What’s The Matter?
The Reverend Bryn MacPhail / December 17, 2006
For those who would ask, ‘Why are things the way they are?’, for those who are wondering, ‘What is the matter with our world?’, Genesis chapter 3 provides an answer.
The doctrine taught in this chapter of Scripture is essential to understanding why human beings do the things we do. Moreover, Genesis chapter 3 clearly outlines why the way of salvation is a matter of absolute necessity.
I do not wish to exchange theories this morning. The doctrine of Genesis 3 is not to be discussed in an abstract manner, as if we are unaffected by what has taken place in the past. As we examine the state of this world, from Adam onward, we must never forget that we are a part of this world. The predicament of the world is our predicament.
And there is an urgency to what is taught here. There is an immediate relevance to learning where we stand with God. Discerning the current state of your relationship with The Almighty is not something to be put off for another day.
I recently read the tragic account of a young woman, in her mid 20s, who was swept off a sea vessel by a huge wave. One minute she is in the prime of life, standing on the deck of a ship, the next minute she is gone—swept away.
Just two years ago, a friend of mine was flying his plane from Ft. Lauderdale to Freeport Bahamas when one of his engines altogether failed. My friend and his three passengers were in grave danger—in the prime of their lives, they could have met their demise. Thankfully, mercifully, they survived an emergency landing into the ocean, just off the shore of Freeport.
I cite these references to remind us that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. The Creator is not a debtor to His creation.
We would be wise then to be watchful of how God is seeking to get our attention. And as He stoops to awaken us, we should carefully consider how we ought to respond.
We learn from the first two chapters of Genesis that God made the world, and that God made man—male and female, He created us and placed us in a context that can be best described as paradise. There, Adam and Eve began their existence in perfect communion with God.
Then you come to chapter 3 and this communion is interrupted. Their situation has so changed that they try to get away from God when they hear Him in the garden.
And while the picture of chapter 3 stands in stark contrast to the picture of chapter 2, more notably, we see in chapter 3 how the perfect existence became a precarious existence. We see the introduction of sin and its pervasive effects. Pervasive, not simply for Adam and Eve, but also for you and I. In other words, what is wrong with the world today is intimately connected to what happened long ago in the Garden.
There are many things for us to observe from this account. One such observation is that humanity’s troubles are not the result of our environment. I am mindful of the prevailing notion in our day, which states that “we are the product of our environment”.
No doubt, our environment influences us. One could even argue that it greatly influences us. However, the statement “we are the product of our environment” does not hold up under the scrutiny of Genesis 3.
In the Garden, humanity enjoyed the best of all conditions. Adam and Eve had access to everything they needed—they lacked nothing. Yet, even in the best of all environments, Adam and Eve brought upon themselves great trouble.
If not the environment, then what? What is the matter? The message of Genesis 3 is that humanity’s troubles are the result of broken communion with God. You could say that this is one of the prominent themes of the Bible—that when humanity resists God, when we disregard His commands, the result is trouble upon trouble.
Previously, everything was perfect—Adam, Eve, all of the living creatures in the Garden, and the Lord, are living in perfect harmony. Then there is a break in this communion, highlighted in verse 8, where we read that the presence of God in the Garden “frightened” Adam and Eve and caused them to “hide behind some trees”. The Lord’s response comes to us in language of accommodation, “Adam, where are you?” (3:9).
We are familiar with what follows. After some further questioning, the Lord announces a curse for the serpent, woman, and the man. This combination of Adam and Eve’s disobedience and the subsequent curse is most commonly referred to as ‘The Fall’ of humanity. The Fall refers to humanity’s grand and far-reaching break from communion with God. Or, as the apostle Paul frames it, “Adam sinned, and that sin brought death into the world. Now everyone has sinned, and so everyone must die” (Rom. 5:12).
