Titles and names are funny things. Even without recognizing a voice, I can tell who is talking to me based on what title or name they use to get my attention. If someone behind me says, “Sir,” I know that they likely don’t know me, but they are trying to be respectful in getting my attention. Someone who says, “Pastor Jessup” probably knows of me, but again is trying to be respectful. Someone saying Pastor Mark is probably a member of my church, because that is what you all call me. People who say, “Mark” likely knew me before I was a pastor and as such likely know me very well. The title that people use for me doesn’t really define me, per se, but it rather defines the relationship that I have with the person giving me the name. Now, I don’t find my title all that important. If you want to call me either “Mark” or “Pastor Mark” or whatever, that’s fine, but let’s imagine for a moment that you said, “Hey, Mark Buddy, how are you?” and I was to turn to you and say, “That’s Pastor Jessup, to you!” What have I done? I have redefined our relationship, haven’t I? I’m saying, “You and I only know each other professionally; you don’t get to use my first name. We aren’t that close.” Names and titles define a relationship. The Queen of England was “Your Majesty” to everyone, but to her family, she was “Lilibet.” No one amongst her subjects would dare call her anything but “your majesty.” No one would presume to use the name her family used.
Now, as we get into chapter 2, we are going to see another name shift happening, and it is a profound name change that should stir our hearts this morning. In Genesis chapter 1, we see God referred to with the general term for God, “Elohim.” Elohim spoke this, Elohim made that. Here, in chapter 2, we see a new title in verse 4: Lord God. This is one of those “blink and you miss it” kind of things, but this is so crucial for us to understand. The word “God” is still Elohim, but the word we translate as “Lord” is Yahweh, which is God’s name. How do you get to know God’s name? How do you get to be on first-name basis with the Almighty? Today, we are going to cover just that.
Last week we started our look at the whole of chapter 2, and only got through the first third! We covered who we are and what we are made of, and now, we are turning our attention to the second point which will tell us about God, specifically, the fact that He not only makes us but makes promises, covenants, with us.
It is worth reminding ourselves as we begin today, that we are not talking about airy-fairy philosophical concepts here. The fact that God makes covenants with us is as real and concrete as anything. This might be why the Bible mentions in passing the rivers that flowed out of Eden. We know where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are, but the other two are unknown. The ESV Study Bible (a great resource, by the way), gives a map with a couple of different possible locations for Eden. While we don’t know exactly where it was, we do know that it was a real place, somewhere along the banks of these rivers.
And just as real as the rivers and gold inside them are, so are the promises that God has made with His people. The promises that God has made are called covenants. Now, what is a covenant? A covenant is a solemn promise between at least two people with expectations placed on both parties. In ancient times, the two parties in a covenant would walk between animals that have been split in half basically saying, “If I don’t keep my end of the covenant here, may God do to me as I have done to these animals.” You are making a promise on pain of death to fulfill them. As you can see, this is a lot stronger than a business contract. You can get out of any business contract with enough money. A covenant is a promise for life.
Often, covenants were made between kings and the lands that they conquered or helped. Usually, it would begin with some sort of statement of what the king had done, and then proceed to announce the terms, expectations, or rules of the covenant. Now, you can imagine if you were to have a covenant with the great emperors of the past like Alexander the Great or Caesar Augustus, you would feel pretty secure wouldn’t you? Would you not say, “Oh, good, I have someone who has made a solemn promise to me and has resources to back up those promises.” Many of us actually don’t have to imagine this. We go through the anxiety of whether or not we are going to have a good covenant every four years, don’t we? We want the guy with our interests at heart to be at the top of the chain, and just about every time we are disappointed, aren’t we? Because of deficiencies in the man himself or the system and circumstances he occupies, most presidents simply don’t live up to the expectations we have for them. Yet we go through the same cycle of hope and disappointment year after year because we long for that security, that sense of peace that comes with being allies with the powerful.
What if we could have that with God? What if we could have a permanent promise with the God who made all things? What if you could be bonded to God by His own Word to not only have a promise, but to know His name, Yahweh? No longer is God just your Creator, but your Father? Doesn’t that sound too good to be true? Well, let’s see!
Here in this text, we see God Himself making a promise, a covenant with Adam. Now, as one commentator pointed out, "Although the term 'covenant' is not used in Genesis 1–3, the relationship between God and Adam is best understood as a covenant relationship. The term 'covenant' is not used in 2 Samuel 7 for the relationship that God established with David, but Psalm 89 does refer to it as a covenant. The same is true for Genesis 1–3. The term 'covenant' is not used, yet Hosea 6:7 refers to God's relationship with Adam as a covenant" (Richard Belcher, 68). God’s pattern here looks very similar to other covenants He has made.
Remember, Genesis has been written to Israelites freshly released from slavery, Israelites who have just made a covenant with God themselves. In Exodus twenty, we see God laying out what the covenant terms are. In verses 1-2 God says, And God spoke all these words, saying,“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Notice that “LORD,” the announcement of His name to His people and what He has already done for them. This is grace that God has given for them to be His people. It does not start with, “You are the House of Israel, a people who by their obedience to my commands, left Egypt and have found me on this mountain.” It doesn’t because it couldn’t. Israel couldn’t command God to make a promise to them. God doesn’t owe them or any of us other dirt people anything. Yet God makes these promises anyway. We see this happen again in 2 Sam. 7:5-9 when God makes a covenant with David. David didn’t earn his way to the throne, but he was brought there by God.
Seeing all of that, we look at Genesis 2 again and we see God picking up the man that He made, and placing him in the Garden. The man didn’t create himself or walk up to this garden. God places him there and then gives absolutely everything the man could possibly need or want. In verse 16 God lays out the blessings He has provided and the expectations of the covenant: You may surely eat (literally “eat, eat”) of anything in here, but there is one thing you must hold back from: The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God has placed a limit on what Adam can do.
