Chapter 6 – The Fall of Man, and Sin and Its Punishment
1. Our first parents, being seduced by the subtlety and temptation of Satan, sinned in eating the forbidden fruit. God was pleased to permit this sin of theirs, according to his wise and holy counsel, because his purpose was, through it, to glorify himself.
2. By this sin they fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and so became dead in sin and wholly defiled in all the parts and faculties of soul and body.
3. Since they were the root of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed to—and the same death in sin and corrupted nature were conveyed to—all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation.
Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
A few weeks ago I told you about JOSHUA, who I met at church while in the US last month. He told me he had been a Christian for just a few months. So I asked him how he had become a Christian, and he explained that while travelling on the New York subway, he heard a woman tell everyone on the subway carriage to read the Bible. So when he got home, that’s what he did. And in a short space of time, he read it right through and hasn’t stopped reading it ever since. Just reading the Bible convinced him of his need of a Saviour.
Now, this should not surprise any of us because in one of the earlier Westminster Chapters we read this: “Those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly stated and explained in one place or another in Scripture, that not only the educated but also the uneducated may gain a sufficient understanding of them by a proper use of the ordinary means.”
So in other words, everything we need to know in order to be saved is simply and clearly explained in the Bible.
Well, we see an example of this in the passage before us today. And as a part of what we explore, we shall see the Fall of man stated and explained simply and clearly. And we shall see that is an important part of the gospel or the good news about salvation.
And the way we are going to do this is by asking three questions in relation to the two verses in front of us – First: WHAT DO THESE WORDS MEAN? And then, once that is clear, the second question is: DO I BELIEVE IT? And then, if the answer to that question is Yes, then the last question is: SO WHAT? What must I do in response to these words.
And as a matter of fact, those are three questions that are useful with any passage of Scripture. Whether it be your own personal Bible study or in a group: What does the passage mean? Do you believe it? So what?
I. Let’s take them one at a time then. So first of all, WHAT DO THESE WORDS MEAN?
A. Well, some of you might have heard this before, but they say that when you are buying a house, three things are important – location, location, and location. And similarly, when you are reading any passage of the Bible, three things are important – CONTEXT, context, and context. If you want to know what any passage of the Bible means, you will be helped by looking at the context.
1. Well, CH. 7:1, reveals that this passage is a part of Paul’s response to a number of questions or issues that the Corinthians had written to Paul about.
2. And if you look at the END OF v12 in our chapter, the main issue that Paul is dealing with at the moment is that some at Corinth were saying that there was no resurrection of the dead – when you died, that was the end.
3. And the way that Paul responds to this belief is by first of all REMINDING THEM OF THE GOSPEL. He tells them that what must be believed in order to be saved is that Christ died for our sins, that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day.
4. And then, in vv5-8, Paul supplies the list of those who saw the risen Jesus with their own eyes. So His main point here is that Jesus definitely rose from the dead, and that this is a vital part of the gospel message.
5. And then, from v12, his focus shifts to THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS AND THE RESURRECTION OF BELIEVERS. He begins with a series of questions and statements that reveal what would be the case if there were no resurrection of the dead. But as we come to v20, we see that that is not the case: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” So the resurrection of Christ means there is a certainty about the resurrection of believers. Christ was the first to undergo what all believers will one day undergo – resurrection. And this is because Christ and believers are ‘connected.’
B. And it is this ‘CONNECTION’ that Paul explores and explains further as we come to vv21&22: “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” Now, because these verses are a part of the very detailed, logical reasoning of the Apostle, there is so much in just these two verses that could be usefully explored. But because our particular focus today is the doctrine of the Fall, we will limit ourselves to the most basic explanation of the overall line of reasoning here, and focus in much more detail on what is revealed about the Fall in the first half of both these verses.
