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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
 
Title:The tragic fall of our first parents reveals the nature of human sin
Text:Genesis 3:6-7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Living in a sinful world
 
Preached:2017
Added:2017-12-03
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 97:1,2,5

Hymn 11:9 (after the law)

Psalm 43:3

Hymn 80

Psalm 136:1-4, 12-13

Scripture readings:  Genesis 3:1-7, James 1:12-15

Text:  Genesis 3:6-7

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Christ our Saviour,

How can people be so wicked and cruel?  All people ask this question whether they’re Christians or not.  You could think of the massacre that took place in Las Vegas in October of 2017.  Stephen Paddock killed 59 people and wounded scores of others.  How could he be so wicked?  What led him to commit such a horrible, evil crime? 

The world tries to come up with answers to those questions.  Sometimes they resort to biology.  Killers have neurological problems which leave them without any empathy, without any ability to sense that others are upset, scared, or feeling pain.  Sometimes the world falls back on psychology or sociology.  Killers have had a bad upbringing.  Their parents gave them a bad example or never gave them the love they needed.  At other times the blame is laid on violent and realistic first-person shooter video games or movies – or, of course, on guns.  But the one thing no one denies is that what happened was evil.  Even the most ardent unbelievers admit that shooting people at a concert is wicked.

Some of their explanations for evil have some merit on a superficial level.  For instance, when a child is abused, that child does often go on to abuse others, especially if that child is male.  But it’s not a satisfactory explanation in many instances, nor does it go very deep.  There are plenty of cases where a perfectly healthy individual with a relatively decent upbringing becomes a killer.  And of course people killed before video games, movies, and guns. 

As Christians, we need to go to the Word of God to find the answers God has revealed.  He has told us why there is human sinfulness and wickedness in this world.  We have a sacred history of our origins that lays it all out.  It’s there in Genesis 3.  God gives us his Word here so that we would understand the world in which we live.  He’s giving some foundational components of a biblical worldview, a worldview which is true, a worldview which will glorify him.  But he also wants us to take what we read here and use it to understand the nature of sin in our lives and in the lives of others.  Because when with the help of the Holy Spirit we understand the nature of sin, we’re also able to understand why the gospel of Jesus Christ is good news for us and for others.  So this morning from the Word of God, we’ll see how the tragic fall of our first parents reveals the nature of human sin.

We’ll consider:

  1. Where sin begins
  2. How it carries through
  3. What it leaves you with

Earlier in Genesis you may remember that it was Satan who approached Eve in the garden.  He commandeered a snake, one of God’s good creatures, and used it for an evil purpose.  He hijacked the snake to stir up treason against the high King of heaven and earth.  The devil planted doubts about God’s character and then twisted God’s Word. 

Eve made a good start in responding to the serpent.  She understood that God had given her and her husband freedom to eat from every tree of the garden but one.  But even the woman twists God’s Word.  He did say that they should not eat from the fruit of the tree, but she adds that God also said that they must not touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God had said no such thing.  However, he did say that they would surely die if they did eat the fruit. 

It’s that point that the devil outrightly rejects in verse 4.  God had said that they would certainly die.  Satan now says that Eve will not surely die.  A choice is laid before her:  who should I believe?  Should I believe the Creator?  Or should I believe one of his creatures?  Satan adds an incentive to believe him.  The incentive is based on a lie.  God is holding back this fruit because he doesn’t want you to become like him.  When you eat of it, your eyes are going to be opened and you will be like him.  Forget about being second best, you can be on the top.  Forget about being a princess, you can be the queen.  Eating of the fruit will allow you to reach up and take the crown off God’s head and you can put that crown on your own head.  This is the lie that Satan told Eve – a false promise of independence.  He promised her freedom from God.  He promised her autonomy – that she could be a law unto herself.  She didn’t need God, she was not dependent on God, and she could quite easily live free from God.  “Eve, you’re not going to die if you eat of this fruit, in fact, quite the opposite.  For you to really live, you have to eat it.”  It all sounded quite reasonable.  This was the first step in the wrong direction – finding something reasonable in arguments calling God’s character and Word into question. 

