Better than the Beginning: Creation in Biblical Perspective by Dr. Richard Barcellos“God brought Adam into a covenantal relationship with Him at his creation… But he violated God’s covenant. He sinned. He transgressed God’s law…[as a result] Adam got kicked out of God’s house. Now he’s sinful, is a terrible image of God, a covenant breaker, and no longer the keeper of God’s garden-temple. What will God do now?”
Pastor Richard Barcellos’ book Better than the Beginning is the result of a sermon series he preached on creation. The purpose of his book is to show the importance of understanding the Biblical teachings on creation and how the doctrine of creation is directly related to the doctrine of redemption. He submits that it is of utmost importance to know not only who the Creator is, but His purpose for His creation and His ultimate goals for it. He explains,
God’s story [recorded for us in the Bible] tells us that He created, what He created in the first place, why He created man and what man’s supposed to do, why there’s so much trouble on the earth, and where history is heading.
God’s act of creation and purpose for it did not end at Genesis chapter one. Of course there are many places in the Bible that speak about creation; here are a few key passages:
Ps. 8:3-8, 33:6-9, 19:1-6; Is. 45:18; John 1:1-4, 10; Rom. 1:18-21; Acts 14:5-17; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:1-4, 3:4; Rev. 4:11.
In these and many other verses that mention creation, we see Christ’s role and preeminence in creation. Christ is central in creation, for after the fall and ruin of it, He entered into it for the purpose of redeeming it.
First Barcellos points out that the universe – all of creation, everything we see or that has ever existed, both living and inanimate – exists because of and for God. Why?
Because God is the source, originator, and creator of all things… He is the designer of all things, and He needs no help… God is the sustainer and providential ruler of all things…God not only made all things, He preserves all things, and He does so the way He wants to.
The truth is that all that God made and all that He does with what He made is to reveal who He is and to display His glory. Barcellos states,
God has made all things and sustains all things for His glory and does not need to consult us concerning how to bring glory to Himself in what He does… God is in the business of fetching glory for Himself….He regards Himself supremely. God created all things so that He would have a stage on which to display Himself. God takes supreme delight in making Himself known.
Because of who He is, this is not inappropriately or arrogantly prideful or narcissistic of Him, as it would be for any created being. He did not have to make Himself known to us; we can only know God in as much as He has chosen to reveal Himself. Indeed, if He did not make the effort to do so there is no way we could ever know about Him, let alone have a relationship with Him. The author heavily draws from Scripture to show that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit each have a role in creation and are united in this purpose: to make Him known. Creation tells of God’s glory. It reveals His existence, His attributes, and His “otherness” or divinity. However more was needed, as Barcellos explains,
The Bible is God’s testimony of His condescending love to sinners, centering upon Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God. It was for us and for our salvation that the Son of God assumed human nature. And it was for us and for our salvation that God took the time to record His way of salvation in a book. Though creation testifies of God’s existence, only Scripture reveals the way of salvation through Jesus Christ.
God did not reveal to us in the first chapter of Genesis how the world was created merely to satisfy our curiosity or to establish the foundations for the sciences to be studied. He revealed it to lay the groundwork for His plan of redemption – the “scarlet thread” that runs through the entirety of scripture. The theme emphasized throughout Genesis 1 is “God made…and it was good.” We cannot appreciate or understand the seriousness of our fallen condition without understanding the state from which creation fell. Only by seeing the serious consequences and impact of sin can we grasp why redemption is needed and what we need to be saved from. Additionally, we will come to realize that only the Creator Himself could provide the remedy and restore His creation to its original state, for the fallen creature is incapable of doing so for itself.
In light of creation, it’s important to understand what man is. Is man any more special or important than the rest of the organisms in the universe? According to such passages as Psalm 8, the Bible makes it clear that man is unique, that the Creator breathed the spirit of life into him (something He did not do with the other living creatures), He set His eye upon humanity; in fact, the second person of the Godhead would become one of them. Man is indeed the climax, the masterpiece of all of God’s creation. In what way is man set apart? Genesis 1: 26-28 and 2:7, 15 identify a couple of these right off the bat.
