On the Fall of Man

Sermon preached on Genesis 3 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 03/12/2023 in Petaluma, CA.

Sermon Manuscript

Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.

If you’ve ever watched a scary movie, then you have surely seen the actors doing things that you thought, “Wait, no, don’t do that! Don’t go down that dark alley alone. Don’t open that scary door with the strange noises behind it. Don’t hide from the bad guy in the garage full of chainsaws.” We might think ourselves smarter than them, yet real life is different when you have to face situations yourself. We can end up like Frodo from the Lord of the Rings books, where he knew he had to destroy the evil ring of power but when he finally had the opportunity he made the wrong choice. Adam and Eve knew better here, but made the wrong choice. And in our own lives, we so often know better, and make wrong choices, showing that we are indeed children of our first parents. Indeed, their actions here have plunged all humanity into a state of sin and misery. So today we will focus on their fall into sin. Next week, we’ll return to see God’s resulting curse upon man and this world. And in both sermons, we’ll have an opportunity to consider God’s redeeming grace at work despite mankind’s sinfulness.

So then, we will first study this fall into sin by consider separately each of the three major players involved here. We have the serpent, the woman, and the man. We’ll begin with the serpent. The serpent is introduced to us first starting in verse 1, where we see him as a talking serpent. While it is not told to us here, we learn in the rest of the Bible of the evil spirit that is behind this serpent. It is none other than the devil, the one called Satan, that fallen angel who stands as the accuser of the saints who is a liar who will even crafty disguise himself as an angel of light (Rev 12:9, etc.). It is Satan who is behind this talking serpent.

Some have wondered how could Satan be described here as a serpent, and have even considered if it was really a serpent as we know serpents. But I think we are to understand that this was a real animal, not something else. Verse 1 describes the serpent here as one of the beasts of the field that the Lord God had made, i.e. one of all the kinds created on the sixth day of creation. Apparently, Satan somehow entered into and controlled this serpent for the purpose of tempting Eve. If we think it strange how a demon could control an animal and even make it talk, let me remind you that we see similar things elsewhere in Scripture. In the New Testament, there’s that legion of demons that were permitted to enter into pigs and then control them unto their death. Of animals talking, there’s that donkey who was supernaturally enabled to speak to Balaam in Numbers 22. While it can be hard to imagine Satan controlling a serpent and making him talk, it is not impossible to believe. It very well may be that God would only permit Satan’s evil temptation if it came mediated via an animal, because while Satan meant this for evil, God may have allowed it as a test for Adam and Eve in their duty to subdue the animals and exercise dominion over them. Would they subdue this serpent that needs subduing?

So then, we might ask why would Satan inhabit a serpent, versus some other animal? The answer is surely there in verse 1. Because the serpent is more crafty than the other animals. The word crafty here can also be translated as shrewd, subtle, or even clever or prudent. Understand that this is talking about actual serpents here. It’s saying that serpents are more crafty than other animals. This is so recognized by men that its become proverbial – remember how Jesus said we should be as clever as serpents and innocent as doves, Matthew 10:16. Think of how snakes operate. They are usually intricately camouflaged to their surroundings. They most often then attack their prey through hiding in ambush until in great surprise they suddenly and swiftly strike out of nowhere. Serpents are considered crafty and clever. So do you see why Satan might have chosen a serpent to inhabit? When people play games today, they usually have to pick a game token, or a character to play, or an avatar in a video game. People often pick some fitting token or character or avatar to represent them. Apparently, Satan chose a very fitting animal to represent him, the wily snake.

Notice then Satan’s tactics here. His first crafty tactic is to upturn Adam’s headship in marriage. Satan doesn’t go to speak with the head Adam, he goes to speak with Eve. To make the point, notice in verse 1 his first question to Eve is about both Adam and Eve, because he says to her, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” The word for “you” there is in the plural, so Satan speaks to Eve about both her and Adam. The proper chain of command would have been for Satan to go to Adam if he’s going to speak about both of them. But Satan goes instead to Eve to break that God-designed headship. Eve takes the bait because she then answers the serpent in the first-person plural in verse 2, “We, may eat,” speaking for both of them. To make things worse, and to Adam’s discredit, verse 6 says that Adam was even there with Eve, at least when she actually ate of it, but that’s probably to be understood that Adam was there the whole time. So, the serpent chose to speak to Eve instead of Adam, and Adam was right there but didn’t do anything about any of this.

