1. In the beginning it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, to create or make the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days, and all very good. (John 1:2, 3; Hebrews 1:2; Job 26:13; Romans 1:20; Colossians 1:16; Genesis 1:31)
This chapter is theologically connected to God’s decree because creation was the first of God’s decrees to be executed. The Baptist Catechism serves as a summary of the Confession. Question 10 of this catechism defines God’s decrees as: “The decrees of God are his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.” Logically following that, question 11 asks: “How doth God execute his decrees?” The answer is: “God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.” And so we see that the Catechism is simply reflecting the logical order of the Confession: chapter 3 is about God’s decrees, and chapter 4 and 5 are about the execution of those decrees, and so chapters 3 through 5 essentially deal with God’s decree; this entire chapter is devoted to the work of creation.
In the Confession, we see: it pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to make creation. The only reason God does anything is because it pleases him. Notice the Trinitarian focus in the work of creation. We see this Trinitarian focus right at the beginning of Genesis: “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” (Gen 1:2 ESV). And in Genesis 1:26, notice the plural pronoun ‘Us’: “Then God said, “Let Us make man in our image, after Our likeness” (ESV).  Further, the New Testament explicitly speaks of the Son making creation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made“ (John 1:1-3 ESV). And, “But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Heb. 1:2 ESV). By looking at the whole of Scripture we understand that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were each involved in the work of creation. This work of creation is the first thing God did, and thus it was in the beginning. As Scripture states: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen 1:1 ESV).
It pleased God to make creation for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness to create or make the world. Indeed God’s work of creation does show forth the glory of these three attributes. In chapter 1, paragraph 1, the Confession told us that the works of creation “manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God.” Now that we have arrived at the chapter designated to address the works of creation this is reiterated. Romans 1:20 states: “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” (ESV). Thus by God making the world, he reveals invisible attributes to all. Not all his attributes are seen in creation, the others are only known through special revelation found in the Scriptures alone. To see the manifestation of his glory, and specifically these three attributes, all we have to do is step outside and see his creation. While God made creation for his pleasure, part of his pleasure was to manifest himself to his creatures by creation.
The Confession continues: and all things therein, whether visible or invisible. There is nothing in this world that did not come from God. This is exactly what the Bible says: “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” (Col. 1:16 ESV). Also, as cited above: “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:1-3 ESV). God is the creator of everything we see and do not see—and there is much in creation that is invisible. Even the invisible things—once discovered or known—manifest his glory. Whether angelic beings or things our modern age has discovered, such as atoms and other microscopic life. Such things also manifest God’s glory and character. The discovery of things previously unknown to prior ages holds modern man that much more accountable to acknowledge their Creator. The fact that more evidence of God does not bring about more acknowledgement and worship of God only goes to show that the more unregenerate man knows of God, the harder he works to suppress the knowledge of him. God has blessed modern man with more knowledge of his glory so that they might have that much more reason to repent: “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Rm. 2:4 ESV)?
The Confession continues: in the space of six days. If we interpret the Confession in its historical setting, there is little doubt the authors had in mind that Genesis was referring to six, literal, twenty-four hour days. The Confession was written before modern theories of earth dating. While all believers should reject the theory of evolution which denies God as Creator, there are faithful believers who do not think the Bible is literally referring to six, twenty-four hour periods. We must always be faithful to Scripture before science, but it is possible for a believer to hold that those six days were not meant literately, rather representing periods of time. We must show grace in this area. I believe that the Bible is indeed referring to six, literal, twenty-four hour periods, but I will not break fellowship over the issue.
The Confession concludes by stating: and all very good. Each day after God completed his work, God “saw it was good.” But notice what it says of the last day of creation: “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day” (Gen 1:31 ESV). At the end of the sixth day, God observed the completion of all, and God saw that it was very good. God is perfect and all his works are perfect. We see in Deuteronomy 32:4a: “The Rock, his work is perfect” (ESV). God himself pronounced the perfection of creation as he surveyed the whole of it. Each day’s work was perfect, and together the whole sum of creation was perfect in its existence, its function, and its harmony.
