“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.”
I think it is possible to fall into the same error that Israel fell into. In a number of NT books the apostle Paul addresses a common Jewish error of the 1st century.
The nation of Israel was given great privileges; not least of these was the Law. If Israel would obey the Lord their God they would live and prosper in the land, but if they did not obey they would be cursed and driven from the land (see Deuteronomy 11:13-32 for example). But their fatal error was in thinking that they could establish their own righteousness based upon their own law keeping. They pursued righteousness as if they had the ability to attain it by works. And so, when Christ came they stumbled over Him as an offense to their own righteousness.
How might we be like Israel?
Well, I believe that it is possible that many of us celebrate the coming of Christ without fully understanding why He came. Christ did not come to improve the law covenant as if all people really needed were deeper, fuller, clearer instructions.
If all you see at Christmas is the coming of a great moral teacher and a great moral example you have not understood why Jesus came.
Israel’s problem was not a lack of instruction, neither is that anyone’s real problem. The human condition is far more desperate than we might like to think. What we need is a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
We are going to investigate why all of humanity is in need of a Savior. To do this we are going to consider the Fall and its effects. But, to begin, we must first go to God’s very good creation.
Behold, it was very Good
Creation as a Whole
“And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”
It is important that we have clearly in our minds that God created all things, but that He did not create all things as they now are. Everything that God made was very good. There was no disorder or sin. All of creation was very good.
This includes our first parents.
Made in the Image of God
“Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Mankind alone, of all the creatures on earth, was created in the image of God. Mankind is distinct from every other creature.
What does it mean to be made in the image of God?
There are different ways Christians have understood this idea of being made in the image of God, but here are two thought that I think are helpful. The first is mentioned in the passage we just read. It is the idea of dominion. Man was to reflect and be an extension of God’s own rule over God’s very good creation, not as an owner, but as a steward.
But is that all there is to it? Dominion is certainly what God specifically and only gave his image bearers the responsibility to do, but the essence of being made in God’s image seems to me to better understood in the categories that the NT gives us. The categories we see mentioned in the NT regarding the image of God are knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.
So, for example Colossians 3:9-10 says, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.” How are we renewed after the image of our Creator? In knowledge. Knowledge is crucial to our being renewed after the image of our Creator.
Add to this Ephesians 4:22-24. You were taught to “…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
So, these two passages give us, I think, the categories necessary for mankind to excise dominion as image bearers. There are good reasons to think that what is described in the OT as man being made in God’s image has to do with:
- A true knowledge about God (because of Col. 1:6,9,27-28; 2:2-3),
- Holiness, understood as a right reverence, awe and innocence toward God,
- True righteousness as the outworking of that holiness in just and right thoughts, words, and deeds toward one’s neighbor.
Holiness then, has to do with our perfect vertical relationship and righteousness has to do with resultant perfect horizontal relationships.
God created Mankind distinct from all other creatures, bestowed on man a true knowledge of Himself, with holiness toward God and righteousness toward each other and gave us dominion over the creatures. We were created to relate to God in a different way than a rock or a tree. In a different way than a fish or a polar bear. We alone were created in the image of God and were uniquely equipped to glorify Him with our minds and hearts.
And I think we see this clearly when we look to the unique relationship that God set up with His image bearers.
The Wages of Sin is Death
Before Eve was created we read,
“The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, [and mark these words carefully] ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”
The unique relationship that God set up with His image bearers was that if they obeyed Him they would continue to live in perfect harmony with their Creator, as image bears, in the garden Eden, with dominion over the creatures, but if they disobeyed they would surely die. This relationship deals in justice. God is the sovereign and good King and Adam is the steward and subject, who was given great privileges but always under the authority of his good Creator.
I think it’s important to note that Eve was not yet on the scene. Adam was the representative and responsible as is seen when God calls him to account in chapter 3.
So all that God made was very good. Mankind, made in God’s image in true knowledge, righteousness and holiness, made to glorify God in a way district from the rest of creation in a unique relationship to God and given dominion over the creatures.
If that is how God created, how did we get to the need for a bloody cross? We’re going to walk through Genesis 3 and try to better understand what happened.
The Crafty Creature
Origin of the Serpent
As we come to Genesis 3 we are introduced to a crafty creature with evil intention. Immediately, questions might arise in your mind, “Where did this evil creature come from? Why was it in the garden? Why does it have evil intentions when all that God had made was very good?”
Well, we do know the serpent is elsewhere understood to be Satan himself. Revelation 12:9 “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world— he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
We know that Satan is a creature, a created being. God created all things. God created all things very good. So, what happened so that the creature Satan came to have evil intention? We are simply not told. Yes, Isaiah 14:12 and following may be a description of Satan’s fall from heaven, but it does not explain every detail of what we might like to know. And because it has pleased God not to reveal all of these the details, we must be content with what He has revealed.
Serpent intends Evil, God intends good.
We are told that the serpent of old was in the garden and he is described as crafty. Genesis 3:1: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. . .”
