“After the Fall of man,” part of the painting “Garden of Eden”
by Adi Holzer/Wikimedia Commons
Holy work and a generous food supply are the condition of an imagined human living and moving and breathing in the grace of a good providence. “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). The trees were pleasant, rivers rich, and the land filled with precious stones. Animals were brought to the human creature to be named; thus dominion was exercised intelligently and according to the divine purpose.
Yet things and creatures could not satisfy the human. Another “Thou” was needed, another self “fit” for communion, common work, and shared love. Putting the human to sleep, excising a rib, closing the wound, God worked a new creation and awakened the human to a human helper. “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23).
In the middle of the story, a serpent speaks, inserting a question about providential goodness, insinuating that God has held back some blessing from the human creatures. There is, the serpent suggests, a good that God could give, but will not. The forbidden tree in the midst of the garden seems to hold a key to enlightenment and moral sophistication: “your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). The doubt awakens the senses to something other than God. Sin is at hand, at the door, seeping in even before action. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate” (Gen. 3:6). They see and touch and taste the allure of sin and the attraction of death. Their Independence Day is a Day of Judgment.
Shame entered the world. “They knew they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves” (Gen. 3:7). And with shame, suffering followed, “my body wasted away through my groaning all day long” (Ps. 32:3). The woman suffered in childbirth, the man toiled in pain. The world fell. Still, a Father of mercy was at work. “And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and his wife and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). “Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered” (Ps. 32:1). Love pursued the lost with skins, instruction, and a way to persist (Gen. 3:20).
Sin marched onward, as the question against God, the doubt and alternative. Apart from God, however, there is only emptiness and death. In a sense this defect passes as if by contagion from one generation to the next, and yet each person feels the pull of sin as a personal assault and responsibility, “so death spread to all because all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). So the Fall is a kind of spiral downward, every generation feeling an aching loss of original innocence and yet choosing that loss again. One false start in choosing something other than God is the root of sin and death and shame. Mercy will help and instruction will guide, but the human is weighted by this burden, a crushing yoke that law intensifies.
The second Adam is Christ our Lord. The righteousness of this one man unleashes a grace that abounds to many. It is more than the restoration of a prior innocence. Rather, bearing the cost of sin, Christ gives new and eternal life to sinners, to those who are dead in trespasses, to those who are not, and raises them to become shining sons and daughter of God, living members of his own body.
Look It Up
Read Ps. 32:3-4.
Think About It