Genesis—the seedbed of all Christian doctrine
26 April 2007
Everything in the Bible is inseparably bound up with its first book, Genesis. This is because Genesis gives us the origin and initial explanation of all major biblical doctrines.
Obviously not everything that God took 66 books of the Bible to tell us over some 15 centuries is contained in just the first book. There is a progress of doctrine throughout the Bible. From the first verse of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation, we learn more about God, ourselves, sin, redemption, etc. with each successive book.1,2 All the major doctrines of the Bible are like rivers that become deeper and broader as they flow from the initial watershed of Genesis.
We will examine the major Christian doctrines and their connection with Genesis.
1. About God (theology)
Genesis tells us about God, not just as the Creator, as seen in chapter 1, but also as the One who has a plan and purpose for mankind, that is, for us. This plan and purpose involves our living in a relationship of obedience to God (as well as of trust and love for Him). Thus God is seen as Lawgiver in His command to Adam not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:17). Then God is seen as Judge following Adam’s disobedience (Genesis 3), as well as in His judgment at the Flood, at Babel, and on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis chapters 6–9, 11, 19). God is also seen as Saviour, prophesied in Genesis 3:15, and then in action in His saving Noah and his family from the judgment of the Flood, and Lot and his daughters from the judgment on Sodom (Genesis 18, 19).
As the Creator of all things, God has the absolute right to rule over all things, and He exercises this authority in the world—demonstrating His sovereignty. This is seen in Genesis in four outstanding events: the Creation, the Fall, the Flood, and Babel. It is also seen in God’s choice, call and direction of four outstanding people: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph.
The Trinity can be seen in Genesis.3 The Hebrew word for God, Elohim, in Genesis chapter 1 is plural.4 In Genesis 1:26, God says, ‘Let us make man in our image … .’ The Spirit of God is mentioned ‘hovering over the waters’ in Genesis 1:2. Christ is mentioned prophetically as the ‘seed of the woman’ in Genesis 3:15.5 This passage also prophesies the virginal conception of Christ—that is why He is the seed of the woman, in contrast to the usual biblical pattern of listing only fathers in genealogies. Adam, the Ark, Melchizedek, Isaac, and Joseph, are all commonly regarded as ‘types of Christ’.6,7
In Genesis chapters 1 and 2 we also see two very important things about God—attributes that atheists have tried to demolish with spurious arguments. The first is God’s omniscience/omnipotence in that everything that God did He got right the very first time. Contrary to Carl Sagan’s claim that God is a ‘sloppy manufacturer’,8 in everything that God created there was no experimentation, no trial and error, no ‘Oops’! The second is that everything that God created was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). Contrary to the criticism of David Attenborough, concerning a parasitic worm that lives in the eyeballs of children in Africa,9 (see Why doesn’t Sir David Attenborough give credit to God?) everything that God created demonstrated the goodness of God. In the world before sin had entered there was no death, no suffering, no disease, no carnivory, no detriment, and no lack of any good thing.
2. About us—mankind (anthropology)
The first man, Adam, and the first woman, Eve, appear in Genesis as special creations of God—Adam made from the dust, Eve from Adam’s rib—both made by God in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27). Therefore we are not evolved animals, or mere agglomerations of chemicals, but beings with a spiritual or God-conscious nature.
Eve was created to be a ‘companion’ for Adam (Genesis 2:20–22). From this follows the doctrine of marriage (Genesis 2:24–25—confirmed by Jesus in Matthew 19:4–6), as the union of one man and one woman for life (not of the union of two men or of two women, or something else). Clearly, also, the whole human race is descended from a single pair (Genesis 3:20).
3. About sin (hamartiology)
With the first man came the first sin—seen in Genesis as violation of the law of God (Genesis 3:6–11), and as depravity both imputed and imparted to the whole human race (cf. Genesis 4:8; 6:5). When God created Adam and Eve, they had the ability not to sin, as well as being able to sin. When they chose to reject God’s rule over them, they and mankind lost the ability not to sin; instead we have an innate sinful nature.10 The first sin brought the first guilt (Genesis 3:8).
