Alan Dunn

Chapter 6: Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof (Part 1)

The Pillars of a Biblical World View

The edifice of a Biblical view of life and reality is built upon three pillars: Creation, the Fall, and Redemption. The issues pertinent to the first pillar have been considered in the preceding five chapters of the Confession. In chapter six, we come to consider the second pillar: “Of The Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof.”

Unless these first two foundational pillars are in place, the third pillar, Redemption, cannot be erected, nor can a true understanding of life and reality be obtained. Without the bases of Creation and the Fall, men’s concepts of Redemption go awry and veer into all manner of superstition and error. If we misunderstand Creation and the Fall, we cannot understand the gospel. This is something the Devil well knows. His continued strategy is to confuse men regarding the truths of Creation and the Fall so as to prevent them from turning to Christ (cf. 1 Tim 4:1-5). We would do well to analyze Genesis 1-4 with diligent meditation. The meaning of life and the hope of eternity are revealed in those early chapters of our Bible. We would greatly benefit from thinking long and hard about that portion of God’s Word. The sixth chapter of our Confession can help us to do just that.

An Outline of Chapter Six

The articles in this chapter read as follows:

1. Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof, yet he did not long abide in this honour; Satan using the subtlety of the serpent to subdue Eve, then by her seducing Adam, who, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given unto them, in eating the forbidden fruit, which God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.

2. Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.

3. They being the root, and by God’s appointment standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.

4. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.

5. The corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and the first motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.

In the first article we learn of the nature of the Fall. The article breaks into two parts. The first half of the article concerns the setting in which man fell, and the second half describes the fall itself. In the second through the fifth articles, we learn of the results of the Fall. We learn in the second article that Adam sinned as a representative of the entire human race. The third article instructs us about the effects of Adam’s sin upon the human race. The fourth article discusses what men now are as sinners. The fifth article addresses the issue of remaining sin in the life of the Christian.

This brief chapter treats our deepest and most urgent problem: sin. We need to know what sin is and to understand that the Savior came to save sinners. If God thought that our greatest need was financial, He would have sent us an economist. If He thought that our greatest need was political, He would have sent us a politician. If He thought that our greatest need was physical health, He would have sent us a doctor. But God knows that our greatest need has to do with our sin, and so He sent us a Savior! We need to remember what we learned in chapter 2 concerning the holy character of God. Only as we come to understand how hideously wicked sin actually is (cf. Rom 7:13), will we gain appreciation for the display of the love of God revealed in the cross of Jesus Christ where God Himself paid the penalty for our sin!

Article One: Part One – The Setting of the Fall

A. We first learn of the moral integrity of Adam, the original man.

By all counts, Adam should not have sinned. God created man upright and perfect. He was not created as a morally neutral being, but he was morally oriented to God and righteousness. Adam and Eve were made after the image of God, in knowledge, righteousness and true holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject to change. Besides the law written in their hearts, they received a command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which whilst they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures. (LBC 4:2,3)

B. We learn secondly, of the probationary nature of Adam’s original state.

Adam originally lived yet under a possibility in a state which was subject to change. Not only was it possible that Adam’s state was subject to change, it was a state divinely designed to change – depending on whether or not Adam would obey God’s command. God gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof (Gen 2:16,17): the command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (LBC 4:3). The very good condition of the original pre-fall order was contingent upon Adam’s obedience to God’s command. Adam was threatened with death if that command was disobeyed. There was also an implied promise of life as a reward for obedience. In other words, God, the Creator-Father, put His image-son on probation: a temporary time of training, contingent upon his obedience to the command not to eat of the tree of knowledge. Had Adam maintained his integrity during this probationary time, (how long a time, we do not know), he would have received the implied promised reward. But Adam did not obey God’s command, and he received the sentence of death explicitly threatened by God.

