Fish in the Air and Birds in the Sea - Bible Study 3 - Restoration
In our series so far we have seen:
- the Bible has a lot to say about planet earth and its creatures
- the created world is good, even ‘very’ good, by God’s estimates.
Which throws out of the window that perennial phrase ‘I am only human’ Only human? No, as we saw in Psalm 8: God has placed us ‘little lower than the angels’.
We have also looked at humanity’s original design as described in Genesis 2 which is in the image of Father, Son and Holy Spirit and we have discussed how it is as God’s image-bearers, in other words reflecting God’s relational and righteous character, that we are to rule and care for creation.
But the picture isn’t complete without reference to Jesus Christ.
Colossians 1:15-17, 19-20
15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.
16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.......
19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
There is so much in this passage: theologian Tom Wright calls it ‘a great poem…’
Three points to note:
1. Christ is the image of the invisible God (v15): he makes God visible to us. He is the supreme
2. Everything was created through him and for him (v16) and he holds everything together (v17): so
creation is not just a Genesis thing, but a whole Scripture thing.
3. His work of reconciliation is not just for people but for all things, on earth as well as in heaven (vv
The words that crop up no fewer than 5 times are ‘all things’:
‘For by him all things were created…’ as in verse 16, and this is repeated in the same verse, ‘all things were created by him…’. Then ‘He is before all things and in him all things hold together…’ and God through him reconciles himself to ‘all things’ v 20.
This is the all-encompassing sovereignty of Christ, the foundational message of the New Testament.
'The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word'.
So we can’t think of creation without thinking of Christ. And by implication we can't think of Christ without thinking of creation. He was before it, he holds it together, and it was made for him.
‘He is the story’
These are the words of Professor Carmody Grey from an interview done by A Rocha, Canada and I am grateful for permission to use it. Carmody Grey is Professor of Catholic Theology at Durham University, and describes her job as ‘doing theology at street level’.
The full interview, with Jason Byassee is here (from the A Rocha Canada website).
How does the Colossians passage help us think about our relationship with creation?
How is your perception of creation affected by Christ being at the heart of it all?
’If we are to care well for the earth, we need scientists to help us understand the thing for which we are called to care, and we need artists to help us see this world anew.’
From ‘Creation Care’ Douglas J Moo and Jonathan A Moo, p 50
‘Hear the Song of our lament’ Resound Worship
18 I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. 19 For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed.
20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.
22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.
24 For in this hope we were saved.
Romans 8 is a pivotal chapter in Paul’s magnificent letter to the Romans, with its overarching message of freedom, salvation and the ‘love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ from which nothing can separate us (v 39).So it is significant that the creation has a central place, fully included in God’s salvation purposes. Creation and humanity are deeply connected in the present, suffering and waiting
together; and the future of each is tied up with the other v19 ‘The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed’
v21‘creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and bought into the
glorious freedom of the children of God.’ This interdependence is humbling, reminding us that our actions can contribute and have contributed to what is here called creation’s ‘frustration’, its bondage and decay, going all the way back to that first broken relationship between Adam and Eve and God, and between humanity and the earth, when the earth was ‘cursed’ as Adam was banished for his disobedience.
But our actions can also contribute to its restoration, when we are working ‘with nature
rather than against it’, to coin a phrase of David Attenborough. And, we might add, with God rather than against him. This is a present reality because in Christ the Kingdom of God has already begun on
earth, even though full freedom and liberation lie in the future, at a time we cannot know but which we anticipate in faith and hope. A time when ‘a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness’ (2 Peter 3:13) will be fully revealed according to God’s purposes.
I loved Claire’s illustration in her recent sermon: she described the arc of God’s plan from creation to new creation and said she mistyped ‘overarching’ at first as ‘overache-ing’- which actually brought a theological truth to light: Until the ‘arc’ is complete, and God finishes his work on earth, we all ‘ache’ with the waiting, that ‘groaning’ in Romans, but we can look forward in expectation of God’s final
Many other Bible passages are worthy of our attention, for example: the story of Noah, which we know so well but it can bring us up short time and again with its extraordinary combination- of God’s minute care for every species, his righteous judgement, and his covenant love symbolised by the rainbow.
The prophecy in Hosea of the new creation, which we learn will be one of harmony, fruitfulness and peace. Or the picture in Isaiah, pointing to restored relationships and a time when the earth will be
‘full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea’
- have you ever thought about what that means, by the way? Water covering water?- this is one of the wonders of Scripture to my mind- there is always something else to ponder- and exploring it takes us deeper into an awareness of God- and how he relates to his world - And did you know, as we reflect on the ‘new creation’, that the Greek word for ‘new’ in the Bible leans more towards ‘renewed’ or ‘remade’ than ‘replaced’? And of course the great picture in Revelation of the new creation, where in chapter 22 we are told ‘No longer will there be any curse…’
It is the whole witness of Scripture we are trying to grasp: looking for ‘proof passages’ on
any subject is not what reading the Bible is about.
The Message. Ephesians 1: 7-10.
Because of the sacrifice of the Messiah, his blood poured out on the altar of the Cross, we’re a free people—free of penalties and punishments chalked up by all our misdeeds. And not just barely free, either. Abundantly free! He thought of everything, provided for everything we could possibly need, letting us in on the plans he took such delight in making. He set it all out before us in Christ, a long range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth.
This passage reflects the New Testament understanding of the ‘new world God intends to
make’ through the coming of Jesus. His ‘long-range plan’… as we see at the end there, where
‘everything is brought together’… everything in heaven … everything on planet earth.’
In summary, as one commentary puts it, ‘With the risen Christ, the new creation has