Friday, November 21, 2014

The Fall of Man and the Unfolding of God's Redemptive Purpose

The following is the result of an assignment in my biblical theology class, to examine the description and application of the Fall across the Scriptures. I have found it so profitable that I have decided also to post it here. May the Lord bless it in the lives of readers, as well.

    Even though we associate this story with the writings of Moses, he actually only deals with it in the first portion of Genesis.
    We have the original account in chapter 3. In 2:16-17, we have the only recorded restriction on Adam and Eve: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die.” However, in chapter 3, the serpent questions that restriction. In verse 1, he asks the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree…?’” Thus, the fall starts with doubting the word of God. Then the serpent escalates the confrontation in verse 4: “You will not surely die.” He has moved from doubting God to directly contravening His commands. He continues in verse 5, “For God knows that, when you eat of it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God…” Now, the serpent caps his temptation with an insinuation regarding God’s motivation in the command. In consequence of which, Eve eats of the fruit, and shares it with Adam, in verse 6.
    The consequences come quickly. In the next verse, the two humans recognize for the first time that they are naked. This realization leads them to hide in shame from God, when He next comes looking for them. Upon their confession of their rebellious act, God pronounces His response: first, in verse 14, the serpent is cursed for his role in tempting the two; next, in verse 16, the woman is cursed with pain in childbearing and conflict with her husband; and third, he is cursed with hardship and futility in his labors in verses 17-19. These curses correspond exactly with the calling that God had given humanity in 1:26-31, to be fruitful and to rule and cultivate the creation.
    The fall snowballs in its effects. In 4:5-8, the next generation, consisting of Cain and Abel (at this point, the only posterity of the first couple), jealousy erupts and sin breaks out in fratricide, as Cain murders Abel. In verse 12, God repeats that part of the curse involving futility in man’s God-given task of making the earth fruitful. And with one more generation, Cain’s son Lamech repeats his father’s sin of murder, and even doubles it (4:23).
    The snowball of sin continues its expansion in chapter 6, where the wickedness of men has consumed their entire existences (verse 5). The only exception is Noah, who, with his family, is preserved from God’s general judgment in the Flood (6:9-8:19).
    In these passages, we see only hints of God’s redemptive purpose in the world of man. 3:15 gives us the protevangelium, the promise of the seed of Eve Who would crush the head of the serpent. In 3:21, we see the first deaths in the world, apparently in sacrifice, to provide coverings of fur for the now-modest first couple. The conflict between Cain and Abel arises during sacrificial offerings (4:3-4). And immediately after the flood, Noah responds with offerings of some of the clean animals from the ark (8:20). So, even as the effects of the fall are manifest, God begins to show His plan of redemption, a substitutionary sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin.
    The subject of the fall doesn’t appear again until the book of Job, and then only in passing. In 31:33, Job, speaking to his friends, in a list of hypothetical failures, includes, “if I have concealed my transgressions as others do by hiding my iniquity in my bosom…” He acknowledges, not just individual sins, but his sinful state, the inherits consequence of Adam’s failure. Is his reference to “concealing transgressions” an allusion to Adam’s fig-leaf apron and hiding among the trees?
    In the Psalms, we get passing references to man’s inheritance of sin.
    In 14:3, David says of fools, “They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” Referring to his own sin with Bathsheba, David also says, in 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” In 53:1-3, he repeats his confession: “...They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good… They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” In his mind, iniquity isn’t an action, but a condition, which reflects the teaching of Moses that Adam’s particular sin had resulted in a condition of sin in his posterity. That is, men are not sinners because they sin, but rather, men sin because they are sinners.
    David apparently taught this lesson to his own children, because we find Solomon repeating it in Ecclesiastes 7:29: “This alone I found, that God made man upright, but they [sic] have sought out many schemes.” In one sentence, he describes the original creation in innocence, a state which was lost, resulting in the present condition of perpetual sin.
    The theme of man’s corruption appears a number of times in the writings of the Prophet Isaiah. He portrays it very vividly in his account of his own calling. In chapter 6, he contrasts (v. 3) the thrice holy nature of Jehovah, with his own self-consciousness in verse 5: “Woe is me me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…” He continues the the themes of relating his personal sinful nature with the corrupt nature of all men. But he includes verse 7: “Your sin is taken away, and your sin is atoned for.” So he also repeats the Mosaic theme of following the declaration of sin with a discrete declaration of God’s redemptive purpose as sin’s solution.
