Reading: Genesis chapter 1
What you’ve just heard in English is the greatest account of our beginnings in the literary history of humanity. This is much more than a religious message. It is much higher than a scientific record. It is even greater than a historic record. Genesis assumes itself to be is God’s revealed answer to the questions of WHERE we (and everything else) came from, and WHO is responsible for our being here. Is Genesis 1-2 just human imagination or is it divine revelation given in human language?
There are those who see this as religious mythology. There are those that see this as ancient cosmology. There are those that see this as poetic allegory with grand celestial and terrestrial temple imagery. Just about every critical tool known to literature has been applied to Genesis 1-2 in attempt to explain it or dismiss it or parse through it to mine out its treasures… or try to expose its weaknesses.
We all come to Genesis with some notion about it. We can’t help it. Our notions may change, but Genesis remains the same. When the Jews used to teach their children how to read, they started them off with Genesis 1. This story of where we came from and WHO created us (and all things) became embedded in the very fabric of the faith of Israel. Whenever idolatry tempted them, this reminded them of the One God, Creator of heaven and earth, to whom they owed allegiance and loyalty. Today this passage of scripture has come under fire. When Bible scholars want to enter debate and struggle with scripture, there’s no better point of entry than right here in Genesis 1.
It is typical of people today to be embarrassed that educated, thinking, otherwise reasonable folks could actually believe that Genesis 1 (or the rest of the Bible for that matter) records what actually happened in real time and space. Some say that Genesis 1-3 is true, but not in the sense of a historic record, but a theological one (there is certainly plenty of theology here). Some (and the numbers are getting fewer today) accept Genesis 1-2 as an actual account of how God created everything, including ourselves.
Let me tell you up front, I accept Genesis (and the whole Bible for that matter) as God’s word. All the Old Testament writers believed it, Jesus believed it, Paul believed it, every reference to it in the New Testament accepts it as real, historical, theological, actual and true. The early church endorsed it. I humbly stand with these, but, neither am I ignorant of many of the arguments against Genesis as a historic record of our beginnings. Genesis 1 is literally full of what we must call miracles: God directly bringing into being, then organizing and fashioning things with simple statements. It is astounding! This is unlike anything we witness today. In broad strokes, without any great detailed explanations, Genesis 1 unfolds the beginning of everything. God gives planet earth a very central, special position, and then God gives humanity the very pinnacle of all creation positions. We bear the image of our divine maker. We are made in God’s very likeness, male and female. Blessed by God, we are endowed with the gift of procreation to bring little images of God into this world and we rule over all God has created.
I don’t just believe this, I LIKE this too!
The rest of the scriptures lean heavily on what is revealed here in Genesis. Jesus will refer to this when defining marriage in Matthew 19. Paul looks here to explain to the Athenians where everyone came from in Acts 17. Paul’s salvation theology directly links to here: “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” Throughout scripture we find references to Genesis 1-2 as the foundation for worship of the One living God who created heaven and earth, human dignity and responsibility, seriousness of murder, danger of idolatry, and the foreshadowing of Christ’s coming. The first part of the Old Testament tells us how God created man in His image, the first part of the New Testament tells us how God became a man, Emanuel, God with us, in Jesus. All of this is rooted in the earliest words of Genesis.
A few years ago I went to Bryan College to hear from a gathering of seven biblical scholars from all over the country who came to talk about whether there actually was a historic Adam and Eve. Six of the seven said they believed in a historic Adam and Eve. Only one of the seven said that he did not accept the biblical account of Adam and Eve as historic and based his decision on the evidence of science and a particularly the testimony of Dr. Francis Collins.
Dr. Collins, a brilliant scientist and an atheist who turned to faith in Jesus Christ. He headed up the first human genome mapping has said that he sees no conflict between Christian faith and Darwinian evolution. This is actually pretty common among scientists who come to faith in Jesus Christ. About 40 percent of American scientists claim to be Christians and many accept God as creator but these same scientists see Genesis 1-3 as largely myth. First of all, I am thankful that they accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and confess Him as the Son of God. But as a biblical student and believer in Genesis as God’s word, I also wish that there were credible and effective apologetics for the authenticity of Genesis to convince those that do not understand it that way.
Here’s the take home from today’s lesson:
I would ask that you parents read this together with your children and discuss together what it teaches us as followers of Jesus Christ. Do not assume that your children believe this to be true because you bring them to church or because I say that I believe it. Some of you may struggle with your own understandings of how to take these words of scripture.
As Christians we have the advantage of reading the Old Testament with the New Testament vision. Statements like John 17:17, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and even Old Testament verses like Prov. 30:5 and Psalm 33:4 remind us to trust in God’s word.
We all WILL form some view and notion about Genesis 1-3. It is there. It is given to us to reveal God’s answer to Where we came from and Who created us. Whatever you come to believe about your origins WILL determine a lot about your direction of life. Even the skeptical, “I don’t know” is a belief. In Genesis, God gives us a place to stand and an answer to present. Let me humbly suggest that there isn’t a better answer out there. There may be challenges for those of us that stand on Genesis, but believe me, there are just as many and more challenges for those who do not. Today’s climate of mocking believers in the Bible is not based on clearer answers, just skeptical cynics.
Do you want to do something radical and risky? Would you like to be a nonconformist in this world? Just believe Genesis 1-3 as history. You’ll be different than most.
As we read the first 24 chapters of Genesis over the week, look for God’s rule and righteousness. See what rebelling against these brings. Notice how God cares for those who will walk with Him. God our creator King rules over all His creation and desires that we seek Him. Notice that God protects the faithful and punishes the wicked.
I hope that we will all read God’s word together in our homes and talk about it with one another. Make notes on each day’s readings. Write your thoughts or questions down and bring them to your group meetings next Sunday evening. May God make this adventure through His word a faith building and soul saving journey!