By Joanna Tien, Class of ’18
In contemporary society, stories are told in many ways through various media: movies, television shows, novels, musicals, and more. Regardless of whether it is fiction or nonfiction, romantic or horror, action or comedy, stories become popular as long as they leave the audience with a sense of enjoyment or a call to action in some part of their life.
God is the author of a story as well, but his story–the story of redemption that began in Genesis and continued to the New Testament–is radically different from all other stories. Although popular stories today are well known because of their exceptional character development, riveting plot, or elegant prose, they either describe a series of events that happened in the past or a fictional series of events. The Bible stands in a class of its own because it is prophetic in nature. The books of the Bible hold many accurate predictions of several events that seemed strange or impossible at the time of writing, but have been confirmed through the passing of time. If the Bible is set apart from popular stories in this way, then its author must be set apart as well. Christians believe that was the Bible was written by man but inspired by God (2 Peter 1:20-21), who is actively shaping and directing history towards our good and his glory.
The divinely inspired Bible is able to predict seemingly strange and impossible events because its ultimate author, the Lord of history, ordained these events himself (Ephesians 1:11). One of the most heavily predicted events is the life, death, and resurrection of the Messiah, the most significant act of redemption in the entire Bible. As the cornerstone of the Christian faith and the focal point of the Bible, the Gospel was not randomly brought about by God and haphazardly used to usher in the New Testament age. God inspired various authors of the Old Testament to reveal the deliberate plan of sacrificing his own Son to redeem undeserving sinners.
In this article, I will trace one of the messianic themes, commonly referred to as the theology of the seed, through its major landmarks from Genesis to Galatians. In doing so, I hope to demonstrate that God is an intentional, loving God who planned the redemption and salvation of people who lived in rebellion and hatred towards him. The theology of the seed reminds us that God is infinitely deserving of worship and glory not only because of who he is, but also because of what he did to redeem us. God treated the sacrifice of his Son as something of infinite value, which means that our lives must also reflect the infinite value of the Gospel. Our response to the Gospel, then, determines whether we will fellowship with God for the rest of our lives and for eternity.
The Seed of the Woman: Genesis 3:15
In many English versions of the Bible, the word “offspring” is often used instead of “seed,” and the messianic theme of the seed is first found in Genesis 3:15. Humanity had just fallen into sin, which ruined the order of God’s perfect creation, things that he considered to be “good” and “very good.” In addition, the Fall also ushered in the era of sin, spiritual rebellion, and suffering that would stand as obstacles between humans and a proper relationship with God. And yet, right after this devastating event, God speaks to the serpent in Genesis 3:15 and proclaims:
“And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
The positioning of this prediction provides hope for the reader as well as Adam and Eve, and is an invitation for humans to trust God despite the fact that the Fall had just occurred. God anticipated the Fall and had already put a plan in place to rectify it.
In this passage, the first line implies that Eve’s descendant will be opposed to the serpent’s descendant. In the next line, the word “he” provides the reader with more information about Eve’s descendant. In fact, it seems that the male individual will not only be opposed to the serpent’s descendant but will also destroy it and sustain injuries while doing so. For the readers who are familiar with the Gospel and genealogy of Jesus, there are already some obvious connections we can draw between Jesus and the descendant mentioned: namely that he is directly descended from Eve, that he triumphed over sin and evil, and that such a triumph cost his life. However, there are more passages that build upon this theme and provide further information about who this one Seed is and what he will do.
The Seed of Abraham: Genesis 12:2-3
The theme of the seed is further developed when God speaks to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3 while he was migrating from the city of Ur to Canaan. God’s speech to Abraham reveals the plans he has for Abraham as well as the rest of humanity. Although the actual reference to the seed is not found in this passage, it still builds upon the previous reference and promise in Genesis 3 by providing more information about what Abraham’s descendant will accomplish. God proclaimed:
“I will make you into a great nation,
and I will bless you;
I will make your name great,
and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth
will be blessed through you.”
This passage includes several aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant, but I will focus on the last line, which states that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you” (Genesis 12:3). This promise of the universal blessing builds upon the theme of the seed because it is through Abraham (more specifically, his descendant) that non-Jews would be blessed as well. We can draw two similarities between Jesus and the promise of the universal blessing: Jesus was directly descended from Abraham as well as Eve (Matthew 1:17), and his death was the means through which God provided the free gift of salvation to all the peoples of the earth. In other words, God’s promise of the universal blessing indicates the triumph of the seed of the woman over the seed of the serpent.
