THE SIN FACTOR - DEATH AND DIVISION

THE BIBLICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MARRIAGE  

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2004

 

We have looked at marriage in the original creation. It does not require much thought to realise that these truths do not feature in the attitudes and relationships between men and women today. Genesis Three records the entry of sin into the world and the changes that entered the male/female relationship at that time and continue to impact us in the present.

These changes are of two kinds: 

1] changes that automatically accompanied the disobedience of God’s command, and 

2] changes that occurred by the judgement and decree of God.

 

STUDY THREE: DISOBEDIENCE, DEATH AND DIVISION

Copyright © Rosemary Bardsley 2004

 

In Genesis 2:17 God confronted man with one prohibition. The existence of this prohibition is an essential companion of creation in the image of God.  It distinguishes man from:

 

[1] the inanimate creation, which functions in a mechanical manner,

[2] the animate creation, which functions by programmed instincts.

 

Created in God’s image, man has the freedom to act by choice, within the realms of what is possible. This freedom included the freedom to obey and the freedom to disobey. Here in this command man, created in a relationship of communion with God, is asked to live in the reality of that relationship by choice. To love and obey God by choice.

 

When we ask the question ‘Why did God create Adam with the ability to disobey, that is, to sin?’, we are in effect stating that we wish God had made us without the ability to choose, without the freedom to choose. We are wishing that he had made us either like the animals or like the inanimate creation: pre-programmed, predetermined. We would then have been less than human, less than the image of God.

 

God did not create us sinners. But in creating us free, unprogrammed, undetermined creatures he created us with the ability, the possibility, to sin. Nor did God create sin. But in giving the word of prohibition ‘but you must not eat ...’ God implied by this prohibition and exclusion that sin was possible. God did not create suffering. But by stating the consequences of sin – ‘you will surely die’ - he revealed that suffering was possible, and that it would happen, if we chose disobedience.

 

Let us note that sin had no independent existence or reality of its own: it existed only as a possibility dependent on our choosing to disobey the word of prohibition. Sin – our disobedience to the divine command, our refusal of the fundamental creature-Creator distinction and roles, our refusal to love God – is something to which God said ‘No.’ So also are all the flow-on effects of sin.

 

Genesis 3 records our rejection of the creature-Creator relationship that is taught in Genesis 1 and 2. In response to Satan’s deceptive suggestions the first humans exchanged

Obedience to God for disobedience.

Dependence on God for independence.

Submission to God’s word  for rebellion against God’s word.

A God-centred life for a man-centred life.

Belief for unbelief.

Trusting God for trusting oneself.

The truth for a lie.

Life for death.

 

The impact of this choice is catastrophic.

 

For the Bible’s teaching on our involvement in this choice, this exchange and this impact read Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22

 

A. THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL [Genesis 2:17; 3:5]

God’s prohibition of eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a prohibition with our well-being in mind. This is obvious from the stated consequence ‘you will surely die’. Satan, however, deceived Eve into thinking that God was withholding something good and desirable, that God’s prohibition stemmed from mean and selfish motives in God [3:5]. The tree itself was insignificant, God could have said ‘Don’t do this’ or ‘Don’t to that’ and what ever he prohibited would have been the focus of the ‘knowledge of good and evil’, for the ‘knowledge of good and the evil’ consisted in our rejection of his word. Disobedience to the word of God, rejection of the authority of God, catapulted Adam and Eve into an experiential knowledge of evil and of the distinction between good and evil. Having disobeyed the command, having refused to love God, attempting by their choice to exist independently of God and his Word, they now know by immediate experience what ‘evil’ is: it is, in essence, disconnection from God. This experiential knowledge of evil [of sin and suffering] has characterized human life and human marriage ever since.

B. DEATH AND DIVISION [Genesis 2.17; 3:7-13]

God warned in 2:17 that ‘death’ would surely come on the heels of disobedience. By this word ‘death’, as we will see below, are included all forms and levels of suffering.

 

B.1 Death and division within [Read Genesis 3:7]

Satan had promised ‘your eyes will be opened’ [3:5], and indeed they were. But not to a better perception. The ‘knowledge of good and evil’ he promised brought a destructive self-awareness within the individual that tortures and fractures people right up to the present. Our rejection of God and his command brought a death and a division within our own being. We are our own worst enemy. We consistently embrace self-destructive thought patterns. We live with a sense of self-rejection and a self-focused fear of rejection by others. Even in our pride there is a constant necessity to promote ourselves. We are riddled with psychological problems.

 

Make a list of ways in which this destructive self-awareness commonly manifests itself today within the hearts and minds of individuals. [One is listed to start you off].

Self-rejection

 

 

 

 

Discuss how these expressions of inner death – alienation, fragility and fragmentation within our self - interfere in the marriage relationship.

 

B. 2 Death and division in interpersonal relationships [3:7,12]

Accompanying this separation between man and his own being is a parallel separation between man and his fellow man. The relationship of peace and unity and mutual acceptance that characterized the relationship between Adam and Eve in 2:25 is shattered. Their now destructive self-awareness translates into a destructive awareness of, and vulnerability in the presence of, the other and the other’s opinion. Their inner shame and division has automatically created a division between them, separating them from each other. They now feel compelled to protect, defend, preserve and justify themselves, even if it means further severance and disconnection from the other. Instead of peacefully fulfilling their God-given role of imaging him they now, having chosen life cut off from God, live cut off from each other, with the perceived necessity of presenting and preserving their own image.

