It’s incredible how much affect the account in Genesis 1 to 3 has on our understanding of Christian doctrine. An attentive and thoughtful reading of the creation account, institution of man and woman in the garden, and of the subsequent fall is essential to understanding the entire redemptive fabric of the canon (redemptive=story of salvation). The creation account offers us cosmic truth. The garden shows us God’s intention with his creation. We so often need to remember that the current world we live in, as we will see, is cursed. But, because of the death and resurrection of Christ, the cosmos are awaiting a great and grand redemption with us. See Romans 8:18-23.
Further, we need to understand that this garden paradise was a sanctuary. This was a place where God spoke directly to Adam and Eve (cf. Gen. 1:28, 29; 2:16, 18; 3:9, 13-14). We are also told that God walked in this garden (3:8). This same verbal expression is used to describe God’s presence (lit. ‘walking’) in the Temple (see Lev. 26:12; Dt. 23:14; 2 Sam. 7:6-7). The imagery indicates that God’s presence was in the garden. Its interesting to note that the Temple walls, which ‘contained’ the presence of God were inlaid with pictures of open flowers and gourds. The innermost part of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, was symbolically guarded by two cherubim whose wings stretched the entire breadth of the room (compare Genesis 3:24). Further, in Genesis 2:15 Adam is told to “cultivate and keep” the garden. These same verbs are used to describe the work of the priests’ in the temple: “to serve and keep” (see Num. 3:7-8; I Chr. 23:32). This is imagery reflective of Genesis 1-2. Its important to see that later Old Testament revelation reveals that Adam was a kind of priest, who was to keep charge of the garden sanctuary. This was more than paradise, this was where God and man dwelt together on earth.
This is why we are told in Genesis 3:23 that God “sent” Adam out of the garden. God cannot fellowship with sin! Isaiah’s reaction in Isaiah 6:5 when he sees God sitting on his throne is very instructive, “And I said: Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” Seeing God did not cause Isaiah to become a sinner. Instead, seeing God made Isaiah acutely aware of his sinfulness. This sin problem is the continuing problem of mankind.
But, here’s the big question? Did Adam sin? What’s going on in this story of the Fall? Many think that the serpent testing Eve is simply a fictional story that represents the existences of both good and evil in the world. Although I’d love to spend time on these kind of theories, we must take the narrative of Scripture as historical reality. There really was a serpent and Adam and Eve were truly the first human beings. Paul himself recognizes this and prescribes Adam’s sinful actions in the garden as the reason that we are all born into sin: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12). The role of Adam as priest in the garden sanctuary sheds light on his representative role for all humanity. There are many theories on how Adam’s sin has past down to us. I think these are silly and useless. The point is, that’s what happened and that is the condition we are all now in: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5).
So what was this sin? Next time we shall have a closer look at the temptation of Eve and the resultant Fall. Until next time…