We believe that sin is a rejection of God’s rule, beginning with the rebellion of Satan and followed by Adam and Eve’s deliberate choice to disobey God. Because of sin everyone has fallen short of God’s will, creating a conflict with God, self, and others. The penalty for sin is physical and spiritual death.
In the grand scheme of things, the news is good. On this side of history the good news is clear to us. Through faith in Jesus there is reconciliation, the opportunity to be reconnected to God. But are we disconnected? Why do we need to be reconnected?
That’s the bad news… In Genesis 2 and 3 we read the account of God creating the heavens and the earth and the first human beings. He formed Adam out of dust, then he created a beautiful garden for Adam to live in.
And it was all good… And God said to Adam, “Adam, you can eat from any of the trees in this garden… except for one tree – that one over there. That tree is called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Don’t eat from that tree. If you eat from it you will die.”
And it was all good… And then God created a beautiful woman for Adam and they got married and lived together in this beautiful garden.
And it was all good… Then one day Adam and Eve, living in God’s perfect paradise, are standing in front of that one tree that God told them not to eat from. They’re looking at that tree; they’re looking at the fruit on that tree. And a tempter appears…
Who is this tempter? It is Satan. “Satan is the leading adversary of God. Satan’s kingdom of darkness attempts to conquer God’s kingdom of light through lies, destruction, and death.”
And the tempter says: “Did God tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?”
“Well, no,” Eve replies, “he said we can eat from any tree in the garden except this one right here. He said if we eat from this tree, or even touch it, we will die.”
“Ha – is that what he said?!?” the tempter laughs. “Listen – you’re not going to die. The real reason he doesn’t want you to eat from this tree is because he knows it will make you like him. You see, if you eat from this tree, you will be more like him… because right now you only know good, but if you eat from this tree you will know about both good and evil – just like he does!”
So she began to rationalize… the tree looked good for food. The fruit of the tree was certainly beautiful. And if what the tempter said was true, eating this beautiful fruit would make her and Adam wiser than they’d been before. It began to seem foolish not to eat from the tree.
And in that moment they had a choice to make. The choice was to believe what God had told them or to believe that he had lied to them. And we know what they chose. Eve took a piece of the fruit
and ate it – and I bet it was just about the best thing she had ever tasted. And she held some out to Adam, who was standing beside her saying nothing at all, and he took it and ate it.
And in that moment everything changed. And it was not good…
Here is how our Confession of Faith recounts this event:
The tempter was certainly right about one thing: to this point in time they had only known good, but now, like God, they had knowledge of both good and evil for the first time. The tempter had sold them on the idea that this new knowledge would be to their benefit, but what they were really feeling now was just the opposite.
Suddenly they had this terrible ache in the pit of their stomachs. It was as if their connection to God had been torn from its place inside them. This is exactly what had happened.
And it was not good… They had disobeyed God. They had chosen to believe the tempter. They chose to believe that God had lied to them and was keeping good things from them. This is why our confession says… “We believe that sin is a rejection of God’s rule…”
Adam and Eve had no idea what kind of curse they had unleashed upon humanity. But that’s the way it happened. “The sin of Adam and Eve constituted rebellion against the rule of God. With one subversive act all humanity plunged into the grip of sin.”
So that all happened, and there is a lot of history between that moment and Paul’s letter to the Roman church. It is a long history with many details, but it is a long history with one central theme. In every period of history there exists a long record of human sin and rebellion against God. But there is an even longer record of God’s faithfulness to us despite our rebellion.
Shortly after that very first rebellion in the garden, after they had begun to see the disaster they’d brought upon humanity, God promises a rescue plan and a mighty Rescuer. God promises to send Jesus. He promises to provide reconciliation, reconnection.
And it is from this side of history – this side of the cross – that Paul says this in Romans 5: “More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” By retelling the story of creation and the first sin, we have some idea of what Paul is talking about. “When Adam sinned,” he says, “sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”
Sin came into the world through one man, and because of this one act by this one man, death became a reality. And now, as a result, Leon Morris says “We are born as members of a race that is already separated from God.” We are now born as rebels against God and death is a reality for us because we have all sinned. Deliberately, on purpose, repeatedly – we choose to act contrary to God’s commands.
So that is some really bad news, right? Our Confession says that, “God’s holy anger toward sin is revealed by the severe judgment of sin.” But it goes on to say, “Still. God offers unexpected mercy toward the sinner.”
God offers mercy, forgiveness, grace… And this grace is much greater than our sin. It is as if with our sin we are shooting a dollar store squirt gun at God in our childish rebellion, and when he responds he responds with a fire hose of grace that knocks us off our feet. That’s how much greater grace is than our sin. Our sin is finite, but His grace is infinite.
Sin is a doctrine that is widely neglected in Evangelical churches. It just seems too negative in a world filled with very “successful” prosperity and positive thinking preachers. Of course, we should not preach or talk about sin in a way that makes people feel perpetually condemned and permanently without hope. But a faithful presentation of the gospel is incomplete if we don’t explain what sin is and then point people to the fact that a loving God offers mercy, grace, forgiveness and reconciliation.
I am thankful that our Confession of Faith expresses both the ugliness of sin and the beauty of God’s grace so clearly.
Michael Krahn, Pastor, Aylmer EMM Church, Ontario. Michael is a member of the EMMC Theology Committee.
EMMC Confession of Faith
Part 3 of 12-part series
September / October 2014 The Recorder