Genesis: The Book of God’s Kingdom – 04 (“Man’s Rebellion – 01”)
[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 12 November 2017)]
1. SCRIPTURE READING:
Today we are going to look at our 4th point of our exegetical outline for Gen.2 and Gen.3:
” Man – His image (2:5-7).
” Man – His habitation (2:8-17).
” Man – His responsibility (2:18-25).
” Man – His rebellion (3:1-24).
Gen.3:1-19 (ESV) ~ “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'” 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” 14 The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” 16 To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” 17And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
2. MAN – HIS REBELLION (3:1-19):
- Man and Free Will: When reading the narrative of the fall of man, the question arises whether man has a free will or not and more specifically, whether Adam had a free will or not – couldn’t he sin, or wouldn’t he sin?
When looking at Scripture we see that when God made Adam and Eve He said that it was good. So, Adam was good ~ “And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen.1:27).
However, if Adam was good, how could he have chosen to sin? Logically speaking we can see three truths:
o First, Adam was good.
o Second, Adam chose to sin. We must conclude then that being good, at least in Adam’s case, does not necessitate the inability to sin. God did not say that Adam was perfect or that he could not sin but only that he was good.
Goodness is a quality that Adam had, but he was not holy. Holiness belongs to God (being part of his nature), and we know that God cannot sin. So, in the case of the holiness of God, it would negate (Afrikaans = “ontken”) the ability to sin.
Adam was not made holy. He was made good. Therefore, his goodness did not mean he could not fall. Adam had some help in that the devil deceived Eve. She ate the forbidden fruit and gave it to Adam, who likewise chose to rebel. So, we could say that the sin Adam committed did not arise in his own heart because his heart was good. Instead, sin arose outside of him via the serpent, through Eve, and to him.
o Finally, Adam’s rebellion (his choice to disobey God) resulted in sin entering the world (Rom.5:12).
We therefore see that, before the fall of Adam, sinless man was able to sin. For God said, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen.2:17). As soon as Adam fell, sinful man was not able not to sin, since we were unbelieving, and “…whatever is not from faith is sin” (Rom.14:23).
When we are born again, by the power of the Holy Spirit we are able to not sin, for “…sin will have no dominion over you” (Rom.6:14). This means that what Paul calls “…the natural man” or “…the mind of the flesh” is not able not to sin (Rom.8:7-9) – all people of the flesh will therefore sin, but saved believers are able not to sin, although we still sin, due to the fall.
The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Before Adam and Eve sinned, they were in a position to freely choose whether they would obey God or not. But once they sinned, they ‘owned’ (or received) a sinful nature that was passed on to all of humanity. That sinful nature is ‘bound to sin’ against God (Rom 3:10-18). Our only hope when it comes to choosing God is if He first of all, sovereignly gives us a heart that is free to choose Him. In doing so God is not forcing us to believe, He is graciously providing us the freedom to believe, a freedom that we will exercise.
If “free will” means that God gives humans the opportunity to make choices that genuinely affect their destiny, then yes, human beings do have a free will. The world’s current sinful state is directly linked to choices made by Adam and Eve. God created mankind in His own image, and that included the ability to choose.
However, free will does not mean that mankind can do anything he pleases. Our choices are limited to what is in keeping with our nature. For example, a man may choose to walk across a bridge or not to walk across it; what he may not choose is to fly over the bridge – his nature prevents him from flying. In a similar way, a man cannot choose to make himself righteous – his (sin) nature prevents him from cancelling his guilt (Rom.3:23). So, free will is limited by nature.
This limitation does not mitigate (Afrikaans = “verminder”) our accountability. The Bible is clear that we not only have the ability to choose, we also have the responsibility to choose wisely. In the Old Testament, God chose a nation (Israel), but individuals within that nation still bore an obligation to choose obedience to God. And individuals outside of Israel were able to choose to believe and follow God as well (e.g., Ruth and Rahab).
In the New Testament, sinners are commanded over and over to “repent” and “believe” (Matt.3:2; 4:17; Acts 3:19; 1 Joh.3:23). Every call to repent is a call to choose. The command to believe assumes that the hearer can choose to obey the command.
Jesus identified the problem of some unbelievers when He told them, “You refuse to come to me to have life” (Joh.5:40). Clearly, they could have come if they wanted to; their problem was they chose not to. “A man reaps what he sows” (Gal.6:7), and those who are outside of salvation are “without excuse” (Rom.1:20-21).
But how can man, limited by a sinful nature, ever choose what is good? It is only through the grace and power of God that free will truly become “free” in the sense of being able to choose salvation (Joh.15:16). It is the Holy Spirit who works in and through a person’s will to regenerate that person (Joh.1:12-13) and give him/her a new nature “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph.4:24). Salvation is God’s work. At the same time, our motives, desires, and actions are voluntary, and we are rightly held responsible for them.
I am of the opinion that some of the confusion arises when it comes to our understanding of the ‘order of salvation.’ Most of us were taught that we must believe and then we will be born again. Whereas Scripture teaches that we are born again and then we believe (read 1 Joh.5:1 carefully). Clearly John is saying that we believe as evidence that we have been born again.
- The Covenant with Adam: With this in mind, let us look at what really happened to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, in fact what happened to all mankind. Gen.3 is an account of both the origin and the reality of sin. Instead of going into too much detail of why man sinned and what the direct consequences of that sin was, I am going to focus on the covenant of redemption – God’s commitment to redeem His fallen creation.
