I want to take you through the entire volume of holy scripture, book by book, showing you the message of each book and its relation to the whole Word of God. That will be the easy part. Here is the tough part. I plan to cover one entire book in each of the succeeding chapters. We will begin, of course, with Genesis, the book of beginnings.
What I hope to do in these studies is to give you a zoom-lens view of holy scripture. I trust the Lord will use this approach to help you see clearly that the message of the Bible from beginning to end is Jesus Christ and him crucified, and that you will be able to grasp more fully the whole truth of God. the whole of divine revelation.
We read in Genesis 1:1-3 ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light’. This is a picture of redemption.
In chapter 50, verses 24-26, we read, ‘And Joseph said unto his brethren, I die: and God will surely visit you, and bring you out of this land unto the land which he sware to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. And Joseph took an oath of the children of Israel, saying, God will surely visit you, and ye shall carry up my bones from hence. So Joseph died, being an hundred and ten years old: and they embalmed him, and he was put in a coffin in Egypt'. This is a promise of redemption.
Thus we see the book of Genesis opens with a picture of redemption; and it closes with a promise of redemption; and everything between Genesis 1:1 and 50:26 shows either our desperate need of redemption or God's marvellous method of redemption and grace by Christ.
There is no greater wonder, no greater miracle in the world than the book you hold in your hand. The Lord God, in great mercy and grace, has given us his Word in one blessed, holy, inspired volume, and has given it to us in our language, so that we can read it, hear him speak, and learn of him.
The book of God is a great, tremendous, miraculous book. Let us honour it as God who gave us his Word honours it (Psalm 138:2). Surely, we to whom it is given, we who are made to profit by it, ought to honour it. Honour the book of God by reading it, believing it. seeking to understand it. and living by it. In doing so, we will honour our God.
One of the most powerful and unanswerable evidences of the inspiration of the Bible is its unity. One message runs through its pages: redemption. One Person is portrayed, prophesied, presented, and proclaimed throughout the book of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet. the scriptures were written over a period of hundreds of years by numerous men. most of whom never knew one another, written under extremely diverse conditions, containing neither error nor contradiction of any kind. That fact cannot be explained except by one tiling; God did it. ‘For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost’ (2 Peter 1:21).
The Word of God alone is authoritative as our rule, our only rule of faith and practice. ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works’ (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Let us wisely use and appreciate the writings of faithful men about the scriptures. But we must always interpret the writings of men by the Word of God, not the other way around. The Word of God, and the Word of God alone, is profitable to teach us doctrine to believe and preach, to reprove our errors, to correct our evils, and to instruct us in righteousness. Only the Bible can, by the blessing of God’s Holy Spirit, make us complete ‘and throughly furnished unto all good works’.
We are so accustomed to reading it and hearing it, that we seldom consider how old Genesis actually is. Herodotus is called ‘the father of history’, because he was the first historian whose writings have been preserved for us. He was a Greek philosopher and teacher who lived 300 years before the incarnation of our Saviour. But Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Bible, had finished his work and was with Christ in Glory a thousand years before Herodotus was bom!
That’s how old the book of Genesis is. It is the book of beginnings. It takes us back into the very dawn of human history. Yet, as we read it, it is as up-to-date as this morning’s newspaper. As I read about Adam and Abel, Enoch and Noah. Abraham. Isaac and Jacob, and Joseph and his brothers, I tend to think of them as men I once knew. Their lives seem to mingle with mine. Do you find that to be the case? The scriptures bring us close to them and bring them close to us
But the book of Genesis is not merely a history book. If that were the case, it would have little significance to us and would have little influence over us. It would just be facts recorded on paper. The book of Genesis was written to give us a specific message from the Lord our God. The message is as clear and simple as it is painful. It is as obvious as it is humbling. Without Christ, man is utterly sinful, helpless, inadequate, useless, insignificant, and vain. In revealing God’s grace, the message of redemption also exposes our need.
The word ‘genesis’ means ‘beginning’. Every foundational doctrine of the Bible has its beginning in the book of Genesis. Here we see all the doctrines of holy scripture in seed. The rest of the sacred volume expands and opens them. But the seed is in this first book.
The Word of God begins with this message: Man without Christ is utterly sinful, helpless, inadequate, useless, insignificant and vain. That is the message of Genesis. And. as the book of Beginnings, it sets the direction for all the subsequent revelation of our God.
Our inadequacy and insignificance is seen in the fact that we would have no existence at all without Christ. He is our Creator. This is what the Holy Spirit shows us in Genesis 1 and 2. ‘All things were created by him and for him: and he is before all things, and by him all things consist’ (Colossians 1:16-17).
‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made’ (John 1:1-3).
‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters’ (Genesis 1:1-2).
In these opening verses of Genesis the great need of redemption is typically set forth. ‘In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth’. Like everything else that comes from the hand of God, the original creation of the world was perfect, beautiful, and glorious. That was the original condition of man. Adam was made in the image of God. He was endowed with life by the breath of the Almighty. God said, concerning him, he was ‘very good’.
Then something happened. In verse 2 we read, ‘And the earth was (became) without form and void’. The earth became a ruin. Between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 some terrible thing happened which resulted in the ruin of the earth. This is not a matter of theory or speculation. The word translated ‘was’ in verse two should have been translated ‘became’.
‘This globe, at some undescribed period, having been convulsed and broken up, was a dark and watery waste for ages perhaps, till out of this chaotic state, the present fabric of the world was made to arise’. (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary).
No one can say with certainty, because it is not revealed, but perhaps this was the time of Satan’s fall, the time when sin first entered God’s universe.
This much is certain: Satan, the mightiest and most excellent of God’s creatures, was filled with pride. Lucifer dared to oppose the will of his Creator. ‘The anointed cherub that covereth’ dared to defy God’s right to be God. As the result of his sin, Satan was cast out of heaven, cast down to the earth. This fall of Satan had far reaching consequences. The earth, originally created by God fair and beautiful, became ‘without form and void’, a desolate place of ruin. ‘And darkness was upon the face of the deep’.
This is a tremendous picture of what happened in the garden. Man, who was created in the image and likeness of God, fell into sin; and his fall had far reaching consequences. The effects of Adam’s sin reached all Iris posterity. Humanity became a ruin. All future generations were cursed, spiritually dead, incapable of bringing forth life, as the result of Adam’s fall. ‘By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, for all have sinned’ (Romans 5:12).
‘And darkness was upon the face of the deep’. Darkness is the opposite of light. God is light. Satan is darkness. And man under sin, being void of all light, is engulfed in total, spiritual darkness. Separated from God, morally blind, spiritually dead, darkness is the condition of all unregenerate men and women. This is the black background upon which the holy Lord God chose to display the glory of his grace in redemption by Christ. ‘Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound’ (Romans 5:21). As the Lord God restored creation from ruin in those first six days of time, so he restores his elect from the ruin of the fall by his redemptive works in Christ.
Experimentally this restoration begins with the work of God the Holy Spirit in effectual grace. The work of redemption and justification was done when Christ died as our Substitute upon Calvary’s cursed tree. But we knew nothing about it until ‘the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and God said let there be light; and there was light’ (John 16:8-14; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6).
The inadequacy and insignificance of our race is displayed in the fact that we are a fallen, ruined, sinful and cursed race whose only hope of eternal life is the free grace of God in Christ.
That is the message of Genesis 3:1-6:8. During those days, from Adam to Noah, men lived for hundreds of years. What opportunities for advancement they had! I am certain that we have no idea how brilliant and advanced the people who walked on the earth in those days had become, in the knowledge of all things earthly. But, when we read what God has to say about the human race, it is obvious that they had only become more and more corrupt through the ages of time.
‘And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them’ (Genesis 6:5-7).
Few believed God. Few followed the example of Abel. Few, very few. knew the grace of God. Indeed, when human civilization had reached its highest achievements and greatest potential, the whole race was a mass of iniquity, a running sore of corruption, with its vileness covering the earth. The slime of the serpent’s trail was found wherever man breathed God’s air. There was not a single exception, except one; and that one exception was an exception that God himself made by the special, supernatural intervention of his sovereign grace. ‘But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord' (Genesis 6:8).
We are inadequate, insignificant, meaningless vanity. But, blessed be his holy name, he who is our God is infinitely adequate! As the Apostle Paul put it, when he was explaining the meaning of this book, ‘Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!’ That is the message of the rest of the book of Genesis (6:9-50:26).
Man chose sin; but long before that God chose to save sinful men. Man broke God’s covenant in the Garden; but before ever man rebelled, the Lord God had made a covenant on behalf of chosen sinners that can never be broken. It was typified in his covenants with Noah and Abraham. Man is filled with, inspired, and motivated (in every thought of his mind, desire of his heart, decision in life, and deed he performs) by his hatred of God. But God is filled with, inspired and motivated (in every thought of his mind, desire of his heart, determination of his being, and deed of his hand) by his mercy, love, and grace to fallen men! We deserved God’s wrath; but God promised all the blessedness of his covenant to the chosen seed. And he found a way to give us that blessedness and still maintain his own holiness, justice, and truth (Job 33:24; Isaiah 45:20). The way is substitution, as typified throughout the book of Genesis, and clearly stated by Abraham in his response to Isaac on the mountain of sacrifice (Genesis 22). ‘My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering!’ Little wonder that he called the name of that place, ‘Jehovah-jireh!’
