Admit Your Sin Problem

Explore the Bible Series

December 9, 2007

 

Background Passage: Genesis 3:1-4:26

Lesson Passage: Genesis 3:1-13, 22-23

 

Introduction: Some months ago I asked a group of college students to identify the great questions of life.I, of course, hoped to enhance the studentsí appreciation of history by encouraging them to think about the most important issues in life.Frankly, I entered this class project with great optimism, certain that the young people would construct an impressive list of questions.My young scholars, confronted with my challenge, quickly engaged in an animated discussion about lowering the legal drinking age in the state of Texas!That was the most important question in life, for this group of young people!Well, my project did not work very well.

 

I tell my students that one of lifeís most important skills centers on learning to ask the right questions.They will never, I remind them, find the right answers if they donít identify the right questions.Genesis does that.From the first verse of this majestic book, the reader encounters the great issues of life. One by one, the unfolding story of Genesis addresses these important questions.

††††††††††† -Does God exist?

††††††††††† -How did the world come to exist?

††††††††††† -How did humankind come into existence?

††††††††††† -Why did God create man?

††††††††††† -If God did create the world, what can we know about God from his creation? †††† -How can evil exist in a world created by a good, all-powerful God?

 

Genesis One and Two indicate the following propositions:

††††††††††† -God created the world.

††††††††††† -The creation account reveals Godís power and goodness.

††††††††††† -This powerful and good God created a world of perfect goodness and blessing.

 

As one reads through Chapter Two, Adam and Eve are content, fulfilled, innocent, blessed, and enjoyed a wholesome, happy marriage relationship.Chapters Three and Four, however, reveal a different world: temptation, lust, rebellion, shame, guilt, curse, jealousy, murder, violence, polygamy, and fear.How did this happen?

 

Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, co-authors of Handbook of Christian Apologetics, identify the presence of evil as the apparent proof of atheism.Atheists assert that the presence of evil in the world demonstrates that a good, omnipotent God could not create a world full of moral (i.e. the immoral actions of humans) and physical evil (i.e. the undeserved suffering of illness or natural catastrophes).The presence of evil, atheists often claim, demonstrates that a powerful, benevolent God does not exist.This, in my judgment, is a powerful question, and Christians should take seriously the objections of thoughtful people who confront the faith with penetrating issues like this.

These two chapters shed light on this dilemma.God created the world without the presence of moral or physical evil, but he also fashioned man with the freedom to make moral choices.In his infinite wisdom God determined to allow the possibility of evil, and he deemed it good that man should freely and willingly obey Godís directives.Manís free obedience (an essential element of genuine love) was part of the goodness of Godís creation. Our first parents chose poorly and opened the door for all manner of moral and practical evil in the world.Their choice had catastrophic consequences for the entire created order, and we still see these consequences at work today.

 

This story, as told in Genesis Three and Four, is simple and straightforward; yet, any thoughtful reader confronts some difficult interpretive problems.Some have addressed these problems by interpreting allegorically the story of the Fall. The allegorists might ask if readers should interpret literally the story of a serpent engaging in an extended theological conversation with a naked woman, in the paradise of Eden.How seriously should modern readers take an account that traces the evolution of evil to the sin of a single man, Adam?I respect and sympathize with those who thoughtfully wrestle with such problems; however, lest we jettison the traditional, historical interpretation of the Fall too quickly, the New Testament clearly indicates the historical nature of this story.The Apostle Paul traced the entrance of evil in the world to the rebellious act of Adam.Indeed, the apostle referred to Jesus as the second Adam (See I Corinthians 15:22), indicating that the first Adam was a historical figure, in some way, comparable to Jesus.

 

Outline of the Background Passage:

 

I.                   The Fall of Man (3:1-24)

A.    The temptation of Eve (vv. 1-7)

1.      The serpent: The serpent enters the narrative without introduction, and the text makes clear that this creature owed its existence to God.The ancient world viewed serpents in a variety of ways.Sometimes the ancients saw snakes as a symbol of wisdom (Remember that Jesus warned his disciples to be ďwise as serpentsĒ). Others saw snakes as the epitome of deceit and evil.The Reformation Study Bible asserts that Satan took the form of a serpent and approached Eve with this fatal temptation.

