Understanding Sin

Understanding Sin


Talking Snakes and Other Problems

Genesis 3:1

Now the serpent (Heb. Nacash which is translated serpent, snake, dragon) was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”

Eve finds herself confronted with the most dangerous words ever spoken, “yea hath God said…?” Neither before nor since have there been words with such potential to destroy and they come repeatedly but today they sound different. Today they sound like this: Would a loving God really send people to hell (did God really say the wages of sin is death?) Don’t all religions basically say the same thing (did God really say Jesus was the only way?) If you listen carefully, you can hear the subtle hiss behind the words as once again the serpent says, yea hath God said?

It would be great if I could say that Eve’s biggest problem was a talking snake; it wasn’t. The biggest problem she faced was that she erred, not knowing the word from the Lord. I do not mean to say that she did not know what God had spoken but she did not know the certainty or sufficiency of the word, which had been spoken.

Sin becomes her

Fully half or more of the scholars in the world will tell you that “the Fall” happened when Eve ate the forbidden fruit. I beg to differ. Look at verse three of chapter three. Eve adds to the word that had been spoken. “Neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” Some will say that Adam embellished when he passed the Lord’s instruction on to Eve; I tend to doubt that. There is nothing in the text to indicate that God told only Adam of the prohibition against eating the fruit of that tree. However, adding to the word that God had spoken, though bad enough in itself is not what got Eve…

“The Fall” happened in verse six. She saw that it was good for food (lust of the eyes) and desirable to make one wise (lust of the flesh) she took it and ate (the pride of life). And there it is. The fall happened not in the eating of the fruit, no that was the symptom; it happened when Eve decided that the serpent knew better than God and that she wanted the fruit.


We must, then, deal with the following question: What is sin?


Sin, Original and Personal

Sin came into the world through the disobedience of our first parents, and death by sin. We believe that sin is of two kinds: original sin or depravity, and actual or personal sin.

Original sin, or depravity, is that corruption of the nature of all the offspring of Adam by reason of which everyone is very far gone from original righteousness or the pure state of our first parents at the time of their creation, is averse to God, is without spiritual life, and inclined to evil, and that continually. Our fallen nature continues with us until our glorification by Christ in the New Heaven and the New Earth.

Actual, or personal, sin is a voluntary violation of a known law of God by a morally responsible person (There no particular age set forth in Scripture for this moral responsibility. That being said, every individual is, at some point in their life accountable to God for their sins and are faced with the choice to respond or not.) It is therefore not to be confused with involuntary and inescapable shortcomings, infirmities, faults, mistakes, failures, or other deviations from the standard of perfect conduct that are the residual effects of the Fall.

(Original sin: Genesis 3; 6:5; Job 15:14; Psalm 51:5; Jeremiah 17:9-10; Mark 7:21-23; Romans 1:18-25; 5:12-14; 7:1-8:9; 1 Corinthians 3:1-4; Galatians 5:16-25; 1 John 1:7-8

Personal sin: Matthew 22:36-40 {with 1 John 3:4}; John 8:34- 36; 16:8-9; Romans 3:23; 6:15-23; 8:18-24; 14:23; 1 John 1:9- 2:4; 3:7-10)

This Doctrine of Original Sin leads us to discuss Total Depravity…

Let’s start with the obvious question, what is Total Depravity? Total depravity is a phrase that is used to summarize what the Bible teaches about the natural spiritual condition of fallen man (By that I mean the spiritual condition we are born in because of Original Sin).

Total Depravity, though often misunderstood, acknowledges that the Bible teaches that every part of man—the mind, will, emotions, and flesh are corrupted by sin. This is a result of the sin in Genesis 3:6. This is to say that sin affects all of our being—who we are and what we do. Sin has so penetrated us, going to the core of our being, so that everything is polluted by sin. Any good deeds that we do, any righteousness that we bring to God is like filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) To give you an idea of how disgusting sin is to God, how utterly repugnant it is, I will share with you what the Hebrew literally says; “filthy rags” is the cleaned up version for church. Literally, in the Hebrew, it says our righteousness is as a menstrual cloth. I realize that what I just said is shocking and it should be. We don’t take sin seriously enough; you don’t and I don’t and that’s just reality. None of us lives in constant awareness of just how awful our sin really is. Let’s move on…

