Every Advantage

 

In thinking through the circumstances surrounding both Adam and Noah that we’ve seen in recent posts, there is at least one commonality between them that is shared with believers in Christ today, primarily the advantages that they had, and those that we have, which lend themselves towards aiding in our obedience to God.  Yet like them, even with every advantage, we still sin.

Pre-fall Man

Reviewing the case with Adam, we know that God rested him in the garden, which He had ordained to bring forth lush vegetation and food, apart from the efforts of the first man.  His primary duty was obedience and service before the Lord, as a priest, but also as a protector of the garden and all that was in it.  As it is sometimes explained, Adam had the ability to sin and the ability to not sin  (Latin = posse peccare, posse non peccare).  Though he was created sinless, his nature was mutable, or changeable.  He had the moral free agency to choose to sin or choose to not sin.  He was given dominion over creation, abundant food to eat as he pleased, and a wife who came alongside him as a help-mate.  By all accounts Adam was living in perfection.  If anyone could claim to be living their best life now, it was Adam, pre-fall.

Yet despite all of these blessings from God; despite all of the advantages, Adam still succumbed to temptation, that conceived with his inmost desires of discontentment and brought forth sin.  Despite literally having it all, including most importantly, direct communion with God, Adam was dissatisfied and chose to sin.

After Adam and Eve’s fall from grace, man now had the ability to sin, but lost the ability to not sin, thus inheriting the corruption of Adam’s original sin by means of a sinful nature which carried with it the inability to not sin (non posse non peccare).  This is simply referred to as man’s inability.  Instead of retaining the moral free agency that Adam had briefly enjoyed, his offspring -namely all mankind, as was evident with Cain- became enslaved to sin, their wills now held captive to sin.

Post-Fall Man

It was with this sinful nature that Noah entered upon the scene of God’s creation, now with a cursed ground and living among a rebellious people.  However, Noah found favor in God’s sight (even with the presence of a sinful nature, which should be an encouragement to us).  With Noah, God decided to set-apart a new people for Himself and chose Noah and his family out of all the peoples of the earth.  God then rained down judgment upon the earth, because of the sinfulness of man, through a world-wide flood, preserving Noah, his wife, and their sons and wives along with a selection of animals to repopulate the earth.

It was into this new creation, this new garden, that God opened the doors of the ark to complete the rescue of his people.  Noah, as a new priest in a new temple (Genesis 8:20), had, like his great grandfather Adam, every advantage at his fingertips.  No longer was he faced with the ridicule and mockery of a people who doubted the words of his preaching, but it was him alone with his family with a renewed commandment of “be fruitful and multiply” and a new charge to have dominion over creation.  To show His steadfast love and faithfulness, God enters into a covenant with Noah.  This time there is no prohibition of eating from a particular tree, instead there is a prohibition to “not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood” (Gen. 9:4) again carrying with it the consequences of death for its violation.  As God reveals this commandment, we see it specifically applied to the murder of man, who God reminds us, was made in His own image.

Again, despite all of the advantages presented to Noah, just like Adam he too fell, quickly (Genesis 9:21-29).  Despite the flood cleansing the world from its external wickedness, the seed of sin was allowed to germinate in the hearts of the eight who were saved through the waters of judgment.  The ability to sin and the inability to not sin remained.

Until Christ.

Sinless Man

These principles of the sinful nature, inherent in man after the fall, highlight the supreme importance of the sinlessness of Christ, more specifically that He was born sinless and remained sinless.  Because of the uniqueness of Christ’s birth, the unbroken line of the sinful nature was broken, in Him.  The generational succession of the ability to sin and the inability to not sin was not transmitted to Him.  We say then that Christ was impeccable, or that He was unable to sin (non posse peccare – note the distinction between this an Adam’s original state).  While a minority position has often claimed that Christ did have the ability to sin, all must conclude that He did not actually sin, as Scripture so adamantly asserts (1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 3:5).  Christ alone was sinless.

Our Lord, we may be reminded, was not afforded all the advantages of His grandfathers Adam and Noah.  He entered into this world with nothing, literally being born nowhere, coming from nowhere, and then having all of this nothing stripped further away during His own wilderness garden experience.  Here, Christ was not surrounded by lush vegetation bringing forth an abundance of food effortlessly, but He fasted, for 40 days, surrounded by thorns and thistles of a cursed land and subjected to the wild beasts (Mark 1:13).  He then, throughout His ministry, was subjected to every temptation, yet unlike us, did not sin (Hebrews 4:15).  In His next garden experience, this one more lush than His last, He was given the sentence of death. Whereas His grandfather’s were given prohibitions that carried the sentence of death for their violations, Christ was given the sentence of death despite not having a violation of His own.

