Summary: One of the great mysteries that puzzles philosophers is solved in Genesis 3. Sin is no unexplained remnant of humanity’s supposed rise from beastiality, but a heritage flowing from Adam’s fall. Yet the focus in these two chapters is not on the fact of sin
THE ENTRANCE OF SIN
“I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid” (Gen. 3:10).
One of the great mysteries that puzzles philosophers is solved in Genesis 3. Sin is no unexplained remnant of humanity’s supposed rise from beastiality, but a heritage flowing from Adam’s fall. Yet the focus in these two chapters is not on the fact of sin, but on its consequences.
Eve succumbed to temptation and induced Adam to disobey God (3:1–6). Overcome by guilt and shame, the pair ran from the Creator God who loved them (vv. 7–10). God found them and explained the consequences of their act (vv. 11–20). God Himself offered history’s first sacrifice (v. 21) and led them from the Garden (vv. 22–24). Adam and Eve lived to see sin’s consequences in their own family as Cain killed his brother Abel (4:1–16). Lamech, Cain’s descendant, represents the sinful society that emerged (vv. 17–24).
Here lies the foundation of the Christian doctrine of “total depravity.” Man is not as bad as he can be. But mankind, separated from God, is as bad off as it can be.
Understanding the Text
“He said to the woman” Gen. 3:1–6. Satan’s approach to Eve is a classic model of the reasoning that leads us into sin. God’s command not to eat of one tree in the Garden (2:17) established a standard. Satan attacked this standard in three ways.
Satan questioned the existence of the standard: “Did God really say?” (3:1)
Satan cast doubt on God’s motives for establishing the standard: “God knows that when you eat… you will be like God” (v. 5).
Satan denied the consequences of violating the standard: “You will not surely die” (v. 4).
Yesterday I saw a debate over pornography on CNN’s “Crossfire,” and saw Satan’s arguments marshalled once again. An ACLU lawyer ridiculed the idea that even gross pornography is wrong. He claimed censorship of pornography would deny readers their rights and pleasures. And he claimed that no harm would come through filling the mind with pornographic images.
Our only protection against evil is the belief which Eve abandoned. We must affirm what God has said. We must be convinced that His standards are not intended to deny us pleasures but to protect us from harm. And we must realize that tragic consequences will follow violating God’s standards of right and wrong.
“Die” Gen. 3:4. In the Bible “death” is an all-encompassing term. It describes the end of biological life. But it also describes man’s psychological, social, and spiritual state. When God warned Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit, He explained, “When you eat of it you will surely die.”
Adam’s sin brought “death” in all four of its meanings. Biologically the process of aging began when Adam sinned; a process that led to the death of the first pair and to the physical death which stalks every human being now. Psychologically Adam and Eve were stricken with guilt and shame, expressed here in their sense of nakedness (3:7). Socially Adam and Eve were set at odds, blaming each other for their act. The harmony they had known was broken by strife (vv. 11–13). Spiritually Adam and Eve were alienated from God, and this created a sense of fear. The God of love had suddenly become an object of terror (vv. 8–10).
No human being is as bad as he or she might be. But all human beings, the victims of sin’s legacy of physical, psychological, social, and spiritual death, are as bad off as they could be.
We’re familiar with all these aspects of what the Bible calls “death.” Each is a witness—a billboard—announcing loudly that sin is a reality with which we must deal.
“They sewed fig leaves together” Gen. 3:7. The phrase portrays man’s first, futile effort to deal with sin. Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves. Yet they knew their attempt to deal with sin was a failure. How do we know? When Adam and Eve heard God nearby, “they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the Garden” (v. 8). Try as we may to deal with sin by our own efforts, deep down we human beings retain a sense of guilt and shame that witnesses to our lost condition. There never has been, and never will be, a human being saved by his or her own works.
“God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife” Gen. 3:21. This simple statement is filled with symbolic significance. It is referred to as “history’s first sacrifice.” God Himself took the life of an animal to cover the nakedness of Adam and Eve.
Note that God made the garments. We cannot deal with sin. God Himself must act.
Note that blood was shed. Here, as in Mosaic Law’s system of sacrifices, several lessons are taught. Sin merits death. Yet God will accept the death of a substitute. There was no merit in the blood of bulls and goats slain on ancient altars. Animal sacrifice was God’s visual aid, preparing humanity to recognize in the death of Christ on Calvary a substitutionary sacrifice that does take away sins.