The Gift – Genesis 3.8-15

What do we do with what we see in Genesis 3.8-15, and specifically 3.15?

“…and I will put hostility between you and the woman 

and between your offspring and her offspring; 

he will strike your head, 

and you will strike his heel.”

Genesis 3.15, NET

Living in Eden, a perfect place, God and man dwelling together, you would be forgiven for thinking that things would always remain perfect. Sadly not. Creation chose to disobey the one thing they were told not to do (cf. Genesis 2.17).

But as soon as this happens, God is on the scene with a gift.

God is on the scene with a gift they had not earned.

God is on the scene with the gift of forgiveness, of reconciliation, of redemption, of restoration. 

The best part is that this gift wasn’t earned, it never could be and we can never earn it now. Even though Adam and Eve, man and woman, had the absolute prefect conditions in which to live, even though they had at their fingertips everything they needed to be happy, fulfilled, and content, it still wasn’t enough for them, was it? There was still the opportunity to disobey, to contravene, to transgress, to sin. If anyone had a fighting chance of enjoying true fellowship with God simply as they were, we’d have to say that it was Adam and Eve, right? But again, as soon as they sinned, God is there with a solution:

…he will strike your head,

and you will strike his heel.”

Now, at this point in the narrative the details are few and far between, aren’t they? But, toiling away for generations (Genesis 3.16-19) this would have been the promise to which people clung:

And I will put hostility between you and the woman 

and between your offspring and her offspring; 

he will strike your head, 

and you will strike his heel.”

Someone is coming, offspring of a woman, born of a woman, child of a woman, who will, though injured in the process, strike a crushing and deadly blow against the schemes and deception and evil of satan.

Did the people earn that? No.

It was given to them out of love and out of a desire for true and intimate relationship and fellowship.

It was given out of a desire to forgive, to redeem, and to restore. 

This gift, though the details of it are shrouded in future fog at this point in the grand narrative of God’s Word, was always part of the plan and was eventually embodied and came through one man (John 1.14a). 

This gift, then, was always part of the plan. It was ready before it was even needed (John 1.1-3), it was needed before the recipients knew anything about it (John 1.4-5). 

The same is true for you. 

This gift is exactly what you need, whether you realise it or not. 

This gift was ready for you before you even knew you needed it. 

It’s no more or no less than you truly need.

Forgiveness.

Acceptance.

Restoration of right relationship  – God and man dwelling together again.

So, as we slowly start to build toward Christmas, we can ask ourselves, is there a gift I’ve always needed?

Quite simply, yes. Because of the events that took place here in Genesis 3, your life has been profoundly affected and changed in ways that you most probably never, ever think about. 

Genesis 3.22 says

…and the LORD God said, “Now that the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil, he must not be allowed to stretch out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.

So, as a merciful judgement Adam and Eve were not permitted to eat from the tree of life and therefore live forever, as sinners. In mercy and grace they were not permitted to live eternally as the sinners and disobeyers that they now were. God made them, and us, to enjoy close and intimate fellowship with Him forever, eternally, but that is not possible whilst we are in our current sinful state. So, what did He do? As soon as the problem was known (Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?the solution, the remedy, the gift totally undeserved and earned was announced, the first ever Gospel proclamation:

…and I will put hostility between you and the woman 

and between your offspring and her offspring; 

he will strike your head, 

and you will strike his heel.”

Is there a gift I’ve always needed?

Yes, because to fulfill the potential you were made with, to fulfill the purpose you were made for – close and intimate and eternal fellowship with God – something needs to happen first. God cannot be in the presence of sin, cannot tolerate sin, and cannot ignore sin. What did He do about it? He gave you this gift: you haven’t earned it, and you never will. It’s a gift despite your sin, a wonderful, grace-filled gift of the way back to Him (John 14.6). 

The gift of Jesus we celebrate at Christmas, then, was always planned, always needed, and always the perfect gift whether we knew it or not.

1 John 2.3-6 – Are You Lying?

 “Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person. But whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him. The one who says he resides in God ought himself to walk just as Jesus walked”.

(NET)

Today in vv.3-6 John returns to this idea he first expressed in 1.5: the basic principles of knowing God. At fist glance, it might seem harsh and legalistic, right?

“Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person.”

I wonder what Jesus would say about this? What would Jesus say about this idea that to demonstrate that we truly do know God, know of God, know about God, want to know more of God, we keep his commandments?

“The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. 

The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.”

(John 14.21, NET)

Not a new idea, is it? John has framed it a little differently in 1.5-2.1, but essentially is saying the same thing. He’s saying that as a believer, as a Christian, you will want to and you will actively pursue the keeping of God’s commandments. Simply, you will care about how He says you are to live and you will commit to doing your earthly best to living like it. 

The alternative is somewhat harsh sounding, but again, we can’t pick and choose which parts of Scripture we follow:

“The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person”.

The idea is very simple, really, that if you are claiming to be a believer, if you are claiming to be a Christian, you ought to walk just as Jesus walked and you ought to obey His Word. Simply, lip service is not enough. Claiming to know God is not enough, saying we reside in God is not enough. As a thought to dwell on today, let us consider this thought from James 1.18:

“Show me your faith without works and I will show you faith by my works.”

(NET, emphasis added)

1 John 2.2 – An Uncommon Word

 “…and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.”

(NET)

We don’t often, in our modern lives, talk about sin and wrath, do we? Perhaps on occasion the pastor of your church will talk about sin and its consequences and how Jesus has dealt with them (I hope he does anyway). But in our regular day to day lives, wrath and sin and atonement are not often-used words, are they?

