6. The Missional God

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Introduction

Last session we examined the fall and its horrific effects upon man’s relationship with God, man’s relationship with his fellow man, man’s relationship with himself, and man’s relationship with creation. After seeing this and learning of the relentless spread of sin and human rebellion and the subsequent judgments that followed one should begin immediately asking “Can it be fixed?” Is there any way that we can recover what was lost? Can these relationships ever be set right? Will man’s inherent nature always be marked by rebellion? Is there any source of hope?

I. The God who Initiates and Provides for Redemption

To truly grasp and appreciate this topic we need to be reminded of man’s corrupt nature and its rebellious inclinations. Would someone read Genesis 3:6-13? What do the man and the woman do when their eyes are opened? How did Adam react when he heard God in the garden?

Man did not seek out God in repentance; he did not attempt to atone for his sins. No, man hid from God in the garden. This is still man’s tendency (Romans 3:9-18). From this narrative it is clear that man is both unwilling and unable to turn to God in repentance on his own accord. God must intervene and intervene He does. “God comes into the Garden from without, seeks out Adam, and both judges and shares the redemptive promise with him . . . God was on a mission to Adam. He had no other man to send, so he sent himself.”[40] God is a missional God. He seeks out rebellious man to redeem him. God promises and provides for redemption. By the shedding of blood God covers their shame (Genesis 3:21). And it is God who provides a means by which rebellious humanity may enter into relationship with him (Genesis 4:1-5).

II. The God who Initiates and Keeps His Covenant

A. Introducing the Covenants

Throughout our study of redemption we will be studying several covenants that God establishes with His people.

“Covenants play a prominent role in OT life—socially, politically, and religiously. The covenant idea itself, first mentioned in Genesis 6 during the days of Noah, is intricately woven into the fabric of the biblical account all the way through to Revelation 11 where the ‘ark of His covenant’ reappears in the temple. The word itself occurs in 27 of 39 OT books and in 11 of 27 NT books.”[41]

What we need to recognize at the outset is that, “there are covenants between equals, of course, but when the Lord entered into covenants, he did so as one who ruled over a people. For their part, they received his covenant with its blessings, curses, stipulations and signs, and so became bound to him as to a lord.”[42] We will be primarily focusing on covenant as an expression of God’s redemption but they are also an expression of God’s right to rule, He is the supreme redeemer-judge.

B. Types of Covenants

A bilateral covenant, or conditional covenant, “represents an agreement between two parties in which there is a basic party. Both sides enter into the treaty, voluntarily, resulting in a partnership relationship.”[43] Failure to carry out the covenant stipulations by either party renders a bilateral covenant null and void.

A unilateral covenant, or unconditional covenant, is “an arrangement imposed by a superior on subordinates . . . It usually designates an agreement made to or for, not with, the subordinate, depicting a legally binding promise which one party makes toward another.”[44] Unilateral covenant depends solely upon God’s covenant-keeping faithfulness for fulfillment.

III. The God who Guides Redemption

A. God’s Covenant with Adam―The Adamic Covenant

In Genesis 3:14-19, in typical covenant language the reader is presented with a series of curses and a blessing.

Will someone read that for us? What stands out to you as the focal point of this promise?

In Genesis 3:15 we are given the protevangelium, the first gospel. God promises, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heal” (Genesis 3:15, author’s translation and emphasis).

There are two distinct promises made here. What are they and how would you explain them?

First, we see that God establishes gracious hostility. As an expression of His grace God places enmity between the serpent and the woman, between her seed and the serpent’s seed. Because of this man will never be as evil as he could be. Yes, man’s nature is corrupt and he flees God and is hostile towards God but at the same time man, in some way, is also hostile towards evil, towards the serpent. This is God’s restraining grace in that He allows man to become corrupt and yet He establishes hostility between man and the evil with which he has corrupted himself.

Second, while the first promise was to the plural seed/offspring of the woman the second refers to a singular offspring who will conqueror the serpent.[45] We are not given specifics pertaining to the fulfillment of this promise but it, and the entire Old Testament, points forward to a messianic figure through who God will realize His purposes.

B. Cain and Abel

Last week as we saw the spread of sin and the effects of the fall as Cain slays his brother Abel (Genesis 4:1-8) would someone read Genesis 4:9-22? How do you see God’s grace in His dealing with Cain and his offspring?

C. God’s Covenant with Noah – The Noaic Covenant

In the Genesis 5 genealogy of the generations of Adam verses 28-31 both tell of the birth of Noah and hold massive redemptive significance. Would someone read those verses? What is the significance of this passage?

