Skip to comments.Covenant Theology: The Covenant of Works (pt. 2)
Posted on 02/03/2004 8:29:24 AM PST by sheltonmac
Covenant Theology: The Covenant of Works
(Part 2, Sermon Number Six)
James E. Bordwine, Th.D.
Currently, I am explaining the covenant of works, which covers the period from the creation of Adam to his transgression in the Garden of Eden. In my explanation, I've covered the first two of three points: A definition of the covenant of works and the provisions of the covenant of works.
The covenant of works is that arrangement designated by God whereby Adam was promised life and blessedness in return for absolute obedience to the word of His Creator and threatened with death for disobedience to the word of his Creator. The Scripture records that, following Adam's creation, God gave certain instructions to him, instructions which governed Adam's relationship with his Maker. These instructions constitute the covenant of works. This morning, we will conclude our look at the covenant of works by considering the outcome of the arrangement between God and Adam.
03. The Outcome of the Covenant of Works
Following His instructions to Adam regarding how the man was to conduct himself in the Garden of Eden, the Scripture says that God created Eve as a companion for Adam (Gen. 2:18 ff.). The last thing that is said about Adam and Eve before we read about the transgression is this: And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. The last verse of Gen. 2, therefore, sets the stage, as it were, for the record of man's fall by explaining that, as they came from the hand of God, Adam and Eve were perfectly comfortable in the world that God made. There was no shame in their nakedness, which signifies, I believe, that they were happy and at home, we might say, in the place provided by their Creator.
As we look at Gen. 3, we will learn how the covenant arrangement between God and Adam, who was representing the human race, concluded. We'll begin by considering the first seven verses of this chapter:
1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'? 2 The woman said to the serpent, From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.' 4 The serpent said to the woman, You surely will not die! 5 For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. 6 When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings.
The Scripture introduces another character into the Garden of Eden and that is the serpent. He said to the woman, Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden.'? (v. 1) Satan, the enemy of righteousness, appeared to Eve in the form of a serpent to challenge the authority of the Creator. Understanding that this was the intention of Satan is what is most important about the meeting between Eve and the serpent. Satan's goal was to create doubt in the mind of God's special creatures. He did this by phrasing his inquiry in such a way that the door was opened for questioning the goodness and wisdom of God.
Following his initial statement, the serpent then directly contradicts the word of the Creator; he offers a false explanation as to why God would have placed such a restriction on Adam and Eve. The serpent boldly declared: You surely shall not die! (v. 4) This is a statement which can be interpreted only as an accusation of falsehood against God. This statement implies that God was wrong when He warned Adam about the consequences of eating from the forbidden tree; it implies, consequently, that God is fallible, that He is not completely trustworthy, and that His word is subject to question. The serpent's statement, You surely shall not die, implies the very opposite of what the record of creation teaches up to this point; it destroys the Creature-creature distinction by negating the authority of God.
Further, the serpent's bold statement implies that the creature, Eve, should be able and, in fact, is able to judge for herself whether or not to eat from the tree. Satan is leading Eve to the conclusion that she is the one who should make the decision about eating from that tree. The serpent even provides Eve with a justification for disobeying her Creator: For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil. (v. 5)
Let's jump down to v. 22 for a moment: Then the LORD God said, 'Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil...' This statement was made by God just before He drove Adam out of the Garden of Eden. When Adam followed his wife in disobedience to God's command, he became acquainted with the distinction between good and evil; this knowledge, however, came at the expense of Adam's communion with God. He learned the difference between good and evil, to be sure, but the learning process itself required rebellion against the Creator. The serpent spoke as if gaining knowledge of the distinction between good and evil would be a positive experience, something that would make Eve a more complete and competent individual. What the serpent did not reveal, however, was that God did not intend for His special creatures to have this knowledge; He intended that they would trust Him completely and do whatever He commanded.
Returning to our verses, we see that what follows is perfectly predictable: When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate... (v. 6) The barrier between Eve and the forbidden tree had been dismantled through the crafty maneuvering of the serpent. Eve examined the tree and concluded that it was good for food; Eve examined the tree and noted its aesthetic valueit was a delight to the eyes; Eve examined the tree and, believing what the serpent said, determined that it would enhance her intellectual and moral capabilitiesthe tree was desirable to make one wise. What else could Eve do now but eat of that tree? This is where the serpent's words were leading. Since Eve was willing to listen to him, she inevitably arrived at the conclusion recorded in this verse.
