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The Fall of Man

Date: 25 February 2024, 9.30 am

Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong Sermon Text: Genesis 3:1-24

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TRANSCRIPT

The ancient Greeks did not have a problem with reconciling their religion with the reality of the world. The world they lived in was filled with evil and suffering, but that’s only to be expected, because the Greek gods were a capricious bunch. They weren’t morally upstanding. They, like human beings on earth were prone to fits of anger, they too acted on impulse and folly, they too succumbed to their lusts and pride. It is no wonder that the world is a mess. As in heaven, so on earth. There was no tension between Greek religion and earthly reality.


The Christian however, as we have done in the past two Sundays, claim that God who is all-powerfull and all-good, created a world which was very good, and made mankind in his own image. God created a world of blessedness and rest and put his very good image bearers in charge of it.


Which raises the question. Why then is the world the way it is? This world is far from good; it is filled with natural disasters, crop failures, coronaviruses, dangers, pain and suffering. Why then are humans beings the they way they are? They are far from godly, and far too many aspire to be god-like. An observer of human history would come to see that human beings are not very good at being humane, humankind is not very kind, even to the ones we promise to love for better or for worse. We are in fact are filled with malice and greed and pride and evil.


So, there is clearly a disconnect between the world read about in Genesis 1 & 2. And the world we live in today. And the reality of evil and suffering in this world accounts for why so many find it hard to believe in a good God who created a good world.


Philosopher Jim Holt gave a Ted Talk about the origins of the universe and he said that he did not believe that the universe was created by a god, but if it were, then, by the look of things, he said, he would have to think that the god who created the universe was 100% malevolent, but only 80% effective. Which is why there is so much evil and suffering in the world, but yet there remains pockets of goodness and beauty within it.


The Christian response is to say that Genesis 1-2 is only the beginning of the story. It describes what the universe was designed to be originally. It does not explain why the universe is the way it is presently.


For that, we have to come to Genesis 3. Which is our text this morning. It explains the fallen condition of humanity, and the pain and suffering we witness in the world.


Before we do that, let us pray,


Heavenly Father,


By your Holy Spirit, and in your Word this morning, help us to understand the fallenness of the world, and how we as sinful human beings are complicit in it.


And help us to see hope for a better world in your Son Jesus Christ,

In whose name we pray, Amen.


We’ll be hearing about what theologians have named “the Fall of Man”. The event in which sin entered the world and changed everything.


We’ll look at three main points:


  1. The reasons for the Fall – why mankind sinned.

  2. The effects of the Fall – the ways in which sin affected the world.


And we’ll conclude on a more optimistic note:


3. The reasons for Hope.

 

First. The reasons for the Fall.


GENESIS 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.     

 

We are introduced to the character of a talking serpent. We are not told who he is, or where he has come from, merely that he craftier than all the other animals. But the focus isn’t on him, the spotlight is on what he says:


He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘ You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”

Which is an absurd thing to suggest, because these are the actual words of God


GENESIS 1:29 29 And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food.

GENESIS 2:16-17 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” “You may surely eat of every tree”, became, in the serpents’ mouth, “You shall not eat of any tree.”

And the effect of that is to introduce doubt into Eve’s theology. Plant a seed of doubt in Eve’s understanding of God. Rather than being loving and generous, the serpent suggests that God is a stingy, miserly God.


Eve replies:


GENESIS 3:2-3 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 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.’”

She got it partially right. But not completely. She understands that the prohibition is limited to one single tree in the garden. But she distorts and expands the prohibition from you shall not eat to “you shall not touch also”.


But to her credit, she does add that the reason for the prohibition is protective rather than petty. God warns them from eating because it would mean the death of Man.


Was man created immortal? Unlikely, but one of the trees in the Garden is the Tree of Life, which implies that so long as Mankind remains in Eden, they will have access to eternal life.


But the serpent replies, this time, not with a half-truth, but with a blatant lie,


GENESIS 3:4-5 4 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. “You will not surely die”. Because it directly contradicts what God has said, that statement basically accuses God of lying.

And then the serpent strengthens the deception by offering an explanation for why God lied to Adam and Eve,


5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

We’ll get to the significance of “knowing good and evil” in a while, but for now, we come to the first reason for the Fall of Man.