The first sin also brought the first judgment (Genesis 3:14–19). There would be enmity between Satan’s seed (unbelievers and possibly demons) and the woman’s seed (believers but specifically Christ). Women and men would suffer in their respective roles. All humanity would now be subject to death.
4. About salvation (soteriology)
The Bible teaches that God in His mercy and grace forgives our sin, but only when the penalty is paid by a substitutionary sacrifice. Thus God has provided salvation from the guilt, the power, the eternal penalty, and ultimately the presence of sin, by means of the person and work of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. The enactment and fulfilment of this salvation through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is not seen until the Gospels; however, the prediction and promise of what was to come is first seen in the promise that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent (Genesis 3:15).
Further, this Seed is a descendant of the first man Adam (Luke 3:38), and is called ‘the Last Adam’ (1 Corinthians 15:45). This is essential, because Isaiah spoke of this coming Saviour as literally the ‘Kinsman-Redeemer’, i.e. one who is related by blood to those he redeems (Isa. 59:20, which uses the same Hebrew word גואל (gôēl) as is used to describe Boaz in relation to Naomi in Ruth 2:20, 3:1–4:17). The Book of Hebrews also explains how Jesus took upon Himself the nature of a man to save mankind, but not angels (Heb. 2:11–18). This vital kinsman-redeemer concept is sourced in Genesis.
The beginning of the Jewish nation within which the Messiah would be born, die and rise from the dead is seen in the call of Abraham (Genesis 12:1–3; 17:19; 49:10).
The substitutionary nature of sacrifice is first seen in Genesis 22:1–13, where Abraham is directed to offer a ram as a burnt offering instead of his son Isaac.
5. About angels (angelology)
Just when God created the angels is not mentioned in the Bible, but it was probably before He created the earth (Genesis 1:1), or at least before the dry land appeared (Gen. 1:9), because according to Job 38:4–7, when God laid the foundations of the earth ‘the sons of God shouted for joy’11—see also Where do the angels fit in?
As God is not the author of evil, and because He pronounced His whole creation to be ‘very good’ at the end of Day 6 of Creation Week (Genesis 1:31), we take it that the being we now call Satan had not fallen into sin at that time.
In Genesis 3:1–14 we read the first reference to this being who slanders God and who tempted Eve to rebel against God, and whose ultimate destiny is foretold by God (Genesis 3:15). Elsewhere in the Bible we learn that the name of this creature is Satan, which means ‘slanderer’ (cf. Revelation 12:9; 20:2).12
The first reference to good angels is in Genesis 3:24 where cherubim are placed in the Garden of Eden by God to guard the way to the tree of life.
6. About the Church (ecclesiology)
The doctrine of the Church is revealed in the New Testament. It is one of the things that the Apostle Paul calls a mystery, meaning a previously unrevealed truth, now divulged. However, the very fact that Paul calls the Church the Bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:23–32) brings us back to the first divinely-ordained husband-wife relationship, in Genesis 2:24.
Also the church is surely foreshadowed in Genesis, with Abraham being called out to form (through his descendants) the nation of Israel, which God blessed and was also to be a blessing to all people on earth (Genesis 12:1–3).13 This blessing culminated in a unique Seed of Abraham, Jesus Himself (Galatians 3:16), who was to be the source of blessing to all the nations (Galatians 3:14). Paul tells us, ‘If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise’ (Galatians 3:29). Those who belong to Christ are His true Church.
7. About the last things (eschatology)
The principal aspects of what are called ‘the last things’ are the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, the future resurrection(s) of the dead, the judgment of all mankind, and the final state of the redeemed and of the wicked.14
By their very nature (being the last things) we would not expect these matters to be detailed in Genesis. However, they are the outworking of God’s ultimate plan and purpose for mankind, the earth, and the universe. He purposed to provide an eternal ‘bride’ for His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, from redeemed humanity, and He set this plan into action when He created the heavens and the earth, and mankind, as recorded in Genesis chapter 1.
What we see in Genesis is God beginning the process which will ultimately bring about this purpose—a plan which was in the mind of God from before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:20).
