A narrative meditation upon the imputation of Christ’s active and passive obedience, from Gen. 2:8–3:24.
They were both naked, the man and his wife, and they were not ashamed.
They are in the midst of a garden paradise, recipients of the bountiful goodness of the Lord God. He had created them and placed them there with a blessing: ‘Be fruitful and multiply.’
Near to where they stand is the Tree of Life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
Before the woman had been created, the Lord God had commanded the man concerning that latter tree, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’
Also in the garden is a serpent. He is more cunning than any beast of the field that the Lord God had made.
The serpent speaks. The woman listens.
‘Has God indeed said, “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden”?’
An ostensibly innocuous question. And the woman has the answer, so she thinks.
She converses with the serpent.
‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.”’
The woman overstates the prohibition.
Perhaps this is her error, or perhaps it was the fault of her husband when he relayed to her the Lord God’s command.
One of them, certainly, had added a hedge to God’s word – one tiny addition. For God had commanded the man not to eat of the tree’s fruit, but He had said nothing about not touching it.
(How easily we add to what God has spoken.)
With that one addition – oh how small and seemingly insignificant! – the woman opens the door to her adversary the Devil.
The serpent, liar and murderous deceiver that he is, assures the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’
And so the woman entertains temptation and gazes at the tree.
What a beautiful tree! How good it would be for food!
Enticed by her desire to become wise like God, she reaches out and takes its fruit.
(See, she is unharmed! The serpent was right! Surely there is no danger here.)
Having suffered no consequence from touching the fruit, she eats it. In contravention of God’s command, a fatal act.
The woman also gives to her husband, who is with her.
(Why has he not intervened to keep her from harm? Does he not see the danger?)
The man had heard the clear words of God’s voice forbidding him to eat this fruit. He had heard the Lord God’s prescient warning, ‘For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’.
In wilful, unbelieving rebellion against his Creator, the man raises the fruit to his lips and eats.
Sin enters the world through Adam, and death through sin.
Having eaten, the eyes of the man and his wife are opened. And what they see is their own nakedness.
By God’s benevolent grace, the very instrument of their Fall is the means by which they recognize their fallen state. Innocent, they ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Guilty, their open eyes now know their own evil and lack of good: they are sinners against the Lord God and breakers of His holy Law.
As are we. For all Adam’s children born of the will of the flesh are born dead as slaves to sin. From pride or desperation, we array ourselves with the filthy rags of our best good works. And thereby we only add to the guilty debt we owe to the holy, clean and righteous God.
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They were both naked, the man and his wife, and now they are ashamed.
They sew fig leaves together and make themselves coverings.
Yet their forlorn manufacture of leafy clothes cannot cover the shameful guilt of their sin. Nothing they do can scrub away the deadly stain; it runs too deep. And so, hearing the sound of the Lord God walking in the cool of the day, they hide themselves among the trees of the garden.
Their effort is in vain.
The Lord God calls, ‘Where are you?’, and they are found by His voice. Just as the leaves of a tree were insufficient to cover their naked guilt, even so a whole garden of trees cannot hide their shame before the Lord God who uncovers the thought and intent of every heart.
The man answers, ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’
The Lord enquires as to the source of their knowledge. ‘Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?’
Confronted with their guilt, the pitiful confessions come, such as they are. Not contrition, not repentance, but a frightened attempt to divert their burning shame in the presence of the Lord God’s voice.
‘The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.’
‘The serpent deceived me, and I ate.’
The voice that once spoke blessing now pronounces judgment: upon the serpent who beguiled; upon the woman who was deceived; upon the man who disbelieved and disobeyed.
And in passing sentence, the righteous Judge manifests His boundless mercy and grace. For He promises a Seed: a Messiah who will crush the head of that serpent and destroy all his works.
(Can it really be? Can the stain of our guilt before a holy God be erased? Can our nakedness be covered?)
The serpent brought guilt and shame to the naked man and his wife. The serpent brought fear. The Promised One shall take away their shame and guilt and bring new clothes. His perfect Love shall cast out fear.
And in earnest of His promise, the Lord God kills and makes tunics of skin; the first animal blood is shed to cover sin and shame. Yet the stain remains, for it is not possible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. And so countless more impotent sacrifices would be offered for Eve’s children, each death a reminder of sins, of nakedness, of shame.
To keep the man from eating of the Tree of Life and living forever, the Lord God drives him out of Paradise, placing cherubim and a flaming sword to guard the way to that tree.
