Understanding the foundational aspects of the gospel in Genesis is a vital key to unlock a powerful method of evangelism to reach the world for Christ.
Surely the answer to this question is obvious to the average Christian. The word gospel means “good news.” When Christians talk about the gospel, they are presenting the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection. As Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:1–4,
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.
Paul doesn’t end his explanation of the gospel here. Note very carefully how Paul explains the gospel message later in this same passage:
Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. 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. … And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit (1 Corinthians 15:12–45).
Notice that in explaining why Jesus died, Paul went to the book of Genesis and its account of Adam and the Fall. In other words, one cannot really understand the good news in the New Testament of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and thus payment for sin, until one understands the bad news in Genesis of the fall of man, and thus the origin of sin and its penalty of death.
I’ll never forget the phone call I received from a pastor’s wife. It went something like this: “Our church can’t come to your seminar,’ she said to me.
“Why not?” I replied.
“Well, you insist on taking Genesis as literal history. But Genesis is not that important—it’s not that essential what one believes about Genesis. Why can’t we just agree on the essentials of Christianity?’
“So what do you mean by the essentials?” I asked.
She answered, “The fact that we’re all sinners and that Jesus Christ died for our sin. This is what is essential to Christianity. Believing in a literal Genesis is certainly not essential.” She then went on and asked me, “If someone is born again as the Bible defines, but doesn’t believe in a literal Genesis as you do, is he saved and going to heaven?”
“Well,” I replied, “if he is truly born again, even if he doesn’t believe in a literal Genesis, of course he is saved and going to heaven.”
“See,” she blurted out, “Genesis is not essential—what Jesus Christ did on the cross is what is essential to Christianity.”
I then asked, “Do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Go ahead,” she responded.
“Why did Jesus die on the Cross?”
She immediately answered, “For our sin.”
“And, what do you mean by sin?” I inquired.
“Rebellion,” came the answer.
I then asked, “Could you please tell me how you came to define sin as rebellion? Is that your idea or someone else’s idea? I’ve even heard some people define sin as ‘a lack of self-esteem.’ On what basis have you determined sin means rebellion? Where did you get that definition?”
And her response? “I know what you’re trying to do!” she declared. She realized that I had her boxed in. She didn’t want to admit that without Genesis, she could not answer the question. Because the meaning of anything (like sin) is dependent on its origin, you could not define sin without referring to the literal event of the Fall in Genesis. The literal rebellion of Adam, as recorded in Genesis, is the foundation necessary to understanding the meaning of sin.
What was I trying to do? Simply this: to demonstrate that the only way we can define sin as rebellion is if there was a literal rebellion. The reason we are all sinners is because, as Paul clearly states, we are all descendants of the first man, Adam. Because there was a literal first Adam, who was in a literal garden, with a literal tree, and took a literal fruit when tempted by a literal serpent, thus there was a literal Fall, which was a literal rebellion.