THE stumbling blocks of unbelief - revisited
BASF – CLAUSE 3
“That the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth on the earth was necessitated by the position and state into which the human race had been brought by the circumstances connected with the first man. – 1Cor 15:21,22; Rom 5:12-19; Gen 3:19; 2Cor 5:19-21”
When we consider the depraved condition of the world around us; we behold a scene of evil, violence and corruption which is very far removed from the Edenic paradise in which the first human pair were placed. And our Statement of Faith speaks of this state of affairs in terms of two aspects; both “the position and state” into which the human race has been brought – that is to say, the position of mankind before the Creator, and the physical state of mortality which we labour under. And both of these aspects, are said to be brought about “by the circumstances connected with the first man”.
This latter aspect – the physical state of the nature shared by all mankind – is perhaps more readily accepted amongst us than the first. Because of what Adam did, we are both mortal and sinful – by nature: “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned ,,, by one man’s offence death reigned by one” (Rom 5:12,17). And again, “as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1Cor 15:22). So it is, that death being “the wages of sin” (Rom 6:23), when our first parents sinned; they received the sentence of death as their just reward. The condition of their nature being made mortal; all who physically descend from them – and therefore partake of the physical substance of that nature – are also mortal, dying creatures. As a later clause of the BASF expresses it: “That Adam broke this (God’s) law, and was adjudged unworthy of immortality, and sentenced to return to the ground from whence he was taken – a sentence which defiled and became a physical law of his being, and was transmitted to all his posterity”. Or as Paul has it under inspiration, by one man’s offence, death reigns over all men, for it “passed upon” them, (or “into” them, as the Greek is rendered 573 times), through the actions of “one man”. So much is readily understood by most members of our community.
But we feel that it is not always as commonly recognised, that our “position” before God is also brought about by things to do with Adam – yet this is what the Statement of our Faith teaches. There is therefore, a need to dwell a little more on this aspect of things.
THE EXPULSION OF ADAM FROM THE GARDEN
In Genesis chapter 3, we read of the events subsequent to the offence of the first human pair, and we find that the introduction of sin brought about a radical change in the relationship between Adam and his Maker. “Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of Yahweh elohim amongst the trees of the garden” (Gen 3:8). The implication from the context of these verses, is that prior to their sin, both Adam his wife experienced open fellowship with the Angelic representative of the Most High who walked in the garden with them. They dwelt in a paradise where the toil was easy and pleasurable. They had all that could be needed for a comfortable and wholesome existence; a beautiful environment, plenty of natural food, dominion over the animals, and companionship with each other as mutually compatible beings. Yet through the beguiling sophistry of one of the beasts whose thoughts and ideas they failed to maintain dominion over, they fell from such a position of grace. In the shame of their defiled conscience, the trees which had previously been a place of beauty and a source of nourishment, became a hiding place where they themselves sought to escape from the presence of Yahweh. Their sin had separated them from their God (cp Is 59:2, Jude 19).
But it was a most wonderful provision of mercy on the part of their Maker and Father, that despite their shameful position, the Lord called Adam and his wife out from the shade of the trees to bring all things which had been done to the light. He invited them both to give confession for their actions (Gen 3:9-13), and this being done, and the just sentence upon their offence being passed, He mercifully taught them a way of reconciliation – through sacrifice, and being covered with the skin of the animal slain. And finally, He reinforced this point that they had separated themselves from the unity of fellowship they had previously been privileged to experience with Him, for He “drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.” (Gen 3:24), thus preventing access to both the Tree of Life, and the paradise itself.
ADAM – OUTSIDE OF THE GARDEN AND SEPARATED FROM GOD
Although Adam had his transgression “covered” (cp Ps 32:1,2); in his position of exile from the garden, he no longer maintained the same relationship with his Father, and could no longer approach the Divine presence, but through the continual offering of sacrifice, as seen in the case of his sons (cp Gen 4:3,4). But why was this? Why was it the case, that once the actual sin had been forgiven, fellowship could not be restored between God and Man, and Adam permitted to remain in the garden with his family (albeit excluded from the Tree of Life)? The reason is, that transgression had brought into being something in both Adam and Eve which is “enmity against God”. They both transgressed by taking heed to purely animal reasoning – the reasoning which stated that it would actually be a good thing to disobey the commands of the Creator. They took that reasoning, and accepted it, for they both transgressed. And having accepted that reasoning into their minds, it found a lodgement there – once they initially transgressed, it became part of their nature to transgress. Their minds were polluted with impure thoughts to rebel against their God – they became carnal and sinful. And it is the Apostolic testimony that “the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom 8:7). Their minds having become carnal, neither Adam, nor his wife could wholly subject all of their thoughts to the law of God, as they had previously been, for continually they would experience thoughts to do evil, temptations to sin, no longer emanating from an external source, but from their own selves. And those temptations, would give rise to further sins and further offences against the One in whose presence they would have stood. So it was, that a consequence of the first offence was the bringing into being of the diabolos, or “sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3), which inevitably gave rise to a manner of thinking out of harmony with the Almighty. Even though the first offence was forgiven, an enmity had originated between the mind of man; and the ways of his Maker – and true fellowship can only be restored when that enmity is finally removed, by a transformation of nature at the coming of Christ.
