The Genius of Genesis
October 1, 2022 | Brian Bill
Last spring, while we were crossing the new I-74 bridge, Beth made an astute observation about the old bridge. While our community was excited about the opening of the new bridge (and rightly so), the old one was being dismantled piece by piece, without anyone really paying attention. She said this is a metaphor for what is happening in churches and in our culture today as doctrine is being dismantled right in front of us, without people noticing.
Last week, the local news ran this headline: “Old I-74 Bridge prepares for ‘piece by piece’ demolition.” The report continued, “Initially planned as an implosion, it will now be dismantled piece by piece…[but] explosions will be used on select locations of the bridge.”
Since we as a nation have disconnected from the Bible, doctrine has been dismantled and we are in a societal free-fall. Wrong is now right and what is right is now called wrong. Lamentation about abominations in the past has been replaced with ubiquitous celebration in the present.
How else do you explain the new animated sitcom by Disney called, “Little Demon?” Listen to how Disney describes the storyline: “Thirteen years after being impregnated by Satan, a reluctant mother and her Antichrist daughter attempt to live an ordinary life.”
I watched the trailer for this show slated to begin this fall on FXX and Hulu. It was abhorrent, evil, despicable, and nauseating (and I’m being nice). I’m reminded of Isaiah 5:20: “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
While we certainly need to sound the alarm about what is happening in our society today, we also need to look inside our own lives, and inside the church. While explosions have certainly rocked long-held biblical beliefs in our country, most of what is happening is a result of the ‘piece by piece’ demolition of doctrine among Christians.
Allow me to share some highlights (or lowlights) of a just-released study called, “The State of Theology,” commissioned by Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research. Since 2014, every two years, these ministries take the theological temperature of our culture and of Christians. You might want to buckle up because it’s about to be a rough ride. I’ve selected just five of the findings.
- Not surprisingly, 71% of Americans agreed with this statement, “Everyone is born innocent in the eyes of God.” What is shocking and extremely sad, is almost two-thirds of evangelicals also hold to this belief! This reveals that the biblical teaching of original sin is not embraced by most evangelicals. Listen to God’s summary of the pervasiveness of sin as recorded in Genesis 6:5: “The Lord saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Romans 3:23 says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” If one does not hold to human depravity, then the grace of God as displayed in the gospel, is stripped of meaning and relevance.
- When surveyed about Scripture, the authors elicited a response to this statement: “The Bible, like all sacred writings, contains helpful accounts of ancient myths but is not literally true.” Eight years ago, 44% of Americans agreed with this statement. Today, 53% of Americans and 26% of evangelicals believe the Bible is not literally true. This makes it easy for individuals to ignore any biblical teaching that is out of step with their own personal views, and more readily embrace sexual behavior condemned in Scripture. This hearkens back to how Satan got inside Eve’s head when he asked in Genesis 3:1: “Did God actually say?”
- Another telling response came when 42% of Americans and 37% of evangelicals agreed with this assertion: “Gender identity is a matter of choice.” This goes against the clear teaching of Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”
- Trends over time reveal an increasingly unbiblical belief among evangelicals that “God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.” It’s almost unbelievable to me that 56% of evangelicals do not believe Jesus is the only way when Jesus Himself said in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Sadly, the percentage of Evangelicals who do not believe Jesus is the only way is up 14% in just two years!
- Increasingly, evangelicals believe religious faith is a subjective experience rather than an objective reality. In 2020, 23% agreed with this statement: “Religious belief is a matter of personal opinion; it is not about objective truth.” In just two years, this has jumped to 38% for evangelicals!
When responding to this survey, Christianity Today posted an article called, “Top 5 Heresies Among American Evangelicals.” Here’s their summary of this study: “It’s 2022, but Arianism, Pelagianism [and universalism] are steadily making a comeback…American evangelicals’ grasp on theology is slipping, and more than half affirmed heretical views of God.” Brothers and sisters, it’s time for us to get back to the beginning to make sure our foundations are secure, and we are faithful to them!
By the way, after reading this study, our son-in-law Jamie decided to ask his two oldest sons, our grandsons Pip (6) and Ezra (4), the same questions from this survey. With a thankful smile on his face, he humbly reported they aced the exam (he was humble, but I’ll brag on them)! This shows the importance of parents (and grandparents) partnering with the church to intentionally instruct and equip the next generation to make disciples. This makes me think of a quote by Tedd Tripp: “Give your children big truths they will grow into, rather than light explanations they will grow out of.”
We must be tethered tightly to truth and communicate it to others in a spirit of grace
Church, it’s time for us to hold our convictions without compromise, no matter how controversial they might be. We must stay anchored to Scripture to handle the storms of life as we swim upstream from the cultural currents in our secular society. Where the Bible speaks, we must speak and not go silent like some have chosen to do. We must be tethered tightly to truth and communicate it to others in a spirit of grace. As believers, we must go deep in devotion and discipleship, as Pastor Kyle challenged us last weekend.
We cannot, and must not, slip into me-centered theology, or easy-believism, or be seduced by the doctrines of demons as we are warned against in 1 Timothy 4:1: “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.”
