Posted by: Billy Marsh | March 24, 2008

Life Outside the Garden: A New Enemy

Recently I’ve been comparing and contrasting the Fall narrative in Genesis 3 which occurs inside the Garden of Eden and the “Fall” of Cain in Genesis 4 which happens outside the Garden. Needless to say, I’ve been amazed at just how many parallels there are between the two temptations. I think that it is very interesting that in the first recorded scenes of life outside of the Garden, which immediately follows the sin of Adam and Eve that was committed inside the Garden, we are quickly told of another tale of failure and blatant disobedience before God.

However, as I glanced back and forth between the two chapters, something in particular began to stand out in the narrative. It wasn’t necessarily a new insight or truth that I had for all these years overlooked; rather, it was something that this time leaped off the page with a new dynamic and prophetic warning.

The unity and bliss of Paradise is dramatically interrupted in Gen 3:1 with the words, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.” The enemy has arrived on the scene. He is the great deceiver; the father of lies (Rev 20:2, 7; Jn 8:44). And his nature is clearly manifested in the narrative. The first words that the serpent utters reveals that his mission is to distort God’s Word and to deceive God’s people. Eve, unaware of the sinister designs of her new found companion, falls prey to his sly manipulation of the discussion. Yet, she is not without fault. In answering the serpent’s loaded questions, Eve fails to accurately reproduce and uphold God’s specific commandments.

Once Eve is persuaded to accept Satan’s argument and has convinced herself of the permissiveness of her future fallen actions, we see that the devil has left the scene. The deed is done. Mission accomplished. Eve takes Adam on her own. Inside the place where God himself “walks in the cool of the day,” the serpent and sin have infiltrated Paradise and the hearts of mankind. We do not see Satan mentioned again until 3:13 when Eve blames him for her sin and immediately acknowledges his work of deception.

However, hope remains. Not only do we have the glorious Christological promise in 3:15, but we also see God’s mercy and grace poured out upon the first couple as they are driven from the Garden instead of being removed from the face of the earth as one would expect. The wrath of God is being stored up for another object, namely, Jesus Christ, who was the propitation for our sins and who “bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed (1 Jn 4:10;1 Pet 2:24).”

Yet, when we enter the first glimpses of life outside the Garden of Eden in Gen 4, in the descent of Cain, we see God warn Adam’s firstborn son to beware of a new enemy. This time, however, instead of a crafty serpent, the new enemy is likened to a crouching lion, ready to pounce and devour its prey’s very life.

Cain’s anger and unrepentant heart illumine the new state of mankind as a result of the Fall. God had no regard for him and his offering, and instead of humbling himself before the Lord seeking forgiveness, he spurns God and his loving warning. God initiates the opportunity for Cain to repent with the words, “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it (4:7).” In God’s caveat we see that if Cain fails to do what he knows to be right before the Lord, that sin, not the serpent, is waiting to consume him. However, in this case, whereas inside the Garden the enemy existed outside of man, now, outside of the Garden, the new enemy lives inside of man. Cain must now battle the lion of sin that is in his own heart. Instead of seeking to satisfy the will of the serpent, he must struggle not to satisfy the evil desires of the self.

As the story goes on, we see that Cain never responds to God’s warning. Rather, in 4:8, he speaks to Abel and then when they are in a field, “Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him.” The new enemy, namely, man’s sinful nature devoured the life of the one who failed to live in obedience to God. Yet, it was Cain’s fault, no one else’s. Not Eve’s, not Adam’s, not the serpent’s, only Cain was the possible and deserving candidate of the person responsible for his failure to believe God in faith like his younger brother Abel (Heb 11:4), repent of his wicked ways, and offer a true sacrifice that was pleasing to the Lord.

The Apostle Paul writes in Romans 5:12, “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.” Adam’s sin inside the Garden of Eden brought death and guaranteed that now, every human being born outside the Garden will have a sinful nature. So, not only must God’s people be on the outlook for Satan, whom Peter describes so closely to the way God portrayed sin to Cain in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” but we must also be mindful of the wickedness of our own hearts. Once again, we see in Paul’s letter to the Romans a familiar scene in his words from Rom 7:19-20 where he laments, “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.”

Let us not be deceived into always thinking that the temptation to do evil or to be disobedient is from the attack of Satan. Though this may well be the case, it is much more likely that the sin in our own hearts is crying out in rebellion against God’s Word. But, in Christ, we know that we can have victory over the flesh. We must walk daily in the Holy Spirit. Paul writes to the Galatians, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (5:16).” We must heed God’s warning to Cain and in the power of God in Christ, “rule” over our sinful nature. Praise God for the promise we have been given from God through the atoning and justifying work of Christ. Juxtaposed to what we read earlier from Rom 5:12, later in that passage, we hear this joyful truth from Paul, “Therefore, as one trepass 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 (Rom 5:18-19).” The new enemy, just like the old serpent, is passing away.

“For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. . . . And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

~ Galatians 5:17, 24 ~

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