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The Purpose of God Concerning Sin

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The Law and Sin

At this point, let us examine more thoroughly the consequences of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. Now, while the partaking of this fruit might be considered by some as the original sin, I believe it is more properly to be viewed as the doorway of sin. The tree itself, and the fruit of the tree were inherently good. We have already studied that the tree represented the Law of God in all of its infinite aspects; it defined, or gave insight into the very nature of God Himself; and therefore, in no conceivable way, could experiencing the fruit of the tree be considered sinful. Furthermore, if God placed the tree in the Garden, and made the eating of its fruit sinful to man, then God could be charged with tempting man to sin. ‘Howbeit,’ some would say, ‘but God gave a charge not to eat of the tree, and therefore disobedience to His commands, no matter what they are, is sin.’ However again, we would have to charge God with being frivolous, or placing something in the Garden that was good, and then merely to make it a test of man’s obedience to Him, forbid man from partaking of it. Would God use such a devious means on hapless man just to satisfy His insecurities?—by having man prove, or verify his fidelity to God. Is God like an apprehensive spouse, who hires a detective to follow their mate to see if they remain faithful? While the devil may play such mind games with us, God has no need to use such trite means to gather information; He already knows all that is within our hearts, and whether we truly love Him or not. Therefore, to properly view what God said, we must consider the following: the tree was good because the law is good; the tree was not there to be a temptation or a test; and, God did make it available for man to look at and admire. However, the warning, as it should be viewed rather than a restriction or command, was to not eat of it and thus make it a part of man’s being. This was because God knew that man was not capable of assimilating it into his life. God gave His command as a warning to man, to prevent man from doing that which would cause his death. Just as parents lovingly place restrictions upon their children for their good, so God did for his son Adam.

Rom 7:12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.

1 Tim 1:8 But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;

James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

Psa 139:1 O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me.
2 Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, thou understandest my thought afar off.
3 Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways.
4 For there is not a word in my tongue, but, lo, O LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

Psa 119:151 Thou art near, O LORD; and all thy commandments are truth.

Therefore, how may we say that eating of this fruit, which gave them the knowledge of the law, bring upon man the condemnation of the law and the judgment of death? To briefly review: (1) this tree represented the knowledge of good and evil—the law of God; (2) heretofore, Adam’s relationship with God was based upon innocence, not obedience to any laws or standards; (3) when the first couple partook of this knowledge, they immediately became aware of God’s standard of righteousness—“the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil”; (4) whereas before, their ignorance and innocence before God hid the fact that they were naked—not clothed with holiness, as God is—therefore they “were not ashamed”; (5) however now, after they came to view the law of God in all of its infinite aspects, they realized that they themselves were naked; and that they had no clothing of righteousness in which to stand in the presence of God. Consequently, the first thing the law did was to reveal to them that there was a vast difference between their natural goodness and the infinite holiness of God; and that they fell “short of the glory of God” in everything they did.

Gen 3:7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

Gen 2:25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

1 Sam 2:1 And Hannah prayed, and said, My heart rejoiceth in the LORD, mine horn is exalted in the LORD: my mouth is enlarged over mine enemies; because I rejoice in thy salvation.
2 There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.
3 Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.

The second thing the law did was to bring upon them condemnation, because the law requires perfect obedience. Eating the fruit did, as promised by Satan, make them like gods, to know good and evil. However, to know the law is not just having some added bit of knowledge to satisfy man’s curiosity. The nature of the law is—that when it is made a part of one’s life, it becomes an imperative that it be obeyed in all of its infinite facets, at all times, without even one transgression. What Satan failed to tell Eve was that, although she could be like a god in knowing good and evil, she did not have the ability to keep the law as a god. Therefore, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the presence of God, because they immediately knew that they were falling far short of doing what the law prescribed.

Rom 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

James 2:10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

Rom 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Gen 3:10 And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.

