On the Curse

Sermon preached on Genesis 3 by Rev. W. Reid Hankins during the Morning Worship Service at Trinity Presbyterian Church (OPC) on 03/19/2023 in Petaluma, CA.

Sermon Manuscript

Rev. W. Reid Hankins, M.Div.

Why, oh why, did we have to sin against God! Last week we studied how our first parents broke the covenant of works that could have meant a blessed eternal life for us all. But they fell into sin, and so we all fell into sin. Today, we will study of the consequences of that sin as God placed his curse upon us and this world. We live now in a sin-cursed world. Things are not as they should be. Our relationships with each other have been affected. Our relationship with the rest of the creation has been affected. Since then, we’ve been in battle with Satan. And ultimately our relationship with God has been affected. Our sin brought so many consequences. Why didn’t we just obey! So then, today, we will study God’s curse here that he delivers in light of man’s fall into sin. And yet, while mankind here chose evil over God, God began to show here his grace and mercy. For he reveals here a plan and promise to redeem a chosen people out of fallen humanity. So then, we’ll study today not only God’s curse, but also the hope God holds out here in his grace and mercy.

Let us then in our first half of our sermon today, consider how God confronts Satan, Adam, and Eve, and brings his curse upon each of those three parties. Notice how unlike Satan who had approached Eve, God begins by going to confront the head, which is Adam. Adam sinfully blames both God and Eve, telling God that he only ate because of the woman you gave me. So too, Eve tries to blame the serpent. I would note, that neither of them are showing signs of repentance yet. Last week I mentioned how church father St. Augustine wrote of the fourfold state of man’s soul. Mankind’s first state was before the fall, when they were in a state of innocence, and they were able to not sin. But now, after their fall, apart from being born again, their souls are in a fallen condition and they are unable to not sin. That is why as of yet, they don’t show any signs of repentance. So, then God issues a curse upon them from the reverse order, starting with the serpent and ending with Adam the head.

The curse upon the serpent is in verses 14 and 15. I think we should consider this in a two-fold sense. There is surely some sense in which this curse applies to the actual serpents going forward, but there especially is a sense in which it applies to Satan who was behind the serpent. For example, there is this curse where serpents will thus crawl on their bellies and the fact that they will eat dust which is a picture of its shame, and we know serpents crawl on their bellies. But we can see beyond the external curse to serpents here, to consider how Satan is cursed. Likewise, God goes on to speak of the offspring of the serpent being at enmity with the offspring of the woman. This is surely to say that there will come forth a great many who are in league with Satan, who have put their allegiance in with him, even if they don’t realize they are his children. Remember, how Jesus told some Pharisees in John 8 that the devil was their father, when they had thought otherwise. So, God’s curse in verse 15 speaks to Satan how yes he will yet win many a followers, but there will also be opposition from the seed of the woman. Going forward here from Genesis, we can begin to recognize those two lines. We can speak of the seed of the serpent versus the seed of the woman. The seed of the serpent are those godless people who live in their sin. The seed of the woman are those who follow God whom God will ultimately redeem. In the opening chapters of Genesis, it especially seems to follow a certain physical genealogical descent, with Cain’s line clearly being of the seed of the serpent and Seth’s line clearly being of the seed of the woman. But through the generations, the godly line and the satanic line will not always be so clearly demarcated by physical descent, but by spiritual allegiance.

So then, verse 15 goes on to bring out the biggest part of the curse upon the serpent, and it’s put in those prophetic terms. Not only will there be enmity between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman, but one day the offspring of the woman will crush the head of Satan. Do you see the little difference there? In verse 15 it doesn’t say that the seed of the woman will crush the seed of the serpent, but will crush the serpent himself. I believe this is the clearest reference here that the serpent wasn’t just an animal, but Satan. Jesus, as the seed of the woman, came to earth not to crush this physical serpent animal that spoke to Eve, but to crush Satan who was behind this serpent.

