The First Sin
Adam’s Antithetical Calling
Scripture calls our attention to two trees: the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Whereas the former had the power to perpetuate the lives of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:22), the fruit of the latter was forbidden them.
The tree of knowledge of good and evil was so called because through it Adam and Eve learned good and evil: the good (fellowship with God) when not partaking of it, and the evil when partaking of it; eating of the forbidden tree they would experience death, the evil of death as the curse of the living God.
This established Adam’s antithetical calling. God did not issue this prohibitive command to give Adam an opportunity to gain eternal life (everlasting, heavenly life) in the way of obedience. Man can never merit anything. Besides, Christ is the One eternally ordained of God to realize eternal life for us – how, in the light of Ephesians 1:9-10, could God offer Adam that which will be realized for us by Christ according to the purpose of His will? But Adam must serve God antithetically. He must choose the good and reject all evil. He must say Yes and No. Therefore, this prohibitive command.
Sin’s Entrance into the World
How awful! What a night of sin and misery and death has resulted since Adam’s sin engulfed the world! Hence, how awful from the viewpoint of its effect!
The story of Adam’s sin follows immediately upon the narrative of creation. We believed that it occurred soon after Adam’s creation. After all, it was not the purpose of God that Adam and Eve should live in the earthly Paradise, but that the way must be prepared for the coming of the Second Adam. It is Adam’s purpose to lead all mankind (God’s purpose with them) into the depths of sin; the Second Adam must lead us into glory.
THE FALL OF MAN
The Truth of Man’s Fall Tremendously Important
Read carefully what we read in Questions and Answers 6 and 7 of our Heidelberg Catechism. They treat this matter.
We cannot deny the reality of sin and misery. To do so would be folly. Apart from salvation it is the most astounding thing that confronts us! It affects and controls every one of us. Imagine, if you please, that God had created us evil! Our salvation would then be hopeless. God created sin? In sin and death He delights? How, then, could salvation ever come from Him?
To one more matter we wish to call attention now. Here we have the difference between all truly Christian instruction and the instruction by the world. The Bible narrative places man at the beginning on a high level. He was created good. But he became evil. And in that sin he has been developing ever since. The world, however, places man at the beginning on a very low plane. He descended from the monkey. His sin is due to ignorance or lack of development. He is ever striving to better himself. All this, we know, is to no avail. Hence, according to the world man began at the bottom and is gradually ascending, “going up.” According to the Bible man began at the top and is gradually “going down.” And according to the Bible man’s misery and death are the direct result of the curse of God, whereas salvation is from God alone. What a difference: man can save himself or all he does is sin and salvation can come from God alone.
The devil uses the serpent. He did not come to Adam and Eve in the form of a serpent, but in a serpent. We understand that the story as recorded in Genesis 3 is real, historical. There was a real serpent. And that serpent actually talked. The account of Genesis 3 is not a myth, or an allegory, but a real fact and historical incident. This animal, we read, was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. This must not be understood in an evil sense. Every creature, also the serpent, was good. The serpent was more subtle in the sense that it was the most brilliant of all the animals. We also believe that, prior to the fall of man and the entrance of sin into the world, it walked on legs and feet. That it crawls upon its belly is because of the curse of God. Moreover, this animal could talk. I have already remarked that the serpent did the speaking in Genesis 3, although, of course, it was prompted by the devil. The devil is a spirit, does not speak directly to us, does not have a body and therefore a tongue. He spoke through the serpent. He was in that serpent. And he selected the serpent because that animal undoubtedly stood closest to man. It was Adam’s “pet”!
Satan approaches Eve first. This is intentional, of course. This was part of his devilish strategy. Eve was not the head of the human race. Adam was that head. Eve’s sin would not affect the human race. Of course, to suppose a situation in which Eve would have sinned and not Adam is foolishness. Both must fall, according to the unchangeable will and counsel of the Lord. But, had Eve sinned and not Adam, God would undoubtedly have created another woman for Adam. Hence, the devil approaches Eve because he would use her to tempt Adam. Such was the devil’s clever plan of attack.
It is not necessary for me to repeat what we read in verses 1-5. Satan presents the idea that man may not eat of all the trees in the garden as absurd. Were they not all good? How ridiculous, therefore, that one may not eat of all the trees in the garden, that there could actually be a tree in that garden of perfection whereas Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat! Satan reveals himself here Satan (the word means: adversary) and as devil (this word means: liar). He is Satan because he opposes God. He places his word over against that of the Lord. He contradicts God. He always does. He is God’s adversary. Not dualistically, as if the devil can ever resist God. Of course not! God uses him also! But he is God’s adversary spiritually, hates God, and seeks to dispose of Him in the world. He would have men serve him and not the living God. He also reveals himself as “devil,” the liar. He makes God a liar. He declares that God lied when He told Adam and Eve that they would surely die. God knew that they would not die, but that they would become as He. The Lord was afraid of that. He, therefore, intimidated our first parents. How diabolical. And, how foolish! Did not the Lord make that tree also? Would its fruit cause anyone to become as the Creator? Incidentally, Eve’s first mistake was that she entered into conversation with the devil. She should have silenced him with the Word of the Lord and turned her back upon him. It is folly to converse and argue with the devil. Jesus did not argue with him. Notice what we read in Matt. 4:10. He quotes the Scriptures and commands him: “Get thee hence.”
