Sin

The Flood (Gen. 6:9-9:17)

The southern rainfall of 2015 felt like it was never going to end. The South Carolina rain caused millions of dollars’ worth of damage. Many people were left without power for weeks while others lost homes due to water damage. There were others who didn’t just lose their property, but they lost their lives. No one who lived through the mild, local yet horrific South Carolina flood in Columbia and Charleston is going to underestimate the damage that water can cause. No one who lost loved ones is going to turn their flood story into a cute, fun story for children. The flood produced devastation. The flood of South Carolina changed families forever. Homes were lost. Lives were taken. The flood was no laughing matter.

            One of the saddest events in human history is the day the Lord flooded the earth. Many people either have turned this dreadful event to a cute children story or put it in the category as pure fiction. The devastation that was seen in South Carolina last year is only a small glimpse of the devastation that God brought upon the earth. The flood is not fiction, but a real event that showed the consequences of human rebellion. The flood was an awful reality.

            The New Testament writers, inspired by the Holy Spirit, believed the flood to be a real event. They believed that the flood was meant to teach the world about the reality of sin and the coming consequences of a world that rejects God. The flood was also meant to give hope to believers who are struggling for righteousness in a world of rebellion. We want to look at the familiar story of the Flood through the eyes of the New Testament writers. The New Testament provides the interpretation of the flood and teaches us why it matters for us today.

God Punishes Sin in the Flood

            We pick up the story of the world after the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden. The serpent deceived Eve to eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam who had received the command from the Lord did not stop his wife, but followed her into sin. Their sin brought death into the world and banished them from the garden. The spread of sin continues over the next two chapters. In Genesis 4, Cain murdered his brother Abel out of jealousy. In one generation, we see the drastic effects of the Fall. Sin always spreads. God keeps his word to Adam that eating the fruit that he commanded not to eat that he, “will surely die.” In Genesis 5, we here the constant refrain, “and he died.” Sin continues to spread throughout the earth. Genesis 6:5-8,

The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.” But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.

The sin of man grieved the heart of God. Always remember that your sin and my sin grieves the heart of God. God hates sin. He hates sin because it destroys the relationship with his creatures and causes devastation in their lives. A righteous and holy God must hate sin. And good God has to punish sin.

            The story of the flood formally begins in Genesis 6:9 with the announcement of the generation of Noah,

These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God. And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Now the earth was corrupt in God's sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. (Genesis 6:9-13).

God will deal with sin by dealing with sinners by destroying them with the earth. God continues to explain to Noah how he is going to destroy the earth. Genesis 6:17, “For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die.”

            The dramatic event of the flood unfolds under the direct hand of God. There are other flood narratives in the ancient literature. The most well-known is the Epic of Gilgamesh. The Epic of Gilgamesh speaks of the gods being angry with human noise and overpopulation. When the flood waters begin they became “frightened of the deluge, They shrank back and went up to Anu’s highest heaven.[1]” The biblical narrator paints a much different picture as the flood is under the control of the sovereign Lord who causes the rains to fall and the sends the wind to cause the waters to subside. The theme of God’s sovereignty is a constant theme throughout the book of Genesis. God sends the rain,

In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened. And rain fell upon the earth forty days and forty nights. (Genesis 7:11-12)

The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days. (Genesis 7:17-24)

The rain came and there was nothing that anybody could do to stop it.

            Noah’s neighbors were eating and drinking and enjoying life. They lived according to their own reality. “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die.” Although they were living in their reality, they were not living the reality of the Lord God. The Flood is an example of the final judgment. The Flood is an awful reality. The Bible doesn’t give the accounts of those that perished, but we can imagine. We can imagine families trying to escape the rising waters. We can imagine the horror of seeing loved ones washed away before their eyes. We can imagine the dread of knowing that there was no hope, but certain death.

The New Testament speaks of the Judgment in the Flood as a sign of the Coming Judgment of God. Jesus said,

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. (Matthew 24:36-42)

Those in Noah’s day were not prepared for the flood, are you prepared for the coming of the Son of Man?

            I remember my grandmother writing me a letter on this passage. I was a new believer and starting reading my Bible and talking to my family about Jesus. My grandmother was a lifelong Lutheran and she was reading this passage one day and was scared. I remember reading her letter and sensing the fear she had of the coming judgment of God. Do you feel weight of this passage? Do you see how God is going to punish sin? Are you ready? Are you ready for the coming of the Son of Man? When he comes, your secret sins will be disclosed. Your bank accounts will be revealed. Your inner thoughts will be made known. Are you ready?

