Fall: God Judges
December 16, 2012 | Brian Bill
Portions of this sermon come from Ray Pritchard and are used with permission.
During this time of the year, you can hear many predictions about what 2013 is going to look like. This year there’s a special fascination with the Mayan calendar and the doomsday date of December 21st, which is this Friday. If you find yourself afraid about all this, ponder the words of Jesus in Matthew 24:36: “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
If you’re still fearful, maybe this recent cartoon I saw on Facebook will help you take a breath. One Mayan is standing by the calendar that he just finished creating and says, “I only had enough room to go up to 2012.” To which another Mayan remarks, “Ha! That will freak someone out someday.”
I saw another cartoon where two Mayans are looking at the calendar and one of them says, “So how come it ends in 2012?” The other guy adds, “No more Twinkies…” I love the caption at the bottom: “At last, the mystery of the Mayan calendar revealed.”
While it is difficult, if not impossible for any of us to forecast the future, the Bible is packed with predictive prophecies. Did you know that if you listen closely, you can hear the sounds of Christmas in the Old Testament? Written over a 1,000-year period, the first part of the Bible contains about 300 references to the Messiah that were fulfilled in Christ. We don’t have time to look at each one of these, but we will tackle one of them today to help us understand who Jesus is and why His coming is so important.
From Creation to Catastrophe
Two weeks ago we discovered that Christmas is rooted in Creation as we pointed out how John 1 corresponds with Genesis 1. As we learned last week in God’s continuing story of redemption, human beings are the pinnacle of His creation, the apex of all His creativity. As such every person has worth and dignity. There’s only one race of people — the human race. Jesus came as fully God and fully man in order to redeem and return man to his rightful place.
The story of Scripture can be told in six acts. Actually, I want to add a seventh one to make it clearer.
Act I Creation
Act II Catastrophe
Act III Covenant
Act IV Coming
Act V Cross
Act VI Church
Act VII Completion
After creating Adam and Eve, Genesis 1 closes with these words: “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good…” In the beginning God walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Adam was king over all creation and the head of the first human family. He and Eve were given great gifts, and were encouraged to enjoy the pleasures of paradise. They lived with shalom, which refers to a rich integrated wholeness that God intends for His creation. The Lord gave just one restriction to Adam in Genesis 2:16: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
The first two chapters describe the bliss of Eden and then we’re plunged into a chasm of chaos in chapter three. Eugene Peterson says that we now find ourselves in the “middle of a mess.” Eve is tricked into eating the fruit and gives some to Adam, who ate willingly. It was through that fatal choice that sin entered the world. Adam chose the wrong path, and in so doing, plunged people everywhere into the depths of depravity and despair. Theologians refer to this as the Fall, for when Adam ate the fruit he fell from grace into guilt, from shalom to shame.
I want you to notice what Adam and Eve do once they disobey.
- They try to cover themselves (3:7)
- They hide (3:10)
- They blame (3:12-13)
We do the same things today, don’t we? We hide from God and others, we blame everyone but ourselves and we seek cover for our condition.
As the story moves from creation to catastrophe, everything starts to fall apart. This past fall, I went with my daughter and her class to the Creation Museum in Kentucky. I was really impacted by this experience and encourage families to go if at all possible. In one part of the museum the images of Eden are depicted with wonderful colors, waterfalls, birds chirping, animals eating and Adam and Eve with big satisfied smiles on their faces. After viewing all this, the path takes a turn and one comes face-to-face with graffiti spray painted on walls. This then turns into a dark dead-end alley. A locked door has these words scribbled across: “The world’s not safe anymore.” Shadows appear and newspaper and magazine headlines scream out various sins and evil deeds. The contrast is breathtaking. It made me think of a quote I heard from someone: “Sin only worsens over time as people invent new ways to do evil more effectively.”
