Genesis 3 in the Light of the Cross

Posted by on Apr 29, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Our last post looked at the devastating consequences that resulted from the fall of humanity, described in Genesis 3. If Genesis 3 stood alone, it could only be read as a tragic passage – a bad news story from start to finish. But because of Jesus, all biblical passages should now be read in the light of the Cross – in the light of Jesus’ death and resurrection. This impacts the way in which we read every passage – but it is probably true to say that there is no passage more impacted by the Cross than Genesis 3. Let’s explore this today…

In our last post we explored the impact of the fall. So that this post can stand alone (though why not read the original by clicking here), here is a summarised version of the outcome of the fall as described in Genesis 3.

  • V7 – Adam and Eve became uncomfortable with their nakedness. The very first consequence was that they were no longer comfortable with their bodies.
  • V8- they were no longer comfortable with their relationship with God, and try to hide from God’s presence. That which until then had brought such joy, now becomes a relationship to shun and fear (v 10).
  • V12-13 Blaming becomes a new norm in relationships. When God asks Adam and then Eve why they have acted as they did, both revert to blaming, Adam blaming Eve, Eve the serpent, and by implication, both blamed God for the way things were created.
  • V14-15 Snakes become scary.  Now their relationship with the environment and with animals in particular, becomes conflictual.
  • V16a Childbirth becomes painful. Actually, chp 4 makes it clear that it is far more than this. Children and family – originally meant as a source of great joy – can become a source of our greatest pain. The account in Gen 4:1-8 is deeply tragic. Cain kills his brother Abel, and for the remainder of their lives, Adam and Eve live with the pain of this. Adam raised a Cain – as the words of the song go… and oh the pain in that.
  • V16b Male -female relationships become twisted. Until now Adam and Eve had worked side by side. Now men start to rule over women, and that is seen as a punishment and a distortion of the way things were meant to be.
  • V17-19 Work becomes painful and difficult. Up until then work was a source of pride and satisfaction.  Now the earth will only produce thorns and thistles. We were made to be image bearers of God, but now all our efforts simply amount to what? Growing thorns and thistles…
  • V19 Death enters the world. This is the most painful of outcomes. Rom 6:23 expresses it clearly – the wage of sin is death. It is the penalty earned as a result of our defiant disobedience.

So what difference does the Cross makes to this? First note the key principle. The Cross is about redemption and reconciliation. Redemption is about buying back to restore to a previous state. Reconciliation is about restoring broken relationships. We sometimes reduce the Cross to an act whereby individuals are saved, one by one. While they are, the Cross is bigger than this. Its impact is larger, as Colossians 1 makes clear. Take verses 19 and 20: For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus], and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. The cross then does not just provide a one on one reconciliation between repentant humans and God, it restores their right relationship with all of creation (things on earth or things in heaven). In short, the cross reverses the impact of the fall, and opens the possibility for life to be lived in accordance with the original intent of creation.

True, we live in an ‘already, not yet’ world. Christ has already died and been raised, forgiveness for sin has already been achieved but the full restoration of all things awaits the coming reign of Christ. So we are not able to fully return to Eden. We do however know that because the original creation plan was good, it has not been abandoned. God’s original purposes will be achieved. For those who have come to new life in Christ, it means that we have a clear picture of what our future will be. In the present moment we should live in the light of what will be. Or to be a little technical, we should, to use the image of theologians Stanley Grenz and John Franke, allow ourselves to be eschatologically oriented. In other words, the path we take and the decisions we make should be consistent with what we believe will ultimately be the reigning reality. Therefore, if we want to know how we should order our relationships now, we should ask how will they be ordered in eternity.

