18 - Dealing with Sin
Dealing with Sin in a Fallen World (Genesis 3:6-13)
Dietrich Bonfoeffer describes how temptation works:
‘With irresistible power desires seizes mastery over the flesh … It makes no difference whether it is sexual desire, or ambition, or vanity, or desire for revenge, or love of fame and power, or greed for money … Joy in God is … extinguished in us and we seek all our joy in the creature. At this moment God is quite unreal to us, he loses all reality, and only desire for the creature is real … Satan does not here fill us with hatred of God, but with forgetfulness of God … It is here that everything within me rises up against the Word of God.’
1 John 2:14 “I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”
May I suggest that those phrases are intentionally put together – the reason they overcome the evil one is because the Word of God abides in them, they are strong in the Word, it remains deeply in their heart, hidden, memorized, meditated upon, treasured, it is a delight
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
All that is in the world, this sinful world system, can be summarized under those 3 headings, according to John: “lust of flesh, lust of eyes, pride of life.” Turn to Genesis 3, because I want you to notice that those 3 phrases are not only the 3 ways sin is manifested in our world today, the 3 broad categories of sin, they are precisely the 3 steps through which sin was originally brought into the world when the evil one tempted Eve.
Genesis 3:6 (NASB95)
6 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 desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
3 Temptations We All Deal With
- Lust of the flesh – v. 6a “good for food”
The first temptation has to do with fleshly desires, appetites man seeks to fulfill.
The N.T. speaks of those “whose god is their belly” and “whose appetite is destruction”
James 1:13 speaks of “being carried away and enticed by our own lust, and when lust has conceived it brings forth sin, and when sin is accomplished it brings forth death. Do not be deceived …”
The conception of sin has already lodged in her flesh and mind
This pattern in verse 6 is the same pattern we see temptation following in other familiar stories of OT: “saw … desired … took”
Achan says in Joshua 7:21 “when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar and two hundred shekels of silver and a bar of gold fifty shekels in weight, then I coveted [literally desired] them and took them”
King David in 2 Samuel 11 “saw” Bathsheba (v. 2), then desired (v. 3), and took (v. 4)
This pattern of men who “saw” beautiful women and “took” them unlawfully and immorally appears several times in Genesis (6:2; Shechem in 34:2; Judah in 38:2)
There’s an important lesson for us all – to keep our eyes and our mind and our thoughts on whatsoever is pure, noble, good, praiseworthy – dwell on these things, lest we fall to this pattern.
- Lust of the eyes – v. 6b “delight to the eyes”
When King David saw a woman bathing from his rooftop that was not sin yet, but he continued to look, it was a delight to his eyes – sin was conceived in his mind, heart adultery would give birth to physical adultery, and as James says “sin brought forth death.” In his tragic case, the birth of his child brought forth physical death.
Lust in the Bible is a broad term for desires, good or bad - covet is perhaps a more helpful synonym. The root words for “pleasant” and “desirable” here are used in the Ten Commandments for the command against coveting (Deut. 5:21 uses both verbs).
The essence of covetousness has been described as the attitude that says I need something I do not know have in order to be happy. Something is an unbiblical lust or idol when you are willing to sin in order to get it, or you’re willing to sin when you don’t get it.
This is a literal tree in the garden, nowhere does it say it was an apple tree. I know most of your story books have an apple – some think that tradition was started because of the widespread Latin translation which has the similar-sounding word “malus” (evil) and “malum” (apple) and someone suggested that Adam choked on the fruit and that’s why we call it the “Adam’s apple.”
Whatever fruit it was, the reason man would die upon eating from the tree is not because of some chemical or biological element in the fruit, it was not poisonous or carcinogenic, the reason man would die is because of sin and the penalty or wages of disobeying the LORD God. This was a test.
- Pride of life – v. 6c “desirable to make one wise”
Our modern psychological world would say the reason people fall into destructive patterns is they don’t think highly enough of themselves. But as I read the Word of God, it seems that the very root of sin is thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought, and not thinking highly enough of God. We are never commanded in the Bible to focus on us and lift up our thoughts and esteem of ourselves, but we are instead to stop looking at ourselves and to focus on God and lift up our thoughts about Him, esteem His glorious worthy value, name, and honor. When we sin, it’s because of our low thoughts about God.
