The Seven Pillars of Genesis, Part 7: Joseph

The following is an excerpt taken from the twentieth and final lesson of Bible First.


Joseph’s Forgiveness

Joseph is often acclaimed as the most complete type of Christ found in the Old Testament. Entire charts have been constructed to show the numerous parallels between the life of Joseph and the life of our Savior. Of all Joseph’s qualities, his forgiveness of those who had been his persecutors is among the most Christ-like.

JosephAs governor of Egypt, Joseph held the power to bring down crushing retribution against those who had hated, mocked and betrayed him. Amazingly, the Genesis record gives no indication that this course of action ever entered his mind.

Once Joseph had satisfied himself that his brothers were indeed repentant, his first thought was to reunite the divided family. His forgiveness of his brothers was complete and final. After their initial reunion, Joseph never once reminded his brothers of their wickedness. Never did he point out the fulfillment of his childhood dreams, or emphasize his superiority.

In fact, when Joseph’s brothers, fearing a delayed vengeance, came to plead for mercy after Jacob’s death, Joseph was moved to tears as he reassured them of his intention to care for them and their families.

When Christ died at Calvary, He too was the clear victim of animosity from the very ones who should have loved and received Him. He could have called down legions of angels to destroy His oppressors but chose rather to endure the cross that He might save them.

The Bible states clearly that, when a person comes to God through faith in Jesus Christ, he receives complete and lasting forgiveness of all sin. (Colossians 2:13, Ephesians 1:7) Whereas the repetitious process of ritual confession found in many religions produces uncertainty and doubt, Biblical forgiveness in Christ is a one-time occurrence, assuring the believer that all his sins–past, present and future–are put away “As far as the east is from the west…” (Psalm 103:12)

Joseph’s Forgiveness in Genesis
“…We pray thee, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of thy father. And Joseph wept when they spake unto him…And Joseph said unto them, Fear not: for am I in the place of God? But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. Now therefore fear ye not: I will nourish you, and your little ones. And he comforted them, and spake kindly unto them.” (Genesis 50:17, 19–21)

Christ’s Forgiveness in the New Testament
“Then said Jesus, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” (Luke 23:34)

“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” (Ephesians 1:7)

“Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man [Christ] is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins:” (Acts 13:38)

“And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:32)

“I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12)

“And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;” (Colossians 2:13)

BIBLE FIRST!, LESSON 20
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The Seven Pillars of Genesis, Part 6: Jacob

The following is an excerpt taken from the twentieth and final lesson of Bible First.


Jacob’s Inheritance

Jacob, the third of the great patriarchs, seemed an unlikely candidate to carry on the Abrahamic covenant, and yet his life demonstrated a personal relationship with God and a genuine walk of faith. Many aspects of Jacob’s life parallel that of Christ, but perhaps most significant is his inheritance.

JacobOn the night that Jacob wrestled with God, his name was changed to Israel, which also became the name of the nation God had revealed to Abraham years earlier. Jacob’s sons, who themselves became the heads of twelve tribes, were born into a glorious inheritance. From their lineage sprang a nation without equal on the earth: chosen of God, blessed of God, and known to the world as the people of God.

The Scriptures reveal that Christ also received a great inheritance from His Father, and became heir to a kingdom. All who believe on His name are made citizens of this kingdom, and are born again into the family of God, receiving what the Apostle Peter calls “an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1:4) Speaking of believers, Peter further expounds our great inheritance in Christ: “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:” (1 Peter 2:9)

Jacob’s Inheritance in Genesis
“And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” (Genesis 28:12–14)

Our Inheritance in Christ
“How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.” (Hebrews 9:14–15)

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Romans 8:16–17)

“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:” (Ephesians 1:10–11)

BIBLE FIRST!, LESSON 20
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The Seven Pillars of Genesis, Part 5: Isaac

The following is an excerpt taken from the twentieth and final lesson of Bible First.


Isaac’s Substitution

After repeatedly promising Abraham that he would become a great nation, God fulfilled His word by giving Abraham a miracle son: Isaac. Given this background, one can only imagine the shock Abraham must have experienced when God commanded him to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Not only was human sacrifice inconsistent with God’s previous commands regarding the sanctity of life, but this new directive seemed a contradiction of His promise to make Abraham the head of a great nation. How could there ever be such a nation if God’s promised child, Isaac, was to die?

Isaac

Happily, faith in God’s direction was a lesson Abraham had learned well. Although overcome with sorrow, he set out immediately to obey. When all was ready and Isaac lay bound on the altar, Abraham lifted the knife to slay his son. At the last moment, God intervened and saved Isaac’s life, saying, “…Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” (Genesis 22:12) The test was over, and Abraham had passed.

