“X” is for eX nihilo. This is a Latin phrase where “ex” means “out of” and “nihilo” means “nothing.” Thus ex nihilo means, “out of nothing.” What in the world does that have to do with anything? Well the world has something to do with it along with all of creation. For creation itself was created by God ex nihilo, “out of nothing.” In this week’s newsletter we will examine a number of Scripture passages and will expand our understanding of the phrase, ex nihilo. Yes I do realize it begins with “e” but thanks for being gracious.
In the Beginning
Genesis 1:1a says, “In the beginning, God…” Now some advocate for ex nihilo nihil fit which means, “out of nothing, nothing comes.” The Christian view is not that from nothingness comes something. For God Himself is not nothing, and He has always been. God is the self-existent One (cf. Ex. 3:13-14). God is eternal and alone has the ability to create something out of nothing. Let’s clear things up. There has never been nothing as though there were a time when God was not. For Moses records for us in Genesis 1:1a, “In the beginning, God…” What we are saying is that God created everything without any preexistent materials or things that have always been. Only God has always been. There was no prior materials at God’s disposal by which He formed and fashioned the universe by using a little bit of “this” and a whole lot of “that.” Still confused? Maybe an example will help.
When living in Grand Rapids, Katie and I visited Art Prize each year. We have even gone since moving north. There are many pieces of art on display throughout the city of Grand Rapids. Let me quickly note here that I am not one who has a keen eye for art. There are some things I look at and wonder what in the world the artist was thinking. Nevertheless we enjoy seeing many of the displays of art from paintings to creative sculptures. Let’s say we are all looking at a very nice painting. We realize that the artist began their work with a blank white canvas before them, a number of paint colors, and brushes next to them. And then from these things came this beautiful painting we are now looking at. From the very same stuff, canvas, paint, and brush, I would not be able to duplicate the same work, or anything close to it. Now you are probably seeing why I don’t have a keen eye for art, because by no means am I an artist, but I still enjoy some of it. Well our artist in this story began with a canvas, a variety of paint colors, and a variety of paint brushes. God did not create the universe with anything “on hand.” There was no oxygen, nitrogen, methane, or to use the technical scientific language, primordial soup. Now I am hungry. So without the use of preexisting materials God created the entire universe. How?
A Spoken Word
Hebrews 11:3 tells us, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” God created the universe by His word. We see this in Genesis 1. God did not create with some preexistent material but rather by a divine command (sometimes referred to as the “divine imperative”). We read in Genesis 1:3, “And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.” You see this pattern continue as you go through the six days of creation: what God says, happens, and God sees that it is good. As RC Sproul says, “Nothing can resist the command of God, who brought the world and everything in it into being” (Everyone’s a Theologian, 92).
Agent of Creation
What becomes abundantly clear in the NT is that Jesus, the second person of our triune God, the Word made flesh, was the Agent of creation. And note that the Spirit of God is also present at creation (cf. Gen. 1:1-2). John 1:1-3 says, “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.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 says, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” Colossians 1:16 adds, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” And lastly, Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” Each of these passages makes it clear that Jesus, the Son of God, was the agent through which everything was created. And as John 1 tells us, the Word (Jesus), was not only with God but is Himself God.
We often speak about sharing our testimony with others since we are commanded to be prepared to do just that (cf. 1 Pt. 3:15). Creation itself is a testimony that is declaring something. Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” A starry night, a beautiful sunset, a flower blooming in early spring are all for the glory of God. Romans 1:18-20 says, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Creation bears witness against us in that no one will have an excuse for not believing when they die and face the judgment. Creation bears witness about our God. However, no one can be saved by general revelation for we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, according to Scripture alone, for the glory of God alone.