Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Fall of Man. What exactly happened?

The Fall of Man

We usually think our inclination away from God became a part of our make up after the fall, which may be the case, however if the capacity or potential ability 
to stray from God did not exist prior to the fall, Adam and Eve would have never strayed.

Therefore, what is the difference between inclination and capacity? The first is the actual direction one is inclined toward and the later is the capacity to choose between different directions/options, not the actual inclining.

Prior to the temptation, Adam and Eve had the capacity to choose more then one direction. Of course ultimately there can only be *two directions, dependence/trust in God or independence from God and trust in self.

*for a fuller discussion of this point see my post on "The Dilemma of Finiteness"

It may be argued that they would not have strayed if not presented with the temptation proposed by the serpent but whatever was in the makeup of Adam and Eve that allowed them to be enticed by the serpents’ proposal, it had to exist prior to the offer. The proposal did not create the ability to choose or not choose God, it only brought it out in the open so to speak, where it could be tested to see if they would use the ability to choose to trust and submit to God and his direction and design or rebel from Him. In short, if there was nothing within them (a capacity) to begin with that enabled or allowed them to be allured away from God and contrary to his direction/instructions, they would not have strayed.

So what exactly was inherent within Adam and Eve that enabled them to choose the serpent’s proposal over God’s command/promise/warning “do not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil…if you do you will die?”

Gen 2:16  And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, "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."

The following passage gives us some clues.

Gen 2:9  And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree 
that is pleasant to the sight and good for 1food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

We are also told in earlier passages

Gen 1:11  And God said, "Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth." And it was so. 12 The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good… 

29 And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruitYou shall have them for food… 31 And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

Five things are evident from the above passages.

·   Adam and Eve were created with the capacity for pleasure; otherwise they would not have experienced it when looking at the fruit upon the 2Trees. 

·    They existed and trees existed. They not only had the capacity to enjoy but there were actual things present to enjoy. 

·      Our capacity for pleasure as well as the things that give pleasure were created by God. In fact this capacity was part of their being in His image, designed so they might enjoy or find pleasure in God himself and his good gifts of creation which convey his love for us.

·   God uses created things to provide for us and sustain us… “every tree…good for food…” These were his good gifts conveying his love, care and provision for us as his image bearers. 

·  They could choose. The fact that there were alternate directions they could take represented by two designated trees indicates they could pick one or the other.

Some call this last ability “free will.”3  (I think free choice better conveys how we were designed. Click here for a discussion on the difference). We do know we are created in God’s image which includes at least the capacity to choose one direction over another, not unlike choosing “competing” alternatives.

If so, is “free will” sin? I could not be since God himself has choice. However it certainly was part of the conditions present that set the stage for sin (rebellious unbelief) to occur.

For a brief discussion on the difference between will verses our passions

One thing we know with certainty from scripture; we are created in God’s image and part of our being like Him is our design for relationship; the giving and receiving of love, honor, and value. And not just any relationship, but primarily for a relationship with God first out of which all other relationships must flow to work properly. 

A key element of any relationship is trust. What was challenged by the serpent in the proposal to our first parents was whether God was trustworthy in giving them what they needed i.e. did he really have their best interest in mind in forbidding them to eat from the tree of the 4knowledge of good and evil. At a minimum the question was raised and entertained of whether God was doing what was best for them in denying them this i.e. was God “holding out” on them. This challenge or enticement by the serpent cast doubt on:

1.  Whether God really loved them and wanted the best for them. A question designed to undermine that relationship of trust in God they experience prior to this enticement.

2.  It also introduced the errant notion that they might better be able to care for themselves than God could.

3.   And, that they would no longer need God to determine what was right or wrong since they would be like God knowing good and evil.”

The warning given by God to Adam was "in the day you eat you will surely die." 

