“The Original Sin”
Lent One Sermon 2005| Genesis 3:1-24| Rev. Rolf Preus
Usually when we speak of original sin we are talking about the spiritual condition of everyone born into this world. On account of Adam’s fall we are all born sinful. We have sinful inclinations that are expressed in sinful actions. We love ourselves first and most. We care more about ourselves than we do about others. While we can easily discern God’s presence in this world by what He has made we do not honor Him as we should but make idols for ourselves to worship. The doctrine of original sin is fundamental to an understanding of the human race. We need a Savior. We need the Holy Spirit to bring us to our Savior. But we cannot understand this until we understand that we are by nature spiritually blind and dead and at enmity against the God who created us.
This morning let us consider the original sin as it happened. It did happen. The Book of Genesis records historical events as they happened. The theory of evolution requires billions of years for the human species to evolve from a primitive single-celled organism. Since this theory has gained widespread respectability in academic circles many theologians have tried to reinterpret Genesis so that it need no longer be taken literally as historical fact. But this is a dangerous thing to do. In Romans 5 St. Paul contrasts Adam to Christ. Adam’s sin and Christ’s obedience are set side by side. Adam’s sin makes the whole world sinners while Christ’s obedience makes the whole world righteous. Just as the sin and death that surround us all are rooted in real history, just so the forgiveness of sins and promise of everlasting life that we have in Christ are also rooted in real history. Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. It happened. Jesus withstood the temptations of the devil. It happened. Adam and Eve were banned from Paradise. By the resurrection of Christ the doors to Paradise are open again. The lives we are now living in our fallen bodies are joined to the history of our fall and to the history of our redemption.
God spoke to Adam before Eve was created and gave him a single command. Eve learned of this command from Adam. The only command they had was the command not to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The nature of sin is that it sets aside God’s word. God’s word said they must not eat of the fruit or they would die. Adam was to care for his wife with God’s word. Instead of Adam caring for Eve, he abdicated his duty as a man and stood by and watched as the tempter deceived her by his lies and led her into sin.
Sin sets aside God’s word. The temptation to sin is always a temptation to question God’s word. That’s how Satan began. He said to Eve, “Has God indeed said?” The first step is to raise a question about the word of God. Eve’s answer showed that God’s command was taken very seriously. They were not even to touch the fruit or they would die. Satan did not yet have her heart but he had her attention. When false teaching raises its voice it ought not to be heeded for a minute. When preachers or teachers call into question anything that God has said they ought to be avoided. Eve should have walked away. But she didn’t. Satan’s question led to the direct lie: “You will not surely die!” God said they would and now the devil was contradicting God. And there was Adam, Eve’s pastor, standing by mute.
God’s word authenticates itself. Faith comes by hearing, St. Paul says. In other words, we set aside reliance on any other sense and we rely exclusively on the words that God speaks. Temptation is different. When the devil tempts us, he doesn’t rely exclusively on his lie. He also relies on distractions to our other senses. The woman was enticed by what she saw: “The woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes.” That’s what she saw. Faith doesn’t look around to see. Faith listens intently to God’s word. But the tempter leads us away from God’s word to what we see and feel. Eve began to feel a desire for what God would not give. She placed her desire above the word of God.
This is why she fell for the lie. And the devil did lie. He said they would not die, but they did die when they chose evil. They died spiritually at that very moment and they died physically years later. The devil promised that they would be like God, knowing good and evil. But that was a false promise because to the extent that you know good you don’t know evil and to the extent that you know evil you don’t know good. The knowledge of good and evil comes from experience. When Adam and Eve had experienced only good they knew nothing at all of evil but their knowledge of good was far purer than our knowledge of good. Even after being born again and filled with the Holy Spirit our knowledge of good is only partial. The evil we know clouds the good and it will continue to do so until the day we die.
Their knowledge of evil gained them nothing. Instead, it changed them into sinners. And how do sinners deal with their sin? They cover it up! Adam and Eve saw that they were naked. They experienced guilt and shame. Immediately they covered it up. That the fig leaves were pathetically insufficient is obvious to us but they were desperate and that’s all they could think of doing. They covered up their sin and then when confronted with it they denied responsibility. Adam blamed the woman and God for giving him the woman. Eve blamed the serpent. The knowledge of sin doesn’t naturally lead to repentance. It leads to cover up. The knowledge of evil will always seek to cover up the evil. This is because it’s a knowledge that we cannot bear.
