Q&A: Genesis 3:1-21

     Last Sunday, we started a short, three-sermon Christmas series. Rather than go through a traditional re-telling of the Christmas story, we took a different approach. We began in the Garden of Eden, and more specifically, with the introduction of sin into the world. Why start there? Good question.
     The truth of the matter is that the true meaning of Christmas is much deeper than family, friends, and nicely wrapped presents. Sure, these things are great and have their place; however, Jesus was born in order to “save His people from their sins.” Talking about sin, in today’s day and age, is not popular; and to do it during the Christmas season is certainly not politically correct. But, the “good news” (Jesus saves sinners) of Christmas has no meaning apart from the “bad news” (we are all sinners) in the Garden.
     While a familiar passage for many of us, Genesis 3 is not quite as simple as it seems. The passage is complex, and filled with irony, word-play, and allusions; its implications have profound impact on how we think and act. God is a master communicator, for sure; but, if you’re like me, you sometimes read the Bible and walk away thinking, “huh”? There are times when I have more questions than answers. And, over the years, I’ve come to realize that it’s perfectly okay to ask whatever questions come to mind.
     I’ve always encouraged people to ask questions, regardless of whether they come up while reading privately or while sitting in church listening to a sermon. Pastors (should!) spend many hours each week studying, praying, and preparing their sermons. The goal is NOT to preach whatever we want; rather, the goal is to accurately interpret God’s Word and clearly communicate it for His people. Even on our best day, we leave some questions lingering and unanswered.
After the sermon last week, I was asked two interesting questions. Here are my thoughts:
If Adam and Eve didn’t have the knowledge of good and evil before eating the fruit, how could God hold them accountable for their actions?
     In order to answer this, let’s go to Genesis 2:15-17. In this section, God tells Adam to avoid the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Right AFTER this, God creates the woman (Eve). This is significant, because, sometime between this and the start of Genesis 3, Eve has already heard about the prohibition given by God.
     Let me add: it is 100% correct that Adam and Eve had no understanding of good and evil before eating the fruit from the tree. But, I also think that they’re lack of understanding is a poor excuse for their actions. Here’s why:
God’s word is enough to dictate the terms.
     While Adam and Eve did not know what “good and evil” meant, they knew that God had given them a very specific instruction—Eve, who was not even created when God spoke to Adam, corrects the snake when he initially tries to deceive her. The problem in the Garden wasn’t a lack of knowledge, the problem was a disregard for God’s instructions. Regardless of whether or not they had exhaustive knowledge of good and evil, the requirement was simply that they trust God and take Him at His word.
     In an email exchange with a church member, she provided a helpful analogy. She said, “It brought to mind that when my children were toddlers, they didn’t know good from evil; but, if they reached for something and I said, “don’t touch”, they understood and obeyed (well, for the most part!). My point being, and as you’ve brought to my attention, they didn’t have to have the knowledge to know and obey...”
Why did God put the tree in the Garden if He knew that Adam and the woman would disobey Him?
There are two reasons.
     First, to provide us with a choice to either obey or disobey God. We have free will, the ability to make conscious choices, to either follow God or rebel against Him. Is God sovereign (in control)? Absolutely. But, somehow, and this is a complex mystery, our free will doesn’t diminish His sovereignty. If we choose to disobey God, like Adam and Eve, it makes us fully culpable for our sinfulness.
     We can never legitimately point the finger at God, and say, “It’s your fault that I made this choice.” Remember, Adam tries that (Genesis 3:12) and fails miserably.
     Second, it’s also to remind us that all of our pleasure is to be found in God alone. The tree was unique in that it was prohibited; but, that didn’t make its fruit less appealing or desirable. At the moment of temptation, Eve was at a fork in the road: eat from a beautiful, forbidden fruit; or, follow a beautiful, accessible God. She chose the first, and we are still doing that to this day.
     In one sense, the tree was symbolic of God’s desire for us to deny ourselves so that we can follow Him unhindered. He wanted Adam and Eve to simply find their joy in the Creator, not the creation. God was sufficient for them, and He is sufficient for us! Jesus echoes this idea in Luke 9:23: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”
     If you’ve heard something recently that has left you scratching your head, and you’d like me to give my thoughts, simply email me:
pastorwill@fellowshipnj.com.