A Biblical View of Sin
Exploring the fall of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, we saw that they were enticed with the prospect of making their own determination regarding what was good and evil rather than allowing God to make that determination. Their declaration of independence brought them what they were deceived into believing would not happen (death) while not providing what the serpent assured would be the consequence (be as God). My three-year-old granddaughter recently came home from Daily Vacation Bible School and said: “I have good news; the Bible says that I can do anything I want.” I am sure her teacher would shudder over the thought that she came home with such theology, but it illustrates the strength of the desire and how easily we are deceived into believing that it is “good news.”
The Lust for Autonomy
God created man with a desire for autonomy, understanding that in order for a relationship to exist between the Creator and the creature, man would have to place that desire under God’s authority. Instead we see the grotesque nature of his lust in attempting, in his own power, to transcend the narrowness of his existence.
The philosopher dreams of autonomous man creating a utopia that he controls. In Plato’s Republic, Socrates sought to give a blueprint for such a society. Lenin, deluded by the dreams of Marx and Engels, raised havoc for over seventy years in Russia and neighboring countries trying to marry autonomy and utopia. God created man in utopia with full control over creation and restrained only by his submission to God. It was not enough. Man will never be happy apart from usurping the throne of God. Man can never be content apart from unlimited power, even in utopia. This is the message of Genesis 3 and the essence of sin.
The end of the twentieth century revealed in the United States a direct ratio between affluence and discontentment, i.e. – the more we have, the more discontent we tend to be. Those who don’t have as much as others have are envious. They are angry, not because they are hungry and in want, but because they have failed to “cash in on the American Dream.” Those that do have more than others are discontent because they have learned that their wealth does not satisfy.
Affluence and discontentment manifest themselves in people being bored, preoccupied with their quest for autonomy. In those parts of the world where people do not have enough to eat, you don’t see teenagers with purple hair, tattoos, and rings in their tongues. Does it strike you that the more affluence we have, the more weird we become? We insist on unrestricted liberty and freedom from the consequences of our decisions. In reality, the two are mutually exclusive. It takes an act of the will to put limits on our appetites just as it requires an act of the will to submit to the authority of Christ.
God’s Antidote for Autonomy
“To the woman he said: ‘I will intensify the pangs of your childbearing; in pain shall you bring forth children. Yet your urge shall be for your husband, and he shall be your master.’ To the man he said: “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree of which I had forbidden you to eat, “Cursed be the ground because of you! In toil shall you eat its yield all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth to you, as you eat of the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face shall you get bread to eat, Until you return to the ground, from which you were taken; For you are dirt, and to dirt you shall return.’”
God uses pain as His strategy for stopping man in his quest to supplant Him. I watched my parents as they lived through World War I, a depression, World War II, the Korean War, etc. They did not have the time or energy to give themselves for such nonsense as self-fulfillment, self-realization and self-actualization. Pain and opposition distract, causing a person to focus on survival.
So God brought opposition into the life of Adam and Eve. God had previously given Adam the garden to tend, but now he would be opposed in his labor. He faced “thorns and thistles,” requiring him to “sweat.” For her part, Eve would sorrow in childbearing and look to her husband for provision.
Note two extremes in life: Man seeks to be the god of his universe and finds himself discontent when his goal is frustrated. At the same time, man faces war, poverty, disease, and perpetual opposition, causing him to be preoccupied with coping. We see this in the OT portrayal of Israel. The nation was never closer to God than when in pain, and you find that from their entrance into Canaan through Joshua, until the Babylonian Captivity, there never lived a generation that did not war.
Adam and Eve doubted two things – that God’s prohibition was in their interest, and that His will was unconditional and binding. Their progeny inherited the same two doubts. The only ultimate solution to this dilemma (if a person does not want to live in perpetual pain and opposition and die alienated from God) is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, made possible by the death of Jesus Christ.
Note the four consequences of eating the forbidden fruit:
1 – They became aware of their nakedness and sought to hide it. Sin produces guilt resulting in an endeavor to hide. Seeking to hide something isn’t necessarily the result of sin, but when accompanied with guilt, it almost certainly is.
2 – They hid at the approach of God. Jesus makes this same observation: “For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.” Intrinsic to sin is a sense of shame. Without sin Adam and Even had nothing to hide. People want to hide what they deem wrong. With the transgression came a loss of innocence. When a man loses his sense of shame when sinning, he quickly falls beyond the pale of redemption.
3 – When confronted, they resorted to subterfuge in explaining their actions to God. One of the indicators of sin is an unwillingness to admit the truth. Although excuses are not always an indication of sin, often they are.
4 – The were driven from the Garden of Eden. Not only did Adam and Even have to live under the penalty of God, so also their progeny. In our next issue we will take a closer look at the imputed sin of Adam; here we merely note that when Adam fell, God put the human race on trial and condemned it because of Adam’s sin.
In part, you see the power of the Genesis story in man’s ability to identify with his parents. Most, if not all, acknowledge that given the same situation as Adam, they too would succumb to the serpent’s temptation. The mature will seeks to avoid being called to account by God. The uncontrolled intellect is in conflict with a relationship with God. Freedom of the will and thought, characteristics of being created in God’s image, becomes the fertile ground of sin. Man is like a schoolboy, who when discovered, in the act of wrongdoing, is defiant and full of evasions – and yet convicted in his heart.
Life consists of pain and opposition. You can easily conclude that if pain and opposition did not exist, you would not sin. Although it is true that much evil comes in seeking to avoid pain and opposition in the wrong way, Genesis 3 intends to show that the opposite is the case. In an environment free of pain and opposition, man rebelled. Pain and opposition are not the cause of sin, but the antidote; without them man would be irretrievably lost. The lust for autonomy is the generic problem of which acts of disobedience are symptoms. Pain and opposition move man from autonomy to dependence.
In Genesis 4-11 we see the results of Adam’s sin. These chapters form, not a study of its origin, or a reflection regarding its nature, but the history of that sin. The narrative, however, does give helpful insight into the cause and nature of sin.
We see the universal nature of sin before the Flood in God’s words: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
We see the universal nature of sin after the Flood in these words: “And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.”
Judgment does not eliminate sin. People will not stop sinning because they are in hell. Only the grace of our Lord Jesus can bring our propensity to sin into check – by beginning the process of redemption in this life and bringing it to completion in the life to come.
Eager for His return,
 Genesis 3:16-19
 Cf. Genesis 2:15
 Cf. Genesis 3:7
 Cf. Genesis 3:8
 John 3:20-21
 Genesis 3:10-13
 Genesis 3:23
 Genesis 6:5
 Genesis 8:21