This by itself is a remarkable fact. As far as it can be verified, the Bible is historically accurate. No other book has been attacked, studied and scrutinized so carefully.
The story of how we got our Bible, and how we know it is the Word of God, is a field of science. Given this fact, I do not intend to give an exhaustive explanation, but only a brief outline of how we know the Bible is God’s word. The word for the study of the authority and inspiration of the Bible is “Canonicity.” This word at its root simply means ruler or measuring stick. It is used to indicate that books are measured to see if they meet up to a certain standard.
Canonicity does not start with a pile of books and we then eliminate those that are false. If a book is inspired by God, it is canonical. The Bible says of itself, “16 All Scripture is breathed out by God.” (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV)
Because of the constant threat of false books, it has been necessary from the earliest days, even since the days of Moses, for the people of God to be ever vigilant in reviewing what qualifies a book as being sacred or canonical.
I like what the authors of From God to Us say:
Operating in the whole process are discernible some five basic criteria: (1) Is the book authoritative-does it claim to be of God? (2) Is it prophetic-was it written by a servant of God? (3) Is it authentic-does it tell the truth about God, man, etc.? (4) Is the book dynamic- does it possess the life-transforming power of God? (5) Is this book received or accepted by the people of God for whom it was originally written-is it recognized as being from God?[iv]
For thousands of years as the Bible was being recorded and has been preserved, each succeeding generation has addressed these questions. The answer has always been the same. It is reliable and we can trust it as the Word of God.
Read it for yourself.
Check out what it says. Even compare it to other books that claim to be from God.
You will find it is true.
Some find it offensive.
I find it offensive.
Too often, God tells me I cannot have my own way.
But, I run up against this one fact, “In the beginning God.”
If I could deny it, if I could disprove it, if I could explain it away, I would not need to worry about what God says. I would not need to worry about not coveting my neighbor’s wife. I would not need to worry about the little lies I tell. I would not need to worry about my anger and malice toward those around me. All those things that make me uncomfortable with God would go away, because God would go away.
How do we explain this world?
How do we understand this world?
As is pointed out in the movie “God is Not Dead,” science has not disproved creation, nor has it proved evolution. Faith in God is an impetus toward scientific exploration and advancement. The question is not science or God. The question is, “What is the truth?”
Are we willing to humble ourselves enough to accept the truth?
The foundation is “In the beginning God.”
Everything God has made points to the truth of this statement.
If this is not enough, God offers the ultimate proof.
Jesus rose from the dead.
A person who was dead came back to life, and gives proof that what I am telling you is true.
If Jesus did not rise from the grave, then none of this makes any sense. But, he did rise from the dead. This fits perfectly with the foundation laid in Genesis. The Garden of Eden, the Fall of Man, the Flood, the Tower of Babel, the call of Abraham and the offering of Isaac all make sense because of Jesus. It all fits.
Genesis, written more than 1,400 years before Jesus was born, laid the foundation for us to understand why Jesus did what He did.
If you have never come to Jesus for life, don’t you think it is about time you did?
[i] Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible: New Living Translation. Copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] Scripture quotations marked ESV are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version) copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[iii] Geisler, Norman L., and William E. Nix. From God to Us: How We Got Our Bible. Chicago: Moody, 1974. Pg. 7. Print.
[iv] Ibid. pg. 67