The importance of Genesis can be stressed in many ways. We have been trying to show some of those ways in order to emphasize that Genesis is a book that must not be ignored. It is very much at the heart of what we are as Christians and how we are supposed to think. We must never minimize its significance.
The importance of Genesis can be found in the cross itself. The Old Testament as a whole focuses on the cross. That is, the cross (with the resurrection) is the culmination of what the Old Testament was pointing to with respect to the Messiah. We can break this down to demonstrate how the cross is planned, pictured, and prophesied in the Old Testament. While this can be easily shown throughout the Old Testament, we wish to focus briefly on how this is so in Genesis itself as the foundation to the rest of the Scriptures.
The Cross is Planned
From “before the foundation of the world,” the redeeming work of Christ was known (1 Peter -20). God had a plan from the beginning, and this plan is seen in the book of beginnings. From the time that sin entered the world, the plan was put into effect. The curses on the serpent, Adam, and Eve all show the serious consequences of sin. Yet, God did not simply punish without leaving a glimmer of hope. Genesis is a hinge passage; God was putting the plan into effect from that very point. The first eleven chapters of Genesis show the downward spiral of sin to emphasize that we need God if we will ever be free from the tyranny of sin’s consequences. From Genesis 12, it is clear that God is narrowing the focus of the seed promise. Through Abraham’s seed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. The rest of the story is a demonstration of God’s plan being carried out.
The Cross is Pictured
By “pictured,” I mean that there are various events and situations that foreshadow the cross. These are like providing small snapshots of what is to come in Christ. The type/antitype relationship is significant in the Bible. While we need to be careful not to overstate a case or try to find comparisons in every detail of an event, clearly there are some types in Genesis that foreshadow the cross. Here are a couple of examples:
It is no accident that God clothed Adam and Eve with garments of skin after they sinned. An animal’s blood was shed so that it could become a covering for the shame of their nakedness. As sin brings shame and spiritual nakedness, we need the shedding of Christ’s blood as a covering (forgiveness). Only God can provide for this. On our own, we may try to supply an inadequate covering, but God is able to fully provide what we need so that our sins may be forgiven.
Who hasn’t recognized the picture of the cross in the offering of Isaac in Genesis 22? Abraham is told to take his “only son” (indicating the unique status of Isaac) and offer him as burnt offering. Does this sound familiar? A loving father painfully offering his only son as a sacrifice? Hebrews 11:17-19 informs us that this foreshadows the resurrection, also. Abraham’s response to Isaac was quite insightful: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering” (Gen. 22:8). Herein is a clear picture of the cross.
Thus the plan of God is in full swing in Genesis. This plan is being slowly revealed by means of the various pictures (types) that would find ultimate fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
The Cross is Prophesied
Typological pictures are a form of prophecy, but these are usually implicitly understood. God’s most explicit form of communication is through direct verbal prophecy (which includes both commands and future predictions). A couple of examples will again suffice. God Himself utters the first verbal prophecy regarding the cross. (The reader is referred to the article on Genesis 3:15 at this point.) God was explicitly indicating a culminating battle between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent would result in severe consequences. The seed of woman (Christ) would receive a heel bruise (non-fatal), while the serpent would receive the fatal head bruise (as his works are destroyed). God was foretelling the cross and its effects.
When God spoke to Abraham, He gave another direct prophecy concerning the seed: “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Gen. 12:3). The land and nation promises were given to facilitate the seed promise. The rest of Genesis and the Old Testament show how this was going to be fulfilled. But how is this prophecy about the cross?
Peter’s sermon in Acts 3 references this promise. He shows how all the prophets “announced these days” of the Messiah (vs. 24). He continues: “It is you who are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ For you first, God raised up His Servant and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (vv. 25-26). The Seed is clearly Christ (cf. Gal. ), and His sacrifice resulted in the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. The blessing offered is forgiveness, being turned away from wickedness. This is, of course, what the cross is all about. “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace…” (Eph. 1:7). Give God the glory for so carefully bringing about the fulfillment of these great promises!
Genesis thus puts together the framework for understanding our salvation. The cross is an integral part of Genesis by means of God’s planning, picturing, and prophesying. As we read Genesis, let’s do so Christologically. That is, see Christ in the pages of the book. Ultimately, He is the reason for the book.
Doy Moyer is a native of California who has been preaching the gospel for over 20 years, working with congregations in Louisiana, Kentucky, Ohio, California, and Florida. He presently resides in Florida and works with the church in Cork, outside of Plant City. For five years he was an associate editor of Focus Magazine, and has written numerous articles for various publications. Since August, 2001, Doy has been teaching Biblical Studies, Evidences, and Philosophy at Florida College in Temple Terrace. He has his own web site located at http://studywell.org. You can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.