The Beginnings of salvation
Adam and Eve began life in the Garden of Eden enjoying happy fellowship with God. Then came the sin by which they fell from their first estate. But that very same day God started to reveal the way of salvation (Gen.3:8-21). His purpose of mercy is seen in both His words and His actions. Anyone who is even remotely aware of the holiness of God knows that He could not allow sin to go unchallenged. If He was to remain holy and just, Satanís evil and manís rebellion would have to be faced. God could justly have consigned mankind to everlasting punishment and yet remained good. In fact He cursed Satan and appointed hell to be his place for all eternity. Yet He dealt with us in mercy. He is not under necessity to be merciful. It is an option He chooses. He is sovereign in the exercise of it, and constrained by nothing, but by His own unfathomable love. Praise God that He does not deal with us as our sins deserve!
God comes to sinners
Let us look at the beginnings of salvation in Genesis 3. The first thing we notice is that God comes looking for sinners (Gen.3:8-9). He is not unaware of their location. Rather the emphasis is on the fact that God personally comes into the Garden looking for them. He appears in visible form and calls out ďWhere art thou?Ē Our God is a missionary God. He goes out to those who are unable and unwilling to come to Him. He does not give up because they do not answer. Again, He seeks them where they are, still in their sin. He does not tell them to improve their lives before He will come. He comes to them in their lost condition. If you are not a Christian, you may be trying to improve yourself before you come to God. Friend, God comes to you in the Gospel, as you are, in all your sin. He comes to save sinners. Godís coming into the Garden was but a fore-shadowing of what our Saviour did. Even as God entered an Eden defiled by sin to seek sinners, so Christ came into this world to seek and to save the lost. Yet there was a difference in that Christís coming to save sinners involved more than simply His entering a sinful world. He joined sinners under the law of God, to bear its curse and so pay its penalty for them. He took bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. He was made like unto His brethren, yet without sin.
God awakens their conscience
Secondly, we see God awakening the sinner's conscience (Gen.3:11). He treated Adam and Eve as responsible beings. He called them to account for their sins and required them to explain their actions. He is not content that they confess their sin in general terms. He questions them closely so that they must confess specifically what they have done. We are often willing to confess sin in a general way but are reluctant to admit specific sins. We content ourselves with having admitted we are sinners and lull our consciences into a state of self satisfaction. But God will not leave the sinner in such a sleepy state. He awakens the conscience so that the individual sees sin as a crime against God and not merely as a minor fault. This awakening is intended to bring the sinner to confession and repentance. Without a God-wrought conviction of sin we will never see the enormity of our sin nor appreciate the holiness of our God. It is one of the evidences of Godís saving intentions that He convicts of sin. Have you been awakened in your conscience? Do not ignore what God is saying to you. Many an awakened conscience is stifled by the sinner when the need for repentance is made apparent. Ask Him to make your conscience tender and alive so that what He is saying to you might bear in you the fruit of repentance.
The third thing to note is that God begins a conflict (Gen.3:15). When God cursed the serpent (Gen.3:14) part of that curse involved a struggle beginning between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. God initiated this conflict. As a sinner, man has no warfare with Satan. God ordains there should be conflict for all those whom He will save. He replaces their hatred for Him with a hatred for Satan. He changes their hearts. They come to know something of that experience described by Paul in Romans 7: ďThe good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I doĒ. Satan initially attacked Eve. It had been Satanís plan to populate Godís creation with God-haters through Eve. By intervening to change the hearts and minds of Eveís offspring this plan was thwarted by God Himself.
The history of humanity as recorded in Scripture is in fact a history of conflict between the seed of the woman (whose God-hating hearts have been transformed) and the seed of the serpent (those who, like Cain, reject Godís way of salvation). Consider how Jezebel, Queen Athaliah, Herod, the Jews, the Romans, and many others down through the centuries have tried to wipe out Godís people, but the Lord has kept His own in the midst of this warfare. As God continued to reveal His plan for salvation it became clear that the ďSeedĒ who would eventually crush Satan would be the Christ. In Him the struggle reaches its height. Satan tried to destroy the Son of God through the Cross only to discover the Cross was his own destruction. Through it Christ spoiled principalities and powers (Col.2:15). It is true that Satan succeeded in bruising the heel of Christ at Calvary but Christ succeeded in crushing the head of the Serpent. It was this decisive defeat of Satan by Christ on the Cross that enabled Paul to tell the Roman believers, ďThe God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortlyĒ (Rom.16:20). Their enemy is a defeated foe in the last throes of death and they themselves will soon share in that victory in all its fullness.
