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Gen 3: Lessons from the Fall Print E-mail
Monday, 21 November 2005

The greatest need of man goes largely unmentioned.  We talk about hunger and we talk about shelter.  We talk about peace between nations and neighbors.  We talk about love and acceptance.  We talk about better education, better societies, better cultures, better environments.  We talk about all of this and more without really ever mentioning the greatest need of man.  We so often fail to realize that these are just symptoms, great as they are, of a much greater problem.

Yet, in the end, little is said about sin.  Not much attention is given to that idea.  Sure, we look around and recognize problems, but little is said about the problem.  We know that we need help, but we do not really know why or just how much.  We tend to think that in the end, humanity will overcome whatever it is facing. 

If you went up to an average person on the street and asked them if they wanted Jesus to save them, they would most likely respond with something to the effect of: ĎSave me from what?  Debt?  A bad marriage?  A terrible relationship with my parents?  A wasted career?  I have been dealing with those by myself thus far, but if you have some good advice Iíll take that.í  Many in the world have no idea of their greatest need.  If they did, they would never settle for Ďgood advice.í

Thus, we see the importance of the doctrine of the Fall.  For, the doctrine of the Fall identifies manís greatest need, namely the forgiveness of sin and the restoration of the relationship between creature and Creator.  Obviously, there is much we could say from Genesis 3, but I want to focus our attention this morning on three sets of lessons from this passage.

First, lessons concerning temptation and sin (v. 1-7)

The first seven verses of chapter three identify the tempter, the temptation, and the tempted.  Letís consider these together.

In verse 1 we are introduced to the tempter.  Look at that verse with me.  We are introduced here to the enemy, who comes to tempt the women in the form of a serpent.  Moses does not give us much explanation about our enemy here.  Yet, we learn quickly that he is a liar and a deceiver who seeks to turn the hearts of Adam and Eve away from God.  This will be his continued task throughout the pages of Scripture.

The Serpent begins by questioning Eve about what God has commanded her.  After Eveís answer, the Serpent then flat out contradicts what God has said.  Look at verses 4-5.  The temptation appeals to the womanís pride.  His deception involves the insinuation that God is keeping something good from the woman and the man.  Yet, in reality he is tempting her with the promise of a better life that really only leads to death.  In the end, all temptation can be reduced to the simple question of do you really trust God?  All sin stems from a lack of faith in what God has revealed.  Satan lies to us and promises a better life through disobedience.  But the truth remains: it is always better to be obedient to Godís commands than to be disobedient.  This is how it was in the garden and the same is true today.

Of course, we read in verses 6-7 that Adam and Eve give in to the temptation and eat the fruit.  Look at those verses with me.  Let me say just a word about the tempted and why their actions play such a significant role for us.  We learn from Paul in Romans 5, which we read to begin our services, that Adam was the representative for the entire human race.  To use more biblical terms, Adam was the head of the human race.  Thus, Paul can say that condemnation came to all men because of Adamís sin (Romans 5:18).  We are not sinners because we sin.  Rather, we sin because we are sinners.  We have inherited a corrupt nature from Adam.  Of course, this does not relieve us of responsibility for our individual acts of sin, for we do what we please, but it does explain why every man and woman struggles with sin.  The only human to be born of woman who did not inherit the sinful nature of Adam was the Second Adam, as Paul calls him, namely Jesus Christ.

We may be tempted at this point to cry, ĎUnfair, why are we condemned for Adamís mistake.í  Let me offer two answers.  First, as we said earlier, just because we inherit a sinful nature from Adam does not mean that we do not willfully choose to sin.  No, we will be held accountable for our sins and that is just.  Second, the glorious good news of the gospel is that even though the first Adam sinned against God as our representative, as Paul teaches us, in much the same way, the Second Adam has been righteous before God as the representative for all who have faith in him.  Thus, Christ is now the head of the righteous, His Bride, the Church.  And the righteousness we have is a gift that He secured through His life, death, burial, and resurrection, which we only receive by grace, through faith.

Although much of what we have said concerning Adam is not clearly revealed in Genesis, we must be thankful that God has taught us the significance of verses 6-7 throughout the rest of the Bible and particularly through the writings of Paul.  It is through the Bibleís teaching of the Fall of man that we can identify our greatest need as humans.

Second, lessons concerning judgment and the distortion of the image of God in man (v. 8-24)

After eating the fruit, we immediately see the impact of sin on Adam and Eve.  I have said before that Genesis 3:8 is one of the saddest verses in the Bible.  Look at it with me again.  God has created man and woman and given them a great garden and here we see them trying to use His very gifts to hide from Godís presence.  Since true life involves a right relationship with our Creator, we see immediately how the man and woman die the very day they eat the fruit.  This part of Godís judgment is swift and sure.