    The prophet applies the judgment of God to his fellow Israelites in 9:17b: For everyone is godless and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this, His anger has not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still.” And he continues in verse 18, with the impact of sin on the created world: “For wickedness burns like a fire; it consumes briers and thorns; it kindles the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in a column of smoke.” He imitates the curse of Gen. 3 in 14:3: “When the Lord has given you rest from your pain and turmoil and the hard service with which you were made to serve…” Babylon is seen to apply the hardships of Gen. 3:19. The same theme appears again in 24:4-6, with the earth bearing the curse of man’s sin. See, for example, verse 6a: “Therefore, a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt…” God’s reaction of Gen. 6:5-6 is also seen in Isaiah 43:24b: “You have burdened Me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities.” That sinfulness corrupts man’s whole nature (54:6), and He puts it away from His presence (59:2a), “Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you…”
    The next prophet, Jeremiah, also describes the general sinfulness that resulted from the fall. In 17:9, he says of Judah, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” Then, to emphasize the awareness God has of our sin, he answers his own question in the next verse (10): “I The Lord search the heart and test the mind…” The prophet accuses Judah of being so corrupt that he isn’t even conscious of his corruption. Yet, in contrast, Jehovah is aware, just as He was before the flood.
    The next prophet, Ezekiel, recalls the words of the serpent in the prince of Tyre in 28:2: “Your heart is proud, and you have said, ‘I am a god, I seat in the seat of the gods, in the heart of the seas,’ yet you are but a man, and no god…” The serpent appealed to Adam and Eve with the expectation of godhood, and here the prince believes he has what was offered. And as happened to the first pair, the prince is cast out (verse 16): “You were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God…” And in 36:33-34, Ezekiel has God renewing the dominion covenant, originally given to Adam: “On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause the cities to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt. And the land that was desolate shall be tilled, instead of being the desolation that it was…” Thus, the redemptive purpose is renewed, in terminology describing the reversing of the curse, that man may again be fruitful and multiply and exercise dominion over the earth.
    And finally, in the prophets and in the Old Testament, we have a passing reference in Hosea 6:7: "Like Adam, they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me." The prophet uses the original fall as an object lesson for the then-current faithlessness of Judah and Israel.
    In the New Testament, the fall is again an issue in the writings of Paul.
    In Romans 5:12-21, Paul places responsibility for sin on Adam (v.12, “sin came into the world through one man”), with all sins arising from this federal sinfulness (v. 14). However, he also renews the answer of God’s redemptive purpose to undo man’s fallenness. Verse 15, “If many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.” And verse 18,”As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” So, in this passage, we also see the pairing of man’s sin, on one hand, with God’s redemptive purpose, on the other.
    In the same epistle, 8:19-25, Paul also reminds us of the consequences for the nonhuman creation in the fall of man. In verse 19, he writes, “The creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” Because, verse 20, “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it.” And then the redemptive purpose in verse 21, “[in hope] that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay…” And verses 23-24, “we ourselves… groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies, for in this hope we were saved.” Paul repeats the theme of general sinfulness followed by the hope of God’s redemptive purpose.
    In my final example, I Timothy 2:9-15, Paul isn’t addressing the issue of sin or of redemption, but rather applying the story of Genesis 3 to social behavior. He is addressing the behavior of women in the church, in terms of apparel and good works (vv. 9-10), and then during corporate worship, in quietness and submission (11-12), and not in authority over men (v. 12), for (verse 13-14), “It was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman, being deceived, fell into transgression.” WHile Paul is addressing a nonsoteriological matter in this passage, his use of the creation and fall indicates his assumption of the reality of the story. He obviously knew the Mosaic record in Genesis, and assumed its truth.
    And finally, the story appears again in John’s Revelation, 12:9,: And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world - he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.” Here we have the first revelation of the identity of the serpent. In the words of Moses, it is just an animal, though cleverer than is natural for its kind. Here we have its identification as the chief evil, Satan. Then, in verses 10-11: “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives, even unto death.” These verses bring us full circle to Genesis 3:15. there the serpent was promised that the seed of the woman would crush his head. Here we see that promise fulfilled. Where Genesis 3 gave the account of man’s fall into the dominion of sin, here we see the redemptive victory of Jesus Christ over that sin. What had been promised has now been revealed. The repeated pairing of the judgment of sin with God’s redemptive purpose, is now experiential, with the judgment and destruction of sinfulness itself.

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