Genesis 3:15 – The Proto-Gospel

As we move out of Genesis 2’s scene with Adam and the garden and move into Genesis 3 there is a verse that is the most famous verse of Genesis, 3:15. Now, every individual text of Scripture gains it’s meaning from its immediate context, and the immediate context of Genesis 3:15 is Genesis 1-3.

So recall that in Genesis 1-2 we see the entire creation taking place. Some liberal theologians believe chapter 1 and chapter 2 are contradictory creation accounts and discredit the Bible. What they miss is that Genesis 2 is not another creation account, it’s a commentary on the creation that took place in Genesis 1. Up until the beginning of chapter 3 all is well in God’s created order. Much grace had been shown up to this point. God being fully self sufficient on His own, needing nothing, creates a people for His own purposes and glory. The man and woman have life and breath through no ability of their own, they have provision and sustenance and purpose through no power of their own, they have intimacy with God through direct contact and conversation through no ability of their own, and because God loved them deeply He gave them a warning of the consequences of disobeying His commands. The whole creation account shows two clear things: we see who God is, and we see who man is not. What would man have on his own effort? NOTHING. Adam and Eve wouldn’t even exist, but now because of sheer grace and undeserved favor, mankind has all it ever needs for life from God and in God. After seeing such grace displayed, the horrors of Genesis 3 make it the saddest and darkest chapters in the entire Bible. But though the darkness is thick, despair and death abound, hope is not aloof, light and life are not hidden from sight. We’ll see this soon.

The serpent, one of God’s created creatures, it says in 3:1, was craftier than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. Tragically the first words in the Bible spoken about God from someone other than God in all of history come from the serpent’s mouth. This, the first sermon, was filled with lies, and sadly many sermons follow suit still today. “Did God actually say?” the serpent said to the woman. The woman believed lie, took the offer of fruit from the only forbidden tree in the garden, gave some to the man, and they ate together. Their eyes were opened, sin filled them, and when God came to walk in the garden they did something they’d never done before – they hid from their creator. God then asks a series of questions to point out their guilt and folly, and in response to such blatant defiance He addresses the serpent first, the woman second, and the man last. In 3:14 God curses the serpent saying, “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…” God could have stopped here, but chose to continue on in His condemnation of the serpent, and in 3:15 God deals a decisively deadly blow.

Genesis 3:15 says, “…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.”

First, note the authority of God as He speaks to the serpent. How boastful had the serpent been? With such unbridled confidence he had promised the woman freedom from God’s commands. In doing so did he not make himself to be God? Didn’t he give Eve the impression that his words were true while God’s Words were false? But how strange is it to see this tempter able to do nothing but listen to God cursing him? Where are his bold words now? Where is his confidence, power, and wisdom hiding? Not a word flows from his mouth as the Judge of all the earth pronounces him to be cursed. God is the Lord, He will not give His glory to another, and no one is His equal. When God speaks, no one speaks back. Sure Satan may be wise, wiser than us, and his wisdom may overwhelm us, but his wisdom is a microscopic drop of water compared to ocean of God’s mighty wisdom. Here we see that Satan the creature is no match for our Creator. For Satan this is the most humiliating moment of his entire existence, “for he hears his doom uttered with infallible authority.” (E.J. Young)

Second, note that Genesis 3:15 embraces all that is noble and glorious that is to be found in the Scriptures. Adam and Eve plunged themselves into death and darkness by believing the serpent and eating the fruit. They as our first parents therefore plunged the whole of mankind into death and darkness from such evil. It is now natural and normal for us to hide from God, to believe lies, and to be against our Creator. We now call good evil and evil good. All of mankind now finds himself in need of life, light, and rescue, and in this verse God promises that very thing. There is no enmity or hatred between the serpent and mankind, but God will place it there. Between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman, enmity (hatred) will exist. Adam had seen the serpent as his friend and God as his enemy. Adam was willing to listen to his words and ignore God’s. Adam must learn the opposite – that God is his friend and His Word alone is to be trusted. In order for this to take place within Adam a complete reversal of heart must occur. He must learn the serpent was merely pretending to be his friend and is his largest enemy in life. Adam must be at enmity with the serpent and because God said, “I will place enmity” between these two parties for all time we see that God takes the initiative to save His own people through His triumphant sovereign grace. God must do this if man is to be redeemed. If God does not place enmity between them there is no hope.

Third, note the Person in view in Genesis 3:15b. “…He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Just as the man and woman were to be at enmity with the serpent so also will her seed and the serpents seed be at enemies. What does ‘the woman’s seed’ mean? Is it referring to one individual or is it referring to all those who descend from Eve? In the early Christian Church most believed there is here a specific reference to the ‘Seed’ of the woman, Jesus Christ. It is interesting to note that as the centuries progressed, and especially after the enlightenment many began to move away from that view saying there cannot possibly be such a reference of Jesus Christ in so early an OT book. But in the OT there is a remarkable progression of God’s revelation of the truth concerning the Messiah to come. As you move forward in OT progression the prophecies concerning the Christ reveal more and more about who He will be and what He will do.

The starting point for all of the prophecies of the coming Messiah is Genesis 3:15, where we see for the first time, the promise that one of the Descendants of the woman will one day come and end the work of the serpent. People have rightly called this verse the ‘Proto-euangelium’ or the ‘first-gospel’ because Genesis 3:15 is the first place in the Bible where there is a promise that the Redeeming Messiah will come. We know two things from this verse. The ‘Seed’ of the woman will do work that will crush the serpent’s work, and the result of this work is that the serpent shall receive a fatal blow, while the ‘Seed’ of the woman receives a non-fatal blow to His heel. Of course this is mentioning the entire life of the Jesus Christ, the Son of God. His birth, His life, His ministry, His death, His resurrection, and His ascension provide for us everything we need for redemption while the non-fatal blow the serpent will deal to the Messiah is His temporary death on the cross.

The consequences flowing out of Genesis 3:15 are massive. Even in the midst of such blatant defiance, death, and darkness in the fall of man – God is there to give grace to His people. It is astonishing, almost unbelievable that God will not allow man to perish but is determined to bring rescue. Genesis 3:15 introduces us to the grand plan of salvation. Much is still dark, true. We do not see with clarity as we do now. This gracious promise becomes an organizing theme for the rest of Scripture and the rest of human history, such that every character and every event find their place in relation to the great battle now unfolding between the conquering ‘Seed’ of the woman and the lying serpent, Satan.

Though much is still in the dark, we learn that God will take the initiative to save His people. To provide redemption. To do for mankind what mankind cannot do for Himself. He will introduce enmity and the long foretold coming ‘Seed’ of the woman shall deal the decisive fatal blow. Even way back in Genesis 3:15, in the midst of such sin, we see the light of the gospel breaking forth.

Fourfold state of man:

-Garden: able to sin/able to not sin

-Fall: unable to not sin

-In Christ: able to sin/able to not sin

-Glory: unable to sin.

This means that the new heavens and the new earth will not just be or merely be a return to Eden, but that we will be in a greater than Eden, because we won’t be able to sin.

FINAL CONCLUSION: What we lost in Adam, we regain (even more) in Christ.

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