Biblical Theology- Part 3: The Fall
For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
The effects of the fall were catastrophic, and have radically altered the course of history for humanity. The fall of man was no surprise to God. We must remember that God is absolutely sovereign, and His purpose in creation would be realized in spite of the incursion of evil, namely in Jesus Christ. The fall is the “story of sin’s entry into the world and of how God as a result either punished the [unrepentant] for their sins or, on the basis of the future death of Christ, forgave those who honored him by entrusting their future to his mercy.”
The scene is set. Adam and Eve are living in the garden. “The garden is the garden of God” and thus “a place of reception of man into the fellowship of God in Gods own dwelling place.”
Then there is a unit break in the narrative, and we shift to the account of the temptation and the fall. “The conversation between the snake and the woman in the garden brilliantly portrays the process by which the human race became rebellious against the authority of the Creator.” The process begins with the snake asking the woman, “Did God really say…?” The temptation begins with the woman opening up to the possibility of questioning God’s word. Remember, humanity depended on the word of God for correctly understanding creation order. Goldsworthy writes:
“God is the final and absolute authority and, since he has chosen to communicate by His word, his word is the absolute and final authority. The…question has great potential for evil because it casts doubts on the authority of God’s word.”
First, the question that the snake raised was “did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” The truth is God had not said that at all, only the fruit of a certain tree was forbidden, not all of them. The evil one’s purpose in asking this was to lead Eve into doubting the credentials of the word. “The assumption was being formed that the word not only could be analyzed and evaluated, but probably needed to be.” Yet in order to evaluate God’s word one must begin with the assumption that it is not the highest authority.
Second, the snake flat out contradicts God’s word by telling the woman that she will not die if she eats of the tree. This is a direct challenge to God’s authoritative word. The snake was basically telling the woman that God did not tell her the truth when he threatened death for deliberate disobedience.
“It was, charges the snake, a deliberate lie: “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:5). Thus God is being accused of being motivated by selfishness. This means the He is neither loving nor trustworthy.”
Third, we must remember that God had placed man in the garden with everything good he needed for his well-being. So, the command God gives Adam and Eve shows His loving mercy. Remember, the garden represents how dwelling in the presence of God imparts life to man. Therefore, God warns them not to eat of the tree “so that man may avoid death and the loss of all this goodness.” See, death in Genesis 2:17 is the opposite “of all the good things that God has given them to enjoy, it evidently represents a state of misery and deprivation that [humanity] will experience if they disobey” God’s gracious command.
There is an essential difference in God’s warning and Satan’s temptation here that we do not want to overlook. Behind God’s warning lies good, behind Satan’s temptation lies evil. From this we must conclude that “it was God who had beneficent purposes for man, the serpent had malicious designs.”
What does this have to do with Jesus Christ? Behind the efforts of the fall stood the devil, enticing Adam and Eve to turn from God. This is the same devil who in the gospel accounts “steps out from behind the curtain for a direct confrontation” with Jesus Christ in the temptation in the wilderness. Therefore, in the temptation of Jesus, where Adam represented all of humanity, Christ stands as the new head of the human race that will be obedient in a way that all Adam had not been. Christ fully trusted in God for His wellbeing, while Adam broke fellowship with God with the idea that he could live independently of God.
Goldsworthy’s make a notable observation on the cunning of the snake;
“He (the snake) presents lies in the context of truth. Eating the forbidden fruit did indeed mean that the humans came to know good and evil (Genesis 3:22). But the process by which they achieved that involved rebellion against truth and its source. Instead of knowing good and evil by rejecting evil and remaining good, they choose rather to reject good and become evil.” This paragraph points to a few helpful observations;
First, from that point on God’s word would no longer be accepted as self-evident truth, but would be continually tested. In other words, the first humans assert themselves as the evaluators of the validity of God’s word. In this sense they have elevated themselves above God; in their own minds, they have become as their own “God.”
So, after the authority of God’s word is questioned both Adam and Eve take the forbidden fruit and eat. They are, in a sense, saying that God’s word cannot be trusted. By questioning God’s motives in withholding ‘knowledge of good and evil’ they begin to question the reliability of His word. The result was the fall of mankind. Dissatisfied with their humanity our first parents reached for godhood, and paradise was lost. “They degraded themselves by trying to be what they could never be.”