There are several instances in which the New Testament explicitly states that God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3 is fulfilled through Christ. One example is in Acts 3:24-25, which states, “Indeed, beginning with Samuel, all the prophets who have spoken have foretold these days. And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’” In this passage, Peter is preaching to his Jewish contemporaries. In verse 34, Peter states that all the prophets from Samuel onward consistently proclaimed “these days,” or the coming of the Messiah and the New Covenant age. In verse 35, Peter refers to God’s promise to Abraham. He confirms that his audience is the recipient of God’s promise to Abraham that all the families of the earth shall be blessed. This is because God fulfilled his promise through Jesus Christ, who is the offspring or seed, making salvation possible for all.
The Seed of David: 2 Samuel 7:12-16
A couple hundred years after Abraham, God further builds upon the theme of the seed in yet another speech, this time to King David. The Lord said:
“When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I will punish him with a rod wielded by men, with floggings inflicted by human hands. But my love will never be taken away from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.”
God’s speech builds on information regarding the same one Seed mentioned in Genesis 3:15 and Genesis 12:2-3 in greater detail. It focuses on the relationship this seed will have with God the Father, his relationship to David, and the kind of kingdom this seed will rule.
In this passage, “offspring” immediately refers to King Solomon, but the main focus of the passage is actually on Jesus. As the son of King David, King Solomon did succeed him, but this passage ultimately refers to Jesus because he is the better Solomon, the final Son of David. In other words, Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, whose kingdom will be established and endure forever, and yet without sin. God loves Jesus but will allow him to suffer for sin that was not his own although he does no wrong. Since Jesus is God, he has eternally been personal and relational in his own triune being, hence God’s statement that his love will never be taken away from Jesus. This also means that God gave up his “beloved Son, with whom [he was] well pleased” (Matthew 3:17), so that he may suffer by the hands of men for the redemption of mankind. In addition, Jesus is descended from King David (Matthew 1:17), and like King David he will have a kingdom of his own. Ultimately, Christ’s kingdom will be on earth and the Davidic throne will continue on the new earth for eternity (Revelation 22:1). Thus, 2 Samuel 7:12-16 is another major component of the messianic theme of the seed and predicted the coming of the Messiah several hundred years before it occurred.
The Messianic Seed Fully Revealed: Galatians 3
The messianic theme of the seed, which was a few thousand years in the making, was finally realized in Christ. The Apostle Paul draws the connection between the various developments of the seed in the Old Testament to its fulfillment in Christ in Galatians 3. The Book of Galatians was written by Paul to defend the Gospel against heretics known as the Judaizers who infiltrated the Galatian church and claimed that the Galatian Christians needed to be circumcised (as well as keep the rest of the Mosaic Law) in order to be saved (Galatians 1:7; Galatians 5:12). Paul states that the law (including laws regarding circumcision) “was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come” (Galatians 3:19). Now that Christ had come, the old covenant no longer applied to those who believed because the New Covenant age began. However, the promises and predictions in the Old Testament are still important, since the seed is Christ and there are several fulfillments of the God’s promises that apply to Christians today (Galatians 3:16).
One promise that was fulfilled was the promise that the One Seed would be a universal blessing to all peoples (Genesis 12:3). Christ’s universal church, which was established through his suffering on behalf of Christians around the world, is the actualization of the universal blessing. In addition, the universal church is considered the seed of Abraham (Galatians 3:7) because Abraham and the Gentiles are all saved by faith. More specifically, “Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you’” (Galatians 3:8). In Gen. 15:1-5, Abraham’s saving faith is demonstrated when he believes God’s promise of the seed when God affirms him. This affirmation of salvation through faith rather than works is one of the responses that Paul gives against the heresy of the Judaizers. The one Seed accomplishes blessing for the many seeds he represents, which are all the members of the Church. As Paul states, “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:29).
It is important to note that all the privileges Christians have, such as the forgiveness of our sins, the restoration of our relationship with God, our membership in the universal church, and more were not blessings that God suddenly decided to grant us. The messianic theme of the seed demonstrates that the redemption of every single Christian was planned by God thousands of years in advance. In addition, our redemption and the blessings we receive were bought with a price: the suffering and shame of the one Seed. Thus, we ought not to take our redemption and salvation lightly, as God did not author the redemptive plan carelessly.
The Christian God is an intentional and loving God who pursues his people relentlessly and meticulously. We can see this in the coherency and consistency of the messianic themes in the Bible and ultimately in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross. The Bible contains the story of how God deliberately authored and shaped the redemptive plan. But, it is a story unlike any other because it makes known to us the free gift of salvation, glorification, and eternal life with God in heaven without sin or evil that was accomplished through the Cross. Now that God has made known to us his redemptive plan through the messianic theme of the seed that culminates in Jesus’ death on the cross, it is our turn to respond to it. This story is unlike any other because it has an unique participatory component, in which how we respond to the Gospel determines how we will spend the rest of eternity.