With the words of Satan ringing in her ear, Eve took a new look at the tree and its fruit.  Prior to this, she looked at it as off limits, out of the question.  But Satan had made an attractive pitch.  His sales pitch changed the way she looked at this tree and God’s command about it.  She went from seeing it as out of the question to seeing it as “good for food.”  In other words, she became open to the possibility that this was meant for eating.  She became open to the possibility of sin.  That was her second step in the wrong direction. 

Her third step had to do with beauty.  She saw that the fruit was pleasing to the eye.  How could something so beautiful be wrong?  Popular portrayals of the scene of our text often show the fruit as an apple.  Nowhere does the Bible tell us that it was an apple.  The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about what kind of fruit or whether it was even any fruit we’re familiar with today.  But from here in our text we do learn that this fruit had something beautiful about it.  It was attractive and maybe that had to do with its colour or maybe with its shape.  This fruit was exquisite to look at and that seemed to support what Satan was saying.  Why would God withhold something so remarkably pretty from us as food?  Why would he not allow us to fulfill our cravings with something so appealing?  It just didn’t make any sense. 

Then Moses adds that she went one step further in her heart.  She figured that it was desirable for gaining wisdom.  That was what Satan had told her.  You eat of this fruit and you’ll become clever, you’ll have insight, you’ll have understanding.  You will be like God.  And who wouldn’t want to be like God?  This fruit represented progress, the evolution of the human race.  With this fruit, Eve could move beyond being a lowly creature and she could climb up a rung or two.  She could even be on the same rung as God. 

What we have up to this point in verse 6 is everything that went on in the heart of Eve.  This is how the sin of our first parents Adam and Eve began.  It began in the heart.  It began with thoughts that went off the rails.  Eve’s thinking departed from God’s thinking.  Her sin began with love lost sight of.  Eve’s love departed from God and got turned inward instead.  She aimed to put herself in the place of God and she was going to love herself and her desires more than God.  What was beautiful to God was obedient creatures.  What was beautiful to God was a man and woman created in his image living within the covenantal framework he designed, living in faith, obedience, and fellowship.  What was beautiful to Eve at this moment was the fruit and the lies Satan told about it, the lies that she believed. 

In the New Testament, James knew about the dynamics of sin behind the fall of Adam and Eve.  We read from James 1.  He writes about how sin begins with evil desires.  Sin begins when our thoughts depart from God’s thoughts revealed in his Word.  Sin begins when our affections depart from God and we set our love on ourselves instead or on other things or even people.  Sin gets conceived when we fail to see the beauty of holiness that is precious to God. Sin gets conceived when we believe that there is more beauty in what God has declared off-limits.  Now we could get into all kinds of particulars of how that works out in our lives, but I would have to cover so much to leave no wiggle room for anyone and their particular struggles.  I think you get the idea from what I’ve said.  I trust you can apply it to yourself and the way sin works in your life.  I hope also that you can understand this in a way that you can explain it to others who are not Christians, so that they too can see the way sin leads them astray.  We want ourselves and them to see that so that we would all see our need for Christ. 

With Jesus we have a Saviour who not once entertained sin, didn’t even begin to.  The temptations he faced as a true man were real and we should in no way ever minimize that.  The words of Hebrews 4:15 have to be taken seriously:  we have a high priest “who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.”  “Just as we are” – brothers and sisters, don’t undermine those words with an appeal to the fact that Jesus was God.  “Well, he was tempted, but it wasn’t a real temptation because he was also true God.”  Yes, he was true God, of course, but Scripture also insists he was tempted just like we are, just like Adam and Eve were.  Yet he was never open to the possibility of sin.  He never thought of sin as something beautiful.  He never looked at sin as the way to dominance.  Instead, he was an obedient Son.  He did what we could not do for ourselves.  Loved ones, as we think about the ways in which we still today share in the sin of our first parents, let’s find comfort in the gospel.  Let’s find our comfort and hope in the fact that Christ has walked the way we ought to walk and his obedience is a gift of grace for us.  God credits it to us when we embrace this benefit through faith.  Christ’s obedience puts us in good standing with the holy Judge of heaven and earth.  Trusting in him, resting in what he has done, we need not fear the curse of condemnation.

After desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.  Evil desires lead to evil actions.  That’s what happens next in verse 6.  Here we see how sin carries through if it’s not quashed at the beginning. 

Moses writes of the sin very simply, “she took of its fruit and ate.”  There’s nothing complicated or obscure in the language here.  It means what it says.  She went from straying thoughts and affections to rebellious actions.  She’d heard the arguments of Satan, she’d weighed them in her heart, and she made her choice against God.  She’d decided to reach for what the evil one promised.  She committed treason against the King. 

Now I don’t know about you, but my gut reaction to this is:  “Eve, Eve, how could you do this?  How could you ruin everything?  Didn’t you think about how this would wreck everything for you and for the whole human race?”  And maybe we even go a step further and contemplate how we might have done things differently.  Well, let’s stop those thoughts right there.  There’s a problem with those thoughts.   That kind of a reaction supposes that I’m cut from better cloth than Eve.  “I’m a better person -- I wouldn’t make such foolish choices.  If that was me, I’d make the better choice and obey God.”  Really?  Well, let me think for a moment about how that’s working out in my own life.  Every day I’m faced with choices to obey God or obey my sinful desires.  Do I always choose to follow my Creator and Lord?  Let’s have some honesty.  Let’s have some humility.  The reality is that Eve’s story is mine and when I humbly realize that, then the way is open for forgiveness and redemption through Jesus our Saviour.

Eve’s story continues.  The Holy Spirit tells us that she involved her soul mate, Adam.  She was created to be his helper, to help him in his service to God.  Now she helps him to rebel against God.  If she’s going to rebel, she doesn’t want to be alone in her rebellion.  So she hands some fruit to Adam and then he eats of it too. 

Now there are four small words here in verse 6 that are easy to miss.  But they are loaded with significance.  The four words are: “who was with her.”  We sometimes imagine this story as taking place like this:  Satan takes over the snake and sneaks up on Eve as she’s wandering by herself through the Garden of Eden.  Adam is off somewhere else.  Satan has her isolated and then later, after she eats, she sets off to find Adam and then involves him in her sin.  But the Holy Spirit says that Adam “was with her.”  He wasn’t far away at all.  We can’t rule out him having heard the entire conversation between Satan and Eve.  At any rate, when she offers him the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden, he should have stood up to his wife.  If he saw her reaching for the fruit, he should have warned her not to, even commanded her not to. 

What we see here is not only a failure to obey God’s command regarding the tree, but also a failure with respect to male headship.  There’s not only a sin of commission here, but also a sin of omission.  That sin is Adam’s.  He omits to provide godly leadership to his wife.  He sits back and allows her to fall for the lies of Satan, and then he allows her to lead him to the same sin.  Adam was created to be the head of his wife.  She was to be his helper, and he was to be the spiritual head and leader of the family.  But here he caves and fails to guard his wife against the lying enemy of God. 

Here again, like with Eve, we might be tempted to slap Adam upside the head.  “Adam!  How could you do this?  You lived with God in the garden, man!  You’d talked with God himself and you’d seen his goodness to you.  Yet you failed in this terrible way and your failure has had these awful consequences on all of us.  How could you?”  And again, we need to put the brakes on this thinking.  There are way too many failures of male headship in our own lives for us to be able to stand in judgment over Adam.  Sure, we can be sad at what we read here, but we can’t look down our noses at him.  Husbands are called to be the spiritual leaders of their wives and children.  They’re called to work together with their wives to protect the family home against sin.  This is what we aim for as Christians, this is our calling, but how often don’t we fall short?  How often don’t we allow the devil to find a place through what we allow for entertainment in our homes, for instance? 

