|A promise from the books of Moses
HIS GLORY REIGNS
Oct 29 2010 08:00 A.M.
The first of the many Old Testament promises of Christ and his cross was given to Adam and Eve shortly after they
God would have been perfectly just if he had done nothing except expel them from Eden and leave them to experience
the full measure of the consequences of their sin. God could have said, 'I told you plainly, Adam, not to eat of the tree
of the knowledge of good and evil. I warned you about the consequences. I gave you plenty of incentives to obey me. I
have been good to you in every way imaginable, but you cast it all aside and sinned against me. So now I am going to
leave you with the results of your sin.'
Had God done just that and left Adam in his sin, no one could have lifted so much as a single finger of accusation
against him. Michael Horton is certainly right to say, 'God would be perfectly just at this point to pull a sheet over the
lifeless corpse of humanity.'
It is very important for us to realize this. We shall never appreciate the cross of Christ and the salvation that flows from it
until we understand that we did not deserve to be saved and that God was under no obligation to save us.
God could have taken delight in the cherubim and the flaming sword guarding the entrance to paradise. He could have
taken pleasure in Adam and Eve being driven away and finally experiencing eternal death. But God did not wash his
hands of them and walk away. He could have, but he did not. Before he drove Adam and Eve out of the garden and
stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword at its entrance, God announced that plan by which they could be forgiven
of their sin and not only restored to fellowship with himself, but restored to paradise itself.
Why did God do it? Why did he make a way of salvation? Some suggest that he saw some good in us despite our sin.
This cannot be. Sin left us totally without merit. The reason for God's plan of salvation can never be located by looking
at the sinner. It rests entirely in the gracious character of God.
We have seen the holy character of God that demands the punishment of the sinner. But while the holiness of God is
very much a part of his character, there is more to be said. God is also gracious and merciful.
Thomas Boston speaks of these two aspects of God's character in this way:
condemnation of a sinful, and therefore worthily a cursed creature; or else they must be violated...Mercy, on the
other side, pleaded for favour, and appeals to the great court in heaven; and there it pleads, saying, 'Wisdom and
power, and goodness, have been all manifest in the creation: and anger and justice, have been magnified in
man's misery that he is now plunged into by his fall: but I have not yet been manifested. O let favour and
compassion be shown towards man, woefully seduced and overthrown by Satan! O!' said they unto God, 'it is a
royal thing to relieve the distressed; and the greater anyone is, the more placable and gentle he ought to be.'
hath lost himself by his disobedience, should, for remedy, set obedience against it, and so satisfy the judgement
of God.' Therefore the wisdom of God became an umpire, and devised a way to reconcile them.
In Genesis 3:15 we see the grace of God coming to the forefront to announce the plan his wisdom had devised.
Who can measure this grace? It would have been an incredible act of love if God had decided to just take one sinner
from Adam's filthy race and clean him up, but - oh, the vastness of God's grace! - he determined, back there in eternity
past, to take from Adam's race a multitude of sinners and cleanse all of them - a multitude so vast that the apostle John
writes, 'And the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands...' (Revelation 5:11).
This cleansing work, this redeeming work, was to be done by God's Son, the second Person of the Trinity, coming to this
earth in our humanity and dying on Calvary's cross. That plan, in place before the world began, is now announced for
the first time. It is announced to Satan with Adam and Eve standing there in their helplessness and ruin:
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise his heel
Many claim to have tremendous difficulty in seeing the plan of redemption here, but it is here. The source of redemption
is here. The goal or purpose of redemption is here. The means of redemption is here. The certainty of redemption is
here. It is all here in God's announcement in the garden of Eden.
The source and the certainty of redemption
The first three words of this announcement, 'And I will...', take us to both the source and the certainty of God's plan of
redemption. Those words reflect the total helplessness of Adam and Eve to do anything about the dreadful condition
they were in. They had made fig-leaf aprons to cover themselves, but those aprons were totally inadequate to stand in
the presence of the holy God.
The willingness of God to redeem
There would have been no hope at all for Adam and Even had it not been for those words, 'I will'. With those words
God indicated his readiness to take up the issue of salvation for his fallen creatures. He did not send Adam and Eve
back to the covenant that he had originally made with them, a covenant that theologians have frequently referred to as
the 'covenant of works'. The word 'covenant' simply means 'agreement'. God's agreement with Adam and Eve was to
bestow eternal life upon them if only they would perfectly obey him. The receiving of this promise depended completely
upon what Adam did.
