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A Paper on the Covenant of Grace in Genesis 3:15

• Daniel Baker

Posted in Theology

A couple weeks ago I presented a paper at the Southeast Regional meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. It was on the topic of the “covenant of grace” and how Genesis 3:15 relates to it. I’ll give you a summary of my argument below, but you can also read the full paper here. Presenting papers in a setting like the ETS meeting with questions asked and feedback given always sharpens the work and reveals ways to improve it.

Genesis 3:15 is sometimes called the protoevangelium because it's "the first gospel," the first promise from God about Christ redeeming us from sin and the devil's work: "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 first part of the paper was looking closely at this verse and the three "enmities" described there. The woman will be at enmity with the devil, which is good news because being an enemy of the devil is being a friend of God. The second enmity is between Christ (Eve's greater offspring) and the devil, an enmity that defines all salvation history but which ends with Christ throwing him into the lake of fire (Rev 20:10). The third enmity is between two peoples. Everyone is either an offspring of Eve or an offspring of the devil. Jesus spoke to the Pharisees as "sons of your father the devil" (John 8:44). John said, "Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning " (1 John 3:8), and "we should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother" (1 John 3:12). That means Genesis 3:15 is the beginning of God graciously setting apart a people for himself. 

The second part of the paper looked at the five major divine covenants of the Bible—the ones made with Noah, Abraham, Moses/Israel, David, and the new covenant—and looked at elements they had in common. If Genesis 3:15 could be shown to possess these common ingredients that would point to it being a theological covenant. The common ingredients are (1) God's promises, (2) God's initiative, (3) God solemnly speaking his commitments, and (4) the covenant beginning a new epoch in salvation history. Here I show that Genesis 3:15 actually possesses all four of these elements.

Then in the third part of the paper I look at how Genesis 3:15 contains an "essence" that holds true throughout all the five major divine covenants in the Bible. These covenants give new revelation and add certain externals to what it means to be the people of God, but they don't fundamentally alter what it means to be the people of God. Beginning with Eve in Genesis 3:15, being God's people means receiving the gift of righteousness from God and entering into a special relationship with him. That is essentially what the covenant of grace is. 

That’s the basic reasoning of the paper. I’m happy to answer any questions about the topic or the paper itself.


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