But while Isaac’s life was spared, the sacrifice that day was nonetheless completed. Rather than cancel His original command, God provided a ram to take Isaac’s place on the altar.

Similar to Isaac’s plight, all of humanity was once in jeopardy because of sin. While God loved us as a Father, His own law demanded our death as payment for our sin. As this sad tale unfolded, Grace and Justice seemed the worst of enemies, incapable of reconciliation.

Substitution was God’s master plan to save His family from condemnation. By offering His only begotten Son to be executed in our place, God could remain just, and at the same time justify the ungodly. “…That he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth on Jesus.” (Romans 3:26) Christ took our place on the cross in order to purchase for us a place in the family of God.

Isaac’s Substitution in Genesis
“And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.” (Genesis 22:13)

Christ as Our Substitute in the New Testament
“For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:6–8)

“Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28)

“So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:28)

“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us…” (Galatians 3:13)

BIBLE FIRST!, LESSON 20
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The Seven Pillars of Genesis, Part 4: Abraham

The following is an excerpt taken from the twentieth and final lesson of Bible First.


Abraham’s Faith

Abraham“But without faith it is impossible to please [God]…” (Hebrews 11:6) Historically, men have sought God’s favor through their works. While this pursuit is theoretically legitimate, it is always found inadequate due to the presence of sin. Although righteous works are indeed pleasing to God, they cannot undo evil works.

When God promised to give Abraham a son under impossible circumstances, Abraham believed that God would do exactly as He said. As a result of Abraham’s faith, God chose to attribute His own perfect righteousness to Abraham. Abraham’s deliberate belief in God’s promise became the standard by which all men would eventually have opportunity to be reconciled to their Creator. For this reason, the story of Abraham’s faith, as recorded in Genesis 15 and later expounded in Romans 4, represents the most foundational doctrine in all of Scripture. The great significance of Abraham’s faith is found in its result: imputed righteousness.

Prior to Abraham, sin was well-known as a universal scar on the human race, and righteousness was merely a relative concept. A man might be more pious than his neighbor, but no one was actually righteous in the fullest sense of the word, that is, completely pure in character and devoid of sin. Indeed, the Bible declares in no uncertain terms that “…There is none righteous, no, not one:” (Romans 3:10)

With Abraham, God revealed a completely new kind of moral standing, a righteousness not earned but given. Faith became the currency of heaven as God chose to accept it in exchange for pure, saving righteousness.

Proverbs 11:4 presents a simple and solemn warning for all who seek deliverance from God’s coming judgment: “Riches profit not in the day of wrath: But righteousness delivereth from death.” To this we have a joyous response, for the righteousness we cannot attain by works is freely given by faith! “But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:” (Romans 3:21–22)

Abraham’s Faith in Genesis
“And [the Lord] brought him forth abroad, and said, Look now toward heaven, and tell the stars, if thou be able to number them: and he said unto him, So shall thy seed be. And [Abraham] believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.” (Genesis 15:5–6)

Righteousness Imputed by Faith in the New Testament
“For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3–5)

“[Abraham] staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;” (Romans 4:20–24)

“Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)

“And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” (Philippians 3:9)

BIBLE FIRST!, LESSON 20
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The Seven Pillars of Genesis, Part 3: Noah

The following is an excerpt taken from the twentieth and final lesson of Bible First.


Noah’s Position

Noah lived in an era of wickedness so terrible that it caused God to regret His creation of the human race. Yet in the midst of this universal debauchery, Noah was found to be righteous.

NoahAs God resolved to destroy humanity in a global flood, He made provision for the salvation of Noah and his family. But this provision was narrow and exact. Noah was required to follow detailed instructions as he constructed a giant ark that would one day become the only habitable place on earth.

The assembly of the ark required faith on Noah’s part, causing him to walk a path very different from the cultural and religious norms of his day. In addition, Noah was a preacher of righteousness. (2 Peter 2:5) As he labored, he warned his peers that God’s wrath was imminent and that deliverance would only be found in the ark. He was mocked for his loyalty to God, and viewed by his neighbors as extreme, ridiculous, and certainly judgmental. Were they all to perish in some fantastical flood simply for their refusal to join Noah on a floating zoo? Absurd!

When the terrible flood finally came, Noah and his family were safe inside the ark, lifted above the destruction which swept the wicked from the face of the earth.

Noah initially found grace in the sight of God because he chose to walk righteously while those around him lived in sin. It was this righteousness that moved God to provide for him a means of salvation. But in the end, it was Noah’s location–not his character–that saved his life. Flood waters are indiscriminate. Had Noah not entered the ark, his superior moral standing would not have kept him from drowning alongside his sinful neighbors.

