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"God's Relation to the World"

King, Martin Luther, Jr.
January 1, 1948 to December 31, 1954
Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry


Text Neh. 9:6 “Thou, even thou art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven…the earth, and things that are therein…and thou preservest them all.”1

Rom 11:36 “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things.”

Int. These passages reveal that the Bible represents God's relation to the world under three aspects: creation, conservation and transformation We may treat these three sucessively

  1. God created the World. Without him it would not have come into being
    1. The world is not a reality that came into being through the accidental interplay of atoms and electrons
      The world is not an eternal reality which always has been and always will be.
    2. Rather the world came into being by an act of God. God decided to create the world
    3. He created ex nihilo2

      (Compare to what man creates which is alway out of something else)

    4. Although God created the world he isn't dependent on it. God is a being who depends on nothing, but upon whom everything else is dependent.3
      As the late Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. William Templ used to say “God minus the world equals God; the world minus God equals nothing.”4 (At this point use the illustration of the Lord's statement to Moses “I am”)5
      Prior to the appearance of self conscious beings on this earth, God was. Prior to all organtic life, God was. Long before the hills in order stood or earth received her frame, God was. Before the appearance of the sun, the moon the planets and the stars, God was.6
  2. God conserves the world. Syn. (Maintain sustain, uphold, defend, protect)
    God is not like an architect who lays the foundation of his world and then leaves He is not like a clockmaker that mechanically wound this clock of the world and left it to tick on its own accord: God is not like a far spectator that sits in some far off cosmic grandstand frequently looking in on the game of human life. Rather God is an active part of the game itself sustaing and protecting it, and without God's continual sustaing power this game of life could not be played. In God “we live and move and have our being.”7 Without God the whole cosmos would crumble to nothingness. Without God our human efforts would tum to ashes and our sunrises into darkest night. Without God the whole drama of human life would be a meaningless myth.8 God is forever on the scene sustaining and protecting us.
  3. God will transform the world to its ideal state, in fullfilment of his ultimate purpose.
    1. God created the world with the hope that man would live in rightness and in accord with his will. However he did not force rightness on man; rather he gave him free will But in order to make him true man rather than an automaton he gave him free will; i.e. the possibility to choose. The tragedy came when man misused his freedom. Since that time the whole of human history has been a persistent struggle between two diametrically opposed forces; good and evil.

1. Cf. Nehemiah 9:6. On a notecard, King elaborated: “Here Nehemiah affirm emphatically that God is a creator. He created all the heavens, the earth, and the seas. This emphasis on God's creative power runs throughout the Old Testament. Whenever men look upon God as creator of all the universe they have risen to the level of monotheism whether they realize it or not. Nehemiah showed many nationalistic biases on the one hand, but with this theory of God as creator of the universe, he was recognizing a universal God” (King, Notecards on topics from Ezra and Nehemiah, 22 September 1952-28 January 1953).

2. Ex nihilo is Latin for "out of nothing."

3. In notes on this topic, King continued, “First, God created the physical world; without Him it would not have come into being, but He is in no way dependent on it (forcibly expressed in Jeremiah's comparison of the potter and the clay [Jeremiah] 18:6)” (King, “God's Relation to the World,” Sermon notes, 1948-1954; cf. Jeremiah 18:6).

4. William Temple, Nature, Man and God (London: Macmillan, 1934), p. 435: “The World - God = 0; God - the World = God.”

5. Exodus 3:14.

6. King invokes Isaac Watts's hymn “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past” (1719).

7. Acts 17:28.

8. In notes for this sermon, King wrote that God's “conserving power is expressed in Job thus: ‘If he were to withdraw His spirit to Himself, and to gather His breath to Himself, all flesh would expire at once,and man would return to the dust’ (Job 34:14, 15)” (King, “God's Relation to the World,” 1948-1954).


 CSKC, INP, Coretta Scott King Collection, In Private Hands, Sermon file, folder 28, "God's Relation to the World."