Renewed Man

The death of the sinless Christ for sinful man and His subseuqent resurrection, attesting to His sinlessness, now made it possible for those who have repented, and been united to Him by faith, to not sin.  Because of Christ, those in Him, given a new nature and a regenerate heart, have returned to the state of the original Adam having now both the ability to sin and the ability to not sin (posse peccare, posse non peccare).  No longer then are our wills enslaved to sin.  No longer do we possess a moral inabiltiy wherein all we do is sin continually.  No, the redeem actually do have the ability to not sin!

Like our forefathers, Adam and Noah, we have even greater advantages.  We are able to live on this side of the cross, this side of our Lord’s resurrection, we know and can see the power of sin, but the greater power of grace.

We are co-heirs with Christ, seated with Him in the heavenly places. We now have access to the Father through the Son and can come freely into His presence at anytime. Not only this but we have been united to Christ, clothed with His righteous, bought by His blood, redeemed from the power of sin, and have had the wrath of God removed from us, by Christ’s propitiation.  Not only this but we have Christ as our Mediator, our High Priest, and the Captain of our salvation.  Not only this, but we have been given His Word as a lamp to our feet and a light to our paths.  Literally the Word of the living God has been made accessible to us, to have, read, and meditate upon at any time.

As if those advantages were not numerous and weighty enough, we have been given a Helper, the Comforter, the Paraclete, God’s Holy Spirit who resides not among us on the outside, but internally in our now regenerate hearts.  All of these advantages working for our good to bring us into conformity with Christ and fulfilling His promise to complete this work until our day of salvation.  Regenerate man reclaimed the ability to not sin while simultaneously retaining the ability to sin.

But herein lies the problem.  Given far more advantages than both Adam and Noah, we still sin.  That ability to sin is still within and is an active, vital force within us until the day we die.  The Apostle Paul laments this very fact as he surveys the duality within his own heart, two laws at is were, warring against one another (Romans 7:21-23).  The flesh vs. the spirit, the former lusting against the latter while the latter wars against the former (Galatians 5:17). If Christ had simply died to return us to the former state of Adam, we would still be damned because of the continual presence of the ability to sin in our natures.

Glorified Man

But thanks be to God He did more than that.  Christ was not content to simply leave us in a pre-fall Adamic state.  No, more than this He was intent to bring us into glory.  The glorified state of man where we will one day have the ability to not sin and likewise the inability to sin, as our Lord did.  Praise be to God as we long for this day when sin is no longer crouching at our door step.  When the war within us has ceased and the spirit is alone without carrying along the rotten carcass of the flesh.  Then in the New Garden, when we return to the restful state intended by God for man, we Will serve God night and day as priests with every advantage at our fingertips, including the renewed communion with God forever to be enjoyed because sin, the devil, and the flesh have been eradicated.

Praise be to God, come quickly Lord Jesus for we long for the day!

 

Noah’s Rest

 

The following is a modification of the post “The Gospel Hope of Lamech” in order to draw upon the recent theme of rest that we’ve looked at in the posts: God’s Rest, Adam’s Rest, and Broken Rest.

 

28 When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son 29 and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.” 30 Lamech lived after he fathered Noah 595 years and had other sons and daughters. 31 Thus all the days of Lamech were 777 years, and he died.

32 After Noah was 500 years old, Noah fathered Shem, Ham, and Japheth.” Genesis 5:28-32

 

The period between Adam and Noah is summarized in Scripture by 10 toledots, or generations, i.e. the “begots” in chapter 5 of Genesis.  Throughout this time man became increasingly wicked (Genesis 6:5) creating greater distance between God and man, and man and creation, specifically the continued fracture between man and the ground, initiated in the curse God levied against Adam.

In the passage above from Genesis 5, there is a noted expectation of relief, or rest, that comes by way of the prophetic words of Lamech, the father of Noah.  Recall that in the Old Testament there is usually significance given to the naming of children and this is especially true with Lamech naming his son Noah, which is similar in sound to the Hebrew word for “rest”.  Lamech’s expectation for his son is that he will bring a reversal to the curse levied against Adam, subsequently all mankind, and bring a fulfillment of the promised seed that would crush the head of the serpent, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”

The word translated “relief” by the ESV is literally the word rest, which corresponds to Noah’s name and shed’s greater light on the expectation that he would be the one to deliver the people from the “painful toil of our hands.”  Again, we must feel the weight of the curse, specifically with the background that Adam was originally created for worship and placed in the garden that brought forth food effortlessly, at the command of God.  Let’s look again at the curse that was directly given to Adam

“cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Genesis 3:17-19

Notice here that the curse given to Adam is intimately related to the toil of the ground or land through the labor of his hands.  God would no longer provide ease and abundance of fruit from the land, but now it would require painful effort on the part of man to overcome the obstacles of thorns and thistles, and through sweat, i.e. hard work, the land would yield harvest.