A. W. Tozer summarizes what we learned last week:
‘Satan's first attack upon the human race was his sly effort to destroy Eve's confidence in the kindness of God. Unfortunately for her and for us he succeeded too well. From that day, men have had a false conception of God, and it is exactly this that has cut out from under them the ground of righteousness and driven them to reckless and destructive living. Nothing twists and deforms the soul more than a low or unworthy conception of God.... our notion of God must always determine the quality of our religion ... It is most important to our spiritual welfare that we hold in our minds always a right conception of God.
Luke 4 tells us how Jesus overcame a very similar temptation:
v. 3 – “make bread for yourself from these stones” (lust of flesh)
v. 5 – showed him the world if he would worship him (lust of eyes)
v. 9 – show off your power, prove yourself (pride of life)
Adam fell in the best of circumstances (paradise garden), but Christ prevailed in the worst of circumstances (wilderness). Adam failed at his strongest point, Christ prevailed at his weakest point.
Christ is called the Second Adam who came and was tempted in all points as we are yet without sin. It is very instructive that even Jesus the all-wise all-powerful Son of God did not respond to Satan with anything except the Word of God. Satan couldn’t handle the truth memorized and hidden in the heart of someone who loves God more than promises of sin, so Satan had to leave. The Scriptures say if you resist the devil in this way, he will flee.
James Boice has said it well: ‘our only hope is in that grace of God by which He sends a Redeemer, who instead of being faithless was faithful, instead of being rebellious was obedient, and instead of being filled with pride was one who actually humbled himself to “even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:8). God promises that Redeemer in this chapter.’
Back to Genesis 3 - when it says in v. 6 that Eve “took and ate” it is just a few words, but those words for “take” and “eat” had profound and far-reaching consequences to the entire world and all of history and mankind. The fall was so devastating that it would never be undone until God the Son comes to taste death and tells his disciples “take and eat” of His Passover as He prepared to give of His body and blood on our behalf.
Our first parents partook of a tree that brought death to all their descendants, and Jesus hung on a tree that brought life to all of His descendants who partake of Him wholly by faith.
Because of man’s failure in the Garden of Eden, the Son of Man had to go through the Garden of Gethsemane, sweating drops of blood to think of the alienation from God He would suffer and the consequences of sin and wrath poured out on Him, the wrath that Adam and Eve instantly deserved and that you and I deserved.
Also, there may be a parallel with Adam and Eve naked in their shame and guilt, and the Lord Jesus, the last Adam, hanging naked on the cross in shame, bearing guilt for His children.
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
3 Ways Sinners Deal with Sin
First, they Cover – v. 7
Fig leaves are not very comfortable, especially as undergarments. Pain is now present for the first time. Their futile attempts to cover oneself and hide from God are worthless but are indicative of all of our pathetic and painfully shameful attempts to evade God’s gaze and voice.
‘such aprons would hardly suffice to hide the guilt of their rebellion against God. Neither will the “filthy rags” of our own self-made “righteousnesses” serve to cover our sinful hearts today (Isaiah 64:6). We need rather the “garments of salvation,” the “robe of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10) with which only God can clothe us (Genesis 3:21). We can never escape God’s eye of judgment by anything that we ourselves can fashion or accomplish
Hebrews 4:13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
Adam and Eve are not hidden from his sight but are shamefully naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. They can try to cover up the outward appearance, but God can see right through all that to our inward guilt and depravity. Sinners may try alleviate sinful consequences by covering in many ways, defending self, protecting self, covering self with rationalization or inebriation or anything to try and make the feelings go away. But whatever temporary superficial remedies man can come up with, the inescapable inevitable fact it that all must give account to God.
It is only God who can provide a sufficient covering, as we will see later in this chapter
2nd way sinners deal with sin: Hide – v. 8-11
Genesis 3:8 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.
Moses, the author of Genesis, knew something about hiding. He spent 40 years of his life hiding from Pharaoh after he fled Egypt to Midian. After the exodus, Moses saw the presence of the Lord in His blazing glory and holiness cause the people to fall on their faces and seek refuge and safety from God.
There’s another interesting mention of hiding and fig trees and the presence of the Lord:
Revelation 6:13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth, as a fig tree casts its unripe figs when shaken by a great wind.
Revelation 6:14 The sky was split apart like a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.
