The Sovereignty of God in Creation
Bert Cargill, St. Monans, Scotland [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Subject to the constraints of time and space, and all the characteristics of our material environment, we find it very difficult to imagine what the total absence of these would be like. Yet there was a time(?) when no time, or space, or matter existed as we know them. There was absolutely nothing except God, an infinite being, limitless in power, wisdom, skill, holiness and love – God in the glory of His greatness and the greatness of His glory!
God chose to create the universe and everything in it. He was under no obligation to do this. He did it ‘after the counsel of His own will’, Eph. 1. 11. Where there was no time, time began. Where there was no matter, matter was formed. Where there was no life before, life began. None of these things ‘just happened’ of their own accord by some unknown random processes.1 They all happened because God made them happen, because God wanted them to happen as part of an amazing eternal plan which He alone devised for a purpose He alone designed. It was an act of His sovereign will, executed by His limitless power, and for His pleasure and greater glory, as Revelation chapter 4 verse 11 tells us: our Lord is worthy of all glory and honour, ‘for thou hast created all things and for thy pleasure they are, and were created’.
The glory of God involves His absolute perfection, His limitless power, His flawless wisdom. These are all displayed in creation. So we can learn about God from the book of nature – from its tiniest to its most gigantic forms, from the complexity of the living cell to the spatial immensity of the swirling galaxies, and everything else in between. Sadly, many do not see it, because ‘their foolish heart was darkened’ and ‘they did not like to retain God in their knowledge’, Rom. 1. 21, 28. But, like David, we can look up and say, ‘The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth His handiwork,’ and we can look in and say, ‘I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made’, Ps. 19. 1; 139. 14.
The universe had a beginning; it was created. We do not know when the beginning was, but we do know that ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’, Gen. 1. 1. Scripture tells us of things which took place ‘before the foundation of the world’, Eph. 1. 4; 2 Tim. 1. 9. We know that the world we live in and the countless life-forms it contains were created by Him, for ‘without Him was not anything made that was made’, John 1. 3. We know this because the scriptures have revealed it to us. Agnostic scientists and thinkers, from evidences they have examined, have also now concluded that the universe did not always exist, that it had a beginning.2
From nothing God created everything, just because it was His sovereign will to do so. He alone decided to create and also decided and devised what to create and how to create. He could have created anything and have done it in any way. But what He created and how He did it reveal to us His glory, show us ‘His eternal power and Godhead’, Rom. 1. 20.
What He created
However we look at the natural world, we must be impressed by at least three things – variety, complexity, and immensity. God could have created many things identical to each other or countless things all different. He could have created them all so large that nothing could measure them or so small that nothing could perceive them. What He created was His own decision for His own purpose. Let’s consider a few aspects.
Begin with astronomy. The spatial distribution is vast, the measurements almost incomprehensible, the galaxies, let alone the stars, innumerable. The nearest star to earth, the third brightest in our skies, is Alpha Centauri. It is a mere 4.3 light-years distant,3 but the farthest galaxy is probably several million light-years distant, and each is vast, composed of millions of stars. Why so vast? Because God is so great and He wants us to know! And all the stars are different – in size, brilliance, colour, rotation . . . ‘one differs from another in glory’, 1 Cor. 15. 41. Why? Because God is the author of variety and beauty on a really massive scale! Look up, be moved and praise Him! (like David, Ps. 8. 3-4).
Go to the world of animals, birds, fishes, insects: fascinating behaviours (some we call good, some bad), unexplained habits and barely understood instincts, beautiful colours and amazing sizes from the huge blue whale to the microscopic plankton; or the vegetable kingdom with its similarly vast array of beauty and variety, usefulness or harmfulness, from the gigantic redwoods of western USA to the tiniest lichens in a common woodland.
