The Old Testament, The Soil Out of Which The Flower of the New Testament Grows.

The first book in the Bible is the book of Genesis. This is a book that is first in Moses’ writings, after which came Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Together, these 5 books are called the Pentateuch, or the Torah. The weight of meaning and significance of these books are unmatched in any other writing in the world. It is in these books that God revealed to Moses the intentions of His creation of man, the origin of His universe, the purpose of the nation of Israel and the expectation of mankind in light of who God is. As Paul wrote to the Romans, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” ( Romans 15:4). We, the church of God, are encouraged and given hope through a proper instruction of the Old Testament (OT), and the body of instruction in the OT begins with the Pentateuch and the Pentateuch begins with Genesis. Thus, Genesis bears the weight of instructing God’s people, whether Israel or the church, and it is up to the task.
Therefore, the understanding of Genesis is foundational to the understanding of God’s entire revelation. In fact, it is so critical, that to misunderstand it, or worse, to ignore it, is to often leave the interpretation of a New Testament (NT) passage up to our own imagination. It introduces us to God. He is the foundation. He is the Creator of all things. It introduces to us how God thinks and how He operates. We see in Genesis the way that God deals with sin and the way He blesses the righteous. We learn a vocabulary that is heavenly, i.e. “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” (Genesis 15:6). We learn of atonement (Genesis 3:20-21) and of judgment (Genesis 3). We are instructed concerning the human heart and all of its wickedness (Genesis 6:5) and God’s response in His heart concerning this wickedness of man (Genesis 6:6). We learn that God has the right, and will exercise that right, to execute man. He has the right to carry out the death that was promised to Adam (for eating of the fruit of the tree) at any time He believes it is needed (Genesis 2:17; 7:21-23). We are also instructed of God’s grace and His mercy (Genesis 3:21-24). We understand, further, that God extends grace toward whomever He desires (Genesis 6:8; see Romans 9:13-15). And there is more.

In Genesis 1, we are introduced to God as Sovereign. It is more than a “simple” recounting of creation. It is very clearly the introduction of God to the readers. The first glimpse that the reader has of God is that of absolute sovereign designer and creator of all things. What does this teach us?

1. It teaches us that this world/universe belongs to God-Psalm 24:1.
2. It teaches us that this world/universe is sustained by God-Psalm 104:14-23, 27-30.
3. It teaches us that man is a created being and really has no control over his circumstances-Proverbs 16:1, 9.
4. It teaches us that man is a created being and as such is expected to exist according to God’s original intentions-Genesis 1:26-30.

It is the last point that often goes overlooked or treated without any depth. Often, in my opinion, we don’t consider God’s original design for mankind as binding today because we believe that since we are the church, we are somehow disconnected from the OT revelation. It seems too many Christians believe, erroneously, that the OT revelation is irrelevant to modern times, especially since Jesus came. Pastor’s often cite the slogan, “I am a New Covenant preacher” without stopping to consider that the New Covenant is introduced and defined in the OT. Further, the covenants of God had a starting point in Genesis, not in the way that Reformed Theology would define it, i.e. a covenant with Adam (the Scriptures do not teach any such covenant), but in the sense that the effect of the New Covenant is in fact the crushing of the head of the serpent promised in Genesis 3:15. To make that happen, all the groundwork had to be laid, i.e. previous covenants, and the revelation of God had to develop the prophecies and the practices necessary to demonstrate His glory in the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ, in demonstration of His Messiahship to hardened sinners, fulfilled that which was written of Him so that through them we might believe (John 20:30-31). Further, much of the OT teaching is repeated directly or alluded to and forms the basis for the teaching of the NT. Here are some examples:

  • The basis of the work of Satan on believers is alluded to in 2 Corinthians 11:3 referring back to Genesis 3:1-7.
  • The responsibilities of husband and wife are referred to in Ephesians 5:22-33 as noted by Paul’s reference to Genesis 2:24.
  • The responsibilities of children are also referred to in Ephesians 6:1-3, without an explanation concerning how a child in the church will live long on the earth if they obey Exodus 20:12.
  • The referral to the teaching of the Passover (Exodus 12:1-13) is the basis for Paul’s judicial decision concerning those who continue in sin in the church in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8.
  • Every mention of the washing of the Spirit of God (i.e. Titus 3:5; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Acts 22:16; Ephesians 5:26, to name a few) are all references to the promise of the cleansing work of the Spirit of God in Ezekiel 36:25-27. Furthermore, this teaching of Ezekiel 36 is based upon the idea of cleansing in Levitical law (i.e. Leviticus 11:32; 14:1-9; Exodus 29:4; 30:17-21; Numbers 19:8-9), and forms the basis for the NT ordinance of baptism, of which NT baptism is only a picture and does not actually cleanse the heart.
  • The financial support of pastors and elders is taught via OT references to the care for animals in 1 Timothy 5:18 and the interpretation of such is explained in 1 Corinthians 9:9-11.

Further, the issues related to the definition of sin, the example of righteousness and meaning of sanctification are all given flesh and bones in the OT. The only exceptions to this are the references to a “mystery” that has been kept hidden from long ages ago and is now revealed to the church (Matthew 13:11). But the rest of the NT rests on the shoulders of the OT as far as fulfillment, completion, further instruction and clarification of OT procedures (for example, Jesus Christ’s role as mediator [1 Timothy 2:5] would hardly have the significance it does unless we understand the role of the high priest in the OT [Hebrews 3:1; 4:1-10]) is concerned. Thus, in order to fully grasp the NT teaching in these areas, a pastor needs to do his homework in the related subjects in the OT and thus promote perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures (see 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

It is important to understand that , repeating what has been stated above, properly understanding the teaching of the OT (in its normal, historical context) gives proper understanding to the NT. And the OT has as its foundation the five books of Moses and the foundation of the Pentateuch is Genesis. It is in this vein that I hope to consider some of the profound truths contained in Genesis and how they unfold in the NT.