The Gospel Story, Starting with the Beginning

If you are reading a story, it’s hard to make sense of it unless you understand the plot. You need to understand who the main characters are and where the whole story is going. That is also true of the story of our lives! If we don’t understand the main characters in our own story, we have no hope of understanding ourselves or our world. The gospel starts at the beginning of the Bible and gives us the overarching narrative of our lives. Perhaps surprisingly, it turns out that the main character is not a human. The main character of our story is not us—it is God.

In the opening pages of Genesis, we get an enthralling account of God calling his world into existence and creating his most precious creation, human beings. The true story of who God is and how he made us sets the stage for the rest of the story of the gospel to unfold.

GOD: LOVING CREATOR

It is easy to read quickly through the opening of Genesis and miss something significant. God had a blank canvas to work with. No obstacles. No constraints. No blueprint to follow. He could have done anything! It follows, then, that what he did was one hundred percent intentional!

God created ex nihilo, “out of nothing.” God spoke the word and creation snapped into existence. It is breathtaking to imagine! Then, before the newly created sun set on the sixth day, God hit pause and rolled up his sleeves for his crowning achievement—the creation of the first man and woman. But he didn’t just speak them into existence; he “formed” Adam with his own hands and “breathed the breath of life into his nostrils” (Genesis 2:7). Likewise, he personally crafted Eve—forming her from a rib of Adam’s. God displayed his love for Adam and Eve through his tenderness and nearness to both of them. And he continued to pour out his love on them after he created them.

Consider the incredible home God set up for them. God went far beyond giving them what they needed to survive. The Garden of Eden was a place of beauty and lushness. There were flowering trees, plentiful resources, biological diversity—a place that engaged sight, scent, smell, touch, and taste. You can almost see the loving gaze of God upon humanity in these pages.

Have you ever wondered why God created people? Sometimes we answer that question by saying for fellowship. God certainly did enjoy friendship with Adam and Eve, but it’s important to remember what the Bible lays out in the creation story: God did not create the world and people to live in it because he was lonely. As the almighty, self-sustaining Creator, God had all he needed, yet he chose to create humans in his own image and lavish us with his lovingkindness. That is the story. And the centerpiece is God (not you and me!).

Because of his great love, God had a wonderful plan for what humans would do in his newly created world. Look at Genesis 1:26–28.

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. They will rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, the livestock, the whole earth, and the creatures that crawl on the earth.”


So God created man
in his own image;
he created him in the image of God;
he created them male and female.


God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it. Rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and every creature that crawls on the earth.”

Genesis 1:26-28 CSB

Humankind was given the task of ruling and subduing God’s creation. Adam and Eve were to watch over and protect what God had made as his viceroys (see Genesis 2:5, 15).

We don’t use the word viceroy very often, but it is the perfect word to describe humanity’s role in God’s world. A viceroy is a governor of a kingdom who rules as the representative of a king. A viceroy does not have inherent authority, but is appointed by a king to be the royal eyes, hands, and feet on the king’s behalf.

In Genesis 1, God created and named all the objects he created as an expression of his ownership and kingship. That’s why it is so surprising in Genesis 2 when God delegates to Adam, his newly appointed viceroy, the task of naming every living creature (see Genesis 2:19).

God demonstrated his role as loving Creator by entrusting people with incredible authority and the capacity to flourish. What potential there was for the human race!

GOD: SUPREME AUTHORITY

It makes sense to us that we are in charge of what we create. And in Genesis 1–3 we see God demonstrate his supreme authority by ordering creation and humankind as-it-should-be.

As God spoke forth creation, he started with an earth that was formless, empty, and dark (Genesis 1:2). Like a master architect, he began to put things in order. He separated the light from the dark. He created and established boundaries, commanding the water to go here and the land to appear there. Even the Garden of Eden—humanity’s perfect kingdom—did not sprawl endlessly but was placed exactly where God wanted it (2:8).

Then, as God created humans as the pinnacle of creation, he also purposefully created them under his authority. Humanity would not be a coruler or equal partner, but rather an executor of the King’s already-determined rule (a viceroy). We see this expression of supreme authority over humanity in the brief scene in which God presents the limits of their dominion. “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die’” (Genesis 2:16–17).

God lovingly gave humanity amazing freedom and a special place of honor, but there were limits. God had ordered creation perfectly. He was in charge, and humans would flourish only under this supreme authority. To go against his will would effectively mean trading life for death.