In light of this curse, Lamech is anticipating his son to be the singular Messiah who would crush the serpents head and bring about a Sabbath rest. While this is not the case it is extremely important because we see that 1,000 years after the promises and curses of the garden man is still anticipating a singular messiah who would overcome the serpent and deliver the people of God. This is not a foreign concept to the people of God. We are not reading Christ into these texts. He is there and His people are eagerly anticipating His arrival.

Would someone read Genesis 6:5-8? How is humanity described there? How is Noah described?

The descriptions of sinful humanity found in verses 5-7 are descriptive of Noah as well there is nothing there that would lead us to exclude him from that description. In verse 8 “Noah’s righteousness is simply stated alongside God’s grace without any comment about whether it is the cause or effect of God’s attitude toward him. Later it will be much clearer that God’s grace is the cause of sinful people becoming righteous.”[46] God spares Noah and His family because He is a gracious God, not because they deserve salvation. God’s covenant with Noah (Genesis 6:17-22; 8:20-22; 9:8-17), like His covenant with Adam, is established as a unilateral promise to all of humanity as God will never destroy the earth and all its life with water again. While the flood represents death and judgment it also represents a new beginning and we see a continuity with the first creation as God commands Noah and his family to “be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it” (Genesis 9:7).

D. Babel

When looking at the narrative of Babel it is important that we look to what precedes it so a not to overstate the effects of God’s judgment. In Genesis 10 presents a genealogy of the sons of Noah and the nations that descended from them. The nations are not the result of God’s judgment in Genesis 11 rather they are the result of His provision and grace in Genesis 10 as we see God continuing to bless Noah and his offspring. From the tower of Babel it is also important to note why God confuses their language. Like God’s restraining grace in Genesis 3 we see that this prevents humanity from unifying in their rebellion against God and this confusion disperses rebellious humanity.

IV. God’s Mission as Eschatology

“The Bible renders to us the story of God’s mission through God’s people in their engagement with God’s world for the sake of the whole of God’s creation. The Bible is the drama of this God of purpose engaged in the mission of achieving that purpose universally, embracing past, present and future, Israel and the nations, ‘life, the universe and everything,’ and with its center, focus, climax, and completion in Jesus Christ.”[47]

The missio Dei, mission of God, is inextricably tied to the imago Dei, the image of God, because we have been made in the image of the missional God: the God who sent Himself, who sent His Son, and who has sent us His Spirit. Sending and being sent is fundamental to understanding the character of God and it is fundamental to our bearing His image as well. This points us forward to a day when through the proclamation of the gospel and at the fulfillment of all of God’s divine sendings “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10b-11).

Conclusion

The texts we studied tonight are charged with potential. We must learn to read these stories in a fresh light and to see how profoundly they speak to the redeeming grace of our God and how that redeeming grace continues to give shape and meaning to our lives today. These are not mere stories of the past; this is our story.

Rather than ask the application “how should you apply what we have learned?” I want to ask “how are you applying what we learned tonight?” Are you really living this story or are you living out a rival story? What do you need to do to bring your narrative in line with the narrative of God?

[40]Francis M. DuBose, God Who Sends: A Fresh Quest for Biblical Mission (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1983), 57.

[41]Irvin A. Busenitz, “Introduction to the Biblical Covenants; The Noaic Covenant and the Priestly Covenant,” in The Master’s Seminary Journal 10 (1999): 173.

[42]Peter Jensen, The Revelation of God, Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002), 74.

[43]Busenitz, “Introduction to the Biblical Covenants,” 175.

[44]Ibid., 176.

[48]T. Desmond Alexander, “Genealogies, Seed and the Compositional Unity of Genesis,” in Tyndale Bulletin 44 (1993): 255-270. See also T. Desmond Alexander, “Further Observations on the Term ‘Seed’ in Genesis,” in Tyndale Bulletin 48 (1997): 363-367. and Andreas J. Köstenberger and Peter T. O’Brien, Salvation to the Ends of the Earth: A Biblical Theology of Mission, New Studies in Biblical Theology 11 (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2001), 27-28.

[46]Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 114.

[47]Wright, The Mission of God, 22.

5. Autonomy and Alienation

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Introduction

As we have studied the account of Creation and the imago Dei it should become clear that what is described there does not totally correspond to our present experience of reality. Indeed this disparity is the reason for our second worldview question, “What went wrong?” Answering this question is critical to making sense of the world in which we live and understanding how God will fulfill His creational purposes. This is the question we aim to answer as we examine the fall of man, the spread of sin, and God’s subsequent judgment.