Once Adam and Eve sin, God brings judgment upon the human race. Michael Goheen writes, “Something in them and between them does die.” As I read Genesis 3 this week, this is what I saw…
- Fear (3:10)
- Shame (3:10)
- Pain in childbirth (3:15)
- Conflict between the couple (3:15)
- Painful toil with thorns and thistles (3:17-19)
In short, sin has been unleashed into the world. This past Tuesday I got up early and decided to go out and scrape the windows of Becca’s car. Of course, I had no coat on. As I put the keys in the door, the car wouldn’t unlock. I worked at it for awhile and couldn’t get it. I then went to the car Lydia was going to drive to school and started it and began scraping the windows. I went back into the house and grabbed some different keys to see if I could get Becca’s doors open. I also grabbed a coat but when I tried to zip it up, the zipper broke. As I went back outside I dropped the electric razor I was using to shave and now it makes funny noises. I finally got Becca’s car to start but when I went back to Lydia’s car I noticed that one tire looked flat and it was out of gas. I jumped in the car and headed to the gas station to fill up the tire but the compressor wasn’t working. After taking Megan to school (late) I took Lydia’s car in to have someone look at the tire and was told that there was a nail in it.
We live in a fallen world, don’t we? I like what one pastor writes, “Genesis 3 is one of the most important chapters in the entire Bible because it explains the source and solution for sin and death.”
Friends, let me point out that in the midst of the mess and the judgment that was unleashed in Eden, we see evidence of God’s love and mercy…and two pictures of what happened at Christmas and at the Cross. The first is found in Genesis 3:21 where we read that God took the initiative and graciously sought out the couple who had gone into hiding and, “made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” God was providing a cover for them. And, he did so through the sacrifice of another as animals would have had to be killed in order to get their skins. God wanted them and us to know right from the beginning that payment for sin comes at the expense of life. He was establishing the importance of blood sacrifice
The second picture is found in the curse that was laid upon Satan in Genesis 3:15: “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 is the first promise given after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. It’s also the first gospel sermon ever preached on the face of the earth. Theologians call it the protoevangelium, or “first gospel.” These words spoken by God contain the earliest promise of redemption in the Bible. Everything else in Scripture flows from this one verse. The English preacher Charles Simeon called this “the sum and summary of the whole Bible.”
What the Verse Predicts
Let’s consider Genesis 3:15 to find out what it predicts for Satan, for Christ, and for us. We may summarize its predictive teaching in three short phrases.
1. Continuous Conflict.
“And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers.” The key word is enmity, which means “hostility” or “animosity.” One translation says, “I will set a feud.” Another puts it this way, “There will be war.” The New Living Translation says, “You and the woman will be enemies.”
But the deeper meaning lies in the word the NIV translates as “offspring.” In the Hebrew the word is “seed,” referring to the generations yet unborn that would trace their heritage back to Eve. That “seed” or offspring refers to the men and women of faith in every generation who have believed in God. This is the godly line that leads to Abel and eventually culminates in the person of Jesus Christ.
It’s obvious that Satan has his seed too. The sinful seed started with Cain who killed Abel and continued to the wicked generation of Noah’s day, to the Pharaohs who opposed Moses and the Canaanites who mocked Joshua.
When Jesus was born, Herod tried to kill Christmas. When He grew up, the religious leaders opposed Him and plotted to take His life. Satan even infiltrated His inner circle, filling the heart of Judas with malignant evil. When he was arrested, men stood in line to lie about him. When Pilate offered to release Jesus, the bloodthirsty crowd cried out for Barabbas instead.
Who was behind the crucifixion of Jesus? It was the sinister seed of Satan. The “seed of the woman” and the “seed of the serpent” have opposed each other continuously across the centuries. That struggle continues today. Just the week we heard about another mass shooting in our country. Jesus said in John 8:44 that Satan is a murderer and he loves it when one person takes the life of another.
2. Temporary Defeat.
God then says to the serpent, “You will strike his heel.” If you’ve ever had a heel spur, you know how painful this can be. Heel trouble slows you down. But it doesn’t kill you. You can live with heel problems even through you have to hobble around.
When Christ died on the cross, Satan struck his heel. Where on his body were the nails pounded in? His hands and his feet–right through his heels. On Friday about sundown, when they took the dead body of Jesus down from the cross, it appeared that Satan had won the battle. On Sunday morning, the true Victor walked out of the grave, alive from the dead.
3. Ultimate Victory.
The Cross was God’s deathblow against Satan
“He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.” When Jesus died on the cross, he delivered a crushing blow to Satan. It was a total mismatch. The Cross was God’s deathblow against Satan. It was the payback for the Fall and more besides. Victory belongs to the woman’s seed!
That leads to a question: If Satan has been crushed, why does he still seem to be doing so much evil 2000 years later? How can a defeated being who was crushed by Christ exercise so much power? The answer is that at the Cross Satan was judged and his sentence pronounced. However, he is now free to roam the earth awaiting his final judgment. This also explains why Satan’s destructive power on the earth will grow even greater in the last days.
