God is a God of order. In the beginning, He created everything in a particular order. Thus, while the doctrine (teaching) of the order of creation is not as central as the doctrine of justification (salvation by grace through faith alone in Jesus Christ) or the doctrine of the return of Christ to Christianity – without a grasp of the order of creation, a Christian will not have a framework of why God came to save humanity and why He will restore the Creation when Christ returns. So let’s start at the beginning – a very good place to start.
Genesis 1 – Creation from a Grand Perspective
There are two accounts of creation in the beginning found in Genesis 1 and 2. Genesis 1 is the account of the creation from a grand perspective, while Genesis 2 is the account from an intimate perspective. Both accounts reveal God’s care in design and love for His Creation.
God creates for order
Theologians have argued about why it took God six days to make all of Creation. Couldn’t He just have done it in 30 min and taken the next days to rest? Of course He could have, but He didn’t. He created according to His own will and desire, out of His good pleasure, and according to His own timeline. When He revealed how He created everything – that it took six days, that He made certain things on certain days- He revealed that He is a God of order, not one of chaos or randomness. God set the world in motion exactly how He wanted it to be. God placed everything in their proper positions because He desired them to be there. Those positions are not simply the physical and spatial relationships between everything; it also includes the relationships of authority and responsibility He established. The end result is when God steps back and reflects on His work: It was very good (Genesis 1:31).
God creates in order
Everything that God creates in the beginning is built in order. He moves from largeness, vastness (light/dark; heaven/earth) to smaller, more intimate (mankind). This is intentional as He orders things for the benefit of what is created next. Light and dark create the day and night – a rhythm built into the creation for God’s creatures. He creates Heavens and Earth – the tapestry for the Sun, Moon, and other bodies of the heavens; the domains for plants and all living creatures. Lastly, God creates the crown of creation: Mankind. All that has been made in the creation leading up to making Mankind is for the benefit of Mankind. Mankind, however, is special and given a specific purpose in their creation.
Unlike all other creatures, Mankind is made in God’s image -“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27, ESV). Moreover, God gives Mankind a charge, “have dominion” – rule over the earth. This rule is not to be oppressive; no, this rule is to reflect the Creator —to image the Creator to the creation by being a good steward, a faithful caretaker of creation. When creation looks at mankind, it is to see its Creator reflected in mankind. Mankind’s purpose was (and still is today) to cultivate and care for the creation. Moreover, Mankind is to image God to the creation. That is the good order of things God ordained from the very beginning. But there is more.
Genesis 2 – Creation from an Intimate Perspective
While Genesis 1 gives the brief overview of God’s creating man – in Genesis 2, we hear how involved God is creating His crown of creation, mankind. Genesis 2 starts in the muck and mud of the earth. Yet, God is willing to get His hands dirty. Like a potter who molds clay, so the Lord God stoops down to the dust of the earth and crafts Adam. Then the Lord God breathes into Adam – literally inspires with His Spirit- to bring Adam to life. Then the Lord God places Adam in the Garden to work and keep it – giving Adam purpose and meaning.
Adam had his marching orders so to speak. He was there to make sure everything in the Garden was doing what it was supposed to be doing. But God knew that it was not good for Adam to do this work alone nor for Adam not to have someone with which to share his work. So the Lord God decided to bring all the animals to Adam to find a suitable helpmate. None sufficed. So the Lord God put Adam to sleep, performed surgery, and when Adam awoke, he found his complement – his helpmate: woman.
Why this becomes so important for us today is that this creation process – literally, this order of creating- has profound implications for the roles and responsibilities that men and women have. First, men and women are distinct – they are not interchangeable cogs in a machine, no they are uniquely, wonderfully crafted according to God’s design. Second, they are meant for each other. The blessing of marriage God institutes in the creation of Adam and Eve is also the blessing that they, together, participate in God’s creative activity. Together, man and woman bring forth life. Together, they work complementing each other so that God’s good order and design may flourish.
Men are the ones ultimately responsible for being caretakers of “their gardens.” Men are responsible for their households on all levels. They are the ones whom God entrusted to work and keep what God has given to them. They are to “image God” to the rest of creation – most especially a man to his wife and children. God created man specifically for that purpose. God holds men accountable for what their household does or fails to do.
That accountability for men is the good order God established. That good order is just as important for women. Women are to be the complement – the helpmates of men. They are to receive what the labors of the man. They are the ones who bring to fruition God’s blessing of procreation.
What does this mean?
Sin has corrupted our ability to follow this order perfectly. Yet, this good order God instituted before the fall into sin remains His good and gracious design for His creatures. As Christians, those who have been reconciled to God through the forgiveness of sins, we are to uphold this order.
The apostle Paul is explicit in his letters in the Scripture of the implications of this order. In Ephesians 5, he lays out the implications on marriage:
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.Ephesians 5:25-33, ESV
Paul’s words here are God’s intent for marriage in His creation. But what Paul also highlights is that this good order of creation is actually a reflection of Christ’s love for the church. That means when we as Christians strive to uphold this good order, moreover, when we repent of failures and seek His grace – we actually bear witness to the love of God in Christ.
A note on the word submit. In Greek, this word is literally “under/in the category/order.” Paul is not speaking of a woman being a so-called “doormat,” but instead emphasizes the role that the husbands are finally responsible and accountable for the well-being of the wife – both physically and spiritually.
But there is more good news. The good order that God created in the beginning will be restored on the day when Christ returns. In fact, it will be even better than it was in the Garden. Everything God created will be rightly ordered and related to everything else in the new heavens and the new earth. Yet, even here and now, when Christians uphold this good order, life tends to go better and, perhaps more importantly, the creation sees the image and design of God. Ultimately, the goal with that, by the work of the Holy Spirit, is that those who see that image and design of God come to repentance and faith in Jesus.