Unfolding the plan
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Skeptics, liberals, and others sometimes claim that man’s concept of God is something which evolved, and that the Bible is merely man’s efforts to provide himself with a religious prop to explain the otherwise unexplainable or to ease the burden of life.1 However, nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible is a book from God about God, His glory, and His plan of salvation for sinful humanity.
When we read the Bible, we find that God does not tell us everything about these things all at once. He gives us successive revelations. A name for this is ‘progress of doctrine,’ which simply means that we learn more about God and His dealings with us from each book, as we read through the Bible.
This concept can be likened to the raising of a blind in a dark room. Outside the sun is shining. As the blind goes up, it does not increase the amount of light emanating from the sun, but it does let more and more light into the room. Let us see how this works out with regard to four things that God tells us about Himself in Genesis, thus affirming the crucial nature of this foundational book.
1. God is Creator
The first thing God tells us about Himself in Genesis is that He is Creator. The very first verse of the Bible reads: ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’ (Genesis 1:1).2 The rest of chapter 1 details what God created and how He did it, namely by His Word,3 as well as over what time frame.4
As we read through the Bible, we learn that ‘the Word’ is a title given to Jesus Christ (John 1:1-14), and that it was through Jesus that everything was created (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2).
We also learn, following the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, that God began a new creation—those who repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ are described as being a ‘new creature’ [new creation] (2 Corinthians 5:17).5
2. God is Lawgiver
A second thing God tells us about Himself in Genesis is that He is Lawgiver,6 when He says to Adam: ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die’ (Genesis 2:16–17).
Practically this was a test of Adam’s love for God, that would be shown by whether or not he obeyed this one command.7 In essence, however, this was the first declaration to humanity of the moral law of God and of God’s right to impose His law upon mankind. The moral law of God may be defined as ‘the expression of God’s will, enforced by His power, for His rational beings (angels and men).’8
Someone may ask, ‘What right has God to impose His moral law upon mankind?’
The answer is that God is Sovereign, and whatever He does is right. The fact that God is man’s Creator gives Him the right to be man’s Lawgiver (Ecclesiastes 7:29; Ephesians 4:24). The fact that ‘God is love’ (1 John 4:8) means that His laws are in our best interests.
Jesus summed up God’s moral law for His followers in the words: ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind … and … thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,’ citing Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 (Matthew 22:37-39).9
3. God is Judge
A third thing that God tells us about Himself in Genesis is that He is Judge. After Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, the record states: ‘And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed … Unto the woman He said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow … And unto Adam He said … cursed is the ground for thy sake … and unto dust shalt thou return’ (Genesis 3:14-19). This role of God as Judge is seen throughout the Bible.
In Genesis 6–9, God judged the wickedness of the people of that day with the Flood.
In Genesis 18-19, God judged the blatant homosexual behaviour of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah—‘because their sin is very grievous’ (Genesis 18:20) and they ‘committed abomination’ (Ezekiel 16:50)—by destroying those cities and everyone in them.
In Exodus 5-14, God judged the nation of Egypt with various plagues for its refusal to obey the Lord and let His chosen people go.
In the Old Testament, God judged the nation of Israel for its idolatry.
In the Gospels, the death of the Lord Jesus on the cross is the expression of God’s judgment upon mankind’s sin. Christ, our substitute, paid the full penalty which we, each one, deserve.10
Further on in the New Testament, God tells us that He has appointed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness and that the judge will be the person whom He raised from the dead, namely the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 17:31; Romans 14:10).
Finally, in Revelation, the last universal judgment of ‘the dead, small and great’ is seen in what the Bible calls the ‘great white throne’ judgment (Revelation 20:11-15).
4. God is Saviour
Struggling to harmonize Scripture with evolution
Atheists use the Bible’s progress of doctrine to justify their belief that Christianity itself evolved in the mind of man, with doctrine becoming more sophisticated as people and their culture evolved.
What about theistic evolutionists? At a meeting of the Teachers’ Christian Fellowship in South Australia in the early 1980s, there was a mini-debate involving a creationist and a professing Christian evolutionist.
The evolutionist speaker claimed that progress of doctrine demonstrated that evolution was a fact. ‘As man’s brain grew bigger and bigger,’ he said, ‘he gradually understood more and more of what God was trying to tell him.’
A fourth thing that God tells us about Himself in Genesis is that He is Saviour. Amid the judgment set out in Genesis chapter 3, the Lord God gave the promise of the Saviour who would come and defeat Satan, while He Himself (in the person of Jesus Christ) would suffer in the process—the so-called ‘Protevangel’ spoken to the serpent: ‘And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel’ (Genesis 3:15).11
The role of God as Saviour, in the person of Jesus Christ, is a major theme of the Bible.12 The Old Testament points forward to this through many ‘types,’ such as the sacrificial lambs, the priesthood, the tabernacle, etc. Then in the Gospels, we have the historical record of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Saviour, Jesus Christ. This was God’s fulfillment of His promise of Genesis 3:15.
