Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Beginning of Judgment

Part 7 of The Beginning, as series on Genesis 1-3

Text: Genesis 3:8-13

You can listen to this sermon here.

And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said, “Where are you?” (vv. 8-9).

“I Was Afraid”

In Gen. 2:17, God gave to Adam and Eve one command: “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” God also warned them what would happen if they disobeyed him: “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Human sin would result in divine judgment.

After Adam sinned, he said to God, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid” (3:10). Is God’s judgment something we should fear? Many people would say no. They have one of two wrong beliefs about God’s judgment. First, many people reject the reality of God’s judgment. (“God isn’t real.” Or, “A loving God wouldn’t judge.”) They are like Adam and Eve when they believed the serpent’s lie: “You will not surely die” (3:4). Second, many people minimize the seriousness of their sin. (“My sin isn’t so bad.”) They are like Adam and Eve when they tried to excuse their sin. Adam said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (3:12). Eve said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate” (3:13). But, according to the Bible, God’s judgment is real, and we are all sinners who deserve God’s judgment.

God’s judgment against sin is something we should fear, but it’s also something we can avoid. 

“You Will Surely Die” 

Why is God’s judgment against sin something we should fear? 

1. Sin separates us from God. 

It might appear that the serpent was correct when he said to Eve, “You will not surely die” (3:4). According to Gen. 5:5, Adam lived until he was 930 years old! However, in the Bible, there are three kinds of death. First, there is physical death (separation of the spirit from the body). God said to Adam, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” (3:19). Adam and Eve eventually died. Second, there is spiritual death (separation from God). (When a relationship ends badly, sometimes it’s said, “You’re dead to me.”). Third, if a person continues to be spiritually dead until his physical death, he will suffer eternal death (eternal separation from God in hell). When Adam and Eve sinned, they didn’t immediately suffer physical death, but they did suffer spiritual death.

Before they sinned, Adam and Eve had enjoyed God’s presence in the garden (“they heard the sound of the LORD God walking,” 3:8). But after they sinned, they “hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God” (3:8), and they were removed by God from Eden (3:23-24). Adam and Eve had wanted to be “like” God (3:5), but their disobedience prevented them from being “with” God. The apostle Paul writes, “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). As a result of Adam’s sin, we all are born into this world spiritually dead (estranged from God), destined for hell.

Why is God’s judgment against sin something we can avoid? 

2. Christ’s death bring us back to God. 

When Jesus died, “the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom” (Matt. 27:51; cf. Heb. 10:19-20). Why was this important? The curtain restricted access to the Most Holy Place, the dwelling place of God. The only person allowed to enter the Most Holy Place was the high priest—and only once per year (Heb. 9:7). The curtain was a reminder to the people of Israel of the separation between them and God due to their sin.

In many ways, the garden of Eden was a model for the tabernacle/temple. First, God “put [Adam] in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it” (2:15). And the same two verbs (in the original Hebrew) are used to describe the work of the priests in the tabernacle (“minister,” “guard,” Num. 3:7-8). Second, Eden was a place where God walked and talked with Adam and Eve. To Israel, God said, “I will make my dwelling [tabernacle] among you…. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people” (Lev. 26:11-12). Third, After sin entered the world, the entrance to Eden was guarded by cherubim (3:24). When God gave to Israel the instructions for the tabernacle, he said, “[The curtain] shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it” (Ex. 26:31).

The tearing of the curtain signified the removal of the separation between God and man. The author of Hebrews writes, “We have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh” (Heb. 10:19-20).

When the apostle John was given a vision of the heavenly city, he “heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God” (Rev. 21:3). From beginning to end, the Bible tells the story of how we we were separated from God and how he worked to bring us back to himself.

We can’t get back to God on our own. We must put our trust in Christ. “The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).

“Where Are You?” 

The words “Where are you?” is not only words of judgment; they are primarily words of love. God is like the father of the prodigal son: “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20).

God desires that all people be reconciled to him. “Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18).

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