Man was made in the image or after the likeness of God before the corruption of the fall; this involved man’s having moral uprightness, a true knowledge of God, and a right (unbroken) relationship with God. Being made in God’s image, it was man’s responsibility to reflect God, “more than any other aspect of creation.” Barcellos explains what Adam’s identity and calling was, why his failing was so tragic, and why a remedy was required. Looking at the orders God gave Adam after placing him in the garden (the place where Adam communed with God and served Him, and thus can be considered to be the first “temple” of God), Barcellos proceeds to demonstrate how Adam was given the roles of a prophet, a priest, and a king. In these roles he failed, unable to carry them out perfectly, but they later would be fulfilled perfectly by the second Adam, Jesus Christ. I found the section that compares the life, roles, and work of the second Adam with that of the first very helpful and insightful, and an encouraging reminder of why we needed Christ and all that He accomplished by His life and death.
The book ends with an overview of the concepts and themes that tie the beginning of the Bible with the end. This is where the title of the book is really brought to light. In considering these observations, I recommend reading the first three chapters of Genesis followed by the last three chapters of Revelation. Look for all the parallel language and symbolism; this is not a coincidence. For example, compare Genesis 1:1 with Revelation 21:1; and Genesis 2:9-12 with Revelation 21:10, 19-21 and 22:1-2. The devil, the curse, and death itself, which are introduced at the beginning, are done away with at the end. Both Eden and the New Jerusalem are described using temple language. Eden can be seen as the first temple, where God dwelt with His people. Like the temple of Jerusalem, Eden and the New Jerusalem are described as being situated on a mountain. These bookends help to put the entire Bible into context. It is not a collection of random people and stories. It’s one story, from beginning to end, of what God started and what He will bring to completion.
Finally, Dr. Barcellos gives an enlightening explanation of the idea of the Sabbath in light of both the creation week and the eternal rest that awaits Christ’s people. When God rested on the seventh day after creating the world, it signified that his work of creating, or as Barcellos phrases it, “temple-building,” was complete, and He then could sit, enthroned as ruler over His creation. The Sabbath was instituted, not in the Ten Commandments by Moses, but at Creation. As an ordinance to be observed, it pictures a future reality. Unlike the many Hebrew ceremonies, rituals and festivals which pointed forward to the work of Christ that He fulfilled, God’s rest points to the eternal state. The writer of the book of Hebrews refers to this in quite a few passages, as Barcellos points out by citing them specifically. He goes into much more detail than I can provide in this brief overview, but let’s just say that in my personal opinion, the last three chapters alone are worth purchasing the book for.
The important conclusion Barcellos makes is that no matter what society tries to do to correct what it views as social injustice or inequity, or a national government tries to do to bring freedom, or a global organization tries to do to bring about world peace — no acts of humanity will ever be able to fix what is wrong in this world, because humanity is what introduced sin, the ultimate cause for all that is wrong and evil in the world. No, the answer can only be found in the Bible, which shows that from the very beginning, even before the Fall took place in the Garden of Eden (which, by the way, did not take God by surprise, forcing Him to come up with a Plan B), God has had a plan for redeeming His creation through the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. Like Randy Alcorn points out in his book Heaven, God is in the business of restoring, redeeming, resurrecting and renewing. He did not abandon His creation, but sent Christ to redeem, not only mankind, but all of creation, and to restore it to its perfect state, in fact, a glorified, “new and improved” version of the original! Barcellos writes,
The gospel is news from God that He has devised a way to repair human nature and take all creation to a glorious end. That glorious end, the city of God, new Jerusalem, the eternal state, the new heavens and new earth, is better than the beginning.
Friends, I don’t think most of us give much thought to this in our every day lives. Surely this is something to be excited about and to look forward to, and it will be something we will marvel in and praise God for throughout all of eternity!
Richard Barcellos is the pastor of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Palmdale, CA. He has authored a number of other excellent books, including The Lord’s Supper as a Means of Grace, and is the founder of the Reformed Baptist Academic Press.
Note: Better Than the Beginning is a book I have included on my list of non-fiction I believe every Christian should read.
- Another review of Better than the Beginning (reformedforhisglory.wordpress.com)
- Thoughts on Better than the Beginning (reformedforhisglory.wordpress.com)
- Interview with Richard Barcellos on Preaching (confessingbaptist.com)
- Are You Homesick for Heaven Yet? (imallbooked.com)