Origin of Sin
Course: A Guide to Christian Theology
Lecture: Origin of Sin
This is the 17th lecture in the online series of lectures on a Guide to Christian Theology by Dr Breshears. Recommended Reading includes: Biblical References from the Course and Study Guides 1 – 39.
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I. Eve and the Serpent
When we look at the story in Genesis, we see Adam and Eve coming from the direct creative work of God. In chapter 3, we see them married and in fellowship with God and doing things with God and then a serpent shows up. When you read the Genesis story, you see that this serpent is more crafty than an animal; so who is this serpent and where does he come from? It’s the Book of Revelation that tells us what the serpent is; that is it is devil, but we are not told that in the Book of Genesis. See in the Book of Genesis a lot things that we would like to know more of, yet the information isn’t available for us. Obviously God doesn’t want us to know certain things or rather he doesn’t consider certain things important enough for us to know. The key word that the serpent used is ‘really!’ Did God really say that? This is the heart of what happens with the serpent; he is actually questioning what kind of God would do that? So as Eve and the serpent spoke to each other, if you eat from this tree, you will die. She adds a phrase, ‘you should not touch it.’ So in the dialogue, we ask ourselves, ‘who is not in this conversation?’ Adam wasn’t there in the conversation and neither was God. A characteristic of sin in this story is that we start talking about God instead of with God. We sort of try to write theology without our Bible being open or create the understanding of God without asking God what he says about it. Eve tries to justify God to the serpent and it doesn’t go very well. Within the conversation, the serpent says, ‘you are not going to die!’ God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God. Isn’t that good to be like God? The serpent’s tactics haven’t changed; he wants to isolate us from people and God, thinking of God from our own perspective. Is God meeting my needs?
You are not going to die! Instead you will be like him. Now, understand, the serpent doesn’t question the existence of God. He’s isn’t even questioning the power of God or God’s authority over us. The serpent is only questioning the goodness of God. If you do what God wants you to do, will it work out well for you? He is questioning whether or not God really cares about Eve. Are we just a pawn in God’s hands? He is actually giving a different explanation of God. You will be like him, the serpent says. Satan is instead saying that he is the one that has her best interest in mind and he is telling Eve to find out for herself. So in verse 6, ‘so 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 to be desired in order to make her wise, she took of its fruit and ate and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.’ Her decision was based on the tree looking like all the other trees and if she eats from it, it will make her wise. She is looking at reality independently thinking that if I do it my way, it is better. The irony of this, Eve was already like God. The progressive of sin that took place was isolation and self-serving and self-centered. The garden was a place of Shalom, of peace but sin disrupted it. A good definition of sin is anything that disrupts Shalom.
II. The Essence of Sin
There are a lot of questions as to what the heart of sin is. Part of the sin of Eve, she believed something about God that was false and then acting on it. It is doing things from her own perspective instead of the perspective of God. Sin came from the serpent that had already rebelled against God in that angelic realm. The serpent comes and tests and tempts Eve and Adam and they act apart from God. The ultimately origin of sin is a mystery; we don’t know. So the heart of sin or its essence is that which disrupts Shalom. So the beginning of sin is when I start to believe something about God that is false. It is something that isolates me and makes be self-centered and self-serving and trusting myself instead of trusting God. God told both of them that the tree was dangerous, it is a bad tree. He says, trust me, it is not good for you, but instead of trusting God, Eve thinks that she needs to check it out herself. She ended up trusting the serpent and her own perception more than God. And of course, we are no different, as we do it all the time. The heart of sin is curved in upon ourselves and judging things from the point of now and it has to do with who you trust with the realities of life. We come to the point in thinking that God doesn’t care. So I think sin is fundamentally relational. It is betrayal, it is not trusting, it does not believe. First of all, it is a betrayal of a relationship more than a breaking of a command. The commands of God always come out of a relationship with God. The worst aspect of sin is the breaking of trust.
So, what does God do? Beginning in verse 7, ‘then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin-cloths. And 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.’ They are now hiding from God as spiritual death has arrived. God knows that they have sinned even though the story doesn’t say it. When he comes, he calls to the man, ‘where are you’? Why does he ask this if he already knows? I think that God is inviting confession from them. It is a spiritual question. Adam does well in answering God. ‘I heard you and I was afraid because I was naked.’ Then God ask a very important question, ‘who told you that you were naked?’ Before sin, they were naked and not ashamed but now they are naked and full of shame. This helps us identify the source of our belief. It certainly wasn’t God who told them that they were naked. This belief that they were naked and ashamed wasn’t coming from God. It was coming from self, from the serpent and from the world around us. When we build our identity from something other than God, we are going to error greatly. We have to start with God’s identity. Adam doesn’t do very well in answering the question as he blames it all on Eve and on God as he says, ‘the woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.’
III. God’s Grace
We see in this in regards to sin; God comes, inviting confession and identification of belief. So God then cursed the serpent and in the midst of this there is a prophesy of the Messiah coming. God then made garments and clothed them. So we find God coming in grace and redemption, asking for confession in the context of sin. He doesn’t come as a fire breathing wrathful God but as a caring compassionate God. We see the consequences of sin being really horrible, but it is God who comes in his compassion and inviting confession, coming with the promised Messiah, coming with protection. This is the character of God when we talk about sin.