|Product dimensions:||5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)|
About the Author
Sinclair B. Ferguson (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and the former senior minister of the First Presbyterian Church in Columbia, South Carolina. He is the author of several books, the most recent being By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me. Sinclair and his wife, Dorothy, have four grown children.
Read an Excerpt
Jesus Christ, the Seed of the Woman
Jesus Christ has been given the name above all names. The names assigned him begin in Genesis and end in Revelation. Taken together they express the incomparable character of Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Reflecting on them better prepares us to respond to the exhortations of Scripture, to focus our gaze upon him, and to meditate on how great he is.
Being able to think long and lovingly about the Lord Jesus is a dying art. The disciplines required to reflect on him for a prolonged period of time and to be captivated by him have been relegated to a secondary place in contemporary Christian life. Action, rather than meditation, is the order of the day. Sadly, too often that action is not suffused with the grace and power of Christ.
How different is the example of the apostle Paul — for whom "to live is Christ" — or the author of the letter to the Hebrews, who urges us to "consider Jesus."
We need to learn to recapture such Christ-centeredness in our activist, busy age. Many of us are by nature too impatient. The most common tools of life, used on a daily basis — our computers and all of our technology — simply increase that impatience.
It can only do us good, then, to spend the few hours it will take to read these pages focused on and riveted to the person and the work of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The beginning, as Julie Andrews reminds us, "is a very good place to start." Genesis is the book of beginnings. There we find the first hint of the coming of a redeemer. He is the Seed of the woman.
In the Garden
The title of this chapter is drawn from words God spoke in the garden of Eden. He addressed the Serpent that had just successfully tempted Adam and Eve into sin:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring [seed] and her offspring [seed];
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
The context is a familiar one.
God has put Adam and Eve into a beautiful garden. Every tree in that garden is good to look at and its fruit tastes delicious. But there is one tree in the garden about which God has said, "Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you will die."
The point, apparently, was not that there was anything inherently poisonous about this particular tree. In fact, it is described in exactly the same terms as every other tree. It does not bear ugly fruit with a poisonous aroma. No. The distinctive feature of this tree is what God has said about it. For the all-generous God, who has given Adam and Eve everything in the garden to enjoy, has also said to them:
Now, prove your love for me, show your trust in me and your obedience to me as a generous God, not because you can tell the difference between that tree and any other tree, but simply because I, as your Father, have told you, "Trust me and obey me" with respect to this one tree.
It is a call to the life of faith that runs from the beginning of the Bible to its end:
Trust and obey, for there's no other way To be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.
But then the Serpent appeared singing a different song:
Trust me and obey, for there's no other way To be happy without God, except — do what I say.
"Did God set you in this garden full of all these glorious trees, and all this delicious fruit, and then say, 'You are not to eat of the fruit of any of the trees'?"
Of course, Eve tried to argue with him, but she failed and was eventually drawn in to his scheme. She assessed the significance of the tree through her eyes rather than through her ears! Instead of listening to what God said about it, she thought about it only in terms of what she could see on it. After all, it looked delicious as well as attractive. She had not grasped the divine principle: believers "see" with their ears, not with their eyes, by listening to God's Word!
This, of course, is always the Serpent's trick.
In addition, what better way to bring about the fall of Adam other than — as Eve herself later admitted — by deceiving her and then employing her? Satan used the very best of God's gifts to Adam to gain leverage on him and to draw him into sin. And so, in turn, Adam brought the cosmos to ruin.
God comes and exposes the sinful pair. They make their pathetic excuses. The man blames the woman. The woman blames the Serpent.
Then God pronounces three words of judgment.
1) There is a judgment on Adam related to his task of gardening and his calling to turn the whole world into a garden for God.
2) There is a judgment on Eve related particularly to childbearing and to her attitude toward her husband.
3) There is a judgment on the Serpent.
