The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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."
Then the Lord God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." Now out of the ground the Lord God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
"This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man."
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.(ESV)
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Our Sinful Ignorance About Our Sinfulness
Thursday After All Saints
5 November 2015
How grievous the fall into sin really is. Our problem is that East of Eden we no longer have the capacity to fully assess the depths of our fall and its attendant depravity. Because of the fall, we are like the Russian commercial aircraft that lost its tail over the Sinai Peninsula with such tragic loss of life; once that stabilizing influence is gone the pilot can no longer direct the aircraft, and indeed has no idea where he actually is in the sky as the aircraft plummets to earth, spinning this way and that, completely out of control. All of us lives like that pilot fighting a plummeting aircraft, unable to right the ship because we don't know which way is "up." The fall has so impaired our self-perception that we are no longer capable of understanding how much trouble we are in. We become turned in on ourselves, and employing our own bent judgment we call evil what God calls good and what God calls evil we call good. The problem is that our self-generated standard will never pinpoint for us our true position over against God. The gyroscope of the human will and intellect is out of commission. Only God can resolve that by his Word.
The holy life of our forbearers Adam and Eve in the garden before the fall begins to give us some idea how far we've fallen. They shared a perfect fellowship with their heavenly Father being able to walk and talk with Him in the cool of the garden in the afternoon, perhaps sitting down to a quiet tea at the end. They were naked in each other's presence, but without the least shame. They were completely comfortable "in their own skin," because it's dignity and beauty was assured by the God who created them. Their intellect and will work was perfectly attuned to God's will and speech. They felt no tug "to do their own thing" when God spoke. His will was their will and created a great delight for them. Though we can talk about it and perceive it in the divine word, we have absolutely no way to know what this was like. It is like a Martian arriving and describing to us life on Mars. We may know what the words mean, but we have no experience by which to understand them. We are doubly blinded then. Sin has so blinded us that we cannot know how deeply sinful we are by our own will or intellect. It is a miracle of God's life-giving Word that he tells us of our desperate depravity. Otherwise, we couldn't know it.
It is no wonder then that those who are self-willed will fall into deeper and deeper vice, because they decline to hear the voice of God calling after them, as He did Adam and Eve, "Where are you?" How gracious God is that after such as us he would call, ultimately sending His Son into the world to search for every fallen sinner. He searches everywhere through his apostles and the pastors whom he sends seeking after his dear children. He describes his ministry precisely this way: "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Lk 19:10). We are not left to land the shattered fuselage of humanity, because Christ comes to save us from our sinful ignorance about our own sinfulness.
"We have heard in the previous chapter (Gn 2
), how man was created on the sixth day in the image and likeness of God so that his will would be good and sound and also that his reason would be complete, so that whatever God willed or said the man also willed, believed and understood the same. The understanding of all created things necessarily followed this understanding. For where the understanding of God is complete, there it is necessary also to be a perfect understanding of all things which are under God.
"These things, however, show how horrible a ruin was made of Adam and Eve through which we lost the most beautifully illuminated reason and will conforming to the word and will of God. We also have lost the glory of our body so that such a deep wickedness now it is to be seen naked, which once was the most beautiful and unique prerogative of human kind above all beasts. But there was such grave damage in this that not only are these things lost, but also there is an aversion to the will of God. It must follow that man desires and does nothing of that divine will which God has willed and commanded: namely that we do not know what God is, what grace is, what righteousness is, and indeed what sin itself is. These are absolutely horrible defects, and those who do not understand nor see them are blinder than a mole. Indeed, experience teaches us concerning these calamities. However, their magnitude we do not fully understand unless we look upon what sort of an image of the state of innocence is, in which the will was good and reason right, and there was the highest dignity of the human body. When we consider the deprivation of these gifts or their loss against the contrary, then it is possible to understand to some degree how great an evil original sin is."
Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 3.1
Lord God, when Adam and Eve fell into the darkest depravity and passed on to us that spiritual disease, You did not leave them or us in the darkness of our depravity. Instead, You called by Your Word to lost sinners like us. In Your compassion for Your sinfully ignorant creation you brought a true knowledge of life in your own beloved Son. Continue to send us the message of life through our pastors, that You might bring us true understanding and comprehension in place of our spiritual ignorance. Amen.
For the members of the Wittenberg Project Steering Committee, as they continue their work in a phone meeting tomorrow, that the pure gospel of Christ might ring out in Wittenberg and throughout Germany
For Rosalie Brazee, who will have her gallbladder removed, that the Lord Jesus would watch over her, guard her, and grant to her the healing that she needs
For those who are suffering deprivation and loss in their lives, that they might be comforted by the presence of God the Holy Spirit through the Word
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015