Promise to Rescue

Christ Covenant Church
Rev. Marq Toombs
8 April 2018
Sermon Text: Genesis 3:14-24; Galatians 3:26-28
God Promised to Rescue the World in Christ
Second Sunday of Easter

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Intro

New series — Covenant: The Story of God’s Promise to Redeem the World in Christ.

We are called Christ Covenant Church. We follow the covenant renewal pattern of worship. We believe God’s covenant-promises form the backbone of the scriptures and the plotline of redemptive-history.

So covenant is really important to us. It is basic to who we are and what we do.

What is a covenant?

John Murray points out in his booklet on The Covenant of Grace that many of our forefathers defined covenant as a pact between God and men with agreements and promises.

More recent theologians define covenant as a bond-in-blood sovereignly administered (O. Palmer Robertson), a compact God makes with man for life and blessing according to his own sovereignly imposed terms (Rick Phillips), and a legal agreement sealed with tokens (Leon Morris). Last but not least, “A covenant is a stipulated commitment under divine sanctions” (Dr Doug Gropp, my OT seminary professor).

John Murray defines a divine covenant as a sovereign administration of grace and of promise.

The point of all that is show that covenant is notoriously difficult to define in a brief sentence or two.

My hope and prayer is that by hearing the stories of God’s covenantal engagement with his people we will come to know and understand what covenant is, who it involves, and why it matters.

As we will see, the eternal covenant is a gracious oath sworn by God, secured by blood, and sealed with token-signs for the salvation of his people in space-time history.

Each week we will follow the same pattern: we will start with a story, then fix our eyes on the Savior, point out a few shadows and substance, and end with signs and seals of the covenant.

Sermon text — Genesis 3:14-24

The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

To the woman he said,

“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be  your husband, but he shall rule over you.”

And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

The word of the Lord.

STORY

In this ancient story, God appears as the Great King over heaven and earth.

[A case for “Suzerein Treaty” style covenant of works can be made from Genesis 1-3.]

Moses (the author of this book) is telling a story about the One True King, the Great King of the whole world, the heavens and the earth.

The Great King is the Lord God.

Before he began to create the heavens and the earth and everything in them, he was One God in Three Persons.

He demonstrated his eternal attributes, his eternal power and divine nature and creative wisdom by creating all things in the span of six days — and all of it ranging from good to very good. The apex of his creative work was man:

God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

Adam and Eve were made in the image and likeness of God.

All this recounted in Genesis 1-2.

Then Lord God blessed them and set forth the terms of this covenant relationship with them. This covenant was established by God for his glory and for the good of the man and woman and all their descendants (including us).

And God spoke to Adam and authorized him to serve as vice-gerent. That means God delegated power to him and sent him on mission to act as his representative on earth. Eve was made by the Lord God for Adam as a helper suitable to him.

God made the stipulations and sanctions of this covenant very clear. He gave them principles, permissions, and prohibitions. He told man and woman what he expected them to do, and not to do, and why.

So, the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. That’s a principle. (Side-note: This indicates that Adam was made from the dust of the earth outside the garden.)

And he commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden.” That’s a permission.

“But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” That’s a prohibition.

“For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” That’s a penalty, a punishment.

The Lord God showed Adam and Eve that there are consequences (positive and negative) for our decisions and actions.

Thus, from the beginning, God’s sovereignty establishes human responsibility.

Now, we don’t know how long Adam and Eve were in the garden, but one day they went out for a walk — and they never came back. Next thing you know the world was falling apart.

The man and woman drew near the prohibited tree.

They were more than curious, they were tempted. They were lured to the tree and enticed by their own desire. They were discontent with God’s gifts. They wanted to be more like God than God made them to be. They wanted to know what God knew.

They were ungrateful. They wanted to be wise as to what is evil and innocent as to what is good, so they served their own appetites, not the Lord God, and by smooth talk and flattery the serpent deceived their naive hearts. Then when their desire conceived it gave birth to sin, and sin when it was fully grown brought forth death. (See James 1:13-15; Romans 16:18-20)

And the same things can be said of every single one of us.

How? Sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. (Rom. 5:18)

Now, the Creator-creature relationship that God established between himself and Adam was a covenantal relationship.

We know that by virtue of the story’s canonical context, by good and necessary consequence of interpretation, and by explicit revelation from the prophets.

In Hosea 6:7, Yahweh said,

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.
But like Adam they transgressed the covenant;
there they dealt faithlessly with me.

So, through the prophet Hosea, Yahweh tells us that Adam’s descendants did exactly what he did. They broke the covenant. They did not love the Lord God. They did not trust and obey the Lord. They did not know God or walk by faith.

As a result, they were sent away into exile just like Adam was.

And the same things can be said of every single one of us.

That brings us all the way to the story in our sermon text.

We just heard that God cursed the serpent, the woman, and the man. Now we know why.

The covenant of creation was broken.

Adam and Eve were guilty of trespassing and stealing from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

According to the sanctions of the covenant, the minimum penalty for that sin was immediate death. “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

But did they die?

From one perspective, they did die immediately — in soul not body. Something inside them broke. They felt a deeply spiritual and existential separation from God. That’s why they hid from him. All of us who are conscious of our own sin feel this knowing.

From another perspective they also died eventually — many, many years later — in body not soul. They felt a deeply psychological and physical separation from each other. That’s why they were naked and ashamed. All of us who are conscious of our own sin know this feeling.

So did they die? Yes and No. So did God lie? No. It is impossible for God to lie.