Revelation 6:15 Then the kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains;
Revelation 6:16 and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb;
Revelation 6:17 for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”
The Bible says that no man has seen God at any time, but that Jesus reveals Him. No human can see God the Father and live, so whenever in Scripture we see the Lord appearing in bodily form that man can see, it is not God the Father, it is God the Son. The Second Person of the Trinity was very active in the O.T., He didn’t start getting involved with mankind when Jesus was born in a manger. He often appears as the Angel of the LORD in the O.T., and here I believe in Genesis 3:8 is same Lord – who we would later learn is Christ – Christ the Lord in pre-incarnate form is walking in the garden in the cool of the day.
The Bible teaches us elsewhere that the only hope for sinful man is to hide in Christ, but here we see Adam and Eve hiding from Christ. Man will not come to Christ, so Christ must come to man, not only in the New Testament, but in the Old.
For some reason, I always thought Adam and Eve were hiding in a bush – but all the English versions say they hid “among the trees of the garden.” They ate from a tree and now they’re trying to hide behind a tree in their guilt, awaiting curses and death. The author of Genesis would later write “cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” and this same Lord would hang on a tree, receiving the guilt, the curses, the punishment, the death that all fallen men deserve – and all who run to Christ rather than away from Him, all who trust in Jesus alone and His work on the Cross as their only hope and hiding place, like the thief on the cross, Jesus promises “you will be with me in paradise.” Paradise was lost for Adam and Eve, but the heavenly paradise according to Revelation will have the tree of life replanted there, all who found refuge in Christ will never die.
‘Whereas Adam and Eve had life, they now will have death; where they had pleasure, they now will have pain; where abundance, now a meager sustenance by toil; where perfect harmony with God and with each other, now alienation and conflict.’
They went from sinlessness to sin, from trust to distrust, from ease to disease, but most importantly, from life to death.
The word “death” in Scripture has the root idea of separation – here we see that spiritual death did take place the very day they ate of the fruit – they were spiritually and relationally separated from God, as Isaiah 59:2 says sin always does. They also fell under the instant sentence of physical death and eternal separation from God, which God could have carried out that day justly as well. Ephesians 2:1 says all human beings are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins, which means they are not making any positive movement to God, no positive response to God (far from being inactive, though, sinners move away from God and respond by hiding from him). Romans 3 says not only are there none righteous, no not one, but none seek God, and none do good.
Sinners are spiritually lifeless in the sense of unable or unwilling to do anything good (with right motive to please God), they do nothing to seek or pursue or please God on God’s terms. God’s call must initiate if any will ever experience God’s grace.
Genesis 3:9 Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”
God is not looking for information, of course, the Lord knows all things and can see through all things – His piercing penetrating vision can see right through the foliage they’re hiding behind as well as their fig leaf coverings. Whether we hide behind a tree or like Jonah try and hop on ship going the opposite direction to hide from God, or like David we hide our sin in our palace, or like Achan if we try and bury the evidence, God knows where we are, what we’ve done, and He calls upon us to come clean and be clean by confessing and requesting His mercy.
Perhaps God is calling you from hiding here this morning, as Bonhoeffer says on this verse: ‘Come out of your hiding place, from your self-reproach, your covering, your secrecy, your self torment, from your vain remorse.’
It was a sermon on this one verse that converted John Gill, one of the most famous and prodigious Baptist theologians of all time.
But notice God does not come to Adam with lightning and thunder and a harsh earth-shaking mountain-splitting tree-shattering voice, as He can and does elsewhere. He comes walking through the garden, seeking man, and giving mankind an opportunity to come meet him. Even the questions God asks here are I believe gentle and gracious, giving an opportunity for confession and restoration.
I believe this is an act of grace, because when God comes to the serpent in verse 14, God doesn’t give him any opportunity for this, He just speaks judgment upon him. God does not give any opportunity for Satan or his angels to repent – there is no redemption provided for them, and it would be just for God to treat man the same way. God could have instantly spoken judgment to man, in this chapter, but He doesn’t, and even when He does speak of the consequences later, God’s words include grace, as we’ll see.
God’s interrogation of man and woman in His image not only teaches us about responsibility and accountability, it also teaches us about opportunity to confess and repent and be restored by God’s grace when he humbly admit our sin and submit to Christ.
