Because God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit any act is an act of the Trinity. In some acts one Person of the Trinity may be more to the fore, but all are involved. The Old Testament scriptures state ‘in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth’ (Gen 1.1). When in the books of Psalms and Isaiah there is mention of creation it is normally in terms of the LORD shaping, moulding, creating, forming and so on.
However, in the New Testament the focus is placed especially on Jesus the Son of God. John asserts ‘All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.’ (Jn 1.3) Likewise Paul assets ‘For by Him all things were created’ and ‘All things were created through Him and for Him.’ (Col 1.16)
Therefore, in general there is very little said specifically about the work of the Holy Spirit in creation, although two particular features are worth noting:
The creation of man
Genesis 2.7 asserts that ‘LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.' The Hebrew word for Spirit is ‘ruach’ and this can also be translated ‘breath’. However, in this particular verse, a different word is used and translated ‘breath’. Compare this however with Job 33.4 ; ‘The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.’ This is typical Hebrew where the same thing is said in two very similar ways. Spirit here is the word ‘ruach’ whilst ‘breath’ is the same as that in Gen 2.7. Nevertheless what is conveyed here is that the Spirit has a particular role in the creation of man as distinct from the rest of creation in that it is the Holy Spirit who breathes into us that which makes us human – the spirit, the animating principle, the soul. A similar concept is conveyed in the famous dry bones passage of Ezekiel 37 where the Spirit (ruach) enters as the prophecy is delivered.
Perhaps the involvement of the Spirit in the creation of man become clearest in comparison to the new creation, or re-creation in which the Spirit is seen to be particularly involved. Jesus states ‘unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God’ and the words translated ‘born again’ could be translated ‘generated again’ or ‘re-generated’ being linked to the name ‘genesis’. Jesus explains how this happens: ‘unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’. The Holy Spirit is thus particularly active in regeneration, or new birth.
Hovering over the waters
Genesis 1.2 asserts that ‘the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters’. It is possible to translate this phrase as something like ‘a might wind was blowing over the waters’ but it has generally been understood to be a particular reference to the Holy Spirit and this certainly fits the context.
After the initial creative act of God Genesis chapter 1 states that ‘he earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep.’ The words ‘without form’, ‘void’ and ‘dark’ may sound rather negative but this is not so, it was simply that here was the raw stuff of creation waiting for God to get to work on the fine details – like a lump of clay before the potter begins to work it.
God’s Word then asserts, as has been noted above, that the ‘Spirit was hovering’ over the waters.
The word ‘hovering’ occurs in two other places in the Old Testament:
Jeremiah uses the term to describe his trembling bones, perhaps ‘all of a quiver’ (Jer 23.9)
In Deuteronomy it describes a mother eagle hovering protectively over he young in the nest (Dt 32.11).
This second reference seems to fit well with Gen 1.2, indicating the role of the Holy Spirit hovering over the unformed material of creation before it is moulded into shape as described in the verses that follow. Moreover the picture has a gentleness to it, not so much the mighty wind, as the gentle fluttering of wings. It is significant that the Spirit appeared as a dove (Lk 3.22 etc) and that the fruit of the Spirit include such things as peace and gentleness, as the Spirit works in the believer to shape them as the Spirit was there in the shaping of creation.