Author: Ron Graham
—Examining the nature of Adam’s fall
In this lesson we consider the nature of Adam’s sin, condemnation, and forgiveness. At first sight Adam’s fall from grace seems straightforward to understand. Yet people have very different views of it. I hope this lesson will clarify the nature and consequences of Adam’s error and his hope of forgiveness.
¶“16And the LORD God gave this command to Adam: 'You may freely eat from every tree in the garden, 17except you must not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. For in the day that you eat of that tree, you shall surely die' ” (Genesis 2:16-17).
¶“6...The woman saw that the tree was good for food, a delight to the eyes, and desirable to make one wise. Then she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he also ate (Genesis 3:6).
1 The Nature of Adam’s Sin
What name can we give to Adam’s sin? Here is a list of sins as an example. Is Adam’s sin named in this list? "Now the works of the flesh are clear to see: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).
Or is Adam’s sin named in this list? "...the law is not laid down for the righteous, but rather for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine" (1Timothy 1:9-10).
Or does this list name Adam s sin? "Do not be deceived. Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God" (1Corinthians 6:9-10).
You probably saw the phrase “lawless and disobedient” and reckoned that this describes Adam’s sin. He was disobedient when he ate the fruit forbidden by God.
You might also have seen the word “thieves” and thought that since the fruit that Adam ate was stolen from God’s own tree, that made Adam a thief.
Someone else will argue that the name of Adam’s sin is simply “eating forbidden food”. Later in the Bible, God prohibited certain foods to the Israelites. The law that God gave to Adam was the first food taboo.
Well, whatever we might call Adam’s sin specifically, we can generically call it “disobedience” —a direct act against God’s law, "You must not eat from the tree of knowledge" (Genesis 2:16-17).
All sin is disobedience to God’s law and that was the nature of both Adam’s sin and every sin committed before and since. "Sin is the transgression of the law" (1John 3:4). Sin happens when God makes a law for you to obey and you disobey it.
Well, so far our lesson hasn't been very challenging. Rather, it's been quite straightforward. Adam disobeyed God. That was the nature of his sin: disobedience plain and simple.
2 The Nature of Adam’s Condemnation
Adam was condemned by God for his disobedience. "So God sent him out of the garden of Eden" (Genesis 3:23). But his punishment was not only to be cast out of Eden, but to die. "For in the day that you eat of the tree of knowledge you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17).
It's important to understand the nature of that death. It was not physical death, for Adam did not die physically in the day that he ate. In fact he lived for hundreds of years after committing his sin (Genesis 5:5).
Paul writes of the death that sin causes. "I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came sin was brought to life and I died... In the commandment sin found an occasion to deceive me and thereby it killed me" (Romans 7:9-12). Everyone who sins becomes "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1, Colossians 1:13).
Who Could Adam Blame?
Could Adam pass the blame for his sin on to anybody else? No, he had to bear full blame for his sin. Perhaps he thought to blame God and his wife. "The woman you gave to be my companion, she gave me fruit from the tree and I ate" (Genesis 3:12). What Adam said was perfectly true as a matter of fact, but if it was intended as an excuse, it simply would not do.
Adam was not condemned for the serpent’s sin or his wife’s sin. He was condemned for his own sin alone. And by the same principle, nobody else was blamed or condemned for Adam’s sin, but Adam alone.
One dies in sin for one’s own sin alone. "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself " (Ezekiel 18:4,20).
Others might lead and encourage a person to sin, and others in turn may be affected by that person’s sin. Nevertheless, condemnation for sin is upon the sinner. If others have sinned in connection with your sin, they will be condemned for their sins. And you will be condemned for yours.
This second part of our lesson was not as easy to grasp as the first, but I hope you can see the nature of Adam’s condemnation. He was blamed by God for his own sin, his own disobedience, and this resulted in the immediate death of his soul.
3 The Nature of Adam’s Forgiveness
This third part of our lesson is the deepest and most important, because it shows how Adam could find redemption and receive new life for his soul.
Strangely, the Bible does not give any definite indication that Adam and his wife Eve were restored to life in God and redeemed from eternal death. However the Bible gives us reason to think so, and no reason to think otherwise. What we can definitely see, is that the way of forgiveness was open to them.
The Bible reveals this important fact: "Without the shedding of blood there can be no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22). All through the Bible, from the beginning, this is evident. Adam and Eve’s son Abel knew and believed this, and he offered to God a sheep from his flock and God accepted and commended that sacrifice (Genesis 4:1-5).
The first animal to be killed was killed by God its Creator to provide skins to clothe Adam and Eve and cover their new-found shame (Genesis 3:21). It is not unreasonable to think that God regarded this death as a sacrifice of blood for the sin that brought about their shame.
So it is very likely that Adam and Eve made animal sacrifices commanded by God, as did Abel their son by their example. In this way they could find redemption and forgiveness and the promise of eternal life —raising them to life from the death they died on the day they sinned.
Looking forward to Jesus
The Bible reveals another even more important fact: "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Hebrews 10:4).
This fact put Adam, and the whole human race, in a predicament. Man can find no sacrifice sufficient to please God!
So how could the animal sacrifices of long ago bring about forgiveness if indeed it is impossible? Well, those sacrifices had no power in themselves, but they were offered in faith symbolic of the only possible effective sacrifice to ever be made. That was the sacrifice of Jesus Christ "who came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself... so Christ was once offered to bear the sins of the many" (Hebrews 9:26-28).
This is what God was referring to when he said to the serpent, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel" (Genesis 3:14-15).
So for Adam, his family, and all his descendants including you and me, there is redemption and forgiveness made possible because Christ suffered for us. "Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit" (1Peter 3:18).