Death, the wage of Sin
- Romans 6:15-23
- Genesis 3:1-19
Dear brothers and sister in the Lord,
I bought snow peas this week. I tried to grow it myself. What is easier to push a few snow pea seeds into the ground, water it, and wait for it to come up, push out its little fellers and grow into a fruit producing plant! Not mine, there is something which just sits and wait for the peas to appear above the surface of the ground and chew them off. It tried many times. So I went and bought more mature plants in a punnet. This way I would fool the little killer of snow peas.
I was really disappointed and angry when I got there yesterday morning to find out that my enemy discovered the seedlings. What is most disturbing, is that whoever is responsible for it does not eat the plant – it just chews off the stem and let the plant die. Why? What seems to be the problem? What am I doing wrong. Why is the insect so vicious and cruel?
In preparing this sermon I of course read the paradise account of the fall of man. And when I look at my dying peas, I ask the question the Lord asked Eve in Genesis 3:13:
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13, NIV)
Should I curse the insect munching away on my peas? Or should I ask, “What is this you have done?”
You know the experience: the weed and pests in your crop, the droughts, the floods, wars around the world, failed plans, disappointments, misunderstandings – and the pain of losing someone in death. “What is this you have done?”
What God created was good. Everything was good. He provided Adam and Eve and the animals with all they needed to live – all in abundance. Listen to what Eve said:
“We may eat from the trees in the garden.” (Gen 3:2)
They were in a covenant relationship with God. Perfectly innocent they had the privilege of choosing to do his will. But what was also true, is that they were under probation. The relationship between them and God is expressed by theologians as a covenant of works. They were absolutely in the position to execute the will of God – up to that point there was no sin – and there was no death. Nothing impeded their consciences to not do the will of God. Yes, Adam and Eve, up to that dreadful day, had a freedom of will.
With this Eve implied they may eat from all the tress in the garden except those God prohibited them from eating. There was surely enough – in abundance. They lacked nothing. Add to this the privilege they had to communicate with God as He walked the garden in the cool of the day. They had dominion over everything God created. And they had one another.
But then, the father of all lies appeared on the scene. The serpent tempted Eve. What did he do? Instead of holding out before Eve what God provided for them, he points out what God withheld from them. He then reduced God’s command to a question over which one had the right to argue. Once he did that, he planted doubt about God’s genuineness: can God be trusted? Moving into this phase he slandered God motives. Once Adam and Eve believed this the next step was easy: he challenge the truthfulness of God’s threat.
Little wonder then that our Lord had this to say of the Devil:
He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44, NIV)
Eve gradually yields to Satan’s denials and half-truths by downgrading her privileges. Then it was easy to do the next: twist the command of the Lord by saying that God commanded that they should not even touch the fruit. in adding to the prohibition (“nor shall you touch it,” v. 3), and when she had the fruit in her hands, the command of the Lord completely disappeared in her mind and all she could see was the goodness of the fruit and its desirability. How can a good God who made it look so desperately good and desirable threaten one with death if you eat of it!
They failed the test. Their covenant with God was broken. They did not set the rules and conditions – God did, because He made them and put his breath into them. God being the prime partner in this agreement kept his word and promise. It is his world, He was not dependent on them to make it work; they were dependent on Him for life.
Death entered this world. When Satan said, “You will surely not die,” he put doubt in the mind of Adam and Eve. In Hebrew “surely die” is do “die death”, but he puts in a way to sound as if it could be understood as if it is not death, but something less. But God was serious: the punishment upon their failure, rebellion and sin, was “dying death.”
Grace in the face of rebellion
Because God is all-knowing, what Adam and Eve did was known to them before they could confess to Him what they had done. And yet, although they were hiding from them, He still did as He had done before this dreadful day: He still went out in the cool of the day to meet with them. They hid from Him and yet He called out, “Where are you?”
He had the right and power to condemn them straight away, to banish them from the face of the earth or the strike them dead as He promised, but He still called them, “Where are you?”
This is still the case today. All mankind is struck with the full curse of sin, getting what they deserve because of their rebellion against God, and yet He still seeks. Yes, his agreement still stands: sin brings death and eternal punishment, but in Christ He is seeking to redeem those not worthy of grace, to restore them in grace. Today He calls out, “Where are you?” For some this call is the best words they can ever hear, because it means forgiveness and restoration; but for others it means that they cannot hide from God, and that He knows their hearts. They flee from God, only to realise they can’t get away from Him: time and space belong to Him, He created it. It is only a matter of time and the call of grace and mercy will turn into judgement and eternal punishment.
O, that we will hear the call of the gracious God, kneel before Him in confession of sin and beg mercy on account of his son, Jesus Christ and be saved from eternal death!