Let’s swing this back to what was lost at the fall. If the cross is about reconciliation and restoration (albeit in ultimate form, only with the reign of Christ), what will that mean in each of the eight domains in which we noted something as being lost. Some rapid fire thoughts…

  • From uncomfortable with our bodies to at peace with our bodies: No, this doesn’t mean that we will suddenly morph into supermodels, nor that this should be our goal. To the contrary, the resurrected Jesus asked Thomas to touch the nail prints in his hand and to look at his wounded side. The resurrection didn’t suddenly see those scars disappear. But, in the deepest sense, they were suddenly beautiful – forever a part of Jesus and a permanent reminder of why he has won our love and adoration. We have no idea what Adam and Eve’s bodies looked like prior to the fall. Were they fat or thin, tall or short? Did they have spotted skin or smooth? What colour was it? We have to reply ‘don’t know, don’t know, don’t know’ to each question. What we do know is that prior to the fall, they were at peace with their bodies, and post the fall, they saw those exact same bodies as shameful. Reverting the fall means changing the way we look at ourselves – and our bodies in particular. Fallen eyes make us see ugliness. Redeemed eyes see wonder and beauty everywhere. In practice then, ask God to help you to see the beauty you have already been given – a beauty you will appreciate even more fully once Christ reigns. Also ask to see the beauty in every other human being.
  • From hiding from God to embracing God’s presence: This is probably the most obvious outcome, and the one we usually focus on, so I won’t say much about it, though it is perhaps worth noting that when the new earth is established, part of the cry of joy will be that ‘now is God’s dwelling amongst humans’. Even in Eden God seemed to come and go. When Christ reigns, the separation between the realm of heaven and earth disappears and God’s presence will be more obviously present.
  • From blaming to confession and accepting responsibility: Adam and Eve resorted to blaming because they had no conception of forgiveness. In a restored world, we will assume responsibility because we have caught a picture of the God who calls us to account not because of evil intent, but so that forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration is possible.
  • From scary snakes to building a world with a better name: Prior to the fall, Adam was not afraid of snakes. To the contrary – he named them. With reconciliation comes a recommission to build a world with a better name. It is already our mandate. Eschatologically oriented Christians will dive into the task of building a better world, even while longing for the new heaven and new earth which awaits. The new earth will not be completely discontinuous with the old, so when we work for God’s vision of the good, we walk the trajectory towards the new earth that will ultimately be birthed.
  • From pain at birth to church as family: Whilst the fall saw the introduction of pain in childbirth and the severing of family relationships, those reconciled through Christ now form a new family – the Church. The church should model how family works. It’s inclusive embrace, delight in diversity, and celebration of the giftedness of each member, as well as its standing with people in both joy and sorrow, is a sign and reminder of how families should operate.
  • From domineering male-female relationships to ‘flesh of my flesh’ – side by side relationships: Strangely, while we readily acknowledge most of the impacts of the fall, and recognise that the Christian community should model another reality, when it comes to male-female relationships we sometimes forget that Adam ruling over Eve was a consequence of the fall – a punishment, and not at all what was meant to be. Rather than try to reinforce fallen hierarchical models (as some Christians sadly do) we should reclaim the original vision of side by side relationships. The church of all places should model reconciled male-female relationships and be a community where each person can fully become who they have been called to be.
  • From work as producing thorns and thistles to work as vocation: The original mandate saw work as a source of creative delight. Post fall it degenerated into a struggle to produce thorns and thistles. We should reclaim the original vision of work as vocation – answering the call of God to build a world with a better name. And we should ensure that this is a possibility for all people – wherever they live.
  • From death the enemy to death the entry to eternity: If the wage of sin was death, the free gift of God through the cross is entry into everlasting life. The knowledge of this certainty should transform every present moment, giving us courage and hope to live in the light of eternity.

I could go on and on. The cross changes everything. It restores what was lost, and in a strange way, makes it better than before, for in the sacrifice of the cross we see the depth of God’s love in a way we never did before. Everything becomes good again – no, very, very good again… because now we know that God’s love is deeper than we imagined, and that it can be trusted, no matter what…

As always, nice chatting…


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