Second, the idiom “knowledge of good and evil” points to an ultimate level of mature independence only possessed by God. So in aspiring for this ‘godlike’ maturity, or ‘moral experience’, they also obtained the independence and responsibility that comes along with it. In disobeying God, Adam and Eve considered themselves to be independent of God and took their future welfare into their own hands.
In casting off the protective covering of dependence on God, they found themselves shamefully naked and alone. Daniel Fuller explains the implications of this very well;
“Suddenly Adam and Eve felt the horror of being cut off from God’s loving care for them and found themselves left only to their greatly limited, distorted wisdom and power to provide for themselves an eternally happy future…This sense of total inadequacy then aroused an overwhelming sense of shame and so they tried to cover up their obvious limitations” with their own coverings.
Note: I have been asked “why was the tree placed in the garden?” At the very least we can say that the tree functions as a revelation of God’s independence and man’s dependence on God. It brings to surface the corruptibility of man. God is the only perfect and complete being in the universe. While Adam and Eve were created pure, they were not created perfect. Vos argues, “it is if we should say of somebody that he is liable to the invasion of some disease, but we should not on that account declare him to have the disease.”
God’s Judgment and Mercy
God’s Judgment: They had rejected the authority of God’s word. Since God is just and holy He must pronounce judgment on their faithlessness. It is interesting what happens as God confronts them in their sin;
- Adam blames Eve, and God was responsible for giving her as a companion.
- Eve blames the snake, and God was responsible for giving humans dominion over the animals as part of creation.
Yet they were both responsible for their actions. Thus, Genesis 3:14-24 is about God’s judgment of mankind for their disobedience. Not only mankind, but all of creation comes under a curse. There are several notable implications of the fall.
a. First, pain is introduced as a reality in the fallen world. Not only so we now experience suffering from physical pain, but also there is discord in human relationships which brings about pain. Part of the judgment is expressed in the “disruption of relationships established by God.” This is revealed in the turmoil of relationships between God and man, man and woman, and man and creation.
b. Second, rebellion becomes a pattern in the fallen world. “The disobedience of Adam consisted in his rejection of the divine boundaries placed upon his dominion of the earth. It was thus a rebellion against the good order of creation established by God in Genesis 1.” God had given Adam and Eve dominion over the earth; now this dominion is challenged by the earth itself. “The curse on the ground is a curse on Adam. The king of the earth has now become the obedient servant of the soil. The freedom to eat from all the trees in the garden is replaced by the struggle to get the earth to yield necessary daily bread.”
c. Third, there is no paradise in a fallen world. The human race is removed from the garden, where life is abundant. Living ‘in the garden’ is parallel with fellowship with God. “There is no way in which he (Adam) can regain that dominion for himself; he is barred from Eden by the cherubim.” From this point on life is nothing more than existence in the face of death. God allows the human race to exist in order that His greater purpose might be fulfilled.
God’s Mercy: Also, while God’s justice is seen in their punishment, God’s love is seen in the merciful grace He extends to Adam and Eve in that moment.
a. First, “God declares that Eve’s seed would bring about a final and decisive triumph over the serpent and all the evil that he represents.” So, the promise is that somehow out of the human race a fatal blow will come and crush the head of the serpent. Keep in mind, the power of evil is a collective power, a kingdom of evil of which Satan is the head. So in crushing the head the whole kingdom falls. Therefore, God’s purpose for creation will be realized despite the fall and all the evil that is ushered in. What we see in the generations of Genesis is that “through the dark and bloody history of human sin and violence, God continues the line of the promise.”
b. Second, it becomes obvious that “by the work of their hands” Adam and Eve cannot cover their nakedness in the garden suitably. This implies the truth that they “could not restore the unity they once had with God, nor could their works shield them from the judgment of God.” Yet, after the fall God clothes Adam and Eve with more suitable garments than fig leaves, he provides them with coverings made of animal skin. In the same way, God later provides righteousness through Christ so that His people may be clothed in righteousness which will shield them from the wrath of God.
The ‘Seed of Satan’ and the ‘Seed of Woman.’
In executing the punishment that was to befall creation God declared;
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring (offspring = seed);
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.
