The Bible is a big book. In fact to call the Bible a “book” is a little misleading, because it is actually a collection of books; an omnibus of spiritual writings collected over thousands of years.
It is a library of works. With different authors, different genres, written at different times.
Because of the number and size and complexity of all these various books it can bee a little hard to put it all together.
After all, If you walk into a library and you look at a shelf of books, you wouldn’t expect them to all fit together. Sure some of the books might be in a series together, but most of them written by different people at different times. Each is an isolated work.
Yet for the Bible, even though there are many authors and different genres and different times, all of these works are tied together. They are so connected it is as if they are one big book.
Some people have commented that the Bible is like the first hyperlinked book. Long before the dawn of the internet where there was an interconnected web of individual websites, the Bible was an interconnected series of individual books that create a network of stories and themes and prophesies that refer back and forth across it’s pages.
It is a beautiful complex tapestry of individual threads, yet when you take a step back you start to see that the complexity is no mere accident; there are patterns that emerge out of the apparent chaos.
It is our habit here to walk through the scriptures week by week, looking at one piece of the Bible, and then the next week we look at the next bit. Chapter by chapter, verse by verse. We spent half of last year walking through Johns’s Gospel and we only got halfway. We’ll finish it off this year!
We need to do this so that we can see the richness of each section, understating something of what each little bit means.
But for the next 6 weeks we are zooming out to take in the bigger picture. Sometimes with the depth and richness of each little piece of the Bible we miss how the whole Bible fits together. Some of us may have never truly appreciated the scope of the Bible; perhaps you just think of it as a series of moralistic stories and ancient poetry.
Perhaps you have a fairly good grasp on the content of the Bible, but you just need some help to see how the parts contribute to the whole.
I’m hoping that these few weeks looking at The Big Picture will leave you with the confidence to open up the Bible to hear God speak while being equipped to understand how what you’re reading fits into the overarching narrative of the Scriptures.
So where do we start?
In the Beginning, with the creation of the world.
We should start where the pages of the Bible start, in Genesis 1. The first chapter.
But, because we’re looking at the Big Picture, before the morning is out we will have moved from the first chapter of the Bible, right through to the last two chapters of the Bible.
Come with me on this journey!
Where did everything come from?
This is a question that humanity has always asked.
How did everything get here?
How did the universe come to exist?
Many people have different ideas about how the world came to exist, and people have come up with many theories. Old religions often had some story about primordial chaos or substance being ordered by proto-gods, and the new religion of Scientism has a theory about the world bursting into existence in a moment, bringing chaos that is eventually ordered by the passage of time.
As is often the case, there is a grain of truth in all the theories.
But here’s the thing - you weren’t there. I wasn’t there at the beginning.
It is all speculation unless there was a witness to the creation of the world.
The Bible purports to give us the witness account of not only the observer of creation, but the creator himself!
He was there before the beginning, and he was the one who began everything. Let’s read:
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.
This is the start. God was there beforehand.
The question that comes up as we read is, is v1 a title or the first creative act?
Is v1 where God creates the world without form, and then the reminder where he orders it?
Or is v1 the summary or title of what takes place in Ch 1? If so, where did the formless earth come from?
Most naturally it seems to be the first option - God created a formless world that he refined into the creation that we know - something that humanity itself would do - take raw materials and refine them into more and more complex and wonderful things.
The Spirit of God was there over the primordial chaos, ready to create, and then he began, but how?
And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.
That is how His creative acts are described. As you move through the chapter you see it as a resounding refrain.
Created and ordered the world. Everything that exists in all it’s wonder!
God also created a fruitful, growing world.
It was Good, good, very Good!
And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.
Created in the Image of God, dwelling with God.
Creation vs. Theories based on scientific inquiry
Shifting sand - science isn’t a belief system, it probes God’s creation to try and understand it and manipulate it, it is not lord over creation.
Theories are just that, theories. Speculation based on the patterns observed. One thing that has never been observed is evolution (despite it being nearly universally accepted). God’s creatures are adaptable, and genetic traits can be reproduced (like in dog breeding), but there has never been a an organism that has changed species. Everything produces after its own kind.
But notably, the current scientific theories about the cosmos springing into existence in a moment, a big bang, sounds remarkably like a God who called everything into being.
Ours is not the God of the gaps, he is the God of natural processes and supernatural.
Some non-negotiables for Christians when considering how scientific discoveries help us understand God’s creation
God made the World himself
There were real Adam & Eve
The effects of the curse including human death & suffering cannot come before the fall.
Also - Cosmology vs Creation (heart vs. heart, heavens vs. heavens)
So God was there, from before time. And he made everything that exists. And he made it very good.
Creation was Corrupted
Creation was Corrupted
Why is there evil and suffering in the world?
God made agents in His own image, he gave them a mission, he gave them freedom and he gave them laws.
They were the crowning jewel of creation - Adam & Eve were the regents of creation. God was still in charge, but he delegated authority.
They rebelled against God, and plunged creation into corruption.
Sin was introduced, death was the result.
God cursed creation, a judgment on humanity. A portion of which is:
And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
Creation would be cursed and corrupted from this time on.
We experience this now!
Another fall - Sons of God rebel
It seems that God “has a go” at wiping the slate clean with the great flood, but we see straight afterward the rebellion continues, first with family dysfunction and then the Babel incident.
Each time God acts to break up their rebellion, but each of these falls has a reciprocating effect across the creation.
It seemed that the healing and restoration of creation was a lost cause - so God focused on restoring one nation, trying to dwell with them and cleanse them. Yet they continually failed, and their Utopian country - free from sin and rebellion and corruption never materialized.
Yet, across the pages of the prophets there was hope and promises that God could and would bring restoration to His creation, with humanity restored as it’s crowning jewel.
God Entered Creation
God Entered Creation
Why did God need to enter His own Creation?
God did this by entering his own creation. The corruption had spread so far and wide that he needed to step in.
This is what we find explained in John 1.
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 was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
The word of God, the one through whom God created the world, God himself, had to come into creation to set things right.
That was Jesus Christ. God living among us.
His mission to save the world meant saving humanity - those made in God’s image.
He saves us from our sin.
He sends the Holy Spirit to sanctify us, renew us, regenerate us, cleanse us.
Now we are New Creations in Christ living in a creation that is still groaning under weight of it’s corruption.
For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.
God Will Renew Creation
God Will Renew Creation
God’s rescue mission is not to save the people only, but he also intends to recreate the world!
He is going to Judge the world, deal with all the corruption and renew everything.
Rev paints a picture of what the renewal will look like:
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Apocalyptic imagery - not literal
No sea = no chaos
The old creation, plagued by sin and suffering is done away with.
We don’t know if it is a literal NEW world, or more akin to a renovation of this existing one.
God is preparing us to live in that world, and we need to be fitted out for it - because in our current state, we would just make the same mess of the new one. God needs to make us holy for this new creation.
Dwelling with God.
God made all things Good
It has been corrupted by sin, and God pronounced a judgment curse.
God intended to rescue his creation, and he had a few “failing” demonstrations - Noah & Flood, the Israel & Covenant. These were shadows of a fuller and final restoration.
God himself stepped into His creation to redeem it.
He is the agent of recreation, first in hearts, then the whole world.
The Gospel is the good news of that rebirth for you now, and a New Creation coming soon.
Next Big Picture: Covenant
Draw a picture of your favourite part of God’s Creation.