************ Sermon on Genesis 3:20-24 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on January 2, 2011
"Spiritual Death and Graceful Clothing"
We've been looking at God's judgment upon the fall into sin. We've heard God cursing the serpent – and therefore Satan. We've heard God pronouncing judgment upon the woman and then upon the man. On this Preparatory Sunday, Scripture now shows us the first results of God's judgment upon man's fall into sin. What we see is God's judgment carried out; but, we also see God's grace.
I You Will Surely Die
A You may not recognize it in our Scripture reading, but we see that God carries out a death sentence upon the first man and first woman.
To see this we have to go back to the first mention of death in the Bible. Remember what God said to the man in the Garden of Eden before the Fall into sin?
(Gen 2:17) ... you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.The world into which this threat came was a perfect world, a peaceful world, a world of harmony. Suddenly the scary sword of death hung over man by the slender thread of man's obedience.
Adam had a garden full of trees from which to choose. Only one tree in the Garden was forbidden. Yet, Adam was unwilling to submit to the sovereignty and will of God. He ate from the forbidden tree and the thread snapped; the scary sword of death fell just as God had warned that it would.
B "When you eat of it you will surely die" (Gen 2:17). The threat is easy enough to understand, isn't it? Disobedience results in death. Scripture means that something would happen immediately when Adam took of the forbidden fruit. There would be a summary execution – you know, like in the old wild west movies where a man is found guilty and within five minutes is swinging from a tree. Which means something happened to Adam and Eve immediately, on the very day of their crime (or close to it), that constitutes death. Therefore, it is not enough to point ahead in Scripture to Genesis 5:5 which records for us the death of Adam.
"When you eat of it you will surely die" (Gen 2:17). What happened, after a short trial, was that Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden. We are told the Lord God "banished" man from the Garden (Gen 3:23). We are told the Lord God "drove the man out" of the Garden (Gen 3:24).
"Banished." Sounds like what Vegas does to card counters. It banishes them and blacklists them so they are not welcome in any of the casinos. "Drove out." Kind of sounds like a cattle drive, doesn't it. A show of force. A couple of bouncers showing you the door. Not something kind and gentle because man was not going to leave the perfection of the Garden on his own.
C I want you to recognize that man's banishment from the Garden means death. In order to recognize this, you need to realize the Garden was more than a garden. It was a fabric, a system, a network of relationships.
To begin with the most important relationship, the Garden was the place of man's fellowship with God. It was where man walked with God and talked with God. As long as man had access to God, he had access to eternal life.
In the center of the Garden stood a symbol of man's relationship with God. I am talking about the "Tree of Life." As long as man was in the Garden, he had access to the Tree of Life through which God enables man to "live forever" (Gen 3:22). So what does God do? He expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden because they must not be allowed to reach out their hands and take also from the Tree of Life and eat, and live forever (Gen 3:22). And, God placed an angel with a flaming sword at the entry to the Garden "to guard the way to the tree of life" (Gen 3:24).
Do you see what the angel of God was doing? The angel of God was cutting off access to God, to God's presence, to God's friendship, to God's companionship. The angel of God was cutting off access to the eternal life that a relationship with God brings.
The Garden was not only the place of man's fellowship with God. It was also the place of man's fellowship with his fellow humans and the rest of creation. The Garden was a place of order, designed by God for man's good. It was a place where man was to live in a relationship of blessedness and peace with the other things God had made. The vegetation would sustain man's life. The animals would serve him and keep him company.
This past week I started to think about life in the Garden if there had been no sin. What would that life be like? Man and woman would marry and multiply. Eventually, they would extend the Garden until it covered the whole face of the earth; the order and dominion of the Garden would be universal. Husbands would love wives, wives would love husbands, children would love their parents. Though the number of humans would greatly increase, they would remain one big happy family. The creation would be ruled but not raped. Animals would be used but not abused. Holding everything together would be a love for the Almighty Creator. The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil would remain untouched. And, man would eat freely from the Tree of Life.
D Adam and Eve were so dumb. They ate from the wrong tree. They ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil when they should have eaten from the Tree of Life. Both trees were pleasing to the eye and good for food (Gen 2:9). You would think that the man who was tempted to eat from the forbidden tree would also have wanted to eat from the Tree of life. But man must not have given the Tree of Life even a thought. Man was not aware of death, was not concerned about death, and certainly was not scared of death. Such a man had no reason to want to eat from the Tree of Life.
Man was tempted to eat from the Tree of Life – after the Fall. It was only after the Fall that man wanted to eat from this tree. That was the point of banishing and driving man from the Garden. After the Fall, man started to think about death and be scared of death and recognize death as a possibility. After the Fall, man started to think about ways of avoiding God's punishment upon sin. So God drove him from the Garden.
