Gospel, Interpreting Genesis, and Luther

These last postings have been a sample of Luther’s thinking on Genesis 1-3. His pastoral heart and keen eye for grace in Scripture is compelling to me as I read him. I really appreciate these last three quotes from him on the gospel in Genesis. Luther was spot on to see God’s grace woven throughout the entire narrative of Genesis 1-3. I think he was right in saying that the the fountain of God’s redemptive promises find their source in Genesis 3:15. The promise of the Serpent Crusher is the heart of all gospel promise. By focusing his reader’s attention on these things he helps us to read the Old Testament with gospel lenses.

In his “Preface to the Old Testament” Luther concludes his discussion on the Old Testament by saying: “Let this suffice for the present as a brief suggestion for seeking Christ and the gospel in the Old Testament.” This was his passion. He saw it as his duty to help his flock see the Christ in the gospel through every portion of the Word. He also saw it as the appropriate and responsible way of handling the Scriptures. In that same preface, he says this of Genesis.

We come first to the books of Moses. In his first book (Genesis) Moses teaches how all creatures were created, and (as the chief cause for his writing) whence sin and death came, namely by Adam’s fall, through the devil’s wickedness. But immediately thereafter, before the coming of the law of Moses, he teaches whence help is to come for the driving out of sin and death, namely, not by the law or men’s own works (since there was no law as yet), but by ‘the seed of the woman,’ Christ, promised to Adam and Abraham, in order that throughout the Scriptures from the beginning faith may be praised above all works and laws and merits. Genesis, therefore, is made up almost entirely of illustrations of faith and unbelief, and of the fruits that faith and unbelief bear. It is an exceedingly evangelical book” 

This is a gospel-centered model of biblical interpretation. It recognizes the various themes in the book of Genesis, but demonstrates how they all flow into the main theme of grace and redemption. Luther is a wonderful teacher here. I am compelled by his example and would very much like to point people to the grace of God when I open the book of books.

Raymond Lull, Martin Luther’s Basic Theological Writings (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1989) 120,131.


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