THE FALL OF MAN IN GOD'S PERFECT PLAN
July 22, 2017
I recalled a few years ago, a Delta Flight-191 crashed at Dallas-Fort Worth airport killing scores of people and injuring others. Pieces of wreckage were carefully removed and stored for further analysis. Since that time, the cause of the crash has been the focus of extended research, analysis, and even litigation. Understandably, the cause of such a tragedy is of great concern.
Few could deny that something seems desperately wrong with the world in which we live. This very day Kurdish people endure unimaginable suffering at the hands of the Iraqi army and even of nature itself. Innocent children starve to death worldwide. The Nazi regime cruelly slaughtered millions of Jews not many years ago, while the world knew better and chose to look away. The Tsunami, the not so long ago the ‘911’ bombing by Terrorists of the New York twin towers, also the ‘7-7’ in London and other European cities. Rampant crime, cruelty, corruption, and injustice exist side by side. Pollution, nuclear waste, disintegration of the ozone layer, hurricanes, storms, acid rain, and a host of other maladies are bringing the earth itself to the brink of disaster. Among the informed, little optimism remains.
The desperate plight of our planet has convinced some that there is no God. Those who do believe in a God find God somehow responsible for all that is painful. They think God is either cruel or that He is not in control. But God is in control. His perfect plan does include the suffering and agony we see all about us. In answering “What in the world is going on?” another question must be asked and then answered: “What in the world went wrong?” That question forms the basis of our teaching lesson.
In this lesson we will trace sin and suffering to its earthly origins and causes. God’s Word clearly and emphatically tells us why the world is in such a pathetic plight: By divine permission Satan tempted Adam and Eve; they sinned, and God has graciously pronounced upon all creation a curse for which He has provided the cure.
We begin our study at the outset of human history as recorded in the first few chapters of Genesis. We will consider the biblical account of creation, the fall, and its consequences for mankind. We will show how the fall fits into God’s plan for man up to the present. Turning to the final chapters of the Bible where God concludes His plan for creation; we will see how the fall of man played a major role in the carrying out of God’s plan.
The Scene is Set: Genesis Chapters 1 and 2
The more I study the early chapters of Genesis the more convinced I have become of their purpose. Providing a scientific explanation of creation01 is not the purpose of chapters 1 and 2. Rather, their purpose is to set the scene for the fall of man, a major turning point in the history of creation.
Genesis 1:26-31 describes the creation of our world as it relates to God’s purpose for man. Man was created by God to rule over His creation:
26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. 28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” 29 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. 30 And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. 31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. (Genesis 1:26-31).
Man’s purpose was to exercise dominion over all creation, in God’s image. Adam and his wife were to rule over the earth. They were to reproduce, to “be fruitful and increase in number, and fill the earth.” All the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—and every green plant was provided for their food.
Genesis 1 portrays the big picture, the role Adam and Eve were to play in relation to the entire creation. Genesis 2 narrows the focus to the Garden of Eden.
Genesis 2:1-10a; Thus the heavens and the earth were completed in all their vast array. 2 By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. 3 Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done.
Adam and Eve
4 This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, when the Lord God made the earth and the heavens. 5 Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth and there was no one to work the ground, 6 but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground. 7 Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. 8 Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed. 9 The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. 10 A river watering the garden flow from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” 18 The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” 19 Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. 20 So the man gave names to all the livestock, the birds in the sky and all the wild animals. But for Adam no suitable helper was found. 21 So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. 22 Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. 23 The man said, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.” 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. 25 Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.
Adam was placed in the garden to cultivate or keep it. This was no ordinary orchard; God had planted various trees in the garden to provide for man’s needs. All the trees shared the common characteristics of being “pleasing to the sight and good for food.” The “fruit” of the two trees in the centre of the garden would provide either “life” or “the knowledge of good and evil.”
The fruit of all but one tree, was provided for Adam and Eve to eat. The “tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” though pleasing to look at and good for food, the fruit should not be eaten by them. Eating its fruit would give the partaker a knowledge of good and evil, but it would also certainly produce his or her death.