In God’s world and under his authority, Adam and Eve would enjoy a perfect relationship with God and each other. They would know who they were and would express dignity and joy in ruling God’s creation. Everything was set up for humans to be much more than survivors—they would thrive under God’s loving rule. God’s Kingdom was in a state of Shalom, life-as-it-should-be.

Yet something was about to go terribly wrong.

Let’s take another look at Genesis 1:26–28. We can see that God knew sin and the curses that flow from it were coming. Here is what I mean: the word rule in Genesis 1:26 and 28 in its original language of Hebrew is radah, which carries the connotation of “oppressing, or ruling by conquering.” The word for subdue in verse 28 is kabash, which means “to force into bondage.”

Now wait. Let’s think about this. I thought everything was “very good.” Why the language of battle and bondage? Indeed, humans were given a special place under God’s authority, but they would soon bring this kingdom crashing down.

GOD: FINAL JUDGE

Adam and Eve directly disobeyed God’s command. God told them plainly, don’t eat from the tree or you will die. Sadly and disastrously, they did it anyway!

Adam and Eve chose independence and their own will over God’s protection and care. They chose to turn their backs on God. And as with all choices, there were consequences. God made the world. It belongs to him. The one rule he made for Adam and Eve had been broken. Their desire for independence from the God who created them resulted in sorrow, brokenness, and death.

The consequences were immediate. Now their loving Creator would act as their judge. A judge unwilling to execute justice is, quite simply, untrustworthy. It is good, right, and necessary for authority to be expressed in perfect justice—especially when the judge is as extraordinarily loving and benevolent as our Creator!

What were the consequences? For the woman, even the greatest gift—the birth of a child—would come with a painful reminder that all is not as-it-should-be. For the man, the once joyful work of caring for a lush garden would become painful toil. Humans would not live forever. They would literally be worn down to dust. They were once the guardians of the garden. Now? They would be guarded from the garden.

“Yet, even in the midst of administering perfect justice, God offered hope. As he sentenced the serpent with judgment, we find these words: “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel” (Genesis 3:15, emphasis added).

The judgment toward humanity for the first sin was heavy. Humans would indeed receive the promised penalty of death. They would no longer reside in the presence of their loving and holy God. Yet in Genesis 3:15 we also see a divine plan introduced that would result in the serpent being CRUSHED. One would arise from humankind—a son of Eve—who would strike the head of the serpent, crushing evil forever. This promise is often called the protoevangelium, the “first gospel.” Here we get a glimpse of how the story will end: not with God abandoning his broken world, but with a Savior—an offspring of Adam and Eve who would destroy sin and death forever.”

“The lovingkindness of God, first seen in the tenderness of his touch and the beauty of the garden, would save his rebellious people and restore their honor.

The death sentence would remain in place. Those who deny God’s authority would certainly die. But God would also make a way to bring his children home.

The God of the Gospel

By looking at both the creation and the fall of humankind, we can see a full picture of God’s character and the overarching plotline of the Bible—the gospel. God is our loving Creator and also holds final authority over our lives and over everything else he has made. People still attempt to live outside of God’s love and authority. The consequences are still dire, but God has provided a way back to him—a way back to thriving as we were created to do. God resolved to save us through his “offspring.” This is the God of the gospel. This is the story he has invited us into. This is the message you can bring to others.


Excerpted from Gospel 101: Learning, Living, and Sharing the Gospel ©2018 by Jeff Dodge. May not be reproduced without prior written permission.


Gospel 101 Frontcover

Gospel 101: Learning, living and Sharing the Gospel

This small group study and practical resource invites readers to develop the biblical literacy needed to share the gospel simply and effectively and without formulas. Designed for Christians who want to put their faith into action and grow in biblical knowledge, Gospel 101 explains the foundational gospel truth with digestible amounts of Scripture without diluting the gospel message.

About the author

Jeff Dodge

Jeff Dodge, MDiv, DMin, PhD, is the teaching pastor at Veritas Church in Iowa City, Iowa. He also directs Veritas School of Theology and serves as Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City. Jeff and his wife, Teresa, have four children and several grandchildren. He is the author of Gospel 101: Learning, Living, and Sharing the Gospel and Titus: Life-Changing Truth in a World of Lies (part of The Gospel-Centered Life in the Bible series).

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