But far from God just giving Adam a list of don’ts, God lays out what He has for him to do in verse 15, work and keep the Garden. My old seminary professor, Dr. Ross, put it this way: "These two verbs are used throughout the Pentateuch for spiritual service. 'Keep'...is used for keeping the commandments and taking heed to obey God's Word; 'serve' describes the worship and service of the Lord..."(124). The Garden is like the Temple, and Adam is a priest. This means that work was something that happened before the Fall and has a dignity even today, as another scholar points out: “There is a spiritual dimension to human work because it is done as service to God and has a purpose of faithfully keeping the instructions of God (Lev. 8:35). The implication is that the purpose of work is more than an activity that allows a person to provide for his needs but that work is a vocation which enables a person to fulfill a calling of service to others and to God" (Blecher, 62, emphasis added). So the promise of God comes with provision and purpose. God says, “Here is everything you need to work as I define it from my absolutely exhaustive knowledge of both you Adam and the world that surrounds you, and here is the purpose of your existence, again, defined by my absolutely exhaustive knowledge and wisdom of everything, namely, work to serve me and keep my commands.” Implied in all of that, is God will give Adam life eternal. If the punishment for breaking this rule was death (and we will get into that later), the reward for obedience was life in the Garden of Eden.
So we have seen that God makes gracious promises to His people, but I want to draw out something that Christopher Watkins brings out in His book, Thinking Through Creation. God is making a promise to a human being, a person. This means that God is entering into a relationship with Adam, God is being personal while remaining absolutely above all. This is totally unique from all other religions in the world. All religions see their god as either personal but not ultimate (the god has needs, too), or god as ultimate but not personal (20-51). Think about the concept of karma in Hinduism. If you are good, Karma rewards, and if you are bad, Karma punishes, but it is more like a force of gravity than a personal, relational god. If I jump off a building (transgressing gravity), I’ll feel the consequences, but gravity doesn’t care. Gravity doesn’t have personality. I can’t have a relationship with gravity; it can’t love me even though gravity is a universal law that transcends all things.
So how do you have both? How do you have a power that is above all things, subject to no one but itself yet has the capacity to love, form relationships, and have purpose of will? Nothing in creation does that. Only the Creator, who stands above His creation, has all of that. He doesn’t need anything from His creation, yet He forms a relationship with His creatures whereby He swears by Himself (because there is nothing higher to swear by, Hebrews 6:13) to uphold His promises to them. This means that the rules God sets apply everywhere at all times because He is ultimate, yet He reveals something about Himself because He is personal (Watkins 29-31).
Is that not incredible? You don’t serve a force or a local god! Instead, you serve the ultimate, personal God who actually, really, loves you as sure as the rivers that flowed from Eden.
Now, as we make the turn to the Lord’s Table here in just a minute, we will see what it costs God to make the New Covenant. As we will see in a few weeks, Adam broke the covenant God made. He ate from the tree, disqualifying Himself from the covenant, and earning death, just as God warned. This is more than physical death and includes spiritual death, eternal separation from God, the source of all life and goodness itself. There is now an eternal debt to repay, but who can conquer death, spiritual or otherwise? We need someone ultimate, someone above death. But who is above death? Death is God’s own punishment for sin. Who is above God’s just punishment for sin? God can’t just wipe it out, because God won’t deny His own justice. God won’t deny Himself because He is God! His justice, His wrath against sin must be satisfied. Ultimate death must be fulfilled, but the only way to do that is for someone ultimate to die.
Enter Jesus Christ, ultimate, personal God, who also took on flesh, tailor-made to suffer, formed of the dust to die. To make a new covenant that promises life, something has to die, but this time it won’t be an animal that is split, but God Himself in the person of Jesus is going to die. His body is going to be broken, He is going to pour out His own blood for you and me. That’s personal! That’s as personal as it gets! And yet, because of Who’s blood this is, it’s as ultimate as it gets!
That’s what we celebrate here at the table, God making a covenant with us at great cost to Himself. That’s the good news! God took on eternal death so you don’t have to, if you will trust in Christ, repenting of your sins as you do so. You can’t earn this covenant, nor can you earn your right to stay in this covenant. The covenant with Adam shows that even in perfect conditions, human beings can’t keep themselves in a covenant. Now, in the New Covenant, God says, come unto me, and I will give you rest. I will never leave you nor forsake you. And it is all thanks to the wonderful grace of God in Christ.
But there’s one more thing. This table doesn’t just commemorate a death. This isn’t a ballad to a fallen hero that we sing. Instead, this is an act of worship to a living savior, Jesus Christ, because He rose again! Verse 18 of Luke 22 tells us, “For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” This is not only a commemorative meal, this is an appetizer for the celebration meal of the coming Kingdom in heaven.
So what do we takeaway from this? The ultimate personal God of all the universe will make a binding promise to you His people which will result in your eternal life with Him in the future and your joy with Him in the present.To adapt something I heard on a podcast this week from John Piper: no politician, bank account, drug trip, sexual experience, corporate achievement, youthful ability long since lost can ever really come through on a promise like that. So how do we stop believing those false promises? Piper answers, by trusting in better promises! You have a greater promise, so rest in that today. Everything, everything else is going to fade, so don’t look to that which is fading. One day you will be victorious with Christ! So in the meantime, keep your eyes on Him and His personal promises to you.
Image by DaveMeier
If you ever take an art class, shop class, or really any kind of class, one of the first things that you will see is the ideal example of what you are trying to learn about. Artists study the great masters of old like Rembrandt, Michelangelo, and others to see what the best of the best is supposed to look like. While it is certainly discouraging at first to look at works like that and compare it to the stick figures that you can draw, it brings out an appreciation for what good artwork requires. Recently, I attempted to hang some crown molding in our house, which, if you are unfamiliar, is cut upside down and backwards. I didn’t really know that starting out, so it seemed nearly impossible to get that thing hung! Since then, everywhere I go, I stare at the crown molding, breathlessly impressed at how they get that hung up there and it fits! Hope comes in for the painter or aspiring carpenter by the knowledge, that while they likely won’t be as good, their skills will improve. It is possible to be done!
In Genesis chapter two, we see what life was like before the Fall, creation, as the Divine Artist originally made it. Life was beautiful, easy, and totally without conflict. If we had to make a wide-ranging summary of what this chapter wants to tell us that is it. God makes beautiful places and makes a good life. Beholding this helps us like studying those great painters, or crown molding carpenters. We see how it was supposed to be, but our hope is made stronger by the sure confidence of seeing something better than Eden if we are trusting in Christ. God created Eden, but He is well on His way to bringing back something even better.
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot that we can learn from chapter 2! The God of Genesis 2 is the same one of Revelation 22, so we are going to mine this section to behold our great God and what He is like. I’ve got three points of which we will only cover the first, but they are: God cares for the earth, God Covenants with humanity, and God convene’s marriage.
