Paul Derengowski, ThM
“Then to Adam He said, ‘Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’; Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life’” (Gen. 3:17).
Sin has its consequences, with the ultimate consequences being death of the body and separation from God for eternity. God promised both to Adam when he told him, “for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). In the Hebrew, “surely die” is an English translation of mot temuth which could be translated “to die you will die,” which denotes the emphatic nature of death itself (cf. Gen. 20:7; It is not just physical death that God has in mind, but spiritual as well. Such a warning, though, went unheeded and resulted in Adam’s rebellion or “original sin.” But, aside from death and dying, what did sin compel Adam to do that would provide a pattern of similar behavior in mankind ever since? What were the affects of original sin?
Shortly after Adam and Eve became convinced that the devil was right in his questioning of God’s word and character, several changes took place in their mental and physical dispositions which have had lasting effects. From the Genesis narrative we read, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings” (Gen. 3:7).
First of all, sin’s influence opened the eyes of both Adam and Eve. The initial promise made to Eve by the devil was that her eyes would be opened to know good and evil, just like God would know them (Gen. 3:5). That was a lie, though. Although God would later acknowledge that Adam and Eve had become like God in the sense of knowing good and evil, that knowledge was tainted through their rebellion. It was something that the devil conveniently left out of his rebuttal. They not only were not “like God,” in the sense of actually possessing God’s essential attributes, they were not even like each other, as they scrambled to construct clothing to cover their nakedness. In fact, their attempt to cover their nakedness, which is a euphemism for sin, demonstrates their corrupt willingness to engage in false religion than genuine acknowledgement of sin for what it was: a deception that drove them away from God. That is seen the next verse.
“And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen. 3:8). Adam and Eve were the first practical atheists. It’s not that they did not know it was God walking amid the trees of the Garden; it was that they believed that so long as they could hide themselves amid those very same trees, they were safe from his presence. That so long as God could not find them, then he did not exist and they could not be held accountable. They thought they could live forever in their fallen condition, so long as God could not detect their whereabouts.
Such is the mindset of many other practical atheists today, who live as if the end will never come and there will never be a day of reckoning before God to account for their waywardness. Interestingly, much of that hiding has also been among the trees, which is another euphemism for false religion, much like the leaves that grew on the fig trees and were used by Adam and Eve to create their own self-styled religion to hide themselves. There is nothing like a false religious covering which deceives people into thinking that their sin has been atoned for and forgiven, as they mingle among those who have been.
A third affect of original sin is seen in Adam’s response to God’s question: “Where are you?” It’s not that God did not know. It’s that Adam didn’t know and God wanted him to. Adam was lost in the same respect as when Jesus came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). Therefore, rather than confess as much, Adam responded: “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself” (Gen. 3:10). Rather than run to God, Adam ran away, hoping to remain hidden from him. Sinners have been running away from God ever since. “Salvation is far from the wicked, for they do not seek Thy statutes,” wrote the Psalmist (Ps. 119:155 cf. Isa. 53:6; Rom. 3:11). It is not in anyone’s nature to incline after God. Rather, the opposite is true; to run from him. A lost man will not seek God until God first seeks the lost man.
Because man’s conscience is seared by sin as soon as it happens, God’s next two questions deal with Adam’s conscience. “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (v. 11). God wanted a confession from Adam that he had indeed rebelled against God, but received a response that is typical of all sinners when faced with the guilt of wrongdoing: he passed the buck. Eve was to blame for his transgression, even though he (1) knew of God’s command, having received it directly from God (2:16), and (2) Adam stood alongside Eve while the serpent was tempting her to rebel, and yet, Adam said nothing (3:6)! Moreover, Adam, at the time, had the untainted and untried “free will” to obey, but chose to call God a liar as well. Again, human beings have been shirking their personal responsibility before God and calling him a liar ever since.
Eve’s response is no less ill-conceived than was her husband’s. When God asked her “What is this you have done?” (v. 13), her response was to pass the buck and place the blame upon the serpent. “The devil made me do it” or “I my parents abused me when I was growing up” or “Social influences impacted the victim’s life, causing him/her to act” are similar excuses heard today to try and absolve oneself of the guilt of transgressing either the law of God or civil law in general. Unregenerate fallen man’s natural response to sin is to excuse oneself through self-justification and self-deceit. It is why so many think that they are better off than they really are before God or that God, being the loving person that he is, will not condemn as many to hell for sinful behavior as Jesus promised (Matt. 7:14). The gravity of sin is lost upon many who are deluded by their own attempts to excuse themselves from conviction through faulty reasoning and counterfeit religion.
Last, but not least, the devil is condemned for his cunning act of deception and treachery. The natural world has not been the same since. “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now,” wrote the apostle Paul (Rom. 8:22). When man fell in the Garden it affected and effected everything in creation. Whereas in the beginning there were no natural catastrophes, disease, or even weeds in the fields, now there is (Gen. 3:17-18). Death and decay became a part of the natural world and that same world now “groans and suffers” as it awaits the full redemption of the sons of God (Rom. 8:19). Such testimony thwarts any hope of extra-terrestrial life being the hope and salvation of the human race, given that if there is intelligent life anywhere else in the universe, then it has been affected and effected by man’s decision in the Garden as well.
Self-deception, false religion, cowardice, infidelity, irresponsibility, ignorance, excuse-making, delusion, accusing God of lying, and destruction of the natural world and universe are just a few of the immediate affects stemming from original sin. Later the laundry list of indictments against man would grow even longer, as God drives home to man the fact of just how decrepit he is without God. Original sin was absolutely terrible and it influenced everything adversely. Nothing good came of it despite the rationalizations of some who have either spun the doctrine to make sin appear necessary or beneficent, or have tried to paint a picture of fallen man in a light where his sin was less tragic than it really is. It is with that in mind that we now turn to those indictments against man to better understand the deleterious effect that sin has had upon the human race and why without God’s gracious intervention mankind was doomed to eternal destruction.