Amazingly this judgment on the Serpent contains a seed of glorious gospel hope:
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring [seed] and her offspring [seed];
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
Emmaus Road Reading
When we trace the way the Old Testament develops this theme, we are, in a sense, trying to catch up with Jesus himself as he talked with two of his disciples on the road to Emmaus on the afternoon of his resurrection. We are trying to overhear what he said.
The disciples were confused, bewildered, and distressed because of Jesus' death. He pointed them to the Scriptures: "Do you not see how these Scriptures show that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise again and enter his kingdom and then extend that kingdom to the whole world?"
Apparently they didn't.
How much we would love to have been there with an iPhone or a Blackberry set to RECORD to be able to play back all the Old Testament passages to which he drew their attention. He clearly had them memorized! Presumably he simply worked his way through them on that short journey. Later, for a period of several weeks, he kept coming back to the disciples and showing them all the ways in which the Old Testament pointed to him.
When our Lord Jesus did this — and whenever he still does it through his Word and by his Spirit — three things happen:
First, he provides an exposition of the Scriptures.
Second, he brings illumination to the mind.
Third, he creates a passion for himself in the heart.
"Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?" That was the reaction of the two disciples when he left them.
This is the function of any Bible study. It is what we want to happen whenever we read what the Bible has to teach us about Jesus. We read or hear the Scriptures, and we look to the Holy Spirit to illumine them. When he does, our hearts burn within us. They are "strangely warmed" (to use John Wesley's words). If we have once experienced this kind of heart burning, we want our hearts to burn like that again and again with love for the Savior and his teaching.
If that is to happen, there is no better place to start than where we suspect Jesus made his beginning, in Genesis 3:15 — here in this promise of the conflict between the two seeds.
The antagonists are first described as the seed of the woman and the seed of the Serpent. But the climax of the conflict is destined to be more personal and individual — between the seed of the woman and the Serpent itself. The final evil antagonist is no longer the seed of the Serpent but the Serpent itself. Implicitly, then, the final seed of the woman is also an individual. Each would crush the other. But whereas the Serpent would crush only the heel of the seed of the woman, the seed of the woman would crush the head of the Serpent — a blow that would prove fatal.
If we were to give you a 3x5 blank card, inviting you to answer the question, "For what reason did the Son of God appear?" what would your answer be? Here is the apostle John's answer:
The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
That is the very first dimension of the gospel recorded in the Bible. John saw the prophecy of Genesis 3 fulfilled in our Redeemer Jesus Christ. When Christ appeared, he came to undo what the Serpent had done. By his life and ministry and ultimately through his death and resurrection, he destroyed all the works of the Devil.
How do these words illumine the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ?
When we think about salvation, we use words like forgiveness and justification — and rightly so. But notice that there is no mention in Genesis 3:15 of forgiveness or justification. Does that not matter? Indeed it does! But God's words here place all the emphasis on conflict ("I will put enmity ...") and therefore on our need to be delivered from bondage to the Evil One so that we are no longer the prisoners of "the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience."
And so these words, almost at the beginning of Genesis, give us an important insight into the whole message of the Bible. It is a library of books that traces an ages-long cosmic conflict between the two "seeds."
Genesis 3:15 has long been referred to as the "Protevangelium," the first announcement of the good news of the gospel. It contains the earliest promise of Christ's coming — a prophecy that his appearance will be the climax of an extended conflict. Notice how this is expressed:
a) I will put enmity between you and the woman,
b) and between your offspring and her offspring;
c) he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.
In the first statement (a) God declares enmity between the Serpent and the woman.
In the second statement (b) God indicates that this will continue beyond the lifetime of Eve and involve the offspring (seed) of the Serpent and the seed of the woman.
In the third statement (c) God says that the enmity will come to a climax when the offspring ("he") of the woman bruises (or crushes) the head of the Serpent. The conflict ends in the victory of the seed of the woman.
So there is a development in this verse, from enmity between two individuals (the Serpent and Eve), to enmity between two family lines (their offspring), to a final dénouement: the woman's offspring or seed (singular) will crush the head of the Serpent.