RC Sproul explains it like this, “The fact that God did not kill Adam and Eve on the day they sinned does not make God a liar; it simply makes Him gracious.”

Why? God takes no delight in the death of sinners; he is patient with his people, he does not wish for any of them to perish, for all of them to come to repentance.

At this point the Lord God could have put Adam and Eve to death, and he would have been totally justified in doing so. It would have been a matter of paying them the wages they worked for in the garden — for the wages of sin is death.

And yet, instead of executing the death penalty on them, he gave them a life sentence of hard labor. But hard-labor is life, not death.

As merciful as that was, the Lord God it was still not merciful enough for the Lord. So, instead of executing the death penalty on them, he established a new covenant with them — a covenant of grace, a covenant of redemption.

The Lord God cursed the serpent:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.

Here God reveals the mystery of eternal gospel into space-time history for the first time.

As Michael Horton explains, “God’s surprising announcement of the gospel unfolds in history until He fulfills His promise in the person and work of Jesus Christ.”

By surprising he means totally unexpected and totally undeserved.

God will send a Savior into the world to crush the serpent.

The woman and the man — and all their descendants — were still under the curse of sin and death, but the Lord God gave them hope that he would send a savior to reverse the curse and make every sad thing untrue.

This savior will come into the world by birth through a woman. He will confront the source of evil, sin, and death, and he will conquer it. Not only for himself, but all his people.

So, the serpent will surely die for what he has done to you; the Savior will surely die for you for what you have done to him.

God promises to rescue the world in the seed of a woman. That is God’s covenant of grace with all his people.

Who is this seed of woman? Who is this Savior?

SAVIOR

As the story of God unfolds we learn more and more about the Savior and his conflict with the serpent.

Psalm 91:11-13

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways.
On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the adder;
the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot.

The devil cited the first part of this psalm when he tempted Jesus to throw himself down from the temple. The rest of the psalm declares that the Christ will tread down that adder and trample the serpent underfoot.

Psalm 110:1

The Lordsays to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.”

It was customary in ancient cultures for victorious kings to step on the necks of their conquered enemies. It symbolized absolute victory and total domination over an enemy; it also symbolized the crushing of the serpent’s head. (see Joshua 10:24) The Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ will rest his feet on his enemies.

Galatians 4:3-5

Once upon a time “we were children enslaved to the elementary principles of the world” — just like our parents Adam and Eve. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

At the darkest hour of human history, when death reigned supreme and hope was eclipsed by sin, a light dawned and life entered human experience. A woman gave birth to the Son of God, the promised Savior of the world. Now, if we say the gospel was conceived in the womb of space-time history in Eden, then we must also say the gospel reached full term and was born in the fulness of time in Bethlehem.

Revelation 12:1-6

And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon…And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne

The apocalyptic vision shows the conflict between the seed of woman and the serpent. A woman experienced labor pains and a red dragon waited to slaughter the new-born child. She gave birth to a male-child — a son who was destined to the world as a shepherd-king. The serpent-dragon attempted to destroy the woman’s son, but the son was protected by God. Later, the dragon was crushed by Seed of woman.

Colossians 2:15 

He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Christ disarmed and disgraced the devil and his evil forces at the cross. According to God’s promise, the Christ’s body was bruised—arrested, beaten, scourged, and crucified—by the serpent. But the serpent’s head was crushed by Christ.

1 Timothy 2:13-15 

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Paul reasons that God ordered the creation in a particular way. Just as Adam and Eve had certain God-ordained responsibilities in God’s garden, so men and women have certain God-ordained responsibilities in God’s household.

As evidenced by the story of Adam and Eve, the world falls apart when the order of creation is reversed or inverted. Nevertheless, sinners—male and female—will be saved through the Child-bearing. That is, through the Seed of woman, “if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”

SHADOWS AND SUBSTANCE

And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Shadows

In chapter three of the Book of Genesis, after God pronounced a series of curses on the serpent, the woman, and Adam (3:14-19). Then God shed innocent blood, made animal-skin garments for the man and the woman. They exchanged their fig-leaves for the new garments; the sinful works of their hands for the gracious and merciful works of God’s hands (3:21).

This is the first shadow of the cross and the atoning work of Christ revealed to man in space-time history and in the Holy Scriptures. This was the sign and seal of the new covenant of grace God made with Adam and Eve and their descendants.

Finally, God exiled Adam and Eve from Eden’s paradise until the serpent was crushed by the seed of woman according (3:23).

Substance

Now, fast forward to chapter three of the Book of Galatians. Christ became a curse for us by hanging on a tree (3:13). Christ became the Curse for us that we might receive covenant blessings—justification by faith and the promised Holy Spirit (3:14).

God’s son shed his own blood for our sins, he made divine robes to cover our filthy rags and naked shame, and he clothed us with the righteousness of Christ (3:26-28). “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves in him.”

Finally, we are adopted as God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus (3:26). That means we are no longer homeless, fatherless exiles.

This is the substance of the shadow of the cross and atoning work of Christ. This is the sign and seal of the new covenant of grace that God fulfills for us in Christ.

SIGN AND SEAL

All that to say, God promised to rescue the world in the seed of a woman, and he kept his promise in Jesus Christ.

Now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian — with a flaming sword flashing this way and that way to keep us out of Eden and away from the tree of life — for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith — it is for freedom that Christ set us free. Christ fell on the flaming sword for us so that may feast on the fruit of the tree of life with him.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

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