E100 – June 18, 2017

Search and Rescue” – Genesis 3

 Pentecost 2 – June 18, 2017



Last Sunday, we dealt with Genesis 1 and 2 – the creation account – from both a cosmic and a personal perspective. As we move into Genesis 3 today, we find that it is, surprisingly, one of the most important chapters of the entire Bible! The conversations and actions there introduce some key theological concepts that continue throughout the whole Bible. The story is about the fall of Adam and Eve into sin. But it also deals with the concept of original sin. It deals with broken relationships in creation – something that is featured in almost every Bible story. And Genesis 3 includes what I would call God’s Search and Rescue plan.

Sometimes I say that God plans coincidences. About a month ago, I finished my reading through the E100 materials – those 100 essential Bible stories, Old and New Testament. Those are the stories that I am preaching on this year, including today. But as I thought about what to read next, I decided that, since it is the 500th Anniversary of Martin Luther posting his list of debate topics on the church door in Wittenberg, I would start reading Luther’s Works – a 50 volume set on my bookshelf. I’ve never read through them before, and I’m guessing it’s going to take me 3 or 4 years. So, a couple of weeks ago I started with Volume 1 – Luther’s lectures on Genesis 1 – 5. In the last few days, I have been reading what he wrote about Genesis 3, and he’s got lots of profound insights. So, although the topic is from E100, the content is with much thanks to Martin Luther.

Fasten your seat belts… it will be quite a ride through these 24 verses!


  1. The Fall into Sin

You can ask, as Luther says, “a sea of questions,” especially ‘why’ questions, about the presence of the serpent/Satan, about the one forbidden tree, and about the inability of Eve and Adam to resist the temptation. But the simple answer to some of the ‘why’ questions is: “It pleased the Lord that Adam… should test his powers.” The most serious result of this testing is that man’s will turned away from God.


We need to understand that Satan, the deceiver, the one whom Jesus called “the father of lies,” spoke through the serpent, which itself was described as a cunning and crafty creature. What Satan was doing was imitating God, counterfeiting God, presenting himself as an alternate truth, an alternate authority to consider and to listen to. His attack is directed against God’s good will, showing that God’s will toward man is not good. Up until this time, God’s only Word directed to Adam was: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” This comprised Adam’s worship, his service, his obedience to God. Notice that Satan did not address Adam who heard that Word of God. He addressed Eve, who heard the command second hand from Adam. With his own word, Satan attacks and challenges God’s Word: “Did God really say…?”

At first Eve resists the tempter admirably. “God said we should not eat of it or touch it (an embellishment of God’s actual words) lest you die.” And that’s a perversion of God’s actual words, too. Lest you die, perhaps you will die. So, stay away, just in case – that’s what Satan’s poison had led Eve to believe. But God had said, “You will surely die.” Eve should have maintained “If I eat, I shall surely die.” But Satan had made such inroads with his first question about the reality of God’s words, that now with Eve’s uncertainty about the end result of disobedience, he exerts himself with utmost power and pressure.


With his next words, the devil outwits naïve Eve. “You will not surely die. You will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He takes Eve’s uncertainty – “perhaps” – and turns it into a negative certainty – “You will not surely die.” It’s really a two-fold temptation, with the same goal in mind. The first part is: “God did not say this; therefore you may eat from this tree.” The second part is: “God has given you everything. He has made you lords over all of the fish, birds and creatures, and over all the trees in paradise. He created them for you. How can He withhold from you the fruits of this single tree? It is not forbidden.” Satan’s goal is that Eve be drawn away from God’s Word and from faith. And this is the main part of every temptation – that our own reason tries to reach a decision, and contemplate an action without the Word and truth of God.


“You will be like God.” That sounds like a good thing, doesn’t it… to be like God. But that is idolatry – to make yourself out to be God, your own God. There’s a lot of that kind of idea going around in our world today… be your own God, make up your own rules about spiritual truth. The first sin, the fall into sin, was to doubt the very Word of God. Unbelief is the source of all other sins.


