Sunday, January 18, 2009

Free From God's Wrath, Firmly Rooted in His Favor: Part 2

I am back home. The semester is finished. I am continuing in sharing the paper on propitiation, which I think is important for us all to know, heightened especially during this time when the attention is supposed to be on Jesus more. This part focuses on the beginning, the time of God's glorious creation and the horrific Fall of Adam and Eve. Here we will see that even in the beginning certain themes begin to take shape which affect the way propitiation is developed throughout history. If you missed the first part, I suggest you read it here before checking this section out.

Creation & The Fall

One should rightly assume that propitiation is not found in the creation narrative in the first two chapters of Genesis for a handful of reasons, which shall be discussed below. Here it is first important to highlight some characteristics seen in the relationship between God and his people that are crucial in laying the groundwork for God’s redemptive and restorative plan. We must begin with God, who is good (Ps 100:5). God created the heavens, the earth and all that is in them and when “God saw everything that he had made…it was very good” (Gen 1:31). The pinnacle of this good creation is mankind, whom he created imago Dei, meaning in the image of God (Gen 1:26-27; cf. 9:6). By command in Gen 1:28-30, God gives man responsibility (v. 28a) and dominion (vv. 28b-30) over all the earth. Further on God gives man, who is named Adam, another command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil otherwise he will surely die (2:17). At chapter’s end, Adam has a helper and a wife, Eve, both naked before each other and God, unashamed (2:25).

The first two chapters of the Bible paint a picture of the world when propitiation is completely unnecessary. Man, though responsible for and having dominion over the earth, is still under the sovereign rule of the God who created him and commanded him in these things. Under God’s rule, in God’s place, mankind and all of creation are seen as good. The powerful ending of Genesis 2 indicates that this goodness of God’s creation is marked by innocence, untainted by sin of any kind. With sin absent, the wrath of God is unseen in the text, though there is a hint to God’s wrath in v. 17 should man actually be disobedient to his command and eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This would surely bring about death, which is a stark warning in a text filled with God’s goodness, creation, and life. However the case, to this point in the story Adam and Eve knew nothing of God’s wrath experientially.

Everything changes when both Adam and Eve sin for the first time, succumbing to the temptation of the serpent and directly disobeying the command of God (3:1-6). The effect was devastating as seen in their shame at being naked, covering themselves with fig leaves, and also their broken fellowship with God, trying to hide from him when they heard him (vv. 7-8). Furthermore, God remains true to his command: because of their sin death enters into the world, which is spiritual death, marked by their alienation from God, but also physical death, marked by the actual death of the body and of all living things. Combine sin, shame, and death with the curses God places on the serpent, woman, and man (vv. 14-19) and one should easily conclude that God’s wrath has also entered the world. Yet because death did not come imminently for Adam and Eve—Adam living at least 800 years longer (5:3-5)—elements of God’s grace should be acknowledged.

Finally, worth mentioning is the probable first sacrifice implied in Scripture. Genesis 3:21 states, “And the Lord God made for Adam and his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” Bruce Waltke writes that “The substitution of [God’s] skin tunics for their fig-leaf ‘loincloths’ suggests that their own coverings were inadequate to cover their shame and to provide them with their felt need for protection. Since the tunics are made of skin, implicitly it took the shedding of blood, the offering up of life, to provide the needed kind of covering.” The context of the passage does not allow for the interpretation of this “shedding of blood” to mean an atonement or propitiation of any kind, but it may introduce some sort of prelude to the future sacrificial system. Furthermore it was God who made the sacrifice and provided an adequate covering, which could be interpreted as foreshadowing Jesus, the God-man, offering up himself as a sacrifice on the cross, covering our shame once for all. In summary, the first three chapters of Genesis introduce some major components for propitiatory sacrifice—God’s rule over man, man’s sin and death, God’s wrath and grace, and the shedding of blood. Although at this point the sacrifice is in no way related to the other components, these initial chapters of Scripture already establish a very strong case that such will occur further on.

By His Grace.

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