Redemptive-Historical Survey: 2 | The Fall (LDBC Recap 2/21/16)

Explanation

logo-lake-drive-baptist-churchOn Sunday, January 24th, 2016, I began a Core Seminar on Redemptive History & Biblical Theology at my church, Lake Drive Baptist Church. During the course of this series I’ll be sending out emails recapping lessons and directing recipients to resources for further study.

Rather than just share these recaps with my church family, I’ve decided to share them here on the blog for anyone else who might be interested. I will be posting them occasionally over the next couple of months on a weekly basis or so.

See previous posts:

Recap/review

This week we covered the role that the fall plays in the all-encompassing storyline of scripture that is redemptive history. Now, by “the fall,” we mean, of course, humanity (and, by extension, creation’s) “fall” into sin and corruption.

Overview of Biblical material

We began with an overview of the Biblical material that covers this fall.

Genesis 3:1-6:8

Adam and Eve, prompted by the serpent (later in scripture to be identified as Satan), disobey God’s command to refrain from eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

  • God lays out curses for this disobedience.
  • Yet, even within these curses, God provides a glimpse of hope (Gen 3:15).
  • Humanity enters into a state of sinfulness.

Role within redemptive history

With that basic material in place, we now want to ask, “What role does the fall play within redemptive history?” This is the main question we are asking in the series. We are trying to get a grasp of the big picture of scripture’s movement along redemptive history and to understand how the various parts comprise and fit into that whole.

In this lesson we sought to demonstrate that the fall plays this role: In the fall God’s creational-kingdom is lost; and humanity enters into a state of perpetual disbelieving disobedience.

By way of review, in our lesson on creation we talked about how creation establishes God’s creational-kingdom intent or design. We presented or depicted that creational-kingdom design or pattern with the first four elements of the following chart:

In the fall, then, our point is that four elements that make up this creational-kingdom pattern are lost.

Let’s elaborate. 

(1) Loss of God’s people

First, we see the loss of God’s people. This loss has two interrelated dimensions.

  • (a) Sinfulness – Through Adam’s sin, sin entered the world. Humanity enters into a state of sin (depravity).

We see this illustrated in the chapters that immediately follow the account of the fall (Gen 3). For example, Cain’s murder of his brother, Abel (Gen 4), clearly demonstrates and exemplifies the effects of the fall. In Gen 4:22-23, Lamech boasts of killing a man for wounding him, exemplifying an inordinate vengefulness and depravity. This is a clear product of the fall. Or, finally, we consider the activities in Gen 6:1-4. Whatever is actually going here, the point is, it’s really bad; it’s really messed up. And it’s the finally straw that leads to God’s decision to judge the world with a flood and destroy wickedly sinful humanity (see the summary statement of humanity’s condition in Gen 6:5).

In Romans 5 we get a detailed theology of sin entering the world through Adam.

  • v.12 – “[S]in came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because [better: ‘with the result that’] all sinned.”
  • v.18 – “as one trespass led to condemnation for all men…”
  • v.19 – “by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners…”

Adam served a representative for all of humanity such that his sin plummeted all of humanity into sin. All of us are since born as sinners condemned. 

  • (b) Death – Through Adam’s sin, death enters the world.

As Gen 2:17 says, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” The consequence of Adam’s sin is death.[1]

And this is illustrated in Gen 5 which follows and which recounts over and over how those listed in this genealogy died (noticed the repeated “…and he died. …and he died. …and he died”). We may not find this odd upon an initial reading. But this is because we assume that death, because it’s typical, is therefore normal. However, although death is typical, it’s not normal. It’s not God’s intention. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be. It’s a perversion, an intruder, an enemy. Thus, the repeated “…and he dies” bring home to us the intrusionary nature of death in God’s creation.

Again, Romans helps us theologize this reality. Assuming Adam’s role as representative, Paul says,

  • 5:12 – “[S]in came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because [with the result that] all sinned.”
  • 5:15 – “[M]any died through one man’s trespass….”
  • 5:17 – “[B]ecause of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man.
  • 6:23 – “The wages of sin is death….”
(2) Loss of (a) God’s rule and (b) humanity’s exercise of that rule

The loss of God’s rule also has two related dimensions.

First, humanity is now in rebellion to God, resisting his will. So, although God is still sovereign (in complete control of all events), and in that sense his rule over his creation is unthwarted, we now see that humans buck at God’s will. They revolt against it. They rebel. In this sense, his rule is now a contested one.

But, second, God’s appointment of humanity as his image-bearers–as those who will reflect (image) his rule over creation by exercising and administering that rule in fulfilling the mandate given to Adam (what we call the “Adamic Mandate”) to rule and subdue and have dominion over the earth, advancing the boarders of the garden of Eden, so to say, until all of creation perfectly and fully reflects that rule of God–is now lost as humanity falls into sin. As sinners, humanity fails to fulfill its call to exemplify God’s rule over creation.

(3) Loss of God’s place

Next is the loss of God’s special place, a loss which also has two perspectives.