Wow—Paul, thanks for such a positive message—could you be any more uplifting? Yes, that is my temptation. I am an optimist. I thrive on being positive, but I can’t find a way to stickhandle around the notion that we have brought upon ourselves great trouble. I say “we” because I reckon that humanity is constantly repeating the sin of Adam. We have given in to the fatal notion that we know what is best for ourselves. This is where Adam and Eve went wrong.
God had given them such abundance. First of all, God had given them a life-giving environment. Death and disease were not in the picture yet. Instead, there, in the middle of the Garden was “the tree of life” (2:9). This was an environment without flu shots or cancer wards. Here there was no need for glasses, hearing aids, or helps for walking.
Secondly, their environment was beautiful—they lived in a garden with fruit-bearing trees, which were watered by nearby rivers (2:10). This was the best in waterfront property!
Their environment also contained valuable resources—gold and all kinds of precious stones were available to them (2:12). Yes, the most valuable of resources were not kept in bank vaults or jewelry stores, but were, for Adam and Eve, a part of the everyday landscape!
Fourthly, the Lord had given Adam and Eve dominion over their environment (2:15, 19). They were in charge of, both, the land and the animals and birds of the land. No need for a Zoo in Eden. At this point, there was no such thing as predator or prey.
However, contained within all of this abundance and immense liberty was a single limitation: stay clear of one tree. Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:15).
It was put to Adam and Eve by the serpent that this one limitation was an unnecessary limitation. The serpent was suggesting that there was a way of life that was superior to the one presented by God!
Evidently, Adam and Eve believed that this could be possible. Evidently, humanity throughout the ages has believed this could be possible. Foolishly, I suspect there have been seasons when all of us would concede that we imagined a way of life that was superior to what the Bible has presented.
Think of the myriad of efforts being made at this moment to combat the ills of society. We are seeing sociological approaches and economic approaches. We are seeing a stress on education. There is a renewed focus on being environmentally friendly. There is, of course, political strategizing and creative diplomacy taking place.
And all of these things have their place of importance, but it seems to me that none of them are addressing the root of our troubles. The problems with are society, at the core, are not sociological, economical, or political. The root of our struggles is a theological matter. Humanity, in large measure, has chosen a way of life not endorsed by our Creator. Our trouble is that we have broken communion with The Almighty.
The results have been disastrous—from Adam to present day. It is as if God is saying, ‘While you live apart from Me you shall not be truly happy’ (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones).
Who can put things right? Who can set the world on its proper course? I am pleased to announce to you this morning that, while humanity has repeatedly turned against God, He has not altogether turned His back against us.
The message of Christmas is a message of mercy. Though we deserve judgment, though we deserve wrath, though we deserve to endure the consequences of our own actions, God comes breaking into human history to give us grace. The Son of God takes on human flesh in order to save us from our sins and our sinful condition (Mt. 1:21). The Second Adam comes to repair the damage of the first Adam. And this fulfills the promise that the serpent’s head shall be bruised (3:15).
I confess that in preparation for this sermon, I worried about the sobering nature of this text. I fretted about the negative note that would be sounded in the midst of Christmas preparations. But now, as I reflect further, I reckon that the proclamation of Christ’s birth takes on greater meaning when we have a more complete appreciation of our need of Him. In other words, the more I apprehend my desperate state, the more grateful I am to have a Saviour.
For what is the reason for the birth of Christ, if everything is going splendidly? We look around and we see that things are not going splendidly. We look around and most of us would conclude that this world of ours is a mess.
Indeed, this world of ours is a mess, but God has a plan.
In love, God the Father sent His only begotten Son into this world. Jesus’ perfect life and atoning death have provided sufficient means for reconciliation with God.
The light of Christ our Saviour is now shining upon the world through the people who bear His name. His message is being proclaimed, and those who believe the message, those who yield their life to Christ will gain what Adam lost in the Garden—communion with the Creator of the Universe.
Let us not imagine that there is a better way. There is no better life than life in Christ. Amen.