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The Fall of Man

We’re still working through the doctrine of sin.

We’ve looked at the OT and NT terms that are used to speak of sin.

There are many words that are used, but the big takeaway we said, is that while all sin is infinitely evil before the eyes of God, there are gradations of sin within the heart of a person. Sometimes people sin without even knowing it, because we’re all sinners by our very nature, and at other times there is great intentionally within the heart of a person.

Then, last time, we began to develop the doctrine of sin by taking a look at the essence of Sin. We gave some false definitions and some working definitions. We talked about various aspects of sin, including the way God sees sin (Gen. 6:5).

And, then, we ended by talking about who sin offends.

But today we are going to talk about the Fall of Man.

How did sin enter the world?

Why did sin enter the world?

What was God’s response?

The Fall of Man

The Genesis record:

The Place: The Garden of Eden.

The Test: To obey God’s will.

There was a positive and negative aspect to obeying God’s will:

Positively: they were to show dominion over creation as God’s vice-regents (Gen. 2:15).

Negatively: they were not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

(Gen. 2:16-17)

So at this point, they were innocent, and not yet guilty of any transgression.

*It is very important to understand that God declared everything “very good.” 

This does not mean perfect - it means good.

There is a moral quality here. Nothing was yet tainted. It was morally upright and innocent -- but that does not mean infallible (i.e., incapable of erring).

It is a critical point to keep in mind when trying to make sense of the Fall.

God did not force Adam and Eve to sin. He did not make them do this.

Having said that, He is also not guilty of their sin because He made them fallible.

God was not obligated to create Adam and Eve to be infallible human beings.

The People: Adam and Eve. They were untested creatures who were unconfirmed in holiness.

People wonder how Adam and Eve could have sinned. It is probably one of the hardest questions to answer in the Bible-- and ultimately we can’t.

However, this is why it is important to keep in mind that they were untested in their holiness.

Again, they were created “very good” and innocent, but not perfect.

There is no language of holy or righteous in the creation account.

Everything was declared “good,” but there was no mention of “sanctified” or “made holy.”

The Tempter: Satan.

He is possessing the body of a serpent (Gen. 3:1, 14; Rom. 16:20).

He is also described as “more crafty than any other beast of the field which God had made” (Gen. 3:1). 

The point is that He was shrewd and clever. The word carries the idea of using one’s mind - there is forethought and planning. The LXX tranlsates the term as φρόνιμος. It carries the idea of intelligence and wisdom. So the serpent is employing some incredible skills to set up the temptation and Fall.

The Attack:

First, it is important to notice that his strategy focused upon the limits that God had imposed, rather than the vastness of liberty that Adam and Eve possesed.

He doesn’t attack them at the point of their dominion (ie. what they were to do), but on the fact they were not to eat of the tree (i.e., what they were not to do).

So he doesn’t try to get them not to do something. Rather, he attempts to get them to do something they were commanded not to do.

Second, the nature of the attack was deception. (Gen. 3:13).

“Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" And the woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

So the question we want to explore, is how did the serpent deceive? What tactics did He employ?

First he asks a roundabout question that he knows is not true (vs. 1). 

Gen. 3:1 - “Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?'"

So he is just posing a question.

He’s introducing a category into her mind that wasn’t originally there, and this is how deception first begins.

He wants Eve to start exegeting God’s command to see if there is some kind of loophole.

And He does it by simply posing a question. The goal is to introduce an element of doubt.

Second, he directly contradicts God’s statement (v.4).

“The serpent said to the woman, 'You surely will not die!'”

So he begins with a question to create some doubt. Then, he overtly opposes the Word of God.

Third, He plants in her mind an alternative, but built on a false interpretation of God’s motives (v.5) For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."

He builds an argument (“For”).

It directly contradicts God, but then justifies that contradiction on the basis of God’s own words.

So He is not stupid. 

He doesn’t fully contradict God because Eve would see that.

Rather, He speaks in half-truths. And the best lies always contain an element of truth. The more truth the lie possesses, then the greater the lie.

So the serpent builds his argument on the basis of what Eve knows that God has said. The Serpent simply spins the truth.

What are the categories of the deception? [Carson’s categories, based on v. 6].

“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”

Sensual (physical pleasure)

“Eve saw that the tree was ‘good.’ It was good for food and offered much physical satisfaction. Before the fall, the consumption of food was not necessary for survival. Eating was simply a gift from God for the purpose of physical pleasure. However, the lie of sin produced an action. Eve saw it was good for food and ate. She became convinced that eating fruit from this particular tree would be more pleasurable than the taste of any other fruit in the garden.”

Aesthetic (Pleasing to the eyes)

“The tree was ‘a delight to the eyes.’ It was satisfying to her physical sense through her visual appeal. In the midst of temptation, she was already being offered some degree of pleasure. Therefore, although she had not yet sinned, here, we begin to discover the difficulty of resisting temptation… Temptation is often the bait of sin. The image of the object of pleasure has passed through Eve’s eyes and the smell has already lofted into her nose. As an example: what brings us to the kitchen is not the knowledge of cookies being baked, but the intoxicating aroma filling the house. Indeed, sin has an offer of satisfaction before it has even satisfied.”

