“God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” Ecclesiastes 7:29
The next part in the story of the Gospel is the stumbling and the fall of mankind. So far we’ve simply discussed that the Word of God (the Bible) teaches us that there is a God, that He is all powerful, that He is good and holy, and that He created the world and everything in it good.
Here is what God said about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil: “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17)
Later, an evil spirit appears in the garden and tells lies. The Hebrew word written there is serpent and means a large reptile; it is less like a snake and more like a crocodile or sea creature. God’s Word says elsewhere that this snake was actually a demon, an evil spirit called the “devil”, and “Satan.” (Revelation 20:2) He is called “the deceiver of the whole world.” (Revelation 12:9). There are several more scriptures that explain who Satan is, but what we’re told in the beginning is that he lies to the man and the woman and they believe him over what God Himself said to them.
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 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 to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:1-7)
At this point Adam and Eve died spiritually, and would eventually die physically, along with all their descendants (you and me). God does not lie. He has nothing to gain by lying. When He said they would die, He meant it. What reason did Adam and Eve have to doubt God at His word? There was no good reason for them to doubt Him. By eating of the fruit they joined the devil and called God a liar. This is the event in history that we should mourn. It’s the tragedy of all tragedies. The current condition of mankind, the world’s poverty, and all the evil events that we witness, is the result of the actions of our very own greatest grandparents. When God said to them “you shall surely die,” He was referring to all of us. “Because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man” (Romans 5:17) The world has ever since been off course. We all have inherited the disease called a sinful nature. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men” (Romans 5:12) By our nature and choices, we all disobey God in the same way as our fallen parents. “from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts” (Mark 7:21)
We are all doomed then, from the moment we are conceived in the womb of our mothers. We’re doomed, without a miraculous and gracious work of God. Yes, even babies in the belly of their mom are not innocent. God’s Word describes King David, whose very life began in sin: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5. Again, God’s word says of babies, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.” Psalm 58:3. Genesis 8:21 says, “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth”
Compared to God, and His goodness, there is no one who is good. Jesus said, “No one is good except God alone.” (Mark 10:18) God’s Word also says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10-12) And again in Psalm 14: “The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.” (Psalm 14:2-3)
Our condition as humans is very problematic and dire. It’s an emergency. “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick” (Jeremiah 17:9) Without a miracle of some kind, we cannot truly do any good: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” Romans 8:7. We can’t muster up the strength or faith, ourselves, any more than a person can change the color of their skin or an animal can change the pattern of their fur. “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23)
Without God acting on us first in grace, God’s Word to us says we can’t understand things of the Spirit. It’s not possible: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
God says we are like a valley of dry bones: dead as dead can be. God asks, “can these bones live?” (Ezekiel 36:3). The obvious answer is no, dry bones cannot live, and neither can we live, apart from some miracle.
Jesus said that being born into this world now counts for nothing as far as eternal life goes, when he said “the flesh counts for nothing.” (John 6:63) Our first birth into this world is so useless in saving any of us that Jesus said our situation is like we need to be born all over again. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) I’m not yet going to explain what this means or how this happens. For now I just want to let this sink in a bit. It’s natural to find this confusing. That is the point. A man who heard Jesus said this expressed his confusion when he said, “How can a man be born when he is old?” That man’s name was Nicodemus and he continued, in a sarcastic way, “Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” (John 3:4). The point that, it is as impossible for us to be saved from our fallen situation as it was impossible for us to make ourselves be born in the first place, and as impossible as it is make ourselves be born a second time. We’re in desperate need of God’s mercy.
There is something else we should pause to consider: God allowed Adam and Eve to be tempted knowing they would fall into that temptation. The fall of man was a planned tragedy, otherwise we would have to say that our fall surprised God. God had already accounted for our fall into sin before He ever created the world. The death of Jesus on the cross was the plan, “predetermined” from “before the foundation of the world.” (Acts 27-28, Revelation 13:8, 17:8), which means, so also was our fall into sin. We don’t need to plan a remedy for the fall of man if the fall of man would never happen.
In the past, I’ve been very upset with God about this tragedy. I don’t feel responsible for the sin of Adam and Eve, yet I experience pain and consequences because of it. That has seemed unfair to me. However, we have no reason to believe any of us would have acted in any other way. Given enough time, any of us would have done the same thing as Adam and Eve. In fact, Adam and Eve had even more advantages than us in obeying God. They had more than they needed. As the original, untainted humans, they were strong and healthy. If they failed, the shining prototype of humanity, we have no reason to believe we wouldn’t. In that way, they represent us all. And like the mistakes of our own parents, however unfair it seems to inherit those mistakes, we share in them just like we have shared in the mistakes of Adam and Eve.
Any anger I’ve had toward God about the fall of Adam and Eve has been useless at best. If I’m unsatisfied with the story of the beginning of the world, I cannot lie to myself and pretend it’s not true. I can’t say to God “What have you done?” As though I was his judge. I agree with the prophet Daniel who said that God does whatever He wants, and we aren’t able to do anything about it: “All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?” (Daniel 4:35). And Job 23:13 “He stands alone, and who can oppose him? He does whatever he pleases.” (NIV)
It’s important to think about how wonderful paradise was, and then dwell upon the greatness of our betrayal as humans, to truly begin to grasp the just punishment we have received. Our betrayal was not against other humans. Our betrayal wasn’t against animals, or even angels. Our betrayal wasn’t against a creature. Our betrayal was against the One who is unlike anyone or anything else in the world, someone who is not to be trifled with: the God of the universe. And what He says goes, whether we think it’s right or not. And God has said that because of sin, we all must die forever. Who are we to argue with Him?
We like to jump to the solution, but it is very important for us to think hard about the problem first. The most alarming thing is not that God would create humanity knowing we would fall. The most alarming thing is that He could have done so without a remedy or way out, and that this sentence would be right and good, even if He were to not intervene or step in to change the situation. In other words, since God is God, and does what He wants, the story could simply go that we all die and spend and eternity in hell. The End. And that would be good, because that would mean justice would be served according to the Rule Maker. Evil doers got what they deserved for their rebellion against a Holy God. Angels in heaven could rejoice over this. This could be the end of the story. Humanity is over. God is still good. He doesn’t need to be merciful or gracious to be good. It’s good to simply be just. Mercy is the prerogative of a Judge, who can give mercy, or not, and still be just. If mercy was expected, it would no longer be mercy, but it would be what was due. But God owes us nothing.
Thanks to God alone, the story doesn’t end here.
The Ax: Sin and death spread through one man’s sin.
The Ox: If God makes the rules, what is the sense in arguing with Him?
- God warned about death.
- The prototype of humanity, our representatives, our greatest grandparents, joined Satan in calling God a liar
- All of us have died spiritually and are hopelessly lost
- God knew this would happen
- He is still good
- He is the Judge
- He doesn’t need to show mercy to be good, He could simply be just
- Thanks to God alone, the story doesn’t end here
GOSPEL MEMORIZATION GRAPHIC:
This is a drawing I created to help my children memorize the entire content of this book at a basic level. The drawing will expand with each chapter to help you memorize the Gospel in order to tell others.
Bible Verse: “God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” Ecclesiastes 7:29
EXAMPLE OF HOW TO SHARE THE GOSPEL
After every couple chapters I will write example of how you can share what you’ve read with others, and we will build upon these sentences until the end of the book:
“Let me tell you about the Gospel, which is the good news that we read about in God’s Word (the Bible): God exists and He is good. He made mankind good and upright, but we all have disobeyed God. God said the punishment for sin is eternal death…”
Chapter 5 is on it’s way.