Let’s consider this quote by Tim Challies. I’ll read it twice because it’s so profound: “Shallow Christianity will not last in the coming generation, and it will not grow. Cultural Christianity is fading. The church in the twenty-first century must go big on truth or go home.”
That’s one reason behind our fall verse-by-verse study from the first chapter of Genesis as we go “Back to the Beginning” to get to the bedrock of our beliefs. Genesis is not just the first book of Scripture; it is the foundation for the rest of Scripture.
Here’s our main idea: To move forward in our faith, we must go back to the beginning.
To get the most out of our study in Genesis, here are two action steps right at the beginning. Since so many of you read Romans 8 every day during August, I know you’re up for this challenge.
- Follow the Edgewood Bible Reading Plan for the month of October and read through the entire Book of Genesis.
- Read the entire Book of Genesis in one sitting before Thanksgiving.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us we can trust the Book of Genesis because, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” Moses was the human author, and the Holy Spirit was the divine author. At the turn of the 20th Century, many liberals assumed Moses could not have written the Pentateuch (the first five books) because primitive Jews did not have the capacity to write back then. Not surprisingly, this has since been refuted by archaeology, which has conclusively proven writing was a part of their culture.
Here are some additional reasons you can trust Genesis.
- The Bible doesn’t begin like a fairy tale, “Once upon a time…” but with a factual statement, “In the beginning God…”
- Genealogies in Genesis give the names of actual people who lived in specific times of history. In fact, the entire framework of Genesis is built around genealogies (See chapters 4, 5, 10, 11, 22, 25, 29-30, 35-36, and 46).
- Jesus Himself confirmed Moses as the human author in John 5:46-47: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”
- The scribes and Pharisees referred to Moses as the author of the first five books in Matthew 22:24: “Teacher, Moses said…”
- Jesus quoted from Genesis 2:23-24 in Matthew 19:4-5 when referring to marriage.
- Jesus acknowledged Noah and the flood as an historic event in Matthew 24:37: “For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.”
- The Apostle Paul affirmed Adam and Eve as actual people in 1 Timothy 2:13: “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.”
- Paul also held up Abraham and Sarah as models of faith in many of his letters as seen in Galatians 4:22: “For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave woman and one by a free woman.”
- The Apostle Peter referred to a literal worldwide flood in 2 Peter 3:6: “…the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.”
- One commentator has found at least 165 passages in Genesis that are either directly quoted or clearly referred to in the New Testament.
Let me say it as clearly as I can. We must accept what Genesis teaches, regardless of what society, sociologists or secular scientists might say. Actually, we must do more than just accept Genesis, we’re called to contend for our faith, so apostates don’t turn the grace of God into a license for sensuality according to Jude 3-4: “Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.”
Genesis either explains it all or it does not explain it at all. It is not just the first book of Scripture; it is the foundation for the rest of Scripture. J. Sidlow Baxter writes, “Besides being introductory, Genesis is explanatory…the roots of all subsequent revelation are planted deep in Genesis, and whoever would truly comprehend that revelation must begin here.” Romans 15:4 helps us see the practical value of studying Genesis: “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
The Hebrew title comes from the opening words, “In the beginning.” The English title “Genesis” comes from the Greek translation of the Pentateuch and means origin, source, and birth, which is why it’s referred to as the Book of Beginnings. The overall genre of Genesis is made up of highly developed and complex historical narratives with a focus on key individuals.
To move forward in our faith, we must go back to the beginning.
One way to understand Genesis is to see the first 11 chapters as dealing with the human race, and chapters 12-50 as God’s promises to the chosen race. The first chapters describe four major events in primitive history – creation, the fall, the flood, and the nations. The final 75% of the book focuses on the history of four main patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. We could outline it like this:
- Primitive history (1-11)
- Patriarchal history (12-50)
I’ve also found this outline helpful:
- Generation (1-2)
- Degeneration (3-11)
- Regeneration (12-50)
Here’s another one with alliteration:
- Creation (1-2)
- Catastrophe (3-9)
- Confusion (10-11)
- Covenant (12-50)
Genesis lays out four foundations which are fleshed out in the rest of the Bible:
- Creation – 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
- Fall – 3:6-7: “She took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.”
- Redemption – 3:21: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”
- New creation – 9:1: “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’”
The ESV Study Bible captures the genius of Genesis by listing eight emphases. Here are the first three.
- The Lord God, being both transcendent and immanent, having created the earth to be His dwelling place, commissions human beings as His priestly vice-regents or representatives so that they might fill the earth and caringly govern the other creatures.
- Abandoning their priestly and royal duties, the human couple rebel against God and betray Him by acting on the serpent’s suggestions; their willful disobedience radically affects human nature and the harmonious order of creation.
- God graciously announces that the woman’s offspring will redeem humanity from the serpent’s tyranny. Genesis then traces a unique family line, highlighting how its members enjoy a special relationship with God and are a source of blessing to a world that lies under the curse of God…the offspring of Eve becomes the source of hope for the defeat of the serpent and the restoration of the earth and everything in it…eventually the divine promises linked to the family line in Genesis come to fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God who is the “son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1).