There is no reference to Satan in Genesis 3. But when the rest of the Scriptures reflect on what happened there, it is clear that behind the Serpent stands the figure of Satan.
Paul echoes Genesis 3:15 when he tells the Christians in Rome that "the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet." He is picking up this ancient promise and applying it to the Christians in Rome. The implication is that the Serpent in Genesis 3 is the mouthpiece of Satan, and that the conflict referred to there has now come to a climax. Christ overcomes him — and therefore so shall we.
This is even more vividly expressed in the book of Revelation. Revelation 12 gives us a dramatic picture of this ages-long conflict reaching its climax. John sees a great red dragon that devours humanity. This is the "ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world." Having spiritually devoured so many from the human race, the Serpent of Eden has grown into a large dragon.
In fact, the apocalyptic vision of Revelation 12 is almost like a movie version of Genesis 3:15. We are invited to watch, in dramatic, high-definition, Technicolor with special effects, the prophesied ongoing conflict between the seed of the woman and the seed of the Serpent and its final outcome.
This is the underlying plotline of the whole of the Bible. It appears in embryo in the very next chapter of the book of Genesis. One brother (Cain) is in conflict with another brother (Abel) because the latter's sacrifice was acceptable to God. Jealousy and murder result as the seed of the Serpent (Cain), seeks to destroy the seed of the woman (Abel).
The same plotline makes its way through the tower of Babel as man seeks to build his kingdom over against God's. But in sovereign power God pulls down that kingdom and destroys its unity. This is also the story of Egypt against Israel. It is the story of Goliath against David. It is the story of Babylon against Jerusalem, of Nebuchadnezzar against Daniel. It is the story of Satan against Jesus, and of Pontius Pilate and Herod seeking to destroy the Savior. It is the story that runs through the Gospels and beyond. The Jews seek to destroy Jesus during his ministry: "You are of your father the devil," he says. It is the story of how the enmity then turns on the Christian church.
Thus the story of the ages is beginning to unfold here already in Genesis 3:15.
We need to remember this conflict when we come to read the Gospels. It is a major underlying theme in the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus. Its presence runs through every page of the story. The Gospels are the story of Jesus' conflict with the seed of the Serpent — whether in the form of demons, or in the inciting of hostility against him, or in his efforts to conscript into his service Jesus' disciples Peter and Judas. In the terse summary language of the aged John: "The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil."
And so from the beginning to the very end, from the garden of Eden turned into a desert because of sin, until in Revelation 21 and 22 when that desert is turned back into a garden, the whole of the Bible is the story of this conflict. It was promised to last throughout the ages until Christ came, and then, in his ministry, it enters its critical phase.
The New Testament reflects this in many different ways.
Remember how Paul says that when the time was fully come, God sent his Son. He describes Jesus in two arresting phrases, "born of woman, born under the law." "Born of woman" — is he echoing Genesis 3:15? Surely, for lineage elsewhere in Scripture is traced through the male line. But God had said, "The seed of the woman will crush the head of the serpent." Paul is, as it were, saying to us, "Now do you see in the incarnation who the seed — the one born of — the woman actually is? It is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ."
Could this be the reason why the Lord Jesus addresses his mother Mary as the "woman"? He does that in two very striking moments recorded exclusively in John's Gospel.
First, at the wedding Jesus was attending in Cana of Galilee, he responds to Mary's insistence that he "do something" about an impending disaster. The wine was running out. But Jesus answers: "Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come." But shortly afterwards he turned water into wine — his first miracle; his first display of his glory!
Later, during the last hour or so of his life, Jesus again addresses his mother as "woman." He is about to finish his work on earth. In that work God "disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame." As he does so, he turns to John and commits his mother Mary into his care. And then he says to her, "Woman, behold, your son!"
Commentators have always found it difficult to explain the precise nuance of Jesus' words. They seem to jar a little. After all, when did you last address your mother in this impersonal form? And if you did, what did she say? Did she remind you who she is? To our ears there is something abrasive about such language when used by a son of his loving mother. Some commentators go to great lengths to say, "Now, there is no tension here. This is a very normal thing for Jesus to say."