 

Discuss the following questions in relation to the attitudes listed below.

1] How does this attitude express the death and division that occurred as a result of rejecting God?

2] To do as homework: How do they express themselves in your marriage relationship, and what are you going to do about them? [You may need to wait till Part 4 – The Redemption Factor – to know how and what to do.]

Criticism of the other

 

 

 

Blame-shifting

 

 

 

Refusal to admit guilt

 

 

 

Self-justification

 

 

 

Shame in the presence of the other

 

 

Efforts to cover-up wrong-doing

 

 

Pre-occupation with one’s own survival and reputation

 

Insensitivity to the feelings and reputation of the other

 

Although it is not mentioned in Genesis 3 we can legitimately conclude that the divisive, destructive attitudes expressed there inevitably generate fear between man and woman. This conclusion is validated by both history and experience. In modern terminology these expressions of this death of the interpersonal relationship, if persistent, are labelled in the category of emotional and verbal abuse.

 

A second factor in relation to fear, is that the above expressions of death and division both within the individual and in interpersonal relationships are generated by fear. This primary fear is the fear of loss of identity – and it is in fact a valid fear in man severed from God, for in rejecting God we have actually rejected our fundamental identity as his image-bearers and as his dependent creatures.

 

[1] Discuss the roles and expressions that fear has in marriage relationships generally.

 

 

 

 

[2] [Personal] Now identify the presence and expression of fear in your own marriage relationship.

 

 

 

 

 

B.3 Death and division between man and God [3:8-13]

In this point we come to most significant impact of our fall into sin: separation from God. It is this disconnection that automatically generates the other disconnections. We were created to live in relationship with God and dependence on God; we can only fulfil our God-given identity in face to face relationship with God. To try to live in independence from God, which we sought in our disobedience of the 2:17 command, is to try to live as humans severed from the very source and meaning of our existence as humans. It is to reach for an impossibility.

 

The life lived by every human being since Genesis 3 is not human life. The caution of 2:17 ‘you will surely die’ tells us that this ‘life’ in which we survive as humans beyond our choice to separate from God, is actually ‘death’.

 

Write out and memorize these Scriptures that identify us as ‘dead’

Ephesians 2:1

 

 

 

Colossians 2:13

 

 

 

 

This fact of our existence as ‘death’ is verified by the gospel promises that in union with Christ we gain ‘life’ or ‘eternal life’, and by the gospel statements about regeneration or being ‘born again’, at which we will look in a later study.

 

The choices made in Genesis 3:1-6 separated man from God: they constitute a rejection of God and his word, a turning away from a dependent, trusting, face-to-face relationship with God. In this rebellion man becomes severed from his source, his sustenance, his purpose/goal and his identity as human. The resultant isolation, exposure, disorientation and alienation are expressions of this ‘death’. 

 

Alone, cast adrift by his own choice, he who was made for relationship with God and with his neighbour, now, as well as the inner and relational severances noted above, also experiences:

  • Fear in the presence of God [3:8,10]
  • Guilt in the presence of God [3:8.10]
  • Separation from God [3:8,10].

 

C. PRACTICAL IMPLICATIONS OF THIS DEATH AND DIVISION

Keeping in mind what you have learned in the two studies on the Creation Factor, thoughtfully work through the exercises below. For every question, discuss the relevance to the marriage relationship.

Above all, don’t despair, in a few studies further on we will be looking at an additional factor that changes the whole situation for those who believe in Jesus Christ.

 

Break into small groups and discuss the following questions: [See Additional Note #5 ]

Does this separation from God negate the value that creation in the image of God gives to man? Validate your answer.

 

 

 

 

Does this separation from God negate the dignity that creation in the image of God gives to man? Validate your answer.

 

Is it possible for this man of Genesis 3, who is separated from God, to fulfil his God-given identity as the image of God? Validate your answer.

 

Is it appropriate to describe the man of Genesis 3:1-13 as ‘vulnerable’, ‘fragile’ and ‘fragmented’? Validate your answer.

 

What connection has the word ‘lost’ with the separation from God that resulted from the Genesis 3 choice?

 

 

In what ways do the words ‘threat’, ‘threatening’ and ‘threatened’ apply to this dead and divided man of Genesis 3:7-13?

 

What impact has Genesis 3:1-13 had on the equality and unity of the sexes seen in Genesis 1 and 2.

 

 

What impact has Genesis 3:1-13 had on the mutual interdependence between the sexes in Genesis 1 & 2.

 

 

How has the final statement about the creation of the world [Genesis 2:25] been changed in Genesis 3:1-13?

 

 

 

HOMEWORK TASK: During the week:

[1] Look at yourself and your attitude to yourself. Identify evidence of vulnerability, fragility and fragmentation.

[2] Look at the way you relate to your marriage partner. Identify evidence of alienation, self-preservation, self-justification, blame-shifting.

[3] Talk to the Lord about these evidences of the Genesis 3 death and division, acknowledging your personal sin, and embracing his forgiveness.

[4] If appropriate, talk with your marriage partner about your personal expressions of this three-fold division. Ask forgiveness. Give forgiveness. Commit to trust in God, not yourself.