The serpent's scheme was not fully realized, however, until Adam disobeyed God. Adam, not Eve, is the one to whom God gave the command regarding the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The goal of the serpent's interaction with Eve, therefore, was Adam's transgression. Scripture records his sin in a few plain words: [Eve] gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. The result of Adam's transgression is recorded immediately: Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. (v. 7) This verse, as simple as it is, conveys a monumental change in the creation. That which was made by God rebelled against Him and disorder appeared in Paradise.
Adam and Eve were no longer comfortable in that natural state in which they came from the hand of the Creator. All was in perfect balance until they disobeyed God. When that happened, the peaceful balance was destroyed. And, so, following that episode, Adam and Eve could not look at one another with the same innocence and understanding as before; they could not relate to their Creator as before. They knew something was wrong and this knowledge manifested itself in their attempt to cover up their ruined innocence.
Now we are ready to consider the rest of this story in vv. 8-19:
8 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. 9 Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, Where are you? 10 He said, I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself. 11 And He said, Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? 12 The man said, The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate. 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, What is this you have done? And the woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate. 14 The LORD God said to the serpent, Because you have done this, cursed are you more than all cattle, and more than every beast of the field; on your belly you will go, and dust you will eat All the days of your life; 15 And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel. 16 To the woman He said, I will greatly multiply Your pain in childbirth, in pain you will bring forth children; yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you. 17 Then to Adam He said, Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat from it'; Cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. 18 Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; and you will eat the plants of the field; 19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, till you return to the ground, because from it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.
When Adam and Eve realized that the Lord God was in the Garden, they hid themselves, wishing to avoid contact with Him. This verse conveys the whole force of the fall. Adam and Eve were God's creatures, made by His hands, instructed by His words, bound to serve Him and enjoy His creation, but this verse says that they were hiding from Him! This verse tells us what is essential to know about the fall of man. Adam's disobedience resulted in the ruination of his relationship with his Maker. His one act of doing what the Creator told him not to do caused a disruption between them.
When God confronted Adam, the man revealed that he knew something had happened to change the manner in which he related to the Creator (vv. 9, 10). With the knowledge that he had committed a great error by disobeying the voice of God, Adam could not stand in the Creator's presence as before; he could no longer appear before God as an innocent creature dependent upon his Creator. And just as Eve had been led by the serpent one step at a time from innocence to sin, so God now leads Adam one step at a time through the revelation of what had occurred.
After Adam confessed his awareness of his lost innocence, the LORD God asks: Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? (v. 11) Of course, God knew what Adam had done, but His purpose is to teach Adam about what had happened. Adam's relationship with God was not the same because he disobeyed God; intuitively, he felt shame and sought to avoid his Creator. So, the LORD requires that Adam rehearse what he had done.
As we know, Adam sought to blame Eve (v. 12). Adam had at least one thing in his favor as he tried to make this case: Eve did give him forbidden fruit from the tree. Notice that God does not contradict Adam's assertion; He turns to the woman and asks: What is this you have done? She, of course, blames the serpent for his deception. I want to point out that even though God did not, at that moment, challenge Adam's defense, this does not mean that it was entirely legitimate. In Scripture, Adam is blamed for man's fall because he was the one to whom God gave the command concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and he was the one who entered a covenant relationship with God.
The source of the temptation that led to man's fall was, of course, the serpent. He is the first one addressed by God when the Creator announces judgments (v. 14). God's curse of the serpent has a dual expression. As the host or instrument of Satan, the serpent is cursed above all other animals and confined to an existence of crawling on his belly, eating the dust of the earth. At the same time, however, God's curse is directed to Satan himself, the instigator of Eve's deception.