Man’s Terrible Sin
The modern, unbelieving world ridicules Genesis 3, speaks mockingly of the eating of an apple, and that all man’s misery should be the aftermath of such an innocent deed. However, we know better. The sin of Adam was not so innocent.
Adam’s sin was terrible because it was wanton, willful, deliberate disobedience. Adam deliberately disobeyed God because “the fruit was pleasant to his eye.” He eagerly grasped the opportunity to be as God. He resented the role of a servant. He tired of serving God. He was wantonly disobedient. This was the essence of his sin. Adam did not sin ignorantly. He did not sin because he was forced into it; he did not really want to sin but was forced into it. He sinned deliberately. Sin is always deliberate, wanton. After all, the only thing involved in Genesis 3 was the word of the Lord. Adam was not forbidden to kill his wife. He might not eat of the tree. Why not? Because God had said it. Why must we do this and not that? This is the essence of all true obedience. It is also the essence of all disobedience; our refusal that God be God over us.
Adam’s sin was terrible, in the third place, because he sinned as the head of the human race. Let us grasp this to see the awfulness of it. This does not merely imply that his sin would involve all his posterity in the sense that all would share his death. It surely also implied this. Adam’s sin would render the entire human race guilty before God, worthy of death, and subject to sin and death in all its phases. But the sin of Adam also implied that he would “line up” all mankind behind the Lord and in fellowship and alliance with the devil.
The Result of Adam’s Sin
A word about this will certainly not be remiss. God had said that he would die the day he ate of the tree. And we know that this happened. Of course! What God says always comes true. This applies here also.
The Christian Reformed Churches (our mother-church) deny this. That is one of the reasons or points of doctrine which was the ground for our expulsion in 1924. They teach that man is not by nature dead in sins and trespasses. They teach other heresies also, such as the general offer of salvation in the preaching of the gospel. But this particular heresy is upon the foreground now. And a heresy it certainly is. Because of “Common Grace” man can do good before the Lord without regeneration. This, however, is emphatically not true. When Adam sinned he died. Also physically in the sense that the power of death now controlled his body and no world science can stop its power. Also spiritually. Man became corrupt. See Ephesians 2:1-3; Art. 1-4 of the Canons, III and IV. And he also died the eternal death, became by nature object of Divine wrath, worthy of everlasting hell.
This is the “Mother Promise”
This is the first promise. Out of it all the other promises flow. It includes, of course, all the other promises.
The “seed of the serpent” is the devil and all reprobate men. The “seed of the woman” is the elect Church with Christ as its Head.
Struggle and Victory
The text emphasizes an intense struggle. Not between people and serpents, but between the Church and the World, the Party of the living God, in Christ Jesus, over against the powers of evil and darkness. This struggle rages throughout the ages. The Old Testament is full of it. We need not, cannot treat this now in detail. Think of Israel vs. Amalek, Israel in Egypt, etc. And this continues throughout the ages.
The victory will be complete. The heel of the woman will be bruised. God’s Church will suffer persecution and affliction. Christ did! Also His people. But the head of the seed of the serpent will be crushed. This means that he will be destroyed, and all his followers. The Church will emerge completely victorious.
“I will set enmity.” God will do this. God will cause separation between the seed of the woman and that of the serpent. He will do that by pouring out His love into His own, upon the basis of the atoning sufferings of Christ.
God will do it alone. Unconditionally! That always characterizes His promise. After all, we are dead and blind and deaf and dumb, and God promises life. We chose sin. But God maintains His covenant. And this He does alone. All by Himself! Thanks be to His Name!
Man Would Clothe Himself
Notice what we read in verses 7-8. Adam and Eve made themselves aprons of fig leaves. They were naked and knew it.
Indeed, man always seeks to clothe himself. He would save himself! He would, in the way of his own works, seek to present himself acceptable in God’s sight. He wants to work his own way into the favor of God.
Notice what we read in verse 21.
The Lord made Adam and Eve coats of skin. We understand what this implies, do we not? This means that an animal was slain in their behalf. And I am sure that the Lord explained this to them.
The first sin is accompanied by the first sacrifice. It has been said that Adam fell into the arms of Christ. How true! Adam and Eve were children of God according to election. When they sinned the Lord revealed to them salvation, salvation through the Seed of the Woman (primarily Christ) who would crush the seed of the serpent. And salvation through Him in the way of blood. God’s justice must be satisfied. And it will be satisfied, our sins will be paid and eternal life merited. Salvation is of God alone, through Jesus Christ, our Lord.