Anytime we start a new book together, it feels a bit like standing at a trailhead awaiting to begin a new adventure. Especially since we will be devoting the majority of our Sunday mornings within 2016 to the book of Genesis. Given that, it would be good to begin by asking why: why are we spending 40 plus weeks in Genesis?
Here is the big idea: The book of Genesis is both foundational and directional. It grounds us and it guides us. It anchors us in the bedrock of truth, providing a critical framework for our lives and then it pushes us out in a certain direction by which we navigate life.
As Christians in our present cultural climate, it demands we are well grounded and rightly guided and the book of Genesis provides this for us. Likewise, as skeptics, doubters or unbelievers – the book of Genesis confronts us with multiple truth claims that have to be considered.
The Book of Genesis is Foundational
By its very name, the book of Genesis tips us off that whatever these 50 chapters contain, it has something to do with foundational matters. Because, the word itself means “beginnings” or “origins. Anything of lasting value owes its sustaining worth to the integrity of its foundational structure. A piece of software is only as good as its lines of code. A car is only as functional as the quality of its drivetrain. Any great meal is only as tasty as the ingredients it contains. So too, the book of Genesis gives us insight into several critical “origins” that serve to frame up our particular foundation
(1) The Origin of God
More specifically, that this God has no origin. As far as we can go back in time and history God already is. “In the beginning” God is already. This introduces us to the idea of God’s authority as creator. He stands above and distinct from creation. He is not just another character in the drama he is the author.
(2) The Origin of Man
Genesis tells us not only that man was created, but that he was created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). This declaration means that every human being bears dignity and worth. This means that it is not just the powerful, the beautiful or useful people that have worth – all people.
(3) The Origin of Family/Relationships
If ever there was a call to rediscover the foundations of the book of Genesis it could certainly be right here. Marriage, family, gender, sexuality is not something left up to us to define or redefine, but has its origins right here in God’s design. People have added, tweaked and dismantled God’s design, but not in the way of improvement. We have added polygamy, prostitution, adultery, divorce and homosexuality – but these are only corruptions of God’s original order and bring about frustration, misery and eventually judgment upon those who insist upon them. Genesis shows us that if we want to know blessing in regards to family/relationships then we must build upon God’s original plan for the home, for the definition of genders, the definition of marriage and the right relationships within society.
(4) The Origin of Suffering and Evil
You don’t have to go to far down the path of life before you are confronted with the pain of suffering and evil. When things are good and life is relatively easy we are led to say God is blessing me. God is good. But what are we led to say when life is difficult and perhaps even hostile? Where is God then? What do I say? Has God abandoned? Is God cursing me? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why suffering? Why evil? As Christians in our day and age there is a rising tide that demands we are clear on these answers. As a society grows more and more secular and moves further and further away from biblical literacy history shows it does not become more ambivalent towards Gods people but more hostile. Therefore – do we have a framework that can make sense of evil days?
(5) The Origin of Salvation
Thankfully, the book of Genesis is not a hopeless narrative of human corruption – it is marked out by the ongoing, intentional and glad action of God to rescue man from his curse. God pursues man in his sin (Genesis 3:8–9). God provides the sacrifice we need. (Genesis 22:7–8;13) And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together…13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son.
The Book of Genesis is Directional
As Genesis gives us a certain framework, we then approach life marked by a specific course, or viewed through a certain lens. The grounding that this foundation provides, naturally shapes the way we build.
(1) Shapes Our Worldview
A worldview is a foundational view of life that enables us to see how the individual parts relate to the whole. Everyone – whether they realize it or not, views life with certain presuppositions or guiding principals that give purpose, color and shape to life’s events.
- Within the book of Genesis we learn that God is sovereign – ruling over all aspects of creation with total justice and goodness, in contrast to atheism which says there is no such person or being.
- Genesis teaches us that God is outside and above creation vs. pantheism which says that the God is in creation, existing in as a part of it.
- Within Genesis we learn that God is Creatorof all matter in contrast to secularism/evolution which exalts the properties of matter as our origin
- Unlike deism which holds to an impersonal/detached God, Genesis shows a God who creates, sustains and provides for his creatures
- Unlike hedonism which says pleasure is our ultimate purpose, Genesis shows that our greatest good is wrapped up in living for God’s pleasure
Therefore, if we fail to give attention to Genesis, we deprive ourselves of this shaping worldview. As a result, we are left to either adopt other explanations for this world or to merge biblical ideas with erroneous even satanic assumptions.
(2) Shapes Our Approach to Scripture
You can see how this presupposition about God, man and salvation will not only effect the world we live in, but the narrative of Scripture itself. Genesis is a narrative that tells a story which points to a larger story. If we overlook Genesis, we step into the current of Scripture with little to no clarity on what has happened upstream. If we simply dip our toe into this story here, this Psalm here, this quote from Jesus here this rebuke from Paul here – we end up with a fragmented and dysfunctional form of Christianity.
Rather, when we see that Genesis provides us with an introduction, purpose and trajectory of a greater story, the rest of Scripture is not seen as siloed fragments with a pithy moral – it is one great story that resolves the horrible conflict introduced by Adam’s sin through the promised deliverer who would defeat the serpent, rescue the captive and inaugurate his Kingdom
(3) Gets Us to Jesus
It only makes sense that if we follow the breadcrumbs placed throughout Scripture, tracing the grand narrative of God’s interaction with human history, that we would inevitably end up with our noses pressed up against Jesus himself. The Bible is one unified story that leads us to Jesus – if we do not get there, if we do not see that we MISS the point. If we do not see that Genesis serves this purpose – to get us to Jesus – then we reduce Genesis or even pervert Genesis to something it is not.
Genesis is the Beginning of the Gospel
In summary, Genesis demands our attention because Genesis serves as the beginning of the gospel.
(1) Genesis tells us things are not as they ought to be
Anyone with two eyes or two ears is painfully aware that this world is marked by suffering, evil, injustice and various forms of corruption. However, it is one thing to say, “That is just the way it is” and another thing all together to say, “True, that is the way things are, but not as they ought to be.” One statement is marked by a sense of defeatism – the acceptance that life is flawed, but we are left to ourselves to deal with it. The other statement is filled with hope – the acknowledgment that life is flawed, but with an eye towards God’s original purpose and plan.
(2) Genesis also tells us that God has acted to ensure they will be as they ought
Within this book we are assured that God pursues us in our sin. God provides himself the sacrifice for our sin. We see again and again that God promises blessing for us in spite of us.
You can listen to the Genesis sermon series here.