We are looking at the big story of the Bible in our theology column at the minute. Last week, we started with creation, when God made everything, and made it all good. This week, we step into the next chapter, when things begin to go wrong. This is the part of the story known as ‘The Fall’.
What went wrong?
Straight after the accounts of creation in Genesis 1–2, we read a story of life with God in the Garden, in the perfect world He has made. And we read of what happened there which led to the world going wrong. It’s a story many of us will be familiar with, of the forbidden fruit and the serpent and Eve and Adam eating and being sent from the Garden.
But what is this describing? What is the story beneath the story? Why does this story (whether figurative or literal) have such a profound impact on our world?
The ‘forbidden fruit’ is not just some arbitrary rule God enforces. This is the command:
“You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” (Gen 3:16b-17)
The ‘knowledge’ of good and evil is not just about the brain, knowing what’s right and wrong. They know this already, because God is with them and guides the way they live life in His presence. This is about the will, about choosing what is right and wrong, deciding how they think best to live. But that’s God’s job, His right, not theirs. Not ours.
Although the word is not used in Genesis 3, what’s being described is sin. Because sin is not simply a list of things that are wrong and that shouldn’t be done. It’s not breaking the rules. Sin is an attitude of the heart which refuses to let God be God, wants to live our own way and wants to be the one making the rules. Putting ourselves in the place that only God should have.
That is what went wrong.
Sin and us
The fallout from that act of setting the will against God and towards ourselves—and what God did to put it right—is what the rest of the Bible describes. But what are the consequences of sin? For us, and for the rest of the world?
The consequences for us are described in the verse we’ve already read: “in the day that you eat of it you shall die.” Death. This is the promised consequence of sin. A simple reading of Genesis shows that Adam and Eve did not physically die the day they ate the fruit, so this cannot be speaking of that. It speaks of something far worse: spiritual death.
Our life is designed to be lived in closeness with God. That is what makes us alive, truly alive. Sin, the rejection of God in favour of ourselves, makes us truly dead, cut off from that which gives life. We are estranged from God and the life He offers us.
In the Bible we see two truths being held side-by-side. The first is that we are born into sin, we inherit it and are born into that state of rebellion. The second is that each of us is personally sinful and accountable for our own actions and attitude. We are born into it, but still responsible for our own sin. We see both of these in Romans 5:12.
“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned” (Rom 5:12)
I am born into this state, and I am trapped in it, and I can do nothing to escape from it on my own. The language the Bible uses to describe it is severe: “dead in sin”, “slaves to sin”. Fundamentally, at my core, I am sinful. Made in the image of God with beauty woven into my being, but corrupted distorted. Sin is at the heart of who we all are.
It’s not a pleasant thought, but it is the way the Bible describes us.
Sin and the world
There are wider implications for our lives and our world, too. In the rest of Genesis 3, we see God’s first response to sin, and He makes several declarations about what life will be like now sin is in the world. Read Genesis 3:14-19 for the full picture.
In short, the consequence is that things are now broken. If relationship with God is meant to be central to all things and that has been broken, then the ripple effects of that are serious. Relationships with people are no longer close, but full of animosity. The relationship we can enjoy with the world itself is damaged, and we see the consequences of that every day.
Everything that was made good is now twisted and distorted. People now feel shame. Adam and Eve are ashamed, and try to cover their nakedness.
I’ve deliberately not tried to water this down, because we should feel the impact of the tragedy of sin, but we must always remember there is hope. It is God Himself who makes garments for them to cover up. He sees our sin and shame, and He begins to make a way for it all to be made right.
Next week, we’ll see the beginning of that plan.
This post was written by Dave Criddle (@DaveCriddle), the online pastor at Gold Hill. He has his own blog, Limping into Truth, if you want to read more of what he has written. For more in the theology column, head here.
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