Vol. XI — No. 50 December 13, 1970
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. And the Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seeds it (HE) sha11 bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
In Christ Jesus, whose coming was first promised after the fall into sin, who came as the Babe of Bethlehem, and who shall come again in glory with all His holy angels, Fellow Redeemed:
We are beginning a new church year today—the first Sunday in Advent. We shall relive in spirit those centuries of waiting for the fulfillment of the promises that assured the Old Testament believers that the Lord would come. Our text this morning records the first of these promises—the Protevangel, that is, the first Good News announced to man who had sinned and so forfeited life and made himself the victim of death.
The Protevangel is recorded in the very first book of the Bible—Genesis, which is the book of the beginnings. The very first chapter records the beginning of time, the beginning of the universe with the planet on which we live, the beginning of life, the beginning of the human race, the beginning of the social institution of marriage, the beginning of the revelation of God as triune, and so on and on.
Our text is taken from the first section of the third chapter of the book of the Beginnings. It records for us the beginning or—
Sin began when Adam and Eve (a) rebelled against a divine restraint. Note and note well that God did not create sin. God is not the author of sin. When God had finished His work of creating, He “saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Gen. 1:31. Some time between the creation and the event recorded in Genesis 3 a revolt occurred in heaven. As St. Jude puts it, some of the angels “kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation.” (v.6) Scripture does not record the details of that rebellion, only the fact.
God created man; man did not create God. God created man free, but as Creator he imposed a restraint upon man, His creature Freedom within God-imposed restraints is the condition of the creature, Freedom without restraints is the condition of God. What was the restraint that God imposed? This—that man could eat of every tree of the garden except one, “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Against that slight, unburdensome restraint Eve rebelled, and Adam followed her example. Here we get an insight into the nature of sin. Sin is always rebellion against divine restraints. The Ten Commandments are divine restraints upon the be against those restraints. God says that man should have no other God besides Him, but man is constantly molding himself a “god” or “gods” in his own image. God has established restraints in regards to the relationship of one sex to another, but society rebells against those restraints and insists upon setting its own standards of right and wrong. It should be a deterrent for every sinner who insists on rebelling against divine restraints to know that the final punishment for such rebellion is to give the sinner what he wants—freedom from God, that is, banishment from the presence of God into outer darkness.
Sin began when Eve (b) doubted the command and threat of God. God had said, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” That threat is expressed in the most forceful way that the Hebrew language can express a threat. But Satan approached Eve with a question mark in his voice and words: “Yea, hath God said, Ye sha11 not eat of every tree of the garden?” Did you hear right? Is that really what God said? Is that the proper interpretation of God’s words? Or is there another interpretation possible? Sin always involves the doubting or questioning of some Word of the Lord. When Eve repeated the threat of the Lord, she expressed it very mildly, not sternly and assuredly, as the Lord had spoken it. Satan immediately perceived his success and forced his way through the breach in Eve’s defense with the halftruth, “Ye shall not surely die.” They didn’t fa11 over dead, did they? They lived longer than we can even imagine, Adam living for 930 years. But still they died in that moment—died spiritually over against God, became mortal, and became guilty of eternal death.
Sin always involves doubt over against some Word of the Lord. Think of the sins of lying and deceiving by God’s Name, the sins of false doctrine, How does man excuse them? He says, “We can’t know for sure what God would have us believe. The Bible can be interpreted in many ways. Who can know which interpretation is the right one?” Isn’t this what most of you were once taught? Isn’t this what most people think? Isn’t this the excuse that most people have for believing false doctrine or refusing to confess the truth. How successful Satan has been! He has replaced the sure and certain “Thus saith the Lord” with the utter confusion of conflicting human opinions. “Yea, hath God said?” Let each one examine himself and take a stand against doubt in his own heart.
Sin began when Adam and Eve (c) shifted their trust from God to Satan. God created man, and man just naturally trusted that God would provide for his welfare. Satan succeeded in creating mistrust of God and trust in himself. “God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” Satan suggested that God was jealous of man, that He was withholding the blessing of knowing good and evil. Eve fell for it, believing that she would do better by committing her welfare to Satan than to God. Satan uses the same method today. He will suggest to young people that they haven’t really lived until they have “taken a trip” with drugs, become drunk, experimented with sex, participated in a revolutionary act. Then they will really know good and evil. Then they will “dig” things. Satan’s devices are as old as the hills, but they are ever successful because a new generation of suckers is always being born.