The first reason for Man’s disobedience of God is due to a distortion of God word that leads to doubt in God character, brought about by lies of the serpent.


It is an external source of sin. And that’s the world we live in. Satan is always trying to deceive us about God’s character and his will for our lives.


We see that happening don’t we? When it comes to attending Sunday Worship, “Did God really say must be in-person, every week?” When it comes to financial goals, “Did God really say it is difficult for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”. When it comes to parenting, “Did God really say it’s the parents responsibility to train a child in the way of the Lord?” When it comes to marriage, “Did God really say we should only marry believers in the Lord?” When it comes to evangelism “Did God really say I should go and make disciples?”


And those of us who have been Christian long enough know that these questions, if asked often enough, and if the Bible is sidelined for long enough, has the accumulative effect of casting doubt about the will of God. We have seen our friends fall prey to the deception of the devil, we ourselves no doubt have believed some lies.


Assuming this is true, that Satan the tempter, Satan the deceiver is always on the hunt for Christian prey, the question before us is this: “What lies have believed in? Which lies, which half-truths, have crept into your theology and distorted your view of God, leading to disobedience?


The answer is, “I don’t know”. Because no one who has been deceived, while the deception is on-going, knows that they are being deceived. That’s the nature of deception.


So what’s the cure? The cure is to read the word, prayerfully and in community. The cure for deception is the community of faith. By definition, you cannot see your theological blindspots, but others can help you point it out.


So beware of isolation. Beware of a lone-ranger discipleship. You are easy targets for the serpent, easy pickings for Satan. You need to get plugged into a community which regular reads the bible with one another, to ask questions of the text and each other, to correct and be corrected, to account for others and be accountable to others. That’s the solution.


Which is why in Hermon, we need everyone to speak the truth in love to everyone else. It’s a community responsibility.


That’s how we resist and inoculate ourselves against the lies of the Serpent.


But apart from the serpent, there is also an internal source for the Fall.


GENESIS 3:6 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.

Eve saw that the tree was good for food, that it looked good, and believed that would make her become wise like God.


Which parallels 1 John 2:16, where the apostle warns about worldly desire.

The tree was good for food – the desires of the flesh.The tree was delight to the eyes – the desires of the eyes.And was to be desired to make one wise – the pride of life.


These are internal dispositions that if we obey, rather than control, leads us to sin against God.


Here’s the reason number two for the Fall of Man.


The desires of our worldly flesh – greed, lust, pride – The three cardinal vices of Money, Sex and Power, that we obey rather than God.


The reason it’s called worldly is because the perspective is contained within this worldly material things, and it pays no heed to God and spiritual realities.


At the point of the Fall, the forbidden fruit before her consumed all of Eve’s attention and focus, to the neglect of God and his will.


How you wish Eve would pause, take a step back and look around, behold the Garden, and see the Tree of Life, and remember the blessedness of living in Eden with God, and ask, is this fruit worth it?


But flesh is insular, it limits your frame of perspective it says, “listen to me, satisfy me, obey me”, rather than God.


So transfixed upon the fruit, Eve’s internal desires strengthened the lie of the serpent and she ate of the fruit of the knowledge of Good and Evil.


That’s another reason we sin. We obey the flesh rather than God. We say yes to the flesh and no to the Spirit.


But behind the enchanting fruit lies a world of consequences.


God created the world, he knows its purpose, he knows how mankind ought to live in it, he knows what is right and wrong.


And that, my friends, is what I’m convinced the tree of the knowledge of Good and Evil represents.


Because he is the Creator, God alone knows what is good and bad for the world. He alone sees the true face of right and wrong for his creation. The knowledge of Good and Evil is a knowledge that exclusive to God as creator and designer of the world.


Of course, God wants Adam and Eve to know what is good and evil. Why do you think he gave mankind his commandments? So that we know what is right and what is wrong.


But that means as human beings our knowledge of good and evil is derivative knowledge, it is a second-hand knowledge. We know it only because God tells us. We cannot see true face of good and evil from our vantage point as human beings. We do not have the knowledge of good and evil in and of ourselves.


2 days ago, KKH and the College of Paediatrics and Child Health, released “Singapore’s first set of Guidelines for Eating and Feeding in Infants and Young Children”.


