Saturday, November 30, 2013

What is original sin?

For when you eat of it, you shall surely die.
Genesis 2:17

Oh my momma warned me
And how my daddy cried
The day I left my home
You said you'd always keep me satisfied
But oh how you lied (you lied)
Well I should have heard my momma's words
But then I guess I had too much pride (original sin)

Keith Green, from Dear John letter (to the devil)

Original sin? What was the sin that started it all? I love reading Genesis time after time, and picking more up from the text each time I read it. I often think there is much that God has not told us (and there is!), so I go back and find that he has hinted at that which I was wondering about after all. Keith Green alludes to original sin as being pride in his famous lyrics above, and I think pride does pretty well nail it. Let’s examine the story and see what we can know.

First of all, I notice that God gave Adam the one rule, not to eat of the fruit of the tree, before Eve had yet been created. One rule I would think would be pretty easy to keep track of, and to plainly repeat, yet when Eve repeats the rule to the serpent, she gets it wrong. She adds, “and you must not touch it, or you will die.” I always wonder if Eve edited the rule here, or if Adam gave an edited version. The text does not say, but it does clearly show that they were unable to keep even a simple rule clear in their minds.

If I had to guess, I would guess that Eve twisted the rule, because she did so after starting to talk to the serpent, and scripture elsewhere makes it plain that Eve entered into this sin being deceived. It probably is true that she was already trying to over respond to the question of the serpent, and was already entering into his deception. What we are sure of is that she saw the fruit was both good and pleasing to the eye, and she partook of it.

Adam, being with her, received of the fruit and ate it, perhaps as is commonly thought, because he understood she was in sin, and entered into sin willingly with her. I cannot be sure of that, but scripture elsewhere makes note of the fact that Adam knew fully that he was disobeying, whereas his wife had been deceived.

When God confronts them both, Adam does what humans have been doing ever since, and lays the blame on the woman, saying, “The woman you put with me gave me some fruit, and I ate it.” God questions Eve, and she does what humans have been doing ever since, and lays the blame on the serpent. God takes both excuses into account, since they were valid, and in his curse, lays most of the curse upon the serpent, pronouncing it first upon the serpent, then Eve, and finally Adam.

The curse to the serpent is very important, for here is contained the first prophecy of Christ. “He will crush your head and you shall strike his heel.” Thus we find both the crucifixion, “you shall strike his heel”, and the second coming, “He will crush your head”, prophesied. I think it important to note that the curse pronounced from God was vile, perhaps beyond anything we might understand, but the worst of it was saved for the serpent. Man and woman, after the curse, were both made garments of animal skin, suggesting the shed blood necessary for their redemption, and they were cast out of the garden.

Paul teaches us in the book of Romans that all of creation is groaning with this curse, still in effect after all these years. I wonder about the extent of the Fall, but evidently it radically changed the animal kingdom, and perhaps even the plant kingdom. We get some hint of the changes when we are told in Isaiah that he who dies at one hundred will be thought to be cursed, and when we are told twice that (chapter 11 and 65) the lion will eat straw like the ox. During the time of restoration, the time of the Lord’s rule on earth, the earth will evidently get many of the characteristics of garden back.

But I should not leave the topic of original sin without talking more about its effect on all of mankind. Romans teaches us that by one man sin entered the world, so that all men are sinners. From a Christian perspective every lifestyle is sinful, if it be apart from repentance at the foot of the cross. Men have scattered their plans and dreams across the world, but all of it is as vapor unless they believe God for their redemption.

Our world is a fallen one, and I have long noted that for every problem men of good conscience try to fix, twenty more seem to spring up unbidden. Redemption by our own efforts will never work, and those who insist on working out their own salvation in this world will doom themselves and their followers to perdition. It is the lot of men to be born into sin, but it is the grace of God to redeem men from their fallen state. Through the provision of the death of Christ on the cross, the redemption of man is finally solved, taking nothing of the efforts of man, but is totally complete and sufficient in and of itself. Says Chafer, “Grace means pure unrecompensed kindness and favor. What is done in grace is done graciously. From this exact meaning there can be no departure; otherwise grace ceases to be grace.”1

The biggest lie of the serpent in our day seems to be the gentle urge for people to never consider their sin before God. Instead they are told only of a gentle God likened unto a benevolent grandfather who will weigh their good acts with their bad acts, and who is known to “fudge” the scales with his thumb. Those who live out their lives never considering their need will find themselves meeting a God who loves them and has provided redemption for them, but because he is a holy and just God, will condemn them because of their refusal of redemption. “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

A cure for original sin? Not to be had on this side of the cross. But believing God will lead to no condemnation, or rescuing from the wrath of a just God. By the cross God has mediated two superlative characteristics of his divine nature. First, he satisfies his judgment nature forever, for he has judged the sins of the world on that cross. Second, he satisfies his nature of grace and love, for all who will but look to the cross will find redemption and that forever. “God does not ignore or slight the fact of human guilt and sin; for He has met these issues perfectly and finally for all men in the death of His Son. There remains no demerit, nor degrees of demerit, to be considered or recognized. By grace there is now offered alike to all men all the infinite resources of the saving power of God.”2

1. Chafer, Lewis Sperry (2008-07-19). Grace (Kindle Locations 231-232). Taft Software, Inc.. Kindle Edition.
2. Chafer, Lewis Sperry (2008-07-19). Grace (Kindle Locations 249-251). Taft Software, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

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