This was a promise/warning given by God that had to be held by faith since Adam had not experienced death and therefore did not have a full grasp of the significance of what it entailed. We can assume all he knew at this point was it was not good only because God warned him it was something to avoid i.e. he had not experienced evil (death) first hand and therefore could not confirm the consequences from personal experience. 

When Adam ate, he broke away from trusting God and placed his trust in himself and in creation thereby breaking trust and separating him from willful and conscious dependence on God as his Creator and Sustainer. Adam pulled away from trust in God thereby killing the relationship with God held together by that trust. Immediately the union between him and God *died (and so did Adam as a result, first spiritually then physically at a later time). And, from that day to this man (on his side of the ledger) lives in an ongoing state of distrust, death and separation from God.

*some argue that the Spirit of God indwelt Adam prior to him breaking trust with God and left once he did. 

Even for us who are in Christ there still remains a strong inclination away from trust in God. It is this inclination that God is reversing through Christ. Or to say it another way, God is always working to restore and increase our trust in Him once we accept his offer of complete forgiveness in Christ. In fact his giving us Christ to restore us is the first proof that he still loves us and we can still trust him i.e. God never moved in his love for us, we did. 

The act of God providing and assigning to us (in Christ) the status of being completely trustworthy and loyal to Him, which we had abandoned (i.e. in Christ he now looks upon us as if we are completely trustworthy and loyal to him) is evidence of God's desire to still be in a relationship with us i.e. even though we had abandon him, he had not abandon us but in fact still loved us as much as he did before our rebellion. The legal consequences however had to be addressed and in Christ they eventually were. 

Christ’s nature vs. ours.

Can we get a clearer understanding on how we are wired by observing how Christ handled challenges, struggles and temptations? Christ didn’t have the deeply imbedded: 

·   “avoidance mechanism” that we now have. Christ was not naturally inclined away from God. He did not have a sinful nature or a deeply rooted distrust of God.

·      or a fixed state of unbelief or state of distrust. Discussed more below.

However, He was a man and operated as a man while on earth. By that I mean He was finite with limitations like every other man. He was the 2nd Adam. He was limited mentally (i.e. not all knowing at all times, in all things) and physically (not everywhere present) and therefore he experienced areas of need, lack and loss (He got hungry, tired, experienced pain and so on) which he had not experienced as God the omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient Son prior to his becoming a man.

What is interesting is the only attribute he completely retained was his omni-benevolence, that he is “all good,” which includes but is not limited to his grace, love, mercy, kindness and patience. This comes out of the core/primary character of God who is love.

Because of His becoming a man, several things occurred. He experienced time. He experienced all those things mentioned above, hunger, fatigue, and pain. He had to learn to depend on His Father and for the first time he had to trust Him in new and different ways i.e. as a man. We are told He became perfect and learned obedience through the things he suffered Heb 5:9, 2:10, and 7:28.

When scripture says Christ learned obedience through the things he suffered, how can the all knowing Creator and sustainer of all things learn anything? Because he set aside His divine attributes and was fully man while on earth. He operated as a Spirit lead man for the first time. He learned to depend on His father in ways he had not encountered before i.e. as a man. He limited himself by his own free choice ("...he emptied himself..."Phil 2:7John 10:18) and experienced challenges which put His trust in His father to the test in a different and new way; a way he had never encountered before. For the first time he experienced things that appeared to indicate His father did not love Him (" God, my God, why have you forsaken me..."), so he had to trust in His father’s love even when it looked like the opposite. This was a new experience he had to go through or "learn." 

This test of trust is not unlike what Adam and Eve experienced in God withholding of the fruit of the tree (or even what we experience when God withholds certain things from us). In forbidding the fruit it appeared God did not love them fully but was holding out on them. And this possibility was presented to them for the first time by the serpent. At least this is the notion they bought into  and acted on (and the very same notion we now wrestle with). 

As well when Christ suffered the loss of certain benefits or faced the prospect of such loss, He too was tempted like Adam to believe His Father did not fully love Him.