I. The Fall in Context

Again we come to this text with the realization that it was written by Moses sometime after the exodus from Egypt and sometime before his death. This narrative is just as important for ancient Israel as it is for us. It explains why, in light of God’s good creation, they experienced 400 years of death and slavery. It reinforces their solidarity with Adam and the whole of humanity. We noted earlier that the creation narrative allowed Israel to understand that the “God who rescues Israel from slavery is the God who has made all things, the creator of heaven and earth.”[33] In the same way this narrative connects us and Israel before us, to Adam and Eve in a way that we are subjected to the curse and plagued by the same fallen nature just as they were. With this as the intent of the text we must realize that this text does not address all of our questions concerning the origin of evil and the serpent.

II. The Account of the Fall

In Genesis 2:16-17 we read, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Here we see that man “was to learn the good in its clear opposition to evil, and the evil in its clear opposition to the good. Thus it will become plain how he could attain to this by taking either fork of the probation-choice.”[34] Ultimately, we find that man chose to know good and evil and by becoming evil. They rebelled against God and His Word “not by consciously making Satan their new final authority, but by taking that function to themselves.”[35]

Would someone read Genesis 3:1-13?

Because of the role of the Word of God in creation, it is not surprising then that the fall of man is a result of the questioning and doubting of this word.

In what ways is the encounter between the woman and the Serpent an assault upon the Word of God?

There is a brief addendum at the end of this chapter which discusses this dialogue in slightly more detail.

Would someone read Genesis 3:14-24? In what ways does God curse the Serpent, the woman, Adam, and creation?

III. The Fall and the Imago Dei

“Though man is still in the image of God, in every aspect of life some parts of that image have been distorted of lost.”[36] Structurally man’s mind and heart has become darkened (Romans 1:21; 2 Corinthians 4:4) and his conscience has been seared (1 Timothy 4:2). Functionally man fails to exercise dominion and rather than mastering creation, he is mastered by it; as Geerhardus Vos explains, noting the climactic nature of the curses found in Genesis 3 he translates it as, “thy hard labor will finally slay thee.”[37] Relationally man has been alienated from and is hostile towards God (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21; Hebrews 10:26-27), a hostility that not only sets man against man (Romans 1:28-31) but also sets a man against himself (James 4:1). The effects of the fall upon the imago Dei are pervasive; man does not cease to be an image bearer, and yet every aspect of that image is distorted by sin and the curse.

Profoundly affected by the fall, man is something less than human; he is something less than what he was created to be. Man is by default an image bearer and yet the image he bears is distorted and corrupt; it is an idolatrous image bearing witness to a false God.

IV. The Outworking of the Fall

Rather than simply examine Genesis 3 and the curse described there we need to recognize the narrative form of this text and continue reading to see the pervasive effects of the fall among the descendants of Adam and Eve.

A. Cain and Able

“Strangely, at first, the serpent seems to be right: Adam and eve do not immediately die. Or do they? One of the things this story should do is to make us reflect long and hard on just what ‘death’ means.”[38] This is very true and it should cause us think, yet death does come and it comes relentlessly and with great violence and horror. Immediately after the curse we read in verse 21 “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” The very animals which Adam had previously named were slaughtered to cover their shame with that death and bloodshed entered God’s creation.

Turn with me and read Genesis 4:1-8. The relational effects of the fall are clear as we see that by this point animal sacrifices are a normative way of interacting with God. Then as Cain slaughters his brother Able, as one would slaughter and animal, death comes violently upon mankind. Turning to chapter five the genealogies echo the horror of this reality:

  • “Thus all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, and he died.” (Genesis 5:5).
  • “Thus all the days of Seth were 912 years, and he died” (Genesis 5:8).
  • “Thus all the days of Kenan were 910 years, and he died” (Genesis 5:14).
  • “And he died” verse 17.
  • “And he died” verse 20.
  • “And he died” verse 27.
  • “And he died” verse 31.

B. The Flood

Would someone read Genesis 6:11-14 and 7:17-24? Has anyone ever been in a flood?

The only thing I could liken this to would be the tsunami in 2004 or hurricane Katrina and the stories and pictures of devastation and heartache. The problem of sin grew so severe that God killed every living thing on the earth save Noah, his family, and the animals on the ark. Can you imagine the horror of this? Can you imagine people who knew Noah beating on the side of the ark as the waters rose in search of salvation and finding none? Can you imagine the stench when the waters subsided and they exited the ark?

What does this teach us about sin, humanity and God?

C. The Tower of Babel

Continuing on through the Genesis text we arrive in chapter 10 we read a genealogy which describes the various clans and nations that came from the son’s of Noah and spread abroad on the earth. In chapter 11 we find that humanity has one language and has gathered together to build a tower and make a name for themselves so that they will not be scattered over the face of the earth. “Name in Scripture stands for identity. With this city and tower, the people have sought a false identity, a reputation built on human autonomy (11:4).”[39] God thwarts their rebellion again His command to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it” by confusing their languages and scattering them over the face of the earth.