2.      Eve: We have no idea how much time transpired between the creation of Eve and the temptation in the garden.Eve engaged in a speculative discussion with the snake, a conversation that included three elements: the serpentís question about the Lordís command concerning the fruit of the tree, Eveís exaggeration of Godís command (ďneither shall you touch itĒ), and the serpentís aspersion on the goodness of God.

3.      Adam: The man almost seems incidental to the story.Ken Matthews surmises that Adam overheard the conversation between the serpent and Eve; then, Eve gave the forbidden fruit to Adam, and he ate (v.6). Both the man and the woman realized they were naked and sewed together figs leaves to cover their shame.

 

II.                The Consequences of the Fall (3:8-24)

A.    Godís inquiry and manís excuses (vv. 8-13): The text, of course, takes some literary liberty with its description of God walking in the garden.These anthropomorphic images portray God in very human terms.He walks in the cool of the day, seeks the concealed couple, and questions Adam and Eve about their actions.The fallen couple engaged in a shameful ďblame gameĒ as they sought to deflect responsibility for their sin. Adam blamed Eve (and, in a sense, God), and Eve indicted the serpent.

B.     The Three-fold curse (vv. 14-19)

1.      the serpent (vv. 14-15): The Lord consigned the serpent to go on its belly and eat the dust of the earth.Furthermore, enmity would forever exist between the woman and the snake, an enmity that would eventually culminate in the crushing of the serpentís head by the seed of the woman.

2.      the woman (vv. 16-16): God determined to multiply birth pangs for women, and, in turn the womanís desire, from that moment on, would be to their husbands.As a result of the Fall, power struggles tear apart families, and these rivalries can only be remedied by the transforming grace of Christ.

3.      the man (vv. 17-19): God cursed the ground because of Adam, and arduous labor has characterized manís life since the Fall.Also, God reminded Adam of the consequence of sin.The man would die and return to the dust.

C.     Expulsion from the garden (vv. 20-24): After clothing the sinful couple in animal skins, God expelled them from the garden and set an angelic guard prohibiting access to the tree of life.

 

III.             Human Life in the Aftermath of the Fall (4:1-26)

A.    Cain and Abel (vv. 1-16)

1.      the births of the brothers (vv. 1-2): In time, Adam and Eve produced two sons, Cain and Abel.Cain, the older boy, earned his bread by farming, and the younger son tended sheep.

2.      the offerings of the sons (vv. 3-5): Sacrifices seem to constitute an integral part of worship from the earliest stages of human development.Cain, the farmer, brought a grain offering, and Abel brought a sacrifice from his flocks.Hebrews 11:4,6 reveals that Abel offered his worship in faith; therefore, the Lord received the gift Abel brought.Cain, on the other hand, was a profane and ungodly man, and God refused his sacrifice.

3.      the murder of Abel (vv. 6-16): Cain, full of envy and anger, struck down his righteous brother.Who was the target of Cainís rage?At first glance, one might conclude that Cainís anger raged at Abel; after all, the wicked man struck his brother a violent blow and killed him.However, we might consider that Cain really aimed his rage at God.Of course Cain could not strike out at God; so, he murdered Abel.The murderous son compounds his sin by feigning ignorance of the violent deed and lying to God (What a fruitless endeavor!).The Lord placed an additional curse on the ground, for Cainís sake, and condemned the violent man to a rootless, nomadic life; nevertheless, God showed mercy to Cain by protecting him from any acts of vengeance for the murder of Abel.

B.     The descendants of Adam and Eve (vv. 17-26)

1.      the descendants of Cain (vv. 17-24): This section is difficult.The Bible does not tell us about Cainís wife; nor does it reveal the origins of the inhabitants of the city Cain would found.God was merciful to Cain. The Lord not only spared his life, but he blessed him with a wife and children.The descendants of Cain achieved a great deal: advancement in husbandry, music, and metallurgy; yet, they also introduced polygamy and continued the murderous ways of their forefather.

2.      the descendants of Seth (vv. 25-26): The Bible does not tell us much about Seth, but we surmise that he, in a sense, replaced godly Abel.Sethís family will continue the legacy of calling on the name of the Lord. The story of Sethís family will continue in Chapter Five.