This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.
All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.
1. Colossians 1:16
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. Read More
by him all things were created. Jesus did not come into existence when he was born of the virgin Mary. He was the agent of creation through whom God made heaven and earth (John 1:3). Jesus cannot be the first thing created (as the ancient Arian heresy claimed) since “all things” without exception were created by him. thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities. Paul is using the current Jewish terms for various rankings of angels (although he doesn’t explain their relative ranks). His emphasis here may be on the evil angels, since they play a significant part in this letter (Col. 2:8, 10, 15, 20). This would not mean, however, that Jesus created evil angels; all spiritual powers were created by Jesus, but some later chose to rebel against God and so to become evil. Jesus is not only the agent of creation but is also the goal of creation, for everything was created by him and for him, that is, for his honor and praise. Since Jesus is in this sense the goal of creation, he must be fully God.
2. Genesis 1:1–2
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Read More
The book of Genesis opens with a majestic description of how God first created the heavens and earth and then how he ordered the earth so that it may become his dwelling place. Structured into seven sections, each marked by the use of set phrases, the entire episode conveys the picture of the all-powerful, transcendent God who sets everything in place with consummate skill in conformity to his grand design. The emphasis is mainly on how God orders or structures everything. The structure of the account is as follows: after giving the setting (Gen. 1:1–2), the author describes the six workdays (Gen. 1:3–31) and the seventh day, God’s Sabbath (Gen. 2:1–3). Each of the six workdays follows the same pattern: it begins with “and God said,” and closes with “and there was evening and there was morning, the nth day.” After declaring that God is the Creator of all things (Gen. 1:1), the focus of the rest of Genesis 1 (beginning at Gen. 1:3) is mainly on God bringing things into existence by his word and ordering the created things (“let the waters … be gathered together,” 1:9), rather than on how the earth was initially created (Gen. 1:1). Different features indicate this. For example, vegetation is mentioned on day 3, prior to the apparent creation of the sun on day 4. Viewed in its ancient Near Eastern context, Genesis 1 says that God created everything, but it is also an account of how God has structured creation in its ordered complexity. Readers are introduced in the first three days to Day, Night, the Heavens, Earth, Seas—all these items, and only these, being specifically named by God. In days 4–6 the three distinctive regions are populated: the Heavens with lights and birds; the Seas with fish and swarming creatures; and the Earth with livestock and creeping things. God finally gives authority to human beings, as his vice-regents, to govern all these living creatures. Genesis 1 establishes a hierarchy of authority. Humanity is divinely commissioned to govern other creatures on God’s behalf, the ultimate purpose being that the whole earth should become the temple of God, the place of his presence, and should display his glory.
In the beginning. This opening verse can be taken as a summary, introducing the whole passage; or it can be read as the first even, the origin of the heavens and the earth (sometime before the first day), including the creation of matter, space, and time. This second view (the origin of the heavens and the earth) is confirmed by the NT writers’ affirmation that creation was from nothing (Heb. 11:3; Rev. 4:11). God created. Although the Hebrew word for “God,” ’Elohim, is plural in form (possibly to express majesty), the verb “create” is singular, indicating that God is thought of as one being. Genesis is consistently monotheistic in its outlook, in marked contrast to other ancient Near Eastern accounts of creation. There is only one God. The Hebrew verb bara’, “create,” is always used in the OT with God as the subject; while it is not always used to describe creation out of nothing, it does stress God’s sovereignty and power. Heavens and the earth here means “everything.” This means, then, that “In the beginning” refers to the beginning of everything. The text indicates that God created everything in the universe, which thus affirms that he did in fact create it ex nihilo (Latin “out of nothing”). The effect of the opening words of the Bible is to establish that God, in his inscrutable wisdom, sovereign power, and majesty, is the Creator of all things that exist.
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3. John 1:1–3
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. Read More
In the beginning was the Word echoes the opening phrase of the book of Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” John will soon identify this Word as Jesus (John 1:14), but here he locates Jesus’ existence in eternity past with God. The term “the Word” (Gk. Logos) conveys the notion of divine self-expression or speech and has a rich OT background. God’s Word is effective: God speaks, and things come into being (Gen. 1:3, 9; Ps. 33:6; Ps. 107:20; Isa. 55:10–11), and by speech he relates personally to his people (e.g., Gen. 15:1). John also shows how this concept of “the Word” is superior to a Greek philosophical concept of “Word” (logos) as an impersonal principle of Reason that gave order to the universe. And the Word was with God indicates interpersonal relationship “with” God, but then and the Word was God affirms that this Word was also the same God who created the universe “in the beginning.” Here are the building blocks that go into the doctrine of the Trinity: the one true God consists of more than one person, they relate to each other, and they have always existed. From the Patristic period (Arius, c. A.D. 256–336) until the present day (Jehovah’s Witnesses), some have claimed that “the Word was God” merely identifies Jesus as a god rather than identifying Jesus as God, because the Greek word for God, Theos, is not preceded by a definite article. However, in Greek grammar, Colwell’s Rule indicates that the translation “a god” is not required, for lack of an article does not necessarily indicate indefiniteness (“a god”) but rather specifies that a given term (“God”) is the predicate nominative of a definite subject (“the Word”). This means that the context must determine the meaning of Theos here, and the context clearly indicates that this “God” that John is talking about (“the Word”) is the one true God who created all things (see also John 1:6, 12, 13, 18 for other examples of Theos without a definite article but clearly meaning “God”).
All things includes the whole universe, indicating that (except for God) everything that exists was created and that (except for God) nothing has existed eternally. Made through him follows the consistent pattern of Scripture in saying that God the Father carried out his creative works through the activity of the Son (cf. 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). This verse disproves any suggestion that the Word (or the Son, John 1:14) was created, for the Father would have had to do this by himself, and John says that nothing was created that way, for without him was not any thing made that was made.