God cares for the earth
Before we begin our exposition of this chapter, we have yet another controversy to quickly look at. If you pay any sort of attention between chapters one and two, you may notice that things look a little different in how timing and order is being described. A surface level reading of this chapter looks like man is being created before the plants and the animals! Do we have a contradiction here? No we don’t. What we have here is a different emphasis here in chapter 2 than what we had in chapter 1.
One analogy that I have for this is the concept of instant-replay in sports. Whenever you are watching football, for example, usually the camera position is pretty high up so you can see all the players on one screen. When the play is over, usually they will switch to another camera view that focuses on the one or two players that made the play to give you a better sense of the action that just happened. Now, if you have never heard of that concept somehow, you might be a bit unsure of what was happening. Before, you could see all the players and the whole play from beginning to end, but now you are only seeing the tail end of the play from a totally different angle. But they are doing that not to confuse you but to focus you on what is important.
The same thing is true here in Genesis 2. Moses didn’t fall asleep after chapter 1 and then wrote down the wrong order in chapter 2 without checking because his Genesis paper was due! What is actually happening here is God is focusing on the portion of the world that hadn’t been filled yet (Kenneth Matthews, Genesis, 194). Remember, when God made things, He would say, “Go forth, multiply, fill the Earth” clearly implying it wasn’t full everywhere. There were some spaces that needed filling. Yes, there were animals, just not here yet. Yes, there were trees, just not here yet. The focus is going to be on humanity and its role of ruling and cultivating all of these things. God is going to take care of His creation through another creature: man.
The passage begins with our prologue that these are the generations of the earth and heavens, signaling the start of a new section in Genesis. We don’t have a long genealogy, because, well, there aren’t any humans yet!
Verse seven gives us an extremely interesting view into how God made mankind. With all of the other elements of creation, we see God speak, and it exists. With humanity, God seems to take His time. The word used here “form” is the same concept of a potter shaping something out of clay or a carpenter shaping something out of wood (Kenneth Matthews, Genesis, 196). There is an artistry here of taking something that you can’t imagine doing anything with, and making something grand. I have a lot of red clay around my house, and the only thing it seems good for is staining one’s clothes forever! It is difficult for me to wrap my head around someone taking a lump of that stuff, and with a wheel and some fire, make a mug! Here, God takes this dust of the earth, dirt, and makes a human being.
Why dust, though? Was this because God needed some other material to work with? Not at all. God has already demonstrated that He can do just fine with nothing. He is putting His heavenly image on a creature made from dust. Exalting and humbling at the same time, isn’t it? Carl Sagan, an astrophysicist of yesteryear, famously said that “we are star stuff,” which sounds cool and elevating, but we are not. We are dirt stuff—dirt stuff that God has exalted, which is a point that the Bible makes over and over again. In fact, even the name Adam, is a play on words for the Hebrew “ground” (adamah). So the next time someone calls you a dirt-bag, you can respond, “How theologically precise of you!” We are very closely connected to the earth. Bruce Waltke summed it up like this: "The wordplay shows the man's close connection to the ground, his cradle, his home, his grave..." (85). It keeps us humble. Author Christopher Watkin said that “...we enjoy dignity, but not deity." (Thinking Through Creation, 90). God did not make us little gods, but He made us from humble circumstances just to show how amazing He is. I’m impressed people can make a coffee mug out of dirt. Making a human being with consciousness, emotions, having abilities like painting, singing, parenting, and performing surgery—out of dirt! Out of dirt God made the human brain! We think to ourselves how amazing a potter is for making a plate out of dirt, and compared to the plate, the human being is infinitely more amazing, so how much more spectacular must God be if you and I are His sandbox project?
What’s more is that He made us out of more than dirt. He breathed life into the dirt to make us a living soul. This idea of the soul (Hebrew: nephesh) isn’t separate from the body, but is absolutely intertwined, inseparable. This breath of God is what gives us life and separates us from the rest of the animals as this term for life is never used of them (Ross, 122). This is an incredible gift. He grants to the dirt life. That is not a gift we can grant. Life comes from God alone and is sustained by God alone, and yet He grants it! He isn’t stingy with it; there are 8.1 billion forms of it right now!
All of this keeps us in check when we feel we have a grievance with God. Paul in Romans 9, picks up on the potter imagery in verse 20. Paul is imagining someone questioning why God would chose some for salvation and not others and accusing God of injustice. Paul effectively says, who are you to question? The dirt doesn’t get a say with the potter what it is supposed to be. The potter is the one who makes the choice. Indeed, it is the same here in our lives. We are dust, special dust, dust with God’s stamp on it, dust with the life-breath of God in our lungs, but dust. God doesn’t have to bow to our wills. God doesn’t have to explain Himself to us.
Now, why am I beating this concept? This is not to make you feel less about your humanity, but it is to make us amazed at how God reacts to us. It is very easy to slip into a prideful idea of who we are and what we can offer to God. Do you notice Adam contributing anything to his life? No. Every single thing that Adam has is a gift from God. Adam has nothing to offer, no leverage over God. But many of us think we can.
Christopher Watkins points out in his book Thinking Through Creation (incredible book by the way, you should totally get it and read it all: Link right here) that in all other religions our relationship with a god looks like an “n.” The relationship starts with us making an offering to a god, and if the offering is accepted, the god will help us out, “mutual back-scratching” as he puts it (55-6). People do this all the time in panic situations: “God, if you get me through this test, I’ll start reading my Bible or going to church.” God doesn’t need you to do that. Passages like Ps. 50:7-13 and Acts 17:24-25 tell us very clearly that God does not need us for anything (56).
I think most of us know that, but even we can fall into this trap more easily than we think. Have you ever had the thought after something hard has happened, you think, “Hey! I read my Bible today! I prayed! I’ve been to church this month! Why do I have a flat tire right now?” There’s that n shaped thinking again. “I gave God my end, He should do His part!” and Scripture responds with, “What was that, Dust?”
Instead, as Watkins walks us through it, we have a U- shaped relationship with God. God is the one who sends things down to us, and all we can do is thank Him. We can’t add anything. We are in the place of humble reception to God’s gracious giving (56). And we are on that reception side more than we think we are.
