We often look to Genesis with questions about our origins. But do we sometimes miss the larger picture? Bryan Chapell, president of Covenant Theological Seminary, suggests in an interview with Bible Study Magazine associate editor Rebecca Kruyswijk that Genesis is the beginning of God’s gospel story. God turns our story of rebellion into redemption.
How do you study the book of Genesis?
I look at Genesis as the original statement of the grace principles that are in the rest of Scripture. So when I study the book of Genesis, I’m really looking for those grace connections. How is God showing us that he’s providing what we cannot provide for ourselves? . . . How is God showing his grace to a fallen people, and beginning to unfold that plan of how he will rescue them? So I’m looking for the principles of grace that will be exploded in the rest of Scripture—but just in their nugget form—in the book of Genesis.
What is the significance of Genesis in relation to the whole of the Bible?
I think Genesis sets the stage for the rest of the Bible by telling us who God is and who we are. . . . The opening passages of God’s creation of the world and humankind are reminding us that he made all things—that he is the Creator-God. But very quickly, we learn that he must redeem us from the fallen condition that we created by Adam’s fall into sin.
Just as I’m learning who God is, that Creator-Redeemer, I’m learning . . . that I’m part of God’s special creation—the only entity that God created that was to be an express reflection of his own image. . . . I learn that I’m a fallen creature—that Adam’s sin affected not only the world, but my heart as well. And [I learn that] I am fallen, but I am claimed. Right from the beginning, in Genesis 3:15, God said that just as Satan would try to stop the coming of a Redeemer, that [this] Redeemer would crush the head of Satan and ultimately rescue his people. God, despite our sin and rebellion, would have a claim upon us that’s eternal because we are special to him. So Genesis is setting those gospel notes to a tune that we can understand right from the beginning.
What are the major themes of the book of Genesis?
Surely, creation would have to be a theme of Genesis, then the fall—something went wrong. . . . Then provision: God is going to make it right again; a plan to do so; and a people through whom he will do it. Creation, fall, provision, plan, and people: God is, in essence, unfolding that gospel story.
There are many literary sub-themes in the book of Genesis—we’ll see principles of covenant; we’ll see principles of people; the establishment of the land for God’s people; the establishment of family. The key theme that is always in the book of Genesis, and is unrolled in the rest of Scripture, is the theme of God coming to the rescue. . . . He’s doing that by showing his nature, which will be ultimately fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.