The state of Mankind in the beginning was “very good” (Gen 1.31). Their relational status with their Maker before failing the test in the garden of Eden (Gen 3. ) was “very good.” But on the day that they ate the fruit that was forbidden them their relational status before the Lord God, the Maker of heavens and earth (Gen 1.1) drastically changed. Sin changed all of that.

My Former Traditional Understanding of Sin…

I grew up in a Wesleyan-Arminian tradition within the Church of the Nazarene. Being members of/and having a heritage founded in what is described as a “holiness tradition,” one of the things that they detested was “sin.” Unfortunately, they didn’t like to describe sin as that which is committed in “thought, word and deed.”[1] Instead they preferred to speak of sin as a willful transgression against the known law of God.[2] Ironic really, when you consider that the Bible describes sin as that which is first formed in the heart and then brought to fruition in word and deed (cf. James 1.13-15). Something that Jesus identified as an ailment of a corrupted heart (cf. Matt 15.18).

And, it is precisely what we find taking place in the garden. When did the sin occur? Was it after Adam ate the fruit? Or was it first conceived when they (wife and husband) desired to do what they knew they ought not have done? Didn’t the sin begin first in their heart/mind/conscious being? Isn’t it a violation to want to do that which is forbidden?

Temptation that Isn’t Sin…

Some will argue “No, to be tempted isn’t a sin.” Depends on how you are defining “tempted” doesn’t it? We are told in Scripture that Jesus was tempted in everyway as we are but without sin (Heb 4.15).   But the term translated tempted is not speaking about inward desires, but being outwardly tested with a choice. True Jesus was tested and He passed every test (e.g. Luke 4.2), but He had no inward desire to sin. His desire was to do the will of His Father in heaven (John 5.30), and this He did perfectly (Heb 5.9).

Temptation that is Sin…

The truth of the matter is that an inward desire to do that which is contrary to God’s Holy Law is a sin of thought. If you are not willing to go so far as to describe sin in this light, then you fail to consider what a dark violation lusting/coveting that of another truly is.[3] Do you not know that the Law of God is at the same time that which plays a dual part in reality, in terms of how we live or ought to live both physically and spiritually? Or do you suppose that the Law of God speaks only of physical interactions, and therefore is that which might be obeyed outwardly rather than inwardly?

Thoughts on what Adam did

No, when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, they committed an act that was rebellious towards their Creator. What they did was not only physical (in the sense of eating the fruit of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil), but also spiritual (in the sense that they dismissed what God had said and pursued a righteousness all their own).

The Nature of Adam’s sin…

I say all of that to lead you the reader to a necessary consideration. What was the nature of Adam’s sin (since Adam is identified as the one chiefly responsible, I speak of him)? It was physical and spiritual. What was the nature of his relationship with his Creator before the sin? Physical and spiritual in the sense that he was created to image his Maker in all areas of life. Was the relationship in good standing before Gen 3:7? Yes. Did something change in Adam’s relational status with the Lord God after he rebelled? Yes. What changed?

Again, we must look back to Gen 3:7. We are told that the moment they ate the fruit, “the eyes of both of them were opened….”

Question: Were their eyes closed before they ate of the fruit? No. So then, in what sense should we understand this “eye opening” event? Well the text tells us that when this occurred “…they knew they were naked….”

Question: Did they not know they were naked before this event? No, we see earlier in Gen 2:24 that they “…were both naked and unashamed.” However, after eating the fruit they felt “shame” and in response to this “…they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.”

Question: Why were they hiding from each other? Well, we see in the very next verse they not only desired to hide their bodies from each other, but also from the Lord God. Immediately upon hearing “…the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day…the man and woman hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden” (Gen 3.8). Apparently, fig leaves were not enough. Now they needed entire trees to hide themselves.

Question: Why? Why hide in the trees at the sound of the Lord God’s coming? Listen to the man’s answer: “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself” (Gen 3.10).

If you are in good standing with God is there any reason to fear? No. For love drives out fear. Fear of what? Fear of retribution. Fear of wrath. Fear of judgment regarding sin (see 1John 4.18).

What might have been…

What do you suppose was the response that Adam should have had when he heard the sound of the Lord God in the garden? Shouldn’t he have gone to Him? Doesn’t our Maker demand our attention, since we are His creatures? What do you think Adam’s response would have been had he not eaten from the forbidden tree, but rather had been obedient? Would he have not immediately sought out the Lord God? What reason would there have been for hesitation or hiding or refusing to seek after the Creator unless something has changed within the heart/mind/conscious being of man?

Sin, Death and Separation

Let me put it another way: Was Adam united or separated from his Maker after violating God’s command? The answer seems rather obvious, he was separated from God. Sin, an act of rebellion/lawlessness, separates Mankind from his Creator. Sin brings death to the relationship.

What did God promise would take place on the day (when) Adam ate of the fruit of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil? He would “surely die” (Gen 2.17). Isn’t that what happened immediately when Adam ate the fruit? Did Adam not die at once? Wasn’t his relationship severed from the Lord God? Isn’t the experience of shame, not seeking God, and doing all one can to steer as far away from the Lord evidence of a dead relationship?

Two Arguments of Denial…

Some say “no.” Why? Because death is said to be viewed in only one way “cessation of life.” And, since Adam and Eve did not immediately die but lived many years afterwards before they returned to the dust of the ground, then we cannot say that they really died. Or, so it is argued. Two objections are offered to buttress support for this claim. Two arguments presented that state that the only sort of death described in the Genesis 3 account is physical not spiritual death. Argument one denies that death means separation. Argument two says that the fruit of the Tree of Life had to be physical eaten to prolong life, since man is just a mortal being.

In my next couple of posts, we will entertain both arguments and see whether or not they consistent with what the early chapters of Genesis teaches in light of the rest of Scripture. I once attempted to explain to an individual that no one text sufficiently details or describes a biblical doctrine. You might point to one text that surely teaches a doctrine that is biblically held, but doctrines are developed as a result of a conglomerate of passages properly weighed contextually, performing sound exegesis. And so, I say that to offer a bit of a caveat ahead of time. My plan has been to show that Genesis lays the necessary bedrock for the doctrine of spiritual death, but in order to fully develop it or see it in its full light we must venture outside of that historical narrative. Which we shall begin to do, although I plan on keeping the majority of my focus on Genesis 3-5 in my forthcoming posts.


ENDNOTES:

[1] This was viewed as too Calvinistic by many of those that I had come into contact with over the years (either through writings or personal interactions).

[2] “We believe that actual or personal sin is a voluntary violation of a known law of God by a morally responsible person. It is therefore not to be confused with involuntary and inescapable shortcomings, infirmities, faults, mistakes, failures or other deviations from a standard of perfect conduct that are residual effects of the Fall.” Manual: Church of the Nazarene, 2009-2013 (Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House, 2009) Article 5.3, 29.

[3] The 7th commandment (Exod 20.14) states that adultery is a sin which has a possible criminal status, but Jesus explains that the underlying root of the statute is driven by lust, which may not be criminal in nature it is still sinful (Matt 5.28). The 10th commandment (Exod 20.17) is very broad in covering the sin of covetousness, while not a criminal offense, highlights many sins of thought in the area of being not content with one’s lot in life (cf. Phil 4.11; 1Tim 6.6).

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