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Sunday, June 23rd, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Genesis 3

Carroll's Interpretation of the English BibleCarroll's Biblical Interpretation

Verses 1-24



Genesis 3

Now we come to the third chapter of Genesis, which gives us an account of the first man on earth, the fall of man, his expulsion from the garden, and all of the fearful consequences that followed that sin. We must regard this third chapter of Genesis as history in every particular. It is true that the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil, while actually trees in that garden, do symbolize things, but everything in this chapter is literal history and not allegory. The other books of the Bible, both Old and New Testament, are rooted in this third chapter of Genesis and built upon it. This chapter explains the necessity for redemption, and gives the first promise of redemption.

Some years ago in San Angelo I was the guest of a cultivated gentleman who, by the way, was an avowed infidel. He evidently wanted to involve me in a discussion of infidel points. I saw on his mantle Tom Paine’s Age of Reason. I picked up the book and said, "Sir, this is the book that first led me to distrust infidelity." I showed him in the first volume of that book, which was written in a French prison when he had no Bible before him, and then in the second volume of the book, which was written after he escaped from the prison and had a Bible before him, the same declaration to this effect: "If the account of Genesis about the Garden of Eden, and the talking serpent, and Adam and Eve, and the flood are to be regarded as history, why is it no other Old Testament book even so much as alludes to these things as facts?" I read that statement to my host. He said, "How did that cause you to distrust infidelity?" I said, "I would not have distrusted it so much if I had found it in the first volume only, when he had no Bible, but when I found it in the second book, which was written when he had a Bible, it made me know that there was no accuracy or reliability in any statement that he might make." My host said, "Do you question that statement?" I said, "I can find four hundred allusions in the Old Testament books to what Tom Paine says there is no shadow of an allusion."

In analyzing the third chapter and making an elaborate outline, this would be our outline:

1. The tempter

2. The tempted

3. The temptation

4. The woman’s sin

5. The man’s sin

6. The threefold immediate results:

(1) The awakening of conscience;

(2) Shame;

(3) Hiding.

7. The trial

8. The judgment

9. The woman’s new name

10. The expulsion and the intervention of grace:

(a) The promise, protevangelium, that the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head;

(b) The clothing of Adam and Eve in skins;

(c) The establishment of the throne of grace at the east of the garden.

Let us take up that analysis in order.

So far as Genesis shows, except by implication, the tempter was an actual serpent. Dr. Adam Clarke, in his commentary on Genesis, Bays the tempter was an ape. But I have never found even a Methodist that followed him. He has an immense discussion on it. As a curious thing in commentaries, just read what he says about an ape being the tempter. While the New Testament refers to the tempter, Paul says the serpent beguiled Eve, yet in other places in the New Testament and particularly in John’s Gospel, letters and Revelation, the agent back of the instrument is given as Satan, the devil, that old serpent.

This instrument employed in tempting man, as I have already told you, was before the temptation a flying serpent. If you read the book of Isaiah you will see a reference to fiery, flying serpents. This is to be inferred from the penalty put on the serpent, that after he committed this offense he was to crawl, implying that before that time he had not been reduced to that necessity, and to eat dirt with his food. The agent of this temptation is thus referred to in the eighth chapter of John. The promise says that enmity shall be put between the woman’s seed and the serpent’s seed. Christ says to wicked men, "Ye are of your father, the devil, and the lusts of your father it is your will to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and standeth not in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie he speaketh of his own, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

When death came to Adam and Eve, so far as Satan was concerned, it was a murder that he had committed. Just as in the next chapter he incites Cain to murder. Cain was of the wicked one. You must look on the downfall of Adam and Eve as a murder committed by the devil. They sinned, but when Satan is put on judgment, he is put on judgment as a murderer. He brought about their ruin by lies.

