Jesus teaching the ‘big picture’ from Genesis
Is creation evangelism, in the sense of using Genesis to help explain and proclaim the Gospel, new? Is it a method employed by ministries such as CMI purely to counter the harmful cultural effects of the teaching of evolution in our modern day? Many think so, but this is not the case. Laying a foundation from Genesis confirms the ‘big picture’ of the Bible and salvation, something that is often lacking in today’s evangelism and teaching.
Evolution (which is the justification for humanist beliefs paraded as science) has immunized people today from responding to the Gospel, because they think that ‘science has disproved the Bible’. However, it was not always like this.
Eager to hear
In the 1950s, when evangelists like Billy Graham conducted public campaigns, sporting stadiums were filled with folk eager to hear what he had to say. The concepts of God and salvation were understood, as most, if not all, had been brought up in a ‘God-fearing’ environment, where the Bible, prayers and hymns were standard fare in schools. Christian principles and the foundation of the gospel were established facts of life. For many responding at these ‘crusades’, it simply meant a return to the God they already knew about.
However, these methods do not work as well today. If you said to most non-Christians: ‘The Bible says … ,’ they would likely reply, ‘So what?’
Reaching an evolution-soaked culture
Today, the majority of people are ‘unchurched’ and ‘un-Sunday-schooled’. The concept of salvation is lost on them because they don’t know that they are sinners to start with. To learn any new concept properly you must start at the beginning—from the foundation up. The Apostle Paul used this method at a meeting of the Areopagus1 in Athens, recorded in Acts 17. He had been trying to reason with the philosophers of the day in the market-place, who, it should be noted, believed in a form of evolution,2 and they remarked, ‘What is this babbler trying to say?’ (Acts 17:18).
Paul points out their altar, labelled ‘To an unknown god’. He then tells them that this unknown god whom they worship is ‘The God who made the world and everything in it’ (v. 24) and that ‘from one man He made every nation of men’ (v. 26). What was Paul doing? He was unfolding the origins of the Gospel as the true history of the world, as found in Genesis.
It is true that only a few of his hearers believed (v. 34), but one of these was Dionysius, a member of the Areopagus. In due course a church was started, and Dionysius became its leader.3 The church in Athens became large and influential. They had the right foundation to start with.
Preaching to a ‘churched’ generation
Laying a foundation from Genesis confirms the ‘big picture’ of the Bible and salvation, something that is often lacking in today’s evangelism and teaching.
Contrast this with the Apostle Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, where he simply preached on the crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus, and then concluded, ‘Let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ’ (v. 36). About 3,000 were saved and baptized that day (v. 41).4
Peter was preaching to a ‘churched’ generation—the Jews, who already possessed the knowledge of God as Creator, Lawgiver and Judge from the Scriptures. They knew and believed the Genesis record of Creation and of the Fall, with the entrance of, and subsequent penalty for, sin. Realizing their helpless state as sinners before God, they simply needed to be shown from the Scriptures that Jesus was the promised Messiah—God’s chosen One sent to pay for their sins through His death and Resurrection.
Unfortunately, there are many in the church today who have not understood (and don’t preach) this ‘big picture’ regarding salvation. This may be due to many things, such as merely emotional ideas of salvation, a lack of foundational teaching and a disregard for the book of Genesis due to evolutionary teaching.
Jesus and the ‘big picture’
Jesus also encountered some ‘churched’ folk (Jews) who failed to grasp the significance of the ‘big picture’. In Luke 24, after Jesus’ Resurrection, two of His disciples were walking along the road to Emmaus, discussing the events of the previous few days. Jesus came alongside them and asked them what they were talking about and why they were so sad. They were kept from recognizing Jesus (v. 13–17). ‘One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you only a visitor to Jerusalem and do not know the things that have happened there in these days?” “What things?” Jesus asked.
‘“About Jesus of Nazareth”? they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”’
Cleopas knew the Scriptures and he saw Jesus as being sent from God, but he was downcast because he failed to understand why Jesus (the Christ) had to die. He and his friend were preoccupied with their present circumstances and the state of their nation. Knowing this, Jesus said to them, ‘“How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself’ (v. 25–27). [Emphasis added.]5
The same thing happened when Jesus appeared to His disciples in the upper room (Luke 24:44–46). Jesus took them back to the beginning, to what Moses had written concerning Himself, when He said: ‘ … This is what I told you while I was still with you. Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.’ [Emphasis added.]
So what was it that Moses wrote that was needed to clearly explain the Gospel?6
It was the foundational account of the Creation (which New Testament writers attribute to Jesus (e.g. John 1:1–3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2), the subsequent Fall of Adam, with the entrance of sin and death into the human race, which explains the reason for a substitutionary atonement for sin.
On the road to Emmaus that day, Jesus explained why He had to die. Similarly, we, too, should explain to people today not just that all need a Saviour, but why, and why He had to die for us—foundational concepts established in Genesis.7
For Christians preaching the Gospel today, this is the ‘big picture’.
References and notes
- Areopagus (Greek: Άρειος Πάγος (Areios Pagos)), the hill of Ares, the Greek god of war, corresponding to the Roman god Mars. The Council of the Areopagus was the Supreme Court of the City of Athens. Return to text.
- For example, Aristotle taught that ‘the lowest stage [in nature] is the inorganic, and this passes into the organic by direct metamorphosis, matter being transformed into life’. (Osborn, H.F., From the Greeks to Darwin, Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 2nd ed., p. 78, 1929.) But Aristotle criticized the transformism of Empedocles, so seemed anti-evolutionary. Return to text.
- Eusebius, Bishop of Caesarea, refers to Dionysius as ‘the first Bishop of the Church of Athens’. (Eusebius, Historia Ecclesiastica, iii.4; iv.23, as quoted in New Bible Dictionary, Inter-Varsity press, London, p. 312, 1974.) Return to text.
- In any comparison of numbers, it should be noted that Paul’s audience at Athens was very much fewer than ‘the multitude—out of every nation under heaven’ (Acts 2:5–6) that was Peter’s at Jerusalem. Return to text.
- For a study of Old Testament prophecy concerning the First Coming of the Messiah see: Fruchtenbaum, A., Messianic Christology, Ariel Ministries, Tustin, California, 1998. Return to text.
- Jesus, John and Paul clearly confirmed the book of Genesis (written by Moses) as literal history. See also Luke 16:29–31; John 1:45; John 5:46–47; Acts 26:22, 28:23. Return to text.
- Many people relate how they could not understand Christianity until taught fundamental principles from Genesis. E.g. ‘Because you took me back to the beginning, now I understand the plot. For the first time I am understanding what Christianity is all about. No-one ever suggested I start reading the Bible at the beginning.’ Return to text.
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