Starting At The Beginning

Genesis 1:1—In the beginning...

If we will let it, God’s word, when properly interpreted, understood, and believed, will make us “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:17). Where, then, do we start? Well, at the beginning, of course. Failing to grasp the implications of what God tells us about the beginning will cause us to misunderstand some critical aspects of the nature of both God and His creation. It behooves us, then, to spend a little time thinking about the implications of Genesis 1:1.

Based on Genesis 1:1, it can be argued that time, at least as it is related to the material universe, had a “beginning.” In fact, Genesis 1:1, which is neither a subordinate clause nor a summary title, says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” According to James Barr, this was an “absolute” beginning which, when taken with the expression, “So the evening and the morning were the first day” (v. 5), indicates this was, in fact, the very first day. As Barr argues, this may well be intended to teach that “the beginning” was not just the beginning of the physical universe, but the beginning of time itself. Thus, it seems reasonable to think of God as timeless (Biblical Words for Time, 1962, pp. 145-147). In making such an argument, Barr appears to reflect what Jude said so succinctly: “To the only God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and power, before all time, and now, and for evermore. Amen” (v. 25, ASV). When this is coupled with Proverbs 8:22-23, which clearly looks back to “the beginning,” it can be fairly said that the Old Testament implies that time started at the beginning. Add to this Jude’s statement mentioned above, along with John 1:1-3, which says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made,” and it seems clear that the Bible teaches the beginning of the creation was not just the beginning of space and matter, but the beginning of time itself.

If all this is true, then the Creator, at least before He created, was subject neither to time nor space. Consequently, as the immortal and eternal God (cf. Deut 33:27; Rom 16:26; 1 Tim 1:17), He did not, indeed, He could not, consist of the material nature (matter) of His creation. Instead, He was, and is, “totally other” (i.e., transcendent). All this stands in stark contrast with the creation itself which, by virtue of its creation, owes its existence to something outside itself (viz., the Creator). It is in this regard that we are said to live, move, and have our being in the Creator (cf. Ac 17:28).

How. then, could anyone think God is somehow limited by space or time? It is only God, by virtue of who He is, who is free from the constraints of the space-time continuum. The God who is not so free can never be anything more than one of the little “g” gods of idolatry. This means that anyone, for whatever reason, who thinks of God as innately or inherently limited by either time or space is not honoring the God who has revealed Himself in the Scriptures.

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