Genesis is the most theologically significant historical book in the Old Testament. By some counts, the New Testament quotes from, or alludes to, Genesis over 200 times.
Many of the most heated discussions of the book of Genesis center upon its historicity. Should we take the first eleven chapters of Genesis as literal history, or should we read it as poetry? I stand firmly in the historical narrative camp. The details of Genesis are accurate and important. But if all we ever focus on are the historical details we miss something of even greater importance.
We certainly should know what happened. Paul told the church in Rome, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction” (Romans 15:4a ESV). But the why is more significant. Paul goes on to say, “that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4b).
The reason we study the Old Testament is not simply to learn the facts and be able to recite them. We are to learn great lessons and build a foundation for the new covenant. If you want to be challenged and humbled consider that Paul argues that not only were the actions written down for us, but that the actions themselves were for us. “Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did (1 Corinthians 10:6).
In scripture, there are types and anti-types. The types are important for what they reveal about the anti-type. Our understanding of Adam is important for how it advances the story of Christ. Our understanding of Isaac is also important because of Christ. Both are typical of Jesus (Romans 5:14; Hebrews 11:17-19).
Genesis stands as the foundation for many of the most important doctrines in the New Testament. Our understanding of Jesus, the church, the home, the value of the individual, the devastation of sin, judgment, righteousness, grace, and salvation are all grounded in, and greatly enhanced by, Genesis.
The next time you read the creation account, be amazed not only at God’s power but also his foresight. Note that at least 13 New Covenant doctrines are grounded in creation. This fact should cause us to pause and contemplate their importance and relevance to our walk.
The next time you read of the fall, be advised of the dangers of sin, but also see how diametrically opposed God’s purpose of man is with sin. Man is the crowning achievement of God’s creation; sin degrades, diminishes, and destroys. Man is made for companionship, with God and with other humans; sin is a false friend that promises company but only leaves one empty. Man is made in God’s image, free from sin but with freedom to choose; sin is not created but is a result of choosing that which is not good.
The next time you study Genesis (or any Old Testament book), consider not only what occurred, but why it occurred. Consult the inspired penmen of the New Testament and be amazed at what you find.