But is it? This style of address between a son and his mother does not appear elsewhere in the Gospels. Could there be a deeper reason why John records this language at both the beginning and the end of Jesus' public ministry? Is he saying: "Don't you see what is happening here? Jesus sees he is the seed of the woman who would bruise the head of the Serpent." Is he simply reminding his mother of their God-given destinies? After all, John's Gospel teaches us that, on the cross of Calvary, our Lord Jesus Christ did, in fact, crush the head of the Serpent. "Now" he says, when Gentiles asked to see him, "Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out."
Jesus Meets the Enemy
Another passage in John's Gospel seems to fit in with this overall perspective, although it too is far from easy to interpret.
In the middle of our Lord's Farewell Discourse (John 13–17) he says to his disciples, "Rise, let us go from here [or, let us be going]" (14:31). But there is no indication in the text of any physical relocation or indeed of any movement at all. However, the language John uses here was employed outside of the New Testament in a military context, for marching against the enemy. Perhaps, then, Jesus is not saying, "Come on, let's move on from here," but rather, " In the light of all that I have been saying and all that is happening, it is time for us to march into the final conflict against the powers of darkness." For, "this is [their] hour, and the power of darkness." Whether the disciple band physically left the room at that point or not, Jesus was certainly entering enemy-occupied territory.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Name above All Names"
Copyright © 2013 Alistair Begg and Sinclair B. Ferguson.
Excerpted by permission of Good News Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 Jesus Christ, the Seed of the Woman 15
2 Jesus Christ, the True Prophet 37
3 Jesus Christ, the Great High Priest 55
4 Jesus Christ, the Conquering King 77
5 Jesus Christ, the Son of Man 101
6 Jesus Christ, the Suffering Servant 133
7 Jesus Christ, the Lamb on the Throne 159
Subject Index 183
Scripture Index 188
What People are Saying About This
“No biblical or theological subject captivates my heart and stimulates my mind more than the glory of Christ. One day every knee with bow at the mention of His name. If you want to understand why (and have your own heart humbled, filled with gratitude, and aroused to worship), nourish your soul with this simple yet profound overview of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished.”
John MacArthur, Pastor, Grace Community Church, Sun Valley, California; Chancellor Emeritus, The Master’s University and Seminary
“As Christians, we find it easy to talk about God’s work in our communities and around the world. It’s easy to describe our growth in Christ and what we are learning from him. But how many of us simply delight in talking about Jesus? The art of contemplating the loveliness of Christand infusing those admirations into everyday conversationis a dying discipline. But in Name above All Names, my friends Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson invite us to meditate afresh on our wonderful savior and all that makes him beautiful and praiseworthy. I highly recommend this remarkable volume!”
Joni Eareckson Tada, Founder and CEO, Joni and Friends International Disability Center
“Who is Jesus? There is no more important question human beings can face. Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson provide a wealth of knowledge about Christ by looking at how Christ is presented in the New Testament through a collection of exquisite images. Every Christian will celebrate this book as these two gifted authors bring us into an even deeper understanding of who Christ is and who he is for us.”
R. Albert Mohler Jr., President, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“You can’t have too many good books about the person and work of Jesus Christ. And this is a great book. Alistair Begg and Sinclair Ferguson handle the most important doctrines of the faith with clarity, fidelity, pastoral insight, and good humor. New Christians, non-Christians, and long-time Christians will benefit from these superb expositions.”
Kevin DeYoung, Senior Pastor, Christ Covenant Church, Matthews, North Carolina; Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte
For all of those who, like me, have spent a lifetime in church hearing the Bible stories, but have only begun to grasp the central story of the Bible, Name above All Names winsomely and clearly connects the dots. Two wise guides help us to see Jesus throughout the scripturesfrom the promise of his coming as the seed of the woman in Genesis, to the promise of his coming again as Lamb on the Throne in Revelation.”
Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher; author, Even Better than Eden: Nine Ways the Bible’s Story Changes Everything about Your Story