This contingency in the pre-fall order is referred to by many Reformed theologians as “the covenant of works”. This phrase describes Adam’s probation and the necessity of his obedience to obtain the implied promise of God. Our Confession does not use this phrase “covenant of works” in chapter 6 but does employ it in LBC 19:6 and 20:1. This phrase is used to describe the evident probationary contingency that characterized Adam’s original state. In his original state, Adam was morally upright and ethically perfect, and he had the law of God written in (his) heart, with power to fulfill it. But he had to obey that one command regarding that one tree. If he disobeyed that command, then he, and all whom he legally represented, would die. If he obeyed the command, then he, and all whom he legally represented, would obtain the goal to which his Creator-Father was leading him.

1. What was the implied goal which Adam was promised?

The goal, or reward, was the opposite of the threatened death of Gen 2:17. In other words, Adam was promised the reward of life for passing the probationary period in obedience. But was not Adam already alive? What improvement could there be over that original state of moral integrity and sinless communion with God? Adam’s original state was not “bad” or “wrong”, but it was a mutable and relatively undeveloped state. God set Adam on a course of discipline and directed him to mature in his image-bearing role and, after a time of probation contingent upon his obedience, he would enter a state of existence free from even the possibility of death and enjoy even more profound communion with God. The improvement would consist of development from a mutable state of immaturity and contingency to that state for which we yet hope: the state of “eternal life”.

That eternal life was the implied promise of God is also evident by the role played by the tree of life (Gen 2:9). Eating from this tree would confer eternal life, as eating of the tree of knowledge conferred ethical insight. Did Adam and Eve eat of the tree of life prior to the Fall? No. Both the tree of life and the tree of knowledge were located together (Gen 2:9; 3:3) and the avoidance of the tree of knowledge would entail avoiding the tree of life as well. Eating of the tree of life, would evidently mark the transition from Adam’s contingent original state into a confirmed eternal state. Since Adam ate from the tree of knowledge in a state of contingency, we can conclude that he did not eat of the tree of life prior to the Fall. I’ll comment more about the tree of life in a moment.

That eternal life was the implied promise of God is also evident by the parallel Paul makes between Adam and Jesus, the last Adam (Rom 5:12-21; 1 Cor 15:45-49). Where Adam failed his probation and plunged his race into death by his disobedience, Jesus passed His probation in obedience and delivered His people from death, obtaining for them that eternal life which Adam failed to obtain.

Had Adam obeyed and successfully endured his temporary probation, he would have received eternal life. After the divinely appointed time of probation, Adam would have been given the fruit of the tree of knowledge and, through obedience, he would have matured in his image-bearing capacity. Then, in that state of perfected development, he would have eaten of the tree of life and obtained eternal life. Which brings us to ask a second question:

2. What role did the tree of knowledge of good and evil play in this probationary period?

This tree served to test and prove one thing: Adam’s love for his Creator-Father. Although Adam had the law of God written in (his) heart, he was also given this command not to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The law written in his heart (cf. Rom 2:15) describes how Adam’s internal conscience morally aligned with his external stewardships in creation. He was made to exercise dominion over the creatures and everything within him rightly oriented him to thus image God. But the command regarding the tree of knowledge came to Adam as an arbitrary law. It was a command that made an exception to Adam’s right and good inclination to eat of the trees for food (Gen 1:29; 2:9). This inclination was to be denied in relation to this particular tree for one reason and one reason alone: because God so commanded it. And Adam would obey that command for one reason and one reason alone: because Adam so loved God. Adam was to obey, not because he understood and agreed with the command. The command was in fact, contrary to what he understood about the purpose of trees. Adam was to obey out of love for and trust in God, simply because God had commanded him.

To avoid wrongdoing because you understand and agree that the thing is wrong and because you perceive the evil consequence of the wrong, is commendable and assumes a certain maturity of ethical insight. But to refrain from an act solely on the basis of your attachment to God, simply because He has said so, without knowing why He has commanded but simply that He has commanded – that childlike obedience is morally beautiful as it glorifies the trustworthiness of God. God is to be obeyed, not because you understand and agree with His command, but simply because you love Him. If you love Me, you will keep My commandments (Jn 14:15).