Eve has not even eaten the fruit, but she has sinned against the Word and against faith. She has turned from the Word of God to a lie, from faith to unbelief, from listening to God to listening to Satan, from the worship of God (obedience) to idolatry. In fact idolatry – trusting anything more than God – was such an important perversion of God’s intention that He would later make “no other gods” the First Commandment, first in order, first in importance.


Once Eve questioned God’s intentions and truthfulness, it was much easier for her to approach the tree and pick the forbidden fruit. Once the Word of God is corrupted or driven out of our lives, giving in to other temptations comes much easier, too.


So, Eve’s doubt / unbelief led to other sins with all her senses:

of the ears (drank the poison of Satan, listening to and believing Satan),

the feet (not running away from the temptation),

the eyes (seeing that the fruit was good and pleasing),

the mind (that it was desirable for gaining wisdom),

the hands (reaching out to take it),

the mouth and teeth (eating it).


She eats the fruit with pleasure, and urges her husband to do the same. In fact, he was right there, and didn’t intervene in her disobedience, which means that he was a willing partner in their rebellion against God. You know what they say, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” He coulda, shoulda said, “Eve, God said ‘No’ to that tree. Just walk away… walk away… and no one will get hurt.” The outward act of disobedience follows the sin of rebelling against God in her heart.


I won’t say much about the realization of Adam and Eve that they were naked. God had created them that way, and there was to be no shame about it. But they did feel shame, and they made coverings for themselves, and they also hid from God among the trees. It’s interesting that they hear the breeze in the trees and they are afraid of God and they hide. They think God is approaching to punish them. Isn’t that the case still today when we have done something wrong? We hear a noise, we hear someone coming and we think we will get found out. So, we hide, remaining still and quiet, maybe even in the dark.


Adam and Eve did not hide from Satan, but now they avoid God. Adam realizes that not only paradise but the entire world is too small to be a safe hiding place from God. When God asks “Where are you?” it wasn’t a geographical question, or a question like they were playing hide and seek. It was a theological question. God is directing them to their own consciences. It’s like God was saying, “Do you think I don’t see you?” God wants to show Adam that although he had hidden, he was not hidden from God, that although he had avoided God, he had not escaped God. It is ridiculous to think that our cure from sin lies in flight away from God, rather than a return to God to admit our sin and to receive His soothing forgiveness.


We call this entire event the “Fall into Sin.” Picture yourself and every other human being falling into a hole so deep – maybe 10 km. deep – that no one can get out of it, even by working together. The problem is irreversible!! Although Adam and Eve were created without sin, this “Fall” made sinfulness rather than perfection the “new normal.”


  1. Original Sin

The second concept we want to address from Genesis 3 is the idea of “original sin.” This doesn’t mean “the original sin” as in the first one. Original sin is a theological concept which refers to sin that is inherited from our parents. It’s like a spiritual disease that is passed from one generation to another by heredity. If a sinful man and a sinful woman have a child, it’s going to be a sinful child. There are no other options. A sinful man and a sinful woman cannot give birth to a perfect, holy, and sinless child. Original Sin is something inside of us, at the core of our being. That’s why King David would write in Psalm 51: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” He had a nature of sin. But original sin is unseen. I think the best way to picture the difference between original sin and actual sin is this image of a tree. You can see the various kinds of sin, actual sins: intentional and unintentional, sins of omission (good things that we don’t do), and sins of commission (bad things that we do do – sins in our thoughts, in our words, in our deeds). You’ll notice that the fruit of sin (or what St. Paul calls “the wages of sin”) is death – in every case, for every sin… death. (Kind of like God’s ultimatum to Adam – “You will surely die.”) But at the root of it all is original sin, something that you can’t see. A sin-root is going to produce a sin-tree with sin-branches and sin-leaves and sin-fruit. This temptation of the devil in Genesis 3 was the beginning of original sin, leading Eve away from the Word and the truth of God.