So then, Satan’s next strategy is to get them to challenge God’s Word. He begins with this question that presents a misrepresentation of God’s Word, which gives Eve an opportunity to correct it. That’s when Satan in verse 4 directly contradicts God. This is blasphemy by Satan. He says that they wouldn’t die if they eat of the forbidden tree, but instead suggesting God was holding them back because they would end up like God knowing good and evil if they ate. Now here is the craftiness of Satan here. There was a lot of accurateness in what Satan says here, but not the full story. That’s how the father of lies makes his deceptions believable, by mixing in a lot of truth. It is true, that they would not immediately physically die the moment they ate of that tree. It is true that an outcome would be that they would come into a kind of knowledge concerning good and evil that they did not yet have but God did have. And it is true that God did not want them to come to have that knowledge in that way. But what Satan didn’t tell them, is that the moment they disobeyed God by eating that fruit that they would enter into a much greater state of death than simply physical death, like we talked about last week. And that God did want to them to ultimately come to have a knowledge of good and evil, but that this could be obtained a right way by rejecting temptation to sin and by denouncing evil and affirming the good of obeying God. Satan’s scheme would actually make them ultimately look less like God, whereas God’s way would make them confirmed in their image of God which he had given then from creation. And so, Satan lied to them, by saying their sin would actually be for their good, when reality it would be for their bad. Is that not still part of Satan’s strategy, to convince people that some sin is actually for our good. Satan also effectively murdered them by getting them to believe his lie.

So then let us now turn to consider Eve next. She falls prey to Satan’s temptations. She is actually deceived by this temptation, as 2 Corinthians 11:3 tells us. Look at verse 6 to see how she processed this in her heart. It says that Eve, “saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise.” So, we see there three things that attracted her to this sin. There was a physical appeal to the fruit, that it was good for food. There was an aesthetical appeal, that the fruit was a delight to her eyes. And there was an appeal to her pride, that she could be made wise. So, she was tempted by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. 1 John 2:16 speaks warning in these terms, “For all that is in the world– the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life– is not from the Father but is from the world.” Yet, Eve fell prey to the deceitfulness of sin.

So then, let us now consider Adam’s role here. First and foremost, we note that he ate of the forbidden fruit, and thus sinned against God, verse 6. While Eve at least can be said to have been deceived, Adam blatantly chose to disobey. Add to this what Adam should have been doing instead. Think in terms of how Adam should have been a prophet, priest, and king. As a prophet, he should have should have spoke against the serpent’s blasphemy and rejected Satan’s apocryphal word. As a priest, he could have exercised his role as guardian of that Edenic temple by guarding access to that tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And as a king, he should have subdued that serpent who had showed himself an enemy to God and man.

Add to all this how he did not exercise the headship in his marriage that he should have. He should have at first protected Eve from that serpent, not allowed her to entertain his lies. He should have stepped in to protect her, not sit back and let her be tricked. And, finally, he should have stopped her from taking the forbidden fruit, not follow her into such sin. Adam as head is rightly the one that Scripture particularly faults for this first sin. Adam was head of his wife and fell short of his calling. This does not excuse Eve, nor does it excuse all the rest of us who are under Adam’s headship by birth, for we are all by nature sons of Adam. Rather, I point this out to understand that when Adam fell, all who are under Adam as their covenantal head fell with him.

So then, let us turn now to realize the consequences of the fall. Before, Adam and Eve were in a state of innocence where they could have shown themselves to be good or evil. In the freedom of their wills, they sadly chose evil. They fell into sin and look at how it immediately changed them from within. Verse 7 says their eyes were opened and they knew they were naked. Augustine describes the four-fold state of man. I’m here referencing the first two states. Before they fell, they were in that original state of innocence where they had the freedom of will to do good or bad. After they fell, their fallen state was one of spiritual death, one of depravity where they become enslaved under the bondage of sin and death. Left to that fallen state, while they might recognize their guilt, they would never want to turn back to God in repentance. This change of state can be seen by how the text describes their eye-opening. Their recognition of their nakedness reflects a greater recognition of their shame and guilt. Their lack of clothing reflects how their sin has left them feeling exposed and ashamed. That they make fig leaf loin cloths shows how their shame and guilt because of their sin affected their relationship with each other. They feel the need to cover up even in front of each other. Surely that reflects their own failings with each other. Eve and Adam’s sin was not only against God, but also against each other. Eve did give Adam the forbidden fruit. Adam did fail to properly lead and protect Eve. They felt shame even toward each other. And then we see how they try to also hide from God, hoping the trees can hide their nakedness, verse 8. And so now they had come in their fallen estate to spiritual death. The image of God in them had been marred greatly by their sin. And we see how this state of spiritual death is manifested when God first confronts them. Indeed, their instinct in their sin was not to seek God but to try to run from him. And they are not yet repentant, for when God first confronts them, they are quick to pass the blame instead of expressing repentance.