It is important that we recognize that the creation we see now is a post-fall creation; no doubt it is still very good, but we recognize that the fall tainted creation, particularly mankind. When man seeks to impugn God with evil due to the imperfection and evil man sees in creation, he fails to recognize that it is sin which has made creation imperfect and evil, not God. It is not that imperfection and evil are outside of God’s decree or providence, but God is not the author of the sin and corruption we see in creation. Our starting point for understanding reality must be that God is good, and a good God decreed to make a good creation, and thus in carrying out that decree, God carried it out very well. God’s works are a reflection of who he is, and thus we must understand that creation was originally made perfect and very good.
- 2. After God had made all other creatures, he created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, rendering them fit unto that life to God; for which they were Created; being made after the image of God, inknowledge, righteousness, and true holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it, and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change. (Genesis 1:27; Genesis 2:7; Ecclesiastes 7:29; Genesis 1:26; Romans 2:14, 15; Genesis 3:6)
In this paragraph the Confession addresses the creation of man on the sixth day, and the nature of that creature. This is strictly speaking of man before the fall. The Confession will deal with the fall of man in Chapter 6. The Confession begins: after God had made all other creatures. As we will see in paragraph 3, man was made after the other creatures to rule over them; God saved the best creature for last; man was the crown of all creation. God made man (i.e. mankind) male and female. Scripture states: So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27 ESV). God created human-kind in two distinct categories: male and female. Each gender is unique and comes with its own unique blessings. To be a woman is to have unique blessings which are not given to a man, and so also, to be a man comes with certain blessings which are not given to a woman. This, of course, does not deny that male and female have also much in common in terms of blessing, but in our age it seems necessary to point out that gender differences are very real and should not be minimized. But, no one gender is better or has more blessing than the other gender; the greatest evidence of this is that both are made in the image of God—the greatest blessing that they both share. It is important to recognize that regardless of whether a male and female ever join in marriage or ever have children, to be male or to be female is a great blessing given by God. We will leave the subject of marriage between one man and one woman for chapter 25, Of Marriage. God made human beings male and female, and to deny that uniqueness is ultimately to deny God the glory due him and reject the blessings he gave in those differences. It is interesting to note that even in the modern heated issues related to gender, sexuality, and marriage, the Confession provides the relevant Biblical parameters to help us understand and articulate God’s order and blessing to a lost world, and in some cases to communicate that to an apostate church. This credit, however, is not due to the Confession as much as it is to the relevance of Scripture.
The Confession states that male and female were created with reasonable and immortal souls. God made mankind with a reasonable soul, meaning with the ability to think (i.e. to reason). Animals seem to have a certain degree of intelligence, but their intelligence is related to instinct more than reason. A few years ago, I watched a tiger trainer demonstrate how he was not in danger of attack as long as he was facing the tiger, but every time he would turn his back on the animal it would go into hunt and kill mode. The trainer could not reason with the tiger on this point. Animal training is not done by reasoning with animals, but by conditioning instincts. Mankind can learn, make deductions and decisions based upon reason, and this distinguishes him from the other creatures of earth.
Another distinguishing feature of mankind is that he has been made with an immortal soul. In order to consider the immortality of the soul, we need to think a moment about the creation of a soul. There have been various positions held throughout church history as to when God creates a soul. The three viable options are: 1) it begins at conception or 2) after conception, but before birth, or 3) at the time of birth. Clearly the soul is not created before conception since the pre-existence of the soul is unbiblical, and similarly, the soul is not eternal—eternally existing before birth. What we are certain about is that a soul has a beginning—whether that is at conception or by the time of birth. Scripture does not seem to indicate; it seems reasonable to believe that body and soul both begin at conception. This view would promote the highest view of life, and there may be some hint of this when we look at passages like Psalm 139:13-16. Once a soul has been created by God, however, it never ceases to exist from that point forward; it is in this sense that a soul is immortal. The nature of this soul is that it will never cease to exist; it is immortal. The Confession’s affirmation about the nature of the soul, as immortal, implies a denial of the doctrine of annihilationism. Annihilationism has to do with the ceasing of the soul to exist. There are variations of this view. The naturalistic and atheistic view of annihilationism is that all human souls, if there is such a thing, cease to exist at death. Another variation, which purports to be Christian, teaches that God’s judgment of the reprobate sinner is not eternal, but instead is a judgment of annihilation—the reprobate soul is annihilated and no longer exists. For an annihilationist, the souls of the reprobate are mortal souls. While this has a certain attraction, the fact is eternal judgment is clearly taught in Scripture; Jesus himself made explicit statements about hell being eternal, and thus all souls are immortal; it is a matter of where that immortal soul will spend eternity—in heaven or in hell. The doctrine of the immortality of the soul makes evangelism important, and should drive us to gospel preaching. To know the soul is immortal places a great value upon each soul, and with that great value comes a great responsibility for each soul to care of itself and others.