If I might use the following example from my own experience, it may be of some aid in explaining this. Often times in my life, I have done certain things with a good conscience; things which, to me, seemed quite harmless and natural to do. However, sometimes I have found out later, that what I was doing was actually against some law, or ordinance of God or man. Now, if I continued to do, what I now knew was illegal, it was not without some fear of being apprehended and punished. Also, I could never again do such things without my conscience bothering me. I could no longer feel innocent about those things which I did, because I was no longer ignorant of the prohibition against them.

Rom 13:1 Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
2 Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
4 For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
5 Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.

John 15:22 If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin.

Now, as we have already said, the partaking of the fruit was not the original sin, but it was the door through which sin entered into the world. However, in a sense, “sin was” already “in the world.” This at first seems to be a contradiction; for the Scriptures say that it was through Adam that sin entered into the world, and then it says that sin was already in the world. To reconcile the truth in these verses we must understand when sin is accounted as sin by God. We have already stated that Adam, when created, was not holy; he was created lower than the angels, and much lower than God. In his created state, he already fell “short of the glory of God.” However, in his state of innocence, his shortcomings—his nakedness—was not accounted as sin with God; because “sin is not imputed when there is no law.” Adam did not become aware of his inferiority until the law opened his eyes; the law revealed to him that he was already a sinner—one who falls short[1]. Even with our present system of justice, a man may do something that is morally and ethically wrong, but he cannot be judged as a criminal and punished, if there is no law against what he has done. To clarify this, we are not saying that Adam, before the fall, acted immorally in any way; because he always did that which was naturally good. However, his goodness reached only to the extent and ability which he was enabled to do, but not to the extent and ability of God. Adam, before his being enlightened, committed no offenses that could be judged as sinful. Even in his disobedience, what great sin was there in his partaking of the forbidden tree, which in itself was good, especially when his motives were to save his wife?

Rom 5:12 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

* * * * *

Before going on, it would be helpful to examine the preceding passage in Romans that we used as concerning the presence of sin in the world, when it entered the world, when was it judged to be sin, and when was the penalty for sin enacted. Primarily, it is important to discern what law Paul is referring to in this passage? There are at least two possible ways to look at these verses, and maybe more. The first is that it is referring to the Mosaic Law, which was not given until hundreds of years after Adam’s fall. This, because of verse fourteen, seems to be the strict interpretation of these verses. However, in what sense may we say that sin was not imputed, or counted against men before this time? God judged Adam and Eve for their disobedience, Cain for the murder of his brother, the world was judged by the flood because of its wickedness, and God burned up Sodom and Gomorrah because of their depravity. All of these instances, where God punished men for their sins, happened before the Mosaic Law.

Gen 3:16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;

Gen 4:9 And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother's keeper?
10 And he said, What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground.
11 And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand;
12 When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth.
13 And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.
14 Behold, thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth; and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me.
15 And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold. And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him.
16 And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.

Gen 6:5 And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
6 And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.
7 And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

Gen 18:20 And the LORD said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous;
21 I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.

Gen 19:24 Then the LORD rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven;
25 And he overthrew those cities, and all the plain, and all the inhabitants of the cities, and that which grew upon the ground.

Furthermore, in Scripture, we are taught that the Gentiles, which did not have the written law, were still accounted sinners because of “the law written in their hearts.” Therefore, we conclude that there must have been some standard, or measure by which men’s actions were judged sin, and man counted as a sinner. We know that man, even before the written law, had the law of nature etched upon his being. Added to that was the consciousness of good and evil that became a part of man’s nature when Adam ate the forbidden fruit.

Rom 2:14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)

Rom 3:9 What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

We cannot deny therefore, that God used some law by which He judged the actions of men, and brought upon them Divine retribution. However, we could say that, although men suffer in this present world because of their sins, that the eternal consequences of men’s sins are not imputed without the written law. Howbeit, if that is the case, then where will unbelieving, ungodly men, who died before the written law, or who are ignorant of the law of Moses, be sent to as their eternal home; and also, for what reasons could they be sent to a Hell or the Lake of Fire, if their sin is not imputed to them? How also, could their sins ever be settled on the books of heaven, if they never claimed God’s provision for sin’s atonement, and yet committed acts which could be called nothing other than sin? Because of these and other considerations, the law referred to in these verses cannot mean strictly the Mosaic Law—the Ten Commandments. We have already seen, that this written law was only a small aspect of the eternal Law of God; and by the words of Jesus we know that men are beholden to a much higher standard than the Mosaic Law.