So God doesn’t ask “where are you” for His own benefit, but for man’s. This is the irony, man should seek God, but God seeks man. Romans 3 says clearly “there is no one who seeks after God … no not one” and this is why God must be the seeker, God must be the initiator, God must call forth our name (like Christ did with Lazarus) otherwise the spiritually dead would never come forth. God’s grace is not initiated by man’s free will, man’s fallen efforts, man’s fig leaves, man’s foolish attempts to create his own covering – even man’s fear is not enough in and of itself as we see in v. 10.
Genesis 3:10 He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
Adam doesn’t exactly answer the question directly. In fact, he initially evades the real issue, and talks about the circumstances rather than his sin. Notice that Adam is more concerned with his feelings than his sin, he feels bad because of the consequences, even fears judgment, but does not confess his sin here.
The Bible says it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of a living God, but sensing that fear is not enough (the demons also believe and shudder, but do not receive grace).
Adam talks about the result of what happened, not the cause (sin).But God graciously and patiently pursues and continues. Adam deserved toughness, but he receives an element of tenderness. Rather than drive man out of hiding, God draws him out. The lost coin will never find itself, the lost sheep needs a Shepherd to be rescued, the lost son who has been a prodigal rebelling against his father must be awakened to his own unworthiness and come back repentant, and he’ll find a Father with open arms to embrace him.
Genesis 3:11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
God gives him another opportunity to respond and repent rightly. Again I think God’s question seeks confession rather than condemnation. “Have you eaten” is a simple question that requires a yes or no answer. But instead, the first words out of Adam’s mouth in reply: “the woman”
Will Rogers has said that there are two great eras in the history of America – the passing of the buffalo, and the passing of the buck.
God in v. 11 is not talking to the woman or about the woman, He’s not addressing Adam and Eve. He’s not using the Hebrew word for “you all” or “both of you” - the “you” is consistently masculine singular here, God is not addressing the man and the woman, He is calling the man by himself to account, just like v. 9 makes clear. Each time God says “you” in v. 9 and 11, you could legitimately put the word Adam to help see the force of the original:
You could translate it: “Where are you Adam? … Who told you, Adam, that you, Adam, are naked? Have you, Adam, eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, Adam, not to eat?”
Verse 9 makes clear God called out the man alone and first as the responsible head, the representative head – what some have called the covenant head or federal head. He’s the one the buck stops with, but instead we see him passing the buck.
3rd Way Sinners Respond: Blame-shift – v. 12-13
Genesis 3:12 The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
By mentioning “the woman” first, and Adam’s eating tacked on at the end of the sentence, he minimizes and downplays his part, and tries to highlight and maximize the sin of another, his wife. This is a classic tactic of evading sin. He adds “The woman YOU gave”
As many have pointed out: ‘Notice the not–so–subtle accusation against God. Adam implied that God was at least partly to blame because, after all, it was He who created Eve. And Eve was to blame for coaxing Adam into the deed. Only after he had established such a bogus hierarchy of blame did Adam finally say, “I ate.” It was a pitiful attempt to evade responsibility for his own sin, but it is typical of the sinner when confronted with his guilt.
Luther writes: ‘Let us learn, then, that this perversion and stupidity always accompany sin and that sinners accuse themselves by their excuses and betray themselves by their defense, especially before God … Let us learn, therefore, that this is the nature of sin: unless God immediately provides a cure and calls the sinner back, he flees endlessly from God and, by excusing his sin with lies, heaps sin upon sin until he arrives at blasphemy and despair. Thus sin by its own gravitation always draws with it another sin and brings on eternal destruction, till finally the sinful person would rather accuse God than acknowledge his own sin. Adam should have said: “Lord, I have sinned.” But he does not do this. He accuses God of sin and says in reality: “Thou, Lord, hast sinned. For I would have remained holy in Paradise after eating of the fruit if Thou hadst kept quiet.” This is in reality the meaning of his words when he says: “I would not have fled if Thy voice had not frightened me.”
God’s graciousness is answered by rebelliousness. Let’s try Eve.
Genesis 3:13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Eve basically says “the devil made me do it.” She technically tells the truth here, as does Adam, but the focus and blame is clearly placed elsewhere by her saying the serpent deceived me. Like her husband, she does admit at the end of the verse “I ate” but she begins the sentence by basically saying it’s not her fault.
Human beings ever since have followed our first parents example in passing blame to anyone but themselves:
- At the war trials at Nuremberg, the Nazi war criminals claimed they were just following orders. “We really did not want to exterminate the Jews. Hitler made us do it.”