How thankful we can be that there is a faithful husband!  How thankful we can be that there is a Saviour who always defended and protected his bride, and who always will.  In Jesus, we have a Redeemer who has paid for all our failures as husbands and fathers, who has paid for every time we’ve allowed sin in our hearts to carry through to our actions.  Brothers and sisters, this is not just information for your head.  This is meant to speak to your heart.  Let this good news get down in there and direct your faith and your love again to Christ.  Like Adam and Eve, we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.  Moreover, in the fall of Adam and Eve, we all sinned by virtue of the fact that they were at the head of the human race – Adam was our covenantal representative.  But in Jesus Christ, the Second Adam, we must all find forgiveness and reconciliation with the holy God.

And as redeemed people who love this Saviour, we want to conform our thinking to God’s Word, also about the relationship between husbands and wives.  So often we give into the wisdom of this age.  That wisdom has the wife on the same level as her husband in every single respect.  Feminism is worldly wisdom, let’s be clear about that.  Feminism will have nothing of what Genesis 2:18 says about the woman being created as a helper for her husband or what the Holy Spirit says in Ephesians 5:23 about the husband being the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church.  Because of feminism many in the world find this outrageous and laughable.  We’ve all been to weddings where unbelievers are present and when they hear the Form for the Solemnization of Marriage they start giggling because they can’t believe how ridiculous this is.  “Bridegroom as the head of his wife?”  “Bride, you shall love your  husband and be subject to him?”  The world thinks this is not only old-fashioned and silly, but objectionable.  It’s sad when this way of thinking seeps into the church.  And seep in it does.  It seeps in when we don’t have proper respect for the Word of God, when we put what we want over what God says in the Bible.  This thinking ensnares us when we listen to our culture more than we listen to Scripture.  We have to be on our guard against this unbelieving way of thinking.  As we look to Christ in faith, we are forgiven all our lapses in this regard, but then we also live out of Christ and pursue what he wants for us, hating the thinking of the world and fleeing it.     

We certainly need Christ and his Word in light of what sin leaves us with.  That’s what verse 7 reveals.  Here Moses tells us what happened right after the fall.

“Then the eyes of both were opened…”  This was what Satan had promised would happen, wasn’t it?  He said it in verse 5, “your eyes will be opened…”  But you have to read further in verse 5, because Satan also said that the result would be that they would be like God, knowing good and evil.  But that’s not what happened in verse 7.  Instead, their eyes are opened and they realize that they’re naked. 

To understand the significance of that, we have to go back to the end of chapter 2.  In verse 25, Moses wrote, “The man and his wife were both naked, and were not ashamed.”  What that means is that there were no obstacles between them, and most significantly, no obstacles between them and God.  There was nothing to be ashamed of.  You see, the nakedness has nothing to do with sex or anything like that.  The nakedness of Adam and Eve before the fall reflects their openness to one another and, especially, to God their Creator.

The fall into sin changes that.  With their rebellion against God, Adam and Eve introduced shame into God’s good creation.  With their treason against the high King of heaven and earth, this prince and princess now feel guilt for the first time.  They recognize that something has changed in their relationship with God and it comes out in the awareness of their nakedness.  They’re now vulnerable and exposed to God’s judgment and curse.  This is all about shame and guilt.  Those things they’re feeling on the inside come out in connection with what’s lacking on the outside, with their nakedness.  They have nothing to protect them from the gaze of God.  They feel the need now to have something between them and God. 

So that’s what they do in verse 7.  They take fig leaves and string them together to make loin cloths for themselves.  Why fig leaves?  Possibly it’s because they naturally cling together with their sticky stems.  But that’s not what’s important here.  The important thing is that they try to cover up because they have shame and guilt.  They take a do-it-yourself approach to dealing with their problem. 

Sin will almost always leave you with shame and guilt.   I said “almost always.”  It can happen that you no longer have shame and guilt over your sin.  You don’t care anymore.  You’ll just keep doing what you’re doing and it’s all good – you never look back, never think twice.   The Bible has a term for that:  it’s called a seared conscience.  It’s when your conscience lacks all sensitivity and you’re hardened in your sin, given over to it.  That does happen to people.  It’s scary when it does.  Pray that it never happens to you.  However, for many, there still is shame and guilt attached to sinful thoughts and actions.  This is a good thing and the awareness of this is meant to drive sinners to the cross of Jesus.

