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God is complete and sufficient in and of himself, and we add nothing to his glory.
What is a crucial but often forgotten aspect of the doctrine of creation?
The doctrine of creation can be summed up in one sentence: The triune God without opposition or equal, and without the use of preexisting materials, created the world by his will and for his good pleasure.
Each one of those phrases is loaded. One of the things that most people pay attention to is the idea that he did use no preexisting materials — creation ex nihilo. The reason for that is God is truly sovereign over that which he created. It is not that he is one of many deities, who he happens to be the one who created the world, and the world is made out of some kind of preexisting material or divine stuff in which he had to battle it and defeat it and subdue it. This would really impugn on the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. We don’t find any of that in Genesis 1.
The thing I would say many people forget is that last expression — he created according to his good will and pleasure. God has freedom. He is a free God. He would have been just as glorious if he had never created at all. It would have taken away none of his excellencies if throughout all eternity he had remained the sum total of reality. It isn’t that he got lonely and created, because he was a perfect society of fellowship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit that loved one another with a perfect love. All the glories and excellencies were already experienced in a maximal way. No, he created as an act of pure grace. It is a gratuitous action. He could have created a world different than the one he did if he had so chosen, and it could have been according to his good will and good pleasure.
So we want to preserve the freedom of God in creating because I think that is just as essential. You do have some who think God was someone who needed to create, that somehow creation fills some lack God had. And the Bible makes it very clear that neither of those things is true. God is complete and sufficient in and of himself, and we add nothing to his glory.
Now, we have been graciously given the privilege of glorifying him, but that is a gracious privilege. That’s something that’s forgotten — the freedom of God in creation.
If we lose God’s freedom in creating, what do we lose about God?
For example, this means everything God did he did by necessity — that he could not have done otherwise; that for some reason, whether internal or external, he was somehow compelled that he could not have done otherwise. I think that we all recognize intuitively that this puts a restraint on the nature of God that doesn’t sound very God-like.
It is no restriction on God to say that God always operates on the constraints of his nature. In other words, God is a good God, a holy God and a righteous God, so therefore he always operates righteously, lovingly, in a way that is pure.
But within that framework of his nature, there’s an infinite number of options available to him. He could have not saved Ken Keathley and still would have been just as glorious as he is. But he ordained a world in which I would be saved, so this was a free act on his part. Regardless of where one comes out on the Calvinist and Arminian debate (and I’m kind of in-between), the point is that I think all of us want to preserve the freedom of God in this way.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about the Knowing Faith podcast.