The other day, I was reading through the second and third chapters of Genesis as part of my effort to make it through the Bible by the end of the year. I’m always struck by the massive shift in the story that happens in Genesis 3, partly because of how arrestingly saddening it is and partly because of how much I see myself in the sin of Adam and Eve.
Of course, we all remember what the first two chapters of the Bible look like. The Triune God creates the entire universe out of nothing, ordering it to His own sovereign liking. We see the unveiling of a beautiful theatre for God’s glory in Genesis 1 and 2. The speaking God brings all that is into existence by merely declaring, “Let there be…and there was.” Now, not only was there, but what indeed there was was good. All of God’s creation is without spot or blemish in these first two chapters. From the skies and stars to the fowl and fishes, all that is, is good.
We know the story takes a very dark turn. No matter how many times we read of Adam and Eve’s rebellion, it always strikes us anew. What more could the Couple want? Amid Paradise and direct communion with the same God who created everything around them, Adam and Eve directly disobey God, eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
But here’s what’s so bizarre to me. Adam and Eve, at least to some extent have knowledge of good and evil. They know that God has told them to do some things, and told them not to do another; things which presumably correspond to good and evil. So what is the knowledge of good and evil that the couple is after? Herman Bavinck, the great Dutch Reformed theologian, says that, "By violating the command of God and eating of the tree, they would make themselves like God in the sense that they would position themselves outside and above the law and, like God, determine and judge for themselves what good and evil was.” In desiring the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, the Couple is after “the right and capacity to distinguish good and evil on one’s own.”
When our first parents sinned, they were after God’s authority. They refused to let God be God, attempting to overthrow the ontological order of things. This is why R.C. Sproul calls sin “cosmic treason,” because it is just that: sedition against the Creator of the Universe. But after the Fall, God promises the Couple that He will eventually make everything right, and this making right occurs in none other than Jesus Christ of Nazareth. As Bavinck later says, "In him all the promises of God are yes and amen (Rom. 15: 8; 2 Cor. 1: 20). He is the true Messiah, the king of David’s house (Matt. 2: 2; 21: 5; 27: 11, 37; Luke 1: 32; etc.); the prophet who proclaims good news to the poor (Luke 4: 17f.); the priest who, according to the Letter to the Hebrews, in his person, office, appointment, sacrifice, and sanctuary far exceeds the priesthood of the Old Testament. He is the Servant of the Lord who as a slave (δουλος, Phil. 2: 7– 8) came to serve (Mark 10: 45), submitted to the law (Gal. 4: 4), fulfilled all righteousness (Matt. 3: 15), and was obedient to the death on the cross (Rom. 5: 19; Phil. 2: 8; Heb. 5: 8). As such Jesus made a distinction between the kingdom of God as it was now being founded by him in a spiritual sense and as it would one day be revealed in glory; between his first and his second coming, events that in Old Testament prophecy still coincided; between his work in the state of humiliation and that in the state of exaltation. The Christ had to enter glory through suffering (Luke 24: 26).”
We learn from Genesis at least two things: that our sin is serious, but that God’s love for us is more so. Even though this sin ruined the communion our first parents had with God, this same God restores His people through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. It was indeed costly to bring us back to Himself, but the Triune God does just that, both freely and willingly.