            God will punish sin. In Peter’s day, there were those who questioning the return of Jesus. They did not believe the Lord was going to hold them accountable for their sin. Peter writes,

They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.” For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. (2 Peter 3:4-7)

There is a Day coming of destruction for the ungodly. Are you ready for that Day?

God Protects Saints in the Flood

            The Flood teaches us that God will punish the ungodly, but it also teaches us that God will protect his saints. God will protect those who trust in Him. Remember the beginning of the Flood narrative, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.” Noah was a man of godly character. He was not without sin, but was above reproach. His life was characterized by righteousness, right living before God. God protected Noah from the coming disaster,

And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood. Make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark 300 cubits, its breadth 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above, and set the door of the ark in its side. Make it with lower, second, and third decks. For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die. But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you. And of every living thing of all flesh, you shall bring two of every sort into the ark to keep them alive with you. They shall be male and female. Of the birds according to their kinds, and of the animals according to their kinds, of every creeping thing of the ground, according to its kind, two of every sort shall come in to you to keep them alive. Also take with you every sort of food that is eaten, and store it up. It shall serve as food for you and for them.” Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him. (Genesis 6:13-22)

God spoke to Noah and Noah obeyed God. This will always be the sign of the righteous. When God speaks, his people listen. Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) Noah showed himself to be righteous in how he responded to the Word of God. Do you do the same?

            Noah continued to demonstrate his trust in the Lord when the Day of judgement came. Genesis 7:1-10,

Then the LORD said to Noah, “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation. Take with you seven pairs of all clean animals, the male and his mate, and a pair of the animals that are not clean, the male and his mate, and seven pairs of the birds of the heavens also, male and female, to keep their offspring alive on the face of all the earth. For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground.” And Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him. Noah was six hundred years old when the flood of waters came upon the earth. And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him went into the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Of clean animals, and of animals that are not clean, and of birds, and of everything that creeps on the ground, two and two, male and female, went into the ark with Noah, as God had commanded Noah. And after seven days the waters of the flood came upon the earth.

And,

They went into the ark with Noah, two and two of all flesh in which there was the breath of life. And those that entered, male and female of all flesh, went in as God had commanded him. And the LORD shut him in. (Genesis 7:15-16)

The Lord shut Noah in ark to protect him from the judgment.

The literary climax is Genesis 8:1, “But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the livestock that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided.” God remembered Noah. Noah honored God and God remembered Noah. Peter uses these words to encourage the church who was being persecuted by the world as a reminded that God will punish the ungodly and protect his people. He writes, “if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly…then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment. (2 Peter 2:5,9)

Are you going through a trial? The flood is a reminder that God protects the godly from their trials. Do you see how understanding the flood as a real historical story of judgment of the ungodly and the salvation of the righteous serves us today? God will protect us. God will protect the godly from unjust government. God will protect the godly from unjust accusers. God will protect the godly from Himself on the day of wrath.

God Promises Salvation after the Flood

            The story of the flood is the awful reality of consequences of sin. However, the story does not end only in judgment, but in hope. There is always promise of hope in the midst of judgment in the Bible. Genesis 8:20-22,

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

God officially changes his dealings with men even though their hearts doesn’t change. Human beings will still be inclined to do evil. The next two chapters we see Noah getting drunk and men uniting together against God to try to create the Tower of Babel, so what changed? God is shifting from dealing with humanity with strict justice to pure grace.[2] God will begin to establish his kingdom on earth through Noah and his descendants.

God makes a covenant with Noah which reminds us of Genesis 1 and his covenant with Adam and points us forward the covenant with the New Adam, Jesus Christ. Genesis 9:7-17,

And you, be fruitful and multiply, increase greatly on the earth and multiply in it.” Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

God repeats the word “berit,” covenant seven times. The covenant God makes with Noah and all living creatures is a “perfect, all-encompassing covenant.” And this covenant is not conditioned like the one to Adam, but God places no conditions of obedience for maintaining this covenant, for he has already explicitly stated, “the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth.” (Genesis 8:21)

            God offers a sign of the covenant with a rainbow that he hangs in the cloud. A sign that only He can control; an unconditional sign. Israel would have viewed a bow as a sign of war. The picture is that God now hangs his bow in the clouds as a sign that he is no longer actively at war with the world, but has offered peace. The beauty of the bow in the clouds is that it can only be controlled by God. God has offered a peace treaty with this world by no longer aiming his bow at the world, but aiming the bow at his own heart. God will fulfill his covenant by taking the bow and shooting the arrow at his own heart. He will send His Son to the cross to be pierced for the transgressions of man. We have hearts that are inclined to evil from our youth. We need new hearts. And now through the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has offered us peace and new heart. For, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) The old world of strict judgment was washed away with the flood so that now if anyone turns from their sin and trust in Christ, they will be a new creation.

