To the woman the Lord God said, "I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for our husband, and he shall rule over you."
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;thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 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."
The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.
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-" therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. 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. (ESV)
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Big Sin, Big Grace
Martin Chemnitz, Pastor and Confessor
9 November 2015
What's the solution to sin? Shouldn't we be about minimizing it? Less sin would be a good thing, right? Well, yes and no. In the world this would be true. In our relationship with our neighbor he would be greatly benefited if we would act in our office according to our proper God-given duty. In the world our good works are beneficial to our neighbor, therefore doing more good works provides greater benefit to him. The opposite side of this of course, is that we avoid sinning against our neighbor. So, yes, less sin in the world would be a good thing; a thing for which we ought to pray and to strive.
However, less sin in the sight of God is not a good thing. Oh, I don't mean that we should intentionally sin against God. The Apostle Paul has a very strong statement against such an idea: "Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it" (Rm 6:1-2
)? However, we should never forget the fact that God delivers the hammer blows of the law against us for the very purpose of concluding all people under sin: "Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin" (Rm 3:19-20). Theologically speaking, then, the law is given not to minimize sin, but to maximize it by bringing a full knowledge of it before us through its ever clear mirror. Without this multiplication of sin, we would not clearly see or understand our need for a Savior; grace would truly be cheapened as Dietrich Bonhoeffer (reflecting Luther's view) warned. If sin is a light thing, then its remedy is light.
Instead, the Bible constantly places before us the depth of human depravity both by accusing our sin and by portraying before us the beauty and piety of our forbearers, Adam and Eve, as well as the pristine piety of Christ our Savior. The darkness appears all the deeper where there is a clear light in its midst. Adam and Eve would have been joined to be fruitful and multiply as a public act of piety, because they recognized that the command to procreate was a divine command; a true blessing from the Father who joined them in the garden as man and wife. They would have felt no shame or embarrassment in so fulfilling God's command. We consider public procreation as ludicrous and obscene. It is purely because of our depravity that such acts must be hidden from public view (although it is always in the sight of God). This contrast exposes how far we have fallen from the right knowledge and understanding of God. So far as we have fallen, so deeply has God condescended to our need. As ignorant as we are of God, so well has He known us in Christ (Gal 4:9). As depraved as we are, Christ has given us the donation of his pristine holiness as a gift of grace (Rm 4:5). Big sin needs big grace.
"Some offer a cause of a still greater error, when they minimize this evil [of original sin] and speak according to the custom of philosophers about the corrupted nature as if it was not corrupted, and as they say, not only remained unimpaired in the nature of man, but also in the devil. This is obviously false. What and how little has remained we see and experience in a small measure. How great a thing we have lost is not clearly seen by those who argue that natural powers have remained to us unimpaired. For the good and right will, pleasing to God, obedient to God, trusting the Creator, and acting properly while making use of the creation with thanks has been lost. Therefore, our will makes from God the devil and is horrified at the mention of his name, especially when it is oppressed by the judgment of God. Now I ask you, is this what nature is when it is unimpaired?
"Let us consider less important matters. The sexual union of man and woman was divinely constituted in marriage, but after sin hasn't it become detestable? Doesn't the flesh burned furiously? So now after sin this union is not seen in public as a work of God, but respectable married couples seek solitary places away from the eyes of people. Yes, we have a body, but in how many ways is it vexing to us? We also have a will and reason, but in how many ways is it weakened? For as reason has been oppressed by ignorance in many ways, so also the will is not only confounded, but is against God and an enemy of God. It is inclined to be carried along into evil, when it ought to be doing the exact opposite. This multi-formed corruption of nature should not be minimized but rather emphasized. Man has fallen from the image of God, from the knowledge of God, from a true knowledge of the whole creation, from respectable nakedness, into hatred, into contempt of God, plus more than that; into hatred against God. I shall pass over in silence the tyranny of Satan to which this miserable nature has been subject on account of sin. I am saying these things must be emphasized because, unless we rightly understand the enormity of our disease, we shall neither understand what the remedy might be, nor even desire it. However much you reduce sin, so much also will you have cheapened grace."
Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, 3.1
Almighty God, You have forbidden that we should sin to make grace abound. You have portrayed the depths of our depravity before us that we might see clearly the height of Your grace, raising us out of the pit of sin. Make us ever mindful of our sin and weakness, that we might all the more confidently trust in You, confess Your holy name, and repose in the caring arms of our good Shepherd Jesus, who gave Himself for miserable sinners like us. Amen.
For Jo Lodholz, that the Lord Jesus Christ would send His holy angels to surround her bed
For the gift of beautiful weather, that the Lord God would send the sun to warm the earth and give growth and that we would give thanks for His gracious care
For all police officers, that the Lord Jesus would keep them safe as they carry out their duty in serving the public
Art: Dürer, Albrecht The Adoration of the Trinity (1515)
© Scott R. Murray, 2015