In the bullet points below, we have summarized the Doctrine of Total Depravity

  • The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17:9)
  • We are born dead in our transgressions and sins (Psalm 51:5, Psalm 58:3 and Ephesians 2:1-5)
  • We are held captive to a love for sin (John 3:19 and John 8:34)
  • There is no one who seeks for God (Romans 3:10-11)
  • Man loves the darkness (John 3:19)
  • Men do not understand the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:14)
  • As a result, men suppress the Truth of God in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18) and continue to live in sin.
  • Because of the totally depraved nature of man, he continues to live in sin and this sinful life actually seems right to him (Proverbs 14:12)
  • Depravity is so pervasive that, by nature, we reject the Message of the Gospel as foolish (1 Corinthians 1:18) and our minds, naturally do not submit to God because it is unable to do so. (Romans 8:7)

Paul summarizes Total Depravity this way (Romans 3:9-18)

  • No one is without sin
  • No one seeks after God
  • There is no one is good
  • Our speech is corrupted by sin
  • Man’s actions are corrupted by sin
  • And above all, man has no fear of God

God confronts the sin (Genesis 3:8–13)


Avoiding God (vv. 8–10)

vs 8. Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

God arrives at the customary meeting place, at the customary time but Adam and Eve are not there.


vs 9. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”

God is not asking for information. He is inviting Adam and Eve to meet with Him. This is the 1st act of redemption recorded in the Bible- He seeks Adam and Eve who are hiding in shame and now separated from Him.


Even today, God still leaves open the invitation…We sing it in the hymn, Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, calling “O sinner come home.” In Matthew’s Gospel Account, Jesus invites us, who are wearing and heavy laden, to come to Him


vs 10. He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”



Adam, within earshot of the Lord’s summons, does not simply come forth and say, “Here I am” (Genesis 22:1, 11; 46:2; Exodus 3:4; Isaiah 6:8). Instead, he explains his hiding in an attempt to excuse it.


Adam’s explanation is true but misleading. Yes, Adam had been naked (Genesis 2:25), and his fear is self-evident in the fact that he has attempted to hide. He offers an explanation of the latter as being due to the former, but the explanation doesn’t hold water as we realize that his nakedness hasn’t resulted in hiding before now. He is afraid because of his disobedience.


The Blame Game (vv. 11–13)

  1. And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”


Again, the questioning by the Lord does not indicate a lack of knowledge on his part. He knows what has happened. But he gives Adam a chance to confess his sin. He does this in a way that confronts Adam with the obvious as God says, in effect, “Let’s talk about your discomfort with being naked. You didn’t feel this way yesterday when we met. What changed? Did you eat the forbidden fruit? That would do it.”


  1. The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”


When confronted, Adam seems to realize there is no hiding his sin. Yet he does not say, “Yes, Lord, I ate the forbidden fruit, but I regret it deeply. Please forgive me.” Instead, Adam attempts to dodge his guilt by redirecting the blame. In one of the saddest moments of all Bible accounts, Adam points the finger of guilt in two directions. First he points that finger toward his beloved wife. Then in the same breath Adam indicts the Lord as well with the phrase the woman you put here with me. Adam’s admission I ate it comes with no acceptance of personal responsibility.


  1. Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”


Following the model just set by her husband, the woman admits I ate, but attempts to shift full blame elsewhere: to the serpent. There is no repentance, no asking for forgiveness.



Judgment (Genesis 3:14–17)


On the Serpent (vv. 14, 15)

vs 14. So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life.


God, knowing precisely what has taken place earlier at the tree, does not question the serpent. If the questioning of the two humans indicates opportunities to repent, we see no such opportunity being offered to the tempter. The Lord merely passes judgment and declares the penalty. The penalty reflects the categories of land creatures from Genesis 1:24, 25: livestock and wild animals and crawling-on-the-ground animals.


The apostle John identifies “that ancient serpent” as being “the devil, or Satan” himself (Revelation 12:9; 20:2). Because of his ability to speak and his intelligence (Genesis 3:1–5), he is more like the man and the woman than any other creature in the garden.

