Tom: The book of Genesis, particularly the first few chapters is foundational to grasping the central message of the Bible. So, in our ongoing series, the purpose of which is to better understand that gospel of salvation, we’re discussing the verses that explain the critical “why” of Christianity. Why did Jesus have to die? If we don’t understand the necessity of Christ’s death according to the Bible, then we can’t really explain the gospel. And that seems to be a problem, which some have perceived as growing, particularly scriptural illiteracy among evangelicals.
Dave, I don’t know how anyone can effectively witness without knowing the book of Genesis. Last week we looked at verse 17 of Genesis chapter 2, in which God presented a condition to Adam and Eve, telling them that if they ate the fruit of a certain tree in the Garden of Eden, the penalty for their disobedience would be death—spiritual death—which meant spiritual separation from God forever, and physical death, which would begin with their first sin. And some time after that, Satan tempted Eve with lies. Her response, as well as her husband’s, is found in Genesis 3, beginning with verse 6: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof and did eat and gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat.”
Well, there’s sin. There’s disobedience. There’s the first statement with regard to man sinning that we know about.
Dave: Mm-hmm. It is an account of sin entering the world. But you know, it seemed to be justified: “It’s good for food.” What could be wrong with eating food? It was pleasant to the eyes and a tree to be desired to make one wise.
Tom: So it was good for her!
Tom: Or so she was told. But not by God.
Dave: No. But God said, “Don’t do it.” So, the problem was they disobeyed God. They rationalized (of course, the serpent told them), but they rationalized, What could be wrong with this? So God doesn’t know. So, man—when man thinks that he knows better than God, he’s in trouble. That’s…we’re talking about the scriptures—“search the Scriptures daily.” Some people think, “Well, it’s not all inspired, but some of it is inspired, so I’ll decide what part is inspired.” So that’s why Eve decided that God didn’t know what He was saying when He said, “Don’t eat the tree.” He made a mistake! I mean, it’s good for food. It’s going to make me wise!
Another problem, of course, is imagining that a physical thing could produce wisdom. Wisdom is not a physical quality. It’s not even a quality of intelligence. But it’s something else. The Bible says, “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.” And Eve thought she could get it by eating of this tree. That’s the basis for all ritualism, you know—that some physical act will produce spiritual life, spirituality. But the basic problem is it was just disobedience—plain disobedience, and rationalizing it and justifying it from human wisdom.
Tom: Dave, you’ve mentioned this before. It doesn’t seem like all that big a deal. Well, I can’t even think of something to compare it with, but it’s just taking a piece of fruit and taking a bite and offering it to…I mean, it’s not murder, it’s not rape, it’s not something that we would say today…Oh, that’s…it's not genocide of any kind. But it brought about all of those things! It was a major change in the universe—in creation.
Dave: Often people justify their disobedience to the Word of God by saying that very thing: “Well, it’s not a big thing.” Wait a minute! If you would disobey God for “not a big thing,” that’s even worse! Now, if there was some real big reason for disobeying God—maybe you could try to justify yourself. But if you’re going to disobey God, you’re going to thumb your nose at Him, you’re going to rebel against Him, for something that is inconsequential—why can’t I let that go? And this garden was full of trees with food that was good to eat, that was pleasant to the eyes. Why not be content with that, and why not obey God?
So, we have a …this is the heart of it: rejecting God’s Word. This is what God said. Of course, Eve had found a guru. I think—and I don’t think there’s any doubt about it—she wanted to take that tree. God had told her not to. “Don't walk on the grass.” Well, that’s where people want to walk. “Don’t open this package.” Well, then that’s then what they want to do. “Pandora’s box.” So, I think she had always wanted this, and along comes a guru who tells her what she wants to hear, and I think that’s the problem with most people in a cult. They’ve found someone who is telling them what they want to hear. If you’d rationally examine it, or you’d compare it with the Word of God, it isn’t true. But they want it! And so when someone tells them—and, you know, seemingly justifies it—a religious leader, this is the beginning, you could say, of all cults. This is an “interpreter” of the Bible. “Oh, you think God said that? Well, let me tell you what God really said.” And that’s how it all begins, and it’s a tragedy.
