Here is laid the foundation upon which all gospel truth is built. If you trace all the rivers of truth back to their source, you will find that source in Genesis 3. Here begins the revelation of the great drama of redemption, which even now is being acted out on the stage of human history.
In this one chapter of inspired Scripture we see:
- The present fallen, ruined condition of our race explained.
- The subtle devices of the devil disclosed.
- The utter inability of man recorded.
- The effects of sin displayed.
- God’s attitude toward fallen man set forth.
- Man’s pride and self-righteousness demonstrated.
- God’s gracious provisions for fallen sinners proclaimed.
- The necessity of a mediator revealed.
There is no understanding of the rest of the Bible until Genesis 3 is understood. If we go wrong here, we will err in our interpretation of all the rest of the Word of God. If, by the Spirit of God, we can grasp the message of Genesis 3, we will not greatly err in the rest of the Book.
A problem of the heart
This much is evident. If Genesis 3 is true (and it is!) then both the scientists and the sociologists of our day are wrong. The evolutionary scientists tell us that man is slowly but surely evolving into a perfect being, that though he began very low he has climbed very high.
God tells us something different. He made man perfect, but man has ruined himself. He made man very high, but man has fallen very, very low.
For a hundred and fifty years, sociologists, psychologists, educators, and philosophers have been saying that man’s problem is his environment. Religious leaders tell us that man has great potential and that his problems are external.
But God tells us that our problem is our heart. The fact is, man is a fallen, depraved creature, under the wrath and curse of the holy God, standing in need of redemption, regeneration and grace. That is the message of Genesis 3.
The fall of man
The first six verses of this chapter reveal the sin and fall of our father Adam, and of all the human race in him (Romans 5:12). Man is not an independent, self-governing creature. He did not make himself. He owes his being to God.
Man was made to serve God, to glorify his Creator by his obedience to him. As a symbol of God’s sovereignty and of man’s responsibility, there was planted in the midst of the garden a tree which man was not permitted to use for himself (Genesis 2:16-17).
The only restriction placed upon man’s liberty was that the fruit of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ was denied to him. This tree symbolised the relationship in which man stood to God. Adam was created as an intelligent, responsible creature, subject to the rule of God, the Creator.
But soon he became a self-seeking, self-willed, self-centred, self-serving rebel. How did this happen? It is not my purpose here to give a full exposition of these verses. But there are three things that we need to understand.
The first temptation
Firstly, Satan tempted, beguiled and deceived our mother Eve. Satan knew how God created Adam and that he made Eve from Adam’s side. He knew that Eve was the weaker vessel. And he knew Adam’s love for Eve.
Therefore, he set his sights on Eve. He was confident that if he could get Eve, Adam would fall. With great subtlety, the old serpent beguiled the woman. The steps that led to her ruin were these.
First, she heeded the voice of the tempter. Instead of saying, ‘Get thee behind me, Satan’, Eve quietly listened as the wicked one assaulted the Word of God. The door was opened when she began to discuss and debate what God had revealed with one who denied it.
Second, Eve then began to make additions to the Word of God. Tampering with God’s Word is always fatal. It is just as wrong to add our words to God’s as it is to diminish his (Proverbs 30:5-6). According to Eve, God had said, ‘Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it’, but God had actually said nothing about touching the fruit.
Third, the woman proceeded, not just to add to God’s Word, but also to subtly alter it. God had declared, ‘In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die’, but Eve introduced an element of doubt saying, ‘lest ye die’ or, ‘we might die’.
Fourth, she then went on to disregard God’s Word altogether. She had begun by being careless about the Word, but finished by turning her back upon it completely.
This, then, is the way sin entered into the world. As A. W. Pink put it: ‘The will of God was resisted. The Word of God was rejected. The way of God was deserted’ .
In verses 4-5, Satan cast doubt upon the Word of God, the justice of God and the goodness of God. In verse 6, Eve saw, she coveted, and she took. She desired the wisdom, freedom and superiority that Satan promised. She took that which belonged to God alone.
The second thing we need to understand is that while Eve was deceived Adam was not. ‘For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression’ (1 Timothy 2:13-14).
Adam wilfully and deliberately rebelled against the express command of God. Because of his love for Eve, he defied God. He willingly plunged himself and all his posterity into spiritual ruin and enmity against God, rather than refuse Eve.
The third thing to realise is that when Adam sinned against God, all humankind became sinners and died spiritually. We all became separated from God (Romans 5:12). Adam was a representative man, a covenant head. He represented all the human race. We all fell through the sin and fall of our father Adam. Furthermore, inheriting his sinful nature, we all become sinners in practice (Romans 3:23).
The record of the fall, given in Genesis 3, is the only plausible explanation for the condition of the human race. Original sin is revealed here. It is verified everywhere. How else can anyone explain the universality of sin, the universality of sickness and sorrow, and the universality of death? These things are universal because we all have our being from one man, Adam. We all sinned in him. We all died in him. And we all received our nature from him.
Yet, amazingly, all this happened according to the wise purposes of God, ‘who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will’ (Ephesians 1:11). How thankful we ought to be for this wise arrangement of things by our God. As an old writer said long ago, ‘O blessed fall!’ Why should we be thankful?
Had there been no fall at the beginning, there would always have been the possibility of such a fall in the future.
Had there been no fall, we could never have known the wonders and beauties of redeeming love and saving grace (1 Peter 1:12).
Had there been no fall, we could never have been brought into union with God in Christ, the God-man.
Furthermore, since we fell by one representative, Adam, there is hope that we might be restored by another Representative (Hebrews 2:16). And that is exactly what God has accomplished through the person and work of his Son, Jesus Christ.
Paul puts it thus: ‘As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Christ] shall many be made righteous … That as sin has reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Romans 5:19-21).
We shall consider these matters further next month.