Conclusion

The reality of sin and God’s subsequent judgment sets the stage for man’s redemption and the restoration of the imago Dei. We will return to these same texts next week as we see how God’s mercy is mingled with His judgment as we learn to see these passages as both words of warning and words of hope.

What did this narrative teach Israel? What is it teaching us? How does this affect our understanding of creation?

Excursus A: Examining the Dialogue between Eve and the Serpent

At some point following the completion of creation the man and the woman are approached by the serpent who immediately begins to cast doubt on the word which God has spoken. He begins by asking, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’” (Genesis 3:1)? In his initial inquiry, the serpent not only aims to bring God’s Word into question he also distorts the word which has been spoken. The woman then replies and corrects the serpent; however, she then adds to God’s prohibition against the tree of the knowledge of good and evil saying, “neither shall you touch it, lest you die” whereas God’s prohibition was only against eating its fruit. Now that the woman has both responded to the serpent’s attempt to cast doubt on God’s Word and added to that Word herself the serpent directly challenges God and His Word. He says to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5). Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food, which should not be surprising as God has declared all of His creation to be good, took and with her husband ate and their eyes were opened.

[33]Bartholomew and Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 30.

[34]Vos, Biblical Theology, 42.

[35]Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 104.

[36]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 444.

[37]Vos, Biblical Theology, 48.

[38]Bartholomew and Goheen, The Drama of Scripture, 43.

[39]Ibid., 53.

4. Those Created to Bear His Image

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Introduction

Of everything that we will be studying during this series there are few topics more important than defining what it means for man to be made in God’s image. Few subjects are as central to both God’s redemptive and reconciliatory mission and our purpose within this metanarrative as the imago Dei. “The Bible does not begin with the Fall but with Creation: Our value and dignity are rooted in the fact that we are created in the image of God, with the high calling of being His representatives on earth.”[21]

I. The Imago Dei in Context

It is important to understand the function of images in the ancient Near Eastern cultural context into which this word was spoken. “In the ancient world, images were viewed as representatives of the entity they designated. . . In addition, images were often thought to represent and even mediate the presence of the one who is physically absent.”[22] Even more “the psalmists and the prophets make no distinction between the images and the gods they represented―not because they did not know that such a distinction was there in the minds of pagan worshipers but because ultimately there was no such distinction in reality.”[23] This is because “they are both human constructs. In worshiping them, we give allegiance, we attribute power and authority, we submit ourselves to something that we ourselves have created.”[24]

Last week we noted that Genesis was written by Moses sometime after the exodus from Egypt and sometime before his death. What shocking event occurs after Israel arrives at Mt. Sinai? Would someone read Exodus 32:1-4?

In what way is this event, and all forms of idolatry, related to our discussion above?

The true horror of idolatry is not merely that it aims to overthrow the rule of God and substitute His presence with an object fashioned by human hands but it necessitates that we forsake our role as His image bearers as well.[25]

II. Examining the Text

Since we are going to spend most of our time examining one passage the verses have been included below. Would someone please read it?

“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and 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’” (Genesis 1:26-28).

“The Hebrew word for ‘image’ (tselem) and the Hebrew word for ‘likeness’ (demût) refer to something that is similar but not identical to the thing it represents or is an ‘image’ of.”[26] In the case of idolatry there is no distinction between an idol and the god or gods it represents; however, there exists a clear distinction between Yahweh Elohim and those created to bear His image.

Before we begin examining the content of the imago Dei what are some preliminary observations you have concerning its content? This is helpful as we are able to study Scripture as a group and then check to see if our observations were correct. In short we are learning how to study the Bible by studying the Bible.

III. A Survey of Positions on the Imago Dei

Over the course of church history three major positions concerning the imago Dei have emerged.

A. Substantive View

The substantive view roots the image of God as primarily consisting in one or more of man’s physical, mental, or spiritual attributes. Many of those supporting a substantive perspective have advocated that the image resides in several different areas of man’s substance of these are man’s physical body, soul, rationality, intellect, holiness, and/or righteousness. This is often done by arguing that “the likeness consisted of the moral qualities of God, whereas the image involved the natural attributes of God.”[27]

B. Functional View

The functional view defines the imago Dei according to how an individual acts, namely, the way in which one functions as an image bearer. The proponents of this perspective almost unanimously focus on the function of man as God’s vice-regent who exercises dominion over creation. It has been described as seeing “the image of God as the royal function or office of human beings as God’s representatives and agents in the world, given authorized power to share in God’s rule over the earth’s resources and creatures.”[28]

C. Relational View

The relational view posits that “the human person is imago Dei in that he or she has been created to relate with God and with other humans in community.”[29] It is argued that,

“it is essential and natural to man not only to be with God but also, on the horizontal level and in analogy with this togetherness with God, to be with his fellow-man: not in isolation . . . there can be no I without the Thou, no man without the fellow-man, any more than there can be any man without God.”[30]

D. Critique

In critiquing these three positions it must be concluded that taken by themselves they are too narrow in their construction, rather they must be viewed as a unified and interdependent whole.