The words knowledge of good and evil are used to describe maturity in the Old Testament (cf. Deut 1:39; Isa 7:15,16; 2 Sam 14:17). The analogy of Scripture leads us to conclude that knowledge of good and evil in Gen 2 and 3 likewise speaks of moral or ethical maturity. The tree of knowledge of good and evil was the instrument God would use to bring Adam from a state of spiritual childhood into a state of spiritual adulthood. Gen 3:22 indicates that this tree would accomplish this transition whether Adam ate it disobediently or obediently.

Another component in this probation was the role played by Satan: the tempter. Although God providentially appointed the test, it was Satan who tempted in the sense of enticing to sin. Compare Jms 1:13. Genesis 3 opens up with the enticement of the tempter. Although the couple had not yet sinned, evil was already in the universe. The Confession, like Scripture, simply confronts us with this evil creature and attributes the origin of evil to him. Adam in the Garden was innocent, but Satan was evil. A consideration of Satan would take us away from the focus of the Confession. Let Jesus’ words about Satan suffice: He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies (Jn 8:44). Before man’s Fall, Satan was already engaged in wicked rebellion against God. Many rely upon Isa 14:12-14 and Ezek 28:12-15 to gain prophetic insight into this most dark and hidden creature. It is thought that he once held a place of privilege among the angelic beings, but became proud (1 Tim 3:6) and attempted to commandeer God’s worship for himself. He and those angels who followed him, are now bent upon robbing God of the worship He deserves from His human image-bearers. So in disguise, Satan manipulates a serpent and slithers over to Eve.

Had the couple withstood the temptation and refrained from eating of the forbidden fruit, they would have acquired exposure to evil and obtained moral awareness by way of obedience. With the probation successfully passed, they would have been confirmed in their obedient moral maturity. We would then expect that God would have brought them to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and then to eat of the tree of life and enter into the eternal state. In that eternal state Adam and Eve would have been confirmed in righteousness and enjoyed enlarged, matured communion with God, imaging Him in ways that eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man (1 Cor 2:9).

Eating of that tree marked Adam’s passing from a state of moral innocence to a state of moral awareness. Had he endured the probation, he would have proved that he loved God more than Satan, more than Eve, more than himself. But Adam ate of the tree of knowledge in disobedience and plunged himself into death. God came in Gen 3:8-13 and questioned the couple, bringing them to confess their sin. Yet – amazing grace! – God did not come to execute Final Judgment upon Man. He came to provide salvation to his disobedient creature-son. Immediately after the Fall, God implemented His “covenant of grace” of which we will learn in the seventh chapter of our Confession. God came to the Fallen couple in grace. In Gen 3:14-19 He cursed Satan and announced the coming of the Promised Seed who would defeat Satan. He then salvaged the original creation order while at the same time punishing the couple with the threatened death of Gen 2:17. He disconnected the allegiance between the woman and Satan, putting enmity between them. He retained her in her roles as mother and wife, promising that through her, the Deliverer would come. But she would experience death, frustration and pain in both roles. He likewise visited death upon Adam, cursing the ground and punishing him with frustration at the point of his labor. But in so doing, Adam too was retained in his creation role as laborer (Gen 2:15). Yet, as materially joined to the earth, Adam too would experience the curse of the ground in his own dust-made body: he would return to the dust in physical death.

In Gen 3:20 it is evident that Adam believed God’s promise of a coming Deliverer who would be born of the woman. Retaining his creation role as Namer (Gen 2:19,23), he once again names his wife Eve: meaning “living” or “life”. By naming his wife Eve, Adam exercised saving faith in the promised seed of Gen 3:15 who would be birthed by the woman. When their first son was born, they expressed hope that he would be, in fact, the very Deliverer promised by God (Gen 4:1). But Cain proved to be more a son of Satan than a son of God. Ever since the Fall, men have looked for the One who would pass the probation and destroy Satan. That ancient hope has been satisfied in Jesus Christ who has appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn 3:8), the One who has cried in victory, It is finished!

