Basic Theology Ch 33
THE FALL OF MAN
I. THE TEMPTED
What was Adam’s nature and his relation to God before he sinned?
A. His Endowments
We know that Adam possessed powers of understanding and reason that enabled him to name the animals and to reason about the relationship of Eve to himself (Gen. 2:19–23). God also endowed him with the ability to use language so that communication was possible between God and himself (vv. 16, 20, 23).
B. His Moral Nature
However we describe Adam’s moral nature before the Fall, it is clear that he was without sin. Some say this means a kind of passive holiness in that Adam was innocent of wrong. His holiness was such as to enable him to enjoy complete fellowship with God. Perhaps it is too strong to speak of a positive holiness since Adam was able to choose to sin. I prefer a description like this: Adam possessed unconfirmed (because he had neither passed nor failed the test) creature (because his holiness was not the same as the Creator’s) holiness (because he was more than “innocent”).
Adam had a free will and a mind capable of weighing choices.
Adam, therefore, could have stood if he would, since he fell merely by his own will; but because his will was flexible to either side, and he was not endued with constancy to persevere, therefore he so easily fell. Yet his choice of good and evil was free; and not only so, but his mind and will were possessed of consummate rectitude, and all his organic parts were rightly disposed to obedience, till, destroying himself, he corrupted all his excellencies.
C. His Responsibilities
1. To exercise dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26, 28). Theonomists understand this so-called “cultural mandate” as authorizing man to bring all the world’s structures under the lordship of Christ, demolishing every kind of opposition to God. Reformed writers understand it similarly except that they do not emphasize the establishment of Old Testament law in all its aspects on society today. However, observe that the phrase “subdue the earth” is not part of the mandate given to Noah and his descendants (including us) after the Flood (9:1). Further observe that the word “subdue” in 1:28 comes from a root that means “to knead” or “to tread” and refers to bringing the earth under cultivation so that the race could multiply. Adam was to administer the earth and its creatures so that it would sustain the people who would fill it. This was the context in which Adam was commanded to cultivate and keep the Garden of Eden (2:15). Presumably it could have grown in exuberant disorder if Adam had not attended to it.
2. To enjoy the fruits of his care of the Garden (Gen. 2:16–17).
II. THE TEST
Ultimately the test was whether Adam and Eve would obey God or not. The particular way they could prove that was by not eating the fruit of one of the trees in the Garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In one sense it was a minor prohibition in comparison with the many trees in the Garden from which they could eat the fruits. In another sense it was a major matter, since this was the specific way they could show their obedience or disobedience to God. By way of contrast, how many ways can we show our obedience or disobedience to God in the course of a single day?
In setting a test at all, God showed that He wanted men to voluntarily choose to obey Him and to serve Him. He did not want automatons.
III. THE TEMPTER
Satan wisely used a creature Eve was acquainted with instead of appearing himself, something that would likely have alerted her to the unusual and put her on guard. Satan used an actual serpent, since the serpent as well as Satan were cursed after the Fall. For some reason, Eve was not alarmed that the serpent spoke with her. “The tempter addresses himself to the woman, probably [because] … the woman had not personally received the prohibition from God, as Adam had; cf. verses 16–17.”
IV. THE TEMPTATION
A. Satan’s Counterfeit
A counterfeit, of course, attempts to come as close to the genuine article as possible, while leaving something costly out. A master counterfeiter, Satan had previously aspired to be like God, not unlike God (Isa. 14:14). Now he approached Eve with the suggestion that his plan was like God’s but without the restriction of total obedience. When approached with the question whether God had placed any tree in the Garden off limits, Eve quickly affirmed that she and Adam could eat of all the trees of the Garden except one. And that exception seemed to come to her mind almost as an afterthought. Satan had hinted at the possibility that God had placed too-sweeping restrictions on them, and Eve began to entertain that thought.
Then Satan proceeded to offer his own plan, which did not have that restriction. “The woman acts on the supposition that God’s intent is unfriendly, whilst Satan is animated with the desire to promote her well-being.” Satan was attempting to counterfeit the goodness of God.
Satan’s temptation may be viewed in the form of a syllogism. The major premise was that restrictions were not good. The minor premise was that God’s plan included a restriction. The conclusion then was that God’s plan was not good. On the other hand, Satan’s plan did not include any restrictions; therefore, it was good. The validity of the conclusion depends on the truth of the major premise, which in this case is not true. Restrictions are not necessarily wrong or undesirable. Indeed, the restriction placed on Adam and Eve in the Garden was good in that it provided the principal way they could show their obedience to the will of God. Satan’s counterfeit plan did away with that restriction and offered the false hope that if Eve ate the forbidden fruit she could be like God.