When combining the progressive depravity of man at this time and the multiplying effects of sin upon the ground, we can begin to see the great expectation of Lamech was for deliverance from this curse, “Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”  Clearly the words, and hope, expressed by Lamech are closely related to the words of the curse that God had levied against mankind.  A curse that was causing painful toil, hard work and labor, to bring forth food from a now cursed ground.

Lamech’s expectation is that out of the very ground that had been cursed one would come who would bring relief.  Like Eve before him, Lamech’s hope was in the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Redeemer who would crush the head of the serpent, though he specifically has an expectation of relief, literally rest, from the curse of the ground.  Further, he expects that this one from the ground will be his own child, Noah, who would bring about this rest.  Again, like Eve, we know that it was not through their immediate offspring that the fulfillment of God’s plan would come, but through the Promised One, Jesus Christ.

It’s certainly understandable in both the case of Eve and Noah that their hope in the promise of God would be fulfilled in their lifetime, but that was not God’s plan.  His plan for a Redeemer would unfold through the covenant promise given to Abraham, a kind of reminder of Genesis 3:15, and then through the people of Israel, culminating in the birth of Jesus Christ.

The expectation of Lamech highlights an additional point worthy of a brief discussion, namely that the ultimate Sabbath rest comes in Christ alone as detailed in Hebrews 3 & 4.  The Sabbath principle is far more than the 4th Commandment that has been a point of discussion and debate among theologians.  It’s a principle rooted and grounded in the character of God, revealed in the days of creation, longed for in the expectation of Noah, further developed in the Mosaic Law with Sabbaths and Jubilee, and ultimately finding its destination in the Lord Jesus Christ.

This passage from Hebrews is worthy of a separate study, but we may conclude a few things in relation to the expectation of Lamech.  From Lamech and the passage from Hebrews, we may observe the connection between the promised rest of God and the promised land of God.  We may conclude that it is only in Christ that believers may find their rest from not only the physical labors of their hands, but the spiritual labor against sin and attempts to earn salvation.  Through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, to all believers, by way of Christ’s obedient fulfillment of God’s law, we may rest from all efforts to earn our justification.  Thereby we may now experience God’s Sabbath rest in Christ, even though, as in the days of Noah, we also look forward with eager expectation to the fulfillment of God’s promise to bring about our eternal, satisfying rest from all the toil of our hands in a cursed land, to a place of relief in the new heavens and new earth, that God Himself will prepare.

With regard to Noah and his father’s expectation, he did bring rest and relief from the land, but not in an ultimate, final sense as Christ will.  Upon the recedence of the flood waters of judgment, God makes a covenant with Noah,

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. 22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

Noah’s first action upon reaching dry land was to offering a sacrafice to God, with the clean animals that God had directed him to include on the ark.  Serving as priest in this “new creation” or even “new garden” if you will, Noah makes an atoning sacrifice to God, which is accepted and pleasing to God.  This term for pleasing, as the ESV Study Bible notes, “conveys the idea of tranquility and rest” and is “related to the Noah” which certainly ties back to the prophecy and expectation of his father Lamech, mentioned earlier in Genesis 5.

Additionally, in the midst of these covenant promises, we see God highlighting the progressive nature of sin in man, “evil from his youth” but also a restraint that God places upon the progressive curse on the ground, “I will never again curse the ground.”  In doing so, God promises stability.  Yes the original curse still remained on the ground, yes man still had to labor for food, as did Noah (Genesis 9:20).  However, God promised stability and consistency of seasons, a divine grace, to allow man the conditions necessary to bring forth food from the ground, “seedtime and harvest”.

Noah was afforded a fresh opportunity in a new garden, much like his great-grandfather Adam.  He was also given the same divine commands to assert dominion over creation and to be fruitful and multiply.  However, because of the indwelling presence of sin that the flood could not wash away, and despite these opportunities and commands, Noah also fell into sin after just a short time.  This in turn lead to the sin of his son and the pronouncement of a curse upon him and the people that would play a significant role in yet another opportunity for rest, the Canaanites.

Broken Rest

 

In chapter 1 of Genesis we are introduced to God the Creator.  In chapter 2, we are introduced to the God who rested and then the details of how God created man in His image.  In chapter 3, we veer from the concepts of rest to the undoing of creation by sin on the day when rest was broken.

The Fall

Recall that in a previous post we looked at how God rested Adam in the garden to serve Him as priest and to guard the garden.  As chapter 3 begins, we have an encroachment upon the garden, a usurper to the authority and priesthood of Adam, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.”

Two things should immediatly come to mind with this verse, the first is that God is the Creator of this serpent and second that Adam was given dominion over all the beasts of the field, despite this particular level of craftiness in the serpent.  It is with this simple introduction of the serpent that the fall of mankind begins.

