Every word of the Bible matters. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The entire word of God is “living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow.” Its every part discerns “the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” Every chapter and every verse serves a God-given purpose.
That’s not to say, though, that every chapter and every verse is equally important when it comes to knowing God, understanding his will, and living for his glory. Some sections carry special significance. Some sections are so important that the rest of the Bible cannot be understood apart from them. One of these is the third chapter of Genesis, for it stands between the perfect world of Genesis 2 and the utterly shattered world of Genesis 4. It explains what went so tragically wrong.
Genesis 3 is the subject of Mitchell Chase’s book Short of Glory: A Biblical and Theological Exploration of the Fall. “All of us are born outside Eden,” he explains, “so Genesis 1–3 is a special set of chapters. God makes the world, and specifically a garden, for his people. And there, in the sacred space of Eden, God’s image bearers defy his word and succumb to the tempter. When God exiles them, we are exiled in them too.” This is the great tragedy. Yet all is not lost, for “in that same chapter where God announces judgment, he gives a promise of hope that a deliverer will come one day and defeat the serpent. The rest of the biblical story grows out of the ground of Genesis 3. When we meditate on the content of this chapter, many biblical themes and connections become clear. The events in Genesis 3 become a lens through which to read and understand the progressive revelation of God’s redemptive epic.”
He wants the reader to think of Genesis 3 as containing a number of seeds that grow into fuller form later in the Bible. “There are temptation and shame and coverings. There are a tree of wisdom and one of life. There are messianic hope, the reality of death in the dust, and exile from sacred space. There are blame shifting, hiding, and a response of faith.” It’s as we spend time carefully studying Genesis 3 that we come to understand so much of the Bible’s storyline, so much of its imagery, and so much of its promise. And further, we come to live better, for “if we situate the fall in Scripture’s storyline effectively, an exploration of Genesis 3 will result in greater joy in the good news about Jesus. By tuning our ears to creation’s groanings, our hope will be stirred along the way.”
This is the task Chase takes on in Short of Glory and he does it well. He explores a number of the themes that are introduced in Genesis 3 and that then carry on through the rest of the Bible. He begins with sacred space, “the kind of theme that locks the metanarrative together. Sacred space is given, lost, promised, and at last received again. As readers cross the threshold into Genesis 3, they come to a sacred place that God gave his people. God had made the heavens and the earth, and part of his work on earth included a garden in a place called Eden (2:8).” In this chapter we see that sacred space violated and lost, but also the promise that it will be recovered. We eventually see the shadow of that recovery in the tabernacle and temple and long to see its full recovery in heaven.
From here he turns to the two trees, to the God who walks and talks with his people, to the ancient serpent who leads them astray, and to the idea of taking and eating. And so it goes through several other themes, each of them introduced in Genesis 3 and each of them carrying into the rest of the Bible. In each case, he doesn’t merely explain these themes, but also applies them to the Christian life. And so this is not just a book of abstract theology, but a book that calls us to better Christian living.
Short of Glory is a relatively small book, but it is one that deals with one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. It explains it, applies it, and calls Christians to live according to it. For those reasons and many more, I highly recommend reading both the chapter itself and this excellent explanation of it.