Why the Book of Genesis is Vitally Important to Christianity
We’ve done the book of Genesis a terrible disservice. In the minds of many Genesis is nothing more than the place we go to for Christian evidences or a greatest-hits collection of Bible characters like Abraham and Moses.
This is a travesty because Genesis is a theologically rich text that not only sets us off on our biblical journey, but also serves as a source of understanding for who we are, who God is, who He wants us to be, and how God has planned from the beginning our function as His people now. In it we see God as our Creator, our need for a Savior, foundations of how the church is to operate, and what our eternal destination will be like.
Genesis deserves our attention as it is vitally important to our Christianity.
It Establishes God as the Creator
John’s gospel opens with a completely different “birth” narrative than Matthew and Luke. In Matthew and Luke we are greeted with the familiar nativity scene, but John opens his gospel instead with:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:1-3)
Where Matthew and Luke start at the beginning of Jesus’ physical existence, John takes it back to the beginning of all physical existence. Notice the similarities between Genesis 1 and John 1:
Both begin with the words “in the beginning” (Gen. 1:1; John 1:1)
Both talk about what was “created” or “made” (Gen. 1:1; John 1:3)
Both discuss the presence of God at the creation (Gen. 1:1-2; John 1:1-3)
Both deal with “light” (Gen. 1:3, 14; John 1:4-9) “darkness” (Gen. 1:2; John 1:5) and “life” (Gen. 1:20, 24, 28-30; John 1:4).
Both deal with the “earth” (Gen. 1:1-2, 10) or “world” (John 1:10-11) in some form.
The similarities that exist between John’s text and the creation narrative of Genesis is no accident. Through these parallels John is trying to establish Jesus as both Creator and God, a theme that is regularly addressed throughout his gospel (John 1:1, 5:18, 6:33, 8:42 10:33, 11:27).
The study of Genesis helps us as readers of John to realize that if God can create the world in the first place (John 1:1-3), He can recreate us as children of God (John 3:3-7; 20:30-31).
It Introduces the Need for a Savior
In the discussion on faith and the law in Romans 5, Paul brings up Jesus comparing Him to the first man Adam even going so far as to call Adam a “type” of Jesus (5:14). Notice how Paul contrasts these two:
Sin came into the world through Adam (5:12), grace came through Jesus (5:15).
Condemnation followed Adam’s action (5:16), justification followed Jesus (5:16).
Death reigned through Adam (5:17), life reigns through Jesus (5:17).
Adam was disobedient (5:19), Jesus was obedient (5:19).
In order to show us the salvation Jesus brought the world Paul points us to the one who initially brought about the need for a Savior, Adam (Gen. 3).
The study of Genesis helps us to understand both why Jesus needed to come and rescue us and what He came to rescue us from (Rom. 5:5-11).
It Lays the Foundation for Doctrinal Topics
Several doctrinal topics we discuss today have their foundation poured in the creation narrative of Genesis 1-3. Take for example Jesus’ teaching on divorce where He says to the Pharisees:
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Mt. 19:4-5).
Jesus answers the Pharisees question “is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” (Mt. 19:3) by quoting Genesis 1:27 and 2:24. By taking it back to Genesis, Jesus shows the Pharisees how God created marriage to function in the beginning and that it has not changed in the years that followed from Genesis 1 to Matthew 19.
Paul does something similar in his discussion of male and female service to God:
“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel…Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” (1 Tim. 2:8-9; 11-14)
Paul shows why the role of men and women* are the way that they are by going back to the beginning and illustrating his point through Genesis 3.
In both our discussions on divorce and men/women's roles in the church we tend to look at it from a cultural aspect. In both of these discussions Paul and Jesus answer these questions by citing God's creation from the beginning.
The study of Genesis helps us in our understanding of certain doctrinal subjects by showing us how God set things up from the beginning.
It Informs Our Future
For all its difficulties the overall message of Revelation is clear: Be faithful to the end because God has won! As the book closes, we are given a picture of our eternal destination Jesus’ victory has allowed us to go to:
“Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.” (Rev. 22:1-5)
Throughout the final chapters of Revelation there are many descriptions given to heaven. It is referred to as “a new heaven and a new earth” (21:1), the “holy city” (21:2), and the “New Jerusalem” (21:2). We are also told that in this place there is a “throne” (21:3, 5), the “river of the water of life” (22:1) and the “tree of life” (22:2, 14).
If the “tree of life” sounds familiar that’s probably because you’ve heard it mentioned alongside another tree the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” in the second chapter of Genesis (Gen. 2:9). Even more intriguing is what is said about the “tree of life” earlier in Revelation 2:7:
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.”
According to John, the “tree of life” that we will be privileged to take part in in the “holy city” (Rev. 22:19) is also located in a place called the “paradise of God” (Rev. 2:7). Even more intriguing is the word “paradise” which translated simply means “garden”. The Bible both begins and ends with God and His creation in “paradise” sharing in the “tree of life”.
The book of Genesis helps us to understand not only where our story begins, but where it ends and gives us a better grasp of what we’re headed to.
Genesis is so much more than a reference point for apologetics or a collection of great Bible characters. Genesis is a book that is vital to our understanding of Christianity because it establishes Jesus as the Creator, shows us our need for a Savior, informs our understanding of various doctrinal topics and points us toward our eternal destination.
*If there's enough interest, I'd be happy to tackle the subject of church roles. Send us a message on Facebook or to StrongChurchMinistries@gmail.com!