To kick off the new year we had our first “CBS” (Community Bible Study) at River City. The instructor was Dr. Gilbert Bilezekian, a renowned theologian, teacher, and thinker. Dr. B was the founding elder at Willow Creek Community Church in the 70’s – it is amazing to remember that he was the ‘old guy’ all the way back then. Now, at 84, he is as sharp and astute as ever. The 3 sessions focused on the nature of community, and below are some of my favorite quotes and ideas from him as he made his way through the first 3 chapters of Genesis. They are not edited – just transferred straight from my notes:
Genesis 1.1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” This is God’s self-introduction to humanity. God introduces himself as the Creator and as the Father.
Genesis 1.2: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” In V2 God introduces Himself as Spirit.
What is the relationship between God the Father/Creator and God the Spirit? In V3 we see a formula that is repeated 3 times. “God said… and it was…” God speaks the word, and through the power of that word what God has in mind crackles into reality
Here we are exposed to the logos or Word of God as the active agent performing God’s will, bringing into existence what God has decreed.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” All things were created through the power of that Word. There is nothing that has been brought into existence outside of the power of that Word.
The Word became flesh, and it dwelt among us full of grace and truth and that people who look at that word becoming flesh recognize that resemblance and said, “This is the Son of the Father who we already know” and called him the Son of God.
What we have just discovered here is that we need to go only 3 verses into the Bible to discover that God is community. At the core of all existence there is a plurality in oneness. The three persons of that one being act in coordination with each other, complimenting each other, but pursuing the same goal – the creation of the world.
Though one may be at the forefront, when one is involved in something all 3 are involved. There is no total ‘complimentedness’ among them so that no one is telling one another what to do. They are one being with 3 persons.
The essence of being is community.
God took the best of who God was, and in the essence of community made a copy of himself (1.26). Community is the essence of who God is.
Genesis 2 is the close-up of humans being created (chapter 1 is the big picture overview)
V18 – there was one but no oneness. God didn’t misstep; next it says God made a helper. A ‘helper’ is not an underling. The problem was that man was alone – the helper was to help with community so that there would be plurality. A helper with a task might be a secretary, but if the problem to help is aloneness and an inherent weakness, then there is a strength and dignity that comes with that helper.
This word is used 20 times and it is most often used of God, who is our helper. There is nothing subordinate or diminishing or demeaning about the word. We have injected those meanings into the word.
A helper gives you a fulfillment that you didn’t have so that what God had intended from the beginning could be accomplished.
V24 is referenced by Jesus and by Paul. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” There was no mother or father yet – they did not have a belly button yet.
V25 – “they were naked an unashamed.” Why is this the conclusion to the creation narrative?
Dr. B says he studied nakedness and discovered that the people who were always naked were at the bottom of the social ladder – orphans, widows, servants, etc. His conclusion: for community to work, we have to be willing to be servants as our fundamental identity. When Jesus served the disciples he took off a part of his garment. When Jesus displayed the ultimate sacrifice he was completely naked.
Many see this as a malevolent move by God, but Dr. B sees it as benevolent. It was a reminder that we cannot play God. We cannot live independent of God because we are created by God and are dependent on them. When we are disconnected from God we lose everything, most notably community.
The tree was a kind of warning – a no trespass sign. It was an alarm signal. “You go beyond this line and then everything is lost.” The warning was that if you eat of it you die. It was a warning of a reality that they could not conceive of yet. When you seek self-sufficiency you are not thinking of weakness but power. That is what they are looking for when they disobey. They are seeking their own independence. It is their own 4th of July.
The tempter even said, “You shall be like God.” It is a refusal to remain at the image level. It is a craving to become the model of which they are the copy. This is the essence of sin. Every sin that you and I commit is an affirmation of myself against the will of God.
It is saying to God, “get out of the way, I want to have my own way. You might be smart, but I am not so stupid either. Not your way but my way.”
The tree was sending the message that God created good and that everything is perfectly good. An act of rebellion against God will sever and tear open the life giving relation they have with God. If you want to go alone you can, but separated from the source of life is death. You separate something from the life giving force what happens? It’s death.
Let’s not malign that tree. When you malign the tree you malign God. The message given by the tree should have been heeded. The image wanted to compete with the model. That’s the source of all evil.
How did they know that community had been broken? For the first time they are aware that they are naked. The oneness explodes. They will now compete and accuse, and their closeness is wrenched apart. They are two lone entities as a result of wanting independence from God.
V7: The first gesture after looking at each other is to cover themselves. They cannot take the fact that because of the loss of community they have lost their status of being mutual servants. In fact, in v16 the last word is God speaking that not only has community exploded, but now one has become ruler and one has become subject.
This chapter shows the devastation of sin. When the reliationship is broken hierarchy is introduced. Why the man over the woman? He refers to biology – when a living being is cut off from its primary source of life it will move to its secondary source for survival. The man’s primary source of life was God, and his secondary source was the earth. He will not sweat over the earth and find thistles and thorns and eventually die and re-enter the soil he came from. The woman’s primary source of life and when that was cut off she went to her secondary source of life – the man. She is a slave to the slave. The man is enslaved to the earth, she is enslaved to the population of humanity and the pains of childbirth.