B. IN THE OLD DISPENSATION
God’s work in the old dispensation was His work in the Old Testament. The old dispensation was God’s old administrative arrangement or economy. In the Old Testament as well as in the New, God had an economy, a dispensation, an administrative arrangement.
1. Creating the Universe
In Acts 17:24 Paul speaks of God as “the God who made the world and all things in it.” This was a very strong inoculation against both the atheistic Epicureans, who did not acknowledge the Creator, and the pantheistic Stoics (v. 18). In his preaching in Acts 14:15 Paul also spoke of the “living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and all the things in them.”
According to Ephesians 1:5 and 9, the motive of God’s creation was His desire and pleasure. God carried out the work of creation in order to fulfill His good desire and to satisfy His good pleasure.
God’s creation fulfills His desire and accomplishes His purpose; it also reveals His desire in the universe and manifests His purpose in eternity. Anything we make expresses our desire. Although we may not say very much, the thing we make manifests our purpose. When God created the heavens and the earth, He certainly had a purpose. By His creation we can see that God had a desire and a purpose. First, God’s purpose in His creation is to glorify the Son of God (Col. 1:15-19). Second, God’s creation manifests God. Although God’s divine power and His divine characteristics are invisible, man can have some understanding of them through the things made by God (Rom. 1:20).
Why did God create the heavens and the earth? According to the Bible, the heavens are for the earth, and the earth is for man. Zechariah 12:1 says that God stretched forth the heavens, laid the foundation of the earth, and formed the spirit of man. The heavens are for the earth, the earth is for man, and man with a spirit is for God.
The basis of God’s work in creation was God’s will and plan (Eph. 1:10). Revelation 4:11 says that all things were created according to God’s will. God is a God of purpose, having a will of His own pleasure. He created all things for His will that He might accomplish and fulfill His purpose. God has a will, and according to that will He conceived His plan. According to that will and plan, He created all things.
Although creation was God’s work, the means of His creation were the Son of God (Col. 1:15-16; Heb. 1:2b) and the Word of God (Heb. 11:3; John 1:1-3). The New Testament clearly tells us that God created the universe through Christ as the Son of God and the Word of God. Speaking of Christ as the means of creation, Colossians 1:16 says, “Because in Him were all things created in the heavens and on the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or lordships or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through Him and unto Him.” Regarding Christ as the Word, John 1:3 says, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being which has come into being.”
Only God can create. To create means to bring something into existence out of nothing. God is the unique Creator.
2. Creating Man and Determining Mankind’s Appointed Seasons and the Boundaries of Dwelling
After creating the universe, God created man and determined mankind’s appointed seasons and the boundaries of dwelling. Concerning this, Acts 17:26 says, “And He made from one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, determining their appointed seasons and the boundaries of their dwelling.” The “one” here refers to Adam. God not only created mankind but determined mankind’s appointed seasons and boundaries of dwelling. The migrations to America in its times and boundaries is a strong proof of this word. After creating mankind, God preserved America. After it was discovered by the Europeans, a great many people migrated here. This was according to God’s sovereignty. God determined the seasons and boundaries of the United States for the sake of His purpose concerning the working out of His recovery.
3. Dealing with Fallen Mankind from Adam to Noah
As part of His work, God dealt with fallen mankind from Adam to Noah. The history of this is recorded in the Old Testament, but it is nevertheless referred to in the New Testament. In the New Testament we can see certain things God did in Old Testament times.
(Conclusion of the New Testament, The (Msgs. 001-020), Chapter 14, by Witness Lee)