So then we see the curse specific to the woman in verse 16. She will have problems both in childbirth and in her marriage. In what would be the most common areas of calling for a woman, is where she would endure troubles. In the woman’s role as mother, the very act of giving birth would be full of pain. It would not be easy to give birth to children. And with regard for her husband, the pew Bible brings out the sense of the Hebrew well when it says that her desire will be contrary to her husband, but he will rule over her. To clarify, this is not saying that male headship in marriage is a result of the fall. As we mentioned previously, male headship was rooted in the creation of man and woman. But here, that proper marital relationship of a man as a loving head to his wife who is his body is going to be difficult. There will be a temptation among husbands and wives to pervert these roles. Instead of them working harmoniously as a single united body, the wife will be inclined to struggle against her husband’s leadership and conversely her husband will be inclined to rule her as a subject he subdues instead of lovingly leading her with him as one united body. Marriage after the fall is affected like this by the sinfulness of both the husband and the wife. On a side note, this language of desire and rule is found again in next chapter 4:7, where God warns Cain how sin’s desire will be contrary to him, but he must rule over that sin. That’s a sobering truth for one’s struggle with sin, but it helps confirm this interpretation here, that marriage has been affected by the fall, with a wife now looking to subvert her husband and a husband now looking to domineer his wife. This especially is part of the curse for a wife, in that it will make her calling to be a helper for her husband more difficult. So, both curses on the woman bring difficulty to her typical callings.

So then, we see the curses specific to man in verses 17-19. He too will now have problems in his typical calling. His work in the field will be affected by God’s curse upon the earth. His agricultural work to grow his food will only come about with pain and sweaty work. Note how pain is described for both men and women. Note as well how the creation itself suffers because of man’s sin, with even thorns and thistles now coming up. Romans 8 speaks of how the creation has been groaning ever since. Man’s curse also includes physical death itself, something women also will suffer. God says that Adam will eventually return to the dust. They are subject to physical infirmities and even unto death. Any cold or flu we get, any health condition or disease, is a reminder of the frailty of our mortal bodies in this world now after the fall.

The culmination of the curse is that they are expelled from Eden. That temple which was Eden is no longer available to them. More so, that tree of life that we talked about last week is no longer something they can take from in order to come to know the life that is truly life.

I would note, by the way, that all these cursed effects of the fall, are surely not off limits for mankind to try to address. It is not wrong for people to try to make farming tools to make farming easier. It is not wrong for people to invent medications to help with the pain in childbearing. Certainly, husbands and wives are called to work at having their marriage function with the proper original design where a husband exercises servant leadership and the wife helps and respects her husband. We should certainly fight again the sin nature that would have us to sin. Yet, our best efforts to address the sin and misery of this life will fall short of paradise and being the kind of image bearers God intended.

So then, in the second half of our sermon for today, let us now turn to see God’s initiative of grace and mercy here. That is our ultimate hope amidst man’s fall into sin. And how wonderful does his grace and mercy come here. Before God even spoke any word of curse upon Adam or Eve, he already had spoken of a hope of redemption. I speak of Genesis 3:15 where last week we said it was the promise of the covenant of grace. This is known by theologians as the protoevangelium, the first gospel presentation. There we learn that this evil Satan who led them into sin would be one day be conquered. And there we learn that despite how they entered into a state of death that day, they would not yet return to the dust. They would physically yet live on for a time, so that they could have offspring, offspring that would eventually lead to the one who would conquer this Satan. Their certain death upon eating the forbidden fruit is hereby tempered by God’s mercy with a stay of the full execution of God’s judgment. That additional time will give them opportunity to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and look to subdue it. They in fallen humanity won’t fully succeed according to the original design. But they will carry on the human race until a second Adam could come and bring them yet into a redemption unto the glory God had planned.

God’s mercy and grace is not just here in Genesis 3:15, but there are also other expressions of it in this chapter. It was merciful how God sought them out when they tried to hide from him in their sin. God comes to them more of as a chastening father than a judge or executioner, bringing both needed correction and a hope of redemption. So too, do we see his grace by the fact that God makes them garments of clothes to cover their nakedness. This begins to teach them the concept of atonement by a sacrifice. The word atonement is a word of being covered. Atonement covers our sin and guilt and shame, in a way analogous to how this clothing covers their naked bodies. Here is the first time we see animal death in the Bible, and it’s because of their sin. The animal dies, so they could be covered. This not only prefigures the animal sacrifices that would come, but ultimately how Jesus would die on the cross to atone for our sins. As a side note, God here gave them clothing and the rest of Scripture would tell us that we should continue to wear clothing. Modesty and proper dress is a part of godliness after the fall into sin. Returning now to nudity would not be progress in righteousness but licentiousness.

