The Fall of Man

Text: Genesis 3

Foundation #4 – Mankind has rebelled against God and now lives under the curse of sin.

Introduction: In the 1967 film El Dorado, a gunfighter named Cole Thornton (played by John Wayne) helps his old friend Sherrif P Hara (RObert Mitchum) defend a family’s ranch from a merciless competitor. When Cole returns to town with his new friend Mississippi (a very young James Caan) he is surprised to find the once proud sheriff to be a drunken mess. When he asks a mutual friend what happened, she responds, “What always happens: a woman.” That somewhat tongue in cheek line would fit the stereotype many people have of our text today in Genesis 3, but in a more thoughtful way we certainly could ask regarding humanity, “What has happened?” Clearly something has gone wrong with the paradise that God created for us.

All people sense that in some way life has gone wrong, but it is Christianity alone that has a cogent explanation for the angst we all feel concerning what is wrong in our world. Genesis 3 tells us that mankind has fallen from his original state and that the perfect world God created in now marred and occupied by a sinful humanity. Over the next two weeks we will look at how this happened and the extent of the damage. First, how is it possible that the good world God created fell into corruption?

God made man as a moral agent.

Just as there are physical laws governing our world and physical things are subject to those laws, so there is a moral law to which moral agents are subject. If we take an extreme example of murder, which almost all people would acknowledge to be “wrong”, we have to ask the question why it is wrong. When someone shoots another person, they are not violating any of the physical laws of our world. Rather, they are taking advantage of things like velocity, combustion, physics, biology, etc… in order to achieve a specific end. And yet the vast majority of people would agree that there is something wicked about the act of intentionally killing another human being. This betrays that we are all aware that human beings, unlike other living creatures in our world, live not only in a physical cosmos but in a moral world where choices can legitimately fall under categories such a good or evil, righteous or wicked, holy or sinful.

When Adam and Eve disregarded the words of God in favor of the words of Satan doubted the goodness of God in the face of personal gain, they made a moral choice with real consequences. Their fall is a pattern that has repeated itself throughout human history. Adam failed to lead, protect, and speak, choosing instead to follow. Eve chose to believe the words of a liar over the words of God.

God put man in a place where moral choices were required.

Some have wondered about the presence of the tree and the presence of an enemy in a place that was considered paradise. The reason for the tree is that in order to exercise a moral nature, a moral choice needed to be present. Without the presence of the tree the moral nature could not actually be used. The presence of the enemy, whom we identify as Satan, allowed an equal case to be made for violating God’s command. In this way the moral nature could really be put to the test, not in the sense of a temptation but in the sense that a runner’s speed can be put to the test. The moral nature needed to mature just as the intellect of man needed to mature.

God restrained judgment and acted in mercy towards His fallen creation.

Despite the failure of Adam and Eve to act in righteousness, God restrained His judgment. This is not to deny that life under the Fall is vastly different than life in Eden, but we see how God does not pour out the fullness of His wrath on his creation in a variety of ways. First, we see that Adam and Even can each fulfill their creation mandate, although it will be far more arduous. Eve will continue to fill the world with image bearers of God, although that process will now include the physical trauma of chidlbirth as well as the psychological pain of knowing that the child will live in a cruel and unjust world. Adam’s mandate to exercise dominion is still possible, although the work will be painful. Adam and Eve will still live together as husband and wife but now they can no longer live “face to face” but will be caught up in the tumultuous relationship of power, fear, shame, and dominance. God’s mercy is also seen His willingness to appropriately clothe them so that they could be safe from the elements, which are now hostile to them. But in order to clothe them, God had to take the life of another of His creation. There is something paternal in God’s willingness to rob of His world in order that His children could continue to live. And finally, there is the promise that one day the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent. In this we see that great hope of redemption as God’s hand of judgment was stayed and passed over Adam and Eve and hundreds of generations of humanity before finally falling on the only morally blameless one who had ever lived, His own dear Son.

Implications and Applications

The story told by moderns that man has climbed out of the primordial soup and is gradually improving has resulted in the myth of progressive inevitability. Christians should not be guilty of worshiping the past, but modern philosophies that worship the future (as they think it will be) have probably created more injustice by trying to usher in a Utopia.

All are sinners through Adam. We tend to blame our moral failings (ie sin) on things around us just as Adam and Even tried to blame their sin on others. There were 4 moral agents present in the world in Genesis 3: God, who is confirmed in Righteousness; Satan, who is confirmed in evil; Adam and Eve, who had a choice. Adam chose to blame God and Even chose to blame Satan. But the reality is that they were 100% culpable for their moral choice.

All moral choices have consequences. Adam and Eve’s sin has resulted in devastating consequences for the created world. Nevertheless, we would be fools if we judged their moral choices and failed to take responsibility for our own.

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