God brought Noah through the flood as a sign that we could be cleansed from our sin through the appeal to God for a clean conscience. God sent the “arrow” through the righteous one making peace through the blood of his cross (Col. 1:20). Peter writes,

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. (1 Peter 3:18-22)

God brought Noah safely through the water so now through repentance and faith we may be cleansed from our former sins being buried with Christ in baptism and raised to walk in the newness of life (Rom. 6:4).

            The flood shows us that God will punish sin and He will protect the godly, but the flood ultimately shows us that the only way we will be ready on our day of judgment is if we have appeal to God for a new heart through faith in the coming Son of Man, Jesus Christ. The Flood is an awful reality of the judgment. The cross is an awesome reality that our judgment has already been paid for all who turn to Christ. God promises salvation through the Coming Son. God has hung up his war bow and now offers you peace through Jesus Christ. Have you accepted his offer?

 

[1] Gilgamesh, Tablet XI, lines 113-114.

[2] Sydney Greidanus,. Preaching Christ in Genesis. 116.

The Fall

Have you ever struggled with sin? Fallen to temptation? Attempted to cover up your shame? Have you ever been hopeless in your pursuit of holiness? The third chapter of Genesis explains the root answer to all these questions. The Fall is the Second Act of God’s story. I pray that in a close study of this text, you will better understand how we are tempted to sin and to see God’s glorious grace, even in the midst of judgment.

The Tempter in the Fall

            We are introduced to a new character at the beginning of Genesis 3. A character that will play a prominent role in the rest of the story of the Scriptures. Genesis 3:1a, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field the LORD God had made.” The serpent was a creature that was made by the Lord. Although he was a creature, he was different than the other beasts of the field, for he speaks. Genesis 3:1b, “He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” His opening lines reveal his craftiness is directed against the Lord as he questions His command. Scripture reveals to us that this serpent is not a mere serpent, but the Devil.

            The Devil is given many names in Scripture. Jesus speaks of him in the New Testament as the father of lies for, “When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John8:44) Revelation 12:9, “And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” He is the Accuser of God’s people (Rev. 12:10). The prince of the power of the air who leads the sons of disobedience, the god of this world who blinds the minds of unbelievers and the adversary who roars around like a lion seeking someone to devour. From his introduction we see a creature who is crafty and who stands against the Lord.

            It is important to note that the serpent knows the commands of the Lord. The evil one knows the Word, but he twists it for his own purposes and for the destruction of God’s people. Before we examine his tactics, we must first believe that Satan is real and active in God’s world. The narrative does not explain why the serpent is in the Garden, but simply states that he is there. The serpent is a creature of God, but the passage does not explain the nature and origin of evil. The passage explains the origin of human sin and guilt, but does not attempt to answer all the questions of evil. We know that the Bible never attributes God as the author of evil, but as One who uses evil to bring about good (Genesis 50:20; Romans 8:28).

The Temptation of the Fall

The tempter begins his temptation by questioning God’s Word. He wants to cause God’s people to doubt his word. Satan loves half-truths. He presents truth mixed with lies. Genesis 3:1-5,

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.” (Genesis 3:1-5)

Satan twists God’s word, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” If you remember God said, “You may freely eat of any tree in the garden.” The beginning of the temptations starts when Eve start to question God’s word. The tactics are still alive today.

            The voice of the evil may not be from a serpent, but may be from a friend, or a news article, or a preacher. Did God actually say, “marriage can only be between a man or a woman?’ One mark of false teachers is those who twist the scriptures for their own benefit. We were promised that in last days there will be false teachers and false hearers. “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.” (2 Timothy 4:3-4) Temptation begins with doubt, but it leads to denial.