So then, realize that when God gave these various expressions of his mercy and grace here, and this initial promise of the gospel, it provided the revelation needed for Adam and Eve to be saved. They could be saved the same way we can be saved, by faith in God’s promised redemption. That’s why Hebrews 11 can say that the Abel of next chapter had the same fundamental faith that we have.

Indeed, I believe that Adam and Eve came here to believe and trust in that salvation by grace through faith. While at first they didn’t seem repentant, I believe we have reason to see that by the end of the chapter God had mercifully worked new birth in them. Earlier, I mentioned Augustine’s teaching on the fourfold state of man. Here then is the third state of man that Augustine described, that God’s elect ones are made to be born again at some point in their lives. So then, Augustine’s third state that he describes is that of regeneration. The person who is born again begins to be able to not sin, even while they still struggle with sin. And in this state of regeneration, they are also enabled to be able to turn in faith to God, to look to him and to trust in him. That’s what we see Adam and Eve beginning to do, and of course it’s God’s Word that surely brought about the change in their hearts. For Adam, we see his turning toward God in verse 20. That’s when Adam first names Eve as Eve. Before he had just described here as a woman. Now, after the fall, he names her Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. Eve is basically the Hebrew word for life. You see, this is an expression of Adam’s faith in God’s gospel promise here. Apart from God’s promises here, you would think Adam should have named her Death, since God had said that on the day they eat of the forbidden fruit they would surely die. But God promised that she would not only yet live for a time, but she would be a mother of offspring, offspring that would even one day crush this Satan. That Eve was the mother of all the living was at the heart of God’s promise of redemption her. For Adam to name her Eve was an expression of his faith in God’s promise of redemption. So Adam, believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. And that faith is seen when he names his wife Eve. We’ll see a similar saving faith by Eve next chapter.

One day, the redemption promised here will be complete. God will usher his saved humanity into a new creation. Revelation 21 and Isaiah 65 promises this, describing how God will create a new heavens and a new earth, a place where God will dwell with his redeemed people. Romans 8 speaks of how that will be creation being set free from its futility and bondage of corruption. And so, think of all the ways the new creation will reverse all the consequences and curse that we have considered today. There, in the new creation, there will be no more tears, no more death, no more sorrow, no more pain. There in the new creation, we will finally have access to the tree of life. There, in the new creation, our warfare and enmity with Satan and his allies will be no more. For us who are of the seed of the woman saved in Christ, we will enjoy that paradise of the new creation. But the seed of the serpent will not enjoy that, as Isaiah 65:25 prophesies that in the new creation, the serpents will still eat dust. That is surely a prophetic way of saying the curse will never be lifted from Satan and his seed, even as Revelation 21 says they will be cast into the eternal lake of fire.

In the new creation, there will also be no more sin. That will be accomplished by God finishing his redemptive work in our souls. That will be to bring us to that fourth and final state of man which St. Augustine described, a stated of moral perfection. Then, in the new creation, we will no longer be able to sin anymore. We’ll be perfected in God’s image and only do good and not even able to do evil. That is why it will make sense for us to be able to enjoy unrestricted access to tree of live forever and eternal fellowship with God in that restored paradise.

In conclusion, I want to bring the redemptive work of Christ in crushing Satan to bear upon us who are Christians. In our wonderful union with Christ, there is a way that we participate in that. Listen to this in Romans 16:20, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” Jesus inaugurated the end of Satan at the cross. He is a defeated enemy, but the final end of him is yet to come when Christ returns. But up until then, God is using us as part of the full crushing of Satan. Revelation 12:11 speaks of how we Christians overcome Satan in our day, by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony, and by not loving our lives even unto death.

The application then is that while we await Christ’s return, we are part of how Satan is being opposed in our day. Every time you tell someone about Jesus, you oppose Satan. Every time you speak God’s word to one another, you oppose this ancient serpent. Every time you fight against his temptations, you fight against this devil. And every time you have any such victory over this accuser, it is Christ with you pushing down a little harder on Satan’s head. Let us fight on against this enemy, fighting on in faith. He is who with us is greater. The battle belongs to the Lord and we will be victorious in Christ. We may have fallen, but Christ lifts us up, even unto victory over Satan, and into a restored eternal paradise.


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


Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.