The Scripture is clear that God created the physical universe, the earth, and all life on it, including humanity. But it is less clear just why he created it all. This article is an attempt to provide an answer to that question. Why did God create?
Two Distinct Questions
The why of creation and God’s purpose in creation are two distinct but related questions. The question of God’s purpose in creation has to do with his goals for creation. What is it that he is working to accomplish in the creation? The “why” question is asking about God’s motivation in creation. Why is he doing this?
A simple example will hopefully serve to illustrate the difference between “why” and “purpose.” I am a backpacker, taking off for days at a time to live in the wild with only what I can carry on my back. Why do I do that? Because I enjoy being out in the creation and the solitude it provides.
But I have a specific purpose for each individual trip. It might be to find a quiet place to spend a day or two in meditation and prayer. It might be to spend a day or a week enjoying old familiar trails and sights. Or I might head out to explore someplace I have never been.
My purpose for an individual trip flows from my love of being out in the creation. But that purpose is distinct from why I backpack in the first place. In the same way, God’s purpose in creation flows out of the why of God’s creation but is distinct from it.
God’s Purpose in Creation
The Scripture provides us with several passages that can help us understand God’s purpose in creation. In Hebrews 2:10, in the midst of a discussion of what Jesus did for us, we are told that God was bringing many sons and daughters to glory. I believe this can serve as a succinct purpose statement for creation: to bring many sons and daughters to glory.
1 Peter 2:9 tells us that, as believers, we “are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession.” God created us to be his people, his special possession.
And 1 Thessalonians 4:17, while speaking of the resurrection at the end of the age, says that we will be with the Lord Jesus forever. God’s purpose in creation is to produce a people that will be united with Christ Jesus for eternity. His special possession. Brought into his glory.
But the question remains. Why is he doing this? What is it that led him to create the universe? We know at least some of his purpose in creation, the production of a chosen and glorified people. But what was the reason behind that? Why did he want to produce a chosen and glorified people?
The Unknowable Mind of God
I believe it is important first to recognize that God is beyond our understanding. He has revealed himself to us in the pages of the Bible. But that revelation is incomplete. There is much about God that we are incapable of understanding or that he has not chosen to reveal to us.
God’s thoughts and ways are not our thoughts and ways (Is. 58:8-9). He is well beyond anything we can comprehend. Job 38-41 is a warning to us not to think that we fully understand what God is doing, or why. Our understanding of his ways is very limited. And that includes the why of creation.
God has not directly revealed to us just why he created the universe and humanity. And so, any answers to that question that we might derive should be held loosely. What we can know is that he did create. That his creation was an intentional act. That he had a purpose in creating. And that the accomplishment of his purpose in creation is ongoing even now, concluding at some time in the future.
Not for His Benefit
To answer this question, it is important to understand something about the nature of God. We believe the Bible to teach that God is triune, all-powerful, all-knowing, eternal, self-existent, and fully complete in himself, lacking nothing.
God did not create us because he was lonely or needed someone to love. The three persons of the Trinity ensure that God is never lonely. Nor does he need an outlet for his love. Throughout eternity there has been a loving communion between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
It is common to understand that God created the universe for his own glory. And Isaiah 43:7 is used to support that contention. This verse does indeed say God created some people for his glory. But the expression “my glory” used in this verse, and elsewhere in the Scripture, is really a reference to himself. God created us for himself. We are his own personal possession.
God did not create because of any lack that he had. God has no needs that we, or this creation, can meet. Psalm 50:9-13 expresses this well. In the psalm, God expressed that all creation is his, and he needs nothing we can provide.
Creation Flows from His Nature
The Scripture repeatedly affirms that God is our creator. But it does not give us any definitive reason why God created the world. However, I do believe that we can derive a couple of reasons God might have had for creating us.
David, when reflecting on the creation, said, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands” (Ps. 19:1). And in another place, he says, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Ps. 139:14).
The creation’s magnificence, beauty, and artistry point to a God who is more than an eternal, omnipotent, and omniscient being. He is indeed all of that and more. His creative genesis is also evident in what he has made. God is creative. It is a part of his nature. And creation flows naturally from that.
A good novelist can craft a captivating tale and draw us into the story. A good artist can produce a beautiful painting that will inspire us. And a gifted musician can lift our spirits or calm our despair. How do they do that? They did not learn it, although training may have enhanced that ability. Instead, it comes from within them. It is a part of who they are. Their art flows naturally out of what they are.
And I believe that is true of God and his creative nature. He creates, not because he must or because he derives any benefit from it. But because it is who he is. It is in God’s nature to express himself in and through creation.
Because He Knew Me
If God did not create for his own benefit, then who was the beneficiary of creation? The only alternative is the creation itself, and humanity in particular. I do not believe it is out of line to say that God created the universe for my benefit.
In Ephesians 1:4-5, Paul says that God “chose us in him [Christ] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” Many will use this verse to argue for a specific position on the doctrine of election. But I believe its significance goes beyond a simple understanding of election.
Note that Paul says we were chosen before the creation of the world. God knew me before he had created anything in this universe. I existed in the mind of God before I had actual existence. And even before anything else in this creation existed.
And, prior to creation, God not only knew me, but he also, in love, predestined me to be adopted into his family. Before I existed, God knew me, loved me, and planned for me to be a part of his family. Why did he create me? So that I might know him and be able to experience the joy of his presence and love for eternity.
An Act of Grace
God is described throughout the Bible as being gracious. In Exodus 34:6, God says of himself, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” While God was gracious and compassionate toward Israel, it was not limited to them. Grace and compassion help to define who God is. And they are reflected in all that he does.
The Bible is clear that our salvation is an act of God’s grace on our behalf. But God’s grace extends beyond just our salvation. Everything that God does for us is because of his grace. And that would include creation. Creation itself was a gracious act of God on our behalf.
I do not believe it is out of line to say that God created this universe as a gracious act toward those he knew before creation. While we were still only in the mind of God, he loved us. And because he loved us, he created this universe for us and put us into it.
But this creation is not the end. God knew us, not just as we are now, but also what we will become. This creation is only a step in the production of his chosen people.
Why did God create the universe and humanity? It was not for his benefit. He has no needs that could be satisfied by the creation, or by humanity. Instead, creation is a gracious act of a creative and loving God, done for my benefit. God created because of who he is. And for the benefit of those he created.
This article first appeared in Bible Study Tools on September 14, 2022