Romans 1:23-25 “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator– who is forever praised. Amen” (NIV).
The Romans passage above tells us in context that ungodly people do not worship the Creator, but rather the creation. Why is it wrong to worship the creation instead of God? It is because God is greater than his creation. The creation has no power greater than God’s power. Psalm 115:3 says “God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.” John 9 compares God and his creation to a potter and his pot, saying that the potter can do whatever he wishes with his creation making one a vessel of honor and another a vessel for common use. God as creator can do whatever he wishes with his creation and he can require whatever he wishes from us. He can also give to us whatever he wishes.
Not only is God greater than his creation, he is also separate from creation while still intimately involved with it. John Frame, a professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, borrows a concept from one of his former professors – I believe it was Dr. Van Til – to describe the relation between God and his creation. He draws a small circle on the black (or white) board to signify the creation, then draws another much larger circle nearby, but not intersecting with the first circle, to signify the Creator God. This diagram illustrates the concept that God and his creation are separate. It is not like some concepts of God or “god” as part of the creation. Some philosophies view God and creation as parts of a whole, i.e., God is creation, creation is God.
Rather, the Bible teaches that God is separate from his creation while remaining intimately involved with it as he chooses. It is somewhat like a dog and its human owner. The dog and the owner are separate beings, yet can be intimately involved with one another to the degree that the owner desires. The (wise) dog recognizes that the owner is the source of its physical (eg., food, water, medical care) and even emotional needs (eg., love, attention). The (loving) owner is aware of the dog’s needs and takes care of them and receives a measure of joy in playing with,talking with, and simply being with the dog. However, the two are separate beings and one is dependent on the other. The human is greater in that he is the provider. In this illustration, the human is not the creator of the dog, but is simply the provider for the dog. Certainly, some dogs “provide” for themselves by scavenging the neighborhoods or the like. Yet they rarely have a good relationship with people when they do so until a person chooses to adopt the dog and begins to provide for it in some fashion.
God is both creator and provider. The example of the potter and the pot illustrates the concept of creator and creation, but does not include the idea of “relationship” since one can hardly communicate with an inanimate pot in a meaningful way (except in the unusual manner in which Tom Hanks’ character related to a volleyball in the movie Castaway). Illustrating the relation of the Creator to his creation certainly requires multiple views to encompass all its aspects. Few illustrations are complete in themselves.
In summary, because the Creator is greater than his creation, he is the most worthy object of our worship. But not only is he greater in being and power, but also in character (e.g., love, patience, justice, etc.). More on this later. Therefore, we, as part of his creation, owe him allegiance, loyalty, thanksgiving, even worship, for being our Creator and Provider as Psalm 19 and Romans 1 affirm, even before we take into account the fall of man and redemption through Jesus Christ.
One might object to the term “owe” above. But don’t we “owe” something to one who provides something for us? Certainly, we can choose, like the “wild” dog illustrated above, scavenge about while neglecting to give proper thanks to the true source of our sustenance, but that would be at best, ungrateful.
One might also object to the use of the phrase “object of worship” since it connotes a sense of the inanimate that is not intended. (I am thinking here, of “object” in the sense of the “object” of a sentence.) God is a spiritual living being who condescends to relate to his creation in ways we can understand somewhat like the owner and dog illustration above. He lovingly created us, provides for us and even communicates with us and provides the means for us to communicate with him. (In a later blog, I intend to write about the relation between worship and communication found in 1 Cor 12 and 14). Finally, God, not creation is worthy of our worship.