1. So, with v21, we see that death came BY A MAN, and the resurrection of the dead has come also BY A MAN. And v22 tells us who the men of v21 are – Adam and Christ. So death came by Adam and the resurrection of the dead comes by Christ. Or, as v22 puts it, all die because they are “IN ADAM,’ and all shall be made alive because they are “IN CHRIST.” Death and the resurrection of the dead are because of our ‘connections’ to Adam and Christ.
2. Now, we are going to return to the overall line of reasoning soon, but LET’S FOCUS FOR A FEW MOMENTS ON WHAT IS REVEALED HERE ABOUT THE DOCTRINE OF THE FALL. What does it mean that “by a man came death” and “in Adam all die”?
a. Well, THE ORIGIN OF DEATH AND EVIL AND SIN is a huge question that has occupied the minds of philosophers and people throughout history. And anyone who spends any time thinking about Why we are here? and Is there a God? and Is there an after-life? and if there is, how do I get there? type questions will have to answer the where does evil and death come from question. As we look within ourselves and all around ourselves, we see that there is evil and suffering and death. Why? Why do things decay and rust? Why are there earthquakes? Why is there cancer? Why do little babies refuse to lie still when you are trying to put their nappy on? Why do toddlers tell bare-faced lies when you have not taught them how to lie? Why do children find it so hard to share? Why are we all so inclined to selfishness as our instinctive response in any situation? And how come our cute little pet rabbits, and mighty stars, and grandparents all die?
b. Well, let’s recall what we said earlier about everything we need to know in order to be saved being simply and clearly explained in the Bible. The God who made us has told us why these things are as they are. So the words here in 1 Cor. 15 point us back to what we read earlier in GENESIS 3. There we learn that Adam and Eve were the first human beings that God created. And He made them good and He made them to live. And He told them that they were allowed to eat the fruit of all the trees in the garden except for one – the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And He warned them that should they eat the fruit of that tree, they would surely die. And some time later, the Serpent came to Eve and tempted her to eat the fruit. And she gave in to the temptation and ate it and then gave some to her husband “who was there with her,” we are told. And so, sin entered the world – we read of shame, as they realized they were naked, we read of fear as they hid from God, we read of blame as both of them blame someone else for what they have done, we read of pain as a consequence of sin, we read of relationship tensions as a new reality of life, and we read that daily work is going to be a sweaty chore. And as God had warned, now Adam and Eve would die. So there we have a very clear and simple explanation of how sin and death entered the world.
c. What we still need to consider, however, is HOW WHAT ADAM DID AFFECTS EVERY HUMAN BEING; how does the Bible simply and clearly explain this? Our text simply says that “death came by a man” and that “in Adam ALL die.” Why is this so?
(1). Well, in ACTS 17:26 we read, “God made from one man every nation of mankind.” So to begin with, every human being has a BIOLOGICAL connection to Adam; he is the great, great, great … great grandfather of us all.
(a). Have you ever heard someone describe a son as the SPITTING IMAGE of his father? Have you heard that expression? Well, the origin of the expression is quite interesting. The word ‘spitting’ used to be ‘spittin’ (i+n), which was originally ‘spitten’ (e+n). And spitten was a kind of past tense of spit. And the “Spitten image,” referred to “a likeness that was literally spit out from the father, but where figuratively the ‘spit’ in question involved a rather different bodily fluid.” So the expression “spitting image” is a recognition of the fact that children inherit much of their nature and looks, etc, from their parents. And so, ADAM AND EVE passed on sin and death to Cain and Able, who passed it on to their children, and on and on it has gone, now to you and me, and to all human beings who are still to be born. We also have a sinful nature because of our biological connection to Adam.
(2). But there is more to this than just our biological connection with Adam. What the Bible reveals is that we also share in the guilt of that very first sin of Adam.
(a). How so? Well, turn with me now to ROMANS 5. Verse 12, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.” And verse 19, “For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners.” When Adam disobeyed God and ate the fruit, he did so as the representative of all humanity.
(b). Adam’s name means man and before Adam changed the name of his wife to Eve, she was simply called woman. So their names already revealed that they represented humanity.
