Let's Go Back to the Beginning to Find the Gospel in Genesis

Borrowed Light
Let's Go Back to the Beginning to Find the Gospel in Genesis

Genesis is all about beginnings. It is here that we learn the answer to two important questions: Where did we come from? What happened to us? 

But does it also answer other gospel themed questions? Does Genesis tell us where we are going and also how we are going to get there? You might not be surprised to learn that threads of the gospel are all over Genesis and are woven all throughout the rest of the Scriptures. 

How Do You Find the Gospel in the Old Testament? 

I suppose before understanding how to find the gospel in the OT, it’d be helpful for us to define the gospel. The simplest definition is one given by JI Packer: God saves sinners. If you’d like to put a bit more meat on your gospel presentation, I use two different frameworks with four points each. The first is God—Man—Christ—Response. The second is more of a story: Creation—Fall—Redemption—Glory. 

The first presentation centers upon God’s character and how humanity fails to meet God’s holy standard, as such the judgment of God is upon us. But the good news is that Jesus Christ fixes this by fulfilling what is required through his life, death and resurrection. Our only fitting response, then, is to respond to Him in repentance and faith. When this happens, we are united to Christ and his record becomes our record. 

The second presentation centers upon the overarching story of the Bible. God lovingly created us to love Him and enjoy Him forever. We were made for rest, rule, and relationship. But we made shipwreck of this, and so rather than having the blessings of obedience we are under the curse of disobedience. Rather than having peace (rest), purpose (ruling), and healthy relationship we often experience the opposite. Ultimately, we are alienated from God. But thankfully God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bear our curse and to fulfill what God intended for humanity. As such we now experience the blessings of Jesus’ obedience in our place. He restores the rest, rule, and relationship we were created to enjoy. Someday everything will be ultimately restored and we will live in a new heaven and a new earth. 

We could write entire books focusing on these various themes of the gospel. But every gospel story follows this basic skeleton. No matter where you find yourself in the Old Testament (or the New Testament) you can find one of these various threads. Every place in Scripture is either telling you something about God, something about our rebellion, something about His rescue, or something about our future restoration. If you can spot this, then you can fill out the rest of the story. 

How Do We Find the Gospel in Genesis? 

Creation. Fall. Redemption. Glory. That is the storyline of the Bible and the structure of the gospel. Two of those are clearly in Genesis. In the first two chapters of Genesis, we learn that we were created in the image of God. We learn that our purpose is to work and to keep the Garden and to live in rest, rule, and relationship. But we also see in Genesis 3 the tragedy of the Fall. Those themes are obviously present throughout Genesis. 

We see as the story unfolds how sin and rebellion ravages humanity. The first sibling relationship ends with murder. It doesn’t get any better, and by the sixth chapter of Genesis, God regrets that He even made humanity. There are little slices throughout the story where it seems that humanity is “getting it” but even the heroes have villainous aspects. Abraham lies about his wife and basically gives her to Pharaoh. He ends up sleeping with his servant girl instead of remaining steadfast to God’s promise. In Genesis 26, Isaac (the son of promise) ends up sinning just like his dad. The same thing happens to Jacob, who is a deceiver. Most of his sons were a mess as well — selling their own brother into slavery. 

But we also see little seeds of redemption. What is known as the protoevangelium is found in Genesis 3:15. That means “first gospel.” It is a little promise tucked away in the midst of the curse. The offspring of the woman will crush the head of the serpent. 

There is also a picture of the gospel at the end of Genesis 3, when God provides a covering for the first couple. And we see the same type of provision in the closing of the door of the ark. There are many little seeds of hope spread throughout the gospel. But one that seems to push forward the narrative of the whole Bible is found in Genesis 12:1-3, God’s promise to Abraham. 

As Christopher J.H. Wright says, “God’s promise to Abraham is key to the rest of Scripture. It is the beginning of biblical mission and at the heart of the gospel. Gospel? Yes, that is Paul’s word for God’s promise to Abraham…” This promise pushes the biblical narrative forward, but it also connects back to Genesis 3. This offspring, this seed of the woman, will be the redeemer for humanity. It is through the offspring of Abraham, and the seed of the woman, that all nations will be blessed. 

It will be many years before the story unfolds and we see the identity of this precious Son. But Genesis certainly points us there. We see that our rescue will come from outside. There isn’t much in Genesis that points us to the eternity that awaits us. But again, there are little glimpses, like Jacob’s ladder. There is hope even in Joseph’s death and burial in Egypt that the story isn’t finished. But as the book of Genesis closes, we are indeed looking for a rescuer. 

How Do we Find the Gospel in the Tower of Babel? 

There are a few places in Scripture where there is an obvious connection to the gospel. It’s not too difficult to take the narrative of Genesis 3 and tie it to the good news of Jesus, also covering us. Rather than relying on self-atonement (making fig leaf coverings for ourselves) we must be given a covering by God — and that covering comes through sacrifice. 

How would we share the gospel from Genesis 11 and the story of the Tower of Babel? I think the thread here is about the unity which they sought and the unity which is only found in Christ. We have to begin the story back in the garden. 

In the Garden of Eden, humanity dwelled in unity with God and one another. They were naked and unafraid. This means that they were entirely vulnerable before one another without having an ounce of fear. Why? Because without sin in the world, everything Adam and Eve did was for the good of the other. Their focus was on glorifying God as they worked and kept the garden. 

But when sin entered into the world everything became twisted. The first couple turned on one another, and they noticed they were naked. Why? Because sin had turned them inward. They became self-focused. And they began to fear the other rather than serve them. They were in disunity. 

But in Genesis 11 we read about a great unity project. The Tower of Babel is a picture of humanity being united. But it’s not a good type of unity. It’s all about self-preservation. It’s not driven by a concern for spreading the glory of God to the nations. No, it’s about spreading their own name. Unity can happen apart from the work of God. That’s why unity by itself isn’t a Christian virtue. But such unity seldom lasts. It’s typically a unity centered on self, as the old saying goes “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” 

Unity centered upon the glory of God only comes through the work of God in our lives. This is what Jesus does in the gospel. We see that Jesus is reconciling all things to Himself. That means He is once again centering God. When we are united with Jesus, we become part of this great restoration project. And this creates a new kind of unity. The fruit of this is shown in Acts 2 in the story of Pentecost. When the Spirit of God comes upon people, it’s all about restoring what is broken. Jesus overturns Babel and creates a new unity focused upon God.

But there are still language barriers. We aren’t entirely redeemed. We just see in Pentecost a seed of what God is doing. Revelation 7:9 is where God is taking us. There we see “a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands.” Babel is completely overturned.

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Mike Leake is husband to Nikki and father to Isaiah and Hannah. He is also the lead pastor at Calvary of Neosho, MO. Mike is the author of Torn to Heal and Jesus Is All You Need. His writing home is http://mikeleake.net and you can connect with him on Twitter @mikeleake. Mike has a new writing project at Proverbs4Today.