In Gen 3:21 God provided a covering for the couple to replace their fig-leaves. God’s provision for their sin required the shedding of blood in the taking of the life of an animal. In this act, God established the ordinance of sacrifice as necessary for sinners to approach Him in worship. For a sinner to come into the presence of God, his sin must be covered and he must admit that he deserves the death penalty – an admission evidenced by his reliance upon God’s gracious provision of blood sacrifice. Rather than the sinner being executed for his sin, God provided a substitute to be slain instead of the sinner. Thus the justice of God is provisionally satisfied so that God can proceed, without compromise to Himself, to be good to men. It was Cain’s refusal to offer to God acceptable worship that brought punishment upon him (Gen 4:1-16; Heb 11:4). Offering God acceptable worship characterized the godly line, that seed of the woman who, like Seth (Gen 4:26) called upon the name of the Lord. Noah, Abraham and the patriarchs worshipped by sacrifice. When God delivered Israel from Egypt and gave them the Old Covenant, He did so on the basis of the shed blood of the Passover lamb (Ex 12). He then prescribed laws which regulated the sacrificial worship of His redeemed people so that He could dwell among them. We in the New Covenant have also been given our Passover Lamb, even Jesus Christ (1 Cor 5:7). We now worship on the basis of His sacrifice at Calvary where our sin was atoned by the shedding of His blood. By virtue of His resurrection, we are justified and possess the hope of eternal life.

Which brings us back to the tree of life. In Gen 3:22-24 God prevented Adam from eating of the tree of life – lest he eat and live forever. In order to insure that His saving purposes would be accomplished, God bared Adam from the tree of life lest he sinfully transition himself into the eternal state in a condition of sin and death. Had Adam eaten of the tree of life in his fallen state, he would have confirmed himself in a state equivalent to hell: a physical existence of death and eternal separation from God. In punishment and yet in order to save fallen man, God cast him out of the Garden and began to unfold both the ramifications of the curse and the accomplishment of salvation. It is only after we are saved and resurrected in the new heavens and earth, that we will then be admitted to eat of the tree of life (Rev 22:1-4,14) and will be thus confirmed in the eternal state in union with the last Adam.

These Biblical perspectives help us to understand the nature of Adam’s initial probation and God’s original purpose for creation. His original purpose was to bring man, His own beloved image/son, into a state of eternal and unchangeable righteousness and life. His design was for Adam to demonstrate his love to God by simply obeying the command regarding the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Satan would have been thwarted and overcome. Upon completion of his probation, Adam would then have acquired moral maturity through obedience (eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge at God’s command), and obtained the implied promise of eternal life (eating of the tree of life). But Adam disobeyed. Adam sinned. Adam fell into death.

Did Adam’s sin frustrate God’s original purpose for creation? No. In the mystery of God’s decretive will (LBC chapter 3) and according to God’s providence (LBC chapter 5), God accomplishes His original purpose through the last Adam, Jesus Christ. God’s purpose for creation is one and the same as His purpose for redemption: to glorify Himself in His Image-Son in a glorified cosmos living in perfect union with Himself. God does not give up on His original purpose for creation because man sinned. He sovereignly accomplishes that same purpose, triumphing over sin, death and Satan, through the obedience of the last Adam. In Christ, the entire cosmos is brought into the salvation of God (Rom 8:19-23; Col 1:15-20). Jesus reverses the consequences of Adams’ failure by successfully completing God’s probation given to Him as the last Adam (Rom 5:12-21). By His obedient death on the cross, He appeased the wrath of God, suffering for what Adam (sinful man) did; and He fulfilled all righteousness, accomplishing what Adam failed to do. Is it any wonder that heaven even now resounds with the praise of our Savior? “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped (Rev 5:12-14). All creation glorifies God imaged in His perfect Son Jesus Christ – just as God purposed. Even so, come Lord Jesus, and turn our faith into sight!

