God and the Ideas of Man, Part 1

[Taken from the The Gospel in Genesis: From Fig Leaves to Faith by Martyn Lloyd-Jones copyright ©(2009). Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.]

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Genesis 3:1

There is no doubt at all that judged from almost any angle you like, Genesis 3 is one of the most important chapters in the entire Bible. That may seem strange to some. Many Christians have felt that surely the whole Old Testament is unnecessary, that as Christians we need nothing but the New Testament. But the early church, which by then was mainly Gentile, decided that the Old Testament should be incorporated with the New Testament in this book that we call the Bible. And undoubtedly these early Christians were guided by the Holy Spirit to do this. They had prayed for guidance, and they believed they had received it. So they said that a Gentile who became a Christian needed the Old Testament just as much as a Jew did. And the reason is that the whole Bible is the history of God's dealing with men and women. It is the history of redemption. And what gives this third chapter of the book of Genesis such exceptional importance is that we are given here the history of how man first fell from the good estate in which God had originally placed him. In other words, it is the beginning of human history.

I say again that I am calling attention to this chapter because we are concerned about a very practical issue. There may have been a time when the preaching of the gospel was a kind of hobby. Some perhaps might even have regarded it as a sort of a luxury. But I do not think anybody can take that view at the present time. Life has become desperate. It is very easy to understand the mentality of our forefathers [in Britain] a hundred years ago. The pax Britannica was in vogue. There seemed to be no dangers at all; life went on, and you could make basic assumptions. But it is no longer like that. We in this century and in our generation have come to learn that life is a very critical matter. We have had to learn this, whether we like it or not, and we are concerned about it. We find ourselves surrounded by problems and often overwhelmed by them, and we want to know where we can find relief. What can we do? Is there a way of escape?

Now I was indicating last time, in a very general manner, that the Bible deals with that very situation. There is no more up-to-date book in the world than this old, old book that we call the Bible. It is concerned about men and women. It is concerned about you. It is concerned about all of us just as we are and where we are. It speaks to our very condition and holds before us a way of life. And here in Genesis 3 it tells us why we are in this condition, why things are as they are in the world in general and in our own individual cases. That is the special message of Genesis 3. Let me just remind you of what we have said about this already.

The Bible presents us with a definite, concrete, comprehensive worldview that is absolutely different from anything you can find anywhere else. The great marks, I said, of its message are these: it starts with God; it tells us that he has created everything; it tells us that man is not merely an evolving animal but a special creation of God; it tells us how Satan and evil came in, how man fell, how man is utterly helpless and under the judgment of God. But it tells us also how God in his infinite love and mercy and compassion has intervened and has provided a great and a grand way of salvation, which is preached and offered to the human race.

That is our general statement, and we are given all that in just one chapter. But the point I want to make now is that this is actual history. This is something that literally did happen. I must not dwell on this subject too long, and yet it is very important. There are people who say, "Yes, I'm interested in Christian doctrine, but I'm not interested in those early chapters of Genesis." That is an utterly illogical position. I cannot see how anybody can believe in the Christian salvation taught in the New Testament without believing these chapters of Genesis.

One of the greatest exponents of the Christian faith that the world has ever known was the mighty apostle Paul, and he tells us that we are as we are because of the sin of Adam and that we all sinned with him and we all fell with him. And Paul says that over against Adam is the Lord Jesus Christ: "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). The first man did this; the second man did that.

It is very important, therefore, that we should be glad that this is history. This is what makes the Bible such an extraordinary book and fills it with such fascination. I repeat that Genesis 3 is first of all history. But in addition to being history, it is an actual account of what every one of us does. According to the Bible, the remarkable thing about men and women in sin is that not only have they been taken down, as it were, by Adam, but they do the very selfsame thing themselves. They go on repeating the action of Adam. So here we have this amazing history, and at the same time we are given an analysis of the very thing that we do ourselves.

