Consequences Back to all sermons

Date: March 18, 2011

Speaker: Pastor Cameron Arensen

Series: In the Beginning

Category: Friday

Scripture: Genesis 3:1–3:24

Tags: serpent, Fall of Man

When I was growing up, our family had book of Bible stories for children which included, every few pages, a full color picture. I used to enjoy paging through the book looking at these pictures. I can still remember some of them. One that stands out in my memory comes from the conclusion of Genesis 3. It showed Adam and Eve leaving the Garden of Eden. Their heads are down and they are weeping. Behind them stands an angel, barring their return to the Garden.

As our sermon title this morning, I have chosen a single word. It is the word: CONSEQUENCES. Consequences. I have chosen the title carefully and deliberately. I have chosen it because it is my desire that if you take nothing else away from this sermon, you will take away this clear realization: Sin has consequences. We live in a world and in a time in which we are constantly bombarded with Satan’s lies, and the chief among his lies is the lie that we can do as we please, we can sin as much as we want, and there will be no consequences. This was the lie that Satan told Eve in the Garden of Eden: “You will certainly not die.” So she ate. And Adam ate. And their sin had drastic and disastrous consequences, not only for them but for their descendants and for the creation as a whole.

After a month’s break, we are coming back to our series in the first 11 chapters of the Book of Genesis. This is our second message on Genesis chapter 3. In the first message, we examined the chapter from the perspective of a case study in the dynamics of temptation and Satan’s strategy. If you missed that message, I would encourage you to go the church website and either read it or listen to it. In today’s message, as promised, we will look at the chapter from the perspective of the Fall of Man and the tragic consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin.

This is a very important chapter in Scripture for understanding the fundamental doctrines about man and the state of the world in which we live. What is the nature of man? What’s wrong with the world? How did we get into this mess we’re in? The answers are to be found right here in Genesis 3.

As we focus on the second half of the chapter, we are going to examine the consequences of Adam and Eve’s choice and actions in the first 13 verses. We will look at the consequences for the Serpent, for Eve, for Adam and for the world.

Let’s consider first the consequences for the serpent.

14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The question that confronts us immediately in God’s words is whether this pronouncement is being made against the serpent as an animal, or against Satan who used the serpent as his vehicle for the purpose of tempting Eve. The answer, I believe, is both. Verse 14 looks specifically at the creature. He is compared and contrasted to the other animals. The serpent is condemned to crawling in the dust. This leaves us with the intriguing question of what the serpent looked like before this, and how he navigated before God’s judgment. This must remain in the realm of speculation. But from that time to this, snakes have slithered along the ground as a perpetual reminder and object lesson of the tragic events in the Garden of Eden.

In verse 15, I believe God’s words have a double reference, both to the serpent as an animal and to Satan as the Tempter. The reference to the enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman is fulfilled in the very common phobia and abhorrence that many people feel toward snakes. Apart from the occasional “Crocodile Hunter” character, most of us have a natural fear of snakes. I thought about illustrating this by having someone release a snake here in the congregation this morning and watching the reaction. Well, actually I didn’t seriously think about it – but your reaction to the idea illustrates my point!

In the second half of the verse, however, it becomes clear that God’s words have a deeper and more profound application. He will crush your head, and you will strike his heel. The seed or offspring in view is no longer a collective group of descendants, but rather a single individual; one who will strike the final and fatal blow to the head of the Serpent, while also receiving a painful blow. We will come back to the significance of this verse later in the message. For now, it is sufficient to point out that God here prophecies the final defeat and judgment of Satan.

In verse 16, God spells out the consequences for the woman.

16 To the woman he said,
“I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing;
with pain you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”

The first thing God announces is that for women, the whole process of procreation, pregnancy and child-bearing will now be accompanied by great pain and suffering. From the monthly menstrual cycle that is sometimes referred to as “the curse”, to morning sickness in pregnancy, to the actual labor pains of the birth event, child bearing is a painful exercise. And this is when all goes well! To this we can add the emotional pain when things go wrong and the process is painfully short-circuited through a miscarriage, a still-birth or even the death of mother and/or child during birth.

The second part of the verse is more difficult to interpret. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. The confusion comes from the ambiguity of the original word translated “desire”. According to one lexicon, “this strong desire may refer to sexual urges or desires, or a desire to dominate, or just be independent of the man.” The word is used only two other times in the Old Testament. It is used in the Song of Solomon to describe the longing of the bridegroom for his bride. But in the other use in Genesis, Genesis 4:7, it describes sin and its desire to control or dominate Cain.

