God created the heavens and earth, the waters, and light on the first day of creation (Genesis 1:1–5). In our opinion, the first day covered a literal 24-hour period in which God created ex nihilo, or “from nothing” (see Hebrews 11:3). The Hebrew word for “created” is bara, which is only ever used in Scripture with God as the subject. Forming the universe and earth was an act of the Lord.
Heavens and the Earth: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). As part of day one, God created the “heavens,” implying the entire universe, and the earth (cf. Psalm 102:25). When first created, the earth “was formless and empty” and covered in water (Genesis 1:2). In the following days, God would build upon this foundation with an atmosphere, dry ground, vegetation, and animal life (Genesis 1:6–12).
Water: “Darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2, ESV). This verse indicates that on the first day God created water when He created the formless earth. Here, the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, partakes in creation. Life-giving water was created by the Lord to give viability to Earth, the only planet known to hold water.
Light: “Then God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3, NLT). In contrast to the created darkness/nothingness mentioned in verse 2, the Lord speaks light into existence. He then divided the light from the darkness, ending the first day of creation (Genesis 1:4–5). All subsequent days of creation are described the same way: “And there was evening, and there was morning” (verse 5).
Students of the Bible have questioned what light was created in Genesis 1:3, since the sun was not made until the fourth day of creation (verses 14–19). Of course, an infinite, all-powerful God does not need the sun to create light. Some commentators have asserted that the light created on day one was another form of natural illumination. Scripture doesn’t specifically state what this light was, but science has demonstrated that other forms of light do exist in the universe, outside of the sun and stars (“The Photon Underproduction Crisis,” J. Kollmeier, et al., The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Vol. 789, No. 2, pub. 6/25/2014, https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/2041-8205/789/2/L32, accessed 10/26/2020). Regardless of the nature of the light that God created on the first day, verse 4 states, “The light was good,” and it illuminated God’s creation during the first three days of the creation week.
The first day of creation reminds believers that all things find their source in the Lord, who has been in existence forever (Psalm 90:2). Each Person of the Trinity took part in creation (Nehemiah 9:6; Job 38:4; Psalm 89:11; John 1:3; Acts 17:24; Hebrews 1:10). Christians should be moved to worship the Lord for His wondrous work of creating the heavens, the earth, water, and light in one day.