GCL A.7 Man’s Rebellion: His Law, Our Sin


In Which We Reject God’s Dominion, And Pay The Price

When God created the world, He gave us as humans dominion over all the plants and animals. But it was not an unconditional grant: rather, we have a responsibility to take His already “very good” creation to the next level, by filling the earth with His image.

And if we fail in that responsibility, the price is high…

Memory Verse: “The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” — Psalm 19:9 (NKJV)

Assigned Reading

  1. Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings
    • 10. Angels, Satan, and Demons
    • 13. Sin
  2. Essential Truths of the Christian Faith
    • 17. The Law of God
    • 23. Covenant
    • 24. Covenant of Works
    • 48. Satan
    • 50. Sin
    • 51. Original Sin
    • 52. Human Depravity
    • 53. Human Conscience


Read Psalm 19. Why does the Psalmist love God’s law?


Genesis 3

Our story begins at Eden, in the garden where God has placed the man and woman He created. Alas, even in paradise there can be a snake in the grass:

{3:1a} Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

The serpent is identified in Revelation 12:9 as Satan, who is either disguised as or possessing the snake. That would explain why a snake is “cunning” and talking — not to mention undermining God:

{3:1b} And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”

He does this by using a question to imply the opposite of what God did say, in Genesis 2:16:

{2:16} And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;”

[Discuss: How does Satan typically deceive you? Has he ever misused Scripture to do so?]

To her credit, Eve quickly corrects the serpent:

{3:2} And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden;

{3} but of the fruit of the tree which [is] in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ “

However, her version is actually stricter than what God told Adam in Genesis 2:17 — which does not proscribe touching:

{2:17}but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Her version also differs in not identifying the tree with “the knowledge of good and evil.” It is unclear whether Adam hadn’t communicated God’s commands accurately, or if Eve simply misremembers. Either way, God’s instructions seem to have lost something along the way — and the serpent is quick to exploit the opening!

He starts by directly contradicting God:

{3:4} Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.

Then switches to simply telling a half-truth:

{5} For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

This unholy pursuit of being “like God” is the root of Adam and Eve’s fall, as well as Satan’s — and probably ours. As we’ve been discussing all along, our ultimate calling is to be like God in “name” — reflecting His image, character, and purpose. The opposite of that is setting up ourselves “as God” in our own name — based on our own knowledge, preferences, and character.

Of course, the choice is rarely presented that crudely. Instead, we are tempted by something appealing that God has forbidden:

{6a} So when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make [one] wise, she took of its fruit and ate.

[Discuss: Have you ever deeply desired something God denied? With what result?]

The woman fell into sin by being deceived — in body (food), soul (pleasure), and spirit (wisdom). Perhaps surprisingly, Adam is not portrayed as deceived, but as simply giving in at his wife’s request:

{6b} She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

And even though Eve fell first, Adam is the one held responsible for its effect on humanity, as we see in Romans 5:12:

{Rom 5:12} Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned

This is known as the doctrine of original sin, which is often associated with the doctrine of total depravity. Put simply, it means that all of humanity is tainted due to Adam’s sin, and incapable of true goodness on our own. This is in stark contrast to modern secular belief in the innate goodness and ultimate perfectibility of humanity.

Note that total depravity does not mean “we are always as bad as we can possibly be”, but rather that “we are never as good as we ought to be.” In short, because of Adam’s sin (for reasons much debated and ultimately mysterious), we are all fated to “sin, and fall short of the glory of God” (cf. Romans 3:23) — that is, we fail in our calling to be images of God’s name.

This is precisely what happened to Adam and Eve. Their eyes were indeed opened — but they didn’t feel like gods; instead, they were filled with shame at the image of their naked humanity:

{7} Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they [were] naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

In stark contrast to their attitude earlier in Genesis:

{2:25} And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.

Alas, that is usually how it works. When we are in total submission to God, we are at peace with ourselves, for His grace covers all our limitations. But the more we try to be our own God, the more acutely we feel our own shortcomings and shame (despite frantic attempts to cover it up) — a consequence Satan and the world never warn us about.

[Discuss: How do you feel when you realize that you have sinned? Why?]

In many ways that shame is a foretaste of Hell itself, since it pulls us away from God’s presence:

{3:8} And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.

In fact, this separation from God may well be the “immediate death” God warned them about earlier.

Yet despite their disobedience, God continues to seek them out:

{9} Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where [are] you?”

