Part One of “66 in 52” January 1, 2023, Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL. James Jackson, Lead Pastor.
Good morning! If you’ve got your Bibles to turn to Genesis chapter 1.
It’s a new year, and this morning we are beginning a brand new sermon series that we are calling “66 in 52.” The plan is that over the next twelve months—all of 2023, we are going to preach through the entire Bible. We can’t do that verse by verse, or even chapter by chapter. There are 1,189 chapters in the Bible, and if we spent a week on each one it would take us twenty-two years.
So if all you did was come to worship each week, you would get a broad overview—like a 30,000 foot view—of the storyline of Scripture. But our hope is that you won’t just come to worship, but that you will commit to reading the Bible through on you own as well. We are going to use a chronological reading plan, which means we will read the Bible in the order the events actually happened rather than in the order they are laid out in your Bible’s Table of Contents. That’s why you notice on Day 4 we flip over to Job before we get to the end of Genesis.
We will publish the reading plan for the week in the bulletin. And the sermon each week will come from something in that week’s readings. So next week I will cover one of the Scriptures from week One.
In addition, we’ve set up a Facebook page for our church members that will provide links to a daily blog post, an opportunity for you guys to ask questions of our staff and Sunday school leadership, and will link to helpful articles and other resources to help you stick with this commitment. Also, each Monday we will publish a list of discussion questions for the week. You can use these as your Sunday school lesson, or in a small group, or just in your own quiet time.
And since today is January 1, you can go home and begin the reading plan now and you won’t be behind!
So, why are we doing this? Let me give you an illustration that might help you make sense of it:
If you’ve ever been to Paris you might have gone through the Louvre. It’s the largest museum in the world. There are three hundred and eighty thousand pieces of art in the Louvre, and at any given time you can only see a less than ten percent of what’s there.
There are only (only!) about 35,000 pieces that are able to be displayed at any given time.
One person has said that if you spent 30 seconds on every piece of art that is on display in the Louvre, it would take you 100 days 24 hours 7 days a week just to see every piece that’s on display for 30 seconds each.
Some people look at scripture kind of like the pieces in the Louvre. They know the stories, and they know they’re all great stories. They know they’re all masterpieces. But they don’t really see how they all fit together. When you go to the Louvre you might be in the Renaissance room, or you might be in the Egypt room or you might be in the Greek Room and you don’t really see how all of the pieces fit together because honestly they don’t. While they’re all works of art, they were done by different artists, over different periods of time, with different styles, and they are telling different stories.
On the other hand, some of you have been to Italy. That one’s on my bucket list too. In Italy there is a chapel called the Sistine Chapel, and from 1508 to 15 12 one artist named Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
When you look at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, in the very center you see the Creation of Adam. But if you look just below that, you see what God created on on the sixth day. And if you look just above that you see the creation of Eve. In fact if you study the pictures on the roof of the Sistine Chapel, you’ll see how every picture is all telling the same story. It’s all painted by one artist, with one brush, telling one story.
What I hope will happen as we go through this next year is that all of you will come to understand is that the Bible is one story. It’s not like the Louvre, with a lot of different pictures by a lot of different artists that don’t all tell the same story . It’s one picture by one artist telling one story. And that one story is about how God desires a relationship with human beings.
It’s about how we who have fallen, who are far from God, who were born in sin, can find our way back to God. And most importantly, the Bible is about Jesus. Our Baptist Faith and Message says that “All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.” So even when we are in the Old Testament, as we will be for the first nine months of the year, we are still going to find the character of Christ and the revelation of Christ and the anticipation of Christ in every single page.
And you’re gonna hear the gospel. Please don’t make the mistake of thinking, “Well, we’re going to be in the Old Testament until October, so we aren’t really going to focus on the gospel.
Charles Spurgeon was once asked by a young preacher to give his honest opinion on the sermon the young man had just preached. He didn’t really want to answer because he didn’t want to hurt the guy’s feelings, but finally he said, “If I must tell you, I did not like it at all; there was no Christ in your sermon.”
The young preacher protested, “Well, of course you didn’t, because it was from the Old Testament. Christ wasn’t in the text.”
Spurgeon said, “do you not know that from every little town and village and tiny hamlet in England there is a road leading to London? Whenever I get hold of a text, I say to myself, ‘There is a road from here to Jesus Christ, and I mean to keep on His track till I get to Him.’”
The young man said, “Well, but suppose you are preaching from a text that says nothing about Christ?” To which Spurgeon answered, “Then I will go over hedge and ditch until I will get at Him.”
And that’s my prayer. That this year, we are going to find Christ on every page of Scripture. And that if we don’t immediately see the connection, we will have the patience to keep digging until we do.