The next question is: What credentials did the serpent bring to accredit him to Eve and thereby deceive her? He is represented as coming as an angel of light. Eve certainly did not suppose that she was listening to the devil. She thought in her heart that the one who was telling her these things had given evidence that he was from God. What were the credentials? There was one miracle, and that was, talk. A serpent talked. Eve knew that no beast or reptile had ever talked before. Here comes this beautiful, flying, shining serpent, and talking. Just like one miracle was a sign to the Ninevites and accredited Jonah to them, so this one miracle accredited the serpent to Eve. So when we come to the New Testament we find that in the last great attempt to seduce the human race, when that man of sin comes that we read about in 2 Thessalonians, he will come with signs and wonders so as to almost deceive the very elect. You must then look upon this woman’s case as a case of deception. In the New Testament it is expressly stated that the woman was deceived. I know of but one other instance in the Bible of a brute talking, and that was the ass that Balaam rode which, under the power of God’s Spirit, talked, and that was a sign to Balaam that the angel of the Lord was there. The next thing is…

Whom did he tempt? He did not tempt Adam. He tempted the woman. He is trying to get Adam, but he is too sharp to approach the man himself. He does not believe that he can impose on Adam. But the woman being the weaker vessel, he believes that he can deceive her, and that through her he will get the man. That is the plot. It is expressly stated that Adam was not deceived. The tempted, then, was the woman.

Suppose we commence reading the chapter and as we find a point on the temptation, you notice. "And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?" There is a reflection upon the word of God. So at the present time, I come before a man with the Bible and I say, "You ought to do this." He says, "Yea, hath God said that? How do I know that God said that?" And he suggests and injects into my head a doubt as to whether we have any word of God. This particular temptation Satan could never have brought before Adam because Adam knew God said it. God gave that law to Adam before Eve was made. Eve gets her version of it from Adam. You now see why Satan goes to the woman. Satan comes the same way to you and me. He would not go to Paul and say, "Did the Lord Jesus Christ give that gospel to you that you might preach?" But he will come to you and me and say, "Did the Lord Jesus Christ give that gospel to Paul?" You see we get our evidence of it second-hand. The first element of the temptation, then, is to suggest a doubt as to whether God had issued a law.

The second suggestion to Eve: He calls her attention to the only limitation in the law and not to the broad permission in the law. "Yea, hath God said, Thou shall not eat of any of these trees?" He did not say, "O woman, how good God is I He gave you permission to eat of the ten thousand trees." But he points out just one tree forbidden. You recall the old "Bluebeard" story. He has married a woman and brings her to his castle with its three hundred rooms and gives her the keys to every room in the castle. And over the door of one room he writes, "Thou shalt not unlock this door and enter." A friend coming, would say, "Are you, a wife, shut out from a room here? Now why? He gave you this key to hold you and you are perfectly free to open it." You see how subtle that suggestion is. Just so, Satan comes to a boy at the present time to whom his father has given a wide margin: "Now, my son, all the woods pasture you may range over; and all that prairie land you may range over, and you may get all the hickory nuts in the woods, and the berries and the fruits in the garden, everything that you need. But there is one hole down yonder in the creek. Don’t you go swimming in that hole." The boy will go and look at that place and say, "Why can’t I go swimming in here? It doesn’t look very different from the holes below here and above here. What on earth did my father mean by telling me not to go swimming in this place?" You can see how the tempter can make that boy feel very bad; can make him take no pleasure in the broad permission all around, if there is just one forbidden place.

That suggestion has another evil in it: "In limiting you this way is God good? Now if he loved you, why did he not say, You can eat the fruit of any of these trees?" That is very subtle, and would catch the women and boys and the men and the girls now, and does it all along.

Notice the second part of the temptation. When the woman answers the question by defending God she says, "He has given us permission to eat of every tree in this garden but one, and that one he has commanded us not to eat of lest we die." There is a penalty attached. Now comes the temptation: "Ye shall not die" – that is just a scarecrow, just a make-believe, a bugaboo. There is where Satan commenced his big lying. He is the father of lies. He knew if they took of that tree death would ensue, and yet he boldly affirms they would not die. At the present day he does that way. Men are seduced to sin in the hope that they will escape its penalties, and because sentence against an evil deed is not speedily executed; says God’s prophet, "The hearts of the children of men are fully set in them to do evil." If the sinners down on the streets of our cities in their hearts believed in the certainty and awfulness of the entirety of hell, it would have a tremendous influence by way of restraint, but they have heard the devil say, "You shall not die."

