S.G. de Graaf (1889-1955): Genesis 3 is more about the covenant of grace than it is about the fall


S.G. de Graaf (1889-1955), a Dutch Reformed minister perhaps not too well-known among English-speaking readers, published an excellent work on the history of redemption which he titled Verbondgeschiedenis (literally, “History of the Covenant”), which was translated into English under the title Promise and Deliverance in four volumes, which I got hold of a couple of months ago. Throughout De Graaf’s work he focuses on the Kingdom of God being established and working out its means in human history. De Graaf does a great job moving beyond the ‘moral lesson’ or ‘typical point’ used in the stories of the Bible to seeing Old Testament stories as foreshadows of Jesus and all part of the redemptive plan of God. The New Testament work points out the Kingdom of God being established on earth. To give an idea, here is an example from the Old Testament in Vol. I, beginning of chapter 3 – see where he places the emphasis when discussing Genesis 3:

“I have deliberately entitled this chapter ‘The Covenant of Grace’ instead of ‘The Fall’.  The fall certainly merits our attention, but if we put too much emphasis on it, the revelation of God’s grace might become a mere afterthought. When we read through Genesis 3, we see that the fall is described in just seven verses, while the rest of the chapter is devoted to God’s grace. Even more important for our purposes is the fact that the Scripture is not a book of the acts of men but the book of revelation of God. Here in Genesis 3, God shows us how He opposed sin and conquered it by His grace when it entered His creation.”

– S.G. de Graaf (1889-1955), Promise and Deliverance, Vol. I, p.43

That is a very important point. Most often when someone mentions the words “Genesis 3” to us, our thoughts immediately jump to the fall. While indeed Genesis 3 is about the fall of man, it is, more importantly, also about the covenant of grace and God’s promises of deliverance (the English title of de Graaf’s work is very appropriate). Right from the beginning of the 4-volume work, De Graaf places great emphasis on the utmost importance of the covenant:

“Without covenant, there is no religion, no conscious fellowship between man and God, no exchange of love and faithfulness. Without the covenant, man would be just an instrument in God’s hand. When God created man, He had more than an instrument in mind: He made a creature that could respond to Him.” (p. 36)