The Sin of Passivity

One of the challenges in understanding the original sin of Adam in the Garden and subsequently the relation of all humanity’s partaking of the guilt and pollution of this sin, is to determine what exactly Adam was guilty of. Obviously, we know that he was forbidden of eating the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but we also know that Eve ate first and then gave the fruit to Adam. In this arrangement, Eve would be the original sinner, as it were, and we would be left wondering why Romans 5 doesn’t make the typological comparison between Eve and Christ. But it doesn’t and Adam is the original federal head of mankind, not Eve. When he fell, all humanity fell “in him.” Therefore, we need to reexamine Genesis to see what was commanded of Adam, where he failed, and what led to the consumption of the fruit and the subsequent exile from the Garden. In Genesis, prior to the fall, we find several commands given to Adam. The first, from Gen. 1:28, is a repeat of that given to animals, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth”. This of course has to do with multiplication, specifically of the image of God. Adam, and naturally Eve, were given the command to create other image bearers. While we do not know the time that lapsed between this command and the birth of Cain and Abel, it seems reasonable to conclude that perhaps there was some delay (Gen. 4:1). This initial command was for them to extend the kingdom. The second part of this command also occurrs in Gen. 1:28, “…subdue it [the earth] and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Here we might simply say that while the first command was to extend the kingdom via population, here we see they were to extend the kingdom through dominion. As God’s representatives, or vice regents, Adam and Eve were not simply to assume dominion, nor were they to simply assume that subjugation would happen automatically, rather they were to actively rule and reign. Before we get to the third command, found in Genesis 2, we must briefly remind ourselves of the duty assigned to Adam, since this function is certainly related to the commands. In Genesis 2:15 we see that Adam was put (rested) in the Garden in order to work it and till it. This understanding alone might lead us to believe that Adam’s principle function was to be the original gardener in God’s Garden-Temple. Better translations inform us that Adam’s function was to guard and serve in this Garden-Temple, guarding from unauthorized intrusion and serving as a priest. As we have discussed elsewhere, when these two verbs are used together a priestly function is present, whether in the context of the Levitical Priesthood, or Israel as a whole (Numbers 3:6-8; 3:31, 36; 4:28; 8:25-26; 18:1-7). So far we’ve seen that Adam and Eve were told to be fruitful and multiple, subdue the earth and have dominion, and then specifically the function of guarding and serving as a priest given to Adam. This leads us to our third command, also found in Genesis 2 and subsequent to the assignment of Adam as a priest in the Garden-Temple of God. This chapter takes the appearance of recapitulation, or reemphasizing, particular day(s) of creation defined in chapter 1. Here, it gives a more specific view of Day 6, at least, culminating in the creation of man and woman. As we know, Adam was created first and put into the Garden that God had made (Genesis 2:15). There, assuming his priestly duty, his was given his assignment along with the command from the Lord God, “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.” With this, we have what is commonly called Adam’s prohibition or probation, as is often included in discussions on the Covenant of Works. It’s important to note that this is the only command that was accompanied with penalties, “you shall surely die.” Subsequent to this we find Adam’s exercise of delegated authority over the animals as God brings them to him for naming. What may appear on the surface as an isolated verse is more likely an episode included to highlight Adam’s need for “help” which comes in the form of woman in verses 2:18-25 and concludes with the statement, “And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” All of this prepares us for the encounter with the serpent in chapter 3. As we are introduced to it, we note that it is specifically referred to as crafty, most likely a contrast with the human couple’s nakedness, or innocence, mentioned earlier. Further, we find the serpent addressing Eve attempting to deceive (1 Tim. 2:14) and coerce her into violating the command that God had given. Of interest to our present topic here is the conversation which occurs in the opening of this pivotal chapter. Below is our subject passage
He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Genesis 3:1a-5
On the surface, it would appear that this is a dialogue between the serpent and Eve, leaving us to wonder where Adam might be in all of this. Why his absence? Why this dereliction of duty to guard the garden-temple, as well as his wife? Where is God’s preist-king to be found?
Most good Bibles should have a footnote for these verses indicating that the “you” throughout is not in the singular, as we might expect it to be in a given dialogue. Rather it is a plural you, much more like y’all. Now, when most of us are speaking to only one other person we typically do not say, y’all. Normally, this means that the speaker is either speaking about more than one other person (an option here) or that the speaker is speaking to more than one other person (another option). So which is it? It is certainly possible that the serpent is speaking to the woman about the commandment and consequences given to both of them. However, what if he is using y’all directed to the woman while the man is sitting passively by? Along with the use of the plural pronouns we also find that the verbs used throughout verses 1-5 are in the plural as well. Does this help reinforce the case that Adam was there alongside the woman all along? Our final, and most incriminating piece of evidence comes in the narrative described in Genesis 3:6
So 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 to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6
If there were any doubts concerning the location of Adam during the deception of the woman by the crafty serpent, that question is answered in this verse where we find the woman giving the fruit to her husband, “who was with her.” Some commentators assert that Adam was absent throughout the deception and showed up at the end, just in time to partake of the forbidden fruit. This view seems to assume far more than the passage allows. It would seem then that the y’alls, the plural verbs, and then finally the fact that Adam was with the woman all lead us to conclude that the man was present during this entire devastating event, all the while standing passively by. Adam’s sin of passivity was in direct contradiction with the dominion command given to him by God. He failed in his duty to guard the garden-temple, which naturally would have included his wife. All of this underlying sin paved the way for his willful disobedience in partaking of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Why is Adam the first to be confronted by God and why is Adam contrasted with Christ in Romans 5? Because Adam was the federal head of mankind, and while Adam did not partake of the tree first, he had already failed by passively standing by such that willfully eating of the forbidden fruit was the consummation of his sin.
It would not be difficult to make the argument that passivity continues to be an inherent sin among men, especially fathers and husbands. Passivity can take form physically, mentally, and most certainly spiritually. It can manifest itself in laziness, slothfulness, lack of motivation or desire, among others. It infiltrates the workplace, the church, and the home alike. As with Adam, so too with us that passivity is rarely an end in and of itself. It is heading somewhere. It is the broad path that leads to a thousand sins. Would that God would convict us of our passivity. That we would not be content to sit idly by unengaged, but that we would take our rightful position as priest-kings of the most high God. That we would fight for holiness, protect our families, and proclaim with unashamed boldness the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Christian saved by grace through faith.


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