He enlarges that temptation. He said, "God knows that if you eat of that tree your eyes shall be opened. God knows that ye shall be as gods, discerning good and evil." You see that suggestion is twofold. First, it is an appeal to the desire for knowledge, and an appeal to the ambition, "Ye shall be as gods." You now know why I quoted those three passages about the king of Babylon and the prince of Tyre, and the man of sin who exalted himself above everything that is called God, setting forth himself as God (Isa. 14; Ezek. 28; 2 Thess. 2). There was an element of both truth and falsehood. Unmixed falsehood never makes a good tempting bait. "In vain is the snare spread in the sight of the bird." You have to fool the bird. Here is the element of truth: The record distinctly says that when they ate that fruit their eyes were opened, so that what the devil said was true, and yet it was false. While knowledge came to them of good, it was of good lost. While knowledge came to them of evil, it was knowledge of evil by experience and without the power to shun it. As an old writer has said, "Their eyes were opened to know good without the power to do it) and to know evil without the power to shun it." While on the surface it was a truth, in the heart of it was a lie, and Eve was deceived.

In a certain sense they did become as God, and God admits it in the close of the chapter: "And Jehovah God said, Behold, the man has become as one of us, to know good and evil." But he did not know good and evil like God knows good and evil. God does not know evil experimentally. "Their eyes were opened and they saw their nakedness, and the sight brought them shame." Cardinal Newman says that the conscience was born right there. I don’t agree with him, but I do believe it was awakened there. Dr. Strong also seems to think that conscience was born there, but man started with a conscience. There had been no exercise of the conscience until sin had been committed, and then conscience shuddered against it.

The woman yielded. Let us see what was the form of her yielding. "And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food" – that is an appeal to the appetite – "and that it was a delight to the eye" – that is the lust of the eye, and the other was the lust of the flesh – "and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise" – that is the pride of life Just as John enumerates them in his letter. You see then, the temptation came through her ear, her eye, then through her fleshly appetite, and ambition and pride. When she saw that, "she took of the fruit and did eat." That was her sin.

But she did not stop at that. I never saw a woman willing to stand entirely alone. So she passed the fruit over to Adam. Now, who tempted Adam? Nobody but the woman. "The woman gave to Adam and he did eat." The serpent did not tempt him. We need here that passage from Milton describing man’s reason for sinning. I heard a distinguished scholar say that Milton’s statement of Adam’s reason for sinning, namely, to stand by his wife even if she went to hell, was the sublimest thing even in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Over in France, when some great man who has been loved, trusted and honored suddenly falls, the first question they ask is, "Who was the woman?"

Let us look at Adam’s sin in contradistinction from Eve’s sin. To use a common phrase, "Nobody pulled the wool over Adam’s eyes." He was not deceived. He knew God had said what the devil suggested to Eve that he had not said. He believed that if he ate of that fruit it meant death. He never doubted God’s word. But he deliberately ate of that fruit because the woman asked him. Unquestionably Adam’s sin was greater than the sin of Eve, and the death that has reigned over this world has not come because Eve sinned; don’t you think that. It came because Adam sinned. The human race did not fall in Eve. They are recovered in Eve through the Saviour who is her seed, but not the man’s. We fell in Adam. He had DO excuse in the world. He preferred the woman to God; that was his excuse. Many a man has done that. The next point is:

First, the awakening of conscience. Conscience is that inward monitor that passes judgment on the rightfulness, of our actions. Before God said a thing conscience had pronounced judgment, and hence John said, "If our hearts condemn us, how much more will God, who is greater than our hearts, condemn us?" Their consciences within them convicted them. Hence at the final judgment, when God pronounces the last doom on any of the lost, they won’t say a word because inside of themselves that same judgment has already been pronounced. Paul, referring to this, said of the heathen who had never had the Word of God that yet they have a law, not a revealed law of God in a Bible, but they have a revelation in nature and in the constitution of their being, "their consciences meanwhile accusing or excusing them." The second thing was that they saw their nakedness, not merely physical, but spiritual nakedness in the sight of God, and shame followed and fear followed. "The wicked flee when no man pursueth." Now comes…