The 1689 Confession continues: rendering them fit unto that life to God; for which they were created. This male and female with a reasonable soul and an immortal soul were rendered (i.e. equipped or made fit) for the blessings of the Garden (i.e. that life to God). This rendered fit came about by being made after the image of God,  in knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it. They were fit by being made after the image of God. Being made after the image of God means that there are things about mankind which reflect what God is like. I say ‘reflect’ for they were not the thing itself, that is, divinity; but they were made after the mold of or in a way similar to this divine Being. As we discussed in chapter 2, the attributes of God which he communicated or gave to mankind are called God’s communicable attributes. Mankind, in their state before the fall, reflected God’s communicable attributes. We see some of these communicable attributes listed in the next phrase of the Confession: knowledge, righteousness, and holiness. Thus part of being rendered fit for life to God was being made in God’s image. The plants and animals were not fit for life to God; only mankind was made in God’s image; only they were made fit for communion with God. Again, in terms of being made fit for life to God, the Confession is strictly speaking of mankind before the fall; later we will see the effects of the fall on mankind. Of mankind after the fall, John Calvin says: “But now, although some obscure lineaments of that image are found remaining is us; yet are they so vitiated and maimed, that they may truly be said to be destroyed.” The glory of the gospel is that it by it, God restores the destroyed image of God in the elect: “and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10 ESV).
God created our first parents in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness. This entire phrase seems to be taken directly from Colossians 3:10 (just cited above) and Ephesians 4:24: “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (KJV). Both passages speak of the image God as being “in knowledge” (Col. 3:10) and “in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Since God does not change, then his image does not change, and thus the image of God being renewed and created in the elect is the same image that once existed in our first parents before the fall. They had knowledge of all that God required of them and of all they needed to know. They were not all-knowing (omniscient) as God was, but merely reflected the image of God in their knowledge. They were placed in the Garden with a ‘fit’ knowledge of their estate (i.e. situation or circumstance). They understood their situation, their relation to God and to the rest of creation. This phrase in righteousness means our first parents were perfectly righteous—inherently and actually righteous through and through. This original state of righteousness will later be referred to as original righteousness (1689 6:2). True holiness means actual holiness. It is not that they were merely righteous in a forensic or positional state before God, but they were also inherently righteous and actually practiced that righteousness, thus they were truly (or actually) holy in thought, word and deed. When we think of the image of God in relation to true holiness, we think of God’s command in Leviticus 11:44a: “Be holy, for I am holy” (ESV).
We cannot talk about righteousness and holiness without the law being close at hand. On what basis is something holy or righteous? It must be in relation to and compared with law (a standard). The Confession indicates that in addition to the image of God, righteousness, and true holiness, they were also fit for their life unto God because they had the law of God written in their hearts. The phrase “written in their hearts” is, of course, metaphorical language used to make a literal point. God did not physically inscribe the law of God on Adam and Eve’s physical heart. But God did literally place into the very nature of Adam and Eve God’s moral law (i.e. God’s standards of what is right and wrong). This topic will be further developed in chapter 19, Of the Law of God.
How do we know that there was the moral law in our first parent’s heart? There are biblical passages which speak of the universal law being present in the heart all mankind after the fall. And if this universal moral law was present after the fall, it was certainly present in our first parent’s before the fall. Here are some of those passages: Romans 1:32: “Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them” (ESV). “They” in the passage refers to all the nations, and thus all the nations know God decree or law. How did the nations acquire this knowledge of God’s decree or law? It is written on their heart. Romans 2:14-16 brings further clarification: “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus” (ESV). Paul explicitly indicates the moral law is on all hearts—even those without the Mosaic Law. And so, based upon the above passages, we can imply that the law of God was also written on our first parent’s heart. Since our first parents were created in righteousness and true holiness (Eph. 4:24; 1689 4:2), this implies that a standard or law of what constituted righteousness and holiness existed before the fall.