(c). And also, before God gave Adam the command not to eat for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, He had already given Adam another command. Do you remember what that command was? “Be fruitful and multiply.” So when Adam received the command not to eat that fruit, he was a ‘potential parent,’ if you like. When God spoke to Adam, He did so, as He again and again in Scripture, with him and future generations in view.
(d). And this truth is revealed also in that when God revealed the curses and consequences of sin: He said to the serpent that there would be enmity between him and the woman, and between his offspring and her offspring.
(e). Adam was a REPRESENTATIVE of all humanity. In the same way that if Prime-minister John Key declared war on ISIS, every single NZer would be at war with ISIS, because PMJK represents all NZErs, so every human being sinned when Adam sinned.
1. When you boys and girls LEARN THE ALPHABET, you are taught that A is for apple, and B is for ball, and C is for cat, etc. Well, the children of believers in the USA, way back in the 1700s, learned the alphabet with the help of the NEW-ENGLAND PRIMER. And let me encourage you to Google the New England Primer. It has some delightful and very interesting explanations of each letter of the alphabet. (F – The Idle Fool is whipt at school ) But this is how children learned the letter A: A – In Adam’s Fall, we sinned all.
d. And that is what we read here in 1 Cor. 15:21&22: “By a man came death … in Adam all die.” In those two short phrases you have a clear and simple explanation for what we experience and see in ourselves, in others, and all around us – sin/evil and death. Because we are connected to Adam, we are sinners, we sin, and we will die. That is what the first half of both of these verses mean.
II. So we could pause now and ask: DO YOU BELIEVE IT? But to answer that fully, we have to include the rest of what we read in vv21&22. For the first half of both of these verses explain the problem, but the second half of both of these verses explain the solution!
A. So yes, we are sinners. We are sinners because of our connection with Adam and because every day we sin in thought and word and deed, either by breaking God’s commandments or by not keep them perfectly, all the time. And we will die. And before you shout out that that is unfair because you were not there in the Garden and you did not eat the fruit, what these verses want us to see is that ‘connection’ is a very important part of how God works salvation. Just as we inherit the problem of sin and death by our connection with Adam, so we may inherit resurrection to eternal life by a connection with Jesus Christ.
1. And the connection with Jesus has a name, it is called FAITH. In 15:2, Paul talks about believing. In v14 and v17, he talks about “faith.” JOHN 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever BELIEVES in Him shall not perish but shall have eternal life.”
B. So now we can repeat the question: DO YOU BELIEVE IT? Do you believe that you are a sinner? Do you believe that Jesus died for the forgiveness of your sins, and was buried, and was raised on the third day? And notice how that question was phrased – for the forgiveness of YOUR sins; not sins in general or our sins but yours?
1. Earlier in the service, we recited Q/A 56 OF THE HEIDELBERG CATECHISM together. The question was: What do you believe concerning “the forgiveness of sins”? The answer: I believe that God, because of Christ’s atonement, will never hold against ME any of MY sins nor MY sinful nature which I need to struggle against all my life. Rather, in his grace God grants ME the righteousness of Christ to free ME forever from judgment.”
2. YOU are connected to Adam – that is true for every single human being. But the question is: ARE YOU CONNECTED TO CHRIST? Do you believe that He died for the forgiveness of YOUR sins, and was buried, and was raised on the third day? And there are only two possible answers: Yes or No. Which is it for you?
III. And if your answer is Yes, then we can ask the third and last question: SO WHAT?
A. And there are many useful things we could say here: Become a member of a church, love others, be humble, live a life of thankfulness, read your Bible and pray every day, share this good news with others… All these things and a great many others flow out of knowing that you are connected with Christ. They are the So What of the Christian life. But they are not the So what? of this passage. The So what? of this passage is stand in and rest in and take comfort from and have your hope renewed by the wonderful truth that if you believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins, and was buried, and was raised on the third day, then you may know for certain that 6 foot deep hole in the ground they lay your body in will not be your final resting place. For you shall be raised from the dead. Amen.