He who is our God always accomplishes his great purpose of grace! Nothing can hinder it. Nothing can prevent it. Indeed, all things are instruments in the hands of our God by which he performs it. Adam’s fall did not take God by surprise. Rather, it provided the background and opened the way for Christ’s redemption. Lot’s drunken incest was overruled by the hand of our God to bring Ruth the Moabitess into the world, through whom Christ came to save us from our sins. The same is true regarding Judah’s sin with Tamar and Joseph’s ill-treatment by his brothers (Psalm 76:10).
Really, the whole history of the book of Genesis (a period of 4000 years) revolves around six men. There is a reason for the prominence of these six men. They are representative of the whole experience of grace.
If you remember the lives of these six men and what they mean, you will have the book of Genesis at your fingertips. They are Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph.
Adam displays our ruin, our depravity, our sin, and our need of grace. He was also a type of our Saviour in his federal headship (Romans 5:12-19). Adam was ‘the figure of him that was to come’.
Noah portrays our redemption by Christ. As Noah built an ark to the saving of his house, so the Lord Jesus obtained eternal redemption for his house. As Noah suffered all the fury of God’s wrath in the ark and was never touched by it, so all God’s elect suffered all the fury of God’s holy wrath in Christ to the full satisfaction of divine justice, but are never touched or harmed in any way by it.
Abraham is the eminent example in the Bible of justification by faith. Here was a man who lived by faith. Everything that he had was given to him by God, not by any merit in him, not by any effort on his part, but by God’s free and sovereign grace. God chose Abraham. God revealed himself to Abraham. God called Abraham. God gave Abraham faith in Christ. And God ordered every step of his life. Eight times Abraham’s faith was dramatically tried. When God tries your faith, read the life of Abraham. You will find your own experiences in his. Abraham shows us what it is to live by faith, what it is to live in this world as the friend of God.
Isaac exemplifies sonship, our relationship to our God as his own dear children. If there ever was a boy that was spoiled, pampered, and petted by his father, it was Isaac. He was Abraham’s son, pre-eminently so. Abraham did everything for Isaac. He sacrificed everything for Isaac. In the glimpses this book gives us of Isaac we see what it means to be the darling of our heavenly Father’s heart. What a blessed message this is! Our great God looks upon us as the darlings of his heart (1 John 3:1-2).
Jacob shows us how God’s sanctifying grace keeps us and causes us to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, even as we live in this body of flesh. Jacob was a scoundrel, a schemer, a man who thought he could live on his own, by his own wits, and get anything he desired by his own efforts. He deceived almost everyone who had any dealings with him; but he ended up being deceived. (But Jacob was in the grip of grace!) What a picture he is of the indestructibility of God’s purpose and grace!
He clearly shows us that sanctification is altogether the work of God. Anyone who is made holy in justification is made holy because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to him. And any who are made holy in sanctification are made holy because the righteousness of Christ is imparted to him in divine regeneration. We, in our folly, try to live by our own wits and steal God’s blessing by the efforts of our flesh. But God uses the very things which ought to forever bar us from his grace to corner us. hedge us about, and drive us into utter desperation and hopelessness, as he did Jacob. At last, as the angel of the Lord wrestled with Jacob until he conquered him, the Lord God graciously forces the chosen object of his love to surrender to Christ as Lord, and forces us to surrender willingly! Then, when we give up, when we surrender our lives to the dominion of King Jesus, we begin to live. That is what Jacob did when he gave up at Peniel (Genesis 32:22-32). There God broke him. And as a broken man. limping for the rest of his life, he became Israel, prince of God. Blessed conquest! Oh, how I thank God for the unbreakable grip of his grace (Malachi 3:6).
Joseph represents our ultimate glorification. Without question, Joseph is typical of our Lord Jesus Christ throughout the closing chapters of Genesis. But he is also typical of every believer. This man, beloved of his father and mistreated by his brethren, living through constant conflicts, trials and heartaches, opposed on every hand, was suddenly lifted from the darkness of a prison house into the glory of Pharaoh’s throne to reign and rule as the second person in the kingdom. So it shall be with us! When we are at last in the place our God has prepared for us, we will look upon all hell and say exactly what Joseph said to his brethren. ‘But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive’.
This is the message of the book of Genesis. Man without Christ is utterly sinful, helpless, inadequate, useless and vain. But, blessed be God, there is in Christ our God and Saviour an infinite, superlative adequacy of mercy, love and grace for our immortal souls!