First Things First; How the World Came to Be 7. The Wages of Sin: Why Nothing Works Right
Genesis 3: 7 - 19
As long as we live in a world of sin, bad things will happen to good people, even to people who have given their lives to serve the Lord. “The wages of sin is death.” It has always been that way, ever since God warned Adam and Eve not to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. “When you eat of it you will surely die.” When the serpent came to Eve, he made short work of her. She saw, she ate, she gave to Adam and he ate. Just like that sin entered our world. Ever since, death has stalked us. They ate and we die. It may not seem fair, but that’s the way it is. We we offer our feeble theological objections, but there is a direct connection between what happens in our country daily and what happened to Adam and Eve. Whatever else you say, events across the centuries have unfolded just as God said they would.
1. The Personal Consequences of Sin
These verses tell us what happened to Adam and Eve personally. They are a case study in human nature. As they reacted to sin, we will see ourselves in them. What they did, we still do today.
A. Shame v. 7 The serpent came to Eve and tricked her into eating the fruit. She offered some to Adam and he ate, knowing full well that he was doing wrong. Suddenly the world became a very unfriendly place. Shame entered the human heart for the very first time. Adam and Eve recognized their nakedness, and they were ashamed. The innocence of Eden was gone forever.
B. Fear v. 8 – 10 Why did they hide? Because they heard God’s voice. Why were they afraid? They feared being exposed. Sinners always hide their sin. We lie about it, we cover up, we run away, we change the subject, we shred the documents, we destroy the evidence and we get angry - “How could you even think I would do something like that?” Like the little child caught with his hand in the cookie jar, we smile and hope that Mommy won’t notice.
C. Blame v. 11 – 13 Adam is cornered, caught red-handed, stripped naked of all his excuses. What will he do? He does what any self-respecting man does. He passes the buck. His answer is a classic form of evasion: “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Did you get that? “The woman you put here with me.” Adam passes the buck twice. First it was the woman. Then it was the woman you put here. “Lord, it was her fault. She gave me the fruit and so I ate it. What was I supposed to do? She’s my wife. You know how it is when your wife wants you to do something. What else could I do? Anyway, who put her in the garden? You did! She wasn’t my idea. I’m not complaining, Lord, because she’s beautiful and cute and fun and we have a great time together, but I didn’t have this problem when it was just me and the animals.”
So it goes. The first man, the father of the human race, is also the first one to pass the buck. It is in our nature to deny our own guilt and to shift the blame to others. It’s no coincidence that the first sin led to the first cover-up. The first disobedience led to the first denial. Nothing has really changed. Human nature is the same. Passing the buck is in our bloodstream. We do it now because Adam did it back then. He established the pattern: Disobedience leads to - Shame leads to - Fear leads to - Hiding leads to - Blaming others.
Write it down in big letters - SIN ALWAYS SEPARATES. It separated us from God and from those close to us, and it even separates us from ourselves. We end up confused about who we are and uncertain about what we have done and how to get out of the mess we are in. So now Adam and Eve are separated from God and from each other because of their sin. He blames her, he blames God, she blames the serpent. We see this all the time. It’s always someone else’s fault. It’s my wife, my husband, my children, my parents, my teacher, my boss, my neighbours, the guy across the street or the waiter who was rude when he took my order. It’s his fault. I’ll blame him.
So now the human race is divided. The church is divided. The world is divided. The nations are divided. We all have our groups to which we belong. ANC vs. DA. Liberals vs. Conservatives. Rich vs. Poor. Men vs. Women. Old vs. Young. Married vs. Single. Palestinians vs. Israelis. Muslims vs. Christians. Catholics vs. Protestants. Who started it? It can’t be us. It must be THE OTHER GUY!
D. Guilt In the end, they both have to own up to the truth. Adam finally says, “I ate.” Eve finally says, “I ate.” You can only hide so long, you can only lie so long and you can only make excuses so long. God gave us a conscience that will not let us rest until we confess our sins. “He who conceals his sins does not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them finds mercy.” When we sin, we only have 2 options. 1 - Conceal it - cover it up, make excuses, rationalise, pass the buck. When that happens, we do not prosper. We go through the internal hell of living with a guilty conscience. Nothing works right.
2 - Confess our sins and renounce them. Both words are important. To confess means to own up to what you did -“Yes, I did it and I know it was wrong.” To renounce your sins means to take steps to break the sinful pattern in your life - “I’ve been walking in the wrong path and now, with God’s help, I’m not going to walk in that path anymore. I’m going to change the direction of my life.”
As long as shame controls us, we are trapped in our sin. As long as we live in fear, we cannot get better. As long as we blame others, we cannot be forgiven. As long as we deny our guilt, we are doomed to self-destruction.
The wages of sin is death. There is no getting around this eternal principle. You can pretend it doesn’t exist or you can say, “No one saw it” or “Everyone else does it” or “I don’t think it was wrong” or “It’s no one else’s business how I live” or “She made me” or “He drove me to it,” or any of a million other stupid excuses that we make for our disobedience. We’re good at that, all of us are, and we repeatedly hide and blame, hide and blame, hide and blame. We learned how to do that from our first parents. But it didn’t work for them and it won’t work for us. The chickens always come home to roost and the skeletons come out of the cupboard eventually.
2. The Divine Judgment for Sin
The rest of our passage reveals God’s judgment on sin from a broader point of view. God speaks first to the serpent, then to Eve and finally to Adam. The judgments are different in each case.