Verse 15, which I have talked about in a previous sermon, tells us much about the affects of Adam's fall. It indicates a division between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. The seed of the serpent is Satan himself and, in a broader sense, all those who follow his deceptions and rebel against the word of the Creator. The seed of the woman is, according to later Scripture, Jesus Christ who, as John tells us, appeared that He might destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8). And, in a broader sense, the seed of the woman includes all those who are redeemed from the affects of the fall by the work of the Savior and, thereafter, spend their lives worshiping and obeying God.
What is so important about this verse is God's promise that the seed of the woman would eventually destroy the seed of the serpent. God predicts a struggle that would unfold, a struggle between Christ and Satan, a struggle bound to conclude with the defeat of all evil forces and the permanent restoration of God's creation. This struggle is recorded in the Old Testament as God calls a nation out of which would come Jesus Christ. In the Old Testament God demonstrates His intention to send a Redeemer, One who would rescue the elect. Throughout the Old Testament, there is never any hint that God would fail to do what He promised in the Garden of Eden. This conflict is described in the New Testament where we read of Christ's victory over Satan; in those books, we learn that God did send His Son and His Son did conquer our adversary; and we learn of the Church, which is preaching this good news to the whole world.
The LORD next addresses the woman (v. 16). Although the salvation of the human race will depend on a future seed of the woman, God promises to make childbirth itself a painful experience. Even as Eve and her daughters gave birth to their children, knowing that one day, one of them would give birth to the Savior, there would be pain involved, pain to remind us all of the fall in Eden and pain to remind us all of what was lost and what would be the price for its restoration.
Moreover, God tells Eve that her natural relationship with her husband would be affected by their transgression: Yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you. God is speaking of the desire to govern. Eve would experience a desire to function as the head of the marriage relationship contrary to God's intentions as witnessed by the sequence and nature of the couple's creation. Whereas before, Adam and Eve functioned harmoniously in the roles designated by their Creator, they would henceforth experience friction and confusion.
I should emphasize that God is not punishing Eve by making her subject to Adam from this point forward. Adam already was designated as the head of their relationship by the sequence of creation. God is saying that the natural manner in which Eve related to Adam, that is, the manner in which she related to him as she came from the hand of God, had been disrupted. As a consequence of the fall, Eve's understanding of her function, her understanding of how she was to relate to Adam, would be confused.
The last to be addressed is Adam. His sin was disregarding the voice of the Lord God in favor of listening to the voice of his wife (v. 17). Adam did what his wife wanted him to do rather than what God commanded him to do and this was his transgression. Adam's experience, therefore, would take on a harsh character following his sin against God: Cursed is the ground because of you... (Let us note that God does not curse Eve or Adam directly, as He did the serpent; instead, God curses their activity.) And so, in vv. 17-19 God describes the kind of experience all men will know from this point forward. The ground, upon which Adam would depend for his earthly life, would henceforth resist his attempts of cultivation. Only by considerable physical labor would Adam be able to live off the land and carry on his duties before the Lord God.
After all this, we read of something magnificent in v. 21: The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them (v. 21) God, the One against whom Adam and Eve sinned, moves to cover their shame and relieve their embarrassment. God, the Holy One whose word has been broken, clothes the sinners with the shedding of blood. This verse must not be read without understanding. We must not simply pass over this report. What is God signaling here? He is signaling forgiveness. He is demonstrating that although transgression has taken place, He will come to Adam and Eve and comfort them and, according to the promise of v. 15, restore them through a Redeemer. I have come to believe that this is one of the most significant elements in this whole story. This is God's demonstration of grace. This is the only thing which could possibly save Adam and Eve. God had to extend forgiveness and I think that is what He is doing, symbolically, when He provides coverings for them. Blood is shed and a covering is provided. That which brought shame to Adam and Eve in God's presence-their nakedness-is taken away. This is a beautiful and instructive picture of redemption.
The last element in the story of the fall is man's banishment from the Garden (vv. 22-24). This act, like Adam's hiding of himself before his encounter with the Lord God, speaks loudly regarding the consequences of sin. It encapsulates the end of the covenant of works. Fallen man will no longer have the opportunity to live without sin before his Creator. He has failed. The covenant of grace, which I will take up in the next sermon, takes us beyond this failed effort of man to God's provision of a Savior.
