In our day, there are many misunderstandings and misrepresentations concerning the gospel. In order to remedy that, we ought to go back to the beginning. This series will study the history of the gospel in the Old Testament, so that we, like the men of old, might long for the Christ, Who has come in the flesh. The protoevangelium, the first Gospel promise, ought to be the foundation and also the corrective to the church’s preachment.
The first thing that we can meditate upon is the singularity of the protoevangelium. This one gospel promise was the basis for the antediluvian patriarchs until the time that Noah blessed his son Shem. No other gospel promise is recorded during this long stretch of history. Let us put this into perspective: The time between this promise and Noah’s promise to Shem is almost seventeen hundred years; the time between Moses and Christ is only fourteen hundred years. This promise was a spiritual waterfall in the midst of a dreary desert of time and decay.
The second thing that we can learn from the protoevangelium is that there is no explicit “for you” in the text. In fact, God does not even address fallen man; His words are meant for the devil, that dragon of old, who deceives the whole world.
This should correct a few of our caricatures of the gospel. There have been many well-meaning laymen who have asked me about the validity of the declaration of grace compared to the indicative-operative absolution. The answer is simple: both are the gospel; therefore, both forgive sins.
But the gospel is found in many other places as well. Many in our congregations do not know that the Scripture readings are the active and powerful word of God, which also forgives sin. Many of our pious people do not know that the sermon is also an absolution, the gospel.
Absolution is not just found in the secrecy of the confessional, nor is it merely found in the public absolution of the service. Absolution is heard when God’s Word is read from the lectern. Absolution is heard when God’s Word is preached from the pulpit. Absolution is there in the mouths of mothers and fathers, who teach their children and comfort them with the fact of Jesus’ vicarious satisfaction.
The final thing we can learn from the protoevangelium is the note of judgment. The Woman and Satan are estranged; at enmity. Their relationship is one of hostility. This hostility will increase, as we see with Cain and Abel, until the time when the promised Seed will destroy the power and tyranny of Satan.
Salvation to His people -Judgment upon His enemies. This is the Gospel. Enmity with Satan is friendship and fellowship with God. The judgment of Satan means justification for his thralls. Here, at the fountainhead of good news, we see judgment and mercy mingled, wrath and love intertwined. This becomes ever more pronounced as the history of the Gospel goes on.
Enmity is a gospel word. Hostility is a gospel word. Bruising and crushing are gospel words. It is gospel to hear that the enemies of Christ’s church are thrown down and defeated. Isn’t this what the martyred saints in heaven pray for (Rev. 6:10)? Isn’t this what the imprecatory psalms, so inconveniently left out of the hymnal, proclaim?
We cannot chain the gospel to fit our preconceived notions, our ecclesiastical jargon, or our pet theories. We may be limited and chained by our experience, our shibboleths, or our seminary education. But God’s gospel is not chained. May God give us new ears to hear the protoevangelium, so that we might better understand His Good News.