Fourthly, we see Godís conquest of sin (Gen.3:16-19). Had Adam and Eve received the punishment they deserved, they would have been eternally destroyed. But, though God chastens them and though they both experience some of the consequences of sin in this world, they do not receive what they deserve. God promises He will mitigate, and eventually overthrow, the results of their sin. In Eveís case, her sinful desire to usurp Adamís headship role would be hindered. Yet she would have the privilege of playing a part in Godís redemptive plan as the bearer of the victorious Seed and as ďthe mother of all livingĒ. In Adamís case, though he deserved instant death, he was given a lifetime to repent (v.17). He too would play a part in Godís redemptive plan by fathering children from whom the Seed of the woman would eventually come. Adam would also have his daily bread despite the cursedness of the ground. Sin would not so dominate the world that his environment would have dominion over him. God is gracious and saves.
The gift of faith
In the fifth place we note Godís gift of faith. The Scriptures teach us that saving faith is not natural to sinners. It can be exercised only by those who have received Godís grace in the New Birth. Paul states: ďBy grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of GodĒ (Eph.2:8). Such saving faith has as its focus God, His Word and His promise. It does not rest on our own abilities. It looks beyond self to a God-ordained Redeemer as the only one who can deal with the guilt of our sins. Adam, Eve and all the Old Testament believers looked forward to Christ as the coming sin-bearer, while all New Testament believers look back. We can see the beginnings of such faith in both Adam and Eve. In Adam it is apparent where he calls his wife ďEveĒ because she would be the mother of all living (Gen.3:20). This is significant coming so soon after Godís curse and sentence of death. Adamís words suggest he took Godís promise to provide a Saviour, through Eve, seriously. He hoped, not just for offspring but for the One who would crush Satan. In Eve, the evidence of faith is seen later (Gen.4:25). As their sons, Cain and Abel, grew it had become clear to Adam and Eve that Cain was of the ďseed of the serpentĒ while Abel was of the ďseed of the womanĒ. After the murder of Abel by Cain it must have seemed as though the seed of the serpent had won the conflict. God however gave her another son, Seth. Eve said of him, ďGod has appointed me another seed instead of AbelĒ. Despite what had happened to Abel she still trusted in Godís promise. Here is encouragement for us. God can and does give the gift of faith to sinners. Those who cannot believe by reason of their sinful nature God enables to believe. He gives His Word to us as the focus of faith. Our hope is not to be in ourselves but in His promise and in His Son.
A way of forgiveness
Lastly we see Godís provision of a way of forgiveness for sinners (Gen.3:21). We are told God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins. They had already made clothes for themselves. If all God was concerned about was a covering for their nakedness, He could have left them to make do with what they had. But God is dealing with manís spiritual nakedness and guilt before God, which fig leaves could not cover. The animal skins are connected with their sin. Godís slaying of the animals in order to clothe them would make certain great truths clear to them. They would learn that His way of forgiveness is all of grace. Manís own efforts in dealing with sin are shown to be inadequate. Godís way of dealing with spiritual nakedness and guilt is indispensable for a renewed relationship with Him. Again, it showed them that Godís way of forgiveness involves a reminder of the seriousness of sin against God. As Adam watched the beasts being slain to provide him with a covering he would know it was his sin that made this slaughter necessary. He would have seen that sin leads to death. Coming near to God should make us more aware of our sin. The nearer we come the clearer we should see what sin deserves. Further, they would come to appreciate that Godís way of forgiveness required the death of a sinless substitute. The clothing provided by God required the slaying of sinless animals. This pointed forward to the sacrifices which in turn pointed to the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus for sin. Only by the shedding of blood would sinís guilt be remitted. Christís example is not enough. He had to die if our sins were to be forgiven. This is what Jesus said on the night before His crucifixion: ďThis is my blood shed for the remission of sinsĒ.
It is true that all these truths are found in Genesis 3 only in seminal form but the revelation given there of the beginnings of salvation is enough to show clearly that the salvation of the sinner is Godís work from beginning to end. It is all of grace. Praise Him!
Any comments or questions please E-Mail me or Rev William Macleod the editor.
[Back to Reformed Christian Pages][Back to Free Church Foundations]