preacher and writer in Chicago

Sin

Adam and Eve were just married. And then a snake slithered alongside. But before the snake entered the story, God gave Adam instructions, rules, and terms of their relationship and with respect to the world he created. Genesis 2:16-17 says ...

"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” 

Notice, this is a command. This not an opinion or suggestion. Out of love and order—in the same posture by which God created everything—God spoke morality and righteousness into the human experience, and directly to Adam. Though such things were imprinted upon Adam's heart from his first breath (Romans 1:18-20), Adam was given a clear directive of what it looked like to honor God in the world, in the garden. The Lord says, enjoy everything I have made ... but for one tree. And if you do eat of that tree, everything changes. 

To be sure many ask ... 

Why did God create that tree?

Why did God create that snake?

Why would God invite such a system where man could fail?

Why did God ... 

First of all, when we asks “why questions” of God we must be very careful. He is God, we are not. May our words be few (Ecclesiastes 5:2). God can do as he pleases without a single need or requirement to explain himself. Secondly God's design here is best understood as his way of testing Adam. James' words make clear that God tests us toward righteousness while evil desires and Satan himself tempt us toward sin (James 1:13-15). This was God's way of building communion with humanity and the opportunity to grow in intimacy with his creation through obedience and holiness. 

Once Eve is made from Adam and for Adam, Adam shares the truths of God’s world with her. Eve’s knoweldge is clear in the next scene. Genesis 3:1-7 reads ... 

"Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths."

Things get pretty bad, pretty quickly. And because it happened so fast we may miss the true error of Adam and Eve’s sin. So let's ask the most basic of biblical questions ... what is sin? Well, we may commonly think about sin as doing something wrong or failing to do something good. But I’d like to suggest that sin is much deeper and more difficult to summarize than that. And walking back through the story of the Fall that led Adam and Eve to hide from God behind leaves and trees makes the deep dysfunction of sin quite clear. 

  1. Sin questions God’s Word (v.1). Notice the evil one dosen’t tell them to eat the fruit. No. Remember, he is “crafty”. Instead he reveals his incredible manipulative ways in simply asking a leading question. But it was a question which violated a deep reality. He questioned God and his Word. There is an eternal difference between asking a question about God’s Word and questioning God’s Word. 

  2. Sin adds to God’s Word (vv.2-3). We see that Eve is going along with the line of reasoning. She mentioned that God said they shouldn’t eat from that tree, but she also says they couldn’t touch it. But God didn’t say that. She added to his words and made it religious. We do this all the time. Religion is built on “doing more” than God has prescribed.

  3. Sin sounds like good news (v.4). Next the evil one says, you won’t die! Now, not dying is good news. Right? And it is tempting to believe and even share things that are not true because they may make someone feel better, or make us feel better. But if something that is not true makes you feel better that comfort is only momentary. Truth is the deepest comfort. Lies may momentarily ease the mind and heart but truth transforms the soul. 

  4. Sin lusts to be God (v.5). It wasn’t enough to be made in the image of God. We want to be God. After all we don’t want a “peaceful and quiet life”, we want full control and power. We want to be special. We want to be powerful. We want to be one-of-a-kind. We want to be God. We don’t want to be owned by God, we want to own what God possesses. 

  5. Sin convinces us we are wise (v.6a). Eve’s rationale for her impending action is that the tree was good for food and looke good. That’s a bit silly because God made everything good. And he didn’t say don’t eat from it because it’s bad ... he said don’t eat from it because I said so and it will kill you. In our sin we think we’ve discovered something new God has forgotten.

  6. Sin violates God’s Word (v.6b). After much deliberation and conversation, Eve and Adam both take a bite of the fruit. This is the direct action which God very clearly and very recently commanded Adam and Eve not to take. It was a direct and willful violation of God’s righteous command.

  7. Sin corrupts God’s good creation (v.7a). Notice the next thing Adam and Eve do ... they look at their bodies and feel shame. Remember, they had just looked at each other naked and felt no shame. They had just become one. Sin calls ugly what God calls beautiful, sin calls shameful what God calls glorious, sin steals honor from what God has dignified. 

  8. Sin demands you keep sinning (v.7b).  Not only did they look at their bodies and see them as shameful, but then they looked at God’s creation and acted like it was thiers. That is to say leaves weren’t supposed to be clothes. But much more than that they tried to deal with the problem. You know how we do? Instead of calling for help they try to fix it. This is the first time human beings tried to provide something for themselves, they made something instead of trusting God to provide what they needed.

  9. Sin convinces us we are alone and powerless (vv.1-7). In a broader sense sin is and does a couple things holistically. Not once does Eve call on God. You see, in sin we believe and think we are alone and powerless against sin. Adam and Eve do not call on God! They are convinced they have to do it themselves, but they were never meant to do anything alone.

  10. Sin tells us God is far away (vv.1-7). Related to believing we are alone and powerless, sin clouds our otherwise lucid understand of God. Though God created the garden, everything in it, and was present uniquely with Adam and Eve, sin told them God was far away ... perhaps uncaring ... perhaps impotent and unable to help.

Sin is loud in this passage. But there is much grace woven through the pages on Genesis. There is much grace written for our lives. However we rarely marvel at the unmerited favor of God as we should, because we fail to fully acknowledge the tragedy of failing to honor God as we should. Sin is the error not just of the hands and feet, but of the mind and heart ... sin is the attempted theft of glory. 

Sin is devastating.

Thanks be to God, Jesus devastates sin. 

Jesus would soon incarnate the word Eve questioned. Jesus would soon fulfill the word Adam failed. Jesus would soon crush the head of the sinful snake. Jesus would soon devastate sin.

Word