When God formed every creature from the dust of the ground, He caused each to pass before Adam for him to name. Each had its own mate, its counter-part. These pairs of creatures were able to procreate and fulfil the mandate to multiply themselves increase in numbers and fill the earth. Not so with Adam. He too needed a counterpart--a wife. God wanted Adam to sense this need, and then joyfully receive the one whom He fashioned to meet his need.
After showing Adam his need for a helper, God created one. Rather than create the woman from the ground, God put Adam to sleep and fashioned her from a rib which He took from Adam’s side. Neither Adam nor Eve had parents. Eve was brought into being through Adam’s flesh. Eve had no tie to her parents, but only union with her husband. Because of the nature of this first relationship between Adam and Eve, Moses parenthetically interjects the principle that when a man and woman come together, the husband must subordinate the tie he once had with his parents to the tie he now has with his wife (as verse 24).
Before studying the fall of man in Genesis 3, let us pause to reflect on the setting described in the first two chapters. Genesis 1 serves as a commentary on the fall of man in chapter 3. According to this account, all of creation came into existence in response to one thing: the spoken Word of God. God spoke creation into existence. The key words of chapter one are, “God said . . .” The spoken Word of God is precisely what Satan first questioned, and then denied. What basis did Adam have for believing God’s word? God’s Word brought all of creation into existence. The God who said, “. . . from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (2:17) is the God who had said, “Let there be . . .” and with these words brought the world into existence.
Genesis 2 likewise is most significant when read in light of chapter 3. In chapter 3, Satan convinced the woman that God was holding back something “good” from her by prohibiting her from eating of the forbidden tree. With Satan’s prompting, Eve becomes convinced of her need to “know good and evil” and feels compelled to eat of the fruit of that forbidden tree. But all of chapter 2 denies what Eve assumed about God. Chapter 2 has a prominent theme: God provides what is lacking and necessary. Chapter 2 describes the creation of the garden, of Adam, and of Eve--all pointing to God’s provision of what was lacking and necessary.
No shrubs or trees were yet on the earth in chapter 2 (verse 4). There was no rain to water the plants or a man present to cultivate the land. God therefore planted a garden with trees providing all that was needed, a river for irrigation, and a man to cultivate the land. There was also a need for a helper for Adam, and so God fashioned the perfect mate. At every point of legitimate need, God created what was needed. How, then, dare Satan suggest (or Eve believe) that God had withheld something from her which she needed?
The Fall of Man: Genesis 3:1-24
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realised they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. 8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” 10 He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” 11 And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” 12 The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.” 16 To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labour you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”
17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”
20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. 21 The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
This lesson seeks to view the fall of man in the light of the overall plan of God for creation. Therefore, although a more detailed exposition of the text would be most profitable, we must limit ourselves to a few observations and comments. Hopefully, they will serve as a stimulus for your additional study.
(1) The fall seems to take place early, quickly, with no resistance at all. Paul’s description of his struggle with sin in Romans 7 evidences a very real struggle. Genesis 3 appears to have no struggle at all. Neither Eve nor Adam raise so much as one word of protest or argument against Satan. They appear to be easy prey for his cunning attack. One would have expected Eve to at least have said something like, “Well, what do you know--a talking snake. Adam, come over here. You have got to see this!” It all happened so fast, so easily. Even in his unfallen state, man was no match for the wiles of Satan.
(2) Satan and Eve are prominent in the account of the fall; Adam is less prominent. Adam’s sin is more passive in nature, while that of the serpent and Eve is more aggressive. The leader followed, and the followers led.
(3) The fall reverses the divinely established order of authority. The “chain-of-command” is God: Adam, Eve, creature (which surely includes the serpent). The order of actions related to the fall is: serpent, Eve, Adam. When God confronts those responsible for the fall, the order is that of His chain-of-command: Adam (verse 9), Eve (verse 13), the serpent (verse 14). It is little wonder that the one who rebelled against God’s authority over him (Isaiah 14:12-15;
Ezekiel 28:12-15) would seek to overturn God’s order of authority.
(4) Eve was deceived; Adam was not. Eve did not know what she was doing as Adam did. Adam’s sin was the more culpable, both because he was the one who was to lead and because he sinned knowingly rather than ignorantly.
(5) None of the participants assumes responsibility for their actions, and no one repents of their sin. Rather than assume responsibility for their own actions, Adam and Even passed the responsibility on. From their actions in Genesis 3:7-8 and Job’s statement in Job 31:33, we know Adam tried to conceal rather than confess his sin.
