The Cornerstone of Truth
Mr. Stan F. Vaninger is a teacher at Victory Christian School, St. Louis, Missouri, and fellowships at South Side Bible Chapel. This is the second and concluding part of his instructive study on creation.
In Part 1, we derived three very crucial principles from the biblical account of creation given in Genesis 1:
1. The Creator/creature distinction: the identity of both God and men are made explicitly clear by the doctrine of creation; God is Creator and man is utterly different from God in this respect.
2. The goodness of creation: Genesis 1 emphasizes repeatedly the goodness of the created realm prior to the entrance of sin.
3. Man’s moral obligation to God: because man is creature and God is Creator, man has a natural moral obligation to submit to his Creator as Lord.
It is no accident that non-biblical views of reality deny that creation has occurred. These important principles provide a foundation for many other biblical truths that are crucial to the Christian faith. Several of these were dealt with in Part 1; several more will be considered below.
The Word Became Flesh
The doctrine of creation is crucial to a proper understanding of what actually occurred at the incarnation. The proclamation that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14) reveals that the discontinuity between Creator and creature has been bridged in one direction by the Son of God.
But it is important to realize that we cannot get the full impact of what John 1:14 is saying without understanding John 1:1-3. A knowledge of the Word’s pre-existence as God and as Creator is crucial to a proper understanding of what happened at the incarnation. There was truly a new thing done under the sun when God became a man and the Creator became a creature.
Likewise, when Paul teaches the incarnation and the deity of Christ in Col. 1:19 and 2:9, we should not be surprised to find that he first presents Christ as Creator in Col. 1:15-17. Paul, like John, saw that the Creator/creature distinction was crucial to an understanding of what actually happened when the Word became flesh.
While the concept of incarnation is found in some non-biblical world views, it is very different from the New Testament conception. For many eastern religions and for the many Greek and gnostic sects that flourished early in the church age, incarnation is the situation of every human. Man’s soul is regarded as divine and intrinsically immortal while the body is seen as a temporary prison house of the soul.
Incarnation, in fact, is seen as man’s basic problem. The material realm is seen as being evil and undesirable either because it is illusionary (Hinduism), the creation of a rebellious demi-god (gnosticism), or a lower aspect of reality (Greek philosophy). Man’s goal is excarnation, to shed the human body, and to achieve a higher plane of existence or a purely spiritual union with God. The historical fact of the incarnation shows what a dreadful error this view is.
The Humanity of Christ
Not only does the New Testament emphasize that Christ was fully God but also that He was fully human (Heb. 2:14-17; 4:15; 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7). What we learned earlier about the goodness of being human is confirmed by the fact that the pre-incarnate Son of God could become a real flesh and blood human and yet be without sin (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5). While Christ’s identity and glory were for the most part veiled during the first advent, there was nothing degrading about His becoming human per se.
When He returns to the earth with great power and glory at the second advent, He will still be a human being, but His true identity and great glory will be clearly manifested to all. There is no indication that becoming human will have in any way diminished Christ’s glory or the praise that will be due Him for eternity. On the contrary, there is every indication that the events made possible by the incarnation have served only to enhance His glory by manifesting the excellencies of His gracious and loving character.
The Resurrection of Christ
The great significance that is attached to the resurrection of Christ in the New Testament makes it a very crucial doctrine of the faith. Not only is the historical reality of Christ’s resurrection an important part of the gospel proclamation, but it is itself that which authenticates the gospel (Rom. 1:4; Acts 2:22-36; 13:26-39; 17:30). In view of this, it is very significant that the New Testament writers take great pains to show that Christ’s resurrection was a real bodily resuscitation from physical death.
In John 20:27, Christ gives Thomas the opportunity to inspect His wounds and the skeptical disciple is subsequently overwhelmed by Christ’s bodily presence and the reality of what has happened. From Luke 24:39-43, we learn that Jesus encouraged all of His disciples to handle His body to verify that He was not a spirit or an apparition but that He, like themselves, consisted of real bone and flesh that was solid and could be felt. He also ate before them to prove that His body was capable of normal functions.
It is significant that in Acts 2 and Acts 13, both Peter and Paul apply Psalm 16:10 to Christ’s resurrection thus emphasizing the continuity between His body before death and after resurrection. Of course, we learn from other passages that there was also a significant discontinuity, that the resurrection of Christ involved more than just a return to life, as in the case of Lazarus and others, but included a radical transformation of the body as to its properties and qualities (Rom. 6:9, Phil. 3:21).
Nevertheless, the fact that both Peter and Paul emphasize that Christ’s flesh was not allowed to decay, suggests that the resurrection body was essentially the same body that was laid in the grave.
Both the incarnation and the resurrection of Christ rest firmly on the foundational truth of the goodness of the created realm and of man as first created by God. The New Testament clearly asserts that God in the Person of Christ entered the created, material realm, became a genuine man, lived a sinless life, and three days after being crucified, was restored to a fully human state through bodily resurrection. These truths provide the ultimate proof of the goodness of God’s creation and refute the erroneous pagan view that there is something inherently evil about the material realm or about human nature in its “natural,” unfallen condition.
We’ve already seen that man was created in the image of God with a natural obligation to obey his Creator. When man defied that obligation in Eden, the image of God in man was horribly twisted and distorted by the ugliness of sin.
One aspect of salvation is the full restoration to the believer of God’s image and likeness, especially in regard to man’s moral integrity (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10; Rom. 8:29; and 1 Cor. 15:49). This restoration begins with the new birth, continues during the believer’s remaining life through the process of sanctification, and is apparently brought to completion at death when the believer goes to be with the Lord.
Another aspect of salvation involves man’s recommitment to his Creator as Lord. This likewise begins with the new birth and should deepen progressively as the believer matures in the faith.
Salvation is never thought of as being the deification of man as in so many pagan religions, occult philosophies, and “New Age” groups.
The Creator/creature distinction shows that the deification of man is an impossibility. Since God is Creator and man is creature, man can never become God. A created being can never transcend his creaturehood and become an uncreated being as God is.
The doctrine of creation is the cornerstone of the biblical view of reality and the foundation for many of the important doctrines. But the truth of creation has implications that go beyond purely doctrinal matters. It is only because Christ is the Creator-God that He can make such absolute and comprehensive demands upon our lives. And it is only because He is the almighty Creator that, through the miracle of the new birth and the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, He can effect in us the transformation that makes all things new.