Let me put it like this: we find Adam and Eve becoming desperately miserable, filled with a sense of fear, and hiding, not knowing what to do with themselves. We find them condemned to a certain type of life, with the woman told that she will have to bear her children in sorrow and in pain, and the man told that he must work and earn his bread by the sweat of his brow. There they are in that condition. Now the question is, how did they ever get into that state? Remember, they were not always like that. Go back to Genesis 2, and you will find there they were in a condition that is described as paradise. Yet now here they are in this abject misery. What produced this tremendous change?

And the answer is given in the first verse of Genesis 3. It was because man ceased to listen to God and to what God said. There is really nothing more to say than that. That is the proposition. There is only one explanation as to why the world is as it is at this minute and as to why every single individual is as he or she is at this second. It is that the man and the woman listened to that question of the tempter: "Hath God said . . . ?" That is, "Do you really believe that? Are you really being bound by that?" The Devil came and said, "Hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" And because they accepted that question and acted upon it, they brought ruin upon themselves and upon all their posterity.

And this, I want to show you, is the perfect picture of every one of us. There you see Adam and Eve confronted by God's way—God had made them; God had blessed them; God had surrounded them with benefits and put them in the garden, in paradise. They simply had to pick the fruit, as it were, and enjoy themselves and enjoy their communion with God. Yes, they did all that. But God added something to that. God added a law. God said to them in effect, "You can go on living this sort of life endlessly—on one condition." And the condition was that they obeyed God, that they recognized the supreme authority of God, that they recognized that God had a right to do with his own as he chose and that God really, even in giving his law, was concerned about their well-being and happiness. That was the position. The blessings were being showered upon them, but there was this law, this condition, this demand for obedience. But they rejected that. It was just at that point that they went wrong and brought all that misery upon themselves.

Now the whole case for the gospel of Jesus Christ today is just like that. I preach because God has spoken. He has spoken to the world. He has sent his only Son into this world to speak to us and to give us a message. What is it? Well, God offers to take us as his children, to make us his heirs. He offers all the fullness of his own blessed Son and the blessings of the gospel, which Paul describes as "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Ephesians 3:8). He offers us the kind of life that Christ himself lived, a life of joy and peace and many wondrous unmixed blessings. But he adds to it the same demand, the same request. He would have us live as the Lord Jesus Christ lived. He would have us be holy. He says, in offering us all these blessings of the gospel, "Be ye holy; for I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16).

The gospel of Jesus Christ, in other words, is not just some pleasant message that says, "Go and do anything you like; God loves you. It will be all right at the end. Receive all these blessings, and there's no more to say." God does not stop at that. "Ye that love the Lord," says the psalmist, "hate evil" (Psalms 97:10). If you want to love God, the gospel tells us, you cannot love mammon at the same time. If you want to walk along the narrow way, you cannot continue on the broad way. If you want your house to be on a rock, it cannot be on the sand.

Always coupled with the blessings, there is this demand. The gospel is not just a statement that God is benevolent and loving and that it does not matter what we do, that everything will be all right at the end because God is love. And because it is not that, men and women still object and still go on repeating exactly what was done in the garden at the beginning by Adam and Eve.

I want to try to show you, therefore, as we look at these first verses in this third chapter of the book of Genesis, what exactly we do when we reject Christ. There is something almost unbelievable about this story, is there not? As we look at it in terms of Adam and Eve, we find it almost incredible that they could have done such a thing. But they did. I say again that this is history, and all the consequences have followed. And I am holding the picture before you, I repeat, because it is an equally true portrayal of what every one of us has done. Oh, that we may have grace to see it! If we could only see ourselves as we are in sin, I do not believe we would stay there another second. And God, in his grace, has given us a picture so that we may see exactly what we are doing.

The first point that I observe as I look at this picture is the way in which this rebellion began. What was it that made Adam and Eve behave as they did? What was it that led them to eat of that prohibited fruit? Well, the astounding thing is that they did it simply on the strength of the dogmatic assertion of the Devil, and because of nothing else whatsoever. I wonder if you have ever noticed that as you have considered this chapter. Have you seen that the Devil did not give any reasons at all? I see it all in the original question: "Yea," he asked, "hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" And you hear the sneer in his voice. His whole philosophy comes out at once. He is raising a query. "Poor innocents," he seems to say, "do you really believe that?" He does not provide any proofs at all. He simply asserts certain things. He puts it still more specifically later: "Ye shall not surely die" (Genesis 3:4). And that is all there is to it: "I say so!" And they listened.