I often use an illustration when I meet with people who are filled with fear about the devil or about the supposed doomsday scene on the horizon. A father and a daughter were traveling in a car and the dad noticed that there was a bee in the car with them. This was a serious situation because his little girl was extremely allergic to bee stings and could die if she was stung. As the bee flew toward his daughter, the father reached out his open hand. When the bee saw his hand it landed on his palm. The father closed his fist as the bee dug his stinger deeply into his skin. About a minute later the father opened up his hand and set the bee free.
The little girl was petrified when she saw the bee buzzing around her. The father looked down at his precious little princess and said, “Don’t worry honey, he can’t hurt you anymore. The stinger is in my hand. He may buzz around and try to frighten you but he can’t harm you now.”
That’s a picture of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. Satan planted his stinger into the hands and heel of the Savior. And because Jesus took the full brunt of the devil’s fury, the evil one’s power has been diffused. Colossians 2:15: “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” He can buzz around and cause problems, but he has lost the war. 1 Corinthians 15:55: “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The price has been paid. Satan is defeated because his stinger is in the Savior.
The Story Continues
The seed of the Gospel message is found in Genesis; Christmas is linked to Creation and the Catastrophe of the Fall. I’d like us to look now at how this seed grows into a tree in the New Testament.
Sin is pervasive because it is everywhere and it is in everyone. Notice the last phrase of Romans 5:12: “Because all sinned.” This underscores Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” and Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death…”
I got a kick out of a letter Dear Abby received many years ago. Her response shows that she clearly understands the pervasiveness of sin.
Dear Abby: “I am 44 and would like to meet a man my age with no bad habits.”
Dear Rose: “So would I.”
When Adam sinned, somehow you and I sinned because our lack of holiness is hereditary. I heard one person put it this way: When Adam sinned it was if he was the bus driver of humanity and when he drove over the cliff, we all crashed and burned with him. Our country is concerned about the “fiscal cliff” we may be headed over but when we went off the ledge with Adam God’s judgment on sin was unleashed on us. Without His intervention we’ll free-fall right into Hell.
Because Adam is our ancestor and he is the head of the human race, when he fell you and I fell with him. Paul is not saying that we all sin because Adam sinned, though this is certainly true. Paul is saying something even stronger: We all sinned when Adam sinned and death is in our DNA. We are sinners by nature and by choice. Sin is inherited in us and imputed to us.
Maybe this doesn’t sound fair to you. How could Adam’s sin be counted against us? It’s because He represents each one of us. There’s biblical precedent for this. Do you remember the story of David and Goliath? When the battle lines were drawn, the deal was that David would represent Israel and Goliath would represent the Philistines. Depending on which man won, the nation he represented would win. And whoever lost, then his nation would lose. When Goliath was toppled by a pebble, the Philistines went down with him. When Adam sinned, we sinned.
When David defeated Goliath, his victory was imputed to the nation of Israel because he was their representative. Likewise, when Jesus defeated the giants of sin and death, His victory has been credited to the accounts of those who accept His death as final and full payment for sin.
The first half of Romans 5:18 summarizes the story of sin: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men…” And the second half picks up God’s salvation story: “…so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.” This is the greatest “gift exchange” in all of history! The word “gift” is found five times in just three verses in this section, reminding us that salvation is not something we can earn. That’s what Christmas is all about.
Romans 5:19 reiterates and reinforces these astonishing truths: “For just as through the disobedience of the one man many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” David Dykes has helped my understanding here. When Adam sinned, he died:
- Immediately in his spirit. His community and intimacy with God was fractured.
- Gradually in his soul. More and more he became aware of how rotten he was.
- Eventually in his body. 930 years later, he died physically.
Listen. What Adam ruined, Jesus restored. As sons of Adam or daughters of Eve, when we receive Jesus Christ, His redemption reverses the ruin of Adam:
- We receive spiritual life immediately in our spirits and are instantaneously justified.
- We receive grace to become more like Jesus through the gradual process of sanctification.
- Eventually we’ll receive a renewed and resurrected body. That’s glorification.
I see some implications that flow from what we’ve learned this morning.
