The Day We Fell
Video presentation of this lesson
(Westminster Shorter Catechism Q:13-17)
by Bob Burridge ©2011
There was a time when humans lived
in sinless fellowship with God.
We don’t know how long this time of human innocence lasted, but it must have been a very short part of our human history. There were only two people on the earth then. They had no ancestors, no stores, no clocks, and no taxes to pay. Food was provided by the lush garden they lived in, and they were in direct communication with God. There was no guilt, no secrets to keep, no troublesome neighbors, and no feelings of depression.
It would be wrong to think that there were no rules in Eden. God had given Adam and then Eve some mandates. They were to represent the Creator in caring for and in managing all that was made. Genesis 2:15 says they were to work the garden and attend to it. God established the seven-day week where they labored for six days, then stopped working for one whole day to remember God as their Creator. The two who lived there were husband and wife. They were told to be faithful to one another, and to have children together as the starting point of the human race.
They didn’t just laze around in the garden. They were busy doing what they were made to do. Work isn’t something to avoid. It is very rewarding when it is done to fulfill that for which we are put here on earth.
There was one tree in the garden that produced a fruit they were told not to eat. God’s word calls it the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. To eat its fruit meant certain death.
Both Adam and Eve knew that God was a fact. He created them and directly spoke with them. They had everything materially that they could ever want. There was nothing to covet that others had. There were no others, no markets or products. There was no craving for popularity or power. There was no one to compete with or to conquer. All God made was theirs, and God was their direct companion. They didn’t have a bad childhood, irresponsible parents, or a bad neighborhood to overcome.
You would think that in such a good setting, rebellion would be impossible. However, as we all know, that’s not the way things turned out.
Question 13 of our Shorter Catechism asks, “Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?”
The answer explains the sad facts about what happened there in ancient Eden. It says, “Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God.”
When the catechism says that Adam and Eve were left to the freedom of their own will, it doesn’t mean God had no control over what they did or didn’t do, or that his plan was in anyway uncertain or changeable. It means they did what they wanted to do. They weren’t compelled to obey or to sin when they didn’t really want to. They personally wanted to do all that they did.
It is important for us to know what sin is.
It is not just something defined by our personal opinions. It is not simply things disapproved of by our culture, friends, or some group of scholars. It is not even defined by our own conscience and personal feelings. Sin is what the Creator says it is.
The next question in the Shorter Catechism, Question 14, asks, “What is sin?”
The answer summarizes what the Bible says about it, “Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.”
Here the word law is used in the broad sense as it is used in many places in the Bible. It means all the principles God says should guide our lives as we live for his glory. When we do anything he forbids, or when we fail to do all that he commands, we sin.
Sin isn’t some mysterious force we can blame when we do what is wrong. Sin does not exist as a separate created thing. It is not something floating around in the universe looking for someone to be its victim. Sin is something done by individuals, persons created by God. It is any desire, thought, or action that either does what God forbids, or neglects that which he commands.
The test God designed was that tree,
the one named for the knowledge of good and evil.
There were many mandates he gave our first parents. They were to care for creation, to be faithful to one another and have children, and to honor the Sabbath. The real test was to obey his command about that tree.
The next question in our Shorter Catechism, number 15, asks, “What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?”
The answer is very simple. “The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit.”
That was the target of the great enemy of God, Satan. The Bible says he is a deceiver from the beginning. He twisted God’s words around, and persuaded Eve to want what God said she should not have. Then she got Adam to eat it too.
Adam was our representative there in Eden.
By divine covenant we were all in Adam when he sinned. It was the day we all died. Question 16 of our Catechism asks, “Did all mankind fall in Adam’s first transgression?”
The answer is, “The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity, all mankind descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.”
This is the reason for suffering and physical death. It is why we are all born dead spiritually. As hard as this may be for some to accept, it is the plain teaching of the Bible. We all became sinners in Adam as Romans 5:12 clearly explains. There it says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned”
When Paul said in Romans 7:20, “Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” he didn’t mean that sin was something alien that took over his soul and body. The context is about the battle Paul sees in himself as a believer. On the one hand – he wants to do what God commands. On the other hand – he is still imperfect, and knows that he still does wrong things. He knows it is him doing the sinful things, not some impersonal force in him. It is the remains of his fallen nature that battle against what he knows is right. There is no excuse given here, no passing of the buck.
The point here in Romans 5:12 is that sin is an inherited disorder. Sin is not something we have to learn or discover. The Bible tells us that no one is without sin. We are born with it.
King David knew that when he wrote in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.” He didn’t mean that his mother sinned in conceiving him. David was saying that he was corrupted by sin from the moment he was conceived.
By God’s design, Adam stood for all of us when he sinned. He did not just act on his own. He represented the whole human race.
Being represented by another person is not a strange idea. It was the foolish anger of one man, the Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, that send so many Egyptian citizens to their deaths in the Red Sea when they chased after Moses and the people of Israel. Ambassadors make treaties that effect whole nations. Our representatives in congress may commit us all to war where some have to fight and die, or to budgets we are obligated to fund through taxes and international borrowing. Parents make choices that effect their children’s entire lives; where they live, the clothes they wear, and the kind of education they get.
Our representation in Eden was of a special kind. In Romans 5:14 Paul explained, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”
Adam was appointed in God’s Covenant to represent the whole human race. His sin condemned all his natural descendants. The only exception was Jesus Christ. He was not a natural descendant. He was conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit, and was without inherited sin.
God warned Adam in Genesis 2:17 about the penalty for eating the forbidden fruit; ” … in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Since Adam acted for us in Eden, the Bible says we “all sinned” in Adam. We inherit the guilt and corrupt nature that came from that sin.
At conception we all deserve eternal and
complete separation from fellowship with God.