Tom: Now, the penalty is death. “The day you eat thereof, you will surely die.”
Tom: We’ve talked about this penalty before, but the context here, of this segment, is “Why did Jesus have to die?” But before we get to that, let’s look at death. It’s separation from God forever. This disobedience…now, they can say, “Oh, okay, we blew it. Now let’s…God will forgive us and we’ll kind of get back to it,” and so on. But that’s not happened.
Dave: God takes it very seriously. And we need to take it very seriously as well. We have all the evidence in the universe around us. There are definite physical laws. You know, you jump up—try to jump up as high as you can—you do come back to this earth. It would be a strange earth if sometimes when you jump you just kept going! You put certain chemicals together, you get a definite reaction. There are certain laws—the laws of thermodynamics, for example. We can count on it, because God has prescribed some rules. You can’t even play a game without rules. If everybody—you’ve got two teams, eleven men each out there on the football field, and they’re each following different rules, it isn’t going to work! And then when the referee calls them for a penalty, they complain that he’s being narrow-minded. It just wouldn’t work.
So God has put rules on this universe, and thank God that He has. Well, isn’t it amazing then, that people think that when it comes to going to heaven, when it comes to eternal life, when it comes to this matter of sin and redemption—there shouldn’t be any rules. You know, “You’ve got your religion, and I’ve got mine. You’ve got your way to God…I’ve got… Let’s be reasonable with one another.”
Well, wait a minute! It’s not with one another. It’s God himself. And as we said earlier, you don’t negotiate with God. You don’t make a deal with God. And when God says, “Don’t eat of this tree,” He means, “Don’t eat of this tree!” And He means that for our good. He wants us to be in fellowship with Him. He wants us to partake of His life. This is something that science can’t explain. We don’t know what life is! But Jesus said, “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of things that he possesses.” A man’s life is spiritual, really, in the final analysis, and that only comes from God. So now, man is separated from God. God cannot tolerate this! I mean, what would it be if God allows rebellion in His universe? It’s a horrible world that we have now, and God is going to bring an end to this one of these days, as He did with Sodom and Gomorrah.
So, this seems like a very small thing, but they’re disobeying God. God has to be God, and in fact, they did become “little gods,” you know, we’ve got about 6 billion little gods running around on this world, each one ruling over his own little empire. And because of that, we have a clash of egos: husband against wife, parents against children, brother against brother or sister, and nation against nation, murder, rape, self-centeredness. Eve was very selfish at this point. She didn’t even consult Adam. But all she was interested in was something for herself, and, as you mentioned earlier, Satan didn’t tempt her with immorality. He tempted her with high self-esteem. He tempted her with becoming godlike. Becoming wise. And this is the self-centeredness of this whole thing. And this is where self had its awful birth, and this is why Jesus said, “Except you deny self, take up the cross, and follow Me, you can’t be My disciples.”
So, it’s a very serious thing to disobey God.
Tom: So the separation that came about, as we mentioned earlier, it’s spiritual separation—we’re separated from God forever. The death process began. Adam lived to 900-and-some years, I’m not sure how many. So the process of death, separation from God forever, began.
Dave: Well, it affected—the spiritual separation from God affected our physical body.
Tom: Right. Verse 7 says, “and the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Here was the very thing that God didn’t want. He didn’t want them to know or understand or have anything to do with evil, but now, because they had sinned, they had an understanding of evil, which, as scripture says, “The wages of sin is death.”
Dave: And they sewed fig leaves together to try to patch it up. You can’t patch it up, Tom. You can’t patch up this world.
Tom: Well, again, this has to do with self. They were trying to cover themselves—cover their sin with what they were going to do. It’s really, in a sense, it’s works-righteousness, although it’s hardly righteous at the time.
Tom: Dave, we’re just about out of time. What we’re pursuing here is why Jesus had to die. Death had entered the universe through the sin that we just talked about. And God brings a solution. He brings the only solution that we have to be reconciled to Him after this sin.