Restoring Discipleship

When I first considered preaching through Genesis, I recognized that many Christians have established a disconnect between the Old and New Testaments, so I had to be intentional in showing the unity of God’s plan from “the beginning.” Throughout the series, I have been reminding us that Genesis was written and given to Israel by Moses some time between their exodus from slavery in Egypt and their entrance into the Promised Land. During the nation’s 40 years of wandering in the wilderness, God had been teaching them not only about their beginnings but also his work through the generations to restore mankind to himself after the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden and the ongoing sin throughout the generations up to and including Israel itself.

As God led Israel through the wilderness, the people were beginning to see that their primary place in relationship to God was following him. When God told Adam not to eat from the one tree, God expected him to follow his command. When God placed Eve in the garden with Adam, God expected Adam to follow his lead by leading Eve to follow God’s command. When Cain and Abel brought sacrifices to God, God expected them to follow his instructions. When God commanded Noah to build the ark and take his family and the animals into it so that God might deliver them from the flood, God expected him to follow his command. When God called Abram, God expected him to leave his homeland and family and to follow him to Canaan. Whatever it was God commanded or led, he expected the people he created to follow.

Of course, since mankind has been resisting God’s plan from the beginning, following God has required repentance, turning back to God in faith, away from our own sinful desires and direction. Here’s where we find the clearest connection between Genesis and the Gospel and Jesus. In his account of Jesus’ life and ministry, John begins where Moses began:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:1-4)

With these words, John makes it clear that God’s ideal, very good creation was both established and restored through Jesus. In his account of Jesus’ life and ministry, Matthew tells us that both John the Baptist and Jesus preached the Good News of God’s restoration saying, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17). Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record what Jesus said is the appropriate response to that Good News, the appropriate action of faithful repentance: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23).

Very simply, from the beginning, God’s plan of restoration of the world to himself is a matter of discipleship. Jesus commanded his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The authority of the Word of God who created the heavens and the earth sends faithful followers of God out into the world to call all people back to God in faithful repentance. From the beginning God has called people to repent and be disciples of himself, of his Word. May we all respond in faithful repentance as he calls and sends us to be disciples who make disciples.