Genesis chapter 3 tells the most tragic story of cosmic history. Typically referred to as “the fall,” it is the account of the entry of evil into human history. The man and woman did the one thing they were prohibited from doing. And the fact that they committed this sinful act before they were infected by sin’s inner temptations or outer frailties makes it all the more outrageous.
The sin of Adam and Eve presents something of a crash course in the nature of sin and temptation. The words of a creature take precedence over those of the Creator. What the eyes perceive are granted greater weight than the words of God. “So the tempter pits his bare assertion against the word and works of God, presenting divine love as envy, service as servility, and a suicidal plunge as a leap into life…” (Kidner, 68). Throughout, the one charged with the responsibility of leadership – Adam – remains passive. He neither drives the intruder from the garden nor provides instruction for his wife. What this tells us about the role of husbands and those charged with spiritual leadership is significant.
Genesis 3 is the explanation for all that is wrong in the world. All acts of wickedness, all instances of human frailty, and all of the decay and disasters throughout the creation find their origin in the sin of our first parents. Paradise was lost in that one wicked moment in the garden. And ever since, all of creation, including every human, has “been groaning together” in pain (Romans 8:22). But even in the groaning there is the promise of redemption “as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Romans 8:23).
The doctrine underneath the narrative is that of original sin. Being the representative head for all his descendants, Adam’s sin and its attending guilt is passed along to the rest of the human family. This means that we are all literally born sinners. Before we commit a conscious sinful act we carry in us the corruption of our first father’s sin. The Apostle Paul argues from the historicity of the fall to demonstrate God’s gracious response to the sin of mankind:
Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19)
Adam is the “one man” whose sin resulted in the condemnation of all who have followed. Jesus Christ is the “one man” whose “one act of righteousness” and “obedience” leads to the salvation of many.