Examine the unfolding secrets of the living cell – breathtaking complexity and efficiency, co-operative function and response, self-repair and replication – as a whole or in its parts, the overall physiology and the detailed chemistry are truly amazing. Go deeper into molecular structure and marvel at architecture in miniature, molecules stereoscopically made for a specific purpose (DNA is a magnificent example), or deeper still into the mysteries of subatomic structure. The infinitely small, the infinitely large, and the infinitely complex all tell us about a God who is beyond our comprehension, for He designed and made it all. But let’s never forget that He is not beyond our trust and our worship.
And man also – made ‘in the image of God’ with a unique dignity according to His sovereign will and plan. Beyond the ‘fearful and wonderful’ structure of the body and its prenatal formation, and the defining qualities of brain, mind and thought, there are the transcendent capacities of soul and spirit. These truly unique features of man were in God’s mind when He made man, because, at another time, His own Son would take on manhood in order to die in our place and effect the work of redemption, planned also in His sovereign will before the foundation of the world. Amazing grace!
How He created it
He created all these things by the ‘breath of His mouth’. ‘He spake and it was done; He commanded and it stood fast’, Ps. 33. 9. He did it all perfectly and instantaneously. The subsequent fall of Adam and its sad consequences for the human race and its environment have changed many aspects of the original creation. Changes have occurred over the millennia since creation, dramatically by the flood described in Genesis chapters 6-7, and gradually ever since as original species have diversified and adapted to survive, some now extinct, and others struggling and groaning, Rom. 8. 22. A perfect creation has deteriorated, not improved, the direction of change in nature is downwards not upwards. But it will all be restored to Edenic perfection and glory when Christ comes to reign on earth, as planned long ago in the eternal counsels of God.
How He upholds it
Meantime, centuries roll on, life continues, with change and decay all too apparent everywhere, not least in human behaviour. Will it all go out of control in a doomsday scenario as popular fiction likes to portray, and even present-day fears predict in terms of global warming and environmental collapse? Not at all! The One who created everything also upholds it according to His sovereign will and plan. It will not crash uncontrolled. Everything is upheld by the word of His power, Heb. 1. 3, from the spinning subatomic particles governed by nuclear forces, to the swirling galaxies governed by gravitational forces, and every process around us and within us governed by the laws of chemistry and physics. Those stable laws of nature are descriptions of His control and power. They will continue as long as God determines for His purposes alone.
How He will conclude it
Sometime it will terminate. The universe is not eternal. It is temporary, though to us it seems permanent. Poetically, we speak of ‘the everlasting hills’ but in reality the only everlasting things are spiritual not material, and we have obtained them by faith.
2 Peter chapter 3 verses 10-13 tells us that with a great noise and with fervent heat (a big bang?!) the heavens and earth will pass away, and be replaced by a new heaven and a new earth. John also saw this in his vision described in Revelation chapter 21. After a millennium of peace and righteousness on earth under Messiah’s perfect rule, at a time which God sovereignly decides, this earth and its surrounding universe will be ‘folded up’ like a worn-out garment, Heb. 1. 11-12.
Our Bible, which began with God’s sovereign act of creation, concludes with His sovereign purposes of grace and glory fulfilled. The earth has been like a stage upon which the great drama of redemption has been enacted over millennia. Paradise has been lost and a new paradise regained. There is no sin or sorrow there. His servants serve Him and they shall reign for ever and ever. The one eternal and sovereign God is all, and in all.
- A widely accepted theory carrying the name of science states that things ‘just happened’ of their own accord by unknown random processes – in spite of being declared impossible by other laws of science.
- From measurements of background infra-red radiation, an ‘expanding universe’ and ‘the Big Bang theory’ have been proposed. The evidence can be interpreted in other ways.
- The light year is an immense distance which is difficult to grasp – the distance light travels in a year at its speed of 300,000 km/sec. The sun is 93 million miles from earth, and its light takes about 8 minutes to reach us. So a light year is around 6 million million miles (365x24x7.5x93 million).
AUTHOR PROFILE: BERT CARGILL was a chemistry lecturer for over thirty years, and has written several books and articles on this and other subjects. Married to Isobel, they have two daughters and a son, and six grandchildren. He has contributed to the work of the St. Monans assembly ever since his conversion as a teenager.