So then, what we see here in the fall of man is what we call the doctrine of original sin. To clarify, the doctrine of original sin is not simply to point to what Adam and Eve did and say that was the original sin. No, the doctrine of original sin is about the effects on humanity because of this fall into sin by Adam and Eve. All humanity that comes from Adam and Eve are born into a fallen state and condition. All humanity has lost the state of innocence that Adam and Eve had at first enjoyed. That has been replaced with guilt and corruption. All humanity is guilty because of Adam’s first sin, as Romans 5 so clearly teaches. But not only that, but all humanity has a corrupt nature, because of Adam. So, there is both original guilt and original corruption that is passed down from one generation of humans to the next. Because of that original guilt, we will die even if we were to never commit any actual sins personally. And because of that original corruption it is why we all do go on to commit various actual sins personally. Indeed, each of us in our lives show that we are sons and daughters of Adam and Eve by all the ways we sin and fall short of the glory of God. All humanity is so affected by this original sin.

All humanity, that is, except for Jesus. Let us then turn now in our last point for today to consider Jesus, the second Adam. Jesus was born not by ordinary generation from man and woman, but rather the Holy Spirit overshadowed the Virgin Mary so that she conceived and was with child. She then gave birth to this special son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Not only was he God come in the flesh, but he was indeed a true man, yet without sin, and also without the effects of original sin. Jesus came into this world to be a second Adam, the better Adam that we all needed.

Realize then, that means Jesus didn’t come just to die on the cross to pay for our sins. It meant he also came to accomplish what the first Adam did not. He passed the test which Adam and Eve had failed. Remember, last week that we said Adam and Eve were placed in a sort of probation. That’s what the two special trees represented. If Jesus was going to truly redeem us, he would need to not only pay the penalty for our sins, but also to pass the test of righteousness. For there to be a redeemed humanity, they would have to be shown to be righteous. Only then could they have access to the tree of life and all the blessed eternal life that was connected with that.

That is why the start of Jesus’ earthly ministry is highlighted by the wilderness temptation even as the end of it is marked by the cross and the resurrection. These are bookends to Jesus’ earthly ministry, and fittingly so. We needed not only Jesus to suffer and die for our unrighteousness, but also to obey and live for our righteousness – that his righteousness would be imputed to us. Yes, his entire life was one of righteousness, but surely the way he passes a sort of probation at the beginning of his earthly ministry was to help us to see him as the second Adam. As that second Adam he accomplished for us what our first father did not.

So then, think of what we see in the wilderness temptation with Jesus. There, it is fitting that this new Adam would be tested not in a some paradise of a garden, but in the difficulties of the wilderness. Mark’s gospel tells us how he was with the wild animals, and unlike with Adam they would have been a threat to him. All the accounts mention that Jesus was fasting for forty days, unlike Adam who would have surely been well fed by all the trees in the garden. And so, in that setting, Jesus endures this temptation. There again it is the devil to do the tempting.

And there we see Satan following the same sort of temptation tactics as he brought Eve. Remember, we saw how Eve’s temptation could be summarized by what we find in 1 John 2:16, that she was tempted by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. So too, with Jesus. We see the devil tempt Jesus with the lust of the flesh when he tries to get him to command the stone to become bread, but Jesus quoted Scripture to say that man does not live by bread alone. Again, we see the devil tempt Jesus with the lust of the eyes and he somehow shows Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and promises to give them to him, if he would but worship him, but Jesus quotes Scripture that we are only to worship and serve God. Again, we see the devil tempt Jesus with the pride of life when he brings Jesus somehow to the top of the temple and tells him to show to the world that he is indeed the Son of God by throwing himself down since God had promised to preserve the Messiah. But Jesus quotes Scripture that we are not to tempt God. Jesus passed the test that Adam and Eve had not.

This Jesus did for our salvation. He passes this probation even to show that he is qualified then to ultimately go to the cross to be a propitiation for our sins. So that he could be offered as a lamb without spot or blemish to atone for the sins of the elect. Saints of God, be encouraged in this sweet gospel we have. Jesus is our second Adam. His righteousness is the way you are saved even though we are fallen in Adam. If you are in Adam, you are dead. But if you are in Christ Jesus by faith, you are alive, forevermore. For now your spiritual nakedness has been clothed with the righteousness of Christ. We need not hide from God any longer!

One day, Jesus will return and bring us to a place where righteousness is the norm. Until then, we are yet here in this fallen world. In God’s wisdom, he yet has us being tested, not to prove we are righteous by our own strength, for we know we cannot do that. But to test our faith, to prove that we are righteous by having that saving faith in Jesus. The devil yet prowls around as a lion to try to devour us, but let us stand firm in our faith in Jesus.

And if we have such faith, we know God calls us then to begin to look live like the new creations that we are. For he has made us born again to new and living hope. Let us then seek to turn away from the lusts of this world and the pride of this life. Satan will yet try to tempt us to such things. We know they can be alluring. Should we struggle yet with such sins, let us go afresh to Christ our covering. But let us yet seek to set our heart not on the world but on Christ and the life that is truly life. Amen.

Copyright © 2022 Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.
All Rights Reserved.


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