Here in 1 John 2.2 we see a not-commonly used Greek word, too: ἱλασμός (“hil-as-moss”). If you look it up the definition will be something like “atoning sacrifice, sin offering, propitiation, expiation” . So it’s an uncommon Greek word that is translated into English words also uncommonly-used. So, what does John mean when he says that Jesus Christ, the Righteous One…is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world? 

There is much debate on a deep and academic level as to what it meant by ἱλασμός. The NET has “atoning sacrifice”, the ESV has “propitiation”. Again then, what is being said and what does it mean for you and for me? 

Some scholars hold that it has the meaning that Jesus, with His death on the cross, turned away God’s rightly-felt wrath against sin. Some say no, His work on the cross defeated sin itself, not just the consequences. For a deeper dive try The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross by Leon Morris .

So for you and for me, despite sin and wrath not being part of our everyday vernacular, they are very real in God’s Word. On the cross, Jesus has propitiated (satisfied, met in full) the holy and righteous demands of God against sin (Romans 3.25, Hebrews 2.17). The demands having been met so thoroughly means that “grace and mercy are [now] abundantly available to both saved and unsaved alike” . 

This is where you and me come in. Saved or unsaved, committed believer in and follower of Jesus or on the periphery of a life of faith, there is grace and mercy available to all regardless of current condition (not only for our sins but also for the whole world). The inescapable consequences of sin and evil dealt with, there is now a way to be reconciled to right relationship with God, should you wish (Revelation 22.17).

No matter who you are, what state you’re currently in, there is grace and mercy on offer because of the all-conquering and all-sufficient sacrifice of Jesus.

1 John 1.10-2.1 – Principles Of Fellowship – pt. 4

Today the final paired statement we can use to see the genuineness of our fellowship with God:

“If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.

(My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.) 

But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One…”

(NET)

We see that for those who claim to be living a Christian life, there is a call to admit when we have done wrong. Rather than claim we have not sinned, we are to humbly, contritely, and honestly confess. By claiming that we have not sinned when we see in God’s Word His definition of sin we are, essentially, making Him a liar. We cannot pick and choose which parts of His Word we follow and take seriously. 

Given that this might have come across as serious and stern to his original readers, John pauses to reassure them, as a loving parent might, that his message is actually for their benefit and to make them aware of the pitfalls of trying to live a life of obedience and love (here, trying so hard that we’re convinced we never sin).

So, John says, if we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar. But, he then goes on to say, if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One…Of course John didn’t want his readers to sin (who wants anyone to sin?), but, ultimately, he knew that they were human and would inevitably sin (Romans 3.23, 6.12, Galatians 5.17).

When this inevitably happened – and when this inevitably happens for youwe have an advocate with the Father. This carries the sense of a legal council defending their client before a judge. Inserting His own righteousness into the equation, so to speak, Jesus stands between an all-together holy and righteous God and you, the sinner pleading for forgiveness and acceptance. 

We see John’s point a little clearer now: if you say that you don’t ever sin or struggle with sin, you’re actually calling God a liar because He knows that you do and that you will, but, don’t worry, because if you are honest and open and humble and contrite about your sinful and fleshly self, if you trust Him and His Word, there is One who will advocate for you. If you say you haven’t sinned, you’re saying you don’t need the advocate. 

As John wraps up this section on the principles of fellowship, we see that as believers there are certain standards of character and conduct we should be aiming for (1.7, 9, 2.1). Many of them come down to honesty, and being honest with and about yourself. Walking in the light (1.7) and having fellowship with God will never happen whilst we are telling ourselves things about ourselves that just aren’t true (1.6, 8, 10). 

Today then, take a moment to look at this section (1.5-2.1) and see if you are being honest with, and about, yourself.

Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. 

If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 

If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. 

If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.

(My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.) But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One…”

(1.5-2.1, NET)

1 John 1.8-9 – Principles Of Fellowship – pt. 3

Today we see the second of our paired statements:

“If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness”.

(NET)

Contrary to what some false teachers may tell you, you will never be sinless this side of eternity. Being a believer in Jesus doesn’t mean that you can live above and beyond the guilt of sin this side of eternity. Yes, there are commands such as “Be holy…” in 1 Peter 1, but, this is a call to action for the mind: see yourselves as separate from the world and distinct from its influences. All that to say, if anyone tells you that 1 John 1.8 doesn’t apply to you as a believer, don’t listen. You are a sinner, I am a sinner, and we’ll be sinners to the end. 

In fact, as John writes, if we claim to be beyond the consequences and guilt of our sin we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. Sinners to the end. This might sound like terribly bad news. The worst. But, keep reading:

“But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness”.

Yes, you will keep sinning in word, thought, and deed until Christ calls you home or returns. His supreme and sufficient sacrifice – and your faith therein – has done all that needs to be done in order for you to inherit eternal life. So, does that mean you never need to confess your sins in the here and now? What does John write?

“But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness”.

Think of a lovely child. Maybe 3/4/5 years old. Old enough to know that their parents love them unconditionally. Old enough to know that if they mess up, they’re not going to be banished from the family and left alone to fend for themselves. But, that child still says sorry and ask for forgiveness when they contravene the rules of the household, don’t they? They still come to Mum or Dad and say sorry, say they will do their best not to do whatever it was again, and ask for forgiveness even though they know it’s already assured. 

So, is it right for us to confess our sin to our Father in heaven? Absolutely.

Why do we do this? Because He is faithful and righteous. Whilst He has already forgiven us big-picture, there is still daily forgiveness and grace on offer, and as a loving parent loves to forgive their children, so your heavenly Father loves to forgive you too.