Do you see what happened to the Tree of Life after the Fall? Suddenly, it became the forbidden tree and its fruit became the forbidden fruit. For, if man was to take also from the Tree of Life we would have the worst of all possible combinations – a sinner who lives forever in his sin; a sinner who lives forever to sin; a sinner without any restraints.
E Do you see what man lost when he was driven from the Garden? God was no longer a friend; instead, He was a foe and prosecutor (Gen 3:8-19). The Tree of Life became the Forbidden Tree. The earth was no longer an ally and servant, but an adversary to be fought with toil and sweat (Gen 3:17-19). The animals were no longer companions and would eventually become man's food (Gen 9:3). Fellow humans were no longer family and became objects of envy, contempt, and competition, as the murder of Abel by his brother Cain would shortly show (Gen 4).
Do you see what man gained when he was driven from the Garden? Man gained (if you can call it this) spiritual death! When Adam rebelled, everyone of his relationships unraveled: his relationship to God, to the world, to his fellow man, and even to his own inner self. When the link with God snaps, everything else breaks apart.
Try to imagine, with me, what Adam and Eve experienced the first time they stood together outside the Garden. Did Adam's senses tingle with danger as he heard the prowling animals around him? Did he recognize "the ground from which he had been taken" (Gen 3:23; Gen 2:7-8)? What did he think when he saw the thorns and thistles? Adam and Eve walked, maybe ran, for shelter. But they were the walking dead. They were dead in their transgressions and sins (Eph 2:1).
"When you eat of it you will surely die ... so the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden" (Gen 2:17; 3:23).
As children of Adam, what is being described is our human inheritance. We are spiritually stillborn. We begin our existence outside the garden, "dead in transgressions and sins" and "objects of wrath" (Eph 2:1,3). Our minds are darkened, our wills are enslaved, our hearts are stone cold dead toward our Creator. This picture includes every person here – including the baby we baptized this morning.
As we prepare ourselves for the Lord's Supper this week, our starting point is that we are all spiritually dead. We are dead men, women, and children.
II Graceful Clothing
A What was the first thing Adam and Eve did after they fell into sin? What was the first thing they did when their eyes were opened and they were like God, knowing good and evil? Do you remember?
(Gen 3:7) ... they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Do you see how pathetic are man's efforts? Man is naked and ashamed (cf Gen 2:25), he needs covering, and all he can manage for himself is fig leaves. How long do you think this covering lasted? How often did man have to sew another covering? Every day, every couple of days, every week? This makes me think of the song we sing:
Not what my hands have doneIn the beginning, just like now, our efforts to help ourselves and save ourselves are doomed.
Can save my guilty soul;
Not what my toiling flesh has borne
Can make my spirit whole.
Now what I feel or do
Can give me peace with God;
Not all my prayers and sighs and tears
Can bear my awful load.
B Do you notice what God does? In an act of grace? In an act of kindness?
(Gen 3:21) The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.I call this graceful clothing. God supplied graceful clothing when man was naked, guilty, and ashamed (Gen 3:21; cf Gen 2:25). God supplied graceful clothing for needy sinners.
Notice how God does this: God made "garments of skin." In other words, some animal was killed so man could be clothed. Was it a goat, a cow, a sheep? We are not told. But an animal was killed, sacrificed, by God so man could be clothed. With the exception of synthetic fibers, every stitch of clothing we wear speaks in one way or another of death. An animal has to die before we can be provided with shoes. The wool has to be shorn from the sheep's back to become garments. Cotton has to be pulled from its place of life before it becomes clothing for us. You know, man is the only creature on earth who does not naturally furnish his own clothing. Birds have feathers, animals have hides, fish have scales, but man is dependent upon the death of others for his covering. Man's clothing is provided from the outside.
C On this Preparatory Sunday, is any of this beginning to sound familiar? Isn't this what God did on the cross, with His Son? Didn't God sacrifice His Son so we could be clothed with garments of righteousness?
I want you to listen to a couple of different verses that speak to this.
First, we hear Isaiah rejoicing in God's graceful clothing:
(Is 61:10) I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
We had a baptism this morning. Listen to what Paul says about this:
(Gal 3:27) for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
Finally, listen to the description of the redeemed in heaven:
(Rev 7:9,13-14) After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands ... (13) Then one of the elders asked me, "These in white robes--who are they, and where did they come from?" (14) I answered, "Sir, you know." And he said, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb."
As you prepare for the Lord's Supper this coming week, keep in mind that we are poor, naked, ashamed, spiritually dead sinners. We are poor, naked, ashamed, spiritually dead sinners who need clothing. We need graceful clothing. We need to be clothed in Jesus' blood and righteousness.
When that happens, when we are clothed in Jesus' blood and righteousness, do you know what awaits us? God will again dwell with us as He dwelt with Adam and Eve in the Garden (Rev 21:3). And, we will again have access to the Tree of Life (Rev 22:2).
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