It’s said that the two topics you should never discuss at a dinner party are Religion and Politics – they are supposed to be too divisive for polite company. If I were to add another topic to that list, it would surely be sin and death. Mention death at a dinner party and you are unlikely to be invited back!
Sin and death are not popular topics, even in many Church circles. Who wants to dwell on what is wrong with ourselves and worst about the world? Did we have to have a Bible reading today on the topic?
The answer is that by taking a careful, thoughtful look at sin today, I hope we will feel better equipped to recognise it and resist it in our lives. Above all, I hope we will all become more grateful to Christ, only person who can save us from sin and deliver us from death. And so today, as we conclude our series in Genesis, we shall look at the Causes of sin, the Consequences of sin, and the Conqueror of sin. But first, let me pray…
- The Causes of Sin
At the start of Genesis 3, a sleek and shady creature slithers onto the scene. A snake, or serpent, arrives in Eden and takes centre stage. Despite being made by God, this reptile is in rebellion against him and wants Adam and Eve to follow suit. This seductive serpent tries – and succeeds – in persuading mankind to turn its back on God and ignore his will for their lives.
So who is this Snake, this evil influence at the heart of our reading? Traditionally, he has been identified as the devil, Satan, a rebellious, fallen angel who now stands opposed to God and all goodness. If so, then the Snake in Eden is the same Devil who later tempted Jesus in in the wilderness, the same Satan we are constantly warned about in the New Testament. So if we are serious about avoiding sin in our own lives, and keeping our eyes fixed on God, we would do well to note the Snake’s tactics in our passage, the tactics which caused Adam and Eve’s fall from grace.
The Snake’s first tactic is to challenge God’s Word. In other words, he challenges God’s commands and questions his promises. In verse 1, for example, the Snake wilfully misquotes what God has said, to make God appear mean and stern. The snake says to Eve: “Did God really tell you not to eat fruit from any tree in the garden?” In fact God had actually said the opposite! God had said that Adam and Eve may eat fruit from any tree in the garden. Only fruit from the tree of good and evil was off limits. God had not been mean, but generous!
As if that were not enough, the Serpent directly attacks God’s Word in verse 4. He accuses God of lying. He says God was lying when he warned Adam and Eve they would die if they ate the forbidden fruit.
And its not just the Snake who questions God’s word and pours scorn on his commandments. If we view the Bible as irrelevant or uninteresting we are falling into the same trap as Adam and Eve. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness he quoted the Bible as his authority, as his sure guide to what’s right and wrong. Sin finds in it hard to take root in the lives of those who know and love God’s Word – so do you?
The Snake’s attempt at a ‘character assassination’ of God continues in verse 5. He casts doubt on God’s goodness. The Snake suggests that God is jealous and doesn’t want Adam and Eve to be like him. (We see the same arguments being used to justify sin today, whenever people accuse God of being a killjoy, of setting unnecessary rules, of wanting us to live life in a straitjacket). This is all untrue, of course! Adam and Eve, and all humans, should know that God has given us the enormous privilege of being made in his image and likeness, and given us authority over all of his Creation. This is not the behaviour of a jealous, mean or insecure Creator!
God’s prohibition on eating the forbidden fruit was motivated by love and respect for humanity, not jealousy. This one rule gave Adam and Eve the freedom to choose to live God’s way or not, whether to trust or reject their Creator’s good intentions for them. Tragically the choice they made was to eat the fruit, to doubt God’s goodness and to make up their own standards of right and wrong. We humans so easily forget that we are creatures, and have a Creator who knows us better than we know ourselves. A Creator who knows what is best for us in every circumstance. Despite every temptation to the contrary, we must trust God’s promises, have confidence in his goodness and hold on to his wise words.
Two final features of the serpent’s temptations are worth noting. His temptations target Eve’s physical appetites and her pride. If we are honest, we are all susceptible to sin in these ways as well.
We are told in verse 6 that Eve’s eyes were attracted by the beauty of the tree, and her taste buds tingled at the idea of eating the forbidden fruit. By encouraging Eve to eat the fruit, the Snake was tempting Eve to succumb to her physical appetites – whatever the cost, and whatever the consequences.
