The gospel of the kingdom is the message we bring to the world. But do we even understand it?
Have you ever started reading a story book in the middle, or tried to watch a movie starting halfway through the plot? I have, and though it is possible to figure out the gist of the story, it can be hard to have adequate context, and sometimes important details are missed. Most of all, the significance of events is lost on an audience who doesn’t understand the history of what has come before.
Most people start in the middle of the gospel story, with man’s need of a savior and Christ’s atoning work on the cross. But while this is an appropriate message in some settings, if we never understand the beginning of the story, we’ll be left with a truncated view of the significance of the gospel. Instead of starting in the gospels, it’s crucial to start where God does… in the beginning.
“In the beginning, God.” -Genesis 1:1
Genesis establishes that God is preeminent in history, not man. God is the starting point of the Bible with no apologies, no defense of His existence, no man to question His authority. He IS. “And God answered Moses, I AM THAT I AM…” “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, Which is, and Which was, and Which is to come, even the Almighty.” (Ex. 3:14, Rev. 1:8)
“In the beginning, God created…” -Genesis 1:1
The very first thing we are told about God in Scripture is that He is a creator. This not only establishes the important fact that God is the origin of reality, but also that God loves creating- It is the first function we see him fulfilling.
After five days of creation work, God creates the most eminent and supreme creature, the crowning finish to His newly created world: man. In distinction from all the rest of creation, God creates man “in His image”. What is the image of God? Certainly there are many ways of answering this question, but most prominently in the context of the passage is the image of God as creator, cultivator, and ruler. It is no surprise that immediately following the statement “let us make man in Our image”, God gives mankind a sphere in which to exercise dominion, and a charge to do just that.
“Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” -Genesis 1:26-28
Directly following this mandate, God gives his creatures law to govern their work:
“Then the Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. The Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.’” -Genesis 2:15-17
Man now had not only a mission, but a law outlining the parameters of his mission as well.
Life was perfect: close communion with the Lord, fulfilling work to do, and a law to guide them in the path of liberty and blessing.
The Plot Thickens… If you had a list of the top ten most chilling passages in Scripture, I think Genesis 3 would be on the list. The perfection of paradise suddenly hung in the balance as the crafty serpent, the hostile enemy of God and his creation, queried:
“Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” -Genesis 3:2
The significance of this question is titanic. For the first time in human history, God was questioned. The serpent had raised an epistemological question: how do we know truth? Has God really said?
“The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate.”-Genesis 3:2-6
In a colossal reversal of roles, the creature stood in judgement over the Creator God. Up to that point, the right of determining good and evil had been reserved for God alone. Now, the creature stood in judgement over the creator, rather than trusting Him as the source of all wisdom and knowledge (Col. 2:3). The question was one of trust in God’s law, or human reasoning. In other words, “by what standard could truth be known?”
Rejecting the law of God, Adam and Eve plummeted the entire human race into sin and death. Ever since, the children of Adam and Eve have followed in their footsteps, and the attack on the sufficiency and inerrancy of God’s Word has continued unrelentlessly. By one autonomous choice, Adam and Eve had broken God’s holy law, intended for their good, and usurped the place of God as the ultimate source of truth.
In Genesis 3, the effects of sin on man’s communion, worship, and obedience to law are all seen in stark contrast to the bliss that had existed before…
In verse 8, they hide themselves from the presence of God in shame, and in verse 24, man is actually expelled from that holy presence.
In verses 7 and 10-13, we see the eyes of Adam and Eve opened to see their guilt of breaking of God’s law, and the confusion that ensues as the proper roles that God had ordained were turned on their head.
In verses 16-19, God curses both the man and woman for their sin by taking the work they were commanded to do, and making it painful.
There seemed to be no hope, as the knowledge of their guilt slowly dawned on them.