Although much could be said about the experience of Adam and Eve, much about dealing with temptation, much about how sin disrupts relationships and so forth, I want to focus our attention on only one thought as I close. That one thought is God's response to sin. If you have ever had an experience in which the true nature of your sin is made clear to you, then you know what it's like to be overwhelmed and to be crushed by the reality of your failure. Those times hurt, and those times can take over your life for the moment and those times can leave you in despair. But I want you to think about Adam and Eve.
However badly you've been made to feel in your life when your sin has been revealed to you in all of its ugliness and you wanted to point the finger at someone else or you found yourself having difficulty believing that you could ever have failed so miserably, it doesn't compare with how Adam and Eve must have felt when they realized that they had sinned against God. They were wholly innocent before that; they had never entertained a sinful thought; they had never experienced sorrow or remorse or a sense of guilt. And then, through that one act of disobedience, their whole existence changed. The sense of failure, the awareness of sin, the feeling of hopelessness, must have been unbearable. They were so overcome by their sense of guilt that they could not even stand in the presence of God any longer, but had to hide themselves from Him.
We are so used to living in a world of sin that we cannot comprehend what the Garden was like before sin. We cannot imagine the bliss and the joy of knowing God and being instructed by Him and enjoying His creation. Adam and Eve knew all of that and then it was ruined. God, who deserved only loving and thankful submission, was shown arrogance and shameful disobedience by those creature which He made. What was His response? How did God treat Adam and Eve? Well, He announced to them the consequences of their sin, but that's not where He left the matter. Right in the middle of that heart-breaking and soul-crushing meeting between God, the serpent, Adam and Eve, the Creator announces redemption. He declares that He will not let Satan triumph and that He will not let Adam's disobedience be the end of the story. The holy God extends forgiveness; and He provides those coverings to Adam and Eve as a symbol that He will take care of their sin.
If you get anything out of this story, walk out of here today with the reality of forgiveness in your mind. Understand, as the Scripture goes on to teach, that forgiveness is what allows sin and mistakes and failures to be overcome. Forgiveness is how Adam and Eve could continue on the earth. Forgiveness is why God continues to have contact with rebellious man after the banishment from Eden. Forgiveness is coming in the Person of Jesus Christ. He is going to pay the penalty for man's sin and that is going to allow forgiveness to operate in this miserable world and that is going to mean that there will be true joy and thanksgiving and restoration and hope even where sin has entered in. God will teach us about forgiveness through His own humbling example. And that blessing of forgiveness is going to mean the failure of Satan in his attempt to destroy God's works and God's people. Sin cannot destroy or separate where there is forgiveness.
It is certainly true in our relationship with God, but also true in our relationships with one another, I believe, that the receiving and the granting of forgiveness is, perhaps, the greatest blessing of the Christian experience.
Conclusion (Preparation for the Lord's Supper)
With this in mind, we look at this Table prepared before us. Without the Savior, this story would have stopped with the disruption of the relationship between God and our first parents. There would have been no hope of restoration held out to them with God's plan to send a Redeemer. There would be no hope for us. We would be trapped in our sin and there would be nothing we could do about it. We would not be able to seek the forgiveness of others, nor would we be able to extend forgiveness to others. There would be no true remedy for sin. There would be no relief, no hope, but only grief and mourning and sadness.
But because of the Savior, we have life again and we have fellowship with our Creator again and we have the expectation of a blessed future and we have the hope of living God-honoring lives on this earth. Jesus paid for our sins. Think about that. Jesus paid for my sins when He died on the cross. Can I ever perfectly comprehend what that means to me? Can I ever fully appreciate the mercy extended to me in Christ? Probably not, but one thing I do know for sure-my sin has been covered by the blood of Jesus Christ and I am forgiven. I hope that you can say the same. I hope that when your sin torments you that you can flee to Christ and be comforted by God's forgiveness. What a wonderful blessing forgiveness is! Amen.
God is speaking of the desire to govern. Eve would experience a desire to function as the head of the marriage relationship contrary to God's intentions as witnessed by the sequence and nature of the couple's creation.
I would think that it should read, Eve would experience a desire to function as a subordinate of the marriage.... Am I misreading this or is it a misprint?