Rom 2:12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

Matt 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The second view, that provides an alternative to the Mosaic Law, is to me, more acceptable. It is that what these verses are alluding to is the law that became a part of man’s being in Adam eating of the forbidden tree. Everything that happened in the Garden, although real events in themselves, were the seeds of events that would later be fulfilled in Scripture. If this is the case however, in what sense could it be said that sin was in the world before man’s fall? We might say that, because Satan was present in the Garden, sin was present in the world in a spiritual sense; but that does not give us the full satisfaction about these verses. The closest answer to be found is that Adam, although good, was not holy in the sense that God is holy. Adam fell short of God’s glory, even in his state of innocence. He might be looked upon as an innocent young toddler, who ignorantly commits many infractions against adult society. In discovering and learning to live in this grown up world, they make many mistakes. They may break things, make messes, slobber their food, and slaughter the King’s English.  However, in spite of their immaturity, they are not accountable; they are not judged guilty of their trespasses; and they are not corrected for anything but those actions which would bring them great harm. It would be grossly inhuman to punish them for their mistakes, as they have not the maturity, the mentality, the understanding, for harsh discipline to be effective. Even so, Adam was created innocent and good, but not perfect as God is perfect. We must remember that one aspect of sin is falling short, or missing the mark. When God does something it is always perfect, the first time and every time. However, for men, it is part of discovering that we make mistakes. We find ten ways not to do something before we find something that works. So Adam probably made many mistakes that “God winked at,” but because of his ignorance and innocence, his imperfections were not accounted to him before the law. He was to God a young child, who was growing and maturing, but certainly not perfect or holy.

Gen 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Rom 3:23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

Acts 17: 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:

Paul again alludes to this law when he transposes himself within Adam and says, “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” Paul, who was born a Jew, born under the Mosaic Law, was never “alive without the law”. We could possibly say that he was “alive” as a young innocent child, before they reach an understanding of sin, before being taught the law; but that also does not agree with Scripture. He, as all men, “was shapen in iniquity; and in sin” was he conceived. Paul, as all men are, was “estranged from the womb” going “astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” Paul was never “alive” in the sense of knowing God, and having a vital relationship with God, until his conversion to Christ. He, as all men, was born “dead in trespasses and sins,” having never known the life that Adam had before the fall. Therefore, the law of these verses cannot be strictly interpreted to mean the Ten Commandments. If it is the Mosaic Law that makes men sinners, then all babies are born “innocent” and “good” until they are taught the law, but we know that is not the case. If it is the Mosaic law that makes men sinners, then all the heathen, who were ever born and lived without the knowledge of the Mosaic Law, are just as good as Adam was before his disobedience; however, Scripture does not support that conclusion either.

Rom 7:9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Psa 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.

Psa 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.

Eph 1:1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Gal 2:15 We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

There is also another verse in the book of Romans that leads us to say that sin was already present in Adam. Whereas God is holy and cannot sin, man was made “subject to vanity”— susceptible to temptation, with a proclivity to being able to sin. There was, as it were, a crack in the armor of man’s created “goodness.” While not going into great detail here, it could be argued that, for the sake of God’s eternal purposes, man was created not only with the proclivity to sin, but with the very intent and purpose that he would sin; that God in His providence would use man to forever and completely do away with sin and rebellion against His will. Thus the vehicle through which sin would enter the world was Adam himself; and Adam’s weakness was, in itself, sin; because in this area also, he fell short of the One who could not sin.

James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:

Rom 8:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,

Rev 21:4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

Isa 46:5 To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?