How dare they. How dare they presume to tell parents how they should feed and raise their own children. How rude. Shouldn’t parents be allowed to make up their own set of guidelines, their own set of rules of right and wrong ways of feeding their infants?


No, they shouldn’t. Because the reason they are issuing these guidelines is because KKH conducted a study of more than 1,000 caregivers in Singapore found that children’s eating behaviours and caregivers’ feeding practices were suboptimal. The reason these guidelines were released is because parents don’t always know what is good and bad for their infants to eat.


Parents don’t get to say “I know what’s best for my child”, rather, they ought to say, “I will learn, I will read, I will discover from sources of authority” what is best for my child. Because an infants nutritional needs is not something that is decided upon by parents, it is determined by human biology. There is an inherent design to the human body that must be understood and respected.


And so too, this world. It is created by God with order and purpose and meaning, and if human beings wish to know, we would have to find out from God.


But the serpent is saying, if you eat of the forbidden fruit, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”


What the serpent is saying is that Adam and Eve do not need derive moral knowledge from God. Like God, they can know it for themselves, first-hand, on their own.


As parents, we teach our children right from wrong. And we tell them it’s because we know better, we have lived longer, we have learned from personal experience, we have broader perspective than you have, so listen to us when we tell you what is right and what is wrong.


When they grasped for the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil, what Adam and Eve were doing, was saying to God, I don’t need you to tell me what is good and evil. I will figure it out myself, I will decide it for myself, I will be like you, saying “I know what is good and what is evil”.


And every parents heart breaks to hear their child say that, because they know that what awaits a child who thinks that way, is a world of painful consequences.


Which is what Adam and Eve faced.


Here are the effects, the consequences, of the Fall.


Here is the immediate effect of the Fall.


GENESIS 3:7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

We are not to assume that up to this point, Adam and Eve had been walking around with their eyes closed, oblivious to the fact that they were naked.

No. This verse conveys that the immediate effect of sin was the experience of guilt and shame.


GENESIS 2:25 25 And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

Adam and Eve were always naked, but this time, they felt compelled to hide themselves, because they were ashamed.


That our human response to shame isn’t it? We want to hide, we want the ground to swallow us up, we want to cover up so that no one sees us.


The experience of shame doesn’t just lead Adam and Eve to hide themselves from each other, it also led them to hide from God.


GENESIS 3:8 And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

But God sees them, for God sees everything, and the trial of Man begins.


GENESIS 3:9-11 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Yes, I ate the forbidden fruit, I’m sorry.


That’s not exactly what Adam says. His first words were: “The woman”.


12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

Throwing Eve under the bus. Very nice. Chivalry was dead from the beginning.


13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

First words of the woman: “The serpent”.


Finger-pointing, blame-shifting, giving excuses. This is how fallen man and women respond to guilt and shame. We don’t own it, we don’t wish to admit it. We want to hide and run away and push away our sin. A typical human response to being called out for wrong-doing, it is an instinct that we carry in us till today.


Now what the Fall reveals is a complete reversal of God’s design for the world.


The design is that God the creator, gives his commandments to Adam, creates Eve to help him fulfil God’s will of mankind exercising dominion over the creatures of the earth.


At the fall, the order is completely reversed. The serpent, a creature of the earth, exercises influence over Eve, who asks Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit, in disobedience to God’s commands.


And so we now live in messed up, upside-down, topsy-turvy world.


And pronounces the sentences for the law-breakers.

GENESIS 3:14 14 The Lord God said to the serpent,       “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life.

GENESIS 3:15 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The serpent’s punishment is ultimately a death sentence. There will be two genealogies. The serpents offspring and the woman’s offspring, and these two lines of good and evil will be in constant battle until a seed of the woman, an offspring of Eve, is born, who will be wounder by the serpent, but will ultimately defeat him. To bruise the serpents head is to kill him.


Death of the serpent by a son of Adam and Eve.


 GENESIS 3:16 16 To the woman he said,       “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children.

Apparently giving birth was a painless event. The curse of the woman is labour pains and this curious phrase:


Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,but he shall rule over you.”

What does it mean? Perhaps Genesis 4:7 can help clarify, it uses the same phrase.


