Genesis has often been described as the seed plot of the Bible. Subjects raised in this first book are developed in later books. The very name “Genesis” means “origin” – a fitting title for a book that reveals a number of significant beginnings. Man’s own origin is unveiled in this book as well as his destiny. It is hardly surprising that Genesis has been the object of Satan’s vicious attacks for centuries, and many so-called scholars today dismiss it as a book of myths. If Genesis is taken literally it makes rather unpleasant reading for the humanistic anthropologist and for those who embrace the teaching of evolutionary science. In order to maintain their views, they have to read Genesis in a non-literal way. However, if we fail to read Genesis literally we run into all kinds of problems in the New Testament. Our Lord Jesus Christ clearly understood Genesis as literal history, and Paul’s extended discourse on the gospel message in Romans also depends upon a literal reading of Genesis. We do not need to be afraid of reading Genesis literally. In fact, it contains the answer to many of life’s problems today – particularly when we consider the lives of Adam and Eve.
A CREATED BEING
Genesis presents us with the beginning of human history. We are taken back not millions of years to an evolving creature, but to a moment probably not much more than 6000 years ago when the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground and breathed life into his nostrils (Gen. 2:7). Man became a living soul, made in God’s own image and likeness (Gen. 1:26), above the level of animals. God enjoyed fellowship with man in the Garden of Eden where He placed him. Notice that only after the creation of man is everything God made seen to be “very good” (Gen. 1:31 KJV). Prior to man’s creation everything was described simply as “good.”
Man was created as a responsible moral being. Adam was to tend the garden (Gen. 2:15) and to have dominion over all other forms of life (Gen. 1:28). He was also able to make rational choices. The Lord God made it clear that man was to eat freely of every tree of the garden apart from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17). Man was not created as a robot to be absolutely controlled by God. Rather, he had the ability to make responses to his Creator and, as subsequent history shows, these responses could be wrong. As well as enjoying fellowship with God, man was created as a social being. The Lord God recognized that it was not good for Adam to be alone, and from Adam’s own body He removed a rib from which He fashioned the first woman, Eve (Gen. 2:18-23).
All of these facts are important and teach us a number of lessons. As Eve became “the mother of all living” (Gen. 3:20), each of us can trace our ancestry back to Adam and Eve. Like them, we are responsible moral beings, created to enjoy fellowship with God. We are made to live in society with other human beings, not in isolation. Like them, we are responsible to obey our Creator, and He seeks our acquiescence to His ways.
The first marriage ever is also seen in the lives of Adam and Eve. Physically different but socially compatible, Eve was made to share Adam’s life and to be his helper (Gen. 2:18). From the relationship between these first two human beings we are shown the basis for subsequent marriages: a man is to leave his own parents and be united to his wife in a new relationship so that the two become “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24). This statement is quoted by the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul (Mt. 19:4-6; Mk. 10:8; 1 Cor 6:16; Eph. 5:31) to teach that God’s intention for marriage is that it should be indissoluble. Today in many countries marriage is under attack more than ever, with statistics indicating an alarming rise in the number of divorces.
The main chapter dealing with Adam and Eve is Genesis 3. This well-known chapter, dismissed by many as myth, tells us how the first sin was committed. Adam and Eve, placed in a perfect and pleasant environment (Gen. 2:9) which God intended them to enjoy, were faced with a cunning creature who sowed doubt in their minds. He asked if God had really forbidden them to eat from that tree (Gen. 3:1). Having gained Eve’s full attention, the serpent flatly denied what God had said. Completely duped by his smooth talk, she ate of the fruit of the tree and shared it with her husband – to their great loss.
Satan is still the master of deception. He comes as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14) when we least expect him and tempts us to disobey God. Sin was indeed at the door for them (Gen. 4:7) and soon found an entrance. It would appear that Eve was deceived by Satan and responded to his appeals without consulting her husband. Adam, on the other hand, knew where the forbidden fruit had come from and deliberately took it when his wife offered it to him. This is made clear in a New Testament explanation in 1 Timothy 2:14. Sometimes we too can be deceived by Satan, as Eve was. At other times we can deliberately disobey God’s commands, as Adam did. Another similar trait is that we frequently blame someone else for our own failings instead of admitting that we are wrong – Adam blaming “the woman” and Eve blaming “the serpent” (Gen. 3:12-13).
