What richness of the revelation of God’s goodness can be found in the very first three chapters of the Bible! I find myself returning there over and over and it has quickly become among my favorite sections of the entire Scripture. Without it, mankind would be sorely lacking in theology. Let’s explore some of the great theology found in this prologue to God’s revelation.
Hebrews 11:3 says that it is “by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.” No one was there at the beginning except the Eternal One. By faith we understand His account of the creation story.
Stop. Wonder and awe, what an awesome God we serve. Did you know that scientists estimate there are 100 billion galaxies in the universe? God definitely “overdid it” with His creation for a reason — He is showing us that He is a a glorious God who is the author of beauty. We are so small compared to His mightiness seen in creation.
Seven times in the first chapter God describes His creation as “good” or “very good.” Genesis 1 and 2 are so important because the universe was originally created without sin — it can be our guide of God’s original intentions of the created order. In fact, Creation is often called on as evidence of the truthfulness of a doctrine in other parts of Scripture. For example, descriptions of marriage or church elders appeal to the created order (1 Corinthians 11 and 1 Timothy 2).
It is here that we see God’s plan for mankind: fruitfulness and faithfulness. God says,
“fill the earth, and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth. and God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.’ ”
In broad terms, God gave mankind dominion over the earth. A dominion to search explore the greatness of Creation. A dominion to find and cultivate new sources of food. A dominion to be faithful to steward the blessings of life here on earth by following all of God’s commands.
That stewardship requires working. Isn’t it telling that work is instituted by God before the fall? Heaven isn’t going to be us sitting around during a full-time retirement. Adam rolled up his sleeves, ready to work, when “the Lord God took [Adam] and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Gen. 2:15) And so are we co-heirs of the kingdom of God and will be working diligently in the kingdom. God is so kind to include us in the work of subduing the earth, as well as the spiritual work of evangelism and service to the church today. Only after the fall of mankind did our work become tainted with the thorns and thistles from sin, (Gen. 3:18) but a Genesis 2 shows us that work itself isn’t a product of sin but rather intentionally instituted by God before the fall!
Do you think God was tired after the first six days of creating? He is all powerful, infinite, and endless in energy, so why did He rest? Sabbath is for man (Mark 2:27) and is designed to be a blessing for us. We learn a theology of rest and trusting God. May we rest in His constant sustaining power that upholds the universe!
God pauses after commissioning Adam to a life of working in the garden to make a point of showing him all of the created creatures. Why did God do this? The section is bookended by describing the need for a “helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18, 20). We see God parading each and every “beast of the field and every bird of the heavens” and Adam gave a name to each. But still his helper was not to be found until God created woman out of man.
God invented marriage. A few paragraphs ago I said that God’s plan for us is fruitfulness and faithfulness. Marriage is a way through both. Before Adam and his help-mate Eve able to be multiply (fruitfulness), it is no accident that God said “it is not good for man to be alone” right after commissioning Adam to work and keep the garden: Eve is Adam’s helper for the work of God (faithfulness). Likewise today, God provides men a wife as a helper for the ministries to which God calls men.
Through Genesis we learn the God-instituted design for marriage: male and female. It is so closely tied to fruitfulness (the offspring of future generations of children) and human flourishing, which is why God made the animals (and eventually Adam and Eve) with male and female complements. Without this pre-fall narrative we might not be able to say definitively that God created both gender and traditional marriage as a good and holy blessing (a gift!) for mankind’s benefit and flourishing. This is the one path laid out in Scripture for the outworking of marriage and family, any other is ultimately not faithful to God’s commands.
We have said much about the work set forth by God, but little about the blessing and joy of marriage. After meeting Eve for the first time, Adam exclaims,
This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.
Can you imagine Adam’s anticipation of finding a suitable helper after naming each and every living being on the planet? He was joyful to finally meet her. God’s gift of the two becoming one-flesh is just that: a gift. It is a gift of companionship, friendship, fellowship. God loves to bless His people with this gift.
Unfortunately, this gift of God is often perverted by the sinfulness of man. In the narrative of the first sin of the first couple we find blame shifting and a role reversal. We know that a husband is “the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church” and so also “wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (Eph. 5:22-24) as the church submits to Christ, because man is “the image and glory of God, but a woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.” (1 Cor. 11:7-8). We learn the roles in marriage from creation, but that’s not what happened in this fateful scene between Adam and Eve. Rather than using his headship to display the sacrificial love seen in Ephesians 5 (“husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her”) Adam instead chose to blame Eve: “The woman who you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:12) Likewise, Eve is seen taking a leadership role giving her husband fruit of the tree. (Gen. 3:6) We can learn much from studying the failures, role reversals, and tendency toward sin of Adam and Eve.