Satan tricked them into believing his words rather than the command of God. Listen to his version:
“For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5, NIV)
As soon as they took of the forbidden fruit something of what Satan said came true – but they were not like God. They then the difference between good and evil, their eyes were opened to it, but they were not like God. They then understood they had known and lived in the presence of God, only experiencing good, but now evil had become part of their experience.
The very first thing they realised, (the original text says “they, the both of them knew”) is their nakedness before God. Once they were under the command of God, having received the breath of life from Him, to pass on this life to their children by being under creators, or under-procreators under Him in multi0lying and filling the earth as husband and wife, but sin made them aware of the fact that they are blemished, struck with death. Their nakedness was so obvious: Although they could still be parents and have children, they would be in effect passing on death from one generation to the other. The mechanism which God ordained by which multiplication would take place is threatened: Adam and Eve almost became strangers and did whatever they could to hide the fact by sowing together fig leaves to cover them up.
What was created to be beautiful, pleasurable and holy – the physical union between husband and wife in marriage under God, was now sure to be abused. Through it man would want to become his own god, pleasuring himself, living for himself, and even use the very act of sexual union to spread death, or to bring about death and destruction.
The old form for the baptism of children contained these words: “life is nothing else but a way of dying slowly.” I always thought that maybe the changing of these words would be a good idea, especially when you have parents so proud of their little baby appearing in church. They changed the words, and it sounded better, but with it a valuable lesson to parents got lost: be sure to teach your child to fear the Lord as soon as he or she can understand because death is lurking in the shadows of life.
War with Satan
They say the Eskimos did not know a word for white before they came in contact with people who did have a word for white. Before that, the only word they knew was “snow”. White meant snow and snow meant white. To use another example: the deep sea diver swam passed the two fish and asked them how the water was. When he swam away the two of them looked at one another and asked, “Water, what does he mean by ‘water’?”
Adam and Eve only knew peace with God. They had no word for war and enmity – it just did not exist. But everything suddenly changed. Where before the serpent could talk to them, although sly and crafty, now it was outright war. The one who started it all now became their enemy. He is indeed the father of the lie, and a murderer from the beginning. Not only was this war external, but it became part of their lives – evil would live in their hearts, and the best Satan could award them with, was death. Just think about their two eldest boys: one killed the other because of the evil that lived in his heart.
Pain now part of life
If there was pain involved in bearing children before the fall, that pain would be increased – greatly increased. Some commentators take this pain further than just the pain of bearing children: it is a lifelong pain – rearing children would be painful. In the children would live the same spirit of rebellion and sin, compounding the rebellion. Don’t we see this in our day? President Obama, who declared that he wanted to be known as the abortion president, declared: “I am going to teach them [his two daughters] first of all about values and morals. But if they make a mistake, I don’t want them punished with a baby.” The more both parents and children are moving away from Biblical principles and God-ordained commands, the bigger the rebellion, and the bigger the pain. On the side of extremist feminists children are unnecessary and abortion has become the right of every women – irrespective the stage of the pregnancy. This is plainly rebellion against God who ordained women to bring children into this world; it is a way to evade the pain of sin in childbearing and childrearing.
A sin-stained world
Adam was in charge of all God created on earth. He was the head of it all, but the head failed, sinned and lost his crown. With him them, as a result, everything under him fell under the curse of sin.
“Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. (Genesis 3:17, NIV)
Thorns and thistles, symbol of the curse, ensured hard work: the very soil which was blessed for him to work and to till, became an enemy: by the sweat of his brow Adam and his posterity would fight the environment they live in to make an existence. Death will be everywhere: droughts, hail, floods, famine, pestilence – a never-ending struggle. We know it – we will never win the battle against weed and pestilence. Paul writes:
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. (Romans 8:20–22, NIV)
Adam was cursed to die: he was from dust, and he will return to dust. Death is a reality, and there is no one here today who can say death will not get hold of him one day or another. The problem is just, we don’t know when it will hit us. The Bible says it is like a thief in the night, you don’t know when it will strike. Sin made us perishable, we are not invincible, even if we think we are. Rich, poor, old, young, healthy, sick, influential or humble – all will face the last minute of our life.
What then? Will be be ready when it strikes?
Natural life, the way we are born in sin as the inheritance from Adam and Eve, our first parents, stinks. It’s painful at it best. It’s struggle. Yes, it is a slow way of dying.
But without getting ahead of ourselves and we thin about heaven in next week’s sermon, let’s remind ourselves of the promise God made to our first parents, even after their rebellion: someone would crush the head of the serpent. Jesus did on the cross and by the empty grave. And because of Him, God still calls, “Where are you?”
I trust you are not hiding, not even behind you good works. The buzz word of our time is to “come out”. Come out, acknowledge you are a sinner and beg forgiveness, follow Christ and seek his Kingdom – and heaven will await you. More about than next week. Amen.
Sermon Preached by Rev D Rudi Schwartz on 8 June 2014