1. God takes sin very seriously and so should we.
Some may say that what Adam did was no big deal since all he did was munch on a mango (it doesn’t say it was an apple). But it was a big deal because he disobeyed God’s command. Let’s not minimize sin. Adam did, and he died…and so will we.
2. No one is inherently good.
If you think that you’re really a pretty good person, think again. Some of us hesitate to share the gospel with people because we think that they’re just nice people who don’t do bad things. That may be true on the outside but everyone apart from Christ is in a precarious predicament. Only Jesus can extricate from sin, death and condemnation.
3. We don’t become sinners by sinning; we sin because we are sinners.
Sin is more than just an act
Sin is not what we do; it’s what we are and is evidenced by what we do. Sin is more than just an act; it’s an attitude and a condition. We do what we do because of who we are.
4. You are either “in Adam” or you are “in Christ.”
There’s no middle ground. Adam is your ancestor or Jesus is your advocate. There are only two categories — those under Adam by physical birth which leads to damnation or those who are under Christ through the new birth which leads to salvation. Either Adam is having the greatest influence in your life; or Jesus is. It all boils down to just one question: Are you “in Adam” or are you “in Christ?”
5. Birth is both the cause and the cure for our sin.
Don’t leave here thinking you just have to be a better person and start living a moral life. A pastor writes: “Deep down in God’s image bearers there is a faint echo of Eden and how things are supposed to be.” Listen very carefully: You don’t need to make a new start in life; you need to receive a new life to start with. The cure for the curse is to transfer your lineage from Adam to the Lord Jesus Christ. We must exchange our identity with Adam which leads to condemnation to an identity with Christ in order for us to be justified.
The voice of the viper told Eve to question God and to ultimately reject Him. The voice you hear today is the voice of the evil one, the enemy of your soul. Satan is seeking to destroy you. Flee to the tree of Calvary before it’s too late.
Sons of Adam and daughters of Eve, aren’t you glad we’re not stuck with the sin of Adam? The only way to be cured from the curse is through Christ. The only way to be set free from sin and break the dynasty of death is by having the substitutionary death of the sinless one applied to your account. That brings us right to the Christmas story. Joseph was told to name the baby Jesus, “…for He will save His people from their sins.” Two verses later we read that, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name ‘Immanuel’ (which means God with us).” (Matthew 1:21, 23)
Our Sin Substitute
Jesus died in our place to not only defeat death and the devil; He also died to deliver us. He wants to change us from the inside out. He offers each of us a gift, a gift that was wrapped way back in Genesis 3:15. Again, Driscoll writes: “The stunning account of Genesis shows a God no one would ever have invented, because He does what no one ever could have predicted…Later in the storyline of the Bible, we learn that Jesus did in fact come to save people from their sins. He did this by becoming the one who succeeded where the first Adam failed…In so doing, He remains perfectly perfect, and we are more wicked than we ever feared yet more loved than we ever hoped…Therefore the proper response to sin is deep, full, true, broken, earnest, devoted, tearful, prayerful, thorough, and continual humble repentance.”
God always works in conjunction with our response. He has so much to give you this morning, but you need to receive what He has in order to fully benefit from His gift. When Jesus died on the Cross, he smashed Satan and provided a way for you to experience forgiveness of sins and eternal life. But, it’s not automatic. I came across a quote this week that makes a lot of sense: “Christmas began in the heart of God. It is complete only when it reaches the heart of man.”
If you’ve not yet done so, you need to receive Him into your life. John 1:12 says, “Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.” Will you receive Him today? Since we were born in sin; the only way to be saved from sin is to be born again. Jesus emphasized this truth to a religious man, who looked pretty good on the outside in John 3:3: “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”
After all, it doesn’t matter what a bunch of extinct Mayans put on a calendar about a doomsday; what matters is what the eternal Messiah says and whether you’ll respond to Him. This is your decision day. Or one day there will be a doomsday when you die or Christ returns and you have refused to follow Him. Be born again. Today. Right now. In this place. At this time. And then mark it on your calendar so you’ll never forget this day.
I close with this:
He is the first and the last,
The beginning and the end
He is the keeper of creation and the creator of all!
He is the architect of the universe and the manager of all times.
He always was, He always is, and He always will be…
He was bruised and brought healing!
He was pierced and eased pain!
He was persecuted and brought freedom!
He was dead and brought life!
He is risen and brings power!
He reigns and brings peace!
He is God, He is faithful
I am His, and He is mine!