Clothed in Christ: A sermon based on Genesis 3
Genesis chapter 3 is the story of the conflict that began all conflicts that began all problems, the problem that began all tragedies, the tragedy that devastated the world. Christians refer to this chapter of the Bible as “The Fall”. Before the Fall, Adam and Eve lived in perfect harmony with God, each other, and creation. This harmony was shattered when the first humans made the devastating that God’s Word cannot be trusted and the world has never recovered. In Romans 5, Paul puts it this way. “Just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned.” Sin and death are like a genetic disorder past from parent to child. Genesis 3 tells the story of how that disorder got in our DNA, and humans became hardwired not to trust God. It is a hard story to hear, it’s a story of mistrust, satanic deception, broken relationships, and curses. But this is all part of the greatest story ever told. In the darkest moment in this story, God makes a way for everything to once again be put right. This morning, I’d like to tell you that story.
Let’s first talk about what came before the Fall. In Genesis chapter 2, God makes a beautiful home in which his precious children can live. They’re in the garden of Eden. They are to rule over the garden, and make God’s ways known to the ends of the earth. God made the garden to be a joy and delight to Adam and Eve. (Slide 2) Listen to God’s provision and generosity in the first part of what He says, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden;” Notice that this command is overwhelmingly positive. The Father would like Adam to enjoy all that He has been freely given them. The Father intends for Adam and Eve to enjoy each other, and their home. But most importantly, the Father intends Adam and Eve to enjoy knowing Him. Yet the Father also gives a warning— “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 die.” The Father wants his children to avoid heartache, suffering and catastrophe, so he warns them about the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But remember, God’s emphasis is on the freedom they have in the garden, they are free to eat all but one tree.”
Soon after a serpent slithers into the garden. The serpent represents personified evil, distorted wisdom, satanic deceit. Scripture doesn’t tell us where he came from, he is just there. The Christian tradition identifies the serpent with Satan. Satan is the deceiver, the accuser, the tempter, the father of lies. Here, in the body of a snake, the Satan makes his first appearance. (Slide 3). The serpent says to Eve, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The right answer is “No, We may freely eat of every fruit but one.” But notice how the serpent subtly twists the Word of God, trying to get Eve to think that God’s word is mainly about what you can’t do.” (Slide 4). Eve takes the bait, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.’” Eve was off to a good start, but notice that the clever plan serpent began to work its way into Eve’s subconscious. She might not even have been aware she was doing so, but Eve began to focus on the negative, what she can’t do. She fixated on it, she even amplified it, saying, “we can’t even touch the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” God never said you can’t touch it, but in her desire for the fruit of that tree, Eve turned up the volume on what God said she could do. Like the serpent, she began twisting the Word of God. The serpent then went in for the kill, saying “You will not surely die, For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The serpent takes Eve from a little twist of God’s word to distrusting God’s character completely. The serpent convinces Eve that God is just looking out for himself, and that God does not have her interest in mind at all. The serpent plants the seed of an idea that God is trying to keep her from something really good. We’ve all heard these words from the Serpent. We all have believed that God says no to certain things for no good reason. Have you ever thought something would be a lot of fun, if only God hadn’t said it was a sin? Have you wondered if God might just be being a prude by saying ‘no’? Maybe he’s being too strict. Maybe he said no but he really said yes. Maybe he never said no to this thing and we’ve all just been mistaken. Or maybe, I can’t actually trust God. Maybe I know better. Maybe God made a mistake. Maybe… That’s the work of the serpent, to break down the trust that is between us and our Father. The work of the serpent is to cause us to doubt that we can trust God at His word. (Slide 5)
So Eve’s trust in God’s goodness broke. She looked at the fruit and thought it looked better. She looked at it again. She wondered what it would be like to sink her teeth into it. She wondered if God would know. She wondered if her husband would know. Maybe he should eat the fruit also. That’s a better idea, she thought. So they ate the fruit together, just like that their innocence was torn from them. Their eyes were opened. They felt naked and exposed.
It’s at that moment they heard the sound of YHWH God in the garden. So, for the first time, they hid from God. YHWH God calls to the man, “Where are you?” Listen to Adam’s response. (Slide 6) “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid. Can you hear the sense of shame in his voice? What is to feel naked but to feel shame? The thought of having your nakedness exposed creates fear. After the Fall, fear and shame became so much a part of our experience of being human — feeling shame, feeling naked, feeling fearful and exposed. Adam and Eve tried to cover their shame with fig leaves. But this probably just created more shame. Imagine trying to cover your vulnerability with a fig leaf. That probably just made them feel more vulnerable. So they hid from God. How much pain and suffering do you think has entered the world because humans were just trying to cover up their nakedness. How much pain and suffering has entered the world because humans were acting out of fear. How much pain and suffering have you seen come into the world from your own sense of fear and shame. This is the inheritance that Adam and Eve left the world — “I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” We’ve found all sorts of ways of hiding our shame and fear. How do you hide your shame? How do you hide your fear?
