Discovering Light in Dark Corners
The gospel according to Genesis 3
By Michael Doernbrak
When people think about Genesis 3, they typically think, Oh, yes, that’s the chapter in which God kicked Adam and Eve out of Paradise. Doubtless that’s true. The chapter tells the sad story of humanity falling into sin and having to leave Paradise. But if we look a little closer, we will actually see a surprising revelation of the character of God and the gospel.
We can build a relationship only with someone we really know. If we have wrong conceptions about a person, it will negatively affect our relationship with that person. The same is true in our relationship with God. In order to have a loving relationship with Him, we must truly understand His character. That’s why Jesus said: “And this is eternal life, that they may know You” (John 17:3).
When God created Adam and Eve, they knew God face to face. They loved Him. They found their greatest happiness in spending time with God. But when Satan deceived Eve, he planted a wrong image of God in her mind. He led her to believe that God is selfish and unjust and does not have their best interest in mind (cf. Gen. 3:1-5). Thus the relationship with God was severely damaged, and they hid from His presence. This is important to understand: Sin did not start with a deed. Rather it began with accepting a wrong image of the character of God! The deed of taking the forbidden fruit was just a consequence of this wrong concept about God.
Wrong Concepts of God
"Sin did not start
with a deed."
This is not just an ancient story. The same is true today! How many people, even in the church, have a wrong image of God? “God loves me when I am good enough!” “God will not forgive me; I have gone too far.” “God loves me so much that He will save me no matter what I do.” Wrong concepts about God abound in many shapes and colors, ultimately leading people away from God. It’s tragic! When we have a wrong image of God, we cannot have a right relationship with Him, because we believe in a god that does not exist! That’s the reason the devil is so eager to spread lies about the character of God! That’s also the reason God moves heaven and earth to show us how He really is! He has many ways to help us understand that He is loving and just. But the best revelation of God we find in Jesus Christ. “Though all these evidences have been given, the enemy of good blinded the minds of men, so that they looked upon God with fear; they thought of Him as severe and unforgiving. Satan led men to conceive of God as a being whose chief attribute is stern justice—one who is a severe judge, a harsh, exacting creditor. He pictured the Creator as a being who is watching with jealous eye to discern the errors and mistakes of men, that He may visit judgments upon them. It was to remove this dark shadow, by revealing to the world the infinite love of God, that Jesus came to live among men.”*
God’s Character in Genesis 3
This revelation of God through Jesus Christ did not start when Jesus lived on earth. Rather, it began in Genesis 3. As soon as there was sin, God revealed Himself as the Savior of man. Right then and there!
How did God respond after Adam and Eve had sinned? He didn’t even try to find arguments to prove that the devil was wrong. Rather, He demonstrated that He was completely different from what Satan had claimed Him to be. Let’s take a closer look at how God accomplished that!
1. After the Fall God could have sent angels to arrest Adam and Eve and conduct them to the heavenly courtroom. But He did not do that. Rather, God chose to leave heaven and come downto where sin had occurred, to meet humanity where they were. Years later God did the same when He left heaven and became a man in order to save us.
2. When Adam and Eve hid themselves from God’s presence, He sought them and asked questions. He came to Adam and asked: “Where are you?” “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?” (verses 9, 11). When Adam blamed Eve and in consequence God, He turned to Eve and asked: “What is this you have done?” (verse 13). She blamed the serpent, and thus also God, because after all, who had created the serpent?
Think this through! Why does God ask questions! Doesn’t He know everything? Of course He does. When God asks questions in the Bible, it’s never because of a lack of knowledge on His part.
When Elijah ran away from Jezebel, God asked him twice: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9, 13). When the people brought blind Bartimaeus to Jesus, He asked: “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:51). Before Jesus healed the man at the Pool of Bethesda, He asked him: “Do you want to be made well?” (John 5:6).
When God asks questions, it is because He wants people to see their need of Him. He wants to lead them to repentance and salvation. This is important: The God who asks questions is the God who wants to save. When God came to the garden after the Fall, He came as the compassionate Savior who desperately wanted to save Adam and Eve. When God came to Satan, He did not ask a question. Why? Because the devil had gone too far. God did not come as Savior but as Judge.
3.God also demonstrated His justice and His abhorrence of sin. Adam and Eve had to leave paradise and experience the consequences of their sin. But God did not send them out of paradise without hope. In the sentence given to Satan, God put the promise of a coming Savior who would destroy Satan and save humanity.
4. God revealed Himself as a caring God. He saw humanity with their pitiful leaf garments and knew that they would not manage in the world they were about to enter. So He made them coats of skin to clothe themselves. Innocent blood was shed. It was God who provided this sacrifice. It was God who made the coats. It was God who clothed them. It is important to note that up until that point there was not a single sign of repentance on the part of Adam and Eve. The clothes were not God’s reaction to their repentance. They were rather gifts of grace! What a wonderful picture of the salvation He offers us as a gift, through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Genesis 3 is not just the chapter that shows how God kicked Adam and Eve out of Paradise. It is a chapter that draws a beautiful picture of the character of God and ultimately reveals the gospel. Next time you read this chapter, remember that God’s saving grace is greater than sin!
1 Ellen G. White, Steps to Christ (Mountain View Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1956), pp. 10, 11.
Michael Doernbrack is pastor of the Isny Seventh-day Adventist Church in Germany. He is also the founder and director of the Josiah Mission School in Isny that trains young Adventists, willing to give nine months of their life, to be disciples who communicate the gospel effectively.