Sapience (offer of wisdom)

“Every good lie must have a hint of truth. What made the fall so insidious was the deception that Eve would become wise. Understandably there was truth to this. Eve would know good and evil, but this was a half truth; Eve would not know good and evil in the same way God did.

When my wife had cancer, her doctors knew the kind of cancer she had. They were familiar with its terrible effects and mutations. They knew what the cancer was capable of. They knew its morphology and its many potential outcomes. They knew how to combat the cancer and what kinds of treatments were necessary. The doctors had studied and interacted with the disease for years. They knew its color, its physical appearance, what it would be like in five years, and what it had looked like the previous year. No one knew this cancer better than these doctors… except my wife.

There was a way in which my wife knew this cancer in which the doctors could never know it. She knew it physically. She knew the way it felt and the way it made her change. The doctors never had to house the disease in their bodies and create an incubation in which it could thrive. They never hated it mentally, much less, emotionally. It never affected their families the way it affected ours. Having an intellectual knowledge of the disease is not even close to the physical, emotional, and mental insidiousness of having it grow in your body. And this is the way in which Eve would come to know good and evil. She would only know it in a twisted sense. She would only know what the disease of sin would allow her to know. She would never know it as God knew it. And this was the deception. She thought she would become a peer with God. What a lie.”

We can see how the serpent deceived.

He rarely does a full-frontal attack.

Rather, He always deceives through temptation, and half-truths.

Deception is his game, which is why we are called to be on guard against his schemes (2 Cor. 2:11).

The Results: God issues His judgments.

On the serpent:

Gen. 3:14-15 “The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, Cursed are you more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you will go, And dust you will eat All the days of your life. And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel."

There are some interpretational difficulties with this. It is difficult to know what applies to the actual serpent and what applies to Satan.

Two things are certain:

- He was humiliated (3:14).

- There would be enmity between him and mankind (3:15).

There is final judgment upon Satan that would end him in a final sense. This death would come through the seed of the woman - speaking of the Messiah.

The point to understand is God declared to Satan his final fate. He slithered away that day with a clear understanding that there would be no ultimate hope for him.

Eve and all women (Gen. 3:16):

“To the woman He said, "I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you."

First, there would be pain in childbirth. This a curse many women know well.

Second, her “desire” shall be for her husband. Yet, he is to rule over her.

Various views:

- One view sees this as sexual desire.

- Another view sees it as a desire for greater emotional intimacy.

- A third view sees it as a desire to rule over the husband.

This is the best view.

Gen. 4:7 informs this:

"If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it."

Here, we have the same words in the Hebrew, and the same exact grammatical construction. It is just one chapter later, being written by the same author as ch. 3.

So the clearer meaning should help us understand the less clear meaning.

It is very clear in ch. 4, and should, therefore, inform how we interpret ch. 3.

So the best view is to see it as a wife sinfully desiring the leadership position of her husband.

It also speaks to the nature of how husbands will be. If they are passive, the wife will rule. He must actively work at ruling over his wife. [Not in a sinful, domineering way, but in a biblical way]. Both of these experiences are something any husband and wife know well.

Upon Adam (Gen. 3:17-19):

The first observation is that with the serpent and Eve, the curse was borne directly upon them. But with the man, the curse was not immediately upon him, but upon the ground.

“Then to Adam He said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. "Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field; By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return."

Before the fall, the Hebrew term is labor. Post Gen. 3, the author only uses the Hebrew term for toil. There is something difficult about life. It will no longer work the way it was supposed to.

Adam was given the task of cultivating the earth. Now God has made it very difficult for him. Notice the symbol of “bread.” Before the Fall, God always provided food via tree. Now he has to toil to eat-- it requires work to make bread.

The greater point is that since Adam was the head of creation, the curse upon Him necessarily affects all of creation. He was the representative of creation, so now everything in creation is twisted.

Some further cursings on Adam:

- He was expelled from the garden (Gen. 3:22-24). This indicates the separation that now exists between God and man. Paradise is no longer our experience, but would need to be regained.

- Physical death now enters creation (Gen. 3:19).

- There is also a marring of the imago dei (Matt. 25:46; Rom. 1, 5; Eph. 4:18).


We passed over a lot of things in the fly-by, but that’s the basic biblical description of the Fall.

This is why everything is messed up.

This is why nothing is what it is supposed to be.

This is why death exists, and the death rate is 100%.

All of us feel the pangs of this reality today.

But the good news, is that built into Gen. 3, was also the promise that God had given (protoevangelion). We already have whispers of the Gospel.

God was going to send forth His seed, born of a woman, but to, then, crush the head of the Serpent (Gen. 3:15). This seed would reverse the curse.

This seed would be the One to restore the goodness of God’s creation.

So as you move along the axis of the biblical narrative, this whisper becomes louder and louder.

Once we get to the NT, this promise is fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ (Gal. 4:4-5).

He takes our Gen. 3 curse upon Himself. 

He promises to restore all things to what they were meant to be.

Now we simply await that great day, in which not only will all things be made good again, but be made perfect.

1 Jn. 3:2 - “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.”

So we will be made like God, but in a far better way then Eve could have ever desired.

The promise is not merely to return everything to a pre-Fall condition, but to recreate everything even better.

We will not merely be good and innocent, but, now, perfect and holy.


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