As well when Christ suffered the loss of certain benefits (the fullness of his deity during the incarnation) or faced the prospect of future loss (the cross. "...if possible let this cup pass..."), He too was tempted like Adam to believe His Father did not fully love Him (and apparently felt the absence of his Fathers love for the first time when he cried, " God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"). 

But when challenged His trust never faltered, though it was tested, as demonstrated initially in his wilderness temptation and ultimately in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus never chose at any point not to trust His father even though that trust we certainly and severely tested, eventually costing him his life. Unlike Adam or us, Jesus, the man, never actually entered into and participated in any behavior that sprung out of distrust for His father. We know this because we are told He was tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin (i.e. unbelief/distrust) (Heb 4:15).

Us vs Christ

We on the other hand live in an ongoing, seemingly fixed state of unbelief and distrust, which is what was meant by the phrase “avoidance mechanism” used earlier. God is now constantly seeking to wean us away from self trust introduced by the serpent, which Adam bought in to, and reverse that condition by turning us back to complete trust in God and acknowledging dependence on God again in ever increasing levels or degrees. The bible describes this process as “…being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.

We are always being tested at every turn on whether we trust God or not (not because God enjoys our struggles but simply because we were designed to be in a trusting relationship with him and he's seeking to restore [and strengthen] the original relationship and the necessary dependence for that relationship, that we have rebelled from).

We are in a condition of brokenness, but He is the great physician. The underlying disease (separation from God and his love), if you will, has been killed (though the symptoms linger). We are now reinstated, adopted and beloved children of God in Christ. But we are still in ongoing rehab from the lingering symptoms of it and will not be fully mended until we leave the rehab center i.e. this present state of existence.

God’s removing the just condemnation for our sin and putting that on Christ, then assigning His righteousness to our account and freely giving us His Spirit at our spiritual birth, thereby opening up our eyes and His words to us, was the foundation and beginning of that reversal process. 

2Co 3:16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

2Co 3:17-18  Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18And we all, with unveiled facebeholding the glory of the 
Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (emphasis mine)

Now we have a new dynamic within us in addition to the “avoidance mechanism” still present. Now we have a view of God because the veil has been removed. We have been reborn and are spiritually alive whereas before there was no sight, no seeing. How can a dead man see after all? Now we have been given an ever increasing glimpse of his majesty, beauty and glory and as a result have a longing for Him that was not present before His Spirit of love and grace opened our eyes and came to live in us. God has opened our eyes to see what we did not see before, namely, who He truly is in the greatness of his glory, love and majesty. 

Now, with this new dynamic of the Spirit, as we press into Him more and more, He shows us more of His beauty and majesty. Our desiring Him grows the more His Spirit reveals Him to us.  And His Spirit reveals more of Him to us, the more we draw near to Him. The more we draw near the more he reveals. 

When Christ’s trust of His father was tested in new areas there was the real struggle or temptation to choose to not trust His Father. (Mat 26:39Mat 4:1-11)  This is similar to the state Adam was in when he was confronted with whether to trust or not trust God in Eden. Just as Christ, Adam did not have an embedded inclination away from God (avoidance mechanism), and as Christ, Adam was finite with the option and opportunity to become perfected in His trust of God in a fuller way or to not trust Him. Adam chose to not trust God. Christ chose to trust Him. Rom 5:17-19

To recap and sum up, there are 4 factors involved in our first parents being allured away from God, all of which were present before Adam’s rebellion.

1.  The ability of choice to trust in, depend on, or pursue any one particular person or object to derive our sense of meaning and purpose. We are not programmed robots.

2.  We are “wired” for relationship: To give and receive love, honor, and value. We are designed to love and be loved, to honor and be honored, to value and be valued. Therefore we need and desire the giving and receiving that come through relationship and cannot be complete without relationship.

3.  We are finite and therefore dependent on someone or something outside ourselves to be whole and complete as we were intended and designed to be.