God is going to hold the trial himself. He is represented as going into the garden in the cool of the evening, and who can hide away from him? Jeremiah says, "No man can hide from God." The prophet Amos says, "There is no place where the guilty can hide from God." Psalm 139 says, "If I should take the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost part of the sea, even there thine eye would see me and thy right hand would hold me." The theme of this psalm is the omniscience of God, showing that we cannot escape from it. We cannot hide even in hell from it. They ran into the bushes. You know an ostrich thinks if it sticks its head in the sand it is hid. Sinners take to the brush just as soon as conscience speaks. They begin to adopt disguises and masks and hide, trying to cover up their transgressions. If they get a letter they are afraid to open it for fear they will have bad news. If there is a sudden sound they think somebody has come after them. The night is peopled with phantoms, chimeras, and hobgoblins.

Now, the sinners are hid and God comes to make inquisition. One of the psalms says, "When he maketh inquisition for blood, he will remember." A murder has been committed. Two immortal beings have been murdered. His inquisition is in this fashion: "Adam, where art thou?" You used to come to meet me. You had no fear at all. You were always glad to meet God. Where are you now? What a question! How far that question can go! One of the mightiest sermons I ever heard in my life was preached on that text. That penetrating question went out into that audience, making people take their latitude and longitude, making them discover their whereabouts, making them see how much they had drifted. Where are you as compared with yesterday, or last year? And so God forces an answer, and the answer is a very candid one. Adam says, "I heard thy voice and I was afraid because I were naked." God says, "Who told you that you were naked? How did you find that out?" It was conscience that told him. That representative of God on the inside ia the one that gave that information, and so God, even if he had not been omniscient, would have known that sin had been committed. And hence he says, "Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?" There is no dodging that question. A man may lie in a human court. A man may plead not guilty and swear to his innocence when he knows he is guilty. But when that question of God comes to him he has to answer according to the truth. Adam tells the truth. He says, "The woman that thou gavest to be with me, she tempted me and I did eat." You often hear that discussed m sermons as if Adam were putting the blame on somebody else. He is telling the naked truth; that is exactly what happened. God did give him that woman, and that woman did tempt him and he did eat because she tempted him. He does not justify himself. Now suppose Adam had resisted that temptation. Eve would have been lost, but the human race would not have been lost, for God could have made another woman. The race did not stand in Eve; it stood in Adam.

Now God turns to the woman, "What hast thou done?" and she tells the truth. "The serpent beguiled me and I did eat." Every word of that is true. She was deceived. She did not lay this blame on Adam because he was not to blame for what she did except in one particular, which I will tell you about after awhile. She told the simple truth: "I was deceived. I thought an angel of light came, and he came accredited by a miracle. After I had committed the sin and my conscience woke up, I knew I was wrong. I was beguiled and the serpent was the one that did it." Adam was culpable for Eve’s sin because being present he did not restrain her, nor warn her. The record says she gave to the man who "was with her." It is poetic license in Milton when he represents the woman alone in her temptation.

God does not ask the serpent any questions. He pronounces judgment. The judgment commences on the serpent. First, a curse, and this curse, so far as expressed here, is on the instrument. "Cursed shalt thou be above all the beasts of the field. Thou shalt hereafter crawl; thou shalt eat dirt. Thou shalt have thy head crushed by the seed of the woman." It is fulfilled in a snake. But those of you who remember the sermon on "The Three Hours of Darkness" may recall how in that last conflict with the devil Christ put his heel on the ’serpent’s head, and though the serpent bit the heel he crushed its head.