Does anyone have any observations as to why this is the case?

The substantive view necessitates that these qualities bear themselves out functionally in the context of relationship. For example man’s holiness impacts the way he functions as a vice-regent and how he relates to God, his fellow man, and creation. Man cannot function apart from his numerous substantive qualities any more than man could function without relation to anything. In the same way man cannot properly relate to God, his fellow man, or creation unless his substantive qualities function in a particular way.

IV. Viewing the Imago Dei Holistically

“We are not merely the image of some divine attributes; we image God himself, who is inseparable from all his attributes. . . All of God’s attributes describe his control and authority, and all equally describe his presence in the world.”[31] There are substantive, functional, and relational aspects to this that must be held in balance if one is to properly bear God’s image in this world.

V. The Imago Dei as Eschatology

The entire telos and purpose of humanity is caught up in the imago Dei. Man was created in the image of God; this image was damaged in the fall, is subsequently being restored via progressive sanctification, and will be completely restored in glorification. This theme which will be prevalent through the rest of our study as we examine Abraham, Israel, Jesus Christ, and the Church with all of it pointing us forward to “the eschatological community of glorified saints.”[32]

Conclusion

In what ways is this directly applicable to your life as an individual and our lives as a church, both locally and globally?

Selecting the material for this lesson was exceptionally difficult. This topic is very dear to me and there is much more that I would have loved to cover but time will not allow. If you are interested in learning more on this topic I will post a link to an article I wrote, from which most of this material is derived (see here).

[21]Nancy R. Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 87.

[22]Stanley J. Grenz, “The Social God and the Relational Self: Toward a Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei,” in Trinitarian Soundings in Systematic Theology (New York: T & T Clark, 2005), 88.

[23]Christopher J. H. Wright, The Mission of God: Unlocking the Bible’s Grand Narrative (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2006), 151.

[24]Ibid., 153.

[25]Walsh and Middleton, The Transforming Vision, 61-65.

[26]Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 442-43.

[27]Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 522.

[28]J. Richard Middleton, “The Liberating Image? Interpreting the Imago Dei in Context,” Christian Scholars Review 24.1 (1994): 12.

[29]James R. Beck and Bruce Demarest, The Human Person in Theology and Psychology: A Biblical Anthropology for the Twenty-First Century (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2005), 143.

[30]Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics: A Selection with Introduction by Helmut Gollwitzer (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1961; reprint, Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1994), 187-88.

[31]John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God, A Theology of Lordship (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), 396-97.

[32]Grenz, “The Social God and the Relational Self,” 88.

3. The God Who Creates

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Introduction

After reviewing the entire history of redemption we will go back to the beginning and spend the next months working our way through the great story of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.

“The movement from creation to restoration is one organic development whereby God works out his plan for the redemption of a new humanity from all the nations (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). Creation, in a real sense, is the preamble to the history of redemption.”[14]

The relationships and purposes established at creation are critical for understanding all that follows as the rest of the story focuses upon the realization of these purposes and the restoration of these relationships through Jesus Christ.

I. Creation in Context

The first thing we must look at is the cultural/historical context of creation. The Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, was written by Moses sometime after the exodus from Egypt and sometime before his death. “The biblical accounts of creation are tantalizing for modern-minded people because they refuse to address the questions we want answered.”[15] This is because “when God revealed the creation story, he revealed it first to Israel. The Israelites were concerned not with twentieth-century scientific presuppositions and models but with who Yahweh is.”[16] Because of this we begin with the understanding that this story is primarily about revealing Israel’s God, who has brought them out of bondage in Egypt. This will be the primary focus of this study. I have added an addendum at the end which discusses evolution and questions on that subject can be asked on the website.

Not only does the account of creation aim to reveal God it also aims to refute all other deities and creation accounts; it is notably polemical or argumentative in tone. During their slavery in Egypt the Israelites would have become very familiar with the Egyptian gods and creation accounts, not to mention those they would encounter during their journey to and conquest of the Promised Land. We will begin the history of redemption with the narrative of creation, a narrative that aims to both reveal the creator and to refute all rival deities and their narratives.

