Then Yahweh God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and He clothed them. (Genesis 3:21)
Salvation, from man’s side, requires faith. But from God’s side it requires atonement.
I know you can read that verse and say, “Oh, well, that’s just a straightforward fact,” but there’s really so much there.
Here is sovereign initiative again. Adam and Eve didn’t ask for it. They didn’t participate in it. God did it. God initiates the covering. He acts in grace and compassion for the sinful, shameful couple.
Back in Genesis 2:25, “The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” There was nothing to be ashamed of. They never had a sinful thought, never had a wicked impulse at all, and their nakedness was not a problem. But in Genesis 3:7, “The eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.” They covered themselves even though there was no one there to see them but each other. They were ashamed.
God reinforces this sense of shame by Himself making for them a better, more permanent, and more modest covering of animal skins. But what is interesting about this is that, for God to do that, He had to kill an animal. This is the first time death occurs in history, and God is the executioner.
There had never been the death of an animal. In fact, all animals were vegetarians up to this point. Here is the first death. God slays the animal, takes the skin, and uses it to cover Adam and Eve.
God is saying, “I understand that there is reason for shame. There is reason to cover your nakedness.” But there’s even more to it than this. This is a magnificent picture of salvation.
Nobody can make an adequate covering of his sin by himself. Adam and Eve tried to put together a covering out of leaves, but it was an inadequate covering. Only God can make the covering that is acceptable. God, through the sacrifice of an innocent victim (an animal), provides a garment to cover sinners.
This is a picture of God covering the naked sinner with a garment of righteousness through the substitutionary sacrifice of an innocent victim. Who was that innocent victim? It was Christ, who died as the Lamb. By His death, a garment is procured to cover the sinner. This is the idea of atonement, which means covering.
This introduces the whole matter of the substitutionary death of an innocent victim. This is the first sacrifice. This is the first picture of the spotless Lamb slain for sinners.
How is God going to accept the sinner? Faith is not enough. God must provide an atonement. Justice must be satisfied, but the sinner cannot bear the punishment, because he will perish eternally. So God takes an innocent one, the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, and He becomes the Lamb. And God sacrifices Him, as it were, and in that sacrifice He skins Him (in the sense of His righteousness) and uses it to cover the naked sinner.
God Himself chooses the substitute. God Himself executes the substitute. It wasn’t the Jewish people that put Jesus on the cross, and it wasn’t the Gentiles that put Him on the cross. Who was it? It was God who put Him on the cross.
Here in Genesis 3 is the first death in history, and it was a death to cover sinners. And so you have right here the introduction of this glorious truth of atonement. All the sacrifices in the Bible, including this one, looked forward to Christ.
Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets were looking forward to this wonderful fulfillment. They gave prophecy after prophecy of the one who would come and be the sacrifice for sins. And the most wonderful and complete text on that sacrifice in the Old Testament is Isaiah 53, where it says this:
Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
And our sorrows He carried;
Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten of God, and afflicted.
But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our peace fell upon Him,
And by His wounds we are healed.
All of us like sheep have gone astray,
Each of us has turned to his own way;
But Yahweh has caused the iniquity of us all
To fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:4-6)
This post is based on a sermon Dr. MacArthur preached in 2000, titled “The Promise of Redemption, Part 1.”
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