Because of the context of judgment and consequences for sin in Genesis 3, I believe the second use in Genesis 4 more closely parallels the meaning here in 3:16. According to this interpretation God is here describing the origin of the perpetual “battle of the sexes.” The woman will desire to control her husband or be independent of him, but the actual outcome would be otherwise: the man will rule over the woman. And so it has been throughout the history of the human race. Men, primarily because of their greater physical strength, have ruled over and dominated women, and it has not been a relationship of love or respect or harmony as God intended or as Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden. Instead it has been a relationship of conflict and stress and even tyranny, all too often spilling over into abuse and physical violence.

As we look at this verse, please remember; this is not marriage or the relationship between the genders as God designed it or as God desires it to be. For that we must go back to Genesis 2 when the man and the woman were both naked and unashamed, in perfect harmony with one another and with God. Or we must go to Ephesians 5, to see the redeemed husband loving his wife as Christ loved the church and the redeemed wife submitting to her husband as to the Lord. What we have in Genesis 3:16 is not the ideal, but the reality of what relationships between the genders became as a consequence of sin: a tug of war between sinful people; a tug of war which the woman most often loses to her harm and heartache. This is not to say that this is a description of every marriage – even of every marriage between people who do not follow Christ. Even a marriage between two unbelieving people may carry the remnant of the original design, and traces of the lost ideal. But if we take the broadest strokes of anthropology and of sociology and of history, we find that domination by men and the abuse and degradation of women has been a common theme of the human story ever since that day in the Garden. It came as a result of sin, and is a reflection of the sinfulness of the human heart.

Next, we come to the consequences for the man in verse 17.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life.
18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.”

Instead of the serenity of the fruitful garden which the man was to tend with joy and pleasure, Adam is told that his work will now be painful toil. It is the same word that is used to describe the woman’s labor pains. Work itself is not part of the curse, but it is the painful, frustrating nature of work, in which the very ground itself seems to fight back with thorns and thistles. Man’s life was to become one long cycle of painful toil just to rip enough food from the earth to survive.

I observed this reality very graphically on two occasions recently; first during our trip to Egypt, as we traveled along the banks of the Nile, we saw farmers working in their fields, using methods and implements that were centuries old; methods and implements that required back-breaking labor. Then during my visit to India last month among the rice paddies and coconut plantations, I viewed it in the work itself and the weary expressions on the farmer’s faces at the end of the day; the painful reality of sin’s consequences. And it is not just the work itself, but the uncertainty of having anything to show for one’s work. While in India, I heard about the recent floods in one area that had damaged the crops. One farmer complained of losing over two thirds of his crop of onions due to the flooding; a season of work, with little to show for it. Once again, it is not work itself which constitutes the curse, but the painful difficulty linked with the frequent futility of the toil which changed work from blessing to curse as a result of the Fall.

And what does man have to look forward to at the end of his long life of toil? After a lifetime of wrestling his food from the ground, his body will also return to the ground and to the dirt from which it was made. Here God makes clear the inevitability of death which will now be man’s lot as a result of their sin in the Garden of Eden. As Paul tells us in Romans 5:12: …sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men…

So we have looked at the effects of the Fall of man on the serpent, on the woman and on the man. Before we move on, I want to look at the effects of the Fall on the creation as a while. There is no separate pronouncement about the world in God’s words. But in the pronouncement of the curse against Adam, God says: Cursed is the ground because of you. He goes on to elaborate the effects of this curse on the man’s labor. But there is a parallel passage in Romans 8 which tells us how far reaching the effects of the Fall of man were upon the creation as a whole.

In Romans 8:19-22 we read these words:

19 The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.

We know that in Genesis 1, man was given the responsibility of dominion – of ruling over the earth; of being God’s vice-regent over the creation. From these verses in Romans, we learn that when man sinned; when he obeyed the words of the Serpent and of his wife rather than the words and commands of God, the whole creation was affected. It was “subjected to frustration.” It was brought into “bondage to decay.” From that time to this, “the whole creation has been groaning.” The world we see around us is not the world as God created it. Just over a week ago, the creation gave another mighty groan as the earth shook in Japan and the tsunami swept in to cause such terrible devastation. Every “natural disaster” we experience or read about is not “natural” at all, but the result of a frustrated world, groaning and in bondage as a result of the Fall of man.

This is true in global catastrophes. It is also true of the lesser losses that affect us personally. Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes of a young boy who came to him in tears because of the death of his pet dog. During their discussion, the boy said: “I really scolded Adam and Eve today, because of they hadn’t eaten the apple, Herr Wolf (the name of his dog) would not have died.” It may sound trivial, but the young boy got it right. All the death and dying which is so much a part of the “natural order” is not natural at all, but a result of sin.