(6) Satan’s deception greatly distorted Eve’s perspective. The God who generously provided all things for Adam and Eve to “richly enjoy” is quickly perceived as a tight-fisted tyrant because one fruit is forbidden. The forbidden fruit was now seen as desirable even though it was deadly. The tree of life was overshadowed by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Eve saw only this one forbidden tree as “good for food” and as a “delight to the eyes,” when in reality every tree in the garden had these same qualities (see Genesis 2:9).
(7) Satan succeeded in persuading Adam and Eve to trust his words, while doubting and disobeying God’s Word. The Word of God which so recently brought the universe into existence (see 1:14) was first questioned and then denied once it forbade the fruit of the forbidden tree.
(8) Man’s disobedience in the garden is the fruit of unbelief, just as his obedience would have been the fruit of faith. Why was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil forbidden? Our text indicates a fascinating twist in Eve’s thinking. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil enabled one to know good and evil (see 3:22), which Eve deceptively believed was both necessary and beneficial. It was neither. Eve only needed to know that God had forbidden the fruit of this tree.
Had Eve trusted God, she would have found His Word sufficient. She needed only to know who had forbidden the fruit, not why the fruit was forbidden. Eve needed only to know what God had said--she did not need to understand why the fruit of that one tree was forbidden.
There is an important principle to be seen here: God desires from us the obedience of faith. Such obedience is not based upon our understanding of why we are to act as God requires, but simply because it is God who requires it.
The obedience of faith is based on our faith in God, not on our understanding of why God calls one thing good and another evil. Parents teach their children to obey on the same basis. You cannot explain to a young child why an electrical outlet is dangerous. You can only forbid them to touch it, because you said so, and because they trust your word.
How quickly we shake our heads and point our finger at Eve. “How foolish not to have trusted God and obeyed His clear command,” we say. Eve’s temptation is still with us, and her sin is routinely repeated without our even knowing it because of our warped perception. We say we desire to obey God, but we want to understand why we should obey Him before we do. We want to understand why God has commanded some things and prohibited others. When we fail to understand the reason, as quickly and easily as Eve, we reject God’s commandment.
One example relates directly to our text. Because of Eve’s part in the fall, women are now prohibited from places of pre-eminence and power in the church. Found in more than one text, Paul’s teaching is clear:
Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? (1 Corinthians 14:34-36).
Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension. Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments; but rather by means of good works, as befits women making a claim to godliness. Let a woman quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression. But women shall be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint (1 Timothy 2:8-15).
Does anyone doubt the response Paul expected from his instruction here? Then why do churches all over the world place women in leadership positions in spite of the clear prohibition of Scripture? Because they find God’s reasons difficult to understand and even harder to accept. When God’s Word does not make sense to us, we disregard His teaching no matter how clear it may be. Just as Eve became convinced that God was holding back something good and desirable from her in the forbidden fruit, women wince at Paul’s words, believing he has restricted them from something which is both desirable and needed.
Following Eve’s footsteps is not limited to women. Like Adam, men find it easier to sit back and let the women take over rather than assume the leadership role God has given them.
In the Old Testament Law, distinctions between clean and unclean foods were made by God and imposed on the Israelites. After the coming of the Lord Jesus, these distinctions were set aside (see Mark 7:18-19; Acts 10-11). From a human point of view, I believe these distinctions were arbitrary. Some try to offer explanations for them, but I believe there are no explanations. God simply wanted His people to obey Him by observing these distinctions, even though they did not understand them. Understanding why God wants us to obey in a particular way requires leaning on our own understanding rather than simply trusting in Him. This is God’s way, as it has always been:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil (Proverbs 3:5-7).
The fall of man occurred with unbelievable speed and ease. God’s response was prompt, pointed, and painful. In addition to the general curse of death, individual curses were pronounced on the serpent, Eve, and Adam. Each curse was particularly suited to the nature of the offence.
Satan’s curse was three-fold. First, all the days of his life, the serpent would eat dust and crawl on his belly. A humbling fate for one so proud and haughty. This one who desired to reign from on high was cut down to the earth (see Isaiah 14:12-14). Far from walking tall on the earth, the serpent must henceforth crawl in the dust.