II. The Accounts of Creation

There are two creation accounts in Genesis. The first, Genesis 1-2:3, focuses upon God as the sovereign who commands the world into being. The second account, Genesis 2:4-25, focuses upon God as He carefully crafts and shapes the creation as the place where He will dwell with man.

Hopefully you took time over the past week to study through the first two chapters of Genesis because now we are going to read through each of these accounts and share our observations.

III. The God Who Creates

A. His Name

Everyone here has a name right? Does anyone know what their name means?

While the meaning of an individual’s name has little bearing on our relationship with them, the names of God used here are of particular significance.

  • The first, used throughout Genesis 1, is Elohim, a word used throughout the ancient Near East for God.
  • The second, introduced in Genesis 2:4, is Yahweh, is the name which God introduced Himself to Moses in Exodus 3 and the name used by Israel to refer to the God who brought them out of slavery.
  • In Genesis 2:4 we find these two names joined together to form Yahweh Elohim. This “makes the powerful point that the same God who rescues Israel from slavery is the God who has made all things, the creator of heaven and earth.”[17]

B. His Word

“Creation is not only a question of beginnings, but of purpose and relationships.”[18] We will now turn our attention to God and His Word in creation.

  • First and foremost God creates by His Word (1:1). Many would expect Scripture to begin with a defense of God’s existence; however, as God’s authoritative and inerrant Word His existence need only be declared.
  • Second, He establishes and governs relationships by His Word (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26, 28-29).
  • Third, He pronounces blessing by His Word (1:22, 28, 2:3).
  • Fourth, He determines purpose by His Word (1:26, 28-30).
  • Fifth, He communicates by His Word (1:28-30).
  • Sixth, He reveals by His Word and man is dependent upon this revelation (2:16-17). Man already knew that every seed bearing plant was acceptable and intended to be eaten; however, man was dependent upon a revelatory act of God to know that he was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:18-19).

IV. Creation as Eschatology

Eschatology simply means the study of last things. Creation is eschatological in the sense that it points beyond itself and towards the great end for which God has created it. This is helpful because it serves to remind us that God will not be surprised at the fall of man, rather He has anticipated it and has been planning something far greater all along. There are two aspects of creation which are particularly eschatological.

A. The Cultural Mandate

The cultural mandate is mentioned in both creation accounts,

“And God blessed them. And God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and 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’” (Genesis 1:28).

“The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15).

Clearly this is applied specifically to the earth and the garden as man is to fill it, subdue it, have dominion over it, work it, and keep it. However, “besides gardens, we also cultivate relationships, manners and forms of worship. We harness animals and the forces of nature. We formulate and develop ideas and traditions . . . culture covers the whole range of human society.”[19] This will be discussed more next week as we study what it means for man to be made in God’s image, but at this point it is clear that this designed purpose looks forward to a creation that has been filled, subdued, worked, and kept. For this reason it should not come as a surprise to find that story of redemption begins in the garden and ends in a city.

B. The Sabbath Rest

Having completed and declared His creation to be good “he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done” (Genesis 2:2). The word used here for “rest” is the same word from which we get “Sabbath” and it implies more than just a ceasing of labor; moreover it also speaks to an enjoyment.[20] God has both ceased his labor and is now enjoying what He has made.

Verse 3 records, “So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.” God only declares the seventh day holy, or set apart, in anticipation of the future Sabbath Rest in the Holy City presented at the end of redemptive history.

Conclusion

From this week forward I want to begin concluding by allowing you all to discuss how we can apply tonight’s study as individuals and as a church.

Excursus A: Evolution Theistic and Atheistic

I. The Nature of Scripture

We noted above that the primary purpose of this text was to reveal God. As a whole Scripture is not a scientific textbook, it is revealed history and future; because of this, we cannot expect Scripture to answer the smallest detail of every scientific inquiry, because its primary concern is the revelation of God and not the satiation of scientific inquiry. However, what Scripture does reveal, scientifically or otherwise, it does so authoritatively, inerrantly, infallibly, and clearly.

II. The Nature of Science

Science is not equal to revelation. Science is not raw data but raw data interpreted. Science is primarily based upon observation and the world which science observes has been profoundly affected by the fall. Observation alone cannot account for or explain the systemic effects of the fall and because of this, it is always subject to correction by the Word of God.

III. The Question of Evolution

Evolution can be classified into two main categories, theistic and atheistic. On the one hand atheistic evolution is purely naturalistic and therefore denies the possibility of any supernatural deity; this clearly stands at odds with a biblical worldview. Theistic evolution on the other hand holds that God created by means of evolutionary processes. This is problematic on several accounts. First, such an interpretation relies heavily on a poetic interpretation of the first two chapters of Genesis while interpreting the remaining chapters literally. Having already noted the polemic structure of this text one must come to realize that it aims to both reveal the creator and to refute all rival deities and rival creation narratives, even modern ones. Second, theistic evolution provides an insufficient answer for the problem of evil and death. Within theistic evolution death is the means by which evolutionary change occurs and natural selection takes place. Contrary to this the Biblical account presents death as the result of sin. Because of this theistic evolution must be rejected as an inadequate explanation of how the world came into being.

