Word Attacks Word

Genesis 3:2

“He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say’, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

Luther’s Commentary
“Human reasoners dispute also concerning the nature of this temptation, as to what it really was; whether our first parents sinned by idolatry or by pride or by self-security or simply by eating the fruit. But if we consider these things a little more carefully, as we ought to do, we shall find that this temptation was the most awful and the most bitter of all temptations. Because the serpent attacked the good will of God itself, and endeavored to prove by this very prohibition from the tree of life that the will of God toward man was not good. The serpent therefore attacks the image of God itself. He assails those highest and most perfect powers, which in the newly-created nature of Adam and Eve were as yet uncorrupted. He aims at overturning that highest worship of God, which God himself had just ordained. In vain therefore do we dispute about this sin or that. For Eve is enticed unto all sins at once, when she is thus enticed to act contrary to the Word and the will of God.”
 
“Moses therefore speaks here most considerately, when he uses the expression, ‘And the serpent said.’ Here, word attacks word. The word which the Lord had spoken to Adam was, ‘Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt not eat.’ This Word was to Adam the Gospel, and the law thus given was his worship. It was a service and an obedience which in this state of innocence Adam was able to render unto God. These are the Divine things Satan attacks. These are the things he aims at overturning. Nor does he merely intend, as those think who know nothing of the matter, to point out the tree to Eve and to invite her to pluck the fruit. He does indeed point to the tree, but he does something far worse than this. He adds another and a new word, as it is his practice to do at the present day in the Church.”
 
“This temptation, when Satan attacks the Word and the works of God, is by far the heaviest and most dangerous; and that temptation the most intimately concerns the Church and the saints. It was in this manner therefore that Satan attacked Adam and Eve on this solemn occasion. His aim was to tear away from them the Word, in order that giving up the Word and their confidence in God, they might believe a lie. When this takes place what wonder is it if a man afterwards becomes proud, a despiser of God, an adulterer or anything else? This temptation therefore is the head and chief of all temptations. It brings with it the breach and the violation of the whole ten commandments. For unbelief is the fountain-source of all sins. When Satan has brought a man under this temptation and has wrested from him or corrupted in his heart the Word, he may do anything with him. Thus when Eve had suffered the Word to be beaten out of her heart by a lie, she found no difficulty whatever in approaching the tree and plucking from it the fruit.”
 
“The sum of the whole temptation and her fall by it was that she listened to another word. and departed from that word which God had spoken to her, which was that if she did eat of the tree she should surely die. But let us now contemplate the words of Moses in the order in which we find them. In the first place Satan here imitates God. For as God had preached to Adam, so Satan now also preaches to Eve. For perfectly true is that saying of the proverb, ‘All evil begins in the name of God.’ Just therefore as salvation comes from the pure Word of God, so perdition comes from the corrupted Word of God. And just as Eve, when she listened to the devil, calling the command of God into doubt fell; so it continually happens that we, by listening to him, are brought to doubt whether God is willing that we, when heavily oppressed with sin and death, should be saved by Christ; and thus, being misled and deceived, we suffer ourselves to be induced to put on cowls and cloaks in order that we may be crowned of God with salvation on account of our works of perfection.”
 
Martin Luther. Luther on the Creation: A Critical and Devotional Commentary on Genesis [1-3] (Kindle Locations 4333-4410).
 
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The Trout’s Sermon

Genesis 1:20

“And God said, ‘Let the waters swarm with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.'”

Luther’s Commentary
“Here again is a further proof of the divine authority and majesty of this book, in that it sets before us under such various forms that power of God by which he created all things, beyond the conception of all reason and understanding. Who for instance could ever have thought, that out of water a nature could be produced, which should by no means endure water? But the Word of God speaks, and in a moment out of water are created birds. If therefore the Word of God but sound, all things are immediately possible; and out of the same water shall be formed either fishes or birds. Every bird therefore and every fish is nothing more or less than a word of divine grammar or language; by which grammar all things, otherwise impossible, immediately become possible and easy.”
 
“These divine things are thus written and ought to be diligently observed, studied and known by us, that we might learn to admire and adore the power of the Divine Majesty; and that we might edify and strengthen our faith from all these marvellous creation works of God! For if one could raise the dead it would be nothing in comparison to this wonderful work; that a bird was created in a moment out of water! But the reason we do not day by day and continually wonder at these things, is because by our having seen them always before us, they have lost their wonder in our eyes. If however one does but believe these things, he is compelled at once to wonder at them. And that wonder gradually confirms his faith.”
 