If you are a Christian this morning, you especially have much to praise God for. Because, listen now, as we will see in chapter 3, we dirt people also became sinful, dirt people. Have you ever had something that was supposed to work but didn’t? You maybe give it several tries over the course of a few hours if you are really patient, but especially if the thing you bought was cheap and didn’t work after a few tries, what would you do? You throw it away. If you spend a dollar on some cheap tool that didn’t work, you hardly feel any sense of remorse as you toss it. Creating human beings cost God nothing. But far beyond the human being not working, the human being actively disobeys, he actively does things that not only bring him and his fellow human beings into destruction but also cause the destruction of everything else God made. If your one dollar tool was able to cause fundamental damage to your house, you would throw it away with such force and anger, you would likely try to smash it before tossing it out!
But God doesn’t do that. No, in His mercy, He not only didn’t throw us away, but He took on dirt Himself, became a human being. He lived under the law, under the humiliation of being born and even in that, born poor and lowly. Have you ever had to make a step down in your life? Maybe money has gotten tight, and the places you’d thought you’d never have to shop at, you do? Have you had a breakdown in your marriage where all you can think about is how things used to be, wondering if they’ll ever be back? That’s taking a step down in life, and Christ took that step down times a million. Life was bad enough, but Jesus went all the way to death. Jesus took on a dirt body born of dirt, raised on dirt, died on dirt, and buried in dirt.
But then! Glorious day! Jesus burst from the dirt of the grave yet kept his dirt body, glorified, but still a body. Then He promises that if we put our faith in Him, turning from our sins and to Christ, one day He will glorify our dirt bodies, raise our dirt bodies from the dirt, and exalt us to live in heaven forever! (1 Corinthians 15:44-49). That’s a gracious God to care for His creation, the dirt people, who can offer nothing but thanks in return.
What if we were to apply this to each other? Watkins asks this question. Often we look to our fellow human beings and ask, “Well, what has this person done for me? I am certainly not going to put myself out until I know that it is worth it.” Aren’t you glad that this isn’t the way that God has approached you, oh, person of dust? If God is this way with us, then we can be that way with others. God has been so gracious when everything is completely lopsided, how can we not be gracious when things are slightly weighted less in our favor (at least, if our perspective on the situation is even accurate) (Watkins, 57)? Marriage can be tough. There can be a lot to forgive, but we have been forgiven much. Parenting can be tough. The relationship is pretty lopsided. Siblings can be tough. Friendships can be tough, ministry can be tough, but we have been given so much! God has been so gracious and has given freely. We can do the same with His help. Just remember who made you, what He made you out of, and where He is taking you one day.
Image by Republica
The Green Bay Packers were having a tough time playing their football game. After one particularly disappointing first half, their coach, Vince Lombardi, gathered the team together, held up a ball and said, “Gentlemen, this is a football,” to which one of the players replied, “Slow down, Coach!” It is always worth it to remind ourselves of the fundamentals and that is exactly what Lombardi was doing—returning to the basics, the foundation, the first things, the things you always have to keep in mind even as you advance to learn the finer details. This is true of every skill. While dancing in ballet, you must never forget that you are always visible, and every position and movement to the next position must be drawing a beautiful line for the eye. In music, you must never forget pitch and rhythm.
And in life, you must never forget that God created the world.
Genesis is the introduction to everything, and the introduction to Genesis begins in the beginning. We are going to be considering the first things, the facts and concepts that drive the rest of our lives whether we realize it or not. So today, we are going to be exploring a few key points, namely these three (though, we could cover so much more): God alone created creation, God alone commands creation, and God alone blesses creation
God alone created creation
Genesis begins by saying that in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The Bible does not make an argument for God’s existence, because, at the time, that wasn’t the radical claim. The radical claim was that there was only one God who created everything! There were a lot of weird and violent stories that were popular at the time to explain why the world was made the way that it was, but the Bible just says, “No, there was only one God who made everything.” What’s amazing for the original audience, recently emancipated slaves from Egypt is that, as one scholar put it, “the God of the covenant community is the same as the creator of the cosmos.” (Bruce Waltke, 55). The same God who is leading the people of Israel through the desert is the same God who made the desert! This is especially a comfort as one of my old seminary professors said, “"In short, everything that the pagans worshiped God had made. Consequently, their gods should pose no real threat to Israel, for the creation must be subject to the Creator." (Allen Ross, 102). In a world that viewed other nation’s gods with fear, this would be a tremendously comforting message. The Egyptians worshiped the sun, but Israel served the God who made the sun.
We do well to keep this in mind. While you are much more likely to come across someone in our culture who doesn’t believe in the supernatural at all (although, there are some interesting trends that suggest that won’t be the case for long), Genesis is still relevant. In a culture that is increasingly believing that that the world popped out of nothing and grew itself into people, Genesis has even more to say! Genesis tells us that you are not some cosmic accident but are in fact a special creation with a job and purpose.
Let’s look at how God formed the world. Verse one told us the whole story in a nutshell, but now we are going to look at the details of how God went about doing this. As an aside, I am not going to spend a whole lot of time here arguing about creation versus evolution. That is an important subject, but I think our time is better spent thinking about the implications or “so what” of God creating everything. Briefly though, evolution is driven by survival, avoiding death. I think that death doesn’t show up until sin does in Genesis 3, therefore the primary driver of evolution doesn’t show up until after everything is already here. I think also that God is being pretty clear that everything is being made in six 24 hour days for the following reasons, as articulated by Allen Ross, “"(1) Elsewhere, whenever yom [the Hebrew word for “day”] is used with a number, it means a twenty-four hour period; (2) the Decalogue [the Ten Commandments] bases the teaching of the Sabbath day on the six days of creation and the seventh day of rest; (3) from the fourth day on, there are days, years, signs, and seasons, suggesting that the normal system is entirely operative; and (4) if yom refers to an age, then the text would have to allow for a long period of "day" and then a long period of "night"—but few would argue for the night as an age." (Ross, 109). If you have additional questions on this, come see me afterwards or send me an email (email@example.com)!
So we get into verse 2 and we see that the world is formless and void. These are two Hebrew words that describe chaos and emptiness. A couple different commentators see this as actually providing us the structure for the rest of creation with the first three days putting things in order and the next three days filling the emptiness (Ross, 104). In the first three days of creation God is going to tame the chaos. There is going to be order, structure, and separation (Ross, 102). God is going to separate and order day and night, heavens and earth, and land and sea on the first three days and the second three days He is going to fill all of those spheres.