In addition to the long-standing, global consequences of their sin, Adam and Eve also experienced some very immediate and very personal consequences. In verses 22-24 we read:

22 And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” 23 So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. 24 After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.

Adam and Eve had lost their innocence. They now knew good and evil, not just theoretically but by personal experience. If they had now taken from the tree of life, they would have lived forever in this diminished and fallen state. So God drove them from the Garden. The word is a strong one, indicating that they left reluctantly and sadly.

Genesis 3 tells a tragic story; one that affects every facet of our lives every day that we live. It explains so much about life and the world in which we live. And it is not a pretty story. But before we leave this dark and gloomy chapter, I want to point out three bright rays of hope; three threads of grace which are woven into the dark fabric of the story.

The first one we already touched on in God’s words to the Serpent in verse 15: And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.

This verse has been called the “protoevangel” or the “first Gospel.” It is the first prophecy of a Savior. Who is this “offspring” or seed of the woman who will crush the Serpent’s head? In Galatians 4:4 we read these words:  But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law,

Did you get that? God’s Son, “born of a woman”. The seed of the woman, come to crush the Serpent’s head. This Son of God is Jesus, sent to “save his people from their sins.” Even in God’s stern words of judgment, there are words of promise and of grace.

The second ray of hope in Genesis 3 is found in verse 20:  Adam named his wife Eve,because she would become the mother of all the living. Even in their despair there is the note of hope. In spite of the pain that would now accompany childbirth, Eve would give birth. She would produce offspring, seed. She is the mother of all living, and from among her offspring there would come the One who would be the Savior of the world, and who would undo the effects of the Fall and cause the downfall of Satan’s kingdom.

The third ray of hope in this chapter is found in verse 21:  The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. It was an act of incredible grace. It was a very practical act of care, but also one that was powerful in symbolism. He clothed them with garments to cover their nakedness and the sense of shame which had descended upon them because of their sin. But notice how he did it. Instead of fig leaves, he used “garments of skin”. Where did these garments of skin come from? Something had to die. This is the first instance of death in the Scripture and in the creation. Blood was shed to provide garments to cover their shame. It is a picture of a salvation yet future and a sacrifice yet to come, when the blood of the precious Lamb of God would be shed on a cross to provide us, the sinful descendants of Adam and Eve, with garments of righteousness.

Even in despair there is hope. Even in our sin, there is the promise of a Savior. Even in our guilt there is the promise of a sacrifice for our sin to restore us to right standing with our Creator God. And in our salvation, there is hope and a future for the world in which we live. Did you pick that up in the passage we read from Romans 8?

The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

When our salvation is complete, and the sons of God are revealed, the effects of the Fall on the creation will also be reversed and set aside. The creation itself will be liberated and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. There is a vivid picture of this in C.S. Lewis’ book and the film, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. In the story, the kingdom of Narnia has been in the grip of a long winter, where it was, in Lewis’ classic prose, “always winter and never Christmas.” But after the resurrection of Aslan, the lion, the Christ figure in the story, the ice and the snow of perpetual winter began to melt. Creatures that had been turned to stone sprang back to life. True spring came to Narnia. That is wonderful picture of what the creation is looking forward to. By the promise of Almighty God, the God of Creation, it will happen. What remains to be determined is whether you will be a part. Will you be one of the children of God who will be revealed on that great day?

If you are not certain of the answer to that question, listen to the words of John 1:12: Yet to all who received him (referring to Jesus, the Son of God, the Seed of the woman), to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—

QUESTIONS FOR THOUGHT AND DISCUSSION

You shouldn’t have trouble finding things to discuss from this passage or message. But here are a few questions to get you started:

  1. We live with the consequences of the sin of Adam and Eve every day of our lives:

    • Give examples of pain for women in the process of procreation and childbirth.
    • Give examples from history and/or your culture of man’s tyranny over women.
    • Give examples of the back-breaking nature and/or futility of man’s work. (Have you ever heard of “Murphy’s Law”? How do you thing it relates to the Fall?)
  2. Think of some ways Jesus showed His friendship to His disciples, after discussing various scriptures, look at how He treated Judas Iscariot differently to the other disciples, think about How God views our mistakes based on these instances.

  3. John 15:13-15 - Jesus describes friendship based on obedience, What are some things we can practically do that show this obedience.

  4. Based on Acts 21 and the preceding context, how were James and Paul's views different on faith and works?