But God… The creation story is very important because it is the canvass upon which the whole redemption story is painted. Without understanding the beginning of the story, we will not fully grasp the significance of the climax of history- the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the fall, mankind through sin had entered into a state of death. But God, being rich in mercy, made a way of redemption, a way to bring mankind back into his original position. Man had lost his ability to be in the presence of God, to offer his work as acceptable worship to God, and to obey the law of God. God could have punished the entire race eternally for this gross offense, but He mercifully provided a Messiah to redeem those whom He would elect- not only to negate the awful effects of sin that now ravaged the human race, but also to restore him to his former blessings of communion, worship, and obedience. It is against this historical backdrop that the magnificent words in Ephesians 2 were penned:
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” -Ephesians 2:1-7
Then, Genesis 3:15 records the incredible act of a merciful God:
And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” -Genesis 3:15
God actually places mankind on His side of the war. By putting enmity between the serpent and the woman, He effectually places the human race on His side of the battle, despite the tremendous sin against Him that they had just committed.
Theologians call this enmity, the doctrine of the “antithesis”. Satan, opposed to God down to the very last detail, seeks to destroy all that God has created, offering alternatives to God’s law and purposes. Now, the elect were caught in the middle of battle. Stricken with sin, but seeking to follow their Creator, redeemed man had a war to wage.
By promising a redeemer (the seed of the woman, which is Christ), God provided a way of redemption for man, a hope for restoration. In the centuries to follow, the elect of God could trust in the promise of a Messiah, and by this obtain salvation, even though He had not yet come. But full redemption had not yet been obtained, and the world still groaned under the effects of sin.
With one life, everything changed.
Christ the Messiah valiantly entered the magnificent landscape of history. Through His sinless life, payment for the penalty of our sin, and triumphing over His enemies through His resurrection, Christ effected the promise that God had made back in the garden. He not only removed the penalty of sin, but He enabled His elect by His Spirit to live by His law-word, having it written on their hearts (Jer. 31:33). Most of all, Christ crushed the power of death, sin, and Satan.
Christ is now seated at the right hand of the Father, reigning in power and glory, until He makes His enemies a footstool (1 Cor. 15:25, Luke 20:43). Where the world had been in bondage to sin, Christ has now broken the chains that had once held it. Through the perfect redemption work of Christ, we are restored to our proper standing before God as we worship in the presence of God, exercise joyful dominion in working in His service, and liberty in the obedience of His law, even though done imperfectly. The task of dominion that the first Adam had failed to do, the second Adam is accomplishing. The rest of history is the outworking of what was declared by Jesus’ resurrection, whereby just as the old man dies progressively in the believer and the new man progressively appears, the old world is dying progressively and the new creation is progressively appearing.
Though the messiah has come, we still await the final consummation of the gospel when sin will be forever and fully eradicated. When Christ returns, redemption will reach its completion and man will enjoy perfect worship in the presence of God, perfect fulfillment in the joy of working in His service, and perfect liberty in the obedience of His law.
Gospel Significance for Life: So what does all of this mean for us?
The significance of the gospel has such far reaching effects, that it should permeate our lives right down to the tiniest details of life, even eating and drinking.
Move on to the “meat”. The writer to the Hebrews reprimanded his readers for their spiritual immaturity:
“For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant.” -Hebrews 5:12-13
The Hebrews had never moved on in their spiritual understanding, past the basics of the gospel:
“Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment.” -Hebrews 6:1-2
Building on the already laid foundation of the gospel, the writer to the Hebrews wanted them to move on to understanding the theological implications and practical applications of that gospel as it applied to their redeemed lives of worship, work, and ethics.
“But solid food is for the mature who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.” -Hebrews 5:14
Christ had redeemed them. Now they were to learn how to live as the redeemed people of God.
Don’t reduce the gospel to an inward message. Sadly in today’s churches, the gospel is bottled up in pietism, and it’s effects confined to the four walls of the church. Jesus Christ is portrayed as our dying savior, but rarely as our risen, conquering King. This has led to many men to lose interest in the church. We need to regain a full orbed view of the gospel and learn to answer the question, “How Shall We Then Live?”. Don’t miss this excellent video on the feminization of the church: We Have Lost Our Men.
Written in 2012 by Rachel Gray
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