GENESIS 4:7 And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”

In this verse, God is speaking with Cain, who harbours murderous intent against his brother Abel. And God is warning him, “Sin desires you, sin desires to dominate you, to get you to do its bidding, to rule over you; but you must resist sin, and rule over sin instead.”


That is the nature of sin’s desire, it is desire to dominate Cain. There is a battle of wills going on between Sin and Cain, and Cain is urged to rule over sin.


Similarly, this curse is evident in almost every marital home. The wife wishes to dominate, the husband will seek to rule instead. This describes the battle of the sexes that has be waging since time immemorial.


Radical Patriarchal societies where women are not allowed to go to school. Radical feminist movements which denounce all men as oppressors. It’s a battle of wills that carry on even today, in the home, in the church and in broader society.


GENESIS 3:17-18 17 And to Adam he said,       “Because you have listened to the voice of your wifeand have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;and you shall eat the plants of the field.

Where Eve will experience labour pains, Adam will suffer painful labour. Remember how the creation of Adam was described?


GENESIS 2:7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Adam was described as being created out of the dust from the ground, which was intended to signify a close and symbiotic relationship between the man and the ground.


The man was there to nurture the ground, the ground was there to nourish the man.


But that has changed. The ground is now at odds with man. It will only yield its fruit to man with great difficultly.


GENESIS 3:19 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread,t ill you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Rather than being a vital sustainer of human life, the earth now serves as burial ground for the human dead.


You see, the serpent was wrong, he was lying. Adam and Eve shall surely die.


And this point is driven home in the closing verses of Genesis 3, as the human couple was driven away from Eden.


GENESIS 3:22-24 22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, the Garden of Delight, the place of blessing and rest. The garden which was home to the tree of life. Which meant they would surely die, as God had warned.


But also meant that the fracture of tripartite relationship we saw last week is complete.


Human beings, made in god’s image, were


Created for eden (earth)


Created for worship (god)


Created for partnership (neighbour)


After the Fall, Adam and Eve were banished from Eden, they were hiding from God, and they are now locked in a tenuous battle of the sexes. And then they will surely die.


It all sounds really bleak, but within the story, there are echoes of hope, even the promise that this upside-down world, will be turned right-side up once again.


Here are the reasons for hope.


In our text, right after God pronounces these words to Adam “for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” – signifying his eventual death, Adam names the woman.


GENESIS 3:20 20 The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 

Adam, of the back of his death sentence calls his wife Eve – which means living, or life-giver. It is a statement of faith, faith that in spite of death, life will endure, that God will not abandon mankind completely, but that offspring of Eve will one day be born, will crush the serpents head under his heel.


And Adam’s hope that God will not abandon mankind is vindicate in the very next verse, as we see God act.


GENESIS 3:21 21 And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Adam and Eve already had already sewn articles of clothing for themselves to hide their shame. And so giving them clothes is quite redundant, God didn’t do it for fashion purposes; the clothes are not the point.


What God is doing here, by making garments of skins for Adam and Eve and clothing them, has the effect of saying to them, “Your human efforts will not suffice to cover your shame, I will provide the means by which your shame is removed”.


There’s hope in that too, the one day, our shame will be taken away by God’s chosen instrument. And we reminded of that hope that every time we eat the bread and drink the cup of the Lord’s Supper.


And here is the ultimate reason for hope, which we have alluded to.


GENESIS 3:15 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

The arrival of a son of Eve, who will defeat the serpent once and for all, and reverse the curse of the Fall.


And we saw that in the person of Jesus Christ.


Who in a different garden, in gethsemane, refused to know good and evil for himself, but submitted to the will of the Father, praying “not my will, but yours be done.”


Who committed himself to a different tree on Calvary, and hanging there to die, rather than pointing the finger at his murderers, took the blame, and endured the shame, by himself.


Who was the true and perfect image bearer of God, who unlike Adam and Eve who sought equality with God and grasp the forbidden fruit, Jesus Christ did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself and took on the likeness of man and was obedient to the point of death.


ROMANS 5:18-19 And 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Jesus Christ reversed the Fall. He is the promised one who has crushed Satan under his feet.


And in so doing he has opened a way back into a new and greater Eden – the kingdom of God.


Where the tree of life is planted, yielding its life-giving fruit for all time, and which leaves heals all wounds, soothes all pain and mends all hurts, for the curse has been reversed, and sin has disappeared.

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