In the beginning, God...
By Ed Mezzetti, 15 Mar 2019
A snake, forbidden fruit and an epic flood...
The early chapters of Genesis may seem a million miles away from the world we live in, but in them we find a message that is just as relevant now as it ever has been. We rightly say that Christian faith is all about Christ - the clue is in the name after all - but Genesis is where the story of Jesus begins.
This is why we called our latest Trinity Lunchtime Talks series ‘In the beginning, God’ and given it the strapline ‘starting where all things began’. Not only are the former the first words of the Bible, they also make the point that there was never any point in time where God wasn’t in control. He is the source of everything. As we read through Genesis, we see the start of God’s amazing rescue plan, which reaches its climax in Christ. It is a rescue plan because that is what we desperately need. Although God repeatedly declares his creation good in chapter one and gives mankind a special role to play in relationship with him in chapter two, things soon take a drastic turn for the worse in chapter three.
At this point, we might think God’s Plan A has failed, so he comes up with Plan B. After all, the reason a rescuer is needed is that man has rejected God’s plan for the world. Adam and Eve rebel against God by eating fruit from the tree he has specifically commanded them not to. This rebellion, this rejection of God’s rule over us, is what the Bible calls sin. This must surely have derailed God’s plan set out in Genesis 1 and 2, forcing him into a serious rewrite?
But yet, look at these words from Ephesians 1 v 3-5, written thousands of years later:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will”
God chose his people before the beginning of time and ensured they would be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ. This means that God’s plan for rescuing his people was already in place before he created the world. So just as Genesis begins “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth”, it is no less accurate to say “In the beginning, God knew and planned how we would save his people”.
Therefore, when we read Genesis, we are not reading an obscure introduction to the Bible that bears little resemblance to what follows. Instead, we find all the elements of the gospel - the good news about Jesus.
We see in Genesis 1 v 26-28 that we are made in God’s image. We have a special status and a special role to play in God’s creation. We are made for relationship with God - the relationship Adam and Eve enjoy with him before they sin and are driven out of the garden. The hope of the gospel is that this relationship will be restored and made even better in the new creation. This is how the Bible describes it in Revelation 21 v 3-4:
“And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
Back in 2003, Magnum ice creams came up with a new marketing strategy. They brought out a Seven Deadly Sins range. Flavours included Gluttony (an intense chocolate ice cream double dipped in classic and white chocolate), Revenge (vanilla with Fruits of Forest swirl) and Lust (strawberry). The idea here was sin that was a bit naughty and enticing. Maybe that’s how we’re tempted to see it? But if we read Genesis 3 v 1-13, we see it’s far more serious than that.
Sin is man trying to be God. When we sin, we doubt and deny God’s goodness and we can’t say we’re not guilty. Sin is enticing and it ruins our relationship with God and other people, so we become broken images of God, like cracked mirrors.
The gospel is good news about Jesus, but it is only good news because of the terrible position our sin leaves us in. Otherwise, it is just something nice we can add to our lives. Our dire position is clear from the consequences Adam and Eve face in Genesis 3 v 14-24. If we don’t understand our need for Jesus, which Genesis highlights so graphically, we will never see why Christianity is the best news in the world.
The gospel is a message of hope and we see the beginning of that in Genesis 3 v 15 with the mention of a serpent crusher - Eve’s offspring who would bruise the serpent’s head. From here, we meet promising figures like Noah and Abraham, who are declared righteous by faith. But yet, they are still flawed people. Like Adam and Eve, Noah misuses fruit - this time letting it master him as he gets drunk on the wine he makes. Abraham receives great promises from God, but so often tries to work things out his way, creating problems for himself as a result.
Neither Noah nor Abraham are God’s promised saviour, but we see the hope of the gospel set out more fully when God speaks to Abram (Abraham’s former name) in Genesis 12 v 1-3.
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonours you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
These last few words are key. In Abraham, that is through his descendents, all families on earth will be blessed. Fast forward to the New Testament and we see that Jesus - God’s Saviour - is in fact a direct descendent of Abraham.
The earliest chapters of Genesis are where God’s rescue plan starts. If you’d like to find out more, you can watch all our ‘In the beginning, God’ talks here.