We are drawing to an end to this series as we walk through our local church’s belief statement. We’ve taken the time to look at the foundation of ministry at The Church at Sunsites and have prepared the way for this new chapter in the local church’s life. I am excited and hopeful about the future as we love one another, as we stimulate one another to love and good deeds, and as we seek to care for our community and the world for the glory of God alone. I continue to be encouraged by you generosity, by your desire to reach our community, and by your yearning for the unadulterated word of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
This morning, I just want to have a heart-to-heart conversation with you. During the course of our ministry together (hopefully years to come), we will come into contact with people with vastly different belief systems. Not even every Christian believes that God is absolutely sovereign in all things. We will interact with and be around the worst of sinners. People will be concerned with and addicted to things that are less than the Gospel. By their nature, people will sometimes not be as respectful or moral as we think they ought to be. This is my challenge to us as we move forward. If Christ died for us while we were still sinners, do we not have the privilege in Christ of practicing benevolence and unmerited compassion for those who are outside of our community of faith, who are immoral, and who believe differently than we do? In our own belief statement, we make these professions:
WE BELIEVE that every person must be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect, and dignity. Hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual are to be repudiated and are not in accord with Scripture or the doctrines of the church. We believe that the faithful proclamation of the Scripture, including the call to repentance, does not constitute hate speech, or hateful and harassing behavior, but is instead a fundamental part of the church’s loving mission to the world (Mat. 28:16–20; 2 Cor. 5:11–20; 1 Tim. 1:5; 2 Tim. 4:1–2).
WE BELIEVE that God offers redemption and forgiveness to all who confess and forsake their sin, including sexual sin, seeking His mercy and forgiveness through Jesus Christ. We believe His forgiveness is total and complete (Ps. 103:11–12, 130:3–4; Is. 43:25, 44:22; John 5:24; Col. 2:13–14) and that God imputes the full righteousness of Christ (2 Cor. 5:21) to the believing sinner. We believe that the forgiven sinner has been cleansed from the guilt of sin, set apart unto God, or made holy, and justified before Him (1 Cor. 6:9–11). We believe that any man or woman who has received that forgiveness is “in Christ” and is a “new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17).
This being our year of evangelism, we ask these questions: What is this thing called redemption, and how are people to be treated here in response to the amazing truth of the Gospel?
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”
The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.
Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?”
He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.”
And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”
The man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
Cursed are you more than all cattle,
And more than every beast of the field;
On your belly you will go,
And dust you will eat
All the days of your life;
And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.”
To the woman He said,
“I will greatly multiply
Your pain in childbirth,
In pain you will bring forth children;
Yet your desire will be for your husband,
And he will rule over you.”
Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;
Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
“Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field;
By the sweat of your face
You will eat bread,
Till you return to the ground,
Because from it you were taken;
For you are dust,
And to dust you shall return.”
Now the man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them. Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken. So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.
In Genesis 1-2, we read that God created in the beginning and that He inserted His own image into His creation. Last week we saw that the crown of creation, humanity, was a representation of God’s own glory. People were created in God’s image, which meant they were like God. God is righteous so people were naturally inclined toward their own righteousness, which was not the righteousness of God. If all of creation was to dwell in God’s righteousness alone, people’s righteousness would need to be covered in the righteousness of God alone while also being God’s image in God’s own creation for God’s glory alone. From the start, we see two righteousnesses. There is the righteousness of God, which is true righteousness. There is the righteousness of people, who were created in God’s image but who were not God. It is the person’s natural state in the creation. Paul would refer to this form of righteousness as unrighteousness and ungodliness in the book of Romans. It is why, even before sin entered the world through Adam, Eve misquoted God’s law (comp. Genesis 2:17 and 3:3).
Babies don’t really have the best reasoning faculties. There is this small step that goes down from my parent’s kitchen into their living room. Elijah just learned that he could crawl. He had no idea that, because of his nature, he could bring harm to himself. Because I did not desire that he continue to live without understanding, I chose not to stop him from toppling off the small step. This is what it means to be good parents, and there are some things that can only be learned by experience. Ask me sometime about how I learned those old cigarette lighters in vehicles were actually hot (it wasn’t recent, I promise). God is a good, good Father who desires that His children understand who He is and who they are, being created in His image.