A. On Satan v. 14, 15 The serpent is told 2 things - 1. He will crawl on his belly and eat dust, a sign of his total humiliation. All creation is now cursed because of what the serpent did. Ever since that day, snakes have been a source of fear and dread. 2. There will be unending warfare between the descendants of Eve and the offspring of Satan. That is, there will be long war across the ages that stretches throughout the universe as the forces of evil and the armies of heaven do battle. It is a battle that rages even now between the angels and the demons, even though we are only dimly aware of its cosmic dimensions.
This verse predicts an ultimate showdown between Satan and Jesus. At the cross Satan would “strike his heel” - nails were driven through his feet. But Jesus would crush the head of Satan by rising from the dead on the 3rd day. Satan’s defeat was predicted from the beginning and the outcome of the battle was never in doubt.
B. On the Woman v. 16 The judgment on Eve is also 2 fold - 1. She will experience pain in childbirth - not only the literal pain of giving birth, but of the sorrow of bringing children into a sin-cursed world. Occasionally I hear someone wonder if we should even have children in a world where sometimes they are beaten, abused and kidnapped. It all goes back to Genesis 3 and the judgment God pronounced on Eve. This isn’t a safe world. Our kids are not safe, they’ve never been totally safe, no matter what we do, we can’t guarantee the future for our children. That’s part of the pain that comes to us as a result of living in a world of sin.
2. God now declares there will be continual conflict between the man and the woman. “Your desire will be for your husband,” means something like, “Even though he is the head of the home, something in you will rebel against that and make you try to usurp his God-appointed authority.” The man “will rule over you.” You will try to usurp and he will try to dominate. The battle of the sexes has begun. It’s the Rebel versus the Tyrant. Each now strives for control. The harmony of Eden has been replaced by an ugly competition. It has been that way from the beginning and it continues to this day.
As we come into the NT, we discover that through Jesus Christ the effects of this judgment are partially (but not completely) eased through the introduction of God’s love into the marriage relationship. With God’s help, competition and envy can be replaced with sacrificial love and mutual respect.
C. On the Man v. 17 – 19 At this point, God stops to list Adam’s crimes. 1. He listened to his wife. “You listened to her when you should have intervened. You gave up your role as head of the home. She led you when you should have been leading her.” 2. He disobeyed God’s command. He ate when God specifically said, “Don’t eat from that tree.” Eve was tricked but Adam knew exactly what he was doing.
Men, Adam sinned by failing to lead. The woman sinned because she acted independently of her husband, forsaking his counsel and protection. The man sinned because he abandoned his leadership role and followed his wife into sin. In the first sin there is a total role reversal. Because he abdicated his responsibility to lead his family, both of them suffered the consequences. Remember this the next time you are tempted to do wrong. No man is an island. When you sin, those you love will pay the price with you.
The judgment is once again 2 fold. 1. The man will suffer unending frustration in his work. Now his life will be marked by trouble, toil, pain and difficulty. Nothing will come easily to him. It’s not just that he will work hard; it’s that there will be many obstacles and little lasting satisfaction. He will work long hours and have very little to show for it. This explains why so many men are unhappy workaholics and why they work so hard in a job they can’t stand. God made men so that we find a great deal of our significance in our work. Then he arranged things so that our work would never ultimately satisfy us. We are doomed to a sense of frustration and incompletion no matter how many overtime hours we put in.
2. Physical death now becomes a reality for Adam. He came from the dust and to the dust he will now return. The serpent had said, “You will be like God.” What a lie that was. Now we see the result: Sorrow, sweat, pain, suffering and death. So much for our dreams of immortality. Every graveyard reminds us of the truth of these words. Because of sin, we all live with the prospect of our own death. No one escapes and no one postpones it forever. It is the one appointment we will not miss.
Let us be clear on this point: “The wages of sin is death.” That has never been cancelled or changed in any way.
The Last Adam
It is precisely at this point that the gospel of Jesus Christ becomes incredibly relevant. Because of sin, death now enters the human race. In order to reverse that judgment, someone must die. That Someone can never be an ordinary person, like you or me. It must be Someone who is one of us yet is also like God. He must be like Adam and yet much greater than Adam. He must be sinless or his death will do us no good. He must willingly die the death that we should die for our own sins. He must be able to bear in himself the full consequences of all the sin, all the shame, all the fear, all the blaming, and all the guilt of every sinner from the very first to the very last.
Where will we find such a person who could die a death like that? Our text contains the answer. “He” will one day crush Satan’s head. His name is Jesus Christ. The NT calls him “the last Adam” because he succeeded where the first Adam failed. In his death, he paid the price for your sins so that you could live forever with God.
Lately I’ve been thinking about how uncertain life is for all of us. If we’ve learned anything lately, we ought to know for certain that nothing in this life is certain. You aren’t guaranteed another day or another minute or even another second. It is the glory of the gospel to give us assurance of eternal life so that no matter what happens to us, we can know that when we die, we will go to heaven.
Do you have that sort of assurance? If you don’t, I urge you to trust Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Run to the Cross! Place your faith in the Son of God who loved you and died for you. I have told you repeatedly that “the wages of sin is death.” Here is the rest of that verse: “But the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The gift is for you, and it’s yours free for the asking. Reach out and take it. Open your heart to Jesus and welcome him as your Lord and Saviour. Then no matter what happens today or tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, you’ll be ready when your time on earth is finally over. For those who believe in Jesus, death is not the end of life, it’s the doorway that leads directly to heaven. Amen.