Notice that God mentions two lines of offspring in this declaration, one line from the woman and one line from the serpent. The bruising of the serpents head points forward to the defeat of Satan by a future descendant of the woman, namely Jesus Christ. Jesus prevailed and thus fulfilled the call given to Adam. In the declaration of Genesis 3:15 and in these two lines we catch our first glimpse of God’s purpose for redemptive history, the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Genesis 4 we see how this plays out. Cain represents the seed of Satan, and Abel represents the seed of woman. The enmity between the two seeds is shown between the Brothers when they both offer a sacrifice to God and only Abel’s is looked upon with favor. Goldsworthy writes;
“Cain refuses God’s verdict in which his offering is rejected and his brother’s accepted. He responds in anger directed at Abel and kills him. Human conflict is thus shown to be the consequence of broken fellowship with God. There is anger at God when it [favor] is shown to another.”
The anger provoked in Cain distinguishes him from Abel as one who receives God’s kindness. “The slaying of Abel by Cain illustrates a rapid development of sin, issuing into murder in the second generation.”
What cannot be overlooked is that it was in God’s gracious mercy that Abel was shown mercy. There was no essential difference between Cain and Abel; they were both equally depraved by sin. But something happened in Abel’s heart that permitted him to respond to God in faith. It would seem that the only reason Abel offered a sacrifice that pleased God was that God had given him a new heart.
Therefore, Abel was willing to give up the most valuable of his flock in faith. The difference was simple;
Abel “was banking his confidence for an eternally happy and fulfilled future upon God, Cain [it seems] had placed his confidence in himself, in his energy and skill in getting the land to yield crops.”
When Cain kills Abel in anger we see a further display of his evil heart. Notice that God judges him with a similar judgment that his father Adam received. Yet God shows Cain mercy also by protecting him from the vengeance of men to preserve the human race. This grace shown to both brothers is representative of the kindness of God that will be shown to humanity all throughout redemptive history.
The Seed of Satan: Note a few observations about Cain and his descendants;
a. First, Cain and his descendants build a city in attempt to live dependently from God, and to find refuge from those who would kill him. In Biblical literature cities often become concentrations of human wickedness. “It is not that human society itself is wrong, but the use of it to escape the implications of God’s rule.” Fuller observes that “a city gathered together many people with a wide diversity of valued skills, and as each benefited from the others abilities, they all enjoyed a much higher standard of living and felt less need to depend on God.” Only in the heavenly Jerusalem will human society function properly when brought into prefect relationship with God, through Christ.
b. Second, Cain’s descendants are known for the domestication of animals, art, music, and for violence. But, “in spite of their unlocking of the potential of God’s creation, they remain rebels.” Here we see the evidence of God’s goodness continuing in a world of wicked people. We should not make the mistake of stamping society itself and its demonstrations of creativity as inherently evil. “By the grace of God human society continues, but within it are seeds of self-destruction in the breakdown of human relationships. This grace is the gift of preservation of the race for a time, but it is not the grace that acts to redeem and to restore a people to friendship with God.
The Seed of Woman: While Abel was murdered by Cain, God continued the seed of woman through Adam and Eve’s next son Seth. It was through Seth’s line that people began to “call upon the name of the Lord.” So, in Genesis 4:1 Eve is not only rejoicing that she has bore another son, but that God is remaining faithful to His promise to bring about judgment upon the evil one.
Now, in Genesis 6 we see the climax of human wickedness. The “sons of God” begin to marry the daughters of men which brings about the judgment of God. The “Sons of God” in this verse is a reference to the Sethites (those in Seth’s line). So men in the Godly line of Seth began to marry women from the ungodly line of Cain. Therefore, these marriages increased the Cainite-types in the earth at the expense of the godly Sethites. “How opposite this filling of the earth with violence was from God’s purpose in creating it. He had intended to fill the earth with His glory by having people made in His image” reflect His order.
The wickedness increases and God was sorry, and grieved over the violence in the earth which He had created as pure and good. In other words, God had enough with the wickedness in the world, and thus declares the judgment of the flood.
The Kingdom and the Fall
Because of God’s ultimate purposes He does not withdraw His love from creation. However, sin has had devastating effects between God and creation, man and creation, and creation in general. But God is still sovereign and human rebellion will not thwart his purposes.