I wrote down 20 other themes found in Genesis.
- The eternal and sovereign God created everything out of nothing in six days for His glory and for the good of those He created (Genesis 1:1). The universe is not self-originated but is the direct result of the Creator’s work.
- The doctrine of the Trinity is found in seed form (Genesis 1:26).
- The sanctity and value of life from the womb to the tomb is tied to God as creator, designer, and protector (Genesis 1:26).
- Gender is described and designed by God as biological male or biological female to reflect His image and for human flourishing (Genesis 1:27).
- Genesis describes where we came from (origins), why we’re here (purpose), and where we’re going (destiny). When we compromise what the Bible says about creation, we invariably end up confused about our origins, our purpose in life and our destiny in death (Genesis 1:28).
- The historicity of Adam and Eve are presented as real people. Genesis records actual, not mythical events (Genesis 2:22).
- The gift of marriage is described as one man and one woman in a covenant commitment for life (Genesis 2:24)
- Satan is presented as a real entity with sinister plans (Genesis 3:1).
- The origin of original sin and the depravity of the human heart is seen in gripping detail (Genesis 6:5).
- Death and separation from God are the result of sin (Genesis 2:17).
- God’s heart is to redeem and restore people (Genesis 3:21).
- God loves to bless people (Genesis 1:28).
- The promise of a coming Savior who will crush the Serpent unfolds through the generations, leading to the arrival of Jesus as Messiah (Genesis 3:15).
- Sin causes family friction and generational dysfunction (Genesis 4:1-17).
- The worldwide flood was an example of God’s judgment on sin (Genesis 6:9-14).
- The origin of nations and languages (Genesis 11:1-9).
- God is a promise-making and covenant-keeping God (Genesis 12:1-3).
- God establishes the practice of tithing before putting it in the Law of Moses when Abraham gave 10% of all he had to Melchizedek, the priest of “God Most High” (Genesis 14:20).
- God accomplishes His sovereign purposes through the imperfections of men and women (Genesis 20:2-7).
- God loves to turn bad things into good for His glory. Since God created the universe, the earth, and every living being, we can trust Him to handle the concerns in our lives (Genesis 50:20).
To move forward in our faith, we must go back to the beginning.
Several weeks ago, an Edgewood attender handed me a document entitled “Revelation and Genesis.” I put it in my pocket and looked at it again this week. I’ll share some of it now, while adding some additional references.
I invite you to worship as we consider how the Bible begins and how it ends. Let’s marvel at how God weaves His way and His will through the pages of Scripture to put His glory on display. Listen now to these bookends of the Bible.
Genesis 1:1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Revelation 21:1: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth.”
Genesis 1:5: “And the darkness He called Night.”
Revelation 21:25: “And there will be no night there.”
Genesis 1:10: “And the waters that were gathered together He called Seas.”
Revelation 21:1: “And the sea was no more.”
Genesis 1:16: “And God made the two great lights.”
Revelation 21:23: “And the city has no need of the sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb.”
Genesis 2:10: “A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden.”
Revelation 22:1: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”
Genesis 2:12: “And the gold of that land is good.”
Revelation 21:18: “The city was pure gold, like clear glass.”
Genesis 2:17: “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Revelation 21:4: “And death shall be no more.”
Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”
Revelation 19:7: “Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His Bride has made herself ready.”
Genesis 3:17: “Cursed is the ground because of you.”
Revelation 22:3: “No longer will there be anything accursed.”
Genesis 3:21: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”
Revelation 19:8: “It was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure.”
Genesis 3:24: “He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden He placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”
Revelation 22:2, 4, 17: “The tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit…they will see His face, and His name will be on their foreheads…the Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”
It makes sense for Revelation to fulfill Genesis because of how Jesus identified Himself in Revelation 22:13: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Let’s circle back to the “State of Theology” study I referenced at the beginning. In his Breakpoint Commentary this week, John Stonestreet summarized the study and then quoted a Christian leader who made this statement, “If we could get all the Christians saved, we’d be in much better shape.”
Jesus the Bridge Builder
Think with me for a moment about why bridges are built. They’re made so we can go from one side of the river to the other side. Bridges are built to span a chasm of some kind and are very expensive to construct. Are you aware the new I-74 bridge cost 1.2 billion dollars?
Jesus took our place that we might have His peace; He took our sin we might have His salvation
God built a bridge to us, which cost Him His Son. Romans 5:8: “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” In the genius plan of God, Jesus took our place that we might have His peace; He took our sin we might have His salvation. He died in your place, as your substitute, so that your sins can be forgiven. Jesus rose from the grave, demonstrating His crushing power by destroying the devil, by defeating death, and by disarming our depravity, thus paving the way to eternal life.
Jesus the Messiah, the second Adam, has bridged the gap between a holy God and sinful people, reversing the curse that has been on the human race since the time of Adam and Eve. Think of the crossbar of the Cross as the bridge deck which brings us to God and the rock that was rolled from the tomb as the firm foundation of our faith.
Will you repent of your sins right now and receive Him as your Lord and Savior?