Second, God put enmity between the woman and the serpent. Had Eve been more than willing to engage in conversation with the serpent? Never again, for she would now flee from him on sight. And third comes the most encouraging curse of all: Satan’s curse finally ends with his destruction. Did the serpent cause the woman to stumble and trip? One of her offspring will crush the serpent’s head with a fatal striking blow. In the process, Christ will suffer a bruised heel, an injury our Lord chooses to inflict upon Himself.
Eve’s curse is two-fold. Her sin involved doubting and disobeying God, and also acting independently of her husband. Eve led when she should have been following. Her deliverance would be through her “seed,” who would crush the serpent’s head. The process through which her deliverance came would be painful to her seed (the bruised heel) and also to her. Child-bearing, the means of her deliverance, would be a painful event. Labour pains were a part of Eve’s curse, and for all women who follow in childbirth.
Eve’s second curse was to be ruled over by her husband. Had she taken charge in the fall? She would now be ruled by her husband. God created Eve to be her husband’s helper, not his leader. We must remember that Adam’s headship, even before the fall, was based on his prior existence and the fact that Eve was created from his flesh (see 1 Corinthians 11:3-12, especially verses 8-12). Even before the fall, Eve should have played a subordinate role to Adam, similar to the subordination of the Son to the Father. God’s words to Eve are: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16b).
At first glance it seems as though God is saying the woman will be attracted to her husband, and that he will rule over her. I believe the curse should be understood differently. The same expression which occurs in Genesis 3:16 is also found in Genesis 4 where God warns Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7b).
In this context, the sin crouching at Cain’s door desires to master him. God admonishes Cain that he must not let this happen. Cain must not let sin master him; instead, he must master sin. God’s words to Eve should therefore be understood in this way: “Your desire will be to dominate your husband, but your curse will be that he will rule over you.”
The woman’s curse brings for her the opposite of what she desires.
Adam is cursed with labour pains of a different order. God identifies one of Adam’s sins as “listening to his wife.” “Listen” is synonymous with the term “obey.” Rather than lead, Adam followed, disobeying God. Rather than following God and her husband, Eve led. Because of this reversal of obedience, God pronounced two curses on Adam.
First, the ground was cursed and would rebel against Adam even as he had rebelled against God. Adam was to exercise dominion over the creation. His task was to cultivate the land. Before his disobedience, the land provided Adam with all he needed. Now, the land would be in rebellion against him, and he would have to fight for everything which the land only begrudgingly yielded to him. Thorns and thistles would now grow as willingly as food-producing plants once did. From this point on, nothing would come easy. Existence became a matter of survival by the sweat of his face.
Second, while Adam would spend his life fighting the ground for food for himself and his family, ultimately he would succumb to the ground. As he had come from the dust, in death he would return to the dust. The ground seems to win the life-long struggle which man’s curse destines him to wage with it.
The Curse Continues
The curses of Genesis 3:14-19 included not only Adam, Eve, and the serpent but also their offspring. It did not take long to see the consequences of these curses in the life of this man and his wife, as well as in their offspring.
Adam and Eve gained a knowledge of good and evil, one they would regret. Gone was the innocence they had once enjoyed. Their nakedness, which once caused them no shame (Genesis 2:25), now made them ashamed to stand before God. Hastily made loin coverings with fig leaves still made them feel naked and ashamed. The daily encounter with God to which they once looked forward they now sought to avoid. They were banned from the garden and from access to the tree of life (3:22-24). Their son Cain killed his brother Abel (4:1-11). Later, Lamech boasted to his wives about killing a young lad who had struck him (4:23-24). Genesis 5, a virtual graveyard, lists the life span and deaths of Adam and Eve’s offspring. When we reach the sixth chapter of Genesis, the whole earth has become corrupt, requiring the judgement of the flood.
When the world started afresh with Noah and the seven other members of his family, one might expect things to improve. They did not. Noah became drunk, resulting in the curse he pronounced on Canaan, his grandson (see Genesis 9:25-27). By Genesis 11, men join together to disobey the divine command to Noah and his descendants to disperse and populate the earth (9:1). When men banded together to build the city and the tower of Babel, God stopped them in their tracks by confusing their languages (11:1-9). Things went from bad to worse. Clearly, the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden was the fall of man.
