MAN AND HIS SIN PROBLEM

eden apple

Throughout the days of Creation in Genesis, after each thing and creature God created, He pronounced them as being “good.” Yet in looking around at our world, we would be hard pressed to say everything in it is “good” today. There is sickness, crime, violence, disease, and trouble all over. God certainly never created any of those things, so the question thinking people ask is, Where did evil come from? Naturally the Bible tells us.

1. Sin is real

In spite of man’s best efforts to dismiss the reality of sin, sin is real. Over the centuries since the Fall, man has created ingenious ways to excuse or justify his sin. Here are some of the more familiar philosophies man has developed in response to the sin problem.

Atheism

The atheist believes there is no God; if there is no God, then it follows there can be no sin. Man may harm others, and he may harm himself, but since there is no God, his evil acts are not sin.

But the Bible teaches something very different. It teaches that all wrongdoing, regardless to whom it is directed, is really directed against God, and therefore all wrongdoing is sin.

Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge. (Psalm 51:4)

Determinism

This philosophy teaches that man has no real freedom of choice. He thinks he does, but in reality his choices are determined by outside forces or laws. Determinism teaches that a person is not always responsible for his wrongdoings.  Man, according to the determinist, is just a helpless slave to his circumstances.

Once again, the Bible teaches something completely different. Man was created with a free will and is able to choose between good and evil. This is implied in every exhortation and command.

You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. (James 4:4)

Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 7:17)

One of the consequences of determinism is the notion that “sin” is a sickness and the “sinner” should be pitied, not punished for his wrongdoing.

Hedonism

Hedonism, a philosophy named after a Greek word for “pleasure,” is a philosophy that teaches the most important thing in life is for the individual to be happy, no matter what. Behind this philosophy is the desire to lessen the severity of sin, blurring the line between right and wrong. In our society today, the most common expression of hedonism is in the area of marriage and relationships. Many a marriage, even Christian marriages, has ended when one partner claims they are unhappy and would be happier with someone else.

The problem with modern hedonism, practised by many ignorant Christians, is that the individual justifies his sin, claiming that the evil act he just committed may be wrong for some, or may be wrong sometimes, but that in his particular case, what he did wasn’t really sinful.

But the Bible never allows for exceptions in the case of sin. When it comes to sin and human behavior, there are no “special circumstances” whereby an evil act may be justified.

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter. (Isaiah 5:20)

Evolution

Those who believe in evolution think sin is nothing more than man giving into the base behavior common to his less evolved ancestors. If man evolved from animals, then sin is merely “animal-like” behavior and eventually, in time, all that “animal-like” behavior will be evolved out of man.

The Bible teaches that man was created by God in God’s image. Man did not grow out of an animal and is not the product of a random collection cells.

2. The essence of sin

The beginning of sin is temptation, even though temptation to sin in NOT sin. Jesus Himself was tempted, yet because He never gave into those temptations, He is said to have lived a sinless life. Temptation to sin is all around us. There is no way to avoid temptation. Therefore, the problem of sin runs much, much deeper than any temptation.

Temptation

a. Two trees in the Garden

Genesis 2 is a remarkable chapter. In it, we have all the background information on man’s Fall. This chapter tells us what man’s first home was like. It speaks of man’s intelligence and his first occupation in the Garden of Eden. Genesis 2 speaks about the first couple and the first wedding. It speaks also of two trees, which some have called “the two trees of Destiny.” In the Garden of Eden was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and the tree of life.