Although some may disagree with me on the following point, I believe that it is an important one—Adam’s disobedience did not make him a sinner; however, it was through his disobedience that the law judged him a sinner. He was already a sinner in the sense that he fell short of the glory of God. However, he was neither aware of, nor could he be held accountable for his shortcomings. Scripturally, this viewpoint is substantiated by the fact that, “they were both naked, the man and his wife.” Partaking of the fruit did not make them naked—they were already naked; but they “were not ashamed.” At this point, let us expand a little about what their nakedness represented. To be naked is to be without a covering; it is to be seen as we really are, with all of our imperfections. Now Adam and Eve were, by any standards, perfect specimens of the human form; and they would have had nothing to be ashamed about in the World Nude Beauty Pageant, in fact—they would have both won first place. However, their natural beauty did not hold a candle to the light of God’s brilliance. He who is “clothed with majesty…strength…honor…light,” outshines the brightest star, and cannot even be looked upon with mortal eyes. God’s holiness is His covering, but Adam, as good as he was, had no such garment.

Gen 2:25 And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Psa 93:1 The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

Psa 104:1 Bless the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, thou art very great; thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
2 Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment: who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:

Rev 1:13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

* * * * *

And so, man’s disobedience, or disregard for God’s warning, brought him under the condemnation of the law. In spite of the fact that Eve was truly deceived, and Adam’s purpose was to save his wife, the law is unmerciful and unforgiving; it does not take into account our good intentions, our best efforts, our circumstances, or our inabilities to obey it. It is like a patrol officer, whose radar clocks us going over the speed limit. He is not concerned that we are late for an appointment, or that we had a temporary lapse in memory and wandered over the limit, or we were just going with the flow of traffic. We broke the law, and it is his job to issue a ticket, not to be a judge or psychologist, and determine if we really deserved a ticket. When we fail to meet the law’s standard of obedience—we are a sinner; and Adam already failed in that respect before he ate the fruit.

Rom 5:19 For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Rom 3:19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

The third thing the Law did was to bring judgment upon Adam. The warning that God had given to him was absolute—“in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Now again, the disobedience associated with merely eating the fruit did not bring about Adam’s death; it was the doorway through which Adam became accountable for his sins; it was the doorway by which he was judged to be a sinner. Therefore, he was condemned to die because it was the judgment of the Law against him for failing to meet its demands; because Adam was falling short of the law in every respect, in everything he did. In his innocence, Adam had fellowship with God, who is life; but now his sin has separated him from God. Eternal life requires perfection and absolute holiness; and only God has such life, because only God is capable of such holiness, and incapable of sin. However, God’s life had sustained Adam in his innocence; but now that innocence was gone, and God was now forced to look upon Adam as a sinner. Before eating of the forbidden tree, Adam had access to the Tree of Life, but now he is to be driven from the Garden. Even in his fallen state, Adam could have “lived”[2] forever with access to the knowledge of this tree, but now that access is to be denied.

Gen 2:17 But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

Rom 4:15 Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.

Eze 18:4 Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Isa 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.

Gen 3:22 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:
23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken.
24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.

Lastly, the law not only revealed that Adam was a sinner, and brought upon him condemnation and death, but it actually increased his proclivity to sin. Adam and Eve, in their innocence, had no concept or knowledge that certain actions, which we now know to be sinful, even existed. Even though they fell short of God’s glory, they still did that which was naturally good. The law however, opened their eyes to those things which were truly sinful. Through the law’s prohibitions, man was made aware of evil; and as we shall study further, the fallen, carnal nature of man began to lust after those things.

Rom 5:20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.
8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead.
9 For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.
10 And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death.
11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.
12 Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.
13 Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.

The question that might now be asked is— ‘Why does the law demand such a harsh penalty for sin?’ As human beings, our own system of justice does not prescribe the death penalty for every infraction of man’s laws; but we have punishments that are appropriate for the crimes committed. After all, Adam had not killed anyone, nor done any other heinous sin that would have made his penalty seem justified. The answer lies in—who and what sin is against; and that we will address in the next section.

Deu 19:21 And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.


 

[1] Hamartia, Greek word use for sin in the N.T. means to “miss the mark.”

[2] Existed may be a better term, because man’s life without God is nothing short of a living hell.

 

 

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