This past weekend our Sunday school class discussed what I believe to be one of the most fundamentally important passages in all the bible. We looked at Genesis chapter 3 where Adam and Eve committed sin and forever altered the course of human history. It is the single most devastating event the world has ever known. It is more cataclysmic than the fall of the Roman Empire, more disastrous than the black plague, more destructive than both World Wars combined, more sorrowful than the Nazi concentration camps. The decision Adam made in allowing the serpent to tempt his wife, the lack of fortitude he exuded when the devil contradicted God’s own word, the complacency he exhibited when Eve took hold of the forbidden fruit and finally the yielding of his will to the desire to taste of it himself trumps every global catastrophe that succeeded it. Why? All the suffering, sorrow and madness the world has experienced over the past 6,000 years finds its root cause in the Garden of Eden.
This text is central to understanding the bible. God inspired the scriptures – all 66 books worth – for the purpose of gradually unfolding his glorious plan of redemption. What are we redeemed from? The curse of Adam’s fall, of course! Adam, as mankind’s representative, sinned, resulting in a corruption of nature; a corruption that reflected the heart of man’s new master, the Devil. Adam has passed on a sinful nature to all who were born of his seed – that is, the entire human race.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned– (Rom 5:12)
As a result, Genesis Chapter 3 is a pivotal text to nail down doctrinally and theologically as we work our way through the bible. An incomplete understanding of this text will affect the way we view both the depths of sin and the glory of redemption.
Unfortunately, I believe our Explore the Bible Lifeway lesson ‘Admit Your Sin Problem’ fell woefully short of painting a detailed landscape of the severity of Adam’s transgression. Instead of exploring what the lesson taught on, let me just list a few things it didn’t teach.
The lesson never addressed the doctrine of Original Sin. One of the most important elements of sound biblical preaching and teaching is to apply the meaning of the text to our lives. I can’t think of a more significant doctrine to apply to our current situation and status than that of Original Sin. Not one mention was made that Adam’s sin became our sin or why that is so.
The author did not teach the truth of man’s total depravity. Hey, even classic Arminianism believed and taught this! The lesson didn’t come close to discussing what God meant by his proclamation
“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17)
This refers to spiritual death – separation of the inner man from the life and goodness of God. This alienation results in the two other forms of death – physical death (separation of the spirit from the body) and eternal death (everlasting separation of the spirit from God in hell). Spiritual death leaves man in a completely helpless state before God – a teaching of paramount importance in understanding the depths of the glory of Christ’s redemption and how we must approach him. Throughout the lesson sin is discussed in terms of ‘mistakes’, ‘flaws’, and ‘wrong choices’ instead of transgression of the Lord’s holy statutes, a heart dominated by spiritual rebellion, or enmity toward God.
As I noted above, the bible is God’s unfolding plan of redemption through Jesus Christ. The theme of redemption by grace is central to every biblical text. It would seem safe to assume a Sunday School curriculum aiming to ‘explore the bible’ would address the scriptures’ first reference to the coming redeemer in Gen 3:15;
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Alas, these verses are NOWHERE TO BE FOUND IN THE LESSON. In fact, the author appears to go out of her way to avoid it. The entirety of God’s pronouncement of curses is omitted. The section where these verses should appear are replaced with a line of ………………. sandwiched by the surrounding text.
I admit to overlooking this detail during class. But as I sat down to reflect on the lesson and write this post it dawned on me that the author appeared to purposely veil the bible’s central thesis from our attention. Her motives for doing so escape me. Perhaps she is waiting to speak of Christ’s redemption in a later chapter. In fact, the lesson two weeks ahead is called ‘Accept God’s Promised Savior’. However the text is drawn from the book of John and not Genesis- which is the book we are currently studying through. The lesson appears to be a parenthetical teaching, inserted simply to honor the Christmas holiday. However, to exclude the redemptive prophecy in Genesis 3 is incomprehensible to me. Speaking of sin without the hope of redemption does not constitute a gospel message. Oh, the author threw in a couple of redemptive new testament verses at the end to wrap up the lesson, but she could have done that much more effectively by staying in the context of the text we are studying.
The author made a comment at the end of the lesson material that I found a bit ironic. She stated that we cannot have a true appreciation of the glory of salvation in Christ without first understanding the depths of our sin.
I couldn’t agree more.
Note: The class teachers did an admirable job with the lesson, given the material they were forced to work with, so I can’t say Sunday school was unprofitable. The director asked an excellent question that I’ve been pondering over the past few days. I will post on that in the next couple of days.