Maker of Heaven and Earth
The first phrase of the Apostles’ Creed focuses on God the Father and creation. In addition to calling God Father and Almighty, it declares Him to be the maker of heaven and earth. Why is it important for us to know that He made heaven and earth? Let me highlight five key ideas that emerge from this brief phrase in the Apostles’ Creed.
1.) The World Is Good
In one sense, the idea that the world is good might seem like a no-brainer, but this was very controversial at the time of the early church and still plays itself out in subtle ways today. The Creed notes that this physical world was made by the Triune God. This was different than what some people were saying at the time, as they believed there was a “bad” god who made this world and then a “good” god who made the spiritual world. At times, this bad god was associated with the Old Testament and the people of Israel while the good god was associated with Jesus and the New Testament. The Creed says there is only one God, and He made heaven and earth. Therefore, this world is not bad, but good -- the work of a good God.
This view of a bad world that we must escape from is not necessarily something people say today, but they will sometimes imply it when speaking of our souls as our “true self” and our bodies as something to be escaped from. While we long for the resurrection of the body and the renewal of this world, the goal is not to escape and simply be spirits, as we are body and soul. God made the physical world, so it is good; we should not despise it or our physical bodies.
2.) The World is Not God
While highlighting that the world we live in is real and good, there is also a sense in which this statement is a reminder that the world itself is not God. It is good and should be cared for and cherished as something created by God made, but it is not divine. This is different from other religions and belief systems that find the earth to be divine (think of the phrase “Mother Earth”). This world is a means, not an end; the means is to give glory to the one who made it (we are stewards who use it to glorify God and not just seek our own pleasure).
3.) There is Something Beyond This World
The Creed talks about God making heaven and earth. While there is a sense in which this could be referring to space and sky, the Nicene Creed adds the line “visible and invisible.” This statement reminds us there is “more than meets the eye” when it comes to reality. There is something beyond this earth on which we live (in fact, we are a small part of the universe), and there is an unseen reality -- a heavenly reality that must affect our everyday lives. In many ways, this statement is what counters the common belief today that this world is all there is.
4.) We Humans Are Not Ultimate
In addition, the fact that God made all things reminds us that humans are not the measure of all things. We can make things, but we can’t make things from nothing. We only work with the things that God has given us. God made things - including us - from nothing, so we belong to Him. God was before time and made us not because He was lacking or bored, but to show His love and power. The world is not for us but rather for God and, therefore, we must listen to Him.
5.) God Is Not Removed From This World
While the opening words themselves do not necessarily say that God is involved in this world, as the Creed continues we see how God interacts in the world through the ministry of the Son and Spirit. Just as the Son and Spirit are at work in creation, so the Father is also at work in the workings of this world; we can talk about creation but also “providence." In Q & A 27, the Heidelberg Catechism defines providence as this:
The almighty and ever present power of God by which God upholds, as with his hand, Heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty—all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.
Providence is thus connected to the fact that God made it all (Almighty Creator) but also is connected to Father, showing that there is a purpose to what was made and also a purpose and order to what happens. It is not just an intellectual thing to know, though, as it should comfort us as Q & A 28 notes:
Q.How does the knowledge of God’s creation and providence help us?
A. We can be patient when things go against us, thankful when things go well, and for the future we can have good confidence in our faithful God and Father that nothing in creation will separate us from his love. For all creatures are so completely in God’s hand that without his will they can neither move nor be moved.
May we look to God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, having patience, hope, and thankfulness as we walk in this world that He has made and as His people who He has made and redeemed.
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