God, the First Evangelist
Sin begins when we attempt to become autonomous from God. We think we can do it on our own steam, out of our own resources. If you read the Bible straight through, Genesis through Revelation, two big sins come at you time and time and time again. The first big sin is self-reliance. The second big sin is oppressing poor people. You really don’t want to do that. But, Adam and Eve fell and sin cannot bear the light. Do you understand? It cannot bear the light. So what does God do? God, a loving God, withdraws behind the veil so that we could still be in fellowship with God and not be overwhelmed by God’s holiness. The first words out of the mouth of God after the fall are what? “Where are you?”
God is the first evangelist, looking to be reconciled with a fallen creation. God establishes covenants and provides an opportunity for fellowship, to be able to communicate with the transcendent God. This is terribly important. Communicate what? I sometimes tell my students that if you had to describe the characteristics of God from Genesis through Revelation, you would probably come up with at least five wonderful characteristics. The first of course is love, then mercy, justice, faithfulness, and longsuffering: Genesis to Revelation.
You don’t have to get into the New Testament to find a God who is loving and merciful and faithful and just and longsuffering. That’s who God is. Yet, in spite of the fact that God loves us and wants to be in fellowship, within generations of Adam and Eve, we almost perfected humankind and almost perfected its own evil, and we were about to destroy ourselves. Before we could destroy ourselves, do you know what God does? God cuts us right back to the root. I am not trying to make a literal case for a universal flood, but I can tell you what that means. God, before we could destroy ourselves, perfect our own evil and destroy ourselves, God cuts us right back to the root and saves a remnant and establishes a covenant: a covenant with Adam and Eve and a covenant with Noah, confirmed with a rainbow.
Then within generations of Adam and Eve, within generations of Noah, we did it all over again. We were about to perfect our own evil. We were going to build a tower to God, the Tower of Babel. We didn't need God. We could build a tower to heaven ourselves. We could get to heaven on our own steam. Do you know what God does to preserve the remnant? You see, everyone spoke their own language. In a community there is nothing we cannot do for good or for ill, you know that. There are some cultures where en mass they would far rather hate their enemies than love their friends. One on one, they would give you their shirts off their backs; but en mass, they would far rather hate their enemies than love their friends. In community, there is nothing we cannot do for good or for ill. So, what does God do? God confuses us, just to preserve the remnant.
I love this story. I love evangelism. I love a God who pursues us, from the very beginning, before the Lamb was slain, before the foundation. We get back to that in a later session. I love the story of evangelism. I love it that God knows who we are, but yet pursues us from the very beginning and continually is looking for an opportunity for our fellowship to be renewed and refreshed.