This same breach in fellowship subsists also between the Lord and Adam’s progeny. Just as men inherit “death” from Adam, so they inherit what the apostle styles, “the law of sin” (Rom 8:25). “Sin in the flesh” is not a physical substance; as some claim that we teach; but a “law” of our being – the natural disposition of thought of the human mind, inherited from Adam. The fallen condition of man is spiritually diseased, (Jer 17:9, Heb) and that disease of sin affects our relationship between us and our maker. Not that we are held accountable, or guilty for the nature it is our misfortune to bear, as some claim. Rather, we have as part of our fallen make-up a “law”, or principle which induces us to commit acts which are so abhorrent to our Maker, and which therefore is so obnoxious to Him. Yet the Lord, in his mercy has intervened to provide a hope of salvation: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son ” (Jno 3:16). Out of love for the patient, yet hatred for the loathsome disease, God granted his son to “condemn” and “destroy” that which is the cause of enmity between Him and Man, so laying the foundation for a cure from the malady of mortality.
So it is, that as the BASF teaches, both our physical “state” and our “position” before our Maker is attributable to “the circumstances connected with the first man”. The physical bodies we have, being descended from him are mortal, dying bodies, containing within them “the law of sin”, which incites us to rebellion against the laws and ways of God, whether we know them or not. And these circumstances “necessitated” “the appearance of Jesus of Nazareth” upon the earth, to provide hope for a hopeless world – to give salvation and forgiveness to a world of dying sinners. But notice this – the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ is in itself directly linked by the inspired Apostle to the circumstances brought about by Adam: “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many” (Rom 5:15); “If by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17); “by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1Cor 15:22); “as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” (1Cor 15:49).
In our day, as with times past, there are those who question the literality of the Genesis account. It is postulated that the events described in Genesis 3 concerning the beguiling of Eve, and the fall of our first parents is symbolic. The Serpent, it is claimed stands as a figure, a personification of sin itself, rather than being a literal animal. And as the Hebrew word for “Adam” is a term also used to describe mankind generally (cp Gen 1:26,27; 2:5), it is said that rather than being the real name of a specific individual, Adam simply stands as a figure of the human race. The logic of this would lead to the conclusion that the events described in Genesis 3, rather than being a literal account of Eve being beguiled by a serpent, then leading Adam to transgress also, would simply be a kind of parabolic story; speaking of the failure of Mankind generally, constantly being beguiled by sin to do that which is against the Will of their Maker.
But this logic, whilst appealing to some is fatally flawed. Firstly, the account in Genesis does not read like a symbolic parable – simply reading it as it stands it appears as a literal record of what took place. It is incumbent therefore, upon those who read it symbolically to give proof that it should be so read – proof which is significantly lacking. But in addition to this, to deny the literality of the opening chapters of Genesis raises serious questions which cannot be otherwise addressed. For instance, if God did not create Adam from the dust of the ground, breathing into his nostrils the breath of life, as Scripture describes, how did man originate? More to the point, if there were no literal, serpent, an outside source of temptation, how do we account for the entrance of sin into the world? Are we to charge the Creator with making men with a built-in desire to disobey him? For such would be the only alternative. And how do we account for the entrance of death into the world, if it was not, as the Apostle claims, by the offence of “one man”? How do we explain the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ, if it was not, as the Apostle claims, inextricably linked with the transgression of the first man of the Human race? These questions, and many more go unanswered, if we reject the literality of the inspired account which the Lord has provided us with. But to accept these things as so, with child-like simplicity (Mat 18:3) gives fully comprehensive answers to all these questions, and many more.
We must therefore, accept the truth of the inspired word that these things were so, as described by our Maker. And when we do so, we perceive our true position before God, as fallen, sinful, dying creatures – inheriting all the effects of Adam’s offence, and worthy of only condemnation for our own sins. Then we can lament with the Apostle with understanding: “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”. And then can we rejoice with him with equal understanding: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord … There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus …” (Rom 7:24-8:1).