            The woman’s response to the half-truths of the serpent reveals how she has already been subtly deceived,

First, she omits those elements in the command, “any” and “freely,” which placed the prohibition in a context of liberality. At this point she still is thinking collectively with her husband, from whom, as the narrator implies, she received the command: “we may eat” (v. 2). Second, Eve identifies the tree according to its location rather than its significance; and third, she refers to “God” as the serpent had done, rather than “the Lord” (v. 3). Fourth, she also adds the phrase “you must not touch it” (v. 3), which may make the prohibition more stringent. Yet to her credit the fear of touching the fruit may have been out of deference for God’s command. For Israel “touch” was associated with prohibition and death or with consecration to God. Finally, she failed to capture the urgency of certain death, “You will [surely] die” (v. 3).[1]

The woman appears to fight temptation, but she has already begun down the path of doubting God’s Word.

The serpent picks up his attack by outright denying God’s Word and questions his character. Genesis 3:4-5,

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.”

The serpent denies that death will happen and then questions God’s motives. The serpent tells the woman what she will gain, but nothing of what she will lose. Satan told the truth. The man and woman’s eyes would be opened and they would be like God knowing good and evil, but he does not what that will mean. The serpent intentionally focuses on all the positives while obscuring all the negatives. Doesn’t temptation begin the same way today? It holds out the promises of happiness, pleasure and comfort without showing the heartache, the emotional guilt and the people hurt in walking in sin.

            We see the crafty serpent’s trickery deceiving the woman into the first sin. Genesis 3:6, “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.” The woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food like all the other trees and a delight to the eyes like all the other trees, but this tree would make her wise. She would be like God, so she took of the fruit and ate. The root sin here is pride. The man and woman usurp their roles as creatures and put themselves in the place of Creator. They did what was wise in their own eyes. Beloved, the root of our sin will always begin with pride.

            The Bible speaks of the woman being deceived, but her husband was right there with her. The language of the passage always uses the plural “you” implying that the husband was there during this entire conversation. He could have at any point stopped his wife. He could have spoken up and defended the Lord, but instead he was silent. The Bible said that woman was deceived, but it never says that Adam was deceived. Adam’s silence leads to destruction of the garden. How many times does our silence lead to the destruction of people’s lives? Adam will be the one who is held primarily responsible for this breach of God’s Word.

            The temptation in the Garden is still the pattern of temptation today. The apostle John writes,

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17)

The desires of the flesh…our appetites…good for food. The desires of the eyes…our lust…pleasing to the eye. The pride of life…to be like God. Nothing is new under the sun. The best way to overcome an attack from an enemy is to know where he will attack. What are your appetites that can lead you from the Lord? What are your desires of the eyes that tempt you? How are you tempted to make a name for yourself rather than for the Father? Know your weaknesses and plan accordingly. 

The Try after the Fall

            Immediately after the fall, we see how man and woman tried to cover their shame. They first make their own coverings. “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” (Genesis 3:7) Their eyes were opened and they realized (became aware) that they were naked and they covered themselves. The first reaction to being exposed in their sin was to try and deal with it themselves. Don’t we do the same today? We are exposed in our sin and try to cover it up ourselves. And yet we know that our coverings are insufficient.

            Man and women covered themselves because they had become like God knowing good and evil. Genesis 3:8, “And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.” They lost their innocence and immediately hide from God. They fear God. Their perfect communion with God is broken and they are spiritually separated from him. All sin breaks fellowship with God and with each other.

            And although fellowship is broken, the Covenant continues to pursue his people. He knows what has happened, but he calls out to his people giving them the opportunity to admit their guilt. Genesis 3:8-13)

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

Neither the man nor the woman take responsibility for their actions, but pass blame onto another. Adam blames God for giving him the woman and the woman for giving him the fruit. The woman blames the serpent. The Lord graciously calls out to his people, but instead of turning to him they justify their actions. They both admit their sin as they both said, “I ate,” but never confessed their guilt in the transgression.

            Beloved, the sin of the man and the woman in the garden is why sin. We are all spiritually dead and separated from God because of sin. Romans 5:12. “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” We are all sinners. This is the doctrine of original sin. The core of every human being is no longer good, but evil. We are born in sin and our hearts are inclined to evil because at our very core we are sinful. We all know this to be true. We all have our ways of trying to cover up and blame others, but we all know that we are at fault. We cannot deny our guilt. Sin brings judgment.

The Trouble because of the Fall

            The Lord responds to the rebellion in the garden with the pronouncement of judgment towards the rebels,

The LORD God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, cursed are you above all livestock and above all beasts of the field; on your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:14-19)

In Genesis 1, we see God three times call out his blessing: God blessed the animals, God blessed human beings and God blessed the 7th day. And here we see God issue the first of three curses at the beginning of the fall by cursing the serpent and cursing the ground (He will later curse Cain).

            The judgment that God gives is directly related to the purposes in which man and woman were created. The woman was created to bear children and to be a helper fit for her husband, so a woman will now experience pain in childbearing and will have a desire to rule or dominate her husband in marriage. The desire to criticize and control one’s husband has its beginning in the fall. The New Testament teaches that women are called to submit and respect their husbands’ leadership, for those desires are not natural to a fallen world. Adam was placed in the garden to work the land, but now the land will work against him and it will be difficult for him to exercise dominion over it. Work will become hard and the ground will eventually rule over man as man will eventually return to dust. The ultimate punishment of sin is death. Sin brings judgment.

            God completed his judgment against Adam and his wife by sending them out of the garden, banishing them from his presence and guarding the way to life.

The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them. Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:20-24)

Sin brings judgment. Genesis 3 is clear reminder of the consequences of sin, but it is also full of the glorious hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Triumph over the Fall

            Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves after the fall, but their covering was insufficient. Only God could provide a covering. Genesis 3:15 has been termed the protoevangelium, the first gospel. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” There is going to come one from a woman who is going to crush the head of the serpent. Genesis 3:20, “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.” Despite the pain of childbirth, woman would still fulfill her purpose. Eve would bring forth a son. Genesis traces the seed of the woman, Seth to Noah to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah. And the rest of the Bible traces seed of the woman the line ultimately to One who is going to fulfill the promise of Genesis 3:15, Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the seed of woman. Jesus is the New Adam. Jesus would face the temptation of the serpent, not in a Garden, but in the wilderness. After forty days without food, Jesus would stand against the crafty deception of Satan by trusting in the LORD God. Where Adam failed, Jesus succeeded. Jesus was tempted three times and each time overcame temptation with the Word of Truth.

The LORD God made a provision to cover Adam and Eve in the garden. He covered them with the skin of an animal. Blood was shed to cover their nakedness. This covering was only a sign of how the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent; he would first have to be bruised and bleed, taking the curse of God on a tree. Matthew 27:45-46 speaks of Jesus as he hung on the cross, “Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We know why Jesus was forsaken on the curse.

 We know why he was cursed. He was cursed because he loved us. And Jesus was the only way to get us back to the presence of God. Genesis 3:24, “He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” A Cherubim was a symbol for God’s people reminding them that they could not enter God’s presence. The cherubim was placed on the curtain in the Temple that separated the Holy place from the Holy of Holies. Matthew 27:50-51, “And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split…” “When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!” (Matthew 27:54) Through the shed blood of the Son of God, the curtain was torn and the cherubim no longer blocked the way to the presence of God. Jesus triumphed over the fall through his death.

Jesus died to pay our curse, but was raised to give us new life. Salvation only comes through judgment. We were saved because our Savior was judged. We celebrate the victory of the Lamb who was slain by enjoying a foretaste of the meal to come. We feast today with the bread and the fruit of the wine as a reminder of what Christ has done in his death and what awaits us in the coming resurrection. The Lord’s Supper is a promise. We come together and proclaim the Lord’s death as the only way to God. The Lord’s Table is for sinners, but for sinners who have repented of their sins and trusted in Christ. We demonstrate our trust in Christ publicly through baptism and by committing ourselves to Lord’s church which He purchased with his blood.

 

[1] Mathews, K. A. (1996). Genesis 1-11:26 (Vol. 1A, pp. 235–236). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Wage the Good Warfare

            On evening of November 13, 2015, Isobel Bowdery went to a concert with her friends for fun, but her evening quickly turned to a nightmare. Isobel harrowing tale of survival was recounted the day after the coordinated Isis in Paris. She writes,

You never think it will happen to you. It was just a friday night at a rock show. the atmosphere was so happy and everyone was dancing and smiling. and then when the men came through the front entrance and began the shooting, we naiively believed it was all part of the show. It wasn't just a terrorist attack, it was a massacre. Dozens of people were shot right infront of me. Pools of blood filled the floor. Cries of grown men who held their girlfriends dead bodies pierced the small music venue. Futures demolished, families heartbroken. in an instant. Shocked and alone, I pretended to be dead for over an hour, lying among people who could see their loved ones motionless. Holding my breath, trying to not move, not cry - not giving those men the fear they longed to see. I was incredibly lucky to survive. But so many didn't…Last night, the lives of many were forever changed and it is up to us to be better people. to live lives that the innocent victims of this tragedy dreamt about but sadly will now never be able to fulfil.[1]

Isobel first words are stunning, “You never think it will happen to you.” Isobel went to a concert that Friday night as she had done many nights before and her peaceful life was forever changed. She became utterly aware that she was part of a war. Warfare is bloody and brutal. It is an awful reality.

            ISIS is at war with the west. We may not feel the effects of war, but that does not change the reality of war. We have an enemy. America must never forget that we have enemies of our way of life. And like Americans, Christians must never forget that we have enemies of our way of life. Christians are in a war. There are enemies of the cross of Christ. We may not always feel its effects, but there are moments like the ones on November 13th that remind us that we are at war. Paul charges Timothy to fight for the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Paul charges Timothy to fight for the Gospel, I prayer that you will pick up your army and contend for the gospel.

The Reality of the War

            First, let us briefly establish the reality of the war. The Christian life is viewed as a battle. Listen to the Scriptures in reference to the warfare against sin,

1 Peter 2:24, “He bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Romans 6:62, “We have been united with him in a death like his. . . .Our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing. . . . How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Galatians 2:205:24, “I have been crucified with Christ. . . .Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Colossians 3:3, “You have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.” Romans 7:4, “You have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another…Romans 8:13, “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you kill the deeds of the body, you will live.” Colossians 3:5, “Put to death what is earthly in you.” 1 Corinthians 9: 27, “I pommel my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.” * 1 Corinthians 15:31, I die every day!”[2]

The believer battle with sin is clearly pictured as warfare. We are at war with the world, our flesh and the devil to root out and kill sin our life. John Owen writes, “Do you mortify? Do you make it your daily work? Be always at it whilst you live; cease not a day from this work; be killing sin or it will be killing you.

The Soldiers in the War

            Paul left Timothy at Ephesus to lead the army against sin. Timothy was charged to lead God’s people, 1 Tim 1:18-19a, “This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience.” Timothy was set apart by the council of the elders to serve as the Elder of the church at Ephesus. He was charged to fight by holding onto faith and a good conscience. First, we wage the good warfare by fighting for sound doctrine. Timothy had to teach the people the true faith. The false teachers in Ephesus were leading people from purity of doctrine. We always will have to fight for true faith. The true faith that Jesus Christ alone saves. Jesus is the only name under heaven which man must be saved. There is no other way. There is one mediator between man and God, and that is the man Christ Jesus. There is no other. We must fight for the exclusivity of the Cross of Jesus Christ. Everyone is welcome at the cross, but everyone must come through the cross to get to God. We come to Jesus by faith. We turn from our sin and turn to Jesus for salvation believing in his death and resurrection.

            Secondly, we fight with a good conscience. We fight to believe and we fight to live out our beliefs. The church had a saying, “Coram Deo.” It means before the face of God. We live our lives fighting for holy lives. We confess sin. We protect what we watch on T.V. We put internet filters on our computers. We invite people into our lives to ask us tough questions. We commit ourselves to a local church. As Peter encourages the church to make their calling and election sure. We fight to believe God’s Word and we also fight to live by God’s Word. We trust God’s Word to live God’s Way for God’s Glory.

            We are all soldiers in the Lord’s army. We have been set apart to wage the good warfare. Like in an Army, we have leaders. Elders and deacons who are on the front lines in the battle of sin, but we all are part of the royal priesthood. We are all called to be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. We all have responsible to fight for the purity of our doctrine and our lives. Jonathan Leeman writes 7 responsibilities of church members in his new book, Don’t Fire Your Church Members: A Case for Congregationalism: Attend Regularly, Help Preserve the Gospel, Help Affirm Gospel Citizens, Attend Members Meetings, Disciple Other Church Members, Share the Gospel with Outsiders, and Follow Your Leaders. These responsibilities help the church wage war against sin and fight for God’s glory. He adds,

The Bible gives final authority and therefore responsibility to the gathered congregation. With authority comes responsibility. By joining a church, you become responsible for what your church teaches and for every single member’s discipleship.

·         You are responsible to act if Pastor Ed begins to teach a false gospel.

·         You are responsible to help ensure Member Candidate Chris adequately understands the gospel.

