THE CHRIST OF CREATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-18-86 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Christ of Creation. In these days, we are preaching through the Gospel of John. And we are in the prologue: John, chapter 1. The prologue, the first fourteen verses of this book, is the greatest piece of literature in human language. There is nothing in Plato, or in Aristotle, or in any of the great Shakespearian dramatists that rival these first fourteen verses.
Now let us read the first five together. John chapter 1, the first five verses, together:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.
In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.
And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not – overcame it not.
“All things were made by Him,” the first use of that word, “and without Him was not anything made,” the second use of that word, “that was made” [John 1:3], the third use of that word in one little sentence. And in verse 14, “And the Word was made flesh” [John 1:14]. That’s an unusual nuance there, an overtone there, in the word translated “made,” ginomai, “came into being” out of nothing.
And that you might see the use of that word by John, contrast it with the word used by the apostle Paul when he describes the same creation: Christ
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.
For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth…all things were created by Him, and for Him:
And He is before all things, and by Him all things sunistÃ©mi – translated here consist, subsist, hold together.
Christ does that. I raise my book, and if I loosened my grasp, it falls. What is that power that pulls it down? Nobody knows. They call it gravity. Gravity is a word for what nobody knows: the pulling subsistence, the holding together of all of God’s creation. As the author of Hebrews in 1:3 says, “Upholding all things by the word of His power”; Paul is saying that is Christ. Christ holds this together: sunistÃ©mi.
And the word he uses for create: ktizo, “By Him were all things ktizo, created,” and “all things were ktizo,” created, “by Him” [Colossians 1:16]. When I turn to John, speaking of the same creation, it’s in another world, “All things were ginomai,” altogether different – ginomai [John 1:3].
The overtone of love and grace, he spelled it out, “And the Word was ginomai, ginomai, and we beheld His glory, full of grace and truth” [John 1:14]. That’s a remarkable, remarkable difference: God, Christ, the Word, the Logos, made, brought into being, this great universe of which we are an inexorable part [John 1:3]. And He did it in love, and sympathy, and grace, and kindness.
There are two things to be said about that. One: that is in exact diametrical contradiction to the ancient Greek philosophy and the medieval and even today modern philosophy that matter is inherently evil, that you have evil in this created universe as such.
John says the evil in the universe is an interloper. It was never intended. Sin, and death, and sorrow, and tears, and hurt, and agony are interlopers. God never made it that way. But God made, created, brought into being, ginomai, the universe in loving grace and in infinite goodness and kindness.
And what I read in John, I read throughout the Word of God. In the first chapter of Genesis, the creation chapter, there is a refrain over and over and over again. God did this, and this, and this, and then, “and God saw that it was good.” Then God did this and this: created. And “God saw that it was good.” God did this, and this, and this, and “God saw that it was good.” And finally, when He finished all of His great creation, “God saw everything that He had made and, behold, it was very good, very good” [Genesis 1:31]. God made our world in grace, in love, in mercy, in truth, in kindness; and the purpose of it: that it might glorify His name and be a blessing to us.
I cannot help but comment on that famous verse of John 3:16: “God so loved the world.” Now you would think the word “world” there would be oikoumenē, “the inhabited world.” That’s what you would think. It’s not that word at all. The word is kosmos. “God so loved,” He does love the inhabited world, the oikoumenē, but “God loves,” John writes, “the kosmos.” You spell it out in English just as it is in Greek. “God so loved the kosmos,” the created universe. And He did it in grace. What a remarkable, remarkable, remarkable revelation! “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament showeth His handiwork” [Psalm 19:1], His lacework. God did it beautifully, and there is no inherent evil in the world.
There is another concomitant from that word of John, and that is: not only was the world created, brought into being, in God’s love and grace – interdicting the thought of inherent evil in it – but John says, in this created world, there is the incarnation of Christ. He was incarnate in it. It’s not only not evil, but God Himself was incarnated in it. He writes it like this, “And the Word was ginomai,” was made flesh, “and skenoo,” skenoo, translated here “dwelt” [John 1:14]. “He pitched His tent,” that’s a literal meaning of the word, He pitched His tent in it; He tabernacled in it [Matthew 1:23-25].
God Himself tabernacled in this world, in this created world, in matter, in substance. God became a part of us, in this world. That’s a remarkable thing: that, in the created work of God, the Lord Himself became incarnate in it.
The Maker of the universe
As man for man was made a curse.
The claims of laws which He had made
Unto the uttermost He paid.
