A Tale of Two Adams
November 13, 2016
It can be said that the third chapter of Genesis is the saddest in all of Scripture. Jonathan Edwards, a prominent American pastor and theologian during the 1700s, thought of it as “the most sorrowful and melancholy chapter” in all the Bible. And I could not agree more. For here we are given the account of Adam and Eve’s fall. And in their fall, so much was forfeited. So much was lost.
In breaking the terms of the covenant, Adam and Eve forfeited a sabbath rest with God. In rebelling against their king, they lost a holy communion with the Lord. In failing to look beyond the garden, they were expelled from it. In reaching out to one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they gave up another, the tree of life. Much was forfeited and lost.
It is so sad to see Eve doubt God’s character and goodness. It is so sad to see Adam and Eve fall into temptation. It is so sad to see Adam not say anything or do anything as the serpent spiritually assaulted his wife. It is so sad to see Adam and Eve turn away from God, love themselves more than God, and pridefully assert their own autonomy and glory apart from God and against God. It is so sad to see Adam and Eve… sin.
For both the ancient Israelite living in Canaan and the modern believer living in America, this story could be easily reduced to nothing more than a moral lesson about sin, a case study on temptation, or even a teaching moment for husbands and wives. I could easily tell you “Resist temptation! It’s the right thing to do. Don’t listen to the lies of Satan! It’s the wrong thing to do. Obey the word of God! It’s the right thing to do. Don’t shift blame to your wife! It’s the wrong thing to do. And never have a conversation with a talking snake!” I could easily say these things and be quickly done with this sermon.
But here’s the thing. This story is not about a lesson or a study or a teaching moment. This story is about a test left unfinished and unfulfilled. Adam’s fall is ultimately not a story about what you need to do. Rather, it is ultimately a story about what Jesus needs to do. For you. In your place. On your behalf.
Brothers and sisters, remember that Adam was our representative who was supposed to fulfill God’s covenant and pass God’s test. Adam was supposed to obey God’s law and earn a sabbath rest with God. Adam was supposed to go to a better place - a place beyond the garden of Eden. But he didn’t. He did not fulfill God’s covenant. He did not pass God’s test.
But God didn’t just do away with the covenant. He didn’t just throw away the test. No, instead, God promised another Adam who would fulfill the covenant and pass the test. God promised another Adam who would obey what Adam did not obey, earn what Adam did not earn, and go where Adam did not go. And that promised person was and is Jesus Christ.
This makes Genesis 3 the beginning of a tale of two Adams.
Allow me to put it to you this way: Adam’s fall begs for Jesus’ rise. Adam’s failure as a prophet to respond to the serpent with the law of God begs for Jesus’ counterattack in the wilderness of Matthew 4, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Adam’s failure as a priest to guard the garden of Eden from the intruder serpent begs for Jesus’ victory in throwing down the Devil. Adam’s failure as a king to exercise dominion over the serpent begs for Jesus’ exaltation and glory and kingdom. Adam’s failure as a husband to protect his wife from spiritual assault begs for Jesus’ ultimate protection and care for his bride, which is the church.
Jesus was and is the second and last Adam. Just as everyone in Adam dies, so also everyone in Christ shall be made alive. So when we read about the fall of Adam, the last thing we should be thinking about is: “What do I need to do?” Rather, the question is, “Who can do what Adam failed to do - and how can I align myself with such a person?”
And so when Jesus is tempted by Satan in the wilderness of Matthew 4, we are to read it just like we read Genesis 3. Jesus didn’t battle the Devil just so that we could have a cool lesson on how to fight temptation. Jesus battled the Devil in Matthew 4 in order to achieve everything that Adam didn’t achieve. Jesus battled the Devil in Matthew 4 in order to save you. And that is the good news of the gospel. This gospel is not about a lesson or a study or a teaching moment. This gospel is about a test finished and fulfilled. Jesus’ rise is ultimately not a story about what you need to do. Rather, it is ultimately a story about what Jesus needs to do. For you. In your place. On your behalf.
Praise be to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! He overcame and defeated the Devil. He perfectly obeyed the law that we are supposed to obey in order to earn heaven. He credits us with his record of righteousness so that we are counted as righteous and deserving of heaven. He advanced into exaltation and glory so that we can also receive exaltation and glory. He has gone beyond the garden, and one day, we will be where he is as well. And this is all because of Jesus.
Once we fully grasp this gospel, then we can talk about what we must do. The lessons or studies or teaching moments can come after the gospel of Christ. And there are many applications that I would like the share with you right now.
First, let us be aware of the reality of spiritual warfare. The serpent’s actions in Genesis 3, and our enemy’s work through all of history is nothing less than war. It is war against God. And it is war against us. Brothers and sisters, be aware that there is a real person, a living being, who hates you and lies to you. Be watchful that your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him.
Second, let us understand the nature of sin. Adam and Eve did what they did because they wanted to be like God. They wanted to take the place of God. They wanted to be the final authority of their lives. They wanted to make their own decisions and determine what was right and wrong. Brothers and sisters, all sins can be reduced to the wicked idea of the creature unseating the creator. Such an idea is despicable. Do not sin against God.
Third, let us know and study God’s words and truth. The spiritual battle that happened in Genesis 3 was a battle of words and doctrine. Brothers and sisters, what you believe is so important in life. And the ability to discern what is true and what is false is a big part of growing in spiritual maturity. So care about doctrine. Know what’s in the Bible.
Fourth, may our husbands avoid the abuse of their power and authority in their families. Husbands can abuse their leadership in two ways. They can overuse it and be dominating and authoritarian. Or they can underuse it and be derelict and negligent. Brothers, Adam’s colossal mistake was that he silent before the serpent’s words and inactive against the serpent’s presence. Brothers, lead well.
Fifth and finally (and this is the big one), when temptations come your way, keep all that armor of God on you - and stand. After everything went down, Adam and Eve knew that they were naked. And they made clothes for themselves. Brothers and sisters, when you are tempted to doubt God’s promises and when the devil accuses you and causes you to descend into shame and despair, remember that you’re wearing the armor of the very person who defeated the enemy, fulfilled the covenant, and erased all the sadness of Genesis 3 - our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.