Word Study #135 — Creation

Having just considered the gift – and the challenge – of the “new creation” that results from commitment to Jesus’ Kingdom, it seems appropriate to look at what the New Testament says about creation itself. Not nearly as much as do the pulpit-pounding advocates of “Creationism”, who claim to represent “the Biblical view”!

Ktisis, translated 6x “creation” and 11x “creature” – and also 1x “building” (Heb.9:11) and 1x “ordinance” (I Pet.2:13) – for reasons unknown – is not a common topic. Ktisma, also translated “creature”, appears 4x; ktistes, “creator”, only once (I Pet.4:19), although the participial form of ktizo is translated that way in Rom.1:25; and ktizo, the verb “to create” 12x, and once more translated as “make”.

I was surprised to find that historically, none of these words had referred to the origins of the world, the universe, or even of humans. The historian Herodotus used them to refer to the founding of a city or country, the organizing of a governing body, or the building of any sort of edifice. The verb form also included the production or invention of any object, or the perpetration of a noteworthy deed. References to the “creation” as it is popularly understood are found exclusively in the LXX and the New Testament.

Both Greek and Roman traditions did include “creation stories”, but with a different twist. Hesiod, a Greek epic poet, contemporary with or slightly after Homer (about 700 BC) , describes different “ages” of man – gold, silver, bronze, iron – during which people were becoming progressively (or perhaps one should say “regressively” !) more barbaric, and were destroyed and re-created repeatedly by the gods. Ovid, the Latin poet, in his Metamorphoses, (first century BC/AD), describes a primeval state of chaos, which the gods tried to organize, with little success. Neither of these writers makes any attempt to “start from scratch.”

In contrast, the New Testament contains several mentions of “the beginning of creation” (Mk.10:6, 13:19; II Pet.3:4), and even presents Jesus himself as “the beginning of creation” (Rv.3:14), and Paul goes even farther and represents him as the the very agent and purposeof creation (Eph.3:9. Col.1:16) – “all things were created by him and for him”! A similar statement in Rv.4:11 affirms, “Thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they exist, and were created!”

Notice, please, that the burden of these declarations has nothing whatever to do with today’s prevalent obsessions with “when” or “how” any of this happened. The whole focus is upon who is responsible, and why creation exists. We would do well to focus our own attention similarly!

Paul goes to great pains in Rom.1 and again in Rom.8 to make the point that in creation, God has provided ample evidence of his character and purpose; and the descent of people into the depravity and chaos that sounds very similar to the degradation in the Greek and Roman accounts was the result of people’s deliberate choice to ignore that revelation, and not anything relating to their “original” condition. Remember that “creation” and “creature” are derived from the same word – the choice of one or the other was made by the translators, not the authors. Ktisis refers to any created thing (including people), as well as to creation as a whole. Consequently, just as the contagion of depravity described in Romans 1 spread to the whole of creation, the hope revealed in Romans 8 – the expectation of deliverance into the glorious New Creation – is contagious as well!

No wonder “the whole creation is waiting with eager anticipation for the revealing of the sons of God!” (Rom.8:19). It is these to whom its care is entrusted, and in whom its hopes of fulfilling its original purpose – the pleasure of its creator (Rv.4:11) – can at last be realized. What a glorious prospect!

The New Creation has already begun “after the image” (Col.3:10) of its Creator – the image (W.S.#15) that had been so sadly defaced by the selfishness of its former heirs (Rom.1). Please also see chapter 3 of Citizens of the Kingdom.

The classic description is in II Cor.5:17, Interestingly, in the Greek text, there is no verb in the sentence. Kaine ktisis may, but need not, be a modifier for the pronoun tis – “ anyone, someone”. The statement may with equal validity be taken to mean “that person is a new creature” (in the sense of a created being), or to intend that for such a person, “creation is new”! Both are grammatically correct, and both are true.

Paul adds the observation in Eph.2:10 that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works [with a purpose for good deeds]”, which God also “prepared” for his people to do . No, this is not the “salvation by works” which seems to frighten some folks so badly. It is “salvation” for the purpose of accomplishing what the Creator (and Savior) intended all along! (W.S.#39). This is reinforced in Eph.4:24, where Paul asserts that we are “created according to God’s design, in justice (W.S.#3) and devotion to the truth” (W.S. #26).

James (1:18) calls the Lord’s people “the first-fruits of his creation” – the beginning of the harvest for which he started everything in the first place! We have kept him waiting a long time!

Some minor manuscripts of Mark even quote Jesus’ commission (Mk.16:15) as instructions to proclaim his “gospel” (#67) to “every creature” – every created thing (pase te ktisei)! This may even be a renewal of God’s original charge to his people to tend and care for all that he had created. (Gen.1:28). Paul may have understood it that way (Col.1:23).

It is also significant that, as Paul reminded Timothy (I Tim.4:4), “Everything that God created is good!”, and is to be received with thanksgiving (v.3). This despite the equally far-reaching affirmation in Heb.4:13, that no created thing is hidden from the eyes of God. There is absolutely NO New Testament justification for the common assumption that a person, or the physical creation, or the physical body, is inherently “evil”, “depraved”, or “sinful”! “Everything that God created is GOOD” – unless one chooses to use it wrongly, instead of as it was intended.

Finally, we should note Jesus’ crowning act of creation – Eph.2:15, also noted in Gal.6:15. It is the Lord Jesus himself who has taken people who represent the most opposite extremes imaginable, in their own thinking, and “created the two, in himself, into one new person, thus making peace.”

This is the true miracle of creation!

Thanks be to God!

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