Click HERE for an audio version of this message.
Last week we saw a picture of the perfect relationship Adam had with God while he was in the image of God. Adam conversed with God without an ounce of fear. He rejoiced in everything God had made. He saw Eve as a wonderful gift and blessing from God. Together they enjoyed a perfect, interdependent and complimentary relationship with each other. But that’s not the case anymore. Now, when God speaks people are frightened, like Israel was when God spoke to them from Mt. Sinai they trembled in fear. Men and women complain about the way that God made them and fail to see the blessing of the interdependent and complimentary relationship for which God created them. As Paul clearly listed out in our second lesson for today, no one has a perfect relationship with God or with each other. Genesis chapter three explains why. Because Adam and Eve, the two people to whom everyone can trace their ancestry, sinned.
What was their sin? They distrusted God, doubted his word, and wanted to be their own god. This distrust was incited by Satan speaking through a snake. He planted the seed of distrust and doubt when he asked Eve if they were allowed to eat of every tree in the garden. He knew what God had told Adam, and Adam had related to Eve. Every tree was theirs. Hundreds, maybe thousands of different trees all producing beautiful, tasty, healthy fruit were theirs to eat. All except one. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They were not to eat from that tree, or, God said, they would certainly die. Satan got Eve to focus on the one thing she didn’t have instead of the hundreds, or thousands of blessings she did have.
Now Satan had his in. “Eve, why would God keep something good from you? In fact, Satan implied, God has not told you everything. He has forbidden you to eat from this tree because he wants to keep the best for himself. He doesn’t want you to be like him knowing good and evil. In fact, he lied to you. If you do eat the forbidden fruit you will certainly NOT die. In fact, you will be truly enlightened, your eyes will be opened.”
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was appealing to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took some of its fruit and ate. She gave some also to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Don’t you hear Satan’s words ringing in your ears today? “Never mind all the good things you do have, what about what you don’t have? Don’t let anyone tell you what to do or think, especially God. You do you. Don’t listen to what God’s word says. Listen to the scientists and philosophers of today, then your eyes will be opened. You will be enlightened.”
Modern man’s quest to be god, to be in control, to know good and evil, has made clear the devastating effect of original sin. It is evidence of our sinful nature that took over when Adam and Eve lost the image of God. It shows itself in distrust of God, and doubt, and rejection of his word. Those who like to think that they are enlightened and in control reject the Bible as Gods word, they reject the teaching of creation, and the first three chapters of Genesis which form the foundation of Christianity, they reject God-established authority in society, they reject what God says about marriage. They reject the idea of sin, especially the idea of original sin and the total depravity of our sinful nature, and so God’s plan of salvation seems like foolishness to them.
As Adam and Eve found out, distrusting God, doubting his word, and thinking they could be gods was all a lie. Eating the fruit didn’t make them like God, it separated them from God. It caused them to be afraid of God. They quickly learned that God was not the one who lied, Satan was. Knowing Evil was definitely not a good thing. And no, they didn’t fall over dead the moment the forbidden fruit touched their lips, but they died spiritually and they became subject to physical death. God said, dust you are and to dust you shall return. Genesis five highlights what we know from experience. Every genealogy ends the same way, and they died.
How did their fall into sin affect their relationship with each other? We hear that they immediately felt shame. Before sin they felt no shame. They showed that they were not more enlightened. Just the opposite. They foolishly tried to hide from God among the trees. And when God confronted them, they turned on each other and played the blame game.
While Adam still had the image of God, he saw Eve as a wonderful gift of God. He rejoiced that God had provided him with a partner who was suitable, a perfect match in every way. Now, after sin, he says, The woman you gave to be with me, this person I thought was the best gift ever,—she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate it. What a change! And not a change for the good.
Eve blames the serpent. It was his fault for deceiving her, and implied, “so why, God, did you even let him in the garden? Oh, and Adam was right there with me and didn’t stop me. Some leader and protector he turned out to be!”
Still today, when couples are having trouble with their relationship, they often present a long list of all the things the other person is doing to cause the trouble they are having. I’ll always remember the title of a section of a marriage seminar I used many years ago. The title was “the trouble with us is me.” That’s the last thing our sinful nature ever wants to say, but it is one of the most important things we can say.
In addition to destroying their relationship with God and with each other Adam and Eve’s sin brought some additional consequences for them and for all of us, their descendants. Interestingly, those consequences fit the roles that God had created for them. From that time on, instead of being an experience filled with pure joy, the joy of bringing children into the world would be marred by pain. From that time on, instead of being a joyful act to provide for your wife and family it would be painful toil, tiling the soil, fighting the weeds. The world has coined a phrase that expresses the consequences of sin quite well. “Life’s a __________, and then you die.”
The worst consequence that comes because of Adam and Eve’s sin however is the spiritual consequence. Instead of passing on God’s image so that we could have a perfect relationship with God and each other, they passed on their sinful image. The Bible clearly points out that, by nature, as we are born into this world, we are enemies of God. The Bible clearly points out that by nature, as we area born into this world, we are not enlightened. We mistakenly consider God’s word to be foolishness. As Jesus says, from the heart come murder, adultery, and every evil. By nature, all our thoughts are only evil all the time.
That’s what we heard Jesus trying to explain to Nicodemus in our Gospel lesson today. He told him that flesh gives birth to flesh. Everyone is born dead in sin, physically alive but spiritually dead. That’s why everyone needs a second birth, a spiritual birth, a birth that comes from above. This second birth comes about by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the gospel in the word and sacraments. When the Spirit creates faith in us the image of God begins to be restored in us so that we are no longer separated from God by our sins. Our eyes are opened. We see that God has removed all our sins and put them on Jesus. We no longer are terrified by the thought of coming into God’s presence, but we are able to talk to him in prayer and listen to him speak to us in his word.
Next week we will spend a lot of time talking about God’s gracious promise in verse fifteen. But there are other hints of God’s grace scattered throughout this chapter.
We see God’s grace in the fact that he didn’t strike Adam and Eve with a lightening bolt of his righteous wrath the moment they touched the forbidden fruit. Instead he sought them out to call them to repentance and to give them a promise through which they could still have eternal life with him.
We see God’s grace in the fact that he drove them out of the garden and set cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the garden so that no one could eat from the Tree of Life and live for all eternity in a state of sin and imperfection. In his Revelation, John sees the tree of life again being made available to the descendants of Adam and Eve, people from every tribe, nation, language who are in the new Jerusalem.
We see God’s grace in the fact that Adam trusted God to keep his promise and named his wife Eve, the mother of all the living, including the seed of the woman who would be born to crush the serpent’s head and save the world.
We see God’s grace in making sure that there were and are consequences for sin. As we look at how messy relationships are between people and countries; as we experience the pain that comes to our now imperfect bodies; as we stand at the grave of a loved one; we are reminded that we are not gods. We are not totally enlightened; we don’t know everything. Satan lied to Eve and he still lies to us. We will have to face death, but God’s word is truth. With John, we look forward to being in the New Jerusalem and being able to walk and talk with God without fear, and to eat as often as we want from the tree of life.