C. We learn thirdly, of the brevity of Adam’s original state.

The Confession acknowledges the all too brief period of sinless perfection which Adam enjoyed prior to the Fall. Although God created man… yet he did not long abide in this honour. How long did Adam abide in this honour? The Bible does not tell us. Different scenarios have been suggested by various Bible teachers. It would appear that it was a relatively brief time since the couple fell before they gave birth to Cain. Whenever the Fall occurred, it destroyed an entire world that throbbed with life and beauty in harmonious union with God.

Article One: Part Two – The Description of the Fall

In the second half of article one, the Fall itself is described.

A. We learn firstly about the occasion of the Fall.

The Confession rightly begins its description of the Fall by implicating Satan. Adam is “the sinner” who is responsible for the death that is visited upon earth, but it is right to begin to describe the Fall by referencing Satan. We would do well to consider that the gospel needs to be preached in such a way as to expose Satan. We cannot relieve ourselves of the responsibility for our sin, but we need to know that we are victimized by an angelic liar and murderer who is intent upon deceiving us and dragging us into hell with him. We must expose him and warn men against his lies and murderous designs. When Jesus came, He immediately battled Satan (Lk 3:1-12) and His gospel continues to attack the kingdom of darkness, delivering sinners and transferring them into the kingdom of God (cf. Acts 26:18; Col 1:13).

Satan subdued Eve. How? Satan questioned the Word of God and in so doing, he cast aspersion upon God’s character: both His goodness and His justice. He implied that God should not be trusted because He was wrongly withholding something from the couple. Was it good that the tree of knowledge was withheld from them? Why would God do that? We have learned why. He designed to bring His image-son through a time of probation so as to confer eternal life and blessings upon him. But Satan insinuated that God was up to no good. With an awareness that something more was ahead of them, Eve was susceptible to speculate about just what that might be. Satan’s attack upon the Word was an attempt to see just how connected Eve was to God’s Words and whether she was vulnerable to getting confused about the meaning of life and the definition of truth. When the woman answered his question, Satan knew that she was, in fact, quite vulnerable. The very fact that she responded to the serpent, rather than Adam who was with her (Gen 3:6), evidenced a weakness of which Satan took advantage. Adam was abdicating his responsibility to protect his wife and to give definition to the world in accordance with God’s Word. The woman stepped forward to talk to a talking snake?! Only God, Adam and Eve were word-beings. That a snake began to speak should have alerted Adam to the fact that something was radically wrong. Yet he allowed her to dialogue with the devil when he should have intervened and subdued (Gen 1:28) the serpent and declared the Word of His Creator-Father. Eve’s response showed an inept handling of God’s word. She essentially has been asked to repeat and defend God’s words in Gen 2:16,17 – a job assigned to Adam. She would have heard these words from Adam. Her answer omitted the words any and freely, thus minimizing God’s goodness. She also omitted the word surely, thus minimizing God’s justice. She then added the words or touch it, words which God did not say (but which may have been spoken to her by Adam). With that display of incompetence, the serpent struck. With astonishing impudence, it is Satan who actually quoted God’s words of Gen 2:17. He said, you shall surely die (precisely the Hebrew of Gen 2:17), but he adds NOT! Thus we have what Scripture calls the lie (Rom 1:25). Satan’s lie is that man can sin and escape God’s threatened punishment. Men, sadly, still believe that lie. Psalm 10 offers insight into the mind of men who attempt to convince themselves of this lie. They assert, in vs 4 that There is no God. But in vs 11 we learn that it is not the existence of God per se that is this man’s concern, but the vain hope that somehow God will not see his sin. There he claims, God has forgotten; He has hidden His face; He will never see it. The faith that man can escape God’s threatened punishment soon is expressed religiously when in vs 13, the man prays Thou wilt not require it. A lot of the world’s false religion is based upon the devil’s dogma: you shall surely not die! Idolatrous religious systems continue to be constructed by men who have been duped by the doctrines of demons into thinking that God will not punish them for their sin. However, God will punish them, unless they repent and trust in the Lord Jesus to set them free, having been punished in their place.