Original sin is the bent to sin, it is desire curved in on ourselves rather than focused on love of God, and subsequent love of neighbour. Original sin means you don’t need to teach a child to sin. They will figure it out very quickly, all on their own. Everything is “mine!”

That’s why sometimes when we confess our sins, our words say: “I am by nature sinful and unclean.” That’s confessing our original sin. But then we go on to confess our actual sins: thoughts, words, deeds, things we have done, things we have left undone, and that we have not loved God, nor have we loved our neighbour. Again… all of which deserve death.


Let’s use those very words to confess our own sins… (stand)


  1. Broken relationships

The next theological concept in Genesis 3 is the broken relationships that resulted from that fall into sin. We heard last week that God had created everything good, in fact, very good! But when sin entered the world, brokenness entered the world right alongside of it.


First of all, there was the broken relationship with God. That was what we have just been talking about – questioning God, challenging God, rebelling against God, disobeying God. Then hiding from God in the garden. Adam and Eve experienced guilt and fear. We are not told that Adam and Eve had actually seen God before, but now they definitely didn’t want to see Him, or even talk with Him. “I was afraid, so I hid.”

When we sin, it’s the same. Somehow, even though God knows everything, we don’t want Him to know about our sin. We don’t want to engage with God in our fear and guilt and shame over sin. We ignore Him. We don’t call on His name in prayer. We hide in our own futile ways. And God keeps His Word. The curse on Adam included “dust you are and to dust you will return.” In other words, “You will surely die. All of you will surely die because of your sin.” That broken relationship breaks God’s heart, and we’ll hear more about that in a minute.


The second relationship that sin breaks is our relationship with others.  What follows immediately in this conversation with God is the blame game. “The woman… gave me some fruit… and I ate it.” Isn’t that our natural inclination… to blame someone else? He did it. She started it. It’s not my fault. Adam is minimizing his sin by saying that HE did not listen to the serpent, and that HE did not pluck the fruit. “The woman…” he says, pointing fingers with his words. More than that, Adam points a finger back to God: “The woman you put here with me…” There is anger and resentment against God in those words. “If you hadn’t made this woman, if you’d given her her own garden spot, then everything would be OK, I would be OK, you and me would be OK. But YOU gave her to me. And SHE gave me the fruit. It’s not my fault!” And ever since Genesis 3 people have been blaming one another for their sins, rather than taking responsibility and saying “God, I have sinned!” In the curse God spoke to Eve, we hear that her husband would rule over her – which creates trouble and anguish in relationships, rather than pure joy and blessing as God intended. It doesn’t take long at all for all kinds of relationships to be broken. The first murder takes place between the sons of Adam and Eve in Genesis 4. By Genesis 6, ten generations later, the Bible’s account reports the scope of man’s wickedness on the earth: “EVERY inclination of the thoughts of his heart was ONLY evil ALL the time.” [That’s next week’s story about God sending the great flood.]


The third relationship that was broken was the relationship between human beings and creation. These are found in the curses that God spoke on Adam and Eve. Eve’s pain in childbirth would be increased and Adam would be forced into painful toil. “Because of you” the ground is cursed and it will produce thorns and thistles. Things in nature would not be as God intended them to be, as God created them to be. We still see the evidence of creation itself being stained by the effects of the fall. We have heard a lot about floods recently, and earthquakes, and tornadoes, and hurricanes. All of these things are what Paul refers to in Romans 8: “The whole creation has been groaning… up to the present time.” The “very good” status of creation also broke in the fall.


  1. The First Promise

We’ve heard a bit about God’s curse on Eve and on Adam, but we didn’t hear about God’s curse on the serpent. That it would crawl on its belly and eat dust is not all that important. But the second curse, spoken to Satan, is crucial. (And that word is used intentionally… I’ll explain.) The curse says, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and hers; He will crush your head, and you will strike His heal.” This is God’s first promise in the Bible, the first piece of good news in this otherwise depressing story. Let’s unpack that…

God didn’t leave Adam and Eve in their sin and abandon them. He went on a Search and Rescue mission. In the Garden He called to them. He was SEARCHing. “Where are you? Have you eaten of the forbidden fruit? Have you disobeyed me? What have you done?” If you read between the lines… God is saying, “Return to me!” This is the SEARCH component.