First, expulsion: We see that God’s place is lost to humanity in the sense that they are expelled from it. As Gen 3:23-24 says, “Therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way…”

But, second, God’s place is lost in that God’s place–creation–falls into corruption with humanity’s fall into corruption.[2] This is evidenced in the fact that the the ground is cursed (Gen 3:17-19). Creation’s fall is exemplified in the toil that now describes our work with the earth. Furthermore, we see that in Gen 3:14 God says to the serpent, “Cursed are you aboveall livestock, and aboveall beasts of the field.” This implies that the serpent is only the pinnacle of all the cursed animals. He’s cursed above all other beasts, implying the other beasts suffer from the curse as well.

Again, in Romans, specifically Rom 8:19-23, Paul addresses the fall of creation (see footnote 2). It would be worth the reader’s time to read and reflect upon this text.

(4) Loss of God’s presence

Finally, we see the loss of God’s presence. By extension of being expelled from God’s special place where he dwelt among them (the garden of Eden), Adam and Eve are thereby expelled from God’s unique relational presence.

Summary

Thus, the fall is the loss of these first four creational-kingdom elements.

As Vaughan Roberts says in God’s Big Picture (43-44),

The perfect creation that God had established is now nothing but a distant dream. The pattern of the kingdom [or, as we might say, ‘the new-creational kingdom’] has been destroyed by sin. Human beings are no longer God’s people by nature; we have turned away from him. We no longer live in his place; we have been banished from the garden. And we reject his rule and live as if we ruled the world. As a result, we do not enjoy God’s blessing but instead face his curse. A perfect world has been destroyed by human rebellion.

And, so, as we’ve summarized, in the fall God’s creational-kingdom is lost [3]; and humanity enters into a state of perpetual disbelieving disobedience. That’s the big-picture take away here.

The fall is not the end of the story

However, this is not the end of the story. Even within the presentation of the curses themselves, God promises deliverance.

Genesis 3:15 – “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring (later to be understand as Jesus; see Heb 2:14; cf. Rom 16:20); he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

In a sense, the story could have ended right here. We don’t merit (deserve) God’s intervention or redemption.[4] However, the story isn’t over yet. God provides a glimmer of hope. He is committed to his creational-kingdom intent.

As such…

The fall establishes the conflict in the plot of the storyline of redemptive history

If we are unfamiliar with “plot” and “conflict” concepts, we can think of the familiar movie Finding Nemo. [Spoiler alert] In Finding Nemo, the separation of father-fish and son-fish serves as the conflict which then sets the trajectory for the resulting plot, which is the story of father and son-fish seeking reunification.

In a similar way, we can think of the fall as that part of the Bible’s storyline that functions as the conflict. The loss of God’s creational-kingdom is set over against God’s original creation-design (= creational-kingdom), and, as such, sets us on a plot-like trajectory aiming towards the restoration of that creation-design (= new-creational kingdom).

So, we see that the fall introduces our need for a savior. It establishes and points us to our need for a savior, someone to rescue us from ourselves and the mess we’ve made of things.

But, furthermore, implied in the fall’s role as conflict is the fact that the scope of the fall determines the scope of restoration. Often times we think of salvation purely in terms of forgiveness of sins. And certainly that’s a central aspect of salvation. But, the fall shows us that God’s broad salvation purposes are to, as the famous hymn says, undue the damage of the fall “far as the curse is found.” That’s a much larger scope than our normal formulation.

Next week

Next week we will pick up with the flood and the Noahic covenant. And, if we have time, we will address the Abrahamic covenant.


Notes

[1] A question here is, did Adam and Eve actually die the day that they disobeyed? Here it is helpful to note that the Bible conceives of death as not merely material corruption but immaterial or “spiritual”/moral corruption, a loss of right relation to God. Thus, we can assume that they did in fact die the very day that they disobeyed–they died spiritually and they began a trajectory of physical deterioration that climaxes in complete physical death.

[2] Here we wanted to ask, “Why does creation fall with humanity’s fall?” The answer is that, as the image of God—the ones who are to represent God’s rule or dominion over creation—and as the centerpiece of creation, God has designed things such that creation’s destiny is tied up with humanity’s. See Rom 8:19-23 for evidence of this. There Paul states that creation has fallen with humanity; but, he also says that the ultimate salvation of humanity–the redemption of their bodies (i.e., resurrection)–will mean something like the “resurrection” of creation (i.e., re- or new-creation).

As Graeme Goldsworthy helpfully states in According to Plan,

“Humanity [as the image of God and pinnacle of all creation] is the representative of the whole creation so that God deals with creation on the basis of how he deals with humans. … When man falls because of sin the creation is made to fall with him. In order to restore the whole of creation, God works through his Son who becomes a man to restore man. The whole creation waits eagerly for the redeemed people of God to be finally revealed as God’s perfected children, because at that point the creation will be released from its own bondage…”

An implication of all this: The plot line of the Bible presupposes that the problem with creation is bound up in our sin.

[3] By way of making mental connections to previous material, it’s important to note that this state of the lost or fallen creational-kingdom pattern is to be identified with “the present fallen age” (aka, “this age”) in our already/not yet eschatological framework diagram. It is the fallen age.

[4] In a sense, God did not owe it to us to rescue us (we don’t merit rescuing). The story could have rightly ended here. But, in another sense, as a perfect God with a perfect plan, God can’t leave his creation in such disarray. He can’t not rescue His creation.

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