Excursus B: Basic Categories for Alternate Theories of Creation

  • Paganism: Meaning “earth religion” and its basic assumption is that the universe eternally self-exists alongside God (Pantheism, Panentheism, Wicca/Witchcraft, Satanism, Dualism, and Mormonism).
  • Deism: The basic assumption here is that an intelligent designer created the universe as a self-sustaining and self-operating system, in which He is no longer involved.
  • Naturalism: The basic assumption here is that there is no creator only a self-existing and self-evolving/functioning material order.
  • Rejection: The basic assumption here is that the material is evil and should not have come into being (Gnosticism, Buddhism, and Hinduism).

[14] VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 40.

[15]Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 90.

[16]VanGemeren, The Progress of Redemption, 40.

[17]Craig G. Bartholomew and Michael W. Goheen, The Drama of Scripture: Finding Our Place in the Biblical Story (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2004), 30.

[18]Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 92.

[19]Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton, The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1984), 55.

[20]Ludwig Koehler and Walters Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, ed. and trans. Johann Jakob Stamm, Benedikt Hartmann, Ze’Ev Ben-Hayyim, Eduard Yechezkel Kutscher, Philippe Reymond, and M. E. J. Richardson (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill Academic Publishers, 2001), s.v. “שׁבת.”

2. The Gospel as Metanarrative

Metanarrative - Post Header

Introduction

If you where to explain the gospel to someone, where are some places in Scripture that you might start? Maybe in one of the gospels or in Romans, what are your thoughts?

Would anyone begin in the Old Testament?

That is where we are going to begin. We are going to give an overview of this study by looking at the gospel in the Old Testament. If we were to look at each of the four gospels we would notice that Matthew begins by giving a genealogy from Abraham to Christ, Mark begins by quoting several Old Testament prophets concerning Jesus and John the Baptist, after the baptism of Jesus Luke provides a genealogy from Jesus back to Adam, and John begins with the creation of the universe. From this we can see the importance of the Old Testament to the writers of the four gospels and the early church.

Would someone read Luke 24:13-35 for us?

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).

What does he mean by this? What does it mean to begin with “Moses and all the Prophets?”

Exactly, Jesus began in Genesis, which was written by Moses, and then explained everything written about Him in the Old Testament.

I. Metanarrative and Worldview Revisited

Thinking back to last week’s discussion on we need to look at five questions that every worldview must answer. These questions also form the basic outline for our study of the storyline of the Bible. They are as follows:

  • Creation — How did we get here?
  • Fall — What went wrong?
  • Redemption — Can it be fixed?
  • Consummation — Where is it going?
  • Application — What now?

So let’s have some fun here and answer these questions as if we were characters in The Lord of the Rings. Is someone a big Tolkien fan and wants to answer them all or should I divide up the questions?

  • Creation — How did we get here?

“Three Rings for the Elven-kings under the sky,
Seven for the Dwarf-lords in their halls of stone,
Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die,
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”

  • Fall — What went wrong?

“One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them,
One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them
In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.”

  • Redemption — Can it be fixed?

Yes, by destroying the ring in the fires of Mount Doom.

  • Consummation — Where is it going?

I think this question varies depending upon the various races in Middle-earth so I am not going to attempt an answer.

  • Application — What now?

We must journey to Mordor and destroy the ring.

II. The Gospel as Metanarrative

Now if we take that same framework and apply it to the Bible we will see both the metanarrative, the grand story, of Scripture and the worldview it presents. Furthermore, we need to pay special attention to note how Jesus is the unifying center of the Bible.

A. Creation — How did we get here?

In what way does creation relate to Jesus?

In Genesis 1:26 God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” So we see Jesus as a part of the Trinity in whose image man is made. If we turn to the New Testament we learn in Colossians that “For by him [meaning Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him” (1:16).

B. Fall — What went wrong?

Is Jesus related in any way to the fall and if so how?

Exactly, Jesus comes to redeem humanity from the curse of the fall. Jesus comes as the second Adam to give life where the first Adam brought about death.

C. Redemption — Can it be fixed?

1. Seeing the Gospel in the Garden

Continuing to look at Genesis 3 do you see the gospel mentioned there, perhaps in verse 15?

Yes, Jesus will conquer Satan and undo the curse.