Along with this law in their heart, Adam and Eve had the power to fulfill it. We know all too well that there is a difference between knowing God’s law and doing it. The law was written on their heart; they knew it, loved it and had the ability to fulfill it—and to do so perfectly. After the fall, our first parents lost that ability to fulfill the law of God; by their loss, all their posterity also lost that ability. This will be discussed more in chapter 6, but we must recognize that when God created his “very good” creation, he created his human creatures “good” also. In other words, he created their nature to function in perfect harmony with the state into which they were placed in the Garden. God made the covenant of works with them, and gave them the ability to fulfill that covenant; they were fully rendered fit unto life to God; they lacked nothing whatsoever.
But even though they had this power or ability to fulfill it, they were yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change.” Here we see the reality of our first parent’s situation, perhaps it was not as ideal as we tend to think. However, we do not want to think that God set them up for failure, for in fact the point of this portion of the Confession is that God set them up for success. But the possibility of transgressing indicates our first parents were being tested, and failure would have tragic consequences. As long as this period of testing lasted, our parents could disobey God’s command. The possibility of transgressing existed because they were left to the liberty of their own will to obey God. Again, God had empowered them to fulfill the command of God, meaning that since their will was not in bondage to sin like those after the fall; they were truly able to fully and perfectly obey God. Chapter 9, of Free Will addresses the condition of man’s free-will in four states: the will in innocency (pre-fall), the will after the fall, will of the regenerate, and the will of the regenerate in glory. We will not further explore the issue of free will here, but will wait until chapter 9. In our current portion, the Confession speaks of the will of man in innocency. The liberty to obey God also implies the liberty to disobey, and thus the Confession states that their will was subject to change.
One of the foremost difficulties in theology is seeking to understand how—despite the state of innocency and the empowerment of our first parent’s to obey God—they were tempted disobeyed God. It is difficult because we know that God did not create mankind with even a hint of sin in them; we know that God did not lead them into temptation, nor did he tempt them at all; nor did sin arouse rebellion against the law. So, why then did they sin? Scripture does not seem to give us an explicit answer. What we do know is that ultimately it was part of God’s plan for a greater good. The Puritan Stephen Charnock has some helpful things to say along these lines:
“God never willed sin by his preceptive will. It was never founded upon or produced by any word of his, as the creation was [made by his word]. He never said, ‘Let there be sin under the heavens,’ as he said, ‘Let there be water under the heavens.’ Nor does he will it by infusing any habit of it, or stirring up inclinations to it; no, ‘God tempts no man’ (James 1:13). Nor does he will it by his approving will; it is detestable to him, nor ever can he be otherwise. [Yet] the will of God is in some sort concurrent with sin. He does not properly will it, but he wills not to hinder it. To will sin as sin would be an unanswerable blemish on God. But to will to permit it in order for good is the glory of his wisdom. [sin] would never have peeped up its head, unless there had been some decree of God concerning it. And there would have been no decree concerning it had not God intended to bring good and glory out of it. God wills the permission of sin. He does not positively will sin, but he positively wills to permit it. And though he does not approve of sin, yet he approves of that act of his will whereby he permits it. Though God hated sin, as being against his holiness, yet he did not hate the permission of sin, as being subservient by the immensity of his wisdom to his own glory.”
This may not give us the ultimate answer we are looking for, but it does remind us 1) the fall did not come about because God is the author of sin or has fellowship with it in anyway, and 2) the reason it occurred was his will to permit it. Scripture does not fully resolve the mystery of the origin of sin, but it does give us enough revelation to understand that God remains the one who foreordains all that comes to pass, and sin is not exempt from that decree, even if it be by God’s passive decree. Ultimately, we know the fall came about only because of a greater good; this is referred to as the ‘greater good’ argument. Gregg Allison states: “Helm also addressed the problem of evil, proposing that though “God could have created men and women who freely (in a sense compatible with determinism) did only what was morally right,” God did not for an important reason: “that out of evil a greater good would come, a good that could not have come, or could not have been as great, if there had not been evil.”” 
