For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (Romans 3:23)
Critics of the Bible abound even among so-called mainline “Christian” denominations, but when examined closely, the criticisms always fail to stand up to the truth of God’s Word. As the Apostle Paul said, “let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). So it is.
Perhaps the greatest testament to the veracity of the Bible is the unifying theme that it carries throughout its pages. There exists no other so-called “holy” writing that compares with the Bible in clarity and unity of thought, even though it was penned by over 40 different authors (most of which did not know one another so that they could collaborate) over a period of about 1500 to 2000 years. Compare that to the Qur’an which was written by one man over a period of about 22 years (610-632 AD) and compiled over a period of only three years (653-656 AD). Or compare the Book of Mormon written by John Smith. It was produced in only two years between 1827 and 1829. Neither of the “holy” books compares to the Bible in unity of thought even though they were composed by one man each. Yet the Bible, with all of its various human writers over a very long period of time maintains a consistent theme. What is that theme?
The God of the Bible is unique among all other gods. All the gods devised by man demand that man lay down his life for them. The God of the Bible laid down His life for man. The gods devised by man demand that man earn their favor. The God of the Bible completed all the work of redemption, offers it as a free gift, and “asks” man to accept His gift. Let us examine how that plays out.
“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). From the very start, we are introduced to God as Creator. The verses that follow detail His work of creation and we are awestruck at His omniscience and omnipotence. So great is He that one must immediately decide whether to believe or reject the account of His creation, and therein lie the trappings of disbelief. As we continue in our reading we discover that God’s final and most cherished creation is man. “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:26, 27). Man bears the image of God. It is no wonder that God’s first command for human government was “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man” (Genesis 9:6). The creation of man was the cherry on top of God’s cake, “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31). “Very good” in God’s economy is flawless.
So far, so good, but then all that fell apart when man disobeyed God’s only command, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s only command (Genesis 3). They sinned. Some attempt to blunt the edge of the word “sin” by suggesting that it means to “miss the mark.” They arrive at this by quoting a passage from the book of Judges describing the accuracy of the Benjamites with a sling. “Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men lefthanded; every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss” (Judges 20:16). The Hebrew word translated “miss” is châṭâ’, which is often translated “sin.” It could be said that the Benjamites sling a stone without “sinning.” But sin is not so much like taking aim at a target, and missing the bull’s eye. Accurately hitting a target is a product of our own efforts. Sometimes we hit; sometimes we miss. Oh, well! “Sin” cannot be taken so lightly. Paul, quoting Psalm 14:1-3, tells us that, “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” (Romans 3:10-11). To suggest that sin is “missing the mark” implies that the sinner is trying to “hit the mark,” Scripture suggests otherwise – there is none that seek to “hit the mark,” at least not the mark that God has set. No, sin is more egregious than, “Oops! I missed!”
Sin is outright rebellion against God. More than that, it is man’s attempt to usurp God’s rightful place. Note Satan’s threefold assault on Eve. First, he cast doubt on the Word of God: “Yea, hath God said …?” (Genesis 3:1). Second, he denies the truth of God’s Word: “Ye shall not surely die” (3:4). Finally, he accuses God of keeping something better from them: “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (3:5, emphasis mine). And that, boys and girls, is the basis for all sin. Man desires to be his own god and determine good and evil for himself. This truth repeats itself over and over in a variety of different scenarios throughout Scripture. But look what God does.
After Adam and Eve sinned, God gave opportunity for redemption. Notice Who looks for who. “And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou?” (Genesis 3:9). Does anyone really think that the omniscient and omnipresent God did not know where they were hiding? God gave Adam and Eve the opportunity to confess their sin and ask forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). But rather than confess, they started making excuses and refusing to take responsibility for their own actions – much like people do today. In His patience, God continued to probe, “And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” (Genesis 3:11). Again, rather than accept responsibility and confess their sin, the couple made excuses. You can read the results for yourself. I want to highlight what God did.
The couple did not die instantly, but their sin set in motion the physical dying process. It has been said that from the moment of our birth, we all start dying. That is so true, but more than that, their sin disconnected them from their source of eternal life. “The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life” (Job 33:4). The penalty of their sin was death, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Someone or something had to die so pay the penalty for their sin, but it could not be the man or the woman, for they were now corrupt, and their death could not satisfy Holy God. So God Himself intervened. “Unto Adam also and to his wife did the LORD God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21). In order to make “coats of skins,” innocent, perfect animals, probably sheep, were slaughtered to make coverings (atonement) for the naked pair. I believe that the preincarnate Christ performed the sacrifice before them to set the pattern that they would follow from then on. On an altar of stone the Lamb of God, shed innocent blood to atone for the sin of man.
That set the pattern for millions of similar blood sacrifices to follow. In the succeeding chapter we find righteous Abel continuing the practice handed down from God Himself (Genesis 4:4). Older brother Cain chose to sacrifice in a way not prescribed by God; he chose to do things his own way and bring the fruits of his own labor (Genesis 4:3). His offering may seem more “humane” in that no blood was shed, but it was what God demanded. “And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering: But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell” (Genesis 4:4-5). Like many people today, Cain thought his own efforts done in his own way should be acceptable to God, but God does not see it that way. Like people today, Cain thought that all ways lead to God, but for God, there is only one way and that is through the blood. “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11).
From the beginning, it has always been the shedding of innocent blood that made atonement (a covering) for sin. The sacrificial system was codified in the Mosaic Law and practiced throughout Old Testament history. But, “it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Something more permanent needed to be put in place. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). “Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).
In short, the unifying theme of the Bible is that Holy God created man in His image. Man sinned against God and earned the penalty of sin which is death, both physical and spiritual. God intervened on man’s behalf initially by substituting innocent animal blood to atone for sin, but ultimately He took on human form and as a sinless (innocent) man, shed His own blood on the cross for our sin. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). There is no other “holy” book that makes such a claim. There is no other God that does for His creation, what the God of the Bible did for us.