His holy fingers made the briar
Where grew the thorns that crowned His brow.
The nails that pierced His hands were mined
in secret places He designed.
He made the forest whence there sprung,
The tree on which His body hung.
He died upon a cross of wood,
Yet made the hill on which it stood.
The sky which darkened o’er His head.
By Him above the earth was spread.
The sun which hid from Him its face
By His decree was poised in space.
The spear that spilled His precious blood
Was tempered in the fires of God.
The grave in which His form was laid
Was hewn in rocks His hands had made.
The throne on which He now appears
Was His from everlasting years.
But a new glory crowns His brow.
And every knee to Him shall bow.
[adapted from “Maker of the Universe,” FW Pitt, 1885]
That’s our Lord and the ginomai – this universe that He brought into being. God did it in grace and in love, in mercy, in truth; it’s a remarkable thing what God intended, did, and intends for His people!
Now a second and a last thing: God is still in the work of creating. Now you could immediately say, “How could such a thing be?” There is nothing added to or taken away from God’s creation. Matter, substance, is indestructible. We can change it, like burning something and change it into gas and change it into ash. But you can’t destroy matter. It is indestructible. “Well, then what do you mean when you say God is still creating?” I mean it two ways. One: first, in us. God is creating still; life, birth, soul, spirit.
If you’ve been to church here very long, you have seen the pastor kneel down with a couple, and the father will hold a little baby in his arms. And if you’ve heard me pray, it will be like this, “Lord, Lord, Thy omnipotent hands created, brought into being, ginomai, created this little life.” God did it. And God created the soul, the spirit, that lives in that little frame. That is a new creation of God. The Lord breathed into that little body the breath of life. It is a new creation, has never been before. And, miracle of miracles, according to the third chapter of John, God does another creative act in the life of that little child. When the youngster becomes of age, he can experience a new creation, a new birth, a remarkable thing that God does with His people.
As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone be in Christ, he is a new creation.” It is a new work of God: the spirit that the Lord makes, creates, ginomai, brings into being, and then reborns it, remakes it, recreates it in the image of our glorious Lord.
He is still in the work of creation. And not only is that true individually or personally – that our Lord is still creating, still bringing into being, still bringing to the birth, still reborning – but God is also creating a new thing in His world. Isaiah prophesied in the forty-third chapter, “God will do a new thing” [Isaiah 43:19]. God will make a new thing. And in the institution of the Lord’s Supper our Savior said, “This is My blood of the new covenant,” the kainÃª diatheke – the new contract, the new testament, the new covenant [Matthew 26:28]. And in the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, the Apocalypse, God says, “I make all things new” [Revelation 21:5].
This is a new creation, in the New Testament called His ekklesia, His fellowship in Christ, His church, His assembly in the Lord. And it is a beautiful and precious entity in the world: this new thing, this new fellowship, this new creation, this new assembly that Christ has brought into our lives, characterized by a glorious, glorious adjunct.
I’m going to read, not consecutively – I’m going to read and not turn a page of the Bible. And you look at how many times will this be avowed of the new ekklesia of our Lord. Now I begin:
For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. . .
Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. . .
My little children, let us love not in word or in tongue; but in deed and in truth.
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. . .
No man has seen God at any time. But if we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and His love is perfected in us. . .
We know and have believed the love that God hath toward us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. . .
There is no fear in love; perfect love casteth out fear: fear hath torment.
He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
We love Him because He first loved us.
This is the commandment that we have from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.
[1 John 3:11-18, 1 John 4:7-21]
I never turned the page, nor did I read consecutively, just an avowal, an avowal. This is the new creation of God, the assembly of His people, and the love that binds us together, and to Him. And in a world where the headlines scream of terror, and of hatred, and of bloodshed, and of war, what a difference, an amazingly heavenly difference, hath God created for us in this war-weary world: an assembly of love.
It is Jesus that told us the story of the good Samaritan: a hated, despised outcast Samaritan, but moved by the spirit of compassion [Luke 10:30-37]. It was Jesus who spoke to us of that great and final judgment in chapter 25 of the First Gospel. And these shall say:
Lord, when did we see Thee naked and clothed Thee, or hungry and fed Thee, or thirsty and gave Thee to drink?
When did we ever see Thee poor, and outcast, and in prison, and visited Thee, and ministered unto Thee? When Lord?
And the Lord shall reply, Inasmuch as you did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, you did it unto Me.