That story begins in Genesis chapter 1, verses 1-4.
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 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.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God. Let’s pray together.
Okay so the title of the sermon this morning is “The four most important words in the Bible.” If somebody asked you what were the most important words in the Bible, what would you say?
Maybe you would say “for God so loved the world.” Those are pretty important words.
Maybe you would say “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Those are certainly important words too.
But I want to suggest to you this morning that the four most important words in all of the Bible are the first four words in the Bible: “in the beginning God.”
Why would those be the four most important words in Bible?
Because what we all have to understand is that there is a God, and you are not him.
There is a God who is in charge, who created everything that we see, and you are not that being.
So the first four words of the Bible establish God’s Authority.
It doesn’t say “in the beginning, me.”
It doesn’t say “In the beginning, my.”
“In the beginning God” is the foundation for a Christian worldview. Right off the bat, God’s Word challenges a man-centered worldview and replaces it with a God-centered worldview. It’s a theological Copernican revolution. You remember Copernicus, right? The astronomer who challenged the belief that everything in the universe revolved around the earth. Copernicus came along and said, “Nope. Everything does not revolve around the earth. It revolves around the sun.” A lot of people condemned Copernicus as a heretic. And it’s cultural heresy today to suggest that the universe doesn’t revolve around you.
God’s Word doesn’t start with your happiness. God’s Word doesn’t start with your personal fulfillment. God’s word starts with in the beginning, God. It speaks to God’s authority.
A lot of people wish God had gone into more detail in Genesis. Why doesn’t it start with an explanation of who God is, or how He got here, or philosophical proofs for his existence?
The answer is that in the ancient world, the existence of God was a foregone conclusion. You didn’t have to convince people that there was a power greater than themselves. Creation already revealed it. Psalm 19:1-4:
19 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above[a] proclaims his handiwork.
2 Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
3 There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
4 Their voice[b] goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
Genesis doesn’t need to start with “in the beginning, how.” It starts with in the beginning, Who.”
One year after the Christmas holidays, a Christian and an atheist were talking with each other, and the atheist was complaining about all the religious holidays. He said “It’s ridiculous. If you’re a Christian you get Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter. If you’re Jewish you get Hanukkah and Passover and Purim. if you’re a Muslim you get Ramadan. How come there’s no holidays for atheists?
The Christian looked at him said, “Well there is April Fool’s Day.”
I’m not saying that to be critical of someone who is asking honest intellectual questions. But Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool has said in his heart there is no God.” For most people who say they don’t believe in God, it’s not an honest intellectual question that’s brought them to that point.
Most of the time, atheists’ objections are not intellectual, but moral. You might remember from last year’s study, Romans 1:18:
18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world,[g] in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools,
Atheists generally don’t have a belief problem, they have a sin problem, just like all of us. We all have a sin problem. Our unrighteousness suppresses the truth. It’s our unrighteousness that keeps us from understanding and focusing on and glorifying what creation has so clearly revealed, not just the existence of God, but the authority of God.
If we don’t get the first four words right– in the beginning God– we miss everything else.
Now let’s look at the fifth word of the Bible “created.” (By the way, I promise we will go a whole lot faster as we go through this series. You’re looking at your watches and thinking, wow—we are 20 minutes into this sermon and we are on the fifth word of the Bible—this is going to be a long year!”)
In the beginning God created. That word in Hebrew for created occurs 48 times in the Old Testament, and it always, always is used with God as the subject. The only time you see the word created in the Hebrew Old Testament, it’s in reference to something God does.
Now, that doesn’t mean that people aren’t creative, or can’t be creative. My son Josh is one of the most creative people I know. And we all know people like that. Maybe you’re a person like that. But what we learn from Genesis 1 is that human beings are only creative because they are created in the image of a creative God. Genesis 1:27 says that we were created in God’s image. It doesn’t say that about any other part of God’s creation. It also says that God created people male and female.
So this fifth word, created, is nearly as important as the first four words. It is God who assigns gender roles. It is God who assigns value to men and women. It’s not up to men and women to recreate what God has already created. And it isn’t for us to presume that God made a mistake when he made anyone male or female. We are living in a world where people think they can choose their own pronouns. But Genesis 1:31 says that God saw everything He had made, and behold, it was very good. You might not feel that way when you look in the mirror. But please know that the FACT of God’s creation outweighs whatever FEELINGS of inadequacy or confusion you might feel. So maybe (and I say this with all respect) you’ve been focused so much on trying to live out “your truth” that you’ve lost sight of THE truth.
Why did God create you? It wasn’t because he was lonely, because the Bible teaches that God is complete in himself. God exists in perfect unity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and all three persons of the Trinity have been coexistent from before the foundation of the world. Hold that thought, because we will come back to it.