The judgment on the woman is severe. "I will multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, thy child-bearing shall be with pain. Thou shalt be subject to the man and he will rule over thee." When the man is good, a Christian man, forgiven of his sin, and his wife has been forgiven of her sin, their relation is like it was before, the woman is next to his heart, and the rule is not the rule of a lord and master, but the two walk together in mutual love and support each other. But if he is a bad man, see how he rules over the woman. Look at India, China, Africa: there the women are slaves, goods and chattels. Let one of these heathen get into straits and he will sell his wife. Look at the Indians. One of the most eloquent things I ever heard was by Dr. Winkler in an address on foreign missions. He said, "I stepped into an art gallery and saw the picture of an Indian chief. He seemed to have the very strength of an angel, and by his side was an Indian maiden, and how beautiful she was." Here Dr. Broadus intervened with: "Stop describing that girl before all these young men fall in love with her" – but Dr. Winkler went on – "But who is that crouched behind the man and the girl? It is a wretched old hag. Who is she? She is the Indian’s wife. She hoes his corn and cooks his venison and carries his burden and is his slave. And as she is, so will this beautiful daughter be when she marries." Now turn to the curse on the man. "Cursed be the ground for thy sake." The whole creation was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but because it was man’s home and a curse was put upon the earth where man lived.

The next item of the outline is:

In the second chapter of Genesis Adam calls her woman, that is, derived from the man. After this promise is made that the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head, he changes her name to Eve, signifying the mother of all the living. I am sure that there is some recognition of the promise in the giving of this name – that she was to be the mother through whom all who would live forever would obtain their life. There is a great significance in that change of name. Just like there was in the change of Abram’s name to Abraham; in Sarai’s name to Sarah.

The last item of the outline is:

The intervention of grace consists of three things: first, a distinct promise that the seed of the woman would bruise the serpent’s head. That is called the protevangelium. That is the first ray of light concerning the coming Redeemer, that he was to be the seed of the woman. When the Messiah came we find that a woman was his mother but no man was his father. Through the man, therefore, death came into the world; through the woman the Saviour came into the world. The second idea of the plan of redemption is that consciousness of nakedness led these people to the vain attempt to clothe themselves. But grace intervenes with a better clothing of the skins of animals. Every intelligent student of the Old Testament has found at least a suggestion in this that no man can ever cover his spiritual nakedness in the sight of God by his own works, and that if he be covered it must be with the righteousness which God provides. But the principal thing in the intervention of grace is in this last verse which I quote: "So he drove out the man, and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden the Cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every way to keep the way to the tree of life." Now, I am no Hebraist, and I have no issue to make with those who are really Hebrew scholars, but I will cite three distinguished Hebraista who give a somewhat different rendering to this passage. Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, in their commentary on Genesis, make that read this way: "And he [i.e., God] dwelt at the east of the garden of Eden between the Cherubim, and a Shekinah [a fire-tongue, or fire-sword] to keep open the way to the tree of life." The same thought is presented more clearly in the Jerusalem Targum, or Jewish commentary on the Old Testament. Dr. Gill, the great Baptist Hebraist of England, presents the same thought. Whatever may be the grammatical construction of this passage in the Hebrew, it means this: that having expelled man from the garden, God established a throne of grace and furnished the means to recover from the death which had been pronounced. There was the mercy scat and there were the Cherubim, and there was the symbol of divine presence in that fire tongue or sword, and whoever worshiped God after man sinned must come to the mercy seat to worship and he must approach God through a sacrifice. In no other way than through an atonement could one attain to the tree of life. All passages that refer to the Cherubim connect them with grace and the mercy seat, not as ministers of divine vengeance, but as symbols of divine mercy. Moses, in Exodus 25, constructs the ark of the tabernacle exactly like the one here used in the garden of Eden. He has a covering or mercy seat, with two Cherubim with a flame between the Cherubim. That was the throne of grace, or mercy seat, and sinners came to that through the blood of a sacrifice. So we may be certain that Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown, and the Jerusalem Targum, and Dr. Gill have given the spiritual interpretation of this passage. It is true that the object was to bar out man except through the intervention of the mercy seat, and it is true that the purpose of the mercy seat was to keep open the way to the tree of life. "Blessed are they who have washed their robes that they may have a right to the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God."