After giving Adam and Eve the opportunity to explain themselves, we read of the Lordís judgments against them and the Serpent in verses 14-19.  The Serpent is cursed to a place of humility and is told that the Seed of woman will bruise his head.  We will speak more of this in a moment.  The woman is cursed with multiplied pain in childbearing and hostility in her relationship with her husband.  As we said last week, the Lord created the man and woman with different roles in marriage, and as a result of the Fall, we see the difficulties that women will now have with those roles.  It is not until Christ that marriage is fully explained and fully redeemed to what it was intended to be (see Ephesians 5).  The man is cursed with difficulty in working the ground and little production.  You could simply ask the farmers in the room if this curse still rings true.  We also see the pronouncement of physical death that awaits the man and woman in verse 19.

In the judgments on man and woman, we see how the image of God has been distorted in man.  Last week, we identified the image of God as involving manís relationship with nature, with one another, and with God.  After the Fall, we see the distortion of all of these relationships.  Manís dominion over nature will now involve difficult struggle and horrible toil.  It will be a relationship that will lead to much tragedy, even as we have seen with tsunamis and hurricanes in the recent months.  Manís relationship with woman has also been distorted.  We see this in the judgment of the woman and the strains between husband and wife.  We can also note that before the Fall, the man and the woman were naked and unashamed, but immediately following the Fall, they became ashamed of their condition before one another.  With our country at war even now it is not hard to see the ongoing struggle that exists between men.  Last, we see the distortion of manís relationship with God.  We read verse 8 earlier, so look now at verses 22-24.  God drove the man out of the garden.  The fellowship between man and God was broken and in need of repair.  Thus, we see in all of these ways, the image of God has been distorted by the Fall and by sin.  This will become even clearer as we move through the rest of the book of Genesis.

Yet, in light of such judgment and devastation, we must not forget the grace of God, which is also evident in the Fall.  Consider one more set of lessons with me.

Third, lessons concerning provision and promise (v. 8-24)

We see the Lordís provision for the man and woman after the Fall in verses 20-21.  Adam names his wife Eve seemingly because he believes in Godís promise that she will produce seed.  She will indeed be the mother of all living (v. 20).  Likewise, the Lord provides clothing for Adam and Eve that is suitable, teaching us that the Lord cares for our physical needs as well as our spiritual needs.  Not only this, but we should also point out that God provides the man and woman protection from an eternal state of sinfulness.  Look again at verses 22-23.  Yes, physical death is in part judgment for Adamís sin.  Yet, it is also a means of liberation from this sinful state.  Thus, in light of Christ and his finished work of redemption, Paul can say that death is gain, for through it we are liberated from this body of death to be with Christ.  In this sense, even though it is not completely revealed in Genesis 3, we see that death is a provision of the Lord.

Yet, as we said earlier, there is also a great promise in Genesis 3.  Look again at verse 15.  If we did not know the rest of the story, then verse 15 would simply be a promise of great mystery to us.  How will the serpentís head be crushed and what will that mean for fallen humanity.  As we read the pages of the New Testament it becomes clear that the seed of the woman who will crush the serpentís head is none other than Jesus Christ.  By bearing the wrath of God on the cross, Christ righteously made a way for God to forgive the sins of man.  Thus, in verse 15 we are given the first hope of the gospel.  In the midst of great darkness, the light of the world is promised.  The Second Adam will free Adamís helpless race from the profound curse of the Fall.  He will crush the head of the serpent, defeating the enemy of God and man, and by His victory on the cross, will redeem man and restore the distorted image of God in His people.

We conclude with this question: why then is the doctrine of the Fall so important?  Because without it, it is impossible to explain mankind and reality.  We cannot explain why men would fly airplanes into buildings or why women would choose to kill their children or why great natural disasters would ravage our shores if we discredit the Fall.  Only sin and the curse of the Fall explains adequately the world in which we live in.  Everything else comes up short.

The doctrine of the Fall is also important because without it, salvation becomes unnecessary.  If sin is not a reality, then what business do we have telling people that they need a Savior.  Why preach the gospel?  Why trouble people with the message of Jesus Christ?  Why not simply join the world in their materialistic celebration of Christmas?  Unfortunately, the reality is this: sin is real.  The Fall is real.  The curse on Adamís race is real.  In light of this, we understand why the angelís pronouncement in Matthew 1:21 is so incredible.  Look at that verse with me.  Christ has come to save his people from their sins.  The Fall makes such an act necessary that we might be reconciled to God.  Praise God for His promise in Genesis 3:15!  Praise Him for that child in the manger!  Praise Him for the obedience of His Son, obedience which led to death on a cross!  And praise Him for our Risen Lord, who crushed the serpentís head by His victory over the grave!  Indeed with the angel and with all the saints we call His name Jesus, for He will save his people from their sins!  Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 February 2006 )

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