Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Beginning of Grace

Part 9 of The Beginning, a series on Genesis 1-3

Text: Genesis 3:20-24

You can listen to this sermon here.

And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them (v. 21).

We Need Hope

Genesis 3 ends tragically. Adam and Eve have sinned. Suffering and death have entered the world. And they are being removed from the garden of Eden. As they made their sad departure out of Eden, they might have asked themselves, “Is there any hope for us?”

Imagine you have been shipwrecked on a deserted island. What’s the first thing you would try to do? If you’re ever in that kind of situation, it would be helpful to know the “Survival Rule of Threes.” According to this rule, in extreme survival situations you can’t survive more than three minutes without air, three hours without shelter, three days without water, three weeks without food, and three months without hope.

We need hope. Hope is the expectation of something better (e.g., being rescued). Real hope is more than wishful thinking.

We probably won’t ever be shipwrecked on a deserted island, but we all face a more troubling situation. Remember what God said would happen to Adam if he ate the forbidden fruit: “You shall surely die” (2:17). And the apostle Paul writes, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men” (Rom. 5:12). “Death” probably means total death (physical and spiritual). We need to escape eternal separation from God (i.e., hell). Is there any hope for us? 

Without God's grace, there is no hope for us.

Grace is undeserved kindness. In Genesis 3, before there is an act of judgment (God removing Adam and Eve from Eden), there is an act of divine grace. What is this act of grace? It is God’s provision of garments of skins for Adam and Eve (3:21). They deserved only judgment, but God showed kindness to them by giving them clothing.

God Provides Hope

God’s provision of clothing for Adam and Eve might be classified as an act of common grace. Common grace is God’s grace that is common to all humans. God providing the materials to make clothing is an example of God’s common grace (though God does not personally make our clothing as he did for Adam and Eve). In God’s act of common grace there is a foreshadowing of his saving grace. If it were not for God’s saving grace, we would forever remain hopeless sinners separated from God.

1. All our attempts to cover our sin will fail. 

In an episode of The Cosby Show (“A Shirt Affair”) Theo Huxtable pays his sister to make him a copy of a Gordon Gartrelle designer shirt. Theo was not pleased with the finished product. Adam and Eve made themselves poor garments out of fig leaves (3:7). Their fig leaf garments picture the inadequate attempts of people to make themselves right with God. “All our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment” (Isa. 64:6). We must give up our attempts at making ourselves right with God and accept God’s provision.

2. Only the cross can rescue us from the consequences of our sin. 

The provision of the garments of skins required a sacrifice. An animal had to be killed. In order for our sins to be forgiven, Christ had give his life for us. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22).

The garments of skins were reminders of their sinfulness. But they were also reminders of God’s grace. The cross confronts us with our sinfulness. (Jesus died for my sin.) But the cross also displays God’s grace.

As Adam and Eve accepted from God the garments of skins, we must accept God’s gift of salvation. We do this but putting our trust in Christ (i.e., acknowledging our sin and believing that his death is sufficient to rescue us from the consequences of our sin.)

Living with Hope

Imagine once again that you have been shipwrecked on a deserted island. Now imagine that on the fortieth day an airplane flies above the island and drops a package containing a note: “We will send someone to rescue you.” How would the rest of your days on the island change because you now had hope?

Because of God’s grace, we have hope.

Hope changes not only our future but also our present. 

Since we now live with hope, we obey God not because we have to but because we want to.

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