Catechism Question 17 asks, “Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?”
The answer is, “The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery.”
An article in Time Magazine reported an incident like all too many we hear every day. Police detectives had arrested four teenagers for beating up some homeless people in a park. When they were taken into custody the boys confessed to a whole list of violent crimes. The boys were ages 18, 17, 16 and 15. In just sixteen days they had beaten an old man to death, beaten several old men but came short of killing them, had used a whip on two teen-age girls, had tied gasoline soaked cloth around a man’s legs and set it on fire, and had dragged a man seven blocks before dumping him in the river where he drowned.
To the shock of the neighbors these 4 teens had good school records, came from good homes, none belonged to gangs, they were active in organized sports, and three of the four had been summer camp counselors.
We shake our heads over news reports like that. We ask, “What is our world coming to? See what modern ways are doing to our children to make them do such things!” But that Time Magazine article was published in the early 1950’s.
Has such corruption been around that long? Even before cable-TV and the Internet? Of course there is no disagreement that crime rates have risen as the population has grown. However, we need to be careful that we don’t blame corruption so much on society, or innovations, that we forget its real source.
Our sins are committed willingly. They come from a diseased soul that was infected in Eden.
God has a bigger plan than just
leaving us all in that fallen condition.
Adam was a type, a foreshadowing of another one who would represent his people.
Adam represented all humans when he was put to the test and sinned in Eden. Jesus Christ represented all those God promised to redeem. He suffered and died in their place, taking on their guilt to pay the penalty for their sins. He lived a righteous life in their place, to clothe them with a righteousness that was his own.
The next section in Romans 5, verses 15-21, compares these two representatives.
15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.
16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.)
18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.
20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,
21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What each representative did was credited to all they represented. In 1 Corinthians 15:45 God’s word calls Jesus the “last Adam”. There is a big difference between Adam and Jesus. The one brought death by sin. The other brought innocence by the work of the Savior.
Notice the things Jesus secured for us as our representative. By his obedience, his great act of righteousness, all redeemed by him receive …
:15 the gift of grace, abounding to many
:16 justification before God for all our sins
:17 abundance of grace, the gift of righteousness, the promise of reigning in life by Christ
:18 justification and life for all those Jesus represented on the Cross
:19 righteousness by the obedience of our Savior
:20 grace abounding
:21 reigning grace through righteousness and the promise of eternal life
All this was earned by Jesus Christ because God promised it in his Covenant.
Representatives only can stand in place of their people when they are rightly appointed. Ambassadors can only represent Kings and countries if they were sent out by the governing authorities. Our Congressmen can only pass laws when elected by the people they represent. Parents can only oversee the lives of their own children. God the Creator appointed Adam to represent those he created. By that eternal determination in the heart of the Trinity, Jesus was appointed to represent his people.
Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:3-6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.”
Only our Creator could assign someone to represent the moral guilt of other creatures. It is interesting that some say this clear teaching of Scripture is unfair. They say it is not fair that Adam’s choice and sin made us all sinners. They say, “He did it, not us. We had no choice in the matter.” They refuse to accept God’s word that his sin was credited to us all as his descendants.
However, you don’t hear people complain that it is unfair that Jesus died in the sinner’s place. He did it, not us. We didn’t choose him, until he first makes us able by grace. Our choice of Christ, is because of God’s prior choice of us. As it says in 1 John 4:19, “We love Him because He first loved us.”
This is not just a technical and theological issue.
This is the attitude correction we need so that we can enjoy our daily fellowship with God. It is the foundation for living the way God said we should.
Instead of having to prove ourselves, or impress others to get what we want, we learn to admit that we really need a Savior. By accepting the fact of our inherited guilt in Adam we finally understand evil.
We see that fallen nature in the extremely lawless and wicked. There it seems to make sense. We would be that way too if it was not for God’s restraining mercies. We can understand why we struggle so much with sin. It is why we do what we know we shouldn’t, and neglect all that God says we should be doing. It helps us know what repentance and confession of sin is all about. It is when we fully agree with God about what he says concerning us i his word. It humbles us before our Savior.
Arrogance disappears, and dedicated service to Christ takes its place. Humble concern for others becomes more important that impressing people.
Why did God decree to permit sin to be part of his universe? Why did he put Adam over us knowing what he would do? knowing the consequences? He did it because it was a necessary part of his purpose in creation, to fully reveal his power, his justice, his mercy, and grace. The perfect universe is not one where there was never any sin. It is one where the Creator redeemed his people from the grip of sin to reveal his amazing grace.
By knowing how we relate to the First Adam, and to Jesus the Last Adam, we appreciate God’s boundless love that stands with us even when we do wrong. We see the restoring power of the gospel that transforms lives and assures us that we are his. We know that no matter how bad things get, God’s plan and promises can never fail.
All who come to rest their hope in the Savior alone, have the promise that one day when the final judgment comes, there will be no need for defending ourselves or for arguing our case to convince God to receive us. It will be a humble falling before the Creator admitting our unworthiness. It will be a time to confess how we confidently trust in the all-sufficient work of Jesus, our representative at Calvary. We will stand there clothed in the robe of his righteousness. We will hear him declare us to have his own innocence credited to us.
What a glorious and amazing blessing is ours because of the work of Jesus Christ!
Go out today with the gospel hope in your heart.
You have an answer for why things seem so bad, even though you know that God is King. You bring with you the remedy God provides for re-structuring your family and community. You have real help for your friends and for those you meet. You can help them discover what they were created to be, and how that can be restored in them by the transforming work of the Redeemer.
This is the one real and genuine cause for joyful worship and thankful living. As Paul concluded here in Romans 5:20, ” … where sin abounded, grace abounded much more”
(The Bible quotations in this article are from the New King James Version of the Bible unless otherwise noted.)