I guess we all know what the weak spots are in our own lives, the physical appetites where we are most susceptible to temptation? For some it may be food or possessions and be at risk of greed. For others it may be lust and the dangers of pornography or adultery, while others among us may enjoy a drink or two, but be at risk of alcohol abuse. We need to be on our guard.
The seductive snake’s final strategy was to appeal to Eve’s pride. In verse 5 he falsely promises Eve that if she eats the fruit she will be like God – she will gain great wisdom. Eve swiftly succumbed to the temptation, but it wasn’t just Eve’s weak spot. We are all prone to pride – we all love the idea of being popular, respected, influential or important. We can all fall into sin when we pursue these things in the wrong way – too aggressively or selfishly, too impatiently or arrogantly. We need to watch out. Sin can sneak up on us all, even when there is no snake in sight!
- The Consequences of Sin
So much for the causes of sin. What does today’s passage tell us about its consequences? The experience of Adam and Eve teaches us that sin leads to broken relationships. A broken relationship with God and broken relationships with other people. Sin truly has a catastrophic catalogue of consequences.
Most seriously, sin created a broken relationship between humanity and God. Adam and Eve had disobeyed they Creator, rebelled against their rightful ruler and mistrusted their Maker. Every sin makes us guilty before God, and Adam and Eve were no exception. In verse 10 we are told that their guilt made them fear God and flee from him. They “hid from the Lord God among the trees of the Garden”.
We still see people hiding from God in various ways today:
- Some construct elaborate atheistic philosophies and ideologies, declare themselves “free” and live as if God wasn’t there.
- Millions of other people immerse themselves in their work or their families and claim to be too busy to acknowledge their Creator.
- And all of us have moments when we do something shady, moments when we work on the foolish assumption that God isn’t watching!
But our good God can’t be ignored, and breaking his commandments always has consequences. Judgement must fall. And so in verses 14 to 19 of our passage today, sentence is passed on Adam, Eve and the Serpent. The verdict culminates in verse 19, when Adam is told he is destined to die: “From dust you are, and to dust you will return”. Having rebelled against God, the author of life, Adam and Eve’s death became inevitable and unavoidable. And from Adam and Eve onwards, every one of us has also sinned and been destined to die. And unless they find forgiveness for our sins, every individual will face God as their judge, rather than as their Father and friend.
Sin doesn’t get more serious than that, but it has other costly consequences as well. For instance, sin also leads to a broken relationship with other people. Whenever we act selfishly and give into temptation, we invariably offend not just God, but also harm those around us. It’s not just God who is affected when people steal, commit adultery, lose their temper or get drunk. Other people are affected too, especially those closest to us.
For example, in Genesis 3 as soon as Adam and Eve’s guilt is exposed, they turn on each other. They quickly engage in a ‘blame game’ (v.12-13) and in verse 16 Eve is warned that the battle of the sexes is about to begin. God tells her: “Your desire will be for your husband, but he will rule over you”. Sin’s consequences are social as well as spiritual. Public as well as private. It damages our relationship with other people as well as with God.
- The Conqueror of Sin
Sin is serious, so no wonder it appears so early in pages of Genesis. But thankfully there is good news! Because Genesis 3 also contains a seed of hope. Verse 15 contains a subtle promise that a Saviour would come. It contains a promise that one of Eve’s “offspring” would crush the serpent’s head and become the conqueror of Sin – a promise that God fulfilled when he sent us his Son.
Because through Jesus God put right what had gone wrong in the world. Jesus’ life was a rescue mission to reverse the effects of Eden and restore God’s relationship with mankind. A rescue mission that reached its climax at the Cross.
Because if the Tree in Eden was the “tree of sin”, then the wooden Cross of Calvary was the “tree of salvation”. It was the place where our forgiveness became possible. The place where God put our guilt on Christ instead of us. The place where Jesus willingly died the death we deserved.
Three days later, of course, Jesus victory over sin and death was made public. His resurrection declared to the world that death has been defeated, that our debt before God was paid off. That sin could be forgiven for all who believe and trust in him.
So I want to leave us this morning with the knowledge that sin has been conquered. Everyone of us can come to Christ for forgiveness. We can all come to Christ to have our relationship with God restored. Anyone can come to Christ to ensure that death doesn’t have the last word. Because in Christ the promised Serpent Crusher has come!