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one little sin

A discussion came up in a Bible study group the other night about Adam’s sin.  As we studied Genesis chapter 3, the feeling was expressed that it was just one sin, and it was a rule about not eating from a certain tree.  Was God’s response, “you shall surely die”, over the top?  Really, was it all that serious?  Just one sin?

It was indeed that serious because, among other things, there was only one prohibition for them to heed.  God's design for them at creation was simple.  Positively, they were to reflect God's image in their relationships, in reproduction, and by ruling over and caring for God's creation.  Negatively, there was the one prohibition: not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Gen. 3)  So, in disobeying God they transgressed the only prohibition that they needed to obey.  In a sense they "broke every law in the book." There was a totality of rejection toward God in their action.  

In that one sin of Adam (along with Eve) there was a number of serious issues that we see better in the light of God's moral law revealed later.  If we compare Adam’s sin to God’s Law as revealed in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) we can see that all of them were broken in Genesis 3.  [I'm indebted to the the puritan pastor Thomas Watson who wrote about this in his work, A Body of Divinity.  

"You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3 ESV)  Adam and Eve did not believe the word of their loving Creator, nor did they trust his good intentions.  They believed and obeyed the serpent, who by his enticement was seeking to supplant God as God.  They gave in to the temptation of pride in wanting to “be like God”, that is, they didn't want to be “godly” (which is good), but to be "godlike", aspiring to be autonomous and taking the place of God.  The good world that God created was to be a place where he alone would reign as Lord.     

"You shall not make for yourself a carved image, ... You shall not bow down to them or serve them...”  (20:4, 5)  The first human couple yielded to to the creature (the serpent), instead of ruling over creation.  They also allowed the appearance of, and desire for, the fruit of the tree to influence them. They thus became idolatrous, and “exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” (Romans 1:23).  In God's design humans were created to worship him and not bow down before other creatures or things. 

"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain” (20:7).  The honor of God's name and word was not upheld.  Eve seems to have taken God’s warning lightly and misquoted the command that God gave Adam.  They were careless about what God had revealed to them.  Adam and Eve did not believe in God, to uphold him as holy in the eyes of creation (see Num. 20:12).  In God's design for creation, his name and character and words were to be glorified, not taken vainly.  

"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work...  (20:8-9)  Adam was charged with the care and protection of the holy and peaceful order of Eden.  When Eve was tempted, Adam was “with her” but not involved in any form of resistance.  He seemed to be passive,  not working to guard his wife and the garden from evil.  In God's design for creation, humans (and especially men) are to work to protect God's honor and truth in the world.   

"Honor your father and your mother...”  (20:12)  Adam and Eve did not give due honor to God as their Father and Creator, and did not show respect for his authority.  Through their disobedience they dishonored and rejected God.  In God's created order, rightful authority from God is a good thing and is to be heeded. 

"You shall not murder.”  (20:13)  Adam was a covenant head for humanity.  He represented an entire race yet to come.  He not only allowed his wife to experience death but he brought it upon the whole race of humankind, and upon the creation under his care.  (Romans 8:21-22)  God's design is for life not death:  "And this is the promise that he made to us--eternal life."  (1 John 2:25)  

"You shall not commit adultery.”  (20:14)   Adultery involves breaking a covenant vow, or being disloyal to the one closest to you.  Adam and Eve were in covenant relationship with God.  They – like adulterers – were unfaithful to the one who loved them most and who provided all things for them.  God's creation was to be a world where commitment and faithfulness prevailed. 

"You shall not steal.”  (20:15)  In taking the fruit, they took what was not theirs to take.  It was God’s creation, God’s world, God’s garden.  Adam and Eve were to be stewards and care-takers.  They were not owners, and the fruit from that tree was not theirs to take.  God's creation is, and his new creation will be, the inheritance of his people, and yet, all things still ultimately belong to God as Creator and Redeemer.  

"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” (20:16).  The serpent blatantly lied to Eve about God's command, and about the intention behind the command.  She was deceived.  Adam did not give due regard to the truth of God's word, and did not intervene to defend the truthfulness of God's  character.  The couple then went on to blame others for their failure.  This world was to be, and the new world to come will be, a place of truth and truth-telling.
"You shall not covet.” (20:17)  In their pride and ambition they sought to have (and to be) what God did not desire for them to have (and to be).  They were not satisfied with what God had provided for them.  They were not content to trust God in innocent and childlike dependency.  For all that is in the world--the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions--is not from the Father but is from the world.”  (1 John 2:16 ESV)  God created this world to be a place of contentment, enjoyment, gratitude, and the giving of thanks.  

Embedded in that one, “little” transgression were the seeds of all the sad misery that the world would ever come to face.  The good creation was shattered in so many ways through the "one little sin".  This fragmented world could only be healed by the second Adam, Jesus Christ.  Only he -- the God-man -- could give perfect obedience to all of God’s law, and by his substitutionary death for all our sin and guilt, he alone could undo what Adam and Eve had brought into the world.  

And his righteousness is also multifaceted.  The gift of Christ's righteousness gives us forgiveness, healing, reconciliation and peace with God, freedom, holiness, restoration of relationships, joy, purpose, and eternal life.  His grace alone is greater than all our sin!     

Painting above is from Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo.


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