It begins with the Spirit of God hovering over the face of the waters or the deep. Many wonder where this comes from. Well, Genesis doesn’t say, but in John 1, we find out that there was nothing made that God didn’t make. God made everything, and one commentator likened this verse to being like a potter who takes an unformed lump of clay and slaps it onto the wheel to begin forming His creation (U. Cassuto, 23).
God starts with creating light. You’ll notice that God doesn’t start by creating the sun.That doesn’t happen until day four. God doesn’t need a sun to create light like we need a bulb to light up a room. God can simply speak light into existence as He does here.
Next, God creates a separation between the earth and the sky. God separates the waters of the ocean from the water in the clouds (Ross, 109). This shows us that there is nowhere that God does not rule. Go to the bottom of the ocean, God is still in charge, ascend to the highest atmosphere, and God has already been there and already created the place. This extends until day three where God also separates the land from the sea. There is nowhere that God does not rule and command.
Now, the Lord moves on to filling. We have brought order to the chaos, but now it is time to fill that which has been ordered. God begins with the land to fill it with vegetation and all kinds of plant life. This should remind all that all food comes from the hand of the Lord. This is why it is good for us to pray a prayer of thanksgiving before a meal. Every calorie on that plate is provided for us by God ultimately.
Next, God fills the universe with planets and stars, the sun and the moon. At this time, these creations are used to mark the days and seasons. One commentator points out, "The first function: to separate the day from the night. This expression enables us to comprehend the existence of the first three days, when there was as yet no sun in the world. To separate one thing from another means to mark the distinction between two things already in existence. It is manifest that the night exists even without the presence of moon and stars. Similarly, according to the view reflected here, the sun is not the cause of daytime, for the latter is to be found without the former" (Cassuto, 43-44).
Then the Lord moves on to fill the heavens with the birds, the seas with the fish and great creatures, and the land with the animals we’ve come to know. There is an interesting tidbit of Hebrew here: "As a rule, the stem (swarming things) is used of small or tiny creatures, but here, in the command of God, who is communing with Himself, it refers also to large creatures, for vis-à-vis the Creator, they are all equally small. But when, in v. 21, the Torah tells its readers of the implementation of the fiat, it uses human phraseology and distinguishes between the big and the small creatures." (Cassuto, 48).
The Lord alone Commands His creation and Blesses His Creation
At this point the Lord commands the creatures to multiply and fill the earth, and the Lord has a particular blessing at this point for the fish. This blessing is that of fertility which became something of a proverb in Hebrew culture (Gen. 48:18, “let them multiply like fish”).(Cassuto, 51).
But then we move on to the creation of mankind. Here is where things really slow down in the narrative, and you can tell that there is a real effort to emphasize this portion of creation. Much has been made about the phrase “let us make man.” Who is God talking to? The noun for God throughout this passage is a plural noun, but the noun has always taken a singular verb. Moses is being very careful to show that God is alone in all of this, so this particular moment is odd. There are various ways to look at it, but I think that this is an early hint at the Trinity. You have your one God in three persons first mentioned here, but will get more explicit as the Bible moves on. This doctrine of the Trinity is actually much more important than we tend to think, and we will explore why next time, but suffice it to say, God decides to make mankind and mark them with His image.
What is His image? God doesn’t have a body (John 4:24), so this isn’t some sort of physical thing. Whether this is the fact that we share spiritual and moral attributes of God, or the fact that we have a soul, or many other possibilities for this, whatever the case may be, we are endowed with a special marking from God that gives us dignity above all the rest of creation. It is not strictly the fact that we are made human that makes us special, it is the fact that human beings bear the image of God. That is what gives us all worth.
This is something worth keeping in mind when we are upset with people, or annoyed with them on the road. Yes, that person is made in the image of God, even people who don’t use their blinkers while driving. And as such, they deserve respect. This is why life is so important to us. Babies in the womb bear God’s image all the way to the elderly in the nursing home. They all bear God’s image, so we don’t want them destroyed or ignored. It’s not a perfect analogy, but we are often careful with physical pictures of my family. We wouldn’t want to see them ripped up. Hurting the physical print doesn’t hurt the person pictured, but respect for the image shows respect to the person imaged. It is the same with God, we love God, so we love His image reflected in people.
Finally, God blesses humanity and sets them over all creation. This is both a privilege and a responsibility. We are called to subdue creation (something that gets a lot harder after the Fall), but that doesn’t mean destroy. We are called to rule it, but it is still God’s. As usual, humanity falls into one of two traps. Either creation care is elevated above care for humanity, or creation care is given such a low priority that it looks like we haven’t been called to be good stewards of it. We are called to care for it, but we don’t forget that this has been given for us to use but used responsibly.
Finally, on the seventh day, God stops from creating. It is said that he rested on the Seventh day, not because God was exhausted and needed a break, but because He was providing a model for us (Cassuto, 68). He again blesses the seventh day, and sets it apart, and makes it holy. This is something that we still enjoy today. It is a day where we set aside our work and remember how God has made all things for our good and His glory.
Of course, that day has changed for us from the seventh day to the first because there was something very special that happened on a Sunday two thousand years ago, that was itself four thousand years after creation: Jesus rose from the dead. Since the Fall, we have labored under sin, doing things that we shouldn’t do that are against God’s law. The penalty for this is death forever in a place called hell. This isn’t a place where we just cease to exist, but a place of eternal conscious torment. Jesus, God’s own Son, provided the way for us to not have to go there by paying the penalty Himself. When we put our faith in him, transferring our trust from ourselves to Him, leaving our sin behind, we enter into His rest. We don’t have to earn our way to heaven by what we do. And one day, after we die, we will live with God forever.
So what is our takeaway from this? Genesis 1 tells us that God created everything which means that God owns everything and controls everything. You are worshiping the God who made all things and is worthy of your worship on that fact alone, but He has done even more in saving your soul, something we will explore in the weeks to come.
Cassuto, U, A commentary on the Book of Genesis, Part One, Varda Books
Ross, Allen Creation and Blessing, Baker.