Let us understand that immediately after the fall of man grace intervened. First, with a promise of a Redeemer who would destroy the works of the devil. Second, with clothing symbolizing the righteousness of Christ. Third, with a mercy seat indicating the method by which God could be savingly approached. From this time on until the flood that mercy seat is at the east of the garden and whoever would partake of the tree of life and live forever must come to God where he dwells between the Cherubim, where the Shekinah is the symbol of his presence, and that we can only come to him in the blood of an atonement. You have only to commence the next chapter to see how worshipers came before the Lord with an offering. Where was the Lord? There was a particular place, just as the ark of the covenant was in a place. They came before the Lord, where he dwelt between the Cherubim, with their sacrifices. Cain refused to offer the sacrifice that God’s law required, having no faith in salvation by a Redeemer, and he went away from the presence of the Lord there at the mercy seat, and all his descendants went away from the presence and lived without God and without hope in the world. Every Bible student ought to fasten the mind and the heart on this last verse of the third chapter of Genesis as the establishment of the throne of grace.

1. What: is the subject of the third chapter of Genesis?

2. What caused Dr. Carroll to first distrust infidelity?

3. In this temptation, who was the tempter?

4. What was his object?

5. Who was tempted, and why?

6. What was his instruments?

7. How did Satan accredit his instrument to Eve?

8. Why did he so accredit the serpent?

9. How does this show that he came in the guise of an angel of light?

10. To what solitary point does the temptation by the serpent so accredited address itself?

11. How did Eve obtain her knowledge of the divine prohibition?

12. Was this second-hand knowledge to her accredited by any miracles?

13. Cite New Testament proof that she was really deceived, honestly supposing that he was obeying God.

14. Was Milton right in supposing Eve to be alone when she was tempted, or was the man with her?

15. Did the serpent’s credentials beguile him?

16. Why, standing by and not deceived, did he not interpose to disabuse his wife of her mistake?

17. Being not deceived himself, knowing that disobedience was wilful and deliberate rebellion against God and meant death, why did he eat?

18. New Testament proof that the fall of man came by one transgression?

19. Was this transgression the woman’s or the man’s?

20. Show why death did not come to the human race by the woman.

21. Can you discern in this a reason that redemption should come from the seed of the woman and not from the seed of the man?

22. What was the nature and extent of the death penalty attached to the violation of the law?

23. Was this penalty then enforced?

24. What intervened to suspend it?

25. Yet what consequences of sin did follow the violation of the law?

26. How did Adam’s fall affect his posterity? New Testament proof?

27. In order to any man’s restoration to godlikeness what works of the Holy Spirit does this depravity necessitate?

28. In order to his justification, what work of Christ?

29. How was this the first race probation?

30. Under what new covenant did the intervention of love and mercy place the fallen man?

31. Expressed in what Edenic promise?

32. In what way must man now (at that time) approach God?

33. Cite and correctly render the scripture showing that God did keep open a way to the tree of life in that garden from which man was expelled.

34, Were the judgments pronounced in Genesis 3:16-19, intended as a complete fulfilment of the penalty threatened in Genesis 2:17, or where they more in the way of necessary consequences of sin whose supreme penalty was suspended by the intervention of grace?



Our study of the third chapter of Genesis revealed the first sin on earth, its trial and judgment; the consequent expulsion of man from the garden of Eden, and intervention of grace introducing a plan of redemption. Before proceeding in the history of fallen man we need to dip somewhat into systematic theology in order to fix in our minds some fundamental doctrines concerning both sin and grace.

We are not prepared to give even a definition of sin until we consider the several words which name it, or are its synonyms. We give the words in both Greek and English: Hamartia – "Missing the mark," Matthew 1:21; Romans 7:7; Hebrews 9:26. Anomia – "Lawlessness," 1 John 3:4; Romans 7:8. Asebeia – "Unlikeness to God," Titus 2:12. Adikia – "Iniquity, perversion from righteousness," Acts 8:23. Apostasia – "Apostasy, or falling away, or departure," i.e., from God or the faith, 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 4:1; Hebrews 3:12. Echthra– "Enmity," i.e., toward God, Romans 8:7. Epithumia – "Cupidity, covetousness, lust," Romans 1:24. Kakia – "Wickedness," Acts 2:25. Poneria – "Wickedness," Luke 11:39. Sarx; – "The flesh," Romans 8:2-7; 2 Corinthians 5:16; Galatians 5:16-21; 1 Peter 3:21. Plane – "Error, false opinion," 1 John 4:6.