- The criminal says, “I am a product of society. They are to blame, not me.”
- The Menendez brothers murdered their parents and asked the court for mercy on the grounds they were orphans!
- The wife and child abuser says, “I was raised by abusive parents, so do not blame me; blame them.”
- Secular psychology has come up with all kinds of labels and disorders and multi-syllable words to describe what a former generation would have correctly described as “sin.”
- We want to all think we’re victims rather than villains. It’s because of our poor upbringing, our damaged psyche, our temperament, etc.
- Sadly famous Christian individuals and ministries and publishers have been known to sue each other – our entire society has been changed into a lawsuit-driven world during our lifetime.
- If you go through a drive through and spill your drink while you’re driving and multi-tasking, you can sue the fast food chain and win
- If you’re a burglar breaking into a house and you get hurt while committing a crime, you can sue the owner and win in some cases
- You can blame and sue your teachers, your parents, really anyone you want
- Today people blame their parents (or children), their society, their environment, their teachers, the establishment, whatever they can do rather than admit their own guilt.
There’s an old saying “to err is human” – but we could add to that “to blame others for our errors is even more human”
According to Leadership publication, ‘In 1980 a Boston court acquitted Michael Tindall of flying illegal drugs into the United States. Tindall’s attorneys argued that he was a victim of “action addict syndrome,” an emotional disorder that makes a person crave dangerous, thrilling situations. Tindall was not a drug dealer, merely a thrill seeker.
An Oregon man who tried to kill his ex-wife was acquitted on the grounds that he suffered from “depression-suicide syndrome,” whose victims deliberately commit poorly planned crimes with the unconscious goal of being caught or killed. He didn’t really want to shoot his wife; he wanted the police to shoot him.
Then there’s the famous “Twinkie syndrome.” Attorneys for Dan White, who murdered San Francisco mayor George Moscone, blamed the crime on emotional stress linked to White’s junk food binges. White was acquitted of murder and convicted on a lesser charge of manslaughter.
Nowadays, nobody’s at fault for anything. We are a nation of victims.’
But God is a just judge who sees all, knows all, and will judge all – the double edged sword of His Word cuts through all of that and discerns the thoughts and intents of our hearts. Men may not take responsibility for their sin, but God holds us each individually responsible and God calls us individually to an accounting before the bar of perfect justice. God will deal with others and what they have done, but the only relevant questions in that interrogation are “Yes, but what about you? What have you done? How did you respond? I give a way out of every temptation. Where are you?”
If there is ever a passage that proves sin cannot be blamed on environment or heredity – this is it. Adam and Eve were in a perfect environment and had no parents to blame!
The truth is we can’t blame anything in our past or present. We cannot blame God. We cannot blame another human. We cannot blame the devil. We are guilty, and any attempts to cover or hide or blame others only increases our guilt.
There is a fourth way to deal with sin, but it’s not something we do, it’s something God does. It’s called IMPUTATION.
The good news – the AMAZING news - is the blame and the shame and the guilt and the curses that we deserve, a second Adam Jesus Christ came to earth and willingly took those upon Himself in place of all who would trust in Him as Lord and Savior.
Romans 5:17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
We cannot pass the blame to anyone, but Jesus selflessly voluntarily unbelievably asked to have the blame passed to Him for all who would be in Christ. He said in effect, “the buck stops here.” He takes the punishment for those who trust in Him and in exchange He gives them the only acceptable covering and clothing to cover their shame. He gives them a righteousness that is not their own. God treated Jesus on the cross as if He lived my sinful life so that God can treat me as if I lived Christ’s perfect life. My sin is imputed to Christ’s account and His perfect righteousness is imputed to my account, in this great exchange, the glorious gospel.
 As cited by Kent Hughes, Genesis, 75
 A. W. Tozer, The Root of the Righteous, 13-15
 James Boice, Genesis 1-11, 169.
 Henry Morris, The Genesis Record, 115.
 Allen Ross, Creation and Blessing, p. 139
 As cited by Hughes, 78
MacArthur, J. (2001). The battle for the beginning : The Bible on creation and the fall of Adam (215). Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group.
Vol. 1: Luther's works, vol. 1 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed., 1958). Luther's Works (1:174). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
 Louis Lotz (Sioux City, Iowa) Leadership, Winter 1992, p. 57