And so we begin!
The Bible is not just a collection of stories and pithy sayings about God – rather, all the stories and poems and narratives and commentaries work together to tell the story, the grand narrative of God’s saving solution to humanity’s sin problem, from the very beginning to the very end.
As we begin at the beginning, what you need to know about Genesis 1-3 is that this is the bottom button on the shirt of Gospel understanding. You miss this, and you’ll get the rest wrong.
God creates. He is not created, but He is already there, in the beginning, speaking the world into existence. He is separating light from darkness, earth from sky, water from land. He’s speaking parrots and squids and baboons and elk, and finally humanity, into existence; and it is very good. Creation is ‘good,’ not merely because of its intricacy or beauty, but because it reflects the will and the very nature of the God who did the creating; humanity is the crown of creation, bearing God’s image as willful, imaginative, emotive, and perhaps most of all, relational. After all, God is and always has been Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: one God in three persons, perfect in relational, divine unity.
We actually see two creation narratives in our reading. Genesis 1:1 – 2:3 is highly stylized, poetic, symmetrical, while the remainder of Genesis 2 is fairly straightforward. We should not see the two competing. It has been said (I think rightly) that the first account is like an orchestral prelude, dramatically setting the stage for all that is to come, while the second account is more brass tacks. Clearly both accounts emphasize God’s creative initiative, His divine authority over His creation, and the place of humanity as Creation’s crowning glory.
Adam and Eve are the stewards of God’s creation. The world is literally their playground, with work and marriage being integral to the function of their perfect life. God gives our first parents one rule, ‘Don’t eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,’ and they blow it. They buy the serpent’s (Satan’s) lie that God has been holding out on them and that they may attain some sort of equality with Him. I’ve often wondered if the first sin was the actual partaking of the fruit, or if the first sin came before, in the desire to be like God.
Either way, there was a great tear in creation that day, and we see in Adam and Eve’s exile from Eden that humanity was separated from God – relationally, emotionally, ethically, and legally. I’ve heard protest before that it would be unfair for God to impute the sin of Adam and Eve, or of anyone for that matter, to us. But as I read it, the Bible doesn’t impute that sin to us as if we had nothing to do with it; rather the Bible understands that we’ve inherited that sinful inclination to be god over our own lives, to sit on the throne of our own hearts, authoritative unto ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have to dig too deeply into my own life to know that if the Bible declares that to be wrong, then I’m busted.
Thus the Bible begins. Creation and Fall. Author and pastor Kevin DeYoung states that “one question stands at the heart of the Bible’s Story: How can hopelessly rebellious, sinful people live in the presence of a perfectly just and righteous God?[i] We shall see…
[i] Kevin DeYoung and Greg Gilbert, What is the Mission of the Church?, p.69. Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois.