It is a simple fact that everyone can distinguish the world as it is from the world as it ought to be or as they would like it to be. The debate is over how you analyse and then solve the basic problem. So how do you go about solving that or any problem? Answer, you must first be clear about the facts, for too many people jump to conclusions.
One day this week I arrived at church to find two men pulling a trailer out of our church-yard. They then hitched it to a large four-wheel drive vehicle. To my amazement I saw a large yellow door in the trailer. Not unnaturally I thought to myself: a problem - not only that, but a considerable problem. Might these be some rather clever burglars relieving us not only of our main doors but of the security to this whole building? Nor was I reassured when I asked them, in as polite a manner as possible, "Excuse me, what are you doing?" and they said, "we are taking away the church door!" But I had jumped to the wrong conclusion.
For to solve problems, first, you must find out the facts; then you must analyse those facts correctly; only then should you come to a conclusion or think about a solution. And the facts were that these were nice men replacing with two doors the back door to the North Gallery which is being refurbished.
It is just like with many people - famous people and religious people - who jump to wrong conclusions about the fundamental problems of life. They do not first discover the true facts. Marx, Darwin and Freud have done that, so have great religious leaders like the Buddha and Mohammed and modern New Age teachers. And so does everyone else who ignores the facts that you have in the early chapters of Genesis that we are studying on these Sunday evenings.
Tonight we have come to the second half of Genesis chapter 3. So what does Genesis 3 tell us about the facts of the human problem?
First of all it tells us that the distinction between the world as it is and the world as it ought to be, was not there originally. The original creation was good. The problem came later when Adam and Eve disobeyed and ignored God. And the solution is only possible when you face that fact.
That is what I want us to do tonight as we look together at Genesis 3.14-24. And my two headings tonight are, first, PARADISE LOST and, secondly, LIVING EAST OF EDEN.
First, PARADISE LOST
When Adam and Eve disobeyed God, what happened? Besides fellowship with God being broken, our passage tells us that four other things happened.
First, Nature was affected by their "fall" (as we call it). Nature is not essentially bad but it has been affected by sin. I do not understand this. But in verse 14, we read:
"So the LORD God said to the serpent, 'Because you have done this, Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.'"
It wasn't just the serpent that was cursed but the livestock and wild animals. The serpent was especially cursed, it says, "above all the livestock and all the wild animals". The reality now is that nature is "red in tooth and claw". Paul says in Romans 8 that "the creation itself" is now "in bondage to decay" and "has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time" (vv 21-22). So sin has infected our total environment. You say,
"May be. But doesn't this talk about 'the serpent' just prove we are dealing with a myth that we can't take too seriously. Isn't this just a poetic story to lend a little colour to the proposition that the world as it is is not as it ought to be?"
Well, that is not what the rest of the Bible teaches. In fact, the Bible teaches that with this serpent we are dealing with Satan himself. In the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, in chapter 20 verse 2, you read about "the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan" - and devil is the Greek word, Satan the Hebrew word. We are talking about the great adversary. And somehow, Genesis says, the first woman, Eve, was confronted by the Devil himself in the form of a serpent. You then say, "what was the status or level of existence of the serpent?" I don't know. You will have to wait for heaven to find out. But we are not just talking about the internal state of the first woman's mind. Was it the Devil invading an ordinary snake, like the demons invaded a herd of pigs in Jesus' day? Or was it the Devil - a supernatural fallen Angel - coming in a supernatural and serpentine form? We read of "visions" of Angels in the New Testament. How can you tell? But what we can say is that something most adequately described as "the serpent" - an objective reality - communicated ideas out of its, or his, mind. These were the ideas which, in translation, you read about in the first part of chapter 3.
Then came the Fall. The serpent made Eve question the truth and especially the goodness of God. And she believed, "that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan", rather than God. You then say, "but you can't believe in an objective devil - a real supernatural being with mind and purpose!" Why not? In its teaching on the Devil, the Bible claims that the totality of evil is more than the sum total of individual human wrong deeds and thoughts. There is a super-plus - and that is not an "it" (some negative force of nature) but a "he" - a being with mind and purpose. I, personally, find that quite believable. A being with horns and a forked tail is a myth. The biblical Devil is not that, but a terrible enemy.
This passage, however, tells us that he is also a defeated enemy. Look at verse 15. The Lord God says:
"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."
Yes, the Devil can still "strike our heels". But on the Cross Christ defeated Satan - or, as Paul says, Christ "disarmed [demonic] powers and authorities". One day he will fully crush Satan's head - that is what you read about in Revelation 20. In the meantime, with Christ's strength, believers can have victory over the devil. "The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet" Paul told the Romans (16.20). So nature was affected by the Fall and there is a real Devil - a foe, but a defeated foe.
Secondly, women were affected by the Fall and particularly their experience of sex - in motherhood and in marriage. Look at verse 16:
"To the woman he said, 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.'"
What is meant to be a wonderful thing - childbirth and child nurturing is now painful and difficult. This doesn't just cover the delivery of a child but all those interrupted nights for feeding and then the tantrums and then the squabbles in the back of the car as you go on holiday and so on and so forth. Also there is the abuse that women receive from some men in marriage, at the same time as they have a desire for men. And both men and women experienced after the Fall a new shame with regard to sex. Last time we read about the fig leaves covering their nakedness. Now God provides them with better garments, verse 21, "garments of skin".
Thirdly, men were affected by the Fall. Look at verses 17-19:
"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."
Adam's sin is highlighted - "you listened to your wife" and not God. Beware of listening to any in your family before God.
Not so long ago, a bishop publicly admitted that he changed his views on sex and supported a sexual ethic contrary to the Bible because he knew his own children were sleeping around. I've known people who have changed their views over divorce and remarriage because someone in their family gets divorced. Adam's great sin was that he listened to a member of his family - his wife - and not to God.
And the result of Adam's sin was that work - something meant to be fulfilling and pleasurable - is now marked by "toil" and "sweat". And that is true for women as well as men. Even if you do the most fulfilling job imaginable, be ready for a lot of "toil" and "sweat" this side of heaven. Your work will not always be pleasurable.
And eventually you will die (if Christ does not first return). The Fall resulted in death. Verse 19 here says: "for dust you are and to dust you will return." Paul say in Romans 6: "the wages of sin is death". Since Adam, the first man, that has been the ultimate statistic - as C.S.Lewis put it: "one out of one dies".
Fourthly, the Fall meant that both the man and the women were driven out of Eden. Verse 22-24:
"The LORD God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.' So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life."
So that brings us to our second heading tonight.
Secondly, LIVING EAST OF EDEN.
There is a wrong way as well as a right way to live. So first the wrong way.
And the wrong way is not to face the facts. And one of the first facts that people do not face is this - that God is a God of judgment and retribution.
It is the Lord God who says to the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman;" and to the woman, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing." In the beginning the Devil lied to Eve by saying that God is just a spoil-sport, a repressive God. Whereas, of course, he is a good God who wants the best for Adam and Eve and us. But then down the centuries the Devil has repeatedly lied by telling people that God is a benevolent Father Christmas figure who let's you always do what you like, as selfishly as you like and as immorally as you like. And there will be no problems. The reality is otherwise, as Adam and Eve discovered. But God's judgments work in three ways. One, they are for your good in this life, to bring you to repentance. Two, sometimes they are to prevent worse things happening. And, three, they are for all eternity.
This punishment was for the good of Adam and Eve. It would have been disastrous for them to have continued in Eden and to have lived forever. The accumulation of sin now let loose in the world would make living forever intolerable. Psalm 90 verse 10 is so right:
"The length of our days is seventy years-- or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow."
With the help of drugs and other treatments more and more can go on to 80. But there is still "trouble and sorrow" for many. Imagine living today to 180 or 190! The goal in old age is not to go one for ever, but to depart in peace and be with the Lord for ever, as Simeon prayed in the New Testament. Millions, however, ignore God's judgments. They try to live as though there was no Fall. And they want to get back to Eden. But God puts a guard against going back with "cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth."
So you get people in parts of the world who believe they can defeat death. They are paying vast sums of money to get themselves deep frozen to be woken up, as they think, when medical science will let them live for ever. How foolish! I even saw an advert from San Diego, California saying, "You can live for ever with your dog!" Then there are the political utopians. Sir Thomas More's Utopia written in 1516 portrays a social state without violence, oppression or property. But any political programme that does not take account of the Fall or sin, and assumes that this side of heaven you can live in a recreated Eden is bound to fail. So programmes and policies that say social or political problems are all due to external factors and ignore the sinful human heart are not facing the facts and bound to fail.
Then you get privatized versions of recreating Eden. In the early 20th century you had nudism starting in Germany and then spreading, with the idea of getting back to nature and ignoring the sense of shame that came with the Fall. Well, either the people are young and nubile and it is immodest, or they are old and they just look sad. After all, God provided garments to make up for deficiencies.
Then you get educationalists, like Rousseau, who denied the Fall. He said children were born perfect, whereas the Bible teaches we are all born imperfect, with a tendency to go our own way. A 20th century disciple of Rousseau was A.S.Neil with his Summerhill school where children were allowed to do what they liked. Many said, "with disastrous consequences". Certainly Rousseau's appalling treatment of his own children did not commend his educational theories.
Then you have people who face the fact of the Fall but not the fact of God's creation. So beware of thinking that because there is wrong male domination due to the Fall, happiness comes about when you deny any sexual order or difference. This was the trouble with the Feminism of the 1960s, 70s and 80s. And beware of thinking that because work can be (and often is) hard, happiness comes by doing nothing and being idle. You see, the Fall has distorted God's creation ordinances - for sexual relationships and work. And we can't recreate Eden. But that does not mean the created order has been abolished or the ideals of that order are not to guide us now with regard to sex and work.
What, then, is the right way to live East of Eden - when you are no longer in that perfect world?
You need to go back to those three absolutely vital chapter "3s" in the Bible - Genesis 3 (our chapter tonight); Romans 3 and John 3. And then remember old Bishop Ryle's saying that the Christian gospel (and so the basis for the right way of living) could be summed up in 3 "R's" - Ruin, Redemption and Regeneration:
Ruin - the whole human race is facing God's judgment for rebelling against him;
Redemption - on the Cross Jesus Christ provided a way out from that judgment; and ...
Regeneration - the Holy Spirit, as we trust in Christ, will give us new life through giving us a new birth - a spiritual birth.
Genesis 3 is all about Ruin as we have seen; Romans 3 is all about Redemption in Christ and John 3 is all about Regeneration by the Holy Spirit. The right way to live now is in the light of those three chapters:
1) to face the fact of the Fall and your sin;
2) to seek Christ's forgiveness which he offers because he died on the Cross for your sins, bearing God's judgment in your place; and then ...
3) to ask for the Holy Spirit to give you new life.
Who needs to do that tonight? Yes, it is as simple as that. But the Devil will tempt you to doubt that simplicity.
So let me conclude with a warning of Paul to the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 11.3 - I'm reading the old AV translation which may be the best translation for this verse:
"I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."
The truth often is simple. And the truth is that Paradise has been lost.
But as you live East of Eden you need to face the reality of sin, then seek Christ's forgiveness and the power of his Holy Spirit to live more and more as he wants you to be living.