With this introduction we should expect to find the words of this creature deceptive. The serpent is about to speak and many translations of this passage take the serpents words to be a question. And so many of our bibles read, “He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”
But some Hebrew scholars say there is a better way to understand the crafty words of the snake. The Hebrew does not require that the snake’s words be a question, they could be a question, but the words of the snake may make better sense of the context, when we understand them not as a question but as an incomplete statement.
So, if this is the case we should understand the serpent as saying, “Even though God has said you shall not eat of any of the trees of the garden…” but then he is cut off and the thought is left incomplete because Eve interrupts him.
This understanding is compelling because it means that the serpent has stated an error as if it were a fact. God never said, “You shall not eat of any of the trees of the garden.” And Eve interrupts to correct the snake.
It seems what the serpent has done by this “cleverly framed exaggeration is to force Eve to an explicit recognition and admission to a third party of her restricted status” (Robert Reymond).
Eve is indeed restricted by Another. And this fact appears to be clearly in her mind as she responds. Notice that Eve adds to the actual command. Remember what God had said to Adam: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Well, Eve adds, “neither shall you touch it.” Perhaps this addition by Eve is revealing that she has begun to entertain the possibility that God has restricted her a bit too severely. Is she betraying a feeling that God’s requirement may have been a bit too harsh?
Let’s listen to the conversation again and see if this makes sense: The serpent says, “Even though God has said you shall not eat of any of the trees of the garden…” but he’s cut off by Eve in verse 2 “And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 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.”
There is a second thing that is revealed in the woman’s response as she is forced to recount the command of God and the penalty for disobedience, which was: “you shall surely die.” But that is not what Eve says. Eve says, “lest you die.”
Reymond comments on this slight change,
“Having been reminded anew of her restricted status, she apparently felt that if she represented her restricted status as a benevolent charity on God’s part [“lest you die” rather than, “you shall surely die”] she could justify her contentment to live under such a restriction and in doing so ‘save face’ with this third party before her, for she would not be [submitting] to sheer authority but to benevolent concern.”
Here’s the point. For Eve to acknowledge the command of her God, as He actually gave it, she would be forced to “gladly own (her) creature hood and happily acknowledge (her) delight in living under such authority.” – Reymond.
Instead, Eve twists reality ever so slightly and betrays that the seeds of pride and rebellion have been planted in her heart.
In response to Eves squirming and shading the truth ever so slightly to appear as something other than one under authority, the serpent capitalizes on the idea of God as a benevolent peer, rather than the Creator and supreme authority.
The serpent, emboldened, says in verse 4, “You shall not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” In effect the serpent says, God is not benevolent, He is not out for your best. And He is wrong.
What does Eve say in response?
Does she defend the honor and goodness of her Creator? No. She is silent. And it appears that she actually believed the serpent’s blasphemy. Rather than gladly submitting to God, we are told in verse 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 fruits and ate…”
Eve had come to a place where she no longer saw herself as one under the authority of God. She understood herself, not as a creature answerable to her Creator but as an equal with God. And her actions flowed from her prideful and rebellious heart.
Notice that Adam appears to have been with her this entire time! In the simple phrase at the end of verse 6, “…and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” Adam was not protecting or leading his wife. He stood by and spoke not a word. He refused to defend his Creator as his wife and the serpent misrepresented God and ignored God’s clear prohibition. And what is amazing, according to 1 Timothy 2:14, Eve was deceived, while Adam was not! He transgressed God’s prohibition fully aware of his actions. His was deliberate rebellion. He knew exactly what he was doing.
And so, our first parents disobeyed their Creator. They allowed Satan to introduce an alternative interpretation to their situation and they did not defend the honor and glory and rule of their Creator. Instead they allowed the lie to grow in their minds that they might be equal with God. They decided not to trust God or submit to His word. They decided, instead, to test God’s words to see if what He said was true. They claimed authority to question God. They claimed autonomy – the right to rule themselves.
And this is what we call the Fall.
Effects of the Fall
What was lost? I want to briefly outline seven effects of the Fall of our first parents.
Lost of Innocence
They lost their legal and moral innocence. They were no longer holy and righteous. Their eyes had been opened! I am of the opinion that this is the fountain of our moral corruption. No longer acknowledging God with joyful freedom, but preoccupied with the guilty self. They could only now look back upon their former innocence and righteousness. They were now and forevermore unrighteous. They had become enslaved to guilt and moral corruption. The awareness of this guilt is immediately displayed as they are filled with shame and try to cover themselves. They can no longer bear nakedness or exposure. They hide from God. It is now their nature to act in an accord with their new guilty reality. They have become sinners.
The Image of God is Marred
The image of God (which is comprised of a true knowledge of God, right relation with God and each other) was immediately damaged. Notice how they turn on each other when God comes to question. They were trapped like rats in a corner. No escape! And they got vicious.
Their Environment was Cursed
“…cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground.”
As Romans 8:20 tells us, “…the creation was subjected to futility.” God cursed the creation so that life is now hard. Things don’t go the way that they should and it all ends in death. Life is marked by futility.