Waltke, Bruce Genesis: A Commentary, Zondervan
Image by Walkerssk
Genesis isn’t the introduction of the Bible. Genesis is the introduction of everything. As such, it needs careful study and reflection as we read the rest of the Bible. It is in this book that we are introduced to the Bible’s main Character, God. Rather than simply giving us information about God like a theological textbook, Genesis gives you a much richer approach. If you read a theological textbook, it will be a series of statements that are designed to impart to you information about God, much like a resume would tell you about an employee. Fact one: God is powerful because He made the world. Fact two: God is faithful because He keeps His promises. This has its place, but Genesis does something more. Genesis works like the next stage in the hiring process, the face-to-face interview. A good interviewer will say something like, “Tell me about a time in which you faced a difficult situation at work and creatively solved it.” The employee is then prompted to give the manager a narrative that paints a picture about how they operate.
Genesis is God’s face-to-face interview. Remember the context of the original audience. The Hebrews, God’s chosen people, have just been set free from four centuries worth of slavery in Egypt. They have seen signs, wonders, plagues, and miracles, and now, from the pen of Moses, they are going to be introduced to the God behind it all, and so will we. The knowledge that they (and we) will encounter in this book is going to set the stage for how they (and we) should view everything else.
This face-to-face interview is going to reveal to us a number of things, and the way that I have structured this series is by dividing Genesis into four parts. The first part is chapters 1-11 that I titled, “Who is the King of Glory?” I see this as the introduction to God Himself. Obviously in the first couple of chapters we behold His creative power. With just a word, stars, planets, oceans, fish, crickets, and subatomic particles suddenly exist. Without our aid, He did us make, as the Psalm says, which demonstrates the awesome quality of a God who needs nothing. This is going to be summed up in our two points today: God is powerful and God is faithful.
God is powerful
Chapter 2 tells the story of God entering into a relationship with the highest of His creatures, human beings. We find that He is a gracious God who can make an entire universe and then decide to pay attention to the smallest corner of it. More than paying attention to it, God loves it. Indeed, God binds Himself to humanity in covenant promising immortality to humanity if they would obey a single command in the midst of amazing kindness and provision.
Chapter 3, unfortunately tells the story of humanity’s rebellion. While God’s creatures, including Man, were made holy and without sin, they were liable to corruption, and so they disobeyed and plunged the world into chaos. Disease, decay, and ultimately death enter into God’s good creation. God, in right response to injustice, must punish, but He does so in mercy. Instead of simply executing the newly made humanity, He allows them to keep their work, tending to the ground and multiplying, but now it will be done with struggle and pain. But these hardships won’t be forever. Even in the midst of punishment, God makes a promise, another one, a new one, that all things will be set right. This promise we will need to keep in mind as we go through the study of this book. This is going to come up as the term “covenant.” We will see these promises made in chapters 2, 3, 9, 12, 15, and 17, and then we will see them alluded to and even advanced in 26, 35, 37, and 49. This is a critical concept to get because a lot of Scripture overall is going to be structured by the promises that God makes to His people ultimately being fulfilled in Christ. One of my old professors, Allen Ross, points out that blessing and cursing are concepts that will show up again and again in this book (Allen Ross, Creation and Blessing, 65).
As this section goes onward, we will see humanity get worse and worse. The first murder is already committed by chapter 4, but only two chapters later, humanity has multiplied and their sin has multiplied exponentially. Now humanity is so evil that every intent of their heart was only evil continually. What a far cry from a humanity created with only the possibility of evil, to now their only possibility is evil. As such we get a look into God’s capability of judgment. God is merciful, but God will only be merciful for so long. In chapters 6-9, we see God execute judgment on a planetary scale. A flood is going to consume the world such that there is nowhere for man to hide from God. Scale the tallest mountain, and behold, God’s waters are there. Run to the deep, and behold, God’s waters are there, too. Hebrews 10:31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
But God is merciful, and humanity is reborn and begins to re-multiply. Unfortunately, sin didn’t die in the flood (Paul House, Old Testament Theology, 69). The people didn’t trust God’s promises, nor obviously obeyed His command to multiply and spread out over the Earth. They gathered up in their tower, ready to reach up to heaven. We find God isn’t limited to one trick. God comes down and confuses their languages, and now they are forced to cover the face of the earth.
From there, we will notice a device that this book uses to structure itself. You know all of those “begats” in your Bible that people tend to skip through? So and so begat this unpronounceable name who went on to beget this other name? Well it turns out that those are rather important. In fact, according to one of my old seminary professors, Kenneth Matthews (we will be hearing a lot from him. He’s handled the Dead Sea Scrolls!), sees these begats as the hinge points in the book (Kenneth Matthews, Genesis 1-11:26, NAC, 34). These begats are going to show us the bloodline of the people of God. We will see this bloodline seem to be in danger of confusion and obliteration, but we will see the faithfulness of God preserving His people through many dangers, toils, and snares.
God is faithful
Now, you might think that these chosen people, this protected bloodline, will be easy to see as the good guys. In American media, we like to present the hero and the villain insultingly clearly. The physically attractive hero enters the screen to dramatic lighting, triumphant music, and an obvious and uncomplicated moral code to execute. The villain is often done the same way in reverse. In fact, in the opening scene of Star Wars, the bad guy, Darth Vader is introduced. He is dressed in all black and enters to scary music. You know immediately that that is the baddie of the film.
Genesis doesn’t really work like that. We find that God’s people are actually extremely complicated and inconsistent people. The first section of Genesis 1-11 I called “Who is the King of Glory?” In this one, 12-26, I have titled it, “God is Faithful to the Scared.” This is the story of Abraham. God calls Abraham (called Abram when we first meet him), out of all the other people on Earth, to go out to a land that he doesn’t know, to have kids that aren’t biologically possible, to become the Father of many nations that don’t exist yet. This promise in Genesis 12 is of a land, a seed, and a blessing, something that is going to come up again and again. Incredibly, he goes! He goes through harrowing fights, rescue missions, and border crossings, but, after going though all of that, is scared that someone may think his wife is pretty in another country and kill him. He lies and puts his wife (rather than himself) at risk not once but twice! Even after God has not only protected them from that fate but actually enriches them because of it, when Abraham doesn’t immediately see God’s promise of a son arrive, he decides to force the issue and gets one of his servants pregnant. This will lead to all kinds of problems later, but God eventually comes through and grants the son He promised in the way He promised. Abraham is a complicated character, but on balance, he seems to surpass his failings with a great faith that is even willing to sacrifice his own son if God commands it in the end.