2. Seeing the Gospel in the Flood

Can someone summarize the story of the flood? How would we see the gospel there?

God in His grace provided a way for Noah, and his family, to be spared from the wrath to come. In the same way we see that in Christ God has provided a way for us to be spared from the wrath to come.

3. Seeing the Gospel in the Calling of Abraham

Will someone read the calling of Abram in Genesis 12:1-3? How do we see the gospel in this account? Someone read Galatians 3:8 to see what Paul has to say about this event.

We see here that the gospel is proclaimed to Abraham and to the Patriarchs after him in the form of the Abrahamic Covenant whereby God promises to bless the nations through Abraham, specifically through Jesus a descendant of Abraham.

4. Seeing the Gospel in the Exodus

The narrative of the exodus is spread over fifteen chapters, which we do not have time to read, so will someone give us a synopsis? What are the key points? The exodus is rich with messianic foreshadowing what strikes you as the most vivid pictures of the coming messiah?

Clearly the Passover lamb points us to Jesus, the Lamb of God, through whom we have redemption. Even the Passover feast has been given new meaning in the Lord’s Supper, or communion, as it now reminds us of the death of Christ on the cross.

5. Seeing the Gospel in God’s Covenant with David

Someone read II Samuel 7:8-17. In what way do these promises point to David’s son Solomon and in what way do they point beyond Solomon to Christ?

This text is first fulfilled in Solomon and ultimately fulfilled in Christ. In I Kings 10:23-25 the wealth and wisdom of Solomon are recorded and so we see that God does establish Solomon’s kingdom. In I Kings 6-9 we see the building of the temple and so we see that he indeed does build a house for God’s name. However, this is not the ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy because we read of the descent and death of Solomon in I Kings 11, the division of the kingdom between Judah, the Southern Kingdom, under Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, and Israel, the Northern Kingdom, under Jeroboam I in I Kings 12, and then eventually both kingdoms fell and were carried off into exile; Israel in II Kings 17 and Judah in II Kings 24-25. So at this point we are left with a fairly dismal picture for what was promised to be an everlasting throne.

6. Seeing the Gospel in the New Covenant

In Jeremiah 31:31-34 we read of the promise of a New Covenant where God will write His law upon His people’s hearts and remember their sins no more. In Hebrews 8-9 we read of how the old covenant, specifically the Mosaic Covenant, which we did not discuss, has been superseded by the New Covenant because Jesus has secured our redemption, a redemption that was anticipated and foreshadowed by the Mosaic Covenant and its sacrificial system.

D. Consummation — Where is it going?

Where is all of this going? We read of man’s creation, his fall into sin, and the various covenants which God has established in anticipation of their consummation. If we would turn to Revelation 22:1-5 we will see the great end which all of these covenants anticipate.

Will someone read that for us?

Let us think back through our notes for tonight and see how this section of Scripture points us to the fulfillment of all that we have studied. Looking back to the fall of man and the cursing of creation we read in verse 3 that “No longer will there be anything accursed.” Also in verse 3 we see that man’s relationship with God has been restored as “his servants will worship him.” Looking back to God’s covenant with Abraham we see that indeed the nations are blessed as verse 2 tells us of the tree of life whose leaves are for “for the healing of the nations.” Thinking of God’s covenant with David and the promise of an everlasting kingdom and throne we read of “throne of God and of the Lamb” in verse 1 and verse 5 closes with the promise that God with His people “will reign forever and ever.”

E. Application — What now?

We stand between the giving of the New Covenant, in Christ, and the consummation of the covenants at His return. “We stand.” Did you catch that? This is not just the story of Israel or the church. Yes, it is God’s story, but it is also the story in which we dwell. So a critical aspect of application is discovering what it looks like to live out this story and discerning where we have read contradictory aspects of false stories in.

John 20:21 helps us answer the question “what now?” Will someone read that text for us? How does this text answer our fifth worldview question?

There is a lot to be learned from this text and we will devote a significant amount of time studying it at the end of this series. But now at the risk of extreme oversimplification we will look at Christ’s paradigmatic statement, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” (Luke 19:10). If we are sent by Christ just as Christ was sent by the Father then we must be about the task of seeking and saving the lost. Looking back to the title of this series we see that not only must we indwell God’s story but we must also embody His mission to seek and save the lost.

Conclusion

Are there any other questions before we conclude? That was a very brief overview of the metanarrative of Scripture. We will spend the rest of our time breaking that story down into smaller narratives and seeing how they fit into the larger whole. Next time we will be diving into the story of creation and looking at both its message and its context within the history of God’s people. Take time to familiarize yourself with Genesis 1-2 as we will spend the next two sessions studying this text.