Men and Women are Cursed
Each one is cursed individually. The woman is cursed with multiplied pain in childbearing and what looks like a desire to rule over her husband (see Genesis 4:7).
The man cursed with work that would be painful and difficult. Life would be a struggle. And notice in verse 19 the death of humans beings is not natural it is the wages of sin. We die as judgment for sin. It is part of the curse.
Fellowship with God is Broken
The man and his wife are cast out of the garden. Though they did not die physically that day, they surely died – driven from the presence of God. They were now under divine judgment and barred from the tree of life. They were cut off from God and eventually would return to dust.
Sin Imputed to the Entire Race
Here we come to why we ourselves feel all the effects of this Fall. It is not just our first parents who suffer the effects of their sin. We are born cut off from God, outside the garden. We live in the reality of this fallen futile world, struggling to survive another painful day, only to come finally to death. No one escapes the curse.
But it is not just that we feel the effects of the curse. We are all children of a man and woman who had been drastically changed. In Adam’s first transgression his nature changed and with him “…all of mankind descending from him by ordinary generation.”
The rest of the Bible reveals just how radical that change of nature was and is: every part of a person (mind, will, emotions, affections, conscience, body) is affected by sin – we are totally, (that is, in every part) depraved (that is, morally corrupted). Gen 6:5-6; 1 Kings 8:46; Ps 51:5; Ps 130:3; Is 53:6; Rom 3:9-23; 1 John 1:8,10; 5:19.
The sad testimony of the Scriptures is that mankind is now “incapable of changing his character or acting in a way that is distinct from his corruption” (Reymond). Matt 7:18; John 3:3,5; John 6:44,65; John 15:4-5; Rom 8:7-8; 1 Cor 2:14.
According to Romans 5:12-21 Adam represented the entire human race in his transgression and through him sin and death and condemnation came to all people in him. The amazing testimony of Romans 5:12-21 is that, “sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin.” And then is says that “…death spread to all men because all sinned” and I would argue the next verses are making the point that this means all sinned in Adam. It is not just that we sin individually, but that we sinned in Adam. Paul’s point in Romans 5 is the solidarity of mankind with Adam. We are sinners all and guilty with Adam and from that guilt and corruption flows out all manner of sinful expressions.
But there is one more effect of the Fall. And it is this:
The Greatest Need of Mankind is Divine Grace!
It is important to realize that the unique relationship of God to His image bearers is not ancient history. The legal curses of this Fall continue in effect. There is a reason this world is in chaos. There is a reason life is so difficult and feels so pointless at times. There is a reason we all die. And it is not natural. It is not just the way life is.
Mankind stands condemned before their Creator – God Almighty. We all are guilty and corrupt in Adam, and we have all only added to our own sin and guilt. We have all rebelled against our Creator in thought, word, and deed. And the Bible says we all know that this is so, and we all know that our sin deserves death (Romans 1:32).
Our greatest need is Divine Grace. Without the intervention of God in undeserved kindness we are without hope in this world and under the curse of God forever.
Hope is Given: Gen 3:15
But God is rich in Grace. Even as the curses are being given God gives us reason to hope in His grace. In Genesis 3:15, God is speaking to the snake,
“I 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.”
God has had a plan right from the beginning to do everything necessary to restore His fallen image bearers, to restore their fellowship with Himself, restore their innocence, restore His own image in them, restore fellowship with each other, restore harmony between man and creation, restore life where death reigned. But not just to restore these things, to secure these things: never to be lost again.
3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.
4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
When we read in Genesis 3:15 that God turned to the serpent we find that God has no plan, no intention to restore that creature. Rather, He reveals His divine intention that one day the Offspring of the woman would do battle with this tempter and would in fact deliver the crushing blow to its head even as the serpent would deliver the crushing blow to His heel.
God revealed in this small statement that there was hope for the ruined race of men. Even as the serpent seemed to triumph in the rebellion of mankind, God revealed that the snake would not have the last word.
I am not sure Adam or Eve could have understood the depths of the grace of God in this prophecy. But, as we consider the Offspring of the Virgin Mary, this Christmas, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger, let’s remember why He came.
The Son of God did not come because we needed a good example or more exhaustive moral instruction. The Son of God came to do battle with the Serpent of old, to restore what had been destroyed by sin, but not just to restore – to secure abundantly more than all we could ask or think.
That is why Christ came, to save us from our sin.
O’ come. Let us adore Him.
Andrew “Andy” Murray was born and raised in New Hampshire. His father, pastor Loren Murray, served Fellowship Bible Church in Chester, NH. At six years of age Andy trusted in Jesus Christ and was baptized. He was brought up “acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” At the age of 12 his father was in a fatal car accident. Reflecting on the loss of his dad Andy writes; “I see now the wise and loving hand of Christ in my life, as He used this event to, shape, mold and press me toward Himself. It was this event that sparked in me an earnest desire to know God from His Word. By His grace, this desire has continued to grow.” Andy met his wife, Elizabeth, at Philadelphia Biblical University (now Cairn University). They have four wonderful boys. Visit Windham Bible Chapel.