The Gospel of Genesis
“The Gospel of Genesis.” So was the theme of the 12th annual New Life Bible Conference last week. Over 100 attendants heard 6 messages traversing the entire book of Genesis, from start to finish. Like a well-skipped stone expertly flung across a wide river, the sermons touched down in 6 places as they unpacked gospel themes across Genesis: Creation, the Fall, the Flood, Abraham, Judah, and Joseph.
And if the preaching wasn’t enough (and it was), there were ample opportunities for fellowship and discussion with the ministers, not to mention the Q&A session on Sunday that all conference attendants had access to. I want to offer a few words of reflection as to how the conference was helpful and made me hopeful. I’ll begin at the end, with something said during the Q&A session.
It’s Not about You
The question: “How can we encourage Christians to read the Bible in such a way that they see Christ on every page?” How can we see Christ in the Old Testament in the same way we heard the preachers reveal Christ in Genesis?
The answer: Luke 24. To find Christ revealed in the Old Testament, start with the way Christ read the Old Testament.
Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk 24:44-47, emphasis mine).
So clearly does Christ testify that the entire Bible testifies to him. He mentions that the three traditional divisions of the Jewish Canon (Tanakh) contained “everything written about [him],” the Law of Moses (Torah), Prophets (Nevi’im), and the Psalms (Ketuvim). So, when we open the pages of the Bible, we must presuppose what Christ presupposed: the entire Bible is about him. Not to say that if we hold this Christocentric presupposition in our minds that we will automatically see Christ on every page: For even though Christ himself taught this way of reading the Bible to his disciples over a length of time (“while I was still with you”), he still needed to open their minds “to understand the scriptures”; so this highlights our need for divine help, even though we have a Christocentric Bible-reading methodology.
It’s About Christ
So my reflections begin with what Anthony Carter said at Q&A: We must presuppose that every passage in the Bible points to Christ in some way. This Bible reading practice stands against many common ways of Bible reading and preaching, presupposing that every passage in the Bible is in some way about me, my finances, my struggles against the man, or my rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s not about us! It’s about Christ!
And here’s the delicious irony: If Old Testament Bible passages are about Christ, and not about me, then if I’m joined by faith to Christ, I find that the Bible passages do apply to me in the sweetest, strongest, and richest ways (as I’ll show below). Far richer than seeing “Goliath” as a cantankerous boss or as a metonym for Mondays. Far richer than seeing Joseph as a moral paragon which I, the sinner, must match up to. Far richer than claiming that prophecies about a restored Promised Land and the Temple can only apply to ethnic Israel and the building of a building. So Allegory, Moralism, and Dispensationalism go out the door to make room for the Bible speaking for itself. There is a more excellent way, which the One called the Way already showed us (Lk 24:44-47).
And this is exactly what over 100 attendants heard for 4 days during last week’s New Life Bible conference. I could easily choose a few things from my notes on the sermons that were the most helpful to me.
On Christ’s Person and Work
Hearing of my savior’s different characteristics and offices typologically embodied by the people and events in Genesis made the conference worth its weight in gold. Every single sermon bursted at the seams with Christ, but particularly surprising was Christ pictured in Judah’s actions and Jacob’s prophetic blessing of Judah (Gen, 37, 38, 42, 44; Gen 49:8-12)–Judah speaking up on behalf of his brothers: “I will be surety for Benjamin… let me bear the blame for ever” (43:9); and Jacob saying that Judah would be a conquering king, a great protector, and a great provider. May God help me to see and seek these functions from Christ on a daily basis. How awesome it is to have such a great savior!
“Preachers like to make much of themselves,” Pastor Carter said, “because they like to make much of preaching.” This was his lead-in to the doctrine of vocation, based on God’s giving Adam work (Gen 2:15). God is honored by every calling he gives his people, for Christ restores his people to meaningful, worshipful work, which will continue perfectly in glory. This encouraged me to take my job and even my role as husband and father more seriously, for these callings are worship. Under the heading of “the life of faith is a great life,” Pastor Anyabwile also warned of using the pulpit or ministry to make one’s name great, that subtle insidious pride that I ask God to make me watchful against (1 Pet 5:5-8). I also received several practical words of advice on preparing for the ministry in face-to-face and Q&A exchanges.
On our Living Hope
The biggest impact the preaching had on me were the ways the preachers had us look forward to the day when Christ will complete the salvation he’s already started. Here are some echoes: One day there will be nothing in me but that which wants Christ. One day it will be impossible not to be righteous. One day we will hear the “well done, but we’ll know it was Christ who was doing it well.” The final judgment typified by the flood will not touch us. Just as Noah stayed safe in the ark while the waters poured down, so also we will be safe in Christ at the final judgment because God’s wrath was poured down on Jesus. In the meantime, until redemption is complete, we were reminded that there is ample grace in Christ to carry us from here to that day: for redemption starts in mercy, is sealed in sovereignty, and is sustained by grace.
I am so glad that the book of Genesis, and the entire Old Testament, is about Christ. For joined by faith to Christ, I have a share in all he is and all he does. “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom 15:4).