We are Christians, and this means that Christ must be central to our understanding of the created order. We cannot understand anything apart from Him, and this understanding must be bounded and guided by Scripture. Central to the Reformed faith is a right understanding of the created order, and our place in it.
“Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen” (Rom. 1:24-25).
If we want to understand the Christian faith, we must begin with Jesus. Who was He? What did He do? The Bible teaches repeatedly that the Word of God, the one who became Jesus Christ in the Incarnation, was the one used by God in the creation of heaven and earth. Jesus Christ is the Creator. He is the agent of all creation.
Not one thing was created apart from Him. “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). If it is created, the Bible teaches, then Jesus Christ was the one who created it. Looking it this from the other direction, we see that the Word fashioned all things. “For by him were all things created . . .” (Col. 1:16-18). Whether visible or invisible, every creature owes its existence to Jesus Christ, the one who spoke all things into existent. The eternal Word, the Logos of God, made the worlds: “God . . . hath . . . spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1-2). When we look at the sun, moon and stars, we are looking at the handiwork of Jesus Christ. We may speak this way even though the cosmos was not made by Jesus of Nazareth. When the heavens and earth were first fashioned, the Word of God had not yet become Jesus of Nazareth. But the Second Person of the Trinity, the one who was to become Incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, is the Creator of all things.
We need to be careful here when speaking of creation. The difference between the Creator and the creature is not a quantitative difference. God is not bounded by the world He made. He is the Lord of the world, not a big portion of the world. But sin blurs this distinction. God is not the biggest fish in the great ocean of being. There is a fundamental Creator/creature distinction that we must never forget.
God has created us in such a way as to be able to wonder “what if?” “What if God had not saved me?” is a reasonable question. “What if I had been born in another family?” is a coherent question to raise — even though it cannot be answered. To wonder why God has shown His kindness to us, when He could have passed us by, is a reasonable way to think. We see Paul expressing this when he notes that he was chief of sinners. But idolatry wants to claim the prerogatives of Deity. For this kind of mind, the question, “Why could I not have been God?” is not recognized as an incoherent one. Alternative possibilities are possible on this side of the Creator/creature divide. But sinful men always aspire to Deity, and they want to reach across that divide.
Not only does the Word of God demonstrate His Deity in the creation of the heavens and earth, He also displays this power in His recreation of the same. Jesus was manifested to the world as the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). In this capacity, He was the first born from among the dead — the first fruits of a new creation. Paul shows us plainly how Christ is the Lord of the recreated order. Those who take part in this by faith are those who understand the difference between God and idols.
St. Paul argues in this way — if we are children, then we are heirs. If heirs, then we must be joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). This inheritance is the restoration and glorification of the entire created order
When Jesus Christ first created the world, He did so ex nihilo, from nothing. What He has done for us now is creatio ex lapsu, from a fallen and corrupted order. His work of restoration is with ruined and marred material, not with “nothing,” and hence it is a far more impressive and glorious work (Rom. 8: 20-22).
Jesus undertakes this restoration for all things. We must remember the role played by a very famous verse in this argument of Paul’s. “All things work together for good . . .” (Rom. 8:28). The world is being taken somewhere, and everything that happens works into this larger design. Where is it being taken? To the place where the sons of God are revealed, which will happen at the resurrection of the dead.
What are the consequences if we do not recognize Christ as the Lord of the creation, and as the Lord of the new creation? In Romans 1, Paul warns against the most fundamental confusion that can afflict a man –worshipping and serving the creation rather than the Creator. As he shows, the end of that road is homosexuality, which is nothing less than a judicial blindness from God. The fact that our supposedly modern and enlightened culture is so confused on this point is not an incidental one. Sin of course brings judgment. Christ brings every work into judgment. He evaluates it, and renders judgment on the basis of His holy character (Rom. 2:6). God renders to each man according to his deeds. And we learn in Romans that certain sins are themselves judgment: sins do not just bring judgment; the Bible describes certain sins as judgment. The refusal to honor God as God, and the refusal to bring Him thanks, result in a fearful judgment. Just as God struck the men of Sodom so that they could not find the door, so He strikes them so that they cannot find the woman (Rom. 1:24; 26).
But we must not overemphasize this, as though it were the entire story. Christ will judge, but that judgment is in the context of His saving mission, which will be accomplished. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. In other words, Christ did not have to become Incarnate in order to damn sinners. If that were the central point, He could have saved Himself a lot of difficulty. Christ became a man in order to restore and save the heavens and the earth, and the nations of men within that created order. Christ is the Lord of Creation, certainly, but He is a saving Lord, one who delivers. Because He is the Lord of the new creation, the nations of men will not have to be saved from Jesus Christ. Rather, because this is His office, they will be saved by Jesus Christ.