The book of Romans is Paul’s broad commentary on the Old Testament. Paul was a Pharisee who put much time, effort, and, I imagine, frustration into understanding the Old Testament with great precision. He testifies in Philippians 3:6 that He was blameless according to the Law. Paul dedicates half of a chapter in Romans (9 verses) to describe why sin was introduced to the world through Adam. Paul’s first 11 chapters are devoted to explaining God’s work of salvation through human sin. I, myself, have taken much of my Christian life to wrestle with why God would seemingly introduce sin into the world. When we look at Genesis 3, we do not try to guess what was going on. We do not base our answer on human experience or recent philosophy. We use the Bible to interpret the Bible. The Apostle Paul, who was a student of the Old Testament and through whom God inspired much of the New Testament explains it for us.
First, Paul recognized that all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). This means explicitly that Adam’s sin and the following consequences were worked together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His own purpose. Second, Paul recognized that it is God who has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy on all (Romans 11:32). This means that God had given this command in the Garden to Adam for the purpose of shutting up humanity in disobedience so that He might have mercy on humanity. Human sin is the mechanism by which God shows mercy to all. God did not sin. We have to make that clarification, but God handed people over to their own unrighteous nature by giving the Law (Romans 1:24, 5:20).
This is not Andrew’s interpretation. It is not John Piper’s or John MacArthur’s interpretation. It is not Augustine’s or Luther’s or Calvin’s interpretation. This is how the Bible interprets and clarifies Genesis 3. I want to take a few moments and look at Romans 5:12-21, where Paul describes Adam’s role in God’s plan of redemption.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many.
The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Do we see how Paul exposits Genesis 3? I will highlight only some of the details here, particularly in verse 19:
- Adam was the federal head of creation (we discovered this last week).
- Adam sinned because he was handed over to disobedience (Romans 11:32).
- Through Adam’s disobedience, the many were made sinners.
- So through Christ’s obedience, the many were made righteous.
Paul understood sin to be this thing that was imputed to the person (v. 13). Sin was not imputed without a law. Sin was imputed through disobedience in order to reveal humanity’s unrighteous nature (we covered this on February 24 as we explained that part of our belief statement, Ephesians 2:1-10, Romans 1:18). The Law being given to increase the trespass (v. 20) means that God’s plan was for His people to dwell in His glory by grace alone from before the foundation of the world. He’s always been working this out! That is why the fall was necessary. Without the fall, we would have existed forever without being clothed in Christ’s righteousness alone, or having His righteousness imputed to us. We would have lived to our own glory when by design creation is to glorify God alone. This is God’s purpose, and this will help us to think about Genesis 3:22-24 when we get there in a moment.
Redemption (v. 21)
We get to verse 21. This is after Adam’s rebellion against God, after sin comes through him to reveal human nature and after God describes the consequences to Adam and his wife, Eve. People were still responsible because people made the choice to sin. They were enslaved to their nature. God simply and purposefully gave the command. Some people will try to force a contradiction, here. There is no contradiction. If our nature is unrighteous, we will always choose that which accords with our nature.
“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.”
This is no insignificant detail. There was a reason that the entire sacrificial system in the Mosaic Law would be developed. There is a reason Christ came to have His body broken and blood spilled. Sin was imputed through disobedience so that people would recognize and understand their ungodly nature. God provided adequate clothing to represent His imputed righteousness for His people. We receive the very righteousness of God through the obedience of Jesus Christ (Romans 5:19).
This is why we say in our belief statement that every person needs to be afforded compassion, love, kindness, respect, and dignity; that hateful and harassing behavior or attitudes directed toward any individual are to be repudiated and are not in accord with Scripture or the doctrines of the church. By God’s own example, sins are covered and forgiveness is given. It is not conditional upon anything that we have done or upon our attitudes or upon our demeanors. This is what it means for us to be concerned with redemption, and God set the example. So, no matter your sin, our resolve is unmerited compassion for you. Where compassion is lacking, we strive to address that faithfully to the Scriptures that God has given for the good of everyone, especially His people. If we are critical of everything or accusatory in our speech, we prove not to be in line with Scripture’s doctrine of redemption. Let us check ourselves according to the good word of God and God Himself is the covering over our unrighteousness.
“For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly… God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son” (Romans 5:6, 8, 10).
In verses 22-24, people have recognized and understood their nature. It is ungodly. People became like God in the sense that they were now able to see their own nature- knowing good and evil. People lived in shame because their perceived righteousness was not the righteousness of God. They would not live forever in this condition. God’s plan from the beginning was the redemption of His people. People would not live forever on God’s earth without having God’s righteousness imputed to them for God’s glory alone. Sin was imputed and eternal life reserved so that we might come to dwell in God’s righteousness. Now, those who are in Christ are loosed from sin, have Christ’s righteousness imputed to them, and are bought back from death. That is redemption, and it is holistically a work of God according to the Bible.