“For if God can form a mass of water, call forth and create the heaven and its stars, each one of which equals or exceeds the earth itself in magnitude; if God can, from a small drop of water, create the sun and the moon, can he not defend my poor body against all enemies and against Satan himself? Can he not after that poor body is laid in the tomb raise it again to another and a new life? Wherefore we are to learn from this book of Genesis the power of God; that we may accustom ourselves to doubt nothing that God promises in his Word! For, in this glorious and marvellous creation work is laid a confirmation of our faith in all the promises of God; that there is nothing so difficult, nothing so impossible, which God cannot do and perfect by his Word. For all this is here proved by God’s creation of the heaven, earth, sea and all that is in them.”
 
Martin Luther. Luther on the Creation: A Critical and Devotional Commentary on Genesis [1-3] (Kindle Locations 1926-1945).
 

Luther and the Divine Grammar

In Luther’s commentary on Genesis 1-3 he speaks often about the divine grammar of the Creator. He draws attention to the word as the instrument of God’s creative activity. In this quotation from his commentary we can see how his understanding of the omnipotent word of God in creation has important ramifications for us.

“For if God can form a mass of water, call forth and create the heaven and its stars, each one of which equals or exceeds the earth itself in magnitude; if God can, from a small drop of water, create the sun and the moon, can he not defend my poor body against all enemies and against Satan himself? Can he not after that poor body is laid in the tomb raise it again to another and a new life? Wherefore we are to learn from this book of Genesis the power of God; that we may accustom ourselves to doubt nothing that God promises in his Word! For, in this glorious and marvellous creation work is laid a confirmation of our faith in all the promises of God; that there is nothing so difficult, nothing so impossible, which God cannot do and perfect by his Word. For all this is here proved by God’s creation of the heaven, earth, sea and all that is in them.”

The Word in Genesis 1-3

ImageGenesis 1-3 is one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. It is one to which we must return again and again. Recently I walked through the text observing everything I could about the Word of God in these three chapters. I came away amazed and encouraged by the wonderful and omnipotent word of our God.Here are some of the things I found.

  • God creates ex nihlo with his word (Gen 1:3)
  • God transforms what he created by his word (Gen 1:9-13)
  • God commands his creation to work with him in the continuing process of creation (Gen 1:24)
  • God divides by his word (Gen 1:6, 14)
  • God declares good, not good, and evil with his word (Gen 1:3, 13, 18, 21, 25, 31, 2:16-17, 18)
  • God’s word is omnipotent, guaranteeing no lag between the command and action (Gen 1:3)
  • God does art with his word (Gen 1:1-25–note the diversity, creativity, and wonder of all that God created; his word is never boring but lively and exciting)
  • God blesses with his word (Gen 1:22, 28–note that blessing gives purpose and ability to fulfill that purpose; blessing has to do with vocation in its first occurrences in the Bible)
  • God dialogues with himself by his word (Gen 1:26, 3:22)
  • God shares by his word (Gen 1:28 –note how gives dominion and authority to the man made in his image who is given a voice with power, authority, and impact)
  • God works with his word (Gen 2:3)
  • God commands with his word (Gen 2:16-17)
  • God warns with his word (Gen 2:16-17)
  • God’s word can be twisted, distorted, and disobeyed but never rendered impotent (Gen 3:1-6–note that the fall, sin, and judgment are all tied to this fact; messing with God’s word has devastating consequences, his word will do as he says no matter what we think or do)
  • God questions and probes with his word (Gen 3:9-13)
  • God judges/curses with his word (Gen 3:14-19)
  • God promises with his word (Gen 3:15–note that as early as the third chapter of the Bible we see God’s gospel word of mercy and victory)

As you can see the word of God is robust and dynamic in the first three chapters of the Bible. It is an omnipotent, creative, relational reality. It is certain and strong. It creates and it crushes. It promises, threatens, judges, and saves. Watching the word of God in action should produce in us confidence, hope, fear, joy, and gratitude. When God speaks things happen—this is always true. This should affect our thinking and practice with Scripture, teaching, preaching, and evangelism. If I really believe all these things about the word of God my life will demonstrate it. If I don’t really believe this about the word my life will also make that clear. A high view Scripture is not demonstrated through word but deed.