Next we find this serpent’s deception as he presents doubt to the truthfulness of the words of God, twisting them in his deception to Eve.  Meanwhile, we are not yet informed of Adam’s presence, his role as king-priest upon the arrival of this new threat, nor his efforts to guard his wife or the garden.

As the deception progresses from words to deeds, Eve falls for the temptation of the serpent and partakes of the fruit, thus disobeying God.  Adam, as we are now informed, is beside her, “and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

The Curse

The familiar passage unfolds as Adam and Eve are confronted by God who questions them and then levies upon them a curse before expelling them from the garden.  The first words of the curse are directed towards the serpent who is informed that there will be enmity between he and the woman and more significantly between he and the offspring of the woman.  This statement culminates in the protoevangelion or first gospel in Genesis 3:15, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”  Ultimately we know that this was a promise of the coming Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ who would crush the head of the serpent at the cross.

The next words of the curse are addressed to Eve, who is informed that she will bear children, though in pain, and will have a desire to rule over her husband, thus creating a tension between her desire for authority and the God-given authority given to Adam.  Finally, we arrive at the words of the curse directed toward Adam in Genesis 3:17-19, which is critical to the concept of rest that was developed in the earlier posts cited above.

In order to feel the proper weight of this curse and to realize its full implications, it is important to revisit the context out of which this curse arises.  First, Genesis 2:5-9

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist[c] was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground— then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Then Genesis 2:15-17

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but 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.”

Glancing back over these verses, we find that the field, or literally “open country”, was desolate because God had not caused it to rain, nor was there a man to work the ground.  Then we see the creation of man, the planting of a garden, and God “resting” man in that Garden, as we’ve already seen.  In that Garden, God made every tree spring up for food, including the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (and the tree of life), which we find mentioned again in the second citation, carrying with it a prohibition against eating from it and the consequences of death for disobeying that command.

It’s out of this context that the curse directed towards Adam is brought forth.

17 And to Adam he said,

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19 By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.”

 

First we see the reason why the punishment is coming.  Like a father with his children, God is communicating the offense to ensure that his child understands the reason for the punishment, lest there be any notion or cry of injustice.  Next comes the punishment, “cursed is the ground”.  The serpent’s curse is physical, emotional (strife with the woman and her seed) and ultimately results in (eschatological) destruction, with the coming promised skull-crushing seed.  Eve’s curse is physical and we might say emotional as well, while Adam’s is purely physical, but also impacts creation.

God expounds upon this with the following:

  • In pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life
  • Thorns and thistles it (the ground) shall  bring forth
  • You shall eat of the plants of the field
  • By the sweat of your face, you shall eat bread
  • Til you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken.
The Consequences

If, as so many have supposed, there is in Adam, pre-fall, the doctrine of vocation, that is that Adam was created to work as some sort of Edenic gardener,  then we must conclude that this curse isn’t all that provocative. Perhaps we could just conclude that he gardened pre-fall without breaking a sweat or that maybe the land cooperated more prior to the fall, or maybe the real curse is thorns and thistles, but even these would seem to neuter the effects of the fall and subsequently the curse that God has levied.

However, if, as we concluded in the post Adam’s rest, that Adam was made for worship and that this included serving God in His garden-temple as a type of king-priest and also that Adam had a symbiotic relationship with the ground, that brought forth food effortlessly at the command of God, then we may begin to feel the weight of this curse.  Now, as it is levied against Adam, all of those pre-fall benefits are lost.  Adam is stripped of his royal-liturgical role and His intimate relationship with God is forever changed and he is expelled from his place of rest in God’s garden.  His original functions, tend and keep, when held together implied priestly service.  Now, they are separated with guardianship of the garden given to a cherubim (Genesis 3:24) and tending or tilling of the land, outside the garden, now a necessity of Adam’s in order to live and provide for his family.

22 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” 23 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 to guard the way to the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24

Here, on the outside, Adam will now be forced to labor for his bread.  The land, out of which he was created – symbolizing their symbiotic relationship-was now cursed causing him not only physical work, but bringing obstacles, thorns and thistles, against his efforts to bring forth fruit from the land.  This battle with the land would continue until Adam returned to the land, coming full circle with ground out of which he was created.

Sin resulted in a disruption of the rest that God had entered Adam into.  It resulted in the disruption of the relationship between Creator and His prize creation, that was in His image, man.  This broken rest also resulted in a disruption of the harmony between man and creation, which he once held dominion over.  It is this curse that all mankind have inherited, in Adam (though we might well mention the painful childbirthing that was passed to all womankind as well).   It is because of this curse that all creation even to this day groans, including humans (Romans 8:22-24).  This groaning comes from a longing to restore these once broken relationships, to make right was sin has made wrong.  All which will be reconciled and restored in Christ, who has even now begun His new creation, beginning with man and culminating with a New Heavens and Earth.