As we’ve read in our Scripture reading for today, man fell into sin after the serpent or snake (the devil) deceived Eve. Paul says in 1 Tim.2:14 ~ “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.” The fact is though, the fall of Adam and Eve into sin signifies their rejection of God’s lordship over their lives. They were to evict the serpent from the garden by obeying the Lord. They were to keep or guard the garden so that it remained perfect. Instead, they capitulated to the serpent’s blandishments (Afrikaans = “vleitaal”) and transgressed the Lord’s command by eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
By failing to obey God’s command, they manifested their stubborn independence and their desire to be godlike (3:5). The precious fellowship that Adam and Eve enjoyed with God was shattered. Their rejection of God’s lordship not only touch upon their relationship with God, but the created world, with all its beauty was also, as Paul states it in Rom.8:20 ~ “…subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope.” Man and creation was now under God’s curse of judgement:
o Satan (vss.14-15): The curse of God’s judgement falls first on Satan, the first of the offenders (vss.14-15). More than all the other creation the devil is humbled. The snake must crawl. This is a symbolic reminder of the ultimate defeat of Satan.
God also said that He shall establish enmity (Afrikaans = “vyandskap”) between Satan and the woman. “The woman” here refers to womankind in general rather than to Eve in particular.
God also set enmity between Satan’s seed and the woman’s seed and between Satan’s offspring and the woman’s offspring. God also told Satan that the seed of the woman will bruise his head, whilst Satan will bruise the woman’s offspring’s heel (vs.15). The seed of the woman shall crush the serpent’s head. Satan shall be bruised mortally, defeated totally. This is a clear reference to the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ over Satan.
o The woman (vs.16): The word to the woman includes both curse and blessing. The woman shall have children, which constitutes the most significant blessing. God’s promise to bless the woman relates to her role in God’s redemptive programme.
Yet the curse is also involved. God will multiply greatly the women’s sorrow, particularly with reference to her conception and her bringing children into the world.
The curse pronounced on the woman also affects her marital relationship towards her husband. The Lord declares in vs.16 ~ “Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.”
o The man (vss.17-19): The word to the man also contains curse and a blessing. The blessing is found in the fact that man will eat bread (vs.17). The sustenance essential for maintaining life shall be provided.
This blessing must not be overlooked. We must remember that the curse of death already hovered over man the sinner. He had brought the whole of creation under curse, and so deserved to die. Yet God graciously promises to sustain life for him. Adequate provision of food shall maintain man, so that God’s purposes to redeem a people to Himself may be realised.
This gracious provision of God characterises the totality of human history from the first day of its announcement until the present. Jesus’ reference to the God who causes rain to fall on just and unjust testifies to the consistency of God’s common grace (Matt.5:45).
The curse however, is also involved ~ “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” (vs.19). We have already seen that man’s curse does not reside in the requirement that he works. Instead, the curse of man resides in the excess of requirement of labour for the fruit produced.
3. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION:
Over and above these curses, there remained one ultimate curse – mankind will… ~ “…return to the ground, for out of it (he was) taken; for (he is) dust, and to dust (he) shall return” (vs.19). Man had been created to rule the Earth. Now the earth’s dust shall rule him.
We have seen that in both the man and the woman’s case, there are both blessing and curse involved in the relationship between God and man after the fall. We also saw that this was part of the Adamic covenant between God and man. These elements which formed part of the consequences of breaking the very special covenant by man, will be present for the rest of human history – both blessing and curse.
With all the refinements of modern life, the principals laid down in these first few verses in Gen.3 continue to characterise man’s total existence. Even today, the basic struggles of mankind involve the question of providing bread, relieving pain, performing labour, bearing children, and dealing with the inevitability of death.
Part of this Adamic covenant also foreshadows the subsequent history of redemption. These verses anticipate both the method by which redemption is to be accomplished and the mystery of redemption’s application. In due time, one representative man will be born of a woman and He will enter into a mortal conflict with Satan. Though bruised Himself, He nonetheless will destroy Satan’s power and by this struggle, He will accomplish final redemption.
Some men will respond to God’s gracious provision of salvation and find deliverance from sin’s corruption. Others will continue in their stubbornness of their hearts as the enemies of God. The question is, why do some men receive the gospel of Christ, while others reject it’s saving offer? The ultimate answer to this question is found in the distinction among men made in these verses. God sovereignly sets enmity against Satan in the hearts of some. These individuals represent the seed of the woman. Other men continue in their fallen condition. These people represent the seed of Satan.
Finally, this covenant with Adam anticipates the consummation (Afrikaans = “volvoering”) of God’s purposes in redemption. Adam’s requirement to labour echoes the original cultural mandate of the covenant of creation, with its charge to bring the whole earth into subjection to the glory of God.
The ultimate goal of redemption will not be realised merely in the restoration of the initial Garden of Eden. A new imagery of paradise arises in Scripture (especially in Revelation) – the imagery of a beautiful city for the redeemed; a place where sin will never occur; where sin will no longer be a possibility; where Satan will never be present, because at the end of time Satan will be imprisoned by God forever, and never allowed to do his evil work again. John says in Rev.20:10 ~ “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulphur … for ever and ever.”
We as believers have a certain hope of eternal glory, for we do see Jesus now crowned with glory and honour. Seated at God’s right hand, He has all things subjected to Him (Hber.2:8-9). From His exalted position of power, He ultimately shall bring all things into the service of men who have been redeemed by Him to the glory of God.
Although we have now realised that man will experience blessing and curse – saved/redeemed man have the wonderful promise that God will never let the righteous fall. He doesn’t assure us that He will take the burden from us but that He will sustain us. There is a personal relationship there, which in the end triumphs over every adversity.