Jacob, his grandson, is much more complicated. Genesis doesn’t spend much time with Isaac and instead focuses on Jacob, taking up chapters 27-36. I have titled this section “God is faithful to the Scoundrel.” If you didn’t know the whole story, you would simply assume that Jacob is actually the bad guy! In contrast to his brother, the strong, skilled hunter (traits admired in a culture like that), Jacob is a soft, beardless man who likes to hang around in the tents, make soup, and, you know, occasionally, constantly undermines his entire family by taking advantage of his brother, and tricking his old, blind father with multiple lies and with help from his mother. Once all of that has taken place, Jacob continues his deception appropriate to his name with his uncle to get a bunch of animals and wives. Eventually, Jacob finds himself with four wives and family dynamics that could rival the Kardasians, and yet still, he is part of the bloodline, the line of blessing. In fact, he was chosen by God, over Esau, in spite of what Jacob would become. By the time we get to the end of his story, we find him, like his grandfather before him, renamed Israel and remade into the father of the twelve tribes of Hebrew people. The promise of a land, seed, and blessing is still transmitted even through the scoundrel.
One of his sons, Joseph, dominates the rest of the book of Genesis in chapters 37-50. Unlike the rest of the cast we’ve seen so far, Joseph looks pretty moral. He might not have the best discretion at the beginning of the story (telling his dream that everyone in the family bows to him when he is for some reason unpopular already with his brothers), but other than that, you’d be hard pressed to find anything this guy does wrong. In fact, if you were just reading Genesis, you might think that this is the one promised in Genesis 3 to put the world back together. If anyone deserves the promise of a land, seed, and blessing, it is Joseph.
Yet almost nothing good happens to him for the first half of his story. He goes out in obedience to his father to check on his brothers, when they decide to kill him! Only by the quick thinking of one brother, do they only decide to “just” sell him into slavery instead! He gets trafficked all the way to Egypt where he is sold to Potipher. After making the best of his situation, Joseph becomes the focus of the unwanted attention of the mistress of the house, and for his honor, he is thrown into prison. After helping people in the prison who are able to free him, he is forgotten for, you know, just a couple years, before finally he is lifted from the prison to the throne with a plan to save the world from a global famine, which he does.
This is why I titled this section “God is faithful to the Suffering.” Because He is.
I would imagine that the newly-freed Hebrews could see themselves in each of these stories, and so can we. And what we find is how God interacts with each of us in these stories.
Of course, there is so much more to see in this book than what I have just briefly laid out here. In this book we have the foundations to marriage (Gen. 1-2), government (Gen. 9), and our approach to the created world, especially each other (Gen. 9). We see God’s design for sexuality, gender, and even the gospel. We will see the surprising depth of human sin, the awesome height of God’s mercy, the mystery of His sovereignty, and God’s unabashed freedom to elect who will be the inheriter of His promise.
Of course, we are also reading this book as not just the introduction to the Old Testament, but the introduction to the New Testament as well, a fact John acknowledges in the opening of His gospel by going back to the beginning. All these threads that start in the book of Genesis will find their culmination in Christ living, dying, and rising again to defeat sin and death. Further, we will see allusions to Genesis as far away as Revelation when we will see The Tree of Life first offered to Adam and Eve now opened to all those who are weary, heavy laden, poor in spirit to buy without price and rest in the open arms of Christ.
That is what we will be studying over the next couple of years together. I hope you will join me.
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This passage stands as one section in the midst of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. In it, Jesus has laid out what the Christian life looks like, how a citizen of the Kingdom is to be. It began with a laying out of the Beatitudes, a portrait of Christian character. We then move seamlessly into an explanation of what taking the commandments to heart looks like. It isn’t about externals only, but obedience that goes down to the level of one’s thoughts and desires.
In chapter 6, we saw that we are called to be generous to others, laying our treasure in heaven and to be prayerful rather than anxious about our needs. In seven, Jesus closes with a warning to those who don’t put their trust in Christ but instead build their house on the sandy foundation of their own wisdom.
In the middle of all of that, we find this prohibition, so often repeated in our culture: “Don’t judge.”
What does it mean to judge? In a legal sense, it means to compare someone’s behavior against a standard to see how it should be reacted to. If, for example, the standard punishment for theft is prison time, when someone steals, we judge them deserving of jail time.
Saying that there is a standard that we all stand or fall on is becoming increasingly out of favor. It has now gotten to the point that there are hardly any standards at all. In fact, the only thing you can do wrong in our world is to tell someone that they are wrong. The only thing that you can be judged for is judging. When we live with that mindset around us everywhere, we can easily think the same way. We can believe that it is wrong, unloving, to call people to a standard. Besides, who among us has ever really felt comfortable doing that? Doesn’t it feel wrong to tell people they are wrong? After all, is it really our business, and even if it is, we’re not worthy to do it! We’re not without sin, so we can’t throw stones.
When we bring all of these thoughts to this text, we can read this first line as “Don’t be judging, because, if you do, you will be judged for judging!” In fact, there are other places in Scripture that would seem to support this line of thinking! Look at James 4:12, “There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?” Paul, in 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 says, “But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God.” It would seem pretty clear from a surface reading of these passages that we are simply told to mind our own beeswax, and let God sort ‘em out in the end.
But is that what Jesus, and by extension the rest of the Bible, has in mind?
Indeed, James says later in chapter 5:19-20 that we are supposed to turn people away from their sin. That sounds like we need to 1) recognize the standard and 2) hold people to it. Sounds like judging! Paul also doesn’t hold back against the Corinthians in their sin in 1 Cor 5 just a few paragraphs away from chapter 4. He tells them to remove someone who was sinning sexually. That sounds rather judgy.
Well, what about Jesus in Matthew 7? Is He condemning judgment? Well, if He is, then there are some other passages that will be hard to square with this line of reasoning. For instance, what would we do with passages about training children? Telling our children what to do and punishing wrongdoing (Ephesians 6:4) sounds like the essence of judging. And it isn’t just children subject to this! In Matthew 18, as we already covered at the beginning of this series, we find the process for church discipline. That whole procedure requires judgment at a lot of levels. In order to confront a believer for their sin, then you need to be able to judge that what they are doing is in fact sinful! Especially at the end of the process for the unrepentant, there is the call to put them out of the church! I don’t know of something that would sound more like judging than that!