The ark is an Old Testament illustration of Jesus Christ. As in the days of Noah, God has seen fit to provide a means for the salvation of anyone who will receive it. Jesus is our ark, and all who enter in will be delivered from the coming flood of God’s righteous wrath. Christ Himself declares in John 10:9, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved…”

Noah’s Position IN the Ark
“And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” (Genesis 7:1)

“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7)

The Bible Speaks of our Position IN Christ
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22)

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:” (Ephesians 1:3)

BIBLE FIRST!, LESSON 20
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The Seven Pillars of Genesis, Part 2: Abel

The following is an excerpt taken from the twentieth and final lesson of Bible First.


Abel’s Atonement

Abel’s offering of a lamb in Genesis 4 clearly represents the payment God requires to atone for (that is, cover) sin. Only innocent blood possesses the judicial power to effectively remove sin. (See Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22)

Cain and AbelAt first glance, many have supposed that Abel’s choice of an offering was based on his profession: he was a shepherd and thus brought a lamb. If that were true, God’s refusal of Cain’s gift would be quite unjust, for Cain, a farmer by trade, brought the best of his harvest. In actuality, God’s rejection of Cain was not based on the quality of his labor, but on the fact that his offering was inappropriate to the task for which it was intended. Fruits and vegetables cannot pay for sin. This operation, known in the Bible as atonement, can only be accomplished by the shedding of innocent blood.

The Biblical account of Cain and Abel does not explain where they learned of the need for animal sacrifice as a covering for sin, but the logical conclusion is that they were given this instruction by their father, Adam. On the day that Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden of Eden, God killed two animals to make coverings for His fallen children. This was presumably the beginning of animal sacrifice in Scripture and the pattern upon which Abel’s offering was based.

However, the blood of animals could only provide a temporary covering for sin. (Hebrews 10:1-4) Abel’s lamb, while acceptable to God at that time, represents a mere shadow of God’s ultimate solution for the redemption of mankind. Thousands of years after Abel’s cruel death at the hands of Cain, Jesus was announced by John the Baptist as, “…the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) Like Abel, Christ was also murdered by wicked men who spilled His divine blood as they scourged and crucified Him. But in contrast to Abel, Christ’s blood did not cry out for vengeance. (Genesis 4:10, Hebrews 12:24) Though it appeared a tragedy, the death of Christ was a triumph, a voluntary sacrifice that provided the atonement needed to cover our sin.

Abel’s Atonement in Genesis
“And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering:” (Genesis 4:4)

Other Key Passages on Blood Atonement
“For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” (Leviticus 17:11)

“And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)

“Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” (Romans 3:24-25)

“Much more then, being now justified by [Christ’s] blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.” (Romans 5:9–11)

“Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by [Christ’s] own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:12–14)

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The Seven Pillars of Genesis, Part 1: Adam

The following text is taken from the twentieth and final lesson of Bible First. As promised in a previous issue of our newsletter, we’ll be publishing The Seven Pillars of Genesis as a series of blog posts over the next few weeks.


The Seven Pillars of Genesis

Genesis introduces many significant characters, but seven individuals in particular clearly illustrate the Gospel message in story form. These men–Adam, Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph–are Genesis’ Seven Pillars. Their stories constitute the bulk of the Genesis narrative, each one presenting a different aspect of the Gospel and revealing God’s plan for the salvation of the world.

Adam’s Dominion

The Bible is a book of kingdoms, and Adam was earth’s first king. Like most monarchs, Adam’s authority was given him by right of birth. Immediately after his creation, God charged Adam to take dominion over the entire planet.

Adam and Eve

But Adam was more than our first king. He was also our father. Though he did not fully understand it at the time, his position as head of the human race meant that every decision he made would directly affect his descendants. Sadly, when Adam chose to disobey God, he forfeited his dominion to Satan who became the god of this world. As a result, mankind was plunged into darkness and corporately separated from God’s life-giving presence.

Like Adam, Christ also came as King on the earth. He too received His authority by right of birth, and stood at the head of a new family. As such, Christ commanded the same power of influence over His descendants that Adam did. But unlike Adam, Christ understood His position fully, and He chose to obey God in righteousness, succeeding where Adam had failed. His complete triumph over sin and death brought about the rebirth of multitudes into a new family whose children enjoy freedom from the bondage of the old kingdom. The Scriptures aptly refer to Christ as the Second Adam, “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. …The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.” (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47)

Adam’s Dominion in Genesis
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26–28)

Adam and Christ Contrasted in the New Testament
“For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

“For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Christ] the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” (Romans 5:17–19)

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