4. Revelation 4:11
“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.” Read More
The chorus of four living creatures swells as the twenty-four elders fall down and cast their crowns before the throne, offering worship and expressing submission to God’s authority. The elders extol God as worthy of threefold tribute (glory, honor, power) because he exerts his sovereign will in creating and sustaining all things. God receives “power,” not in the sense that an omnipotent being can become stronger, but in the sense that the strength of his creatures is used to honor him. These praises of God for his eternal perfection and creative achievement are the prelude to a “new song,” which will laud God and the Lamb for redemption, the climactic display of their divine worthiness (Rev. 5:9–10).
5. Hebrews 11:3
By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible. Read More
God’s creation of the universe was accomplished by his word (Gk. rhēma). So that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible is consistent with the doctrine of creation ex nihilo (Latin, “from nothing”), but is not itself a full statement about this reality. It does, however, seem to correct Greco-Roman notions about eternally existing matter. The idea that God created the visible universe out of some other kind of invisible (“not … visible”) matter is not in the author’s mind; rather, he is saying that God did not make the universe out of any preexisting matter as humans know it, which is close to saying that he made it “out of nothing.” Further support for this idea is found in Gen. 1:1; Ps. 33:6, 9; 90:2; John 1:3; Acts 14:15; Rom. 4:17.
6. Genesis 2:7
then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. Read More
These verses concentrate on God’s creation of a human male, amplifying Gen. 1:26–31 in particular. The main action here is God’s “forming” of the man (Gen. 2:7); Gen. 2: 5–6 describe the conditions as the action took place. The term land (Hb. ’erets) can refer to the whole earth, to dry land (cf. Gen. 1:10), or to a specific region (cf. Gen. 2:11–13). To show the continuity with Gen. 1 (see note on Gen. 2:4), and in view of the mention of rain, the ESV rendering (“land”) is best. The location of this land is some unnamed place, just as the rainy season was about to begin, and thus when the ground was still dry, and without any bush of the field. These conditions prevailed before the creation of man, suggesting that the lack of growth was related to the absence of a man to irrigate the land (which would be the normal way in dry conditions to bring about growth). then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground (Gen. 2:7). The verb “formed” (Hb. yatsar) conveys the picture of a potter’s fashioning clay into a particular shape. The close relationship between the man and the ground is reflected in the Hebrew words used to denote them, ’adam and ’adamah, respectively. breathed into his nostrils the breath of life (v. 7). Here God breathes life—physical, mental, and spiritual—into the one created to bear his image. living creature. The same term in Hebrew is used in Gen, 1:20, 24 to denote sea and land creatures. While human beings have much in common with other living beings, God gives humans alone a royal and priestly status and makes them alone “in his own image” (Gen. 1:27). (See Paul’s quotation of this passage in 1 Cor. 15:45.)
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7. Psalm 139:13–14
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well. Read More
You Even Saw and Loved Me before I Was Born. These verses illustrate the point of Psa. 139:11–12 (the section begins with for, showing the connection to the previous) by describing a particular “dark place” where the Lord saw and cared for the singer, namely, his mother’s womb. God was active as the unformed substance (embryo) grew and developed; indeed he is the one who formed my inward parts and knitted me together. God saw him, and even had written in his book, every one of … the days that were formed for me.** The worshiper realizes that, even before his mother knew she was pregnant, the Lord was already showing his care for him. His personal life began in the womb (see note on Psa. 51:5), and God had already laid out its course.
I am fearfully and wonderfully made. If the ESV text is followed, the statement helps the worshiper to marvel over the mysterious process of a developing baby. The word translated “wonderfully made” (Hb. nipleti) has a slightly unusual spelling (the expected spelling is niple’ti), which favors the ESV footnote: “I am fearfully set apart.” This takes the word to be the term for God setting his people apart (Ex. 8:22; Ps. 4:3) or making a distinction between them and those who are not his people (Ex. 9:4; Ex.11:7; Ex. 33:16). The faithful person singing this, who in the OT would be the child of faithful parents, can affirm that God set his special love upon him from the earliest stages of his personal life (cf. Ps. 22:9–10; Ps. 71:5–6).
8. Romans 1:20
For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Read More
God’s wrath is expressed for good reason since his power and divine nature are clearly revealed through the world he has made, and yet he is rejected by all people. These verses show that salvation does not come through “general revelation” (what is known about God through the natural world) since Paul emphasizes the universality of sin and concludes that “no one seeks for God” (Rom. 3:11). things that have been made. The entire natural world bears witness to God through its beauty, complexity, design, and usefulness. without excuse. No one should complain that God has left insufficient evidence of his existence and character; the fault is with those who reject the evidence.
9. Genesis 1:26
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Read More
Let us make man in our image. The text does not specify the identity of the “us” mentioned here. Some have suggested that God may be addressing the members of his court, whom the OT elsewhere calls “sons of God” (e.g., Job 1:6) and the NT calls “angels,” but a significant objection is that man is not made in the image of angels, nor is there any indication that angels participated in the creation of human beings. Many Christians and some Jews have taken “us” to be God speaking to himself, since God alone does the making in Gen. 1:27 (cf. Gen. 5:1); this would be the first hint of the Trinity in the Bible (cf. Gen. 1:2)
10. Jeremiah 32:17
‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.’ Read More
Jeremiah’s prayer begins by confessing that God is the all-powerful Creator (made the heavens), for whom nothing is too hard (cf. Gen. 18:14). This supports the doctrine of God’s omnipotence: God has infinite power and can do all that he wills to do. However, it does not mean that God can do anything, for he cannot act contrary to his own character (cf. 2 Tim. 2:13; Heb. 6:18).
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