The Curse and Its Consequences
Monumental consequences resulted from the fall of man in the Garden of Eden. Those consequences were the result of the curses associated with the fall. God’s curses fell not only upon Adam and Eve but upon all of their offspring. Paul speaks in Romans and in 1 Corinthians of the on-going effects of Adam’s sin:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned--for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offence of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgement arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:12-21).
But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive
(1 Corinthians 15:20-22).
The history of man, and especially of God’s people, bears constant witness to the sinfulness of man. Their sins were the result of the sins of their forefathers and of their own waywardness as well:
“Your first forefather sinned, and your spokesmen have transgressed against Me” (Isaiah 43:27).
“Now it will come about when you tell this people all these words that they will say to you, ‘For what reason has the Lord declared all this great calamity against us? And what is our iniquity, or what is our sin which we have committed against the Lord our God?’ “Then you are to say to them, ‘It is because your forefathers have forsaken Me,’ declares the Lord, ‘and have followed other gods and served them and bowed down to them; but Me they have forsaken and have not kept My law. ‘You too have done evil, even more than your forefathers; for behold, you are each one walking according to the stubbornness of his own evil heart, without listening to Me” (Jeremiah 16:10-12).
The biblical account of the fall of man recorded in Genesis 3 explains the mess we see within us and in the world without. Adam’s sin explains the sin nature within each of us. We sin because we are like Adam, our father. The sufferings of man and all of creation are the consequences of the fall of man:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it (Romans 8:18-25).
Good News for a Fallen World
Are you perplexed by the evil, suffering, and injustice of our world? You need look no further for the explanation. Man and creation are suffering and groaning due to the consequences of sin. Something is wrong with the world: Satan, sin, and sinners. This is the bad news. The good news is that God included sin and suffering in His plan for creation. How can this be? The explanation is found in the Bible, which speaks of God’s plan for man and creation. Let us consider several reasons why a good God has incorporated man’s fall and its consequences into His plan for creation.
(1) God’s response to the fall of man demonstrates His glory. God’s dealings with sinful men most effectively manifest His glory:
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving-kindness’ and truth; who keeps loving-kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (Exodus 34:6-7).
God’s purpose is to demonstrate His glory. Since the way He deals with sin reveals His glory, the fall of man is included in God’s plan for creation. The fall of man is the context in which God’s glory is revealed.
(2) God’s plan, established before the foundation of the world, anticipated sin and the suffering it would bring. More than this, God’s plan made provision for sin by means of the suffering of the Son of God. Do we think God is harsh in allowing sin to enter the world to produce pain and suffering? No one has suffered more because of sin than the suffering Saviour:
He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him
“This Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:23-24).
Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1:18-21).
(3) In God’s plan the curse is a part of the cure. This is evident in the curses found in Genesis 3. The woman’s curse is pain in her childbearing, but her deliverance is in childbearing, for it is her seed who will crush the serpent’s head. Satan’s curse included his crushed head. That curse, when fully executed, spells deliverance from a sin ravaged world. Adam’s curse also points to our deliverance. The cursed soil means that Adam, though he labours hard, must look to God for his crops. And the curse of death pronounced on Adam is God’s means for our cure. It is the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, on our behalf, which saves us from our sins and provides us with the assurance of eternal life.
Everywhere --within us and without-- the curse is evident. The suffering, chaos, and tragedy of our world shouts for our attention, telling us something is desperately wrong. God is gracious to give us this indication of trouble. Those most affected by the curse are, in Jesus’ words, the most blessed. God may well use men’s affliction to turn them to Himself:
And turning His gaze on His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracise you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. “Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. “Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets” (Luke 6:20-26).
Suffering, the painful consequence of sin, is also the means by which God has chosen to produce our blessings. Suffering is not opposed to glory; it is the road to glory. So it was for our Lord, and so it is for us. The curse is a part of the process by which the cure is produced.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).
For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favour with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (1 Peter 1:20-25).
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you (1 Peter 4:12-14).
(4) In God’s plan, sin and the curse made possible a cure with blessings better than those lost by Adam’s sin and the curse. Sin and condemnation are not the end of man’s hope, but the starting point. In His grace, God condemns men so that He might manifest His grace upon them: “For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all” (Romans 11:32).
