Preachers should have little difficulty expounding on Genesis, a book of the Bible containing larger-than-life characters, world-wide catastrophes, genocide, warfare, and epic love stories. Genesis is a rich repository of powerful truth and practical teaching. The following are four ways to serve up this life-changing material to congregants.
- Foundational Truths.
One reason Genesis is so rich in preaching material is because it is a book of beginnings. Many of the truths concerning God, people, sin, judgment, and grace are first presented in its pages. In Genesis, we find an account of creation and God’s original intent for humanity, marriage, family, and a divine relationship. We first encounter sin and witness its horrendous consequences. Sin alienates Adam and Eve from their Creator (Gen. 3:8). Sin causes Cain to murder his brother (Gen. 4:8). We also discover God’s promises. Genesis depicts God disclosing His intentions and commitments to people through covenants, such as the covenants He makes with Noah (Gen. 9:11-17) and Abram (Gen. 12:1-3; 15). Additionally, Genesis reveals God’s desire for a loving relationship with His creatures. We see God seeking fellowship with Adam and Eve during the cool of the day in the perfect garden He created for them (Gen. 3:8-9). We are told that “Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Gen. 5:24). Abraham was called “the friend of God” (James 2:23). In a day when society proclaims that gender, sexual preference, and the family are relative, preachers should regularly preach from Genesis in order to identify God’s foundational truths regarding how people are to function and relate to Him.
- Identifiable Truths.
Genesis is not organized as a series of doctrinal statements, but as an ongoing story. Audiences are wired to relate to stories, which makes Genesis an ideal book to use in sermons. Stories are memorable. They resonate with people’s hearts. Perhaps that reality is why Jesus told so many parables. Genesis is also a highly relatable book. Many of the vices people battle today are described in Genesis. It presents temptation in its most seductive forms, such as eating from the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:1-6) and lust (Gen. 19:1-11; 34:1-2). Genesis also deals with greed (Gen. 25:29-34; 26:1-29), fear (Gen. 12:13; 20:2; 26:7), and deceit (Gen. 29:21-26; 30:37-43; 34:13-31; 44:1-2). Additionally, key issues are addressed in Genesis, such as why the righteous suffer (Gen. 37:12-36; 39-40:23) and why God’s promises can sometimes take so long to be fulfilled (Gen. 15:1-3, 16; 37:5-11). Preaching through this book will inevitably touch on issues audiences face today.
- God’s Sovereignty.
Genesis’ overarching theme is God’s sovereignty. Regardless of God’s creatures’ sin and debauchery, God steadily accomplishes His purposes. Even as Adam and Eve defy His command and bring death upon themselves and their descendants, God is already preparing a Seed to restore His fallen creation (Gen. 3:15). When humankind becomes fixated on evil, God brings cataclysmic judgment on all but one family (Gen. 6-7). When humanity’s pride seeks to elevate people to a godlike status, God humbles His creation and scatters them throughout the earth (Gen. 11:1-9). When Sodom and Gomorrah embrace moral depravity, God rains fire and brimstone down upon them, annihilating every inhabitant (Gen. 19:1-26). Despite Jacob’s despicable behavior toward his brother and father, God continues to work out His purposes for the future patriarch (Gen. 28:10-17). Even when Joseph’s brothers callously sell him into slavery, God takes their evil actions and accomplishes a magnificent work (Gen. 50:20). Throughout this book, we see the abysmal depths of sin’s destruction, yet we also witness God responding with an even more powerful work of grace.
- God’s Word.
Another theme woven throughout this book is the awesome power of God’s word. God spoke and all of creation came into being (Gen. 1). God declared His law, and death ensued for all who transgressed it (Gen. 2:17). God spoke and earth’s entire population, minus one family, was consumed by a deluge (Gen. 7:4). If there is anything Genesis teaches, it is that God’s word always comes to pass.
A fascinating aspect of God’s word in Genesis are God’s questions: “Where are you?” (Gen. 2:9); “Where is Abel your brother?” (Gen. 4:9); and “Why did Sarah laugh?” (Gen. 18:13). People often fixate on the questions they have for God, yet God’s questions completely disarm us and lay us bare.
All of Scripture is profitable for instruction. However, some books are easier to preach than others! Genesis, though filled with foundational doctrine, is brimming with straightforward, applicable truth. It deals with the basest of human motives as well as the most exalted divine purposes.
The key for those who preach from the book of Genesis is not to get bogged down in theological hairsplitting or hermeneutical speculation. Rather, they must preach this book of Scripture with confidence, clarity, and conviction.
Richard Blackaby is president of Blackaby Ministries International. He is the former president of the Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary and senior pastor of Friendship Baptist Church in Winnipeg, Canada. He is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. ’86, Ph.D. ’90). He is the co-author of Experiencing God: Revised Edition, and 32 other books.