It was obvious after Adam and Eve sinned that a new covenant had to be made. If they could not keep that covenant
before they sinned, there was certainly no way they could keep it after they had sinned. And even had they been able
to keep the covenant of works from that moment on, something still had to be done about the sin they had already
committed. The announcement of Genesis 3:15 signaled the beginning of that new covenant, which can be called 'the
covenant of grace'. In this covenant God takes all the covenant obligation upon himself. In respect to Christ, God's
covenant was still a covenant of works. He, as the Last Adam, had to undertake and perform all that Adam had failed to
do, but in respect to God's people, salvation is entirely a matter of grace. Christ performed all for them even to the point
where there is nothing at all left for them to perform. Even the faith by which God's people lay hold of Christ's work is his
gift to them (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The ability of God to redeem
Not only did God's words to Adam and Eve indicate his willingness to redeem, they also indicated his ability to deal with
the problem. We often announce plans that we are unable to carry out. We propose, but we are not always able to
dispose. The path of our life is strewn with unfulfilled dreams, aborted plans and shattered hopes.
But what is true of us is not true of God. He is the sovereign ruler of all things. He is unlimited in power and wisdom.
What he promises to do, he will do. The God of the Bible is not a frustrated, hand-wringing deity that is fretful or
thwarted because he is not able to achieve his will.
The final outcome of redemption will not be a defeated God and a triumphant devil. It will not end with heaven crying in
anguish and hell cackling in delight. It will not end with a tearful God disconsolately confessing, 'I tried but failed.'
The purpose of redemption
The purpose of redemption is all wrapped up in that word 'enmity'. If two parties are in a state of enmity, there is no
friendship between them. They are not only alienated from each other, but hostile towards each other.
God had made Adam and Eve for friendship with himself, but through their act of disobedience they had alienated
themselves from God and formed a friendship with Satan. How dramatically they had fallen - all the way from friendship
with God to friendship with Satan!
God was not about to let that friendship stand. His whole purpose in the plan of redemption is to overturn that new
friendship. In keeping with that purpose God promises to put enmity between Satan and Eve and between his seed and
the Seed of the woman. It essentially amounts to God saying to Satan: 'You have succeeded in forming a friendship with
my creatures, but I am going to break that friendship and make them my friends again.'
The means of redemption
God was not content merely to announce his determination to restore friendship between himself and sinful men and
women. He also indicated something of the way in which he would do this. It would be accomplished through the
incarnation and the crucifixion of the Second Person of the Trinity.
The incarnation of Jesus
Is the incarnation foretold in this first announcement of the plan of redemption? It most certainly is. It is there is God's
reference to the 'Seed' of the woman.
In speaking of this Seed, God was promising to send a man. He was essentially saying to Satan, 'You brought sin into
the human race through this man Adam. I am now giving you notice that I will provide a way of salvation, a way for
sinners to regain paradise, and I will do it through another man.'
Jonathan Edwards says of God's promise: 'In those words of God there was an intimation of another surety to be
appointed for man, after the first surety had failed. This was the first revelation of the covenant of grace; the first
dawning of the light of the gospel on earth.'
The man God was promising to send would be no ordinary man. He would be 'her Seed', that is the Seed of the
woman. Descent is reckoned through the male, but Christ - the man who is promised by God in these words - did not
come from a human father. He was born of the virgin Mary as a result of supernatural conception. He was, therefore,
the Seed of the woman. The apostle Paul writes, 'But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son,
born of a woman...' (Galatians 4:4).
The crucifixion of Jesus
After announcing that this special man was coming, God proceeded to say something very definite about him: he would
have to experience severe and painful suffering. This suffering is indicated by these words: 'He shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.'
God promised that there would be hostility between Satan and this special man, the Lord Jesus Christ. There would be
'enmity' between Satan and all those who belong to him and Christ. This hatred of Satan for Christ was eventually to
culminate in his bruising the heel of Christ, but in the process of bruising that heel, Satan would have his own head
crushed. There is a significant difference here: the bruising of the heel is very real and painful, but it is not totally
devastating. The head represents authority or dominion.
On the cross the humanity of Christ was bruised, but Satan's kingdom was destroyed. There it would look as if Satan
had won a resounding victory. Satan would, as it were, marshal all his forces and succeed in getting evil men to nail
Jesus to a cross to die in extreme agony. But what looked to be triumph for Satan would prove to be his undoing. The
death of Christ on the cross would actually deal Satan and his kingdom a death-blow because through that death Christ
would purchase salvation for his people and open the door for them to regain paradise.
JOURNEY TO THE CROSS, by Roger Ellsworth, Copyright 1997, EVANGELICAL PRESS.
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