Then comes the RESCUE component. As we get back to the seed or offspring of the woman, we note that the word is in the singular. It’s not referring all the offspring of Eve, it’s referring to one… ONE! And, Luther points out, this offspring isn’t the seed or sperm of a man as we would normally think in reproduction biology. It’s the seed of the woman!! Luther sees this as referring to Jesus, who was born not of the seed of a man, but only of a woman… AND GOD!! This promised one would not be a mere human being, but a God-Man, with divinity as His heredity. That’s why this one offspring would crush Satan’s head, even though He, Himself, was mortally wounded. The first scene of Mel Gibson’s movie, “The Passion of the Christ” is unforgettable. Jesus is praying prostrate in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before He was crucified. Satan is there in the shadows, and a serpent slithers from him toward Jesus. He gets up, glances at Satan, and then, with a mighty stomp of His foot, crushes the serpent’s head – thus fulfilling these words from Genesis 3. On the cross, a few hours later, Jesus would suffer and die, innocently, for our sins, thus crushing Satan’s attempts to lead all of humanity away from God eternally. With His resurrection from the dead, Jesus crushed all three of our enemies – sin, death, and the devil.

Search… AND Rescue!

So, the curse on Satan in Genesis 3 was indeed crucial, for the word ‘crucial’ – according to my pocket dictionary – is from the Latin word for cross (thus related to crucifixion), and means ‘essential for resolving a crisis.’ The crisis of humanity’s disobedience of God was resolved at the cross of Jesus, where He defeated Satan. This is referred to as the Protevangel – the first promise of the Gospel, our hope and our salvation.

One quick note on the fact that God went shopping and provided a wardrobe of skins instead of fig leaves for Adam and Eve. Some Bible commentators see the shedding of blood (for those skins to cover Adam and Eve in their perceived physical shame) to be a foreshadowing of the shedding of Jesus’ blood to cover our actual spiritual shame and guilt. The Bible doesn’t make that clear, but God, in His mercy, does provide for our sinful ancestors.


I mentioned something a month ago about my Dad’s writing, and promised to share something with you today. So, I’m giving my dad the last word!



Did E’er Such Love and Sorrow Meet


One of my favorite Lenten hymns is “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.” The third verse of that hymn is as follows:


See from His head, His hands, His feet,

Sorrow and Love flow mingled down.

Did e’er such love and sorrow meet

Or thorns compose so rich a crown?


What a powerful message this hymn contains and especially this verse of the hymn.


Indeed God’s sorrow and love met at the cross in a way they had never met before.  But I am convinced they had met before – in fact many times before.  Love and sorrow already met in the Garden of Eden.  When our first parents disobeyed God and chose to go their own way, how it must have hurt the loving Creator.  But the sorrow He felt was met with love as He promised a Saviour that would sacrifice His life to atone for sin.


In the years that followed, the descendants of Adam and Eve were disobedient, too.  Generation after generation chose to worship other gods. God, in His love, always sought them out and offered them forgiveness – love and sorrow meeting.


King David in the Old Testament is a good example of love and sorrow meeting.  David’s sins of adultery and murder caused sorrow for God and eventually for David as well.  But that sorrow was once again met by God’s love when Nathan the prophet assured David of God’s forgiveness.


And so it is with our own lives.  Sin causes sorrow and God continues to meet that sorrow with His unconditional love.  The meeting of love and sorrow is especially evident when we lose loved ones through death.  We experience grief, hurt, pain, and sorrow.  And once again, love shows up comforting us and reminding us of the time love and sorrow met on that special day – Good Friday – at that special place on the Cross.


Love so amazing, so divine

Demands my soul, my life, my all.


From Papa

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