B. Eve’s Rationalizations
Eve’s rationalization of what she was about to do may have been along these lines. As she examined Satan’s proposition, she reasoned that the fruit would be good to eat, and providing good things for Adam was one of her wifely responsibilities. Further, why would God withhold the fruit that was beautiful to the eyes, since He made so many other beautiful things for them to enjoy? And, of course, God would certainly want them to be wise. Therefore, it would be desirable, even necessary, to eat this fruit. Gone from her mind was God’s express command not to eat it. Quickly forgotten were all the blessings He had provided. Eve’s mind seemed only to be filled with her rationalizations—the fruit would give physical sustenance, it would cultivate their aesthetic tastes, and it would add to their wisdom. Having justified what she was about to do, she took fruit from the tree and ate it.
V. THE PENALTIES
A. On the Race (Gen. 3:7–13)
1. A sense of guilt as evidenced by making a covering (v. 7).
2. A loss of fellowship as evidenced by hiding from God (v. 8). This also brought both spiritual and physical death to the race. Death is always separation; immediately Adam and Eve experienced spiritual separation, and immediately they began to experience the decaying process in their bodies, which ultimately resulted in physical death (Rom. 5:12).
B. On the Serpent (Gen. 3:14)
The serpent was condemned to crawl, perhaps as a sign of degradation and/or perhaps indicating that it was an upright creature before this penalty was imposed. Even in the Millennium this posture will continue (Isa. 65:25). Actually the entire animal kingdom was affected by the Fall in order that man in his fallen condition could still exercise a measure of dominion over it (Rom. 8:20).
C. On Satan (Gen. 3:15)
1. Satan’s seed and woman’s seed. Enmity will exist between Satan’s seed (all the lost, John 8:44; Eph. 2:2) and the woman’s seed (all the family of God).
2. Death for Satan; bruise for Christ. An individual from the woman’s seed (Jesus Christ) will deal a death blow to Satan’s head at the cross (Heb. 2:14; 1 John 3:8) while Satan will cause Christ to suffer (“bruise his heel” KJV). Pre-Christian Jews showed a “veiled acceptance of messianic idea in Genesis 3:15.”
D. On Eve and Women (Gen. 3:16)
1. Conception. God would multiply women’s sorrow in conception (not “thy sorrow and thy conception” KJV—two things). Childbirth would now be accompanied by pain.
2. Woman’s desire would be to her husband. Some understand this to indicate a compensating factor to the sorrow and pain of childbirth; i.e., in spite of the pain, she would experience a deep, sexual attraction to her husband and thus desire to bear children. Others understand it to mean she shall have a desire to rule her husband contrary to God’s established order. The same word for desire is used with this sense in Genesis 4:7.
3. Hierarchy of rule. Women will be ruled by men, a necessary hierarchical arrangement for a sinful world. The New Testament does not abrogate this arrangement (1 Cor. 11:3; 14:34; Eph. 5:24–25; Titus 2:3–5; 1 Pet. 3:1, 5–6).
E. On Adam and Men (Gen. 3:17–24)
1. Curse on ground. The ground was cursed because of Adam’s sin so that it would grow thorns and thistles, increasing his work to make it produce. Before this, Adam’s labor was enjoyable and satisfying; now it would be difficult and empty.
2. Death. Adam and mankind would return to the dust of the ground at death.
3. Expulsion. Adam was driven from the Garden, which was both a geographic and spiritual act symbolizing the break in fellowship.
VI. THE RAMIFICATIONS
In addition to these specific penalties, two important ramifications of Adam’s and Eve’s sin must be pointed out.
First, all sin affects others. Eve’s sin affected Adam, and Adam’s sin affects the entire race. No one sins totally in private without ramifications in relation to others. All that we do or fail to do affects few or many in one way or another.
Second, sin, once committed, can never be undone. Forgiveness can be experienced and fellowship restored, but history cannot be changed or erased. Adam and Eve, once expelled, could not return to the Garden of Eden. Esau could not retrieve the birthright he sold (Heb. 12:16–17). Moses could not personally enter the Promised Land but could only see it from a distance because of his sin (Num. 20:12; Deut. 3:27). The kingdom was taken from Saul and his descendants because he did not wait for Samuel to come and offer the sacrifices (1 Sam. 13:13–14). These are sobering examples of the ramifications of sin.
Yet there is another side to both ramifications. Sin affects others, but so do grace and goodness. History cannot be erased, but the future can be different (better) because we learn the lessons of history. Paul thought John Mark’s conduct on the first missionary journey disqualified him from going with him on the second trip (Acts 15:38). But Mark must have learned some lesson from this, for later Paul wanted the ministry of Mark (2 Tim. 4:11). The Fall affected all human beings, bringing depravity and death, and it will always be the darkest hour of all human history; yet where sin abounded, grace superabounds, and the one who does the will of God abides forever (Rom. 5:20; 1 John 2:17).