Jesus often used physical realities to make a spiritual point. He called them “signs” (such as Matthew 12:39). They are actual, factual, historical events intended to point beyond themselves to greater spiritual truths. Paul suggests that God has done the same thing in creation itself. Paul writes, “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6, ESV).
Notice that this is an allusion to Genesis 1:3, and Paul considers it to be a historical, factual, and plainly understood text. God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. The text, for Paul, points to a real event in time and history—the creation of light around six thousand years ago, as recorded in Genesis.
However, God revealed to Paul that the text does even more than record history. God showed Paul that His acts in creation were like cosmic words, foretelling spiritual things to come. Just as God said, “Let there be light!” He now says to helpless, weak, hell-bound sinners, “Let there be understanding of who Christ is.”
As the divine light on Day One invaded the darkness of cosmic creation, so God’s grace invades our weak, frail minds. We stand before God without spiritual light and void of goodness. Like the original creation in Genesis 1:1–2, we do not yet have spiritual life. But all that changes because of God’s grace. God says, “Let there be light.” And there is light!
God revealed a similar idea to John. John 1:4–5 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it [literally, ‘hold it down’].” Like Paul, John is alluding to Genesis 1:3, and he believes that every word is historic and literally true.
In addition, God revealed to John that the Genesis text says much more. God intended the historic light of creation to burn into our minds an even greater spiritual truth. The same God who said, “Let there be light” is the God who says of His own, “You are righteous!”
God’s power in historic creation is the same power at work in our lives today.
The same God who in Genesis 1 transformed the earth, filling it with light, life, land, order, and rule, is the God who is transforming believers by His grace into dazzling men and women of whom “the world is not worthy” (Hebrews 11:38; see Ephesians 2:7). We will shine like the stars in heaven (Daniel 12:3). God’s power in historic creation is the same power at work in our lives today.
Some Christian teachers would seek to take Genesis 1–2 less seriously, to mythologize the text, or to dismiss it as pre-scientific fluff. Such teachers might mean well, but they commit a poisonous and deadly mistake. It teaches Christians to pick and choose what they take seriously in God’s Word. It teaches a Christian to be over—rather than under—the teaching of Scripture.
Paul and John took the opposite view. They saw every word as absolutely true and filled with treasure and meaning from God. To minimize God’s words—any of His words from the very first verse onward—is to rob the believer of God’s intended treasure. Instead, may we join Paul and John in trying to think God’s thoughts after Him, beginning with this first magnificent text.
Genesis in the New Testament
Every New Testament writer refers to the early chapters of Genesis and treats them as historically true. Jesus Himself referred to every chapter of Genesis 1–7, including the creation of Adam and Eve and the murder of Abel.
Over 50 New Testament passages and at least 68 individual verses directly reference Genesis 1–11. (Some passages, such as Hebrews 11:3–7, refer to several events in Genesis 1–11.)
And this number does not include all the indirect references. The main article mentions one example: John 1:4–5 applies the “light” and “darkness” in Genesis 1:4 to Christ’s saving work.
The implications are profound. If Genesis is wrong, the whole New Testament loses its credibility. In fact, the historical events of Genesis 1–11 are woven into the New Testament’s gospel presentation, so the gospel itself suffers.