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In the fullness of time, the long awaited Seed arrives. Not with kingly pomp, but in the squalor of a stable. The Son of God, the Lord from Heaven, makes Himself of no reputation and takes on human flesh. In the form of a slave, He is born to a virgin named Mary.
God made Man is born under the Law of God to redeem those who were under the Law. That Law – holy, just and good – promised blessing and eternal life in return for obedience. But it condemns and kills everyone, for all Adam’s children have inherited his guilt, and not one of them has been able to fulfil the Law’s demands.
An angel of the Lord commands that this Seed be named Jesus, meaning ‘God saves’, ‘for He will save His people from their sins’.
Through 33 years of perfect obedience in fulfilment of the Law, Jesus fashions new clothes for His chosen Bride, the Church. Better than fig leaves, better than animal skins, these are robes of His very own righteousness.
Nearing the completion of His earthly work, the Bridegroom makes a New Covenant with His Beloved. The First Adam took forbidden fruit from His wife and at her bidding ate. This Last Adam breaks blessèd bread and gives it to His Bride, bidding her eat. ‘Take, eat; this is My body broken for you.’ In like manner, He proffers cupped wine, saying, ‘Drink, all of you. For this is My blood of the New Covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.’
And then He lays down His life, obedient even to the death of the cross.
The spotless sacrifice Lamb of God takes His Bride’s place and for her becomes a curse. His body broken – see! – the blood of the New Covenant pours from His head, His hands, His feet. For without the shedding of this blood there can be no remission of sins. The price of her sin must be paid to propitiate the wrath of a thrice holy and righteous God – yes, even this terrible price.
The Lamb takes from His Bride her filthy rags, casting them away as far as the East is from the West. With the wine of His precious holy blood, He who is without blemish washes clean His blemished Bride. And this blood accomplishes what animal blood never could, cleansing her of every sinful stain. ‘See’, He says to her, ‘I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.’
‘It is finished’, He cries. And bowing His head, He gives up His spirit.
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What of the promised rich robes?
Having stormed the gates of death, this holy Lamb takes up again the life He laid down. Not even all the powers of death can make Him faithless to His word.
The Father, well pleased with His Son, declares acceptable His perfect sacrifice for sin and, in exceedingly great power, raises this Lamb from the dead, seating Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named – not only in this age but also in that to come. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
At this name of Jesus, every knee shall one day bow – of those in heaven, of those on earth, and of those under the earth. Every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The Bride is now holy and without blemish. She has been clothed with rich robes fit for her marriage to her King. And in her wedding joy she sings:
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
And thus the death that came into the world through the sin of the First Adam is by the Last Adam conquered. Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?
Having purchased His Pearl of Great Price at the cost of all He had, this risen conquering King casts open for His precious Bride the way to the Tree of Life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. Once more He bids her eat and drink, that she might forever live:
‘Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven – not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.’
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They were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Yet the First Adam by disobedience fell, and sin and death came. The Last Adam by obedience triumphed, and sin and death were put to flight.
Now He and His Bride are clothed with His righteousness, and they are not ashamed. In His resurrection life, sin and shame and death are forever vanquished.
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
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Gen. 1:28; 2:8–9, 15–17; 2:25–3:24; 6:5; 1 Chr. 28:9; Ps. 40:6–8; 103:8–12; Is. 6:3; 25:8–9; 45:23; 61:10–11; 64:6; Ezek. 16:6–12; Zech. 3:4; Matt. 1:20–25; 13:45–46; 26:26–29; Mark 14:22–25; Luke 2:6–7; 22:19–20; 24:39–40; John 2:19; 6:53–58; 8:34; 10:14–18; 20:24–25; 19:1, 17–30; Acts 4:12; 26:18; Rom. 1:16–3:31; 4:23–25; 5:1–2, 12–20; 6:6, 21–23; 8:1–5; 9:22–24; 10:13; 14:11; 1 Cor. 11:23–26; 15:45–47, 54–56; Gal. 3:1–18, 27; 4:4–5; Eph. 1:15–23; 2:4; 4:24; Phil. 2:5–11; 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:13–14; Heb. 2:17; 4:12; 8:8–13; 9:11–15, 22–23; 10:1–18; 12:24; 1 Pet. 5:8; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 2:2; 4:10, 18; Rev. 1:5–6; 2:7; 4:8; 12:9; 16:7; 20:2.