And listen to how the Father responds. (Slide 7). “Who told you that you are naked?” Can you hear the broken heart of the Father? “Who told you that you are naked?” “Who told you that you should be ashamed?” “Who told you that you should hide in fear?” In other words, God is saying “When I made you, you had nothing to be ashamed of.” “When I made you, you had nothing to be fearful of.” Our Father made us to be without shame and without fear. So God says, “Who told you that you are naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat?” Adam shows us how to try and hid our shame and avoid our guilt. Adam blames God for giving him a wife, and then he says, this woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Full of fear and shame, Adam first blames God and then he blames his wife. Eve then blames the serpent.
Sin has entered the world clothed in fear and shame. God tells them what this means. There is brokenness in family. Pain in childbirth. There will be struggle in the relationship of husband and wife. There will be struggle in human relationships. The ground itself will be cursed with thorns and thistles, food will be gotten through toil and strife. There will be death. So it turns out the serpent was wrong. He said they wouldn’t die. But with sin comes death, and death will find all.
The hope in this story is easy to miss. Yet it is there if you know where to look. As the Father is describing the result of their sin, He is at the very same time providing a way out. Couched within the curse is a blessing, the promise of salvation. That is the character of our Father. Even in the worst circumstances, the Father promises blessing.
(Slide 8). God says to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” This is known as the protoevangelium, which means the Gospel Beforehand. In the pit of the Fall, God promises that from the seed of the woman will come one who shall crush the head of the serpent. God promises that someone will come and destroy the serpent, reverse the curse, and show us how to live without shame and without fear.
In the Gospels, we see this battle begin when the devil tempts Jesus in the desert. The devil tries to deceive Jesus in the exact same way he tried to deceive Eve. Read Matthew 4. There the devil twists, manipulates and distorts the Word of God. But unlike Eve, Jesus never is fooled. He knows the Word of God, he is faithful to the Word of God, and He entrusts Himself to all that the Father has said. The devil left beaten. God said, “He will crush your head,” but he also said, “and he will strike your heal.” Christ’s victory over the serpent can not come without sacrifice, without death. Jesus was faithful even in death. The Cross is the moment the serpent struck. The cross is moment when the Messiah suffered and died. Yet in that moment Satan’s head was crushed. Through the faithfulness of the Father’s Son, Satan was defeated fully and completely, and opened a way out of a life marked by shame and fear.
Satan has been dealt the mortal blow, but he still persecutes the people of God. He still tempts God’s children to mistrust God, He works to find ways to get God’s children to live out of shame, live out of fear. But God doesn’t leave us vulnerable.
I want you to notice the way God responds to Adam and Eve in their fear and shame. God does not abandon them to fear and shame, leaving them naked. Instead, God acts like a Father to them, He gives his naked children new clothes. (Slide 9) “And the Lord God made garments of skins for the man and for his wife, and clothed them.” Remember what had happened. The devil came, incited them to distrust God, leaving them feeling exposed and naked, and then he slunk away. The Father does the exact opposite. He sees his children in their shame and fear, so he makes clothes for them. He covers their shame. So He removes their fear. In short, He is a Father to them.
He is a Father to us in the same way. With the victory of Jesus, God has given us new clothes to wear. These clothes don’t just cover our fear and shame. These clothes empower us to do the opposite, empowering us to live with courage, strength, and righteousness. Tell me if you hear Ephesians 6 in a new way after hearing about how God made clothes for Adam and Eve after they were deceived by Satan. Paul says, “Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” Listen to the clothes God gives you to help in your battle against the serpent: Pauls says, “Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. 15 As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. 16 With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” God doesn’t clothe you to get rid of your shame, and fear. God clothes to be warrior so that with Him you might take back the Kingdom. These clothes do not merely cover our shame and nakedness. These clothes transform us into warriors. The Father has clothed His children with armour, so that through the power fo Christ, we can battle against the serpent. In this armour, we will not be found unprotected and disarmed as was Eve. Instead, we go into battle, wielding the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. In His Armour we shall be clothed until the final day when Christ returns, bringing the new heaven and the new earth, when the serpent shall be utterly destroyed.