And the Lord God commanded the man, “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 certainly die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17)

Notice neither tree is described as being sinful. Man was given complete freedom to satisfy his need for food with just one caveat: he could not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why? Was there something evil about the tree? Was there something wrong with its fruit? No there wasn’t.  Did God put that tree there to tempt Adam and Eve?  Absolutely not!  God did not then and He would not now ever tempt anybody to sin.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone… (James 1:13)

That one tree was placed in the Garden of Eden to provide a test whereby man could freely choose to serve God in obedience, developing the kind of character that mirrors God’s.

b. The source of temptation

Many people miss the point of what happened in Genesis 3. Many people think man was tempted by the tree of knowledge, but the Bible does not say that.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, `You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ” (Genesis 3:1)

The temptation to sin came, not from a tree, but from the serpent, Satan. Now, we don’t see serpents running around whispering into the ears impressionable young women today. Today, Satan works through other people. For example, we read this in Matthew 16:22, 23–

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

What was Peter doing? He was trying to convince Jesus to find another way to fulfill His mission without having to die. There wasn’t an evil bone Peter’s body, Satan was working through one of Jesus’ friends and Peter didn’t realize it.

c. The subtly of temptation

Temptation to sin is always subtle. Rarely is temptation obvious. In the Garden, Satan first went to Eve. She was “the weaker vessel,” which modern Bible readers often misunderstand. Eve was “the weaker vessel” because she never directly heard the prohibition from God. She heard it second hand from Adam. Satan twisted God’s words and caused Eve to doubt three aspects about God and God’s prohibition:

  • Satan convinced Eve that God was withholding something very good from her. In effect, she began to doubt the goodness of God.

  • Satan convinced Eve that God didn’t really mean what He said. She began to doubt His righteousness.

  • Satan convinced Eve that God was jealous of man; that He didn’t want man to become as smart as He is.

3. The guilt of sin

Adam and Eve both knew they bore responsibility for their actions. It is true that Adam blamed Eve and Eve blamed the serpent, but inside they knew what they did was wrong. They saw their nakedness and tried to cover themselves. They tried to hide from God. No, these two people knew what they did was wrong.

The one who sins is the one who will die. (Ezekiel 18:4)

Just as Adam and Eve tried to hide among God’s creation, so man, especially Christians, will hide either in the pleasures of sin or in the midst of God’s blessings.

4. Judgment of sin

When man sinned, God pronounced three separate judgments, Genesis 3.

The Serpent

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.” (Genesis 3:14)

The curse seems to suggest that originally the serpent may have been beautiful and may have walked upright. Because it became an instrument for man’s fall, it was cursed and degraded in appearance. But why was the serpent cursed if it was only a tool in Satan’s hands? Peter was a similar tool, yet he wasn’t cursed. It’s because of verse 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.

God would use the serpent’s curse as a type and a prophecy of the curse upon Satan and the powers of evil. Adam in particular, but all men in general, needed to see the horrendous repercussions of what Satan did when he tempted man to sin. This is also meant to be an encouragement to man. Even though man sinned, man remained an upright creation. The serpent, however, did not. In other words, even though the curses upon men and women were about to come, there would be hope.

The woman

To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. ” (Genesis 3:16)

This seems to suggest that originally bearing children would not have been painful for women. The second part of the woman’s curse must be viewed in light of man’s curse.

The man

Work had already been appointed for man (Genesis 2:15), but the penalty for his sin was that the work would suddenly become hard and lifelong. It would be disappointing and it would be arduous. The curse on man was certainly far-reaching, affecting even the environment.

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

But notice within the marriage relationship between men and women, while the curse upon women would be that “her desire would be for her husband” alone, man was not similarly cursed. His desire, within that relationship, would NOT just be for his wife. That does not excuse infidelity or thoughtlessness or selfishness, but it may explain why there exists between men and women a sort of “great divide” in their ways of thinking and in their expressions of emotions.

Finally, notice there is a death penalty associated with sin. Man was created with capacity of not dying physically; he could have lived indefinitely in his present body and state had he not sinned.

While the relationship that existed between God and the first couple suffered on account of their sin, their communion with God was restored, “sort of,” thus overcoming spiritual death. But it was now a different kind of communion. Man could approach God, but only through prayer and repentance. For man to return to God in a personal way, he must now do so through death.

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