Whatever his form before God’s sentencing, the serpent is now to be included among the lowest and most despised of the land animals: the ground-crawlers. The description gives us the picture of a snake as we are familiar with today, that of a slithering, dust-eating belly-dragger. We assume this also includes the loss of speech and cunning intelligence.


vs 15a. “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers;


This verse, sometimes called the protevangelium (meaning “first gospel”), is the first prophecy in the Bible about a future Savior. Until this story there has been no need for a Savior because there has been no sin. But now there is.


The pronouncement in this verse, given directly to the serpent, has three parts. First, there is a promise of enmity—fear and loathing—between the woman and her offspring (descendants) and the serpent and his offspring. This reflects a coming battle related to the serpent and his agenda to undermine God’s authority and entice humans to sin (compare John 8:44; Acts 13:10; 1 John 3:8; Revelation 12:17). This is spiritual warfare, the struggle for the hearts and souls of men and women (Ephesians 6:10–12).


vs 15b. “he will crush your head,

The coming Savior will strike some kind of blow to the serpent and his power. From this side of the cross, we realize that Jesus accomplished this when he rose from the dead and thereby defeated the power of death (compare Romans 16:20; 1 Corinthians 15:54–57;

Hebrews 2:14; Revelation 1:18).


vs 15c. “and you will strike his heel.”

The coming Messiah will be wounded by Satan’s efforts, but not defeated. He will experience death, but not remain dead (Revelation 1:18; 5:6).


  1. On Humanity (vv. 16, 17)


vs 16a. To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children.

God’s pronouncements continue, now with regard to difficulties that lie in the future of the woman in particular and that of women in general. Childbearing and childbirth will become unpleasant and painful, something all mothers today can verify.


vs 16b. “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

Furthermore, the woman will also be tied to her husband in ways that are not always joyful. She will fulfill her desire by marriage, but will also have a new master who will rule over her (compare 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22). This dependency has not yet existed in the case of the first man and woman, but it will haunt humankind in the future. The Hebrew behind the translation rule over is translated “govern” in Genesis 1:18.


vs 17. To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.”


The pronouncement to Adam is the strongest and longest of all. First, God states the basis for his judgment. Yes, the temptation had come through his wife, but he still bears responsibility for his sin (Here is the first and clearest articulation of male headship- the idea that God holds the man to a higher standard. As a consequence, the man will no longer have access to the blessed, perfect fertility of the garden. He will now have to scratch out a living from ground that is in some way cursed. Life will be difficult and tenuous.



III. Banishment (Genesis 3:20–24)


Provision (vv. 20, 21)

  1. Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

The story ends with some final arrangements. The woman needs a name, and Adam served as the namer-in-chief earlier (Genesis 2:19, 20). He gives her a hopeful name, one based on the word for living. Adam understands that Eve will produce babies and multiply the number of humans (1:28).


  1. The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.

The garments of skin provided by God replace the flimsy and temporary fig-leaf apparel (Genesis 3:7). The author presents this as a gracious and loving act by God. He knows that Adam and Eve will need more than mere coverings for their nakedness, once outside the garden.


Expulsion (vv. 22–24)

  1. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”


The author gives a divine detail at this juncture: the gist of God’s rationale for expelling the two from the garden. Things have changed, and sin has caused a loss of innocence for the man and his companion. God foresees that Adam has become like one of us. The “us” is not specified. Some see this as God’s addressing his heavenly council of angels (compare Job 1:6). Others see it as conversation between the three persons of the Trinity. Still others see it as the “plural of majesty” (see the commentary on Genesis 1:26 in lesson 3 on page 27).


To lose access to the tree of life signs the death warrant of Adam and Eve. Instead of living forever, they will age and eventually die. Another future feature of the New Jerusalem is year-round access to the tree of life, planted in or straddling the river of life (Revelation 22:2).


23, 24. So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.


The Lord takes extraordinary measures to prevent contact with the precious tree of life, posting a guard of heavenly beings known as cherubim (compare Ezekiel 10:20). Although stated as guarding the east side of the Garden of Eden, the implication is that the cherubim prevent any approach to the special tree. This raises a question: Why didn’t God just destroy the garden and its location? He did, during the flood.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.