[Ed. note: This article is part of our weekly series of resources for churches and families called Cultivating Community published on Thursdays.]
The authors of the Bible uniformly proclaim God as the creator, sustainer, and ruler of creation. The Bible is filled with statements affirming the goodness of what the Lord has made and his love for his creation. It is a consistent theme throughout scripture—even in the letters of Paul.
The apostle Paul enters the story of the Bible as one of the opponents of Christianity and is later dramatically converted to belief in Christ. After his conversion he traveled across the ancient Mediterranean world spreading the gospel and planting churches. As a part of that missionary work he wrote many letters to churches throughout the Roman empire. Thirteen of those letters are included in the Bible and many of them contain ideas that are foundational to a theology that recognizes the importance of creation care.
Below is a collection of verses from the letters of Paul that speak of creation. The verses are excerpted from the English Standard Version and grouped thematically. Copy the notations down in your Bible and then read them in the context of the letters they are found in. Work them into your personal Bible reading plan. Discuss them with your Bible study group. Take time to let each of Paul’s ideas soak into your head and heart. As the psalmist wrote, “Blessed is the man who … meditates on the law day and night.”
Creation Bears Witness to God’s Glory
Romans 1:18-20—For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 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.
The Effects of the Fall Are Apparent in Creation
Romans 1:22-25—Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Romans 8:19-23— For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.
God Made and Sustains Creation
Collosians 1:15-17—He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 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. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
God Rules Over Creation
1 Corinthians 10:25,26— Eat whatever is sold in the meat market without raising any question on the ground of conscience. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof.”
Metaphors of Sowing, Reaping, and Fruit
Romans 1:13—I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.
Romans 11:36— If the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, so is the whole lump, and if the root is holy, so are the branches.
1 Corinthians 3:5-8—What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.
2 Corinthians 9:6, 10—The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.
Galatians 6:7-9— Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
Collosians 1:5-7— Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and growing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth, just as you learned it from Epaphras our beloved fellow servant.
Other Uses of Nature Imagery
1 Corinthians 9:7—Who serves as a soldier at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard without eating any of its fruit? Or who tends a flock without getting some of the milk?
1 Corinthians 9:9-12—For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of sharing in the crop. If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you? If others share this rightful claim on you, do not we even more?
1 Corinthians 15:35-44—But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. And what you sow is not the body that is to be, but a bare kernel, perhaps of wheat or of some other grain. But God gives it a body as he has chosen, and to each kind of seed its own body. For not all flesh is the same, but there is one kind for humans, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish. There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.