Sin brings judgment. God cursed the ground on account of Adam. He cursed the serpent. But he didn’t curse Adam and Eve. He judged them. The woman was judged. The woman’s glory in conceiving and nurturing new life would be marred by pain and labor. Before the fall into sin her submission to her husband brought her pure joy because there was nothing at all degrading in it. Now she would desire to rule over him, but he would rule over her. Every domestic conflict that comes from bullying husbands and bossy wives is God’s continuing judgment against the original sin. But the judgment of the man is even starker. The joy that comes from labor is never to be entirely pure again because every bit of labor brings a man only that much closer to the time when his body will die and begin to return to the dust from which it was made. Sin brings judgment. God judges. What should be pure joy is now an intolerable burden. The ground is cursed on account of Adam.
But even in judging them God placed them under His grace. The first words of judgment God spoke were His words of cursing the serpent. In cursing the serpent He promised forgiveness to the man and the woman. The seed of the woman who would bruise the head of the serpent while suffering the bruising of His heel is none other than Jesus Christ. Jesus would be born of a virgin and he would come into this world to do battle against the devil. His battle didn’t begin on the cross where He suffered for our sins. His battle included as well His resistance of the devil’s temptations. The life Jesus lived He lived in fulfillment of the first gospel promise that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head. Christ’s heal would be bruised. He would suffer and die. But as a man recovers from the venom of the viper on the third day, so the promised Savior would rise from the dead on the third day. The serpent’s head would be bruised. The source of his lies would be silenced. For when the second Adam obeyed and bore the sin of our disobedience the devil most certainly was silenced. The gospel silences him. It silences him by telling him that his plans to ruin the human race were thwarted. By his irrational hatred of God the devil sought to destroy what God loved the most. But God’s love for the human race was stronger than the devil’s hatred of God.
Love triumphs over hatred. Not as an abstract principle, but as the fundamental fact of human history. Jesus loved. This is what brought Him into the Virgin’s womb in the first place. He loved His Father who commanded Him to enter into this world to become our Savior. He loved us. His singleness of purpose in offering His obedience to His Father to replace our disobedience was driven by His love for us all.
We sinned in Adam’s fall. We cover up our sins by hiding behind a façade of righteousness as pathetically ineffective as fig leaves. We pass the blame on to others, including God himself. Women permit what falsely appears to be beneficial to silence God’s clear word about what is good and right and true. They follow after appearances instead of truth. They refuse to submit to their husbands and then blame their stubborn refusal on their husbands. Men whom God tells to care for their wives abdicate their responsibility as head of the home and leave religious matters to the exclusive concern of their wives. They think that manliness is expressed in running off on Sunday mornings to play games with men instead of bringing the family to church where the whole family belongs. Then to make matters worse, women invade the pulpits and claim that God put them there, basing this claim on nothing more than their own feelings. Churches imitate the original sin by ordaining women into the pastoral office!
Adam’s sin was in listening to his wife instead of God. That’s what the inspired text plainly says. He was to be her pastor and he failed to provide pastoral care. He stood by while the devil lied his way into his wife’s heart and deceived her. That was shameful. And it is shameful for women to be pastors in the church.
Adam’s death is our death and the fact that we die is proof that we share in Adam’s sin. We sing of the reality of death in the words of the hymn, “A failing breath and I in death’s strong grasp may lie.” Are we willing to face death? Lent culminates in Good Friday when the God of all Creation died at the hands of His fallen creatures. Death surrounds us everywhere. The cherubim stand with their flaming swords blocking the way into Paradise so that we cannot eat of the tree of life and live forever.
But the cross has become for us the tree of life and from its fruit we can eat. The fruit that grows from this tree takes away the knowledge of evil and renders us good and holy and clean. This fruit is the gospel promise that silences the double tongued lies of Satan. He would persuade us that we don’t belong to God because we have sinned and we are still bound by sin. But the gospel tells us this is not so. Our sin cannot dominate us because we belong to Him who took it away. The same body by which our sin was fully borne and thereby blotted out is put into our bodies. The same blood by which God’s judgment against us has been met is given to us to drink so that with Christ’s body and blood we receive true peace with God. Every single sin that flows from the original sin into thoughts, words, and deeds of sin is fully and finally forgiven. God’s perfect creation is restored. Eve is the mother of the living, not the dying. The curse is removed. The bloody skins of animals were not sufficient covering. God has clothed us in the blood and righteousness of His only Son.