Also, while the ‘last things’ are not detailed in Genesis, the places where they are detailed make no sense without it. In the Eternal State, there will once again be no death or suffering of any sort, as Revelation 21:4 says—and the reason is that ‘there shall be no more curse’ (Revelation 22:3). There will also be a return to an Eden-like state with a return of the Tree of Life (v. 2) and to a state like Days 1–3 of Creation Week where God provided light without the sun and moon (v. 5, cf. Genesis 1:16–19).
All major Christian doctrines have their source, directly or indirectly, in the book of Genesis. Preachers, missionaries and theologians who fail to see this have lost the foundation for what they teach. Conversely, those who do see this have the God-given proper basis for all their Christian witnessing, preaching, counselling, and teaching.
References and notes
- See Grigg, R., Unfolding the plan, Creation 20(3):22–24, 1998. Return to text.
- Note that when Joseph was propositioned by Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7–9), his reply was, ‘How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’, even though the commandment against adultery was not explicitly given in writing until the time of Moses (Exodus 20:14), several centuries later. We conclude that God put the knowledge of right and wrong, i.e. God’s law, into man’s conscience, when He made him ‘in the image of God’, as recorded in Genesis 1:26–27. This was likely derived from knowledge that marriage was something God had made between one man and one woman (Genesis 1:27, 2:24), thus man must not break (cf. Matthew 19:3–6). See also Romans 2:15. Return to text.
- See Grigg, R., Who really is the God of Genesis? Creation 27(3):37–39, 2005 Return to text.
- Although this does not explicitly teach the Trinity, it certainly allows for it, and can be seen to be consistent with later New Testament teaching about the Trinity. Return to text.
- See Sarfati, J., Jesus in Genesis: The Messianic Prophesies, DVD, Creation Ministries International. Return to text.
- Of course, the readers of the OT would not have known that. And though some of these commonly regarded types have NT sanction, others do not. Return to text.
- That section of theology that deals with the nature and person of Jesus Christ is called Christology; that section of theology that deals with the Holy Spirit is called pneumatology. Return to text.
- ‘If God is omnipotent and omniscient, why didn’t he start the universe out in the first place so it would come out the way he wants? Why is he constantly repairing and complaining? No, there’s one thing the Bible makes clear: The biblical God is a sloppy manufacturer. He’s not good at design, he’s not good at execution. He’d be out of business if there was any competition.’ Carl Sagan, Contact, Pocket Books (Simon & Schuster, Inc.), New York, 1985. Return to Text
- ‘When Creationists talk about God creating … they always instance hummingbirds, or orchids, sunflowers and beautiful things. But I tend to think instead of a parasitic worm that is boring through the eye of a boy sitting on the bank of a river in West Africa, [a worm] that’s going to make him blind. And [I ask them], “Are you telling me that the God you believe in, who you also say is an all-merciful God, who cares for each one of us individually … are you saying that God created this worm that can live in no other way than in an innocent child’s eyeball? Because that doesn’t seem to me to coincide with a God who’s full of mercy”.’ David Attenborough as quoted by Buchanan, M, Wild, Wild Life, Sydney Morning Herald, The Guide, p. 6, March 24, 2003. Return to Text
- This does not preclude the doctrine of sanctification, or the power of the Christian to lead a holy life. But see also 1 John 1:8–10. Return to text.
- The Hebrew phrase bene elohim translated ‘sons of God’ also means ‘angels’ and is so translated in the NIV; cf. the Septuagint angelos. The word ‘angel’ in both Hebrew and Greek means ‘messenger’; the context shows whether human or superhuman messengers are meant. Hebrews 1:5 refers to the Son of God (singular), i.e. the Lord Jesus Christ, so this verse does not invalidate the application of Job 38:4–7 to angels (plural). Return to text.
- See Grigg, R., Who was the serpent? Creation 13(4):36–38, 1991. Return to text.
- See also Sarfati, J., Genesis correctly predicts Y-Chromosome pattern: Jews and Arabs shown to be descendants of one man! Or: A brief history of the Jews, 16 May 2000. Return to text.
- See Grigg, R., The Future: Some issues for ‘long-age’ Christians, Creation 25(4):50–51, 2003. Return to text.