While we see the goodness and the intention of God’s plan in the first two chapters, we also see the disruption caused by man. It’s in Genesis where we can begin to ask big questions: if God is good, why is there evil in the world? We see that sin is the fault of man alone and introduces evil into this world. We see the tempter in strong pursuance of humans to persuade us to leave God’s path, a fact echoed in 1 Peter 5: “your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” We see that sin causes a separation from God when Adam and Eve are driven out of the garden and God “placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to tree of life.” Without that life giving power from God, sin ultimately led to death: the required punishment of all sin. We even see a hint at the future animal sacrifice required by God’s law: “the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” Before this point, it seems likely that no animal death occurred and that all animals ate plants for food (Gen. 1:30). God intentionally replaces Adam and Eve’s fig leaves of their shamefulness (Gen. 3:7) with the covering for sin He would require until Jesus’s death: animal sacrifice.
An interesting conversation occurs after the serpent asks Eve to clarify God’s words. Eve says that God said “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.” (Gen. 3:3) The last part (‘neither shall you touch it’) isn’t in the original command in Genesis 2:17. Surely from the very beginning humans have been willing to change, distort, twist, and add to God’s words. Was it because of Adam’s lacking leadership that possibly he didn’t repeat the correct command to Eve? Was it Eve’s intention to give herself extra assurance that she wouldn’t be tempted to disobey? Or was it merely a slip of tongue? We can’t say for sure, but we can use it as a lesson to be careful when quoting the Word of God even in our lives today.
At the root of much of the sinfulness of our heart is the desire to be like God. In Genesis, this timeless tale might as well be told of our own hearts: “for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When we question God’s commands we have a low view of God and a high view of ourselves. That pride calls into question the goodness of God’s commands. Our obedience to God’s commands is followed closely by His blessings: “If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth.” (Deut. 28:1) Rather than try to be like God by choosing our own path, it is better to trust that His path has been laid out for us for own good!
I said at the outset that Genesis 1 – 3 is one of favorite sections of the Bible, but I am still glad we have the rest of Scripture to help us interpret it. Romans 5:12 gives us a helpful description of the fall.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”
I talk to many people about the incompatibility of the creation narrative with the naturalistic evolutionary worldview. Ultimately, what convinced me of the truthfulness of the Biblical narrative is not a scientific argument, but a theological one.
The passage from Romans tells us that sin is the result of the fall, not the driver of creation. A naturalist’s view of evolution requires death, of course, but death and the turnover of many generations (from a single-cell organism to many-celled organisms to the creatures and animals that we know today) leads to a steady improvement and a survival of the fittest. While it is true that observable competition between species leads to a selective force on animals over shorter time scales today (natural selection, sometimes called microevolution), this perverse world view tells us that death is a producer of something good: life. Instead, we would do well to remember the lesson from Genesis 3: sin leads to death.
A naturalistic evolutionist will have a difficult time placing the value of a human life over another animal’s life. We know that mankind has intrinsic beauty and value, regardless of disease, disability, hardship, race, gender, or any other differentiator because humans are made in God’s image. With this image-bearing we can step into our role as leaders in the world, entrusted with the dominion over creation. Let’s use it for His glory!
Grace, what beautiful grace is seen over and over in the first three chapters of the Bible. First of all, God is gracious to include us in His creation. Not only is He our Creator but He loves His created ones! He loves us enough to give us fulfillment in work and dominion over the earth. He loves us enough to give us a help-mate when it is not good for man to be alone. He loves us enough to give us a record of creation story. He loves us enough to give us commands to follow for our own good.
God’s character is put on display in the third chapter of Genesis immediately after the first sin. Before dealing with the woman, (or with the man) God instead pronounces a curse on the serpent and prophesies a coming offspring that will crush the serpent’s head. We see Jesus promised to mankind even before God turns to the woman (pain in childbearing) and to the man (thorns and thistles). The first words out of the mouth of God after the first sin is a promise of a coming judgement on the evil forces of the world. What a gracious God we serve!
I remember the first time I saw the gospel in Genesis 3. I was so shocked, filled with amazement of God’s foresight and sovereignty. Truly the entire Bible is an unfolding narrative of His redemptive plan to save all mankind. The first three chapters just happen to give an excellent overview, summary, and foreshadowing of the rest of the story!