Further, back in Matthew 7, in this same chapter, we are told that we will know false teachers by their fruits (requires judging), and in fact, just a few sentences after “judge not” we find in verse 6 that we aren’t supposed to give what is holy to dogs or pigs! How on earth are we to be able to make such determinations without judging?
Obviously, Jesus must not be giving a blanket ban on judging, at least the way we typically define it, but we still have a command not to judge lest we be judged. What are we supposed to do? In our two points today, we are going to see we are called to live a holy life and we are called to lovingly help others live a holy life.
Let’s take a close look at Matthew 7. When we see this command “judge not lest you be judged,” Jesus doesn’t then switch to a new topic as if He has said all He has to say on this topic. The next sentence explains why. Jesus tells us that what we judge others for, we better make sure that it doesn’t come back on us!
We see an illustration of that from King David’s life, don’t we? He was all mad about a story of a rich man with lots of sheep stealing from a man who had only one lamb. He said that that man deserved to die, only to find out that the story was about himself. He judged harshly for stealing, forgetting that he had actually done a worse thing by taking another man’s wife.
So Jesus is being very practical with us. If we are going to say, “This person is in sin!” We best make sure that we aren’t in that same boat. He uses a striking image to illustrate this. He imagines a guy with a bit of dust in his eye that does need to come out. The guy who has taken it upon himself to remove it, has a house beam sitting in his eye! The obvious point we are supposed to draw from this is, goodness! if you have a house beam in your eye, you need to be thinking about getting that out, not worrying about other people! One Scholar put it this way, “Therefore, Jesus does not forbid all moral judgment or accountability. Rather, he forbids harsh, prideful, and hypocritical judgment that condemns others outright without first evaluating one's own spiritual condition and commitment to forsake sin.” (Eric J. Bargerhuff, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, 30). It turns out the word “judge” has a range of meanings. If we judge based in love from the standard of God’s Word, that is appropriate! If we are just roasting people for the same stuff we do, all of what we have discussed above applies. Don’t do it!
Now, unfortunately, this is where many people stop reading. People will understand that Jesus isn’t telling us that we don’t judge sin, but they don’t want to be the ones to do it. They will say, “Well, I’m no better than that guy, so there is nothing I can do. See this log?” But that isn’t where Jesus finishes. Jesus doesn’t say, “Well, if you got the log in your eye, there’s really nothing that you can do.” No! Jesus says, “You got a log in your eye? Well, then get that thing out of there, SO THAT YOU CAN HELP YOUR BROTHER.” Jesus is not actually against speck removal. In fact, because Jesus wants that speck out of your brother’s eye, He calls you to live a holy life to make that possible. One commentator put it this way, “How can someone whose vision is totally obscured render a just assessment of another person's minor vision problems (7:3), let alone attempt the delicate task of correcting the problem (7:4)?” David Turner, Matthew, 206). Jesus calls you to log-free living. It isn’t just so your eyes are out of pain, but so that you can help others.
That brings an entirely different motivation for holiness, doesn’t it? Have you been motivated to stop a sin so that you can help others stop that sin? You can absolutely help someone out of an addiction without having had that addiction, but boy there can be something helpful about having been there.
This isn’t about not judging, this is about being in a place to help. If you are doing the same thing, there is nothing helpful about pointing out others sin. I’m going to have a hard time quitting cigarettes if my doctor smokes. We need to recognize the position that we have calling ourselves followers of Christ.
We are called to lovingly help others live a holy life.
This position is not used to stand above and condemn, but to come alongside and encourage. As we talked about in Matthew 18, the heart of God is one who pursues after the sinner to cause them to return, and the same is true of our fellow church members. As one writer put it, “Since we have been commissioned to proclaim a message of repentance and faith to those outside the church who need to hear the good news, certainly we need to proclaim the same message of repentance and faith to those inside the church” (Eric J. Bargerhuff, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, 30).
So how are we to do this? One, we need to have a firm grasp on our own need for the gospel. That’s one of the reasons why we have a confession of sin in our worship service. I need to read that confession just as much as you do. I need that time of personal confession just as much as you do. We all need the gospel, and none of us stand as inherently holier than another. We all need Jesus. Second, we need to have experience with repentance. People who are good at confronting are good at confessing. Good rebukers are good repenters. This is the case because they live what they are telling you to do. A life well-lived has weight. Three, you need to love those you confront. People can tell. Even if you can’t love them for their own sake, love them for Jesus’ sake. They’re in your life, so reach them. Christian criticism is always constructive, not demeaning and condemnatory (David Turner, Matthew, 205).
But what about when people simply won’t receive constructive criticism? What if by correcting someone, you are exposing yourself to violence? Here is where verse 6 comes in. As one commentator put it, “Jesus's disciples must not be censorious (7: 1 – 5), but neither must they be oblivious to genuinely evil people” (David Turner, Matthew, 206). There will be times in which having warned people, there is nothing more you can do with them. I think Titus 3:10-11 is an example of this “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.” However, we need remember a critical point that I think Craig Keener, one of my commentators, put best, “[Matthew 7:6] does not allow one to pre-judge who may receive one's message (13:3-23), but does forbid one to try to force it on those who show no inclination to accept it…” (Craig Keener, Matthew, 244). What he’s saying is, we don’t get to look at someone and go, “Nah, I don’t think that guy is going to believe the gospel. Just look at him!” I mean, who would have thought that Paul would become a believer? The guy was basically fresh from killing Stephen, the Church’s first deacon, when he was converted. But if after giving the gospel, the person goes, “No, don’t ever bring this up again” you are free not to force the issue. Tremendous wisdom is always required in these sorts of situations, and the decision to say, “I can’t help this person anymore,” is one that should be very slowly and prayerfully come to. And just because you aren’t able to help that person, doesn’t mean someone else can’t.
In summary, what Jesus is condemning here is harsh, hypocritical condemnation of other people’s sin that you also take part in. The world is often harsh and wrong in its criticism of churches, but more often than we would like to think, we condemn the world for sin while allowing it to exist unchecked in our midst. We rightly criticize the sexual revolution taking place in our country, but we wrongly participate in it through pornography (Eric J. Bargerhuff, The Most Misused Verses in the Bible, 28). A life of holiness will give us a life of freedom, a life that can point people to a better way. We are never going to be perfect; we don’t claim to be! But we do point to a Savior who has not only forgiven our sin, but is making us new. He is not only saving us from the log in our eye, but He is removing it from us that we may see clearly.