Surprised By Grace - Part 5

Theme: Amazed by Grace

This week’s lessons show us how grace came unexpectedly to Adam and Eve when they sinned, and that this same grace is given through Jesus Christ to all who will come to him for salvation.

Scripture: Genesis 3:21

God promised a Redeemer, who would undo the devil's work. The second great demonstration of the grace of God in the account of Adam and Eve's fall is the promise of a Redeemer found in verse 15. Theologians call this the protoevangelium, the first announcement of the gospel in the Bible. At this point Adam and Eve could not have known very much about what God was promising. They did not know when the Redeemer would come. They probably thought their first-born son was the Redeemer, because they named him Cain, which means “acquired” or “here he is.” To their dismay Cain turned out to be the world's first murderer. Adam and Eve did not know the name of the Savior either. That name was not revealed until thousands of years had gone by, when the angel of God told a man named Joseph and a woman named Mary, “You are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21; cf. Luke 1:31). Still, Adam and Eve knew enough to believe that God would send a Savior and that their only hope of salvation was in him.

That is why Adam named his wife Eve (v. 20). Eve means “life” or “life giver,” and Adam named her Eve because of the promise of God to send a life-giving Savior through her. It was Adam's way of saying that, although he had disbelieved and disobeyed God earlier, he wanted to believe him now. He was willing to stake his spiritual destiny on this first, unembellished promise of a Savior.

God saved our first parents. That is, God justified them on the basis of what Jesus was to do (they looked forward to it), just as God justifies us through faith in what Jesus has done (we look back).

Adam and Eve could not absorb all the details of that atonement, which was yet to come. So God taught them by means of a dramatic illustration. At the end of the story, in verse 21, we are told that after Adam and Eve had believed God, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” In order to make clothes of skin, God had to kill animals. It was the first death Adam and Eve had witnessed, as far as we know. It must have seemed horrible to them and have made an indelible impression. “So this is what death is; this is what sin causes,” they must have exclaimed.

But even more important, the death of the animals must have taught them the principle of substitution, the innocent dying for the guilty, just as the innocent Son of God would one day die for the sins of those God was giving to him. When God clothed our first parents in the animals' skins, Adam and Eve must have had at least a first faint glimmer of the doctrine of imputed righteousness. Later in the Bible we read of our being clothed in Christ's righteousness (cf. Gal. 3:27), and Jesus himself suggested the idea when he referred to the wedding garments worn by those invited to the great marriage supper of the Lamb (cf. Matt 22:11, 12). God saved Adam and Eve from their sins by clothing them in the heavenly righteousness of Jesus Christ, which he symbolized by their being clothed with skins of animals.

Surprising? It must have been mind-boggling to Adam and Eve. The grace of God is always mind-boggling to those who experience it. Adam and Eve expected to die. Instead they found life. They must have expected an immediate execution of God's sentence without appeal and without any hope of God's mercy. Instead, they received a promise of a Savior to come and were brought from a state of condemnation to a state of justification by believing in him.

It has always been like this. Do you remember Thomas? He was the doubting disciple, the one who said that he would not believe in Jesus' resurrection unless he should see the wounds in Christ's hands and be able to thrust his hand into the wound in Christ's side. Why should Thomas have been saved? After all, his cynical words expressed utter disbelief, not faith. Yet even Thomas was surprised by grace when Jesus, instead of condemning him or abandoning him, appeared to him and invited him to perform his empirical test. But instead of doing it, instead of putting his finger or hand in Christ's wounds, Thomas was overwhelmed by grace and fell at Jesus' feet, exclaiming, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

And how about Peter? Peter had boasted of being able to stand by Jesus even unto death. How little he knew himself! That very night he denied the Lord three times. But although he was rightly ashamed of what he had done and wept bitterly afterwards, Jesus did not cast him off. Instead Jesus came to Peter to recommission him to service.

“Simon son of John, do you love me?” Jesus asked.

“Yes,” said Peter.

“Take care of my sheep,” said Jesus.

Jesus repeated the question and charge three times, corresponding to Peter's three denials (cf. John 21:15-17). Amazing! It was not only grace in salvation that was shown to Peter. It was grace commissioning him to useful service.

And Paul? Paul was the first great persecutor of the church. He took his hatred of Christians to the point of securing the condemnation and death of Steven, the first martyr. And when he had accomplished that, he left for Damascus with the thought of arresting and likewise punishing the believers there. If ever anyone deserved a swift retaliatory judgment, it was Paul. Yet Paul, too, was surprised by grace, as Jesus stopped him on his fiercely bigoted path, calling, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me” (Acts 9:4)? And when Paul responded in faith, recognizing that the One he was persecuting was the very Son of God and Christ, Jesus commissioned him to be the first great missionary to the Gentiles: “I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Acts 26:17, 18).

Surprised by grace? Yes! That is exactly it. “Surprised by grace” is the story of all who have found salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

Study Questions:

  1. Where in Genesis 3 do we see Christ?
  2. What term do theologians use for this reference, and what does it mean?
  3. Why were animal skins used to clothe Adam and Eve after the fall? How does this

demonstrate grace?

Application: Who do you know who has a need for God’s utterly surprising and amazing grace? How will you seek to tell them about it?

The Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is member supported and operates only by your faithful support. Thank you.

Thinking and Acting Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Thinking and Acting Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.