Sometimes, like Adam and Eve, people take the do-it-yourself approach to dealing with the shame and guilt that comes from personal sin.  The words of our text first came from Moses to the people of Israel wandering through the desert on their way to the Promised Land.  Those people had their share of shame and guilt for their sins.   They had to follow the Law of God and what it said about how to address all that through the sacrifices that pointed ahead to Christ.  There could be no do-it-yourself approach.  Today, people will sometimes try to deal with their shame and guilt through their own means.  They might get drunk or use drugs recreationally to dull their senses and forget about their problems, including their shame and guilt.  Others will work harder, thinking that they can atone for their guilt through their hard work or good deeds.  Some turn to other religions, religions focussed on works.  Some turn to alternative forms of spirituality, Eastern religions, Buddhism, yoga, and so on.  Some take up razors and cut themselves, perhaps thinking that their pain and guilt will be removed through that.  Brothers and sisters, there are all kinds of ways people seek to address their shame and guilt.  But there is only one way to really address it.  There is only one way to really get this shame and guilt out of the way. 

It involves a naked man.  It involves a naked man whose shame was there for all to see as he hung on a cross at Golgotha.  He hung naked on that cross so you could be clothed with his righteousness and have no shame or guilt before God.  Whenever we feel guilt or shame because we sinned, we have to bring it to the cross through prayer.  We have to ask God to remove it because of what Christ has done in our place, as our substitute.  Without Jesus, we will stand naked before the judgment of God and we will be ashamed and we will be condemned to a naked eternity, fully exposed to his wrath.  When we have Jesus as our Saviour, we are clothed, and we can be sure that we will always be clothed with white robes in the age to come.  We’ll have robes that have been washed with the blood of the Lamb.  Brothers and sisters, we can’t take the do-it-yourself approach to dealing with shame and guilt.  We need God’s way in Christ.

This is the message we all need to hear.  This is the message that Christians need to hear repeatedly, because it’s so easy to get distracted from the gospel, it’s easy to lose our sight of Christ.  This is also the message that we need to hold out to the world.  Our witness needs to acknowledge and address the shame and guilt of sin.  Too often evangelism reduces Jesus to a life coach.  Too often Christians speak of Christ to unbelievers merely as a way to a better marriage, a more peaceful family, a more prosperous life and so on.  However, if we take the Bible seriously, we need to take sin and its eternal consequences seriously.  Jesus is the Saviour, he is the one who rescues us from the wrath of God that would otherwise be experienced consciously forever in hell.

Our text speaks clearly about the origins and nature of sin.  In our worldview, we Christians have a way of accounting for horrible evil.  We know not only that there is evil, that there is sin, but we know why.  There is sin because of us.  Because of the wrong choices made by Adam and Eve and the wrong choices made by each of us each day following in their steps.  The famous British writer G. K. Chesterton was once asked, “What’s wrong with the world?”  Chesterton’s answer:  “I am.”  Contrary to what the world thinks, the problem is not around us or outside of us, it is within.  The heart of the matter is that my heart is the matter.  I’m the problem.  And contrary to what the world thinks, the solution is not within us.  It is outside of us – the solution is in Christ.  It’s to him that we all have to look again today for peace.  It’s to him that we all are called to witness in this dark world.  AMEN.

Prayer:

Our good God and Creator,

Your Word brings light into our dark world.  Your Word shows us a clear and straight path.  In your Word we hear of our sin and misery, but we also hear of our Saviour Jesus.  We’re thankful again to you for the gospel of light and life.  Father, please help us with your Spirit so that we’re more alert to the sinfulness of sin, so that we see how it so subtly leads us astray from you.  Please help us to squash sinful thoughts and desires before they bear fruit in sinful actions.  When we have shame and guilt, we ask that you would work with your Spirit so that we find peace in Christ and what he’s done.  We also ask for your help in speaking with unbelievers.  Please give us humble hearts that are eager to share the riches of the gospel.  Please assist in speaking truthfully about sin and joyfully about Christ.  Work through us, we pray, to increase your church, for the salvation of sinners and the magnification of your glory. 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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