4.     The presence of created things that have real value and use for us.

      By created things I mean everything that comes from God that is not God. Not just animal and plant life but everything; the air we breath, the sun we have, fellow humans, time we are allotted, our ability to think, choose, feel, taste, hear, see, smell, touch, consume, procreate, our very existence, everything. “…in Him we live and move and have our being” Act 17:28.

The creation was also evidence of God’s care, creativity, power and majesty and intended to point us to Him. Created things give glory and display the worth and beauty of God (if the painting is beautiful imagine the wonder, variety and creativity of painter is like). Created things were not given to us to derive our ultimate, eternal and permanent meaning from or to be used to that end but were designed to display His love and majesty and glory to us, so that we would be drawn to Him and worship Him through them. Instead we are now drawn away from Him by these things. Not because of the things but because of our distrust of our Creator and Sustaining God.

Again, all the above elements were a part of our being creatures created by God that existed prior to the fall. Without any one of them, the rebellion of Adam and Eve could not have occurred.

Key reasons *created things will not and cannot give us what we need.

·   They are designed to display, demonstrate, express, declare, manifest the greatness and majesty of God and thereby point us to Him, the true source of life.

·    They are not life itself but sustained/maintained by God and given as gifts to sustain our lives i.e. they are the means of life not the source of life

·      For our sustenance and enjoyment to be received with thanks

·   To demonstrate God’s love, power, wisdom, majesty to us and to others with and through them. 

·      We are designed for the eternal (God) and not the temporary (creation). The temporary, though very real and very necessary (we are and always will be created/physical beings) are a window through which we observe and receive the truly beautiful and majestic, God himself. 

Even now as fallen but completely redeemed men and women in Christ, we still must choose to trust God or not trust Him on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis. We are confronted with that choice of whether to trust or not trust Him at every turn. We are not fully aware of the extent to which we do not trust Him or when this takes place and how deeply we are still inclined away from trusting God. This is part of the maturing process; discovering how deeply we are inclined away from choosing to trust God and in turn abandoning our attempts at independence (self trust).

The difference between Adam before he rebelled and us since that rebellion is we now carry around within us a natural inclination or bent away from God in a way we did not before we rebelled. This inclination away from God is now a core, deeply embedded and fundamental part of our make up and still with us even in Christ. What is the same however is we also still have choice. As before the fall, we still must choose or not choose God today on this side of the fall. We still must decide if we are going to trust God’s offer and direction for our lives and that it is better than our choosing our own direction, simply because we did not create ourselves and do not necessarily know what it is we need most to be all we were designed to be (though we certain tenaciously cling to the belief that we do). This is the exact opposite of what Adam did in his rebellion.

Since Christ, a new dynamic is also present within us. The Spirit of God and Christ, who reveals the love of the Father and the Son to us, enables us to understand, reveals His words to us, resurrects faith to us and guides us among many other things.

So is this capacity or ability to be drawn away, which we had from the beginning, the same as our current propensity to be drawn away, or are they somehow different?

It seems there is a deep seated and fixed distrust in us now, that wasn’t present in Adam before the rebellion. That distrust appears to have become a part of our present and fixed state once Adam and Eve crossed the threshold of not trusting God in choosing to participate in what was forbidden by God, eating from the forbidden tree. Before the fall there was only the capacity to distrust. Now it is an embedded and ongoing part of our make up i.e. it is a present inclination within us, our nature. 

Though all the elements that made it possible for distrust were present, (the four listed above) something occurred once we crossed that line of actually choosing not to trust God, which has marked us in a way we weren’t before that choice. We know we spiritually died and we can speculate that the "breath of life" breathed into us at our creation i.e. Spirit of God himself, left indwelling us at the rebellion. But even now, with the reintroduction of God's Spirit upon our acceptance of God's offer of forgiveness for that rebellion, we seem to have a new element I have called the "avoidance mechanism" that was not present in Adam. 