H. R. Palmer (1834-1907) wrote a hymn beginning with these words: “Yield not to temptation, for yielding is sin.” Facing temptation is not wrong, but yielding to it is. As Cain was later told, sin desires to have us but we must rule over it (Gen. 4:7). This is something impossible to do in our own strength. Palmer’s hymn gives the secret of victory: “Ask the Savior to help you, comfort, strengthen, and keep you; He is willing to aid you, He will carry you through.”
As soon as Adam and Eve sinned they acquired a new awareness and felt uncomfortable in the presence of God. Their relationship with their Creator was broken and the guilty pair was banished from the delightful garden where they had lived (Gen. 3:23). That one act of disobedience is taken up by Paul in Romans 5:12. It had awful repercussions, for by it sin entered into the world and death in its wake. Adam and Eve parented a son whom they named Seth, but instead of being in the image of God, as Adam had originally been, Seth bore the image of his father Adam (Gen. 5:3). The image of God had become tarnished.
Sin is an ever-present reality today, and death is an enemy man is unable to overcome. Each person born of human parents begins life with a sinful nature. That nature is at enmity with God (Rom. 8:7) and soon manifests itself in unmistakable ways (Gal. 5:19-21). Sin creates a life-long barrier between man and God (Isa. 59:2), and unless dealt with will lead to eternal death and banishment from the presence of God (Rom. 6:23). But Genesis gives us a glimpse of God’s plans that were to be fully unveiled in the New Testament.
THE IMAGE RESTORED
After disobeying God, Adam and Eve realized that they were naked and hid from His presence (Gen. 3:10). Although God pronounced a curse upon them both for their disobedience and banished them from the garden, He provided clothes from animal skins to cover their nakedness (Gen. 3:21). This is the first indication of sacrifice in the Bible, paving the way for the many animal sacrifices detailed in Exodus and Leviticus.
In the New Testament we are introduced to a “second Adam” (1 Cor. 15:47), the first man of a new order. So that lost humanity might be rescued, God’s own Son took human flesh upon Himself and was born into this world. Like Adam, but unlike every other person, He had no human father. He was conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit (Lk. 1:35) and came into this world having a holy nature and not a sinful nature. Taking our place, He died upon the cross, accepting our guilt and bearing the punishment of death that we deserved. Our sin was heaped upon Him that He might clothe us with His own righteousness (2 Cor. 5:21). Fig leaves represented Adam and Eve’s own efforts to clothe themselves and proved totally inadequate. In the same way, our finest efforts cannot make us appear righteous and acceptable before God. Instead, believers are clothed with the garments of salvation and covered with Christ’s own righteousness (Isa. 61:10). How true are the words of Nicolaus Ludwig Zinzendorf’s (1700-1760) hymn, “No age can change its glorious hue, the robe of Christ is ever new.”
Not only are we made righteous in Christ, but the image of God that was lost through Adam’s sin is restored through fellowship with the Lord (Col. 3:10; 2 Cor. 3:18). God’s ultimate purpose is that all who trust in Christ as their Savior and Lord should bear His own image for eternity (Rom. 8:29). Truths opened up to us in Genesis are thus unfolded fully in the New Testament. Robert Hawker (1753-1827) put it this way in one of his hymns:
|Though our nature’s fall in Adam seemed to shut us out from God,
Thus it was His counsel brought us nearer still through Jesus’ blood;
For in Him we found redemption, grace and glory in the Son;
Oh! the height and depth of mercy! Christ and we, through grace, are one.
The account of Adam and Eve in Genesis is no myth. Rather, these events that really happened explain to us the presence of sin and its effect in the world today, and introduce the way of salvation brought by Christ at a tremendous cost. Man, separated from God through sin, can be restored to Him through the death of Jesus upon the cross. Christ, the Lamb of God who died, has been raised from the dead and is the Head of a new race of people – those reconciled to God through Him and made alive by His Spirit. The Bible, which begins in Eden, ends with another garden, another tree, and fellowship being enjoyed between God and His redeemed people forever (Rev. 22). Considering such truths can only give us a small indication of what a wonderful book the Bible is and of what a wonderful plan of salvation God has devised.
By Martin Girard
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org