It is a new creation, something the world had never seen before. When I came here forty-two years ago, at Christmastime the church just went out of existence – nobody came, at night especially, just empty. So I said, “On the night before Christmas, let’s have a play, a pageant.” And they were thus, kind to respond. And this place was filled; you couldn’t get in it.
And that first presentation was based upon the beautiful poem of Edwin Markham, an incomparable American poet who died several years ago. And that poem, so reflective of the Spirit of Christ and of His people, goes like this: there was a poor shoe cobbler, and in a vision at night, Jesus came to him and said to him, “Tomorrow, I am visiting you in your shop. I’m coming to see you in your cobbler’s shop.” When he awakened the next morning, he spent those beginning hours preparing for the great guest. That’s the name Edwin Markham gives to his poem, “Preparing for the Great Guest,” preparing for Jesus. Jesus, that day, is coming to see him.
Well, as he prepared and got ready, a beggar came walking by. And in the snow and in the cold, his worn-out shoes did not keep his feet from walking on the ground in the slush, and the cold, and the snow. And Conrad, that shoe cobbler, invites that old beggar inside and he fits him with a new pair of shoes and sends him on his way. And as the hours passed by, an old woman appears, under a heavy load of fagots. And the shoe cobbler invites her in, and he shares with her some of the food that he had prepared for his great guest. And she goes on her way, and, the hours pass.
And the poem reads:
He lived all the moments o’er and o’er,
When the Lord should enter the lowly door–
The knock, the call, the latch pulled up,
The lighted face, the offered cup.
He would wash the feet where the spikes had been,
He would kiss the hands where the nails went in,
And then at the last would sit with Him
And break the bread as the day grew dim.
But, the Lord didn’t come. As the afternoon began to pass by, he heard the cry of a child and, going outside, found a lost little one. Ascertaining where the child lived on the other side of the city, should he leave his shop, for the guest might come? But, the child was so distraught and crying, he took the child across the city. And in the loving, waiting, anxious arms of father and mother, he presents the child, whole and well. And with tears of rejoicing, they receive their little one home again. Then the cobbler comes back to his shop; and the day wears to the evening, and He hasn’t come. Then he asked:
“Why is it, Lord, that Your feet delay?
Did You forget that this is the day?
Then soft in the silence a Voice he heard:
“Lift up your heart, I have kept My word.
Three times I came to your friendly door;
Three times My shadow was on your floor.
I was the beggar with bruised feet;
I was the woman you gave to eat;
I was the child on the homeless street!”
[“How the Great Guest Came,” Edwin Markham, 1910]
That is the new creation of God. That is the koinonia, the communion, the fellowship of God’s ekklesia, God’s assembled people: a new light shining in the world, a new hope of love, and peace, and grace, and mercy, the incarnated presence of Jesus our Lord, present with us each time we meet and present with us today.
Back of this created universe, John says, is the love and mercy of God. And incarnate in it, dwelling in it, skÃ©noÃ³ – tabernacling in it is Jesus Himself [John 1:14].
O Lord, what a holiness, and what a helpfulness, and what a sympathizing presence, and what a goodness and a blessing! Dear God, how could ever we love Thee enough or praise Thee enough?
We’re going to have a prayer, and then we are going to sing us a song, and in that song we sing, an invitation to give your life to the Lord; and in the prayer, to ask His blessing upon the decision that we make.
Our Lord, if we had a thousand lives and gave every one of them to Thee, it would not be commensurate with the love we feel for Thee, dear blessed Lord Jesus. And we pray that in the communion, in the koinonia, in the fellowship of the ekklesia; the church, the assembly of God’s people, there will always live that beautiful, encouraging, loving presence, worshipping Thee; kind to one another; filled with the love of Christ. An oasis in a darkened world; hope in the midst of hopelessness; help in the midst of helplessness; salvation in the midst of lostness; light in the midst of darkness; kindness in the midst of harshness; O God, may this be the door to heaven itself?
And while our people pray asking God’s blessings upon each one in divine presence, if to you, the Spirit extends the invitation, answer with your life. “Pastor, today God has spoken to me, and I am bringing my whole family and we are joining this dear church.” Or, “Today, I want to accept Christ as my Savior.” Or, “I am answering God’s call in my heart.” Make the decision now, and in this moment when we stand to sing, on the first note of the first stanza, come, and welcome. And thank You, Lord, for the sweet harvest You give us, in Thy saving and keeping and loving name, amen. Now let us stand and while we sing our song, in the balcony, on the lower floor, welcome, welcome, while we sing.