So why did God create us?
Well first God created us for his glory. Isaiah 43:6-7 says that God’s sons and daughters are scattered throughout the earth, and that they “are created for His glory.”
Every single one of us: black white, Asian, Hispanic, created in His image and for his glory every one of us male female in his image and for his glory. Every one of us young child, senior adult, created in His image and for his glory. Every one of us– whether we have mental or physical disabilities, whether we have a short term sickness or a long term diagnosis– every one of us created in His image and for his glory.
The Westminster Shorter Catechism, which was developed in 1646, starts with the question, “What is the chief end of man?” And the answer is, “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever” We were created for His glory.
Number 2, we were created for relationship.
In Genesis 1, after each thing God created, he made an evaluation.
- He saw that the light was good (v. 4)
- He saw that creating the oceans was good (v. 10)
- Creating trees and plant life: good (v. 12)
And so on with each element of creation, so that you get to verse 26 and it says,
God saw everything that he had made and behold it was very good
But then you get to Genesis 2:18, and God says, it is not good for man to be alone I will make a helper suitable for him.
The only thing in all creation that was not good was being alone.
Part of being in God’s image is that we are created for relationship. God exists in relationship–Father Son and Holy Spirit. God created us for relationship with himself and also in relationship with one another.
The most devastating thing about the fall of man is that it disrupted the relationship between holy God and sinful man. You see, when sin entered the world it created a rift because God will not be in the presence of sin. So as soon as sin entered the world that thing that we were created for– a relationship with God– was broken. Next week we will talk about the rescue plan God initiated even before Adam and Eve sinned.
I want to close by pointing out a profound truth we see in these first three verses. Look again at the first four verses:
We actually see all three Persons of the Trinity in the first three verses of Genesis. In the beginning God—that’s God the Father. Verse 2: “The Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the waters.” That’s God the Holy Spirit.
Notice that verse 2 also describes the earth as formless and empty. The Hebrew words there describe chaos and disorder. And the first thing that God did was begin to bring order out of chaos.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness.
I remember several years ago, the VBS theme was about creation. I was on staff at another church at the time, but I remember a panicked volunteer coming to my office because she had just noticed for the first time that God created light three days before He created the sun, moon, and stars. And she was freaking out, because she had no idea how she would explain this to a group of first and second graders if they asked her about it. So she was asking me to explain it to her. I told her I didn’t have a clue. I don’t know how there was light before there was a sun to give light. For that matter, I don’t know how plant life grew before there was sunlight.
But remember that Genesis 1 wasn’t intended to answer all our questions about physics or biology. It doesn’t answer the how. It just answers the who. So don’t get knotted up about how there could be light before there was the sun. Instead, focus on the fact that, before anything else existed, there was light.
So we clearly see God the Father in Genesis 1:1. We see God the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2. But where is God the Son?
Turn with me to John 1, or you can look at it on the screen. John 1 begins exactly that same way Genesis 1 does:
In the beginning was the word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. Sound familiar? Keep reading:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life,[a] and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
I want to suggest that the light in Genesis 1:4 is God the son. That before there was a SUN, S-U-N, there was the SON, S-O-N. Now, I want to be crystal clear on this: I’m not saying God created Jesus. God did not speak the S-O-N into existence when He said Let there be light. There never has been a time when God the Son did not exist.
But John says that the life of the Son is the light of men.
The Word—the light of men–was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made. Without him nothing was made that has been made. And just in case you don’t realize John is talking about Jesus, he spells it out in verse 14:
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[d] from the Father, full of grace and truth.
God brings order into chaos. God brings light into darkness. And that’s what Jesus does with human beings.
He brings light into our darkness. He brings order into our chaos.
He brings peace into our confusion. He brings joy into our suffering.
And as we will see in more detail next week, Jesus coming to earth and dying on the cross for our sins was God’s plan from the very beginning of creation.
Let’s stand for the invitation.
Maybe for years you’ve been saying I just I really don’t believe in God. I don’t take all of that seriously I’m not even sure he exists. I want to invite you to be a part of The Reason for God study, either on Wednesdays or Sunday nights.
But I also want you to consider that maybe you don’t have a belief problem, you have a sin problem. You were created for God’s glory, but you’ve made your life about your own glory. I want to invite you to submit to God’s authority in your life and to stop living as though you are the center of the universe. .
Maybe the chaos and emptiness that Genesis 1:2 describes is the way you would describe your own life this morning. I want you to know that Christ came into the world to separate light from darkness and to bring order and fullness to your chaos and emptiness.
You may need to simply say, Lord Jesus I need you to come into my life.