Now it is at that point that I find it rather difficult at times to understand Adam and Eve. And yet the moment I begin to think, I understand them very well because I know that everybody who is a sinner—and we are all sinners by nature—and everybody who remains in sin is in that position in exactly the same way.

Now this is rather striking, is it not? Have you ever realized that people who are not Christians are really basing their whole position simply upon nothing else but a dogmatic assertion? There is no proof whatsoever. Of course, I know that people say, "Science proves . . ." But does science prove? "Of course," they say, "no sensible person, nobody who has any learning, especially any scientific knowledge, believes that today." And because somebody comes to me with that assertion, I am expected to say that I had better not believe. But nothing has been proved at all. And yet we say, "All right, we will turn our backs and say we no longer believe."

That is the very thing that Adam and Eve did. They listened to a dogmatic pronouncement unaccompanied by any proof whatsoever. And this is where the contradiction emerges. People are never tired of speaking of the dogmatism of the pulpit—the dogmatism of the preacher, the dogmatism of the church—and they do not like it. But I want to ask you a simple question: if you are not a Christian, if you do not believe the Bible and if you do not believe in God, on what grounds are you not believing? What are your reasons? What is your argument? Where is your proof? Can you prove to me that there is no God? Can you prove to me that Jesus of Nazareth was not the only begotten Son of God with two natures in one person? You say you do not believe it. You do not believe in miracles either. Does that prove that he never worked a miracle? Can you prove it? Do you have anything beyond a dogmatic assertion?

I have often quoted a famous statement made about a hundred years ago by Matthew Arnold, a very literary man, but I want to quote it again because I think it is a perfect example of the attitude to which I am referring. He put it like this: "Miracles cannot happen. Therefore, miracles have not happened." There is no more to say, in his view. And people listen to that, and they still believe it. Matthew Arnold says it all: "Miracles cannot happen. Therefore, miracles have not happened." Of course, if the first statement is right, the second is right, and the "therefore" is perfectly legitimate. But the vital question is, what about the first statement? Who can establish the fact that miracles cannot happen? Nobody can. It has never been done; it never will be done.

Now I must not stay with this preliminary method, but, my dear friend, I do trust that I am opening your eyes to this position. What are the grounds of your unbelief? What is the basis for your rejection of the gospel? What do you really have to substantiate what you say you believe and what you do not believe? On what is it actually based? Do you have anything to say except "So and so does not believe . . ." or "I read an article" or "I heard a man say . . ." or "Nobody any longer believes . . ." or "Science says . . ." and so on and so forth? I suggest to you that when you analyze your unbelief, you will find that it just comes to that. It is a tremendous hoax.

I take the view of those who say that the greatest hoax of the last hundred and fifty years has been the theory of evolution. It has hoaxed the vast majority of people. It was originally a theory, but it has been turned and twisted as if it were a fact that everybody believes. But it is pure dogmatic assertion. It is nothing beyond a supposition.

That happened at the beginning, and it has been happening ever since. On the basis of a pure bit of dogmatism, man has brought upon himself the misery and the wretchedness that he is still enduring. Let me appeal to you in the name of Christ and of the gospel, begin to think. Think! "That's all sob stuff," you say. This is not sob stuff. The great appeal of the gospel is to men and women to think. They have been duped by the Devil. They are living in darkness.

When the risen Lord commissioned the apostle Paul to go out preaching and to be a witness to the people, he said, "Open their eyes . . . turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:18). Go and enlighten them, said Christ to Paul. Open their eyes. Teach them. Instruct them. Make them think. Tell them how to think. Men and women are deluded by a prejudice; they are silenced by a dogmatism that comes from the archenemy. It began like that, and it has continued like that. That is the trouble.