The Gospel Man

by Guest Blogger March 27, 2010

[T]he origins of the Christian faith are more ancient than almost any other religion, and stretch back thousands of years. In fact, the story of God asserts that originally, even before “Christianity” existed, God existed and is holy: that means He always does what is good, right, and true. This holy God was in a loving and perfect relationship with the first humans, a relationship that is at the heart of what Christianity later would describe and explain. In the lives of the first humans, there came temptation and sin. Sin is simply rebellion against God’s ways. Because God is holy, He cannot allow sin to remain in His presence and instead of enjoying a loving relationship, the first humans became separated from God. But even in the midst of God’s holy judgment of their sin, He offered them a promise that later pastors and theologians would call the first Gospel, or “proto-evangelion.” Here’s how it is put in Genesis 3:15:
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.
The “you” in the first line is the serpent, which is the adversary, Satan, who brought temptation to the first humans. “Her offspring” speaks not only of the woman’s children, in general, because in Hebrew, offspring, translated “seed,” is actually “singular.” Who Is This Seed of the Woman? Though she probably didn’t realize the full significance of this pronouncement by God at the time, later generations would come to understand that this Seed, or Offspring, would be a promised Savior, a Messiah. What about ‘bruising’ the head of the serpent; what does that mean? Because the Old Testament is originally written in Hebrew, some of these terms are not common today. In such cases, taking a look at them in their original, ancient near eastern context can be helpful. In this instance, the “bruising” of the serpent’s head was a battle metaphor that pictured a Messiah King who, on the field of victory, places his foot symbolic on the neck of his conquered foe. (Later on, in Romans 16:20, the Apostle Paul would pick up this same metaphor to describe the battle that believers in Jesus continue to have with their adversary, Satan.) In total, then, the picture in Genesis 3 is of a battle that brings about a victory, but a victory won at great personal cost to the Warrior Messiah. The Themes of the Gospel As the story of God develops throughout the rest of the Old Testament, it never departs far from this basic theme of “conflict.” The seed of the serpent (those who live in rebellion against God) are engaged against the seed of the woman (those who seek to live in harmony and in obedience to God and His ways) are locked in a seeming never-ending struggle. There is also a theme of strength out of weakness that can be drawn from this first Gospel promise. After all, death or suffering does not sound like the normal picture of victory. Yet, this concept will be essential to understanding how the Gospel works. Have you ever cheered for the underdog in a sports contest? Or, have you ever rooted for the oppressed avenger of justice in a blockbuster movie? Such human impulses speak to this principle of strength out of weakness, and reflect the larger story of God in the world, a story in which apparent defeat actually results in victory. What's the point of all this? What does it have to do with Ruminate? I love the way that strength and weakness play together in the Gospel Story. I think that Art--good art--and Ruminate, also, because it is good art as well, reflect these dynamics, whether the person is a person of faith or not. Let's celebrate, therefore, the weakness of our lives, and how we find in its midst hidden treasures of strength. In finding this, let's acknowledge our part in the larger story of the Gospel in the world.


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