Finally, after the outworking of all that was involved in the missionary task of teaching, preaching, and planting churches as exemplified in the rest of the New Testament, Revelation portrays the ongoing triumph of the Creator/Lawgiver/Judge/Saviour Jesus Christ over the powers of evil and His enthronement with His redeemed people, first in Heaven, and later in Heaven-on-earth (Revelation 21). Thus what God began at the commencement of the Bible in Genesis 1 is fulfilled, consummated, and perfected at the end of the Bible in Revelation 21-22.
The Bible is not just a book about ‘religious ideas’ or emotions, it is a book about God, and His dealings with humanity and humanity’s home (the universe), from the beginning to the end of time. The early chapters of Genesis are crucial to a proper understanding of these dealings. These chapters are totally reliable and may not be manipulated to make them conform to the temporary wisdom of any particular age.
To the person willing to submit to its authority, the Bible, revealing the consistent unfolding of God’s plan, shows itself to be a self-authenticating, utterly trustworthy whole, from beginning to end.
References and notes
- E.g. Sigmund Freud, ‘Like an idealized father, God is the projection of childish wishes for an omnipotent protector.’ Cited from Encyclopaedia Britannica, 19:570, 1992. Return to text.
- Note that the Hebrew word used for God in Genesis 1 is elohim, which is a plural form meaning ‘more than two.’ The doctrine of the Trinity is thus intimated in the very first verse; it is more clearly set forth in the Gospels. Return to text.
- See also R.M. Grigg, Creation—how did God do it?, Creation 13(2), 36-38, 1991. Return to text.
- See also R.M. Grigg, How long were the days of Genesis 1?, Creation 19(1), 23-25, 1997. Return to text.
- Of course, this was always God’s plan and purpose (Ephesians 1:4). Return to text.
- We are here discussing moral law, not physical or natural law, which relates to the material universe. This also emanates from God, and is something which He sometimes supplements by miracles. Return to text.
- See also R.M.Grigg, Why did God impose the death penalty for sin?, Creation 15(1), 32–34, 1993. Return to text.
- Note that the term ‘law’ has several meanings in the Bible. It can refer to the revealed will of God with respect to human conduct. It can refer to the law of Moses, including the Ten Commandments, which were the terms of God’s covenant relationship with His chosen people, Israel (Exodus 34:27–28; Deuteronomy 9:9-11), along with the Levitical ceremonial legislation, laws of the priesthood, and laws of purity. This covenant ended with the coming of Christ and the establishment of the New Covenant of grace under which the Christian has imparted to him all the grace he could ever need (Romans 5:1; 8:1; Colossians 2:10). In the New Testament, the Apostle Paul tells us that the law was given to reveal the sinfulness of sin (Romans 5:13; 7:7), to show the holiness of God (Romans 7:12), and to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The law served to prepare those under it for the coming of Christ. Return to text.
- The Bible teaches that Christian believers are not under the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13; Romans 7:4; Ephesians 2:14ff). This does not mean that the Ten Commandments have no relevance today. They instruct us as to what the will of the Lord is, but are not precepts that we are to try to keep in order to become righteous. A society which repudiates them quickly sinks into moral degradation and anarchy. Christians have received the adoption of sons, and with that adoption comes the mind of the Spirit (Galatians 4:5ff), through whom we produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22ff; Ephesians 5:9). Return to text.
- God cannot forgive sin merely because someone repents, because sin carries the death penalty. Being perfectly just, God can forgive only when this penalty is first paid. The Christian Gospel is that the Lord Jesus paid the repentant sinner’s penalty when He died upon the cross. The resurrection is God’s affirmation of this (1 Corinthians 15:1–4). Return to text.
- Jesus is indeed the seed of a woman, as He had no human father (Matthew 1:18–25; Luke 1:26–35) Return to text.
- We learn many other things about God as we read the Bible, e.g. that God is self-existent and eternal; that He is merciful, righteous, and just; that He is omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent; that He is good, He is truth, and He is love. However, the most wonderful thing of all in the Bible, as far as we human beings are concerned, is that God in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ is Saviour of all those who repent of their sin and put their trust in Him. Return to text.
‘To the person willing to submit to its authority, the Bible, revealing the consistent unfolding of God’s plan, shows itself to be a self-authenticating, utterly trustworthy whole, from beginning to end.’
Amen. The Bible is so much more than a mere ‘religious book’. Thank you for a wonderful article.