Sin does not slam the door on God’s blessings; it opens the door for His grace. Jesus did not come to provide salvation for saints, but for sinners. He came to seek and to save those who are lost. Until sin and the fall, there was no occasion for God to deal with men graciously. After sin and the fall, He could only bless men by dealing graciously with them. “But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20b).
Job’s experiences serve as an illustration. As described in chapter 1 of the Book of Job, Job is an ideal servant of God. God Himself says, “There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8b). Job was not sinless, but he was an excellent example of a servant of God. In this state, Job was something like Adam and Eve before the fall.
Then Satan was allowed to afflict Job. Eventually, Job’s suffering got to him. While Job did not curse God, he surely acted in an unseemly way. He sinned. By the end of the book, we see a new Job, humbled by his suffering and by God’s rebuke but with a much deeper love and devotion for His God. He is now a man who more fully grasps the wisdom of God and who has experienced His grace. Job is not just more prosperous for the experience; He is nearer to God than he has ever been before. While Satan attempted to alienate Job from God, Job’s sin was the occasion for grace, bringing repentance, reconciliation, and a more intimate union with God. Job’s experience is the experience of all who receive God’s grace as a result of sin.
It is all too easy to think of God’s “cure” in Jesus Christ as a restoration, merely restoring everything to the condition in which it was found before the fall. This is simply not the case. The last state, as it were, is vastly better than the first, for all those who are the called according to His purpose.
If the first three chapters of the Bible explain the condition of mankind and the world due to the fall of man and the curse, the last two chapters of the Bible explain the depths of the cure made possible by God through the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Here, (as one radio commentator would say), is “the rest of the story:”
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true” (Revelation 21:1-5).
And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:1-5).
As one compares the description of the new heavens and earth in the final chapters of the Book of Revelation with the paradise of Eden, a very clear message emerges.
(1) The last paradise is like the first. The tree of life, which was in paradise lost, is in the heavenly city.
(2) The paradise of Revelation is not identical with that of Eden. The paradise of Genesis had a sun, a sea, and a night. The paradise of Revelation has no sun, no sea, and no night.
(3) In the paradise of Revelation, the curses of Genesis are removed.
(4) The paradise of Revelation is vastly better than the paradise of Eden.
For your meditation, I submit the evident differences between “paradise lost” of Genesis 2 and “paradise gained” in Revelation 21 and 22. In every case, the “paradise” of Revelation is a better paradise than that forfeited by man at the fall. Consider the following contrasts:
The Old Paradise
The New Paradise
An earthly paradise
A heavenly paradise (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Came through the spoken Word
Came through the Living Word
A glorious city
A place for unfallen man
A place for redeemed men
A marriage of Adam and Eve
A marriage of Christ and His bride
Man fellowships with God from time to time
God dwells among men, continually
Men reflect God’s image
Men fully conformed to Christ’s image
Satan absent forever
A threatened curse
No more curse
An earthly light
God is the light
Some precious metal found
Precious metal abounds (streets of gold)
Day and night
Sea and land
Two people walk with God
Men of all nations, the angels, all creation worship God
Son of God not mentioned
Son of God prominent
God’s eternal plan for creation included the fall of man and all creation. While there were painful consequences for sin, the curses were divinely purposed to serve as a part of the cure. In dealing with the sins of men, God’s glory is revealed. In forgiving the sins of men, the grace of God is manifested. And in the end, the last state of the believer is far better than the first. God purposed the fall of man for His glory and for our good.
As we conclude this lesson, let us reflect on two transforming truths. First, God’s plan is one that turns ruin to redemption and a curse into a blessing. Adam and his wife failed to trust and obey God. They made a tragic mistake which brought sin and condemnation on themselves and their descendants. No one has ever made a more tragic mess of their lives.
God’s plan included this tragic failure, as well as its painful consequences. But it also included a cure, a cure which would provide a better paradise than that which was lost due to sin. Adam and Eve’s life seemed to be ruined by their sin, but God promised a cure and a better paradise waits them.