- 3. Besides the law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which whilst they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures. (Genesis 2:17; Genesis 1:26, 28)
The Confession states: Besides the law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. We have already discussed the law written on their heart, and in addition to that moral law, our first parents received the command to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. A.A. Hodge summarizes this portion of the Confession as follows: “God furnished Adam with sufficient knowledge for his guidance—a law written on his heart, and a special external revelation of His will.” The law written on our first parent’s heart was internal; but the command to not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was an external law; it was particular and specific. There is no question that God’s prohibition against eating the fruit was made very plain to our first parents. Eve’s own words to the Serpent confirm that clarity: “And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden,
but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die’” (Genesis 3:2-3 ESV). This special revelation of God’s will also included a revelation of the consequence for disobedience. Thus, the judgment of death given to our first parents, and all their posterity, was perfectly just.
The 1689 Confession states: which whilst they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.” In that pre-fall state they were happy; to be more precise, they were happy in their communion with God. The only truly happy estate for our first parents—and their posterity—was and remains communion with God. This points us to the ideal for Adam’s race: communion with God. When we reflect on their estate before the fall, we are saddened that such paradise was lost. But, how encouraging it is to know that, in Christ, we shall find ourselves in paradise again. Think of Jesus’ word to the thief on the cross: “Today, you shall be with me in paradise.” What does this paradise consist of? Jesus does not describe it to the thief, but all that the thief needed to know was that Jesus would be there with him. All of Scripture points to the future paradise as a place where God dwells with his people—by the work of Christ and the transforming power of the Spirit God’s elect are rendered fit for their life unto God there. How wonderful it is to realize God through Christ is regaining for his elect that which was lost in the fall—communion with God. We shall be securely placed—not back in the Garden—but in the New Jerusalem where God will dwell with us. There communion with God will not be limited to the ‘cool of the day,’ but continually; for God dwells there in that city of light—the Lamb is its light! And presently, through Christ, that communion with God is a reality by the Spirit who is our pledge of the life to come.
The chapter ends by stating that our first parents had dominion over the creatures.” Genesis tells us that God gave mankind dominion over all other creatures: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:27-28 ESV). Psalm 8 alludes to the Genesis account: “Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas” (Psalm 8:5-8 ESV). We see Adam fulfilling that role as he names each beast (Gen. 2:20a). Adam’s posterity was also to subdue the earth, and even to this day we see mankind is fulfilling this role—sometimes well, and sometimes not so well.
 Following the completion of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Westminster divines wrote the Westminster Shorter Catechism for use in private and family instruction; it is in a question and answer format (similar to the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) format popularly used today). It is shorter because it is a summary of the Westminster Confession. The Baptist Catechism, which I use throughout this commentary, is an adaptation of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, and it serves the same purpose: to summarize the 1689 Baptist Confession. William Collins, one of the framers of the 1689 Confession, adapted the Westminster Shorter Catechism. See “Forward to Baptist Catechism” by James Renihan, The Baptist Confession of Faith & The Baptist Catechism (Birmingham, Al.: Solid Ground Christian Books, and Carlisle, Pa.: Reformed Baptist Publications, 2010), 89-91.
 John Calvin states regarding Gen. 1:26 and the plural ‘Us’: “Christians, therefore, properly contend, from this testimony, that there exists a plurality of Persons in the Godhead.” John Calvin. Commentaries on The First Book of Moses called Genesis. Translated from the Original Latin, and Compared with the French Edition, by Rev. John King, M.A., vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 92.
 John Calvin says of the six days: “The creation of the world was distributed over six days, for our sake, to the end that our minds might more easily be retained in the meditation of God’s works.” John Calvin. Commentaries on The First Book of Moses called Genesis. Translated from the Original Latin, and Compared with the French Edition, by Rev. John King, M.A., vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 92.
 The 1689 Confession has added “rendering them fit unto that life to God; for which they were Created; being made after the image of God” to the wording of the Savoy Declaration and the Westminster Confession. This nicely rounds out the paragraph over the prior two confessions.
 John Calvin. Commentaries on The First Book of Moses called Genesis. Translated from the Original Latin, and Compared with the French Edition, by Rev. John King, M.A., vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2009), 94.
 Stephen Charnock, The Existence and Attributes of God (1853; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986), brackets mine.
 See my commentary of chapter 3, paragraph 3.
 Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011), 295. Allison cites Paul Helm’s, The Providence of God, Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove Il.: InterVarsity, 1993), 67.
 A.A. Hodge, The Westminster Confession: A Commentary (1869; reprinted, Carlisle, Pa.: Banner of Truth Trust, 2002), 85.