Sin began when Adam and Eve (d) used their liberty to disobey rather than obey. God created man in His own image. We define that “image of God” as knowledge, perfect holiness and righteousness. God created man sinless—that is, with the ability and capability not to sin (posse non pecare, as the dogmaticians put it). But God did not create our first parents moral puppets. He did not create them so that they were unable to sin (non posse pecare, as it is expressed in Latin). In other words God created Adam and Eve morally free-free not to sin or free to sin. He gave them a command to test them as to how they would use their freedom. They used their liberty to disobey rather than obey. The consequence of that misuse of liberty was the loss of that liberty. Man’s will is now bound in sin. He no longer has the power to choose to love, trust, and obey God. He can but disobey and rebell against God. Even a child of God, who has experienced the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit whose work it is to restore the image of God in us, can feel this loss of liberty in his flesh. Paul expressed it this way in his letter to the Romans: “The good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” That condition within him caused him to cry out: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Rom. 7:19.24.
Sin began when Adam and Eve (e) reversed their God-established positions relative to each other. God created man first and then woman as a help fitting for him. But Eve was not content with her subordinate position. She was determined to assume leadership and to take the destiny of mankind in her own hands. She decided it would be better for her and her husband and their children if she listened to Satan rather than obey God. And Adam—instead of rebuking his wife for her disobedience and obeying despite her disobedience meekly tagged after her in disobedience. Instead of being the spiritual head of the house he became a weak-kneed follower of disobedience and sin. Volumes could be written describing the sin and wickedness and human misery that our society is experiencing today because so many women refuse to be content with their God created position in life and because so many men refuse to assume the responsibilities that God has laid upon them.
So much for the genesis of sin in this world. This same chapter brings us the genesis of grace:
Grace began when God (a) proclaimed a promise of salvation instead of exacting just judgment. God had said, “…the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” If God had come to Adam and Eve, confronted them with their sin, and repeated the sentence of death, and then left it at that, He would have remained the just and fair God that He is. Be sure that you understand what I am saying: If God would have left Adam and Eve live on in their sin, beget children in sin, suffer all the misery that sin brings with it, and then would have left Adam and Eve die only to begin eternal torment in hell—if God would have left all people born on earth, including each and everyone of us, go through this same pattern of being born in sin, sinning and suffering the consequences of our sins in this life and then go to hell, God would still be just. We would have no just complaint. But God is not only a just God. He is a God of love. He gave a promise to send One to undo the mischief that Satan had brought into this world. Man deserved death; God gave the promise of life. That is GRACE—love that is completely undeserved.
Grace began when God (b) indicated that He would fulfill that promise without man’s assistance, Addressing himself to Satan, God said: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman (replacing their former friendship), and between thy seed (the unbelievers) and her seed (the believers); it (the woman’s SEED) shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Notice that nothing is said of the man’s seed. In all of creation God had established the law that the male and female seed should combine to produce new life. But here God spoke only of the woman’s seed. The woman had been completely deceived; from the woman should come the Savior of the race. What is clearly indicated here is the virgin birth of our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of Mary.
Grace began when God (c) revealed that he would send One to do what man could not do—crush the serpent’s head. Man could not withstand Satan’s temptation when he had the spiritual capability of so doing. Now that man has lost all spiritual capability, he cannot stand up against Satan, much less overcome him. Satan is a murderer from the beginning. He keeps on claiming his victims, generation after generation. Man has succeeded in increasing the life’s span a few years, but cannot even begin to get that life’s span back to where it was before the flood. God had to send a Champion, the woman’s SEED, who could destroy the works of the devil. What is indicated already in this first promise is that the promised Savior must and would be more than a man, not a superman, but God Himself in human flesh. He would be what Isaiah, called Him “The mighty God.” (Is. 9:6) The deity of Christ, the mystery of the incarnation of the second Person of the Trinity, is indicated already in this first promise.
Grace began when God (d) made clear that man’s role would be that of a beggar—receiving by faith the promise of salvation. In sinning man lost all spiritual power—the power to work out his own salvation, the power to contribute to that salvation, even the power to accept that salvation when it was offered to him. Man was reduced to the stance of a beggar. That is our stance. God promised and worked out our salvation. Jesus fulfilled all righteousness and a toned for all sin. God raised up His Son. The Spirit of God caused the Good News of salvation to be recorded for all ages. The Spirit of God creates in us a desire to have that salvation and faith in that salvation. For no man can come to faith or accept Christ by his own power. All this was indicated already with that first promise, for a promise can but be believed or disbelieved. That man can but disbelieve was revealed by the tragedy of Cain. That only the Spirit of God can work faith is the common experience of all of us. Our hearts have been opened by the Holy Spirit. Salvation has come unto us. Let each one of us rejoice and give thanks!
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the King James Version.