“[It’s remarkable that the protoevangelium] makes its debut as a sentence passed on the enemy, not a direct promise to man, for redemption is as much about God’s rule as about man’s need.”
Genesis 3 begins with the account of The Fall. In The Fall account, we read that Adam and Eve–humanity’s representatives in Eden–reject God’s good and loving rule in their lives and, after being convinced by the Serpent’s (Satan) falsehoods, chose to become their own ultimate authority. Following this account, we arrive quickly at the curses God pronounced on Satan, the woman, and the man for their violations of his created order and rejection of him (vv. 14-19). It’s here, in the darkness of God’s curses, that we are first introduced to the light of eternal hope.
Verse 15 is known as the protoevangelium–the first gospel proclamation. And at least two things are noteworthy: (1) God is the one evangelizing, and (2) the first proclamation of the gospel is primarily a decree about what God will do to Satan, not what he will do for man. Let’s briefly look at both.
God: the Evangelist
We tend to think about evangelism, primarily, as something we are doing. We think about it in very individualistic terms. What am I doing? How am I doing it? This verse doesn’t give us a basis to believe evangelism is less than us carrying God’s saving news to the world. Instead, it tells us that it’s far more.
What we see here is that God is the true evangelist. The first time the gospel is proclaimed in Scripture, it’s coming from God’s own lips. This fact is pivotal. It grounds evangelism for us in terms of what God has done. It takes the burden of persuasive responsibility off of us. As we, by God’s grace, are faithful to proclaim his message to those around us, we do so knowing that God has done the actual work. He decreed that he would do it back in Genesis 3:15, and as Christians today we can point back to the cross to see that he did do it at the cost of his own Son. This truth leads us to our second point.
Exercising His Authority
Kidner’s quote at the top combats how we generally think about salvation. We tend to think of it, like evangelism, individualistically. We emphasize that God shows mercy on sinners like you and me by redeeming us through the finished work of his Son. What we see here, again, is that v. 15 is not communicating less than that, but more.
In this verse, we see God flexing his omnipotent muscles. As Kidner points out, God has hidden this message of hope in a curse against Satan. In doing so, God is telling us all that he, and he alone, has the authority and power to set right what has been made wrong. We can’t work our way back into his favor, we won’t partner with him in his plan for redemption, and Satan, sin, and death won’t just wear off. Instead, God will send a man that will crush the Serpent’s head while sustaining a wound himself.
As much as redemption is about those God has redeemed, we see here that it is also about God fulfilling the purposes for his creation that he had always intended. God’s promise in the protoevangelium is that his plans can’t be thwarted. Though Satan prevailed in the garden, God knows where his creation is headed. God is proclaiming here, to us all, that he will save his people and by doing so set right what we, through sin, have made terribly wrong.