Unlike Adam, who had no natural pull away from God, we are inclined away from God even as His children. And unlike Adam when he was tempted, he did not have to fight this natural inclination away from God that permeates every part of our souls, as we do. So in some sense it appears the trust required of us is greater then the trust required of Adam as we are always fighting this embedded bent away from God.

However, at the same time, this condition results in a greater appreciation and experience of all that God is. This appreciation displays God more fully in all His grace and glory for where sin abounds, grace much more abounds and to him who is forgiven much lovesmuch

So what appears on the surface to be a disaster, the rebellion of Adam, in fact turns out to be to our ultimate benefit and to Gods greater glory.

Rom 11:33-36  Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?" "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"  For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Certainly the trust required of Christ was far greater then Adam’s and what Christ gave up was far greater than Adam. Adam was simply asked to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of God an evil. He actually did not know what he was being asked to give up since he had never experienced death or the knowledge of good and evil or even understand what is was.

Christ on the other hand emptied himself of all His divine attributes and in addition suffered a cruel and shameful death He did not deserve. He took all of this in himself voluntarily so that we might be bought back and restored to a relationship with our loving Creator and Provider which we rejected, and still reject.

It is the inclination of this ongoing and subtle distrust of God that is deeply rooted within and throughout us that our loving father seeks to remove and heal us of.

God allows us to be sinful…

Today, the offer to remove the barrier and hostility that is between God and us as untrusting rebels (sinners) is available for anyone who accepts Gods provision offered in Christ. Through Christ we can be restored back to the full communion and relationship we had with Him before our rebellion. 

But once restored, He does not fully remove our inclination away from Him. But He does put his Spirit within us and places His “…laws into our minds, and write them on our hearts…” so that we might come to Him freely as He reveals himself to us… as we see Him in the greatness of love and that He loves us even when we do not fully trust Him. (He does this because He wants us to come to Him out of choice, not as robots or mechanically. So we would freely choose Him because we love Him). We now relate to him only as his beloved children. So in the greatest sense (God's view of us as beloved) our distrust of God no longer matters. He see's as perfect. 

As we see His love for us more and more, regardless of what we are like it makes us want to conduct ourselves in such a way that brings Him honor, joy and pleasure. We love him because He first loved us.

If our bringing honor to God was not something we freely chose out of love, trust and gratitude for Him, it would not bring Him true honor. Honor is best brought about by those who freely choose to honor Him. Those who seek to honor Him because they love Him, because they want to honor Him not because they have to honor Him. Christ met the obligation of having to. If they had to honor Him then it wouldn’t be done out of love, it would be done out of threat. We would obey Him out of threat not out of love, gratitude and appreciation.


See Chandlers “Explicit Gospel” on how God draws us by grace not fear.

1Implied and inherent in food is dependence. Adam and Even needed sustenance on a regular basis i.e. they were dependent on food as creatures prior to their rebellion if only to experience the pleasure of eating. Certainly for even life itself with the tree of life, otherwise why call it the tree of life. And ultimately God was the sustainer even though indirectly through food. 

2Adam and Eve had the capacity for pain before the fall but did not experience it as we do now because his spiritual, emotional and physical needs were fully meet by God. The experience of pain resulted from the absence of those needs being meet and the absence of the pleasure he was experiencing in and through his union with God and God's complete provision before he rebelled from that union.

3In our present state of rebellion and separation from our Creator, we do not seek God on our own. So God must seek us. And He did initially and primarily through sending Christ to demonstrate His love and provision to restore us back to Him. In addition he does so now. By letting us experience the full brunt of the inadequacy of our living without Him. He either creates within us a complete dissatisfaction in the creation (in whatever form we are most dependent on it be that money, fame, pleasure etc) or allows us to experience so much pain that His creation can not sustain us so we cry out and turn back to him.

4For a further discussion of the knowledge of good and evil click here


  1. Excellent Commentary Jim. As always it is great to read your thoughts.

    1. Glad is was helpful Jesse. Appreciate the feedback.



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Grace to you
Jim Deal