Adam blurts out the ugly truth — or at least part of it:

{10} So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.”

This incomplete confession merely raises more questions than it answers:

{11} And He said, “Who told you that you [were] naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?”

Having been found out, Adam begins the characteristically human game of blaming someone else:

{12} Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave [to be] with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.”

Note how in his very first attempt at rationalization he manages to blame both God and Eve in one short sentence!

[Discuss: Why do we find it so hard to take responsibility for our sins?]

God obligingly asks Eve — who also passes the buck:

{13} And the LORD God said to the woman, “What [is] this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

The hapless serpent has nobody else to blame, so God’s judgement starts with it:

{14} So the LORD God said to the serpent: “Because you have done this, You [are] cursed more than all cattle, And more than every beast of the field; On your belly you shall go, And you shall eat dust All the days of your life.

We’ll let the scholars argue over the biological question of whether, when, and how snakes actually lost their logs, and focus instead on the relational issue:

{15} And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”

Christians generally see this as the first prophecy that a human Messiah (her “seed”) would defeat Satan — a view supported by a similar phrase in Romans 16:20:

{Rom 16:20a} And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly.

This captures the entire plot of Scripture in a nutshell:  Satan tries to stamp out God’s image on the earth — with partial success, but ultimate failure. Instead, God’s Son becomes a man born of woman to destroy all Satan’s works.

[Discuss: What does it mean to you that Christ will crush Satan’s head?]

While this may give hope to the woman, it doesn’t mean she escapes responsibility for her part in this tragedy:

{16} To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire [shall be] for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”

This difficult-to-translate verse has been the source of much controversy and confusion over the centuries. For one thing, the allusion to childbirth here and in verse 20 led some to claim that the “forbidden fruit” Adam and Eve enjoyed was sexual intercourse — an interpretation flatly contradicted by God’s command in Genesis 1:28 to “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth.” Alas, it is still a common misconception in popular culture, perhaps because the church has historically not done a very good job communicating God’s positive view of sexuality.

A more serious argument is that “there are no unique leadership roles for men in marriage or in the church,” since male “headship” only exists as part of the curse on Eve; in this view, the church should undo that curse by promoting “full gender equality” in every area of life and ministry.

While a plausible inference for that single verse, it ignores the fact (as St. Paul points out in 1 Timothy 2:13) that Adam was assigned specified responsibilities by God Himself before Eve was created or fell.  A more consistent interpretation is that the fall introduced an unhealthy dependency inside of an existing authority structure.

In fact, that is exactly what we would expect from Eve treating herself — or her husband — as God. Whenever we don’t submit to God’s dominion, we set up other things (or people) as idols in His place. These idols can never fill the “God-shaped hole” within us, so when they fall short, we rebel and fight for control — exactly as pictured in that verse.

[Discuss: How might your understanding of authority be tainted by the fall?]

The deeper truth too many on both sides of this debate overlook is that male headship is not a privilege, but a responsibility. In fact God judges Adam for abdicating that very responsibility:

{17a} Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:

By failing the responsibility to lead his wife in God’s ways, his other responsibilities become much heavier:

{17b} “Cursed [is] the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat [of] it All the days of your life.

{18} Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field.

If woman’s great sorrow is her children, man’s is his labor upon the earth. His judgement is arguably more severs, since unlike the woman Adam is promised no victory over Satan, only the release of death:

{19} In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you [are], And to dust you shall return.”

For Adam’s redemption, we’ll have to wait until the next lesson; though we do get a hint of it in God’s provision of clothing:

{20} And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.

{21} Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

But it is small comfort compared to all they have lost:

{22} Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”–

{23} therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken.

{24} So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

[Discuss: Do you long to reenter Eden? Why or why not?]

Not a pleasant note to end on, yet a painfully accurate picture of human history. We strive to obtain happiness apart from God, but instead find ourselves alone, naked, and ashamed in the wilderness.

Bad News indeed. Thankfully, the Good News is coming…


  • Repentance: Where have you sought to be “as a god”, deciding good and evil for yourself?
  • Action: What can you do to reverse the curse, in your life and the lives of those around you?
  • Worship: Meditate on the price of rebellion versus the blessing of submission to God.

For Next Week

For next week, read 1 Corinthians 15. What does it mean to live in Christ?

Memory Verse: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” — 1 Corinthians 15:22 (NKJV)

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