Even a glance at these words in the connections cited shows conclusively:

That sin implies a law or standard of righteousness, prescribing the right and proscribing the wrong, and law implies a lawgiver to whom the subjects of law are related. That law is not law which does not provide judgment and penalty. That sin cannot be limited to external, overt acts but must also be a disposition or state of the heart or mind. This will the more appear by comparing Matthew 15:19-20, with Romans 1:28-32. Other scriptures also show that as moral law does not arise from its publication but inheres in our relations and in the very constitution or nature of our being, it must be a fixed, universal, and unalterable standard and not a sliding scale that adapts itself to our varying knowledge or circumstances. See the atonement provided for sins of ignorance (Leviticus 4:14; Leviticus 4:20; Leviticus 4:31) and of omission (Leviticus 5:5-6); and the prayer to be cleansed from secret faults (Psalms 19:12) and the consciousness of past sins awakened by the knowledge of the law (Romans 7:9-10) and the penalty assessed on the servant who knew not the will of the master (Luke 11:48). With these and like scriptures in mind we consider next:

Sin is weakness or finiteness.

Sin is in the body, or matter; when the soul escapes from the body it will be sinless.

Sin is the voluntary transgression of a known law.

Sin is a necessary discipline.

"Sin is a fall upward."

The first definition ignores the fact that the worst sinners are the strongest in mind and body. It makes God the author of sin and contradicts conscience.

The second definition restricts sin to matter, cannot account for fallen angels who have no bodies, nor the suffering of the disembodied rich man in our Saviour’s parable (Luke 16), and ignores many scriptures which make envy, ambition, pride, covetousness, anger, the gravest sins. It also ignores the fact that the body is only the servant or instrument of the soul. We might as well say that the gun with which a man is killed is guilty of murder.

The third definition limits sin to an overt act when it may consist in not doing, and limits to transgression when it may consist in merely falling short and makes the law a sliding scale adjusting itself to the varying degrees of knowledge, when oftentimes not to know is a sin.

The fourth definition takes away all demerit from sin and even encourages evil as a means of education. This was the essence of the serpent’s suggestion to Eve to acquire knowledge of evil by experience.

Sin is lack of conformity to the moral law of God, either in act, disposition, or state. The essence of sin is selfishness, that is, putting self in God’s place. Dr. Strong says

It is not merely a negative thing or absence of love to God. It is a fundamental and positive choice or preference of self instead of God, as the object of affection and the supreme end of being. Instead of making God the centre of his life, surrendering himself unconditionally to God and possessing himself only in subordination to God’s will, the sinner makes self the centre of his life, sets himself directly against God and constitutes his own interest the supreme motive and his own will the supreme rule. While sin as a state is unlikeness to God, as a principle is opposition to God, as an act is transgression of God’s laws, the essence of it always and everywhere is selfishness. – A. H. Strong in "Systematic Theology."

Dr. Strong also quotes from Harris: "Sin is essentially egoism or selfishness, putting self in God’s place. It has four principal characteristics or manifestations: (1) Self-sufficiency instead of faith; (2) Self-will instead of submission; (3) Self-seeking instead of benevolence; (4) Self-righteousness instead of humility and reverence."

All this further appears from a glance at four persons:

The sinless Saviour, who sought not his own will but the Father’s (John 5:30; Matthew 26:39); spake not from himself (John 7:16; John 7:14); sought not his own glory (John 7:18); pleased not himself (Romans 15:3); exalted not himself (Philippians 2:5-6).

The Man of Sin, 2 Thessalonians 2:4, "Who opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God."

Saul of Tarsus, who was the chief of sinners because the most self-righteous (Philippians 2:4-5; 1 Timothy 1:15-16).