We need to distinguish between the kingdom of God and the fallen universe. The fallen universe is the very opposite of the kingdom. Only through salvation will the kingdom be restored. In salvation Christ will bring all relationships back to their proper place. This is the supreme irony of the cross, that Satan’s apparent victory in the fall was his defeat. The cross was in God’s plan for redemption history before creation as the plan for restoration. Now, “it is the task of Biblical Theology to describe the way the Bible reveals this restoration taking place.”
A Course On Biblical Theology
- Romans 5:17.
- Daniel Fuller, The Unity of the Bible, 175.
- Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology, 27.
- Take notice that God is only present in the scene described in Genesis 2:4-25; the serpent appears in 3:1-7. God then reappears in 3:8-3:28. This is important because it signals a unit break in the narrative. The exit or entrance of a character in a scenario marks a ‘new scene.’
- Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 102.
- Genesis 3:1.
- Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 103.
- Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 104.
- Daniel Fuller, The Unity of the Bible, 177.
- Fuller, The Unity of the Bible, 177.
- Vos, Biblical Theology, 36.
- Darrell Bock, Luke.
- Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 105.
- This is somewhat similar to the difference between small children and adults. Children may not fully grasp the implications of independent actions that overstep restraining boundaries in the same way as adults do. Maturity is not only the sense of right and wrong, but also understanding the full implications of how such knowledge plays into ones decisions.
- By their obedience or disobedience the first couple will come to know good or evil by experience.
- Daniel Fuller, The Unity of the Bible, 183.
- Vos, Biblical Theology, 38.
- Genesis 3:16.
- L.H. Osborn, Creation, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 432.
- Osborn, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 432.
- Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 106.
- Osborn, New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, 432.
- Genesis 3:15.
- Genesis 3:20.
- Fuller, The Unity of the Bible, 184.
- Vos, Biblical Theology, 42.
- Edmund Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery, 40.
- Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery, 36.
- Genesis 3:15.
- The ‘woman’s seed’ can both refer to a collective group and to Jesus Christ. In fact, the term ‘seed’ is ambiguous in Hebrew: it can refer to descendants as a corporate group, or to an individual descendant.
- Which is a fatal blow compared to the bruising of the heel of the other line.
- Colossians 2:15.
- Romans 16:20.
- In Systematic Theology this text is often referred too as the ‘Protoevangelium.’
- We must not overlook Eve’s expressions of faith in Genesis 4:1 and 4:25.
- The fact that Abel made his offering by faith (Hebrews 11:4) does not remove the fact that God is sovereign to show mercy on whom he pleases. Let’s not destroy the grace of God here.
- Vos, Biblical Theology, 46.
- Genesis 6:5, 8:21.
- Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:16; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 11:19, 18:31; 36:26; Zechariah 7:12.
- Hebrews 11:4.
- Fuller, The Unity of the Bible, 226.
- Evil deeds always flow from an evil heart.
- The earth would resist him and he would be banished from familiar territory. (Genesis 4:11-12)
- The ‘Nephilim’ spoken of in Genesis 6:4 are the descendants of Cain. Their name closely resembles the Hebrew verb “fall.” They were violent men of renown, mighty warriors well trained in violence.
- Babel, Sodom, Gomorrah, also the cities of Egypt, Canaan, Babylon, and Rome.
- Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 108.
- Fuller, The Unity of the Bible, 231.
- Genesis 4:17-24.
- Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery, 40-41.
- Or ‘common grace.’
- Genesis 4:25
- The name ‘Seth’ is linked with the verb meaning to appoint, or establish.
- Genesis 4:26
- Adam declares the woman’s name as Eve, which stands for ‘the mother of all living.’ (Genesis 3:20) This name stands in contrast to the sentence of death that God has pronounced, but is spoken not in defiance but as a claim on the promise of God.
- This could either be taken as limiting mans life to 120 years, or it could refer to the time left before the destruction of society by flood.
- Genesis 6:1-4.
- It is often argued that “the sons of God” in this passage are angels, but that does not seem to align with the whole of Scripture (Matthew 22:30).
- Fuller, The Unity of the Bible, 237.
- Genesis 6:5-7.
- Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery, 38.
- Revelation 13:8; 2 Timothy 1:9; Ephesians 1.
- Goldsworthy, According to Plan, 111.
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