·         You are responsible for Sister Sue’s discipleship to Christ, and that she’s being cared for and nurtured toward Christlikeness.

·         You are responsible to ensure Member Max is excluded from the fellowship of the church if his life and profession no longer agree.

Who trains you for all this work? Your elders. Add your responsibilities together with theirs and you have Jesus’s discipleship program.[3]

Joining a church is enlisting in the war for sound faith and sound living. Before people join the church people should understand the magnitude of their responsibility,

Friend, by joining this church, you will become jointly responsible for whether or not this congregation continues to faithfully proclaim the gospel. That means you will become jointly responsible both for what this church teaches, as well as whether or not its members’ lives remain faithful. And one day you will stand before God and give an account for how you used this authority. Will you sit back and stay anonymous, doing little more than passively showing up for 75 minutes on Sundays? Or will you jump in with the hard and rewarding work of studying the gospel, building relationships, and making disciples? We need more hands for the harvest, so we hope you’ll join us in that work.[4]

Or put it simply, “Are you ready to join the war for God’s glory? Are you ready to fight?”

The Causalities in the War

            And in every war there will always be causalities. We learn of two individuals who did not fight the good fight, but fell to the evil one. Paul continues, “holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander.” These two men rejected the true faith and gave themselves after the world. Most scholars believe that Hymenaeus and Alexander were elders of the church. The reason that Timothy needed to come to Ephesus was that the leaders drifted from the truth both in their teaching and in their way of life. The leaders in the church. Let that settle in. I believe that Paul mentioned their name as a warning to the people that we all must continue to fight the good fight.

 No one is exempt from the dangers of the war. We all must fight. There have been many leaders in Christ’s church that have fallen in their teaching and in their way of life. Solomon was the wisest king of Israel and ended up bowing before foreign gods. Hymenaeus and Alexander once gave powerful sermons and led prayer revivals only to turn their back on Jesus. 1 Timothy 5:19-20, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. (1 Timothy 5:19-20). Do not underestimate the power of the adversary. And even Timothy was warned. He was charged here to press on into the warfare and again in 1 Tim 4:16, “Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers. (1 Timothy 4:16). Do not be a causality of the war. There are serious consequences in this war.

The Goal of the War

            Remember the goal of the war is to win. We know that we have already won the war because Jesus Christ has destroyed the works of the devil. He brought us the victory over the grave. He has risen. The goal of this life is enter safely into the next one. We must never presume on His grace, but avail ourselves to take hold of the upward prize of God in Christ Jesus. We forget what is behind and press on towards what is ahead. We do not trust our ability to wage the good warfare, but we trust in the war who has already won the war. We trust in the finished work of Christ.

Beloved, there is always hope. Even these men who rejected the faith could still turn back and be forgiven. Paul ends this chapter by saying, “among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.” He gave them over to Satan so that they would learn not to blaspheme. They needed to learn. They were removed from the fellowship so that their false faith and false living would be corrected. It was not a final sentence, but an act of grace so that they would repent. Paul wanted them to receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ.

            Church discipline is not a final judgment, but a warning to avoid the coming greater judgment. Paul gave up Hymenaeus and Alexander as an act of grace. It would have done them no good to continue in a path that only brought them death. Church discipline was for their good. If our goal is to find our happy rest in God on our last day, then we should thank God for the precious gift of discipline. Paul and Timothy’s ministry had the aim of love. They loved these men, but love does not always look the same. Paul loved Hymenaeus and Alexander enough to care more about their eternal happiness than earthly contentment. Thomas Watson writes, “What fools are they who for a drop of pleasure, drink a sea of wrath.” Paul warned these men in love.

            Beloved, we are at war. We must not think, “It could never happen to me.” Let us understand our frailty and learn on the everlasting arms of Jesus Christ. Jesus is mighty to save. No one is ever beyond hope for God has given us eternal hope in His Son. Our job is to hold fast to the hope of Christ as we contend for the faith once and for all delivered to saints. I charge you to wage the good warfare, holding faith and a clear conscience.

 

 

[1] https://www.facebook.com/isobel.bowdery/posts/10153885280769893 accessed 2.10.16

[2] http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/make-war-the-pastor-and-his-people-in-the-battle-against-sin accessed 2.10.16

[3] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/your-7-job-responsibilities-as-a-church-member

[4] http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/your-7-job-responsibilities-as-a-church-member