What is true for them is true for every person who has “ruined” their life by sin. An unmarried girl makes some wrong decisions and becomes pregnant. She thinks her life is ruined, that things can never be what they once were. A prisoner sits in his cell, wishing he could turn back the clock and change the course of his life. He fears that his life is ruined irreversibly.
Things will never be the same for those who have fallen and whose lives are in ruin. But they can be better than they ever were. That is the good news of the gospel. That is the wonder of God’s plan. God takes what we have ruined by sin and makes it far better, through His Son. You cannot ruin your life beyond God’s ability to redeem it. God’s grace is always greater than your sin.
There is the matter of the curse. The natural man is still in Adam and thus condemned by the curse of sin and death. Only one way is provided for men to be delivered from the curse and to experience the blessing of God’s cure. That way is through faith in Jesus Christ. He bore the curse. He suffered and died for sinners. Those who are “in Christ” by faith are delivered from the curse and delight in the cure. Those who reject Christ remain in Adam, under the curse.
There in the centre of the garden before the eyes of Adam and Eve stood two trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They had a choice to make: either they could eat of the tree of life and live forever, or they could eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and die. Strange though it may seem, they chose to eat of the forbidden fruit.
We are not like Adam and Eve in that we were born in sin and are doomed to die. We do have a choice, however. It is a similar choice to that which faced Adam and Eve. We may either cling to our identification with Adam, and die, or we may be given a new identity in Christ, and live. To reject Christ is to remain in our sins. To trust in Christ is to die to sin and its curse, in Him. The choice which confronted Adam and Eve is now before you. Will you choose life or death, Adam or Christ? I pray that you will renounce your identification with Adam and find God’s cure in Christ, by trusting Him in simple faith.
Points to Ponder
Statements and Principles From our Lesson
A seemingly insignificant act (of disobedience) can have monumental results.
Just because something looks good, is desirable, and is available, is no proof that God wants us to partake of it. The existence of a desire does not demand its fulfilling (see also, 1 Corinthians 6:12-13).
When God gives us a command, we do not need to understand why God has given it to us, we need only to trust Him who gave the command, and obey it.
Suffering is not only the consequence of sin, but in the plan of God it is a part of the process for its cure. Christ’s suffering in our place is God’s means of saving us from the curse of sin. Even our own suffering has a purpose in the plan of God: “He who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1; see also Luke 6:20-26; Psalm 73).
Sin affects more than just the sinner; it affects many others.
The same principle which allows the sin of one man (Adam) to corrupt the world also allows the righteousness of one man (Jesus Christ) to provide salvation for the world.
Satan seeks to change our perspective first and then our behaviour. Sin begins with a rebellious attitude toward God, which leads to a rebellious act.
Sin is conceived as unbelief, and then grows into disobedience.
In our lives, as in the Bible, sin precedes redemption. We cannot and will not receive God’s grace until we recognise and repent of our sin. The problem with those who perish is that they reject God’s grace because they do not believe they need it. Only sinners need God’s grace and only God’s grace saves sinners. The self-righteous sinner denies his sin and despises God’s grace. The penitent sinner admits his sin, repents of it, and gratefully receives God’s saving grace.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil began to look better, more desirable, to Eve than any of the other trees. In reality, every tree in the garden was equally appealing and desirable (see Genesis 2:9).
The fruit of tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the knowledge of good and evil; why, then, did Eve see the tree as desirable to make one wise
God’s plan for creation included the fall of man, the curse, and the cross of Calvary, whereby the curse could be defeated, God could be glorified, and the good of the saints accomplished.
The God who included sin and suffering in His plan was also the God who planned that the greatest suffering would be borne by His own Son, even though He was without sin.
Job serves as an illustration of the wisdom of God in allowing sin and suffering, through the instrumentality of Satan. Job was indeed wealthier for having suffered and sinned and repented, but more than this, Job’s relationship with God was much richer and deeper from his experience with suffering, sin, and the grace of God.
Why is it that Satan always seems to be standing beside or behind a question mark?
It was no great marvel that God would come to Adam and Eve to fellowship with them in their sinless state. What was marvellous was that the Son of God would come to the earth to seek and to save sinners.
What Adam and Eve had in the paradise of Eden was good. God said so. But good is not the same as perfect. What you and I will have in the heavenly paradise, the New Jerusalem, is perfect.