Satan, the first sinner (1 Timothy 3:6) compared with his great followers, the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14:13-14) and the prince of Tyre (Ezekiel 28:2-6).

John 3:3 – "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except one be born anew, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

Colossians 3:9-10 – "Lie not to one another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his doings, and have put on the new man, that is being renewed unto knowledge after the image of him that created him."

Ephesians 4:23-24 – "And that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind and put on the new man, that after God hath been created in righteousness and holiness of truth."

Loss of godlikeness, i.e., righteousness and holiness. Alienation of mind and heart. Corruption of the whole moral nature in all its fountains. Hence moral inability to keep God’s law. The incurring of guilt and subjection to the penalty of the divine law. This appears from the necessity and nature of regeneration.

Death physical and spiritual. Separation of soul from God, separation of soul from body. Did the race sin and fall in Adam? Romans 5:12-21: "Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned. . . . By the trespass of the one the many died . . . the judgment came of the one unto condemntion . . . So then through one trespass the judgment came unto all men unto condemnation . . . Through one man’s disobeydance the many were made sinners . . . Sin reigned in death."

Does this apply to infants who never reach personal accountability? Romans 5:14: "Death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam’s transgression." "The wages of sin is death; but eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord is the gift of God" (Romans 6:23). David says (Psalms 51:5), "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." There has been but one child of woman born holy (Luke 1:35), "And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Most High shall overshadow thee; wherefore also the holy thing which is begotten shall be called the Son of God."

What is meant by total depravity? The depravity of a man refers to his fallen nature derived from Adam. Ephesians 2:3: "We are by nature [i.e., by birth] children of wrath." The word "total" refers to all the parts-of his nature. That is, the depravity extends to all the fountains and faculties of being, but does not refer to degrees or intensity of particular sins. It does not mean that a sinner cannot progress in sin, waxing worse and worse. Simply that there is no part of man holy, and no part that can originate holiness.

It is evident from the foregoing that apart from grace all men come into the world sinful by nature and become sinners by practice. Such is the testimony of Scripture. There is no good tree that bringeth forth corrupt fruit. That which is born of the flesh is flesh (1 Kings 8:46; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10; Romans 3:12; Romans 3:23; Galatians 3:22; James 3:2; 1 John 1:8), hence the necessity of both regeneration, sanctification, and atonement to save men. "By grace are ye saved."

1. Give eleven Greek words for sin and their English rendering.

2. From these words setting forth what sin is, what does sin imply?

3. What does law imply?

4. What must law provide in order to be law?

5. Is sin limited to overt acts, or does it apply to a disposition or state of heart or mind? Give Scripture proof.

6. From what does moral law arise?

7. Prove that law is not a sliding scale that adapts itself to our varying knowledge or circumstances.

8. Cite five false definitions of sin.

9. Expose the error of the first.

10. Of the second.

11. Of the third.

12. Of the fourth.

13. Of the fifth.

14. What is the true definition of sin?

15. What is the essence of sin?

16. What is the substance of Dr. Strong’s definition?

17. Cite four characteristics or manifestations of sin as selfishness.

18. Compare on these points the sinless Saviour, giving Scripture on each point.

19. On the same points compare the opposite of the Saviour, the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2:4.

20. Show wherein Saul of Tarsus was the chief of sinners.

21. Cite scriptures showing the same characteristics of Satan himself.

22. What loss in his nature did man suffer from sin?

23. How does this appear from the necessity and nature of regeneration? (Three scriptures.)

24. What the penalty of sin?

25. Cite clear New Testament proof that the race did sin and die in one act of Adam.

26. Give Scripture proof that this applies to dying infants who never reach accountability.

27. Quote Coleridge epitaph of four infants in St. Andrew, England.

28. What is meant by total depravity?

29. Proof from Scripture that apart from grace all men come into the world sinful by nature and become sinners by practice.

30. What works of grace necessary to save men?

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Genesis 3". "Carroll's Interpretation of the English Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bhc/genesis-3.html.
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