Another dimension of the lie is the enticement to become divine in Gen 3:5. What was God withholding from them? We have learned that He designed for them to obtain eternal life. But Satan deceived Eve into thinking that the tree would actually elevate their mode of being and change them from being mere creatures into becoming divine. He promised that they would become divine through an experience of enlightenment. If they ate of the forbidden fruit, Satan promised that their eyes would be opened and they will be like God, knowing good and evil. Indeed, knowing good and evil was, in a sense, Godlike (cf.. Gen 3:22), but God wanted the couple to mature into godliness through loving obedience. Satan enticed them to circumvent God’s plan and to snatch moral experience prematurely, fooling them into thinking that with that knowledge, they would attain deity itself. Their respect for God inherent in legitimate worship began to be twisted into envy and blasphemous self-idolatry. Eve should have wanted to be like God as an obedient image-bearer, but Satan was tempting her to envy God and become god to herself. But in so doing, by listening to Satan’s words, Eve actually made Satan her god. Paul calls Satan the god of this age (1 Cor 4:4).

Eve stood swirling in a confusion of conflicting definitions, gazing at the fruit of the tree of knowledge. She had heard Adam’s words and knew of God’s words, and now Satan was injecting his words and she was required to express her own words and give her own meaning to the fruit. In Gen 3:6 Eve combined God’s definitions with Adam’s definitions with Satan’s definitions in an attempt to redefine the fruit. Simply stated, she got confused (Gen 3:13; 1 Tim 2:14). Motivated by the desire to become wise, in Satan’s sense of the term, she ate.

Although Moses does not record her words to Adam, evidently Eve spoke to him and enticed him to eat of the fruit as well. When God punished Adam, He indicted him for having listened to the voice of his wife (Gen 3:17). The Confession states, then by her seducing Adam. Herein lies another aspect to Adam’s sin: his abdication of leadership. He allowed his wife to step out from his protection and then she led him into disobedience. She gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Gen 3:6) Previously, Moses described the couple as the man and his wife (Gen 2:25). Now Adam is seen as her husband with her.

Adam was confronted with what has become a common dilemma for many men: the choice between the woman or the Lord. His attraction to her was profound. She was his one flesh (Gen 2:24,25). It went against everything in him to consider not being united to her. Yet he was made as image of God. Everything in him was defined as a perfect reflection of God. It is still agonizing to see men caught in this dilemma today. We need to heed Biblical counsel and only marry in the Lord (1 Cor 7:39; 2 Cor 6:14).

B. We learn secondly, about the manner of the Fall.

Adam, who, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given unto them. What the Confession expresses here is the fact that Adam exercised his free will (see LBC chapter 9) in choosing to eat the forbidden fruit. Adam did willfully eat. Satan did not force him to eat. Eve did not compel him against his will. There was nothing in the circumstances which necessitated that he eat. Certainly God did not make him eat. Adam, in the legitimacy of his own created free will, willingly chose to eat of the fruit. Although he attempted to shift the blame to Eve and ultimately to God in Gen 3:12, he was compelled to acknowledge: I ate. He sinned willfully, without any compulsion.

Adam’s choice does not make sense and cannot be explained. Sin is always irrational. It does not make sense when examined reasonably. But we do not sin reasonably. We sin foolishly. James describes the process as beginning when we are carried away by the irrational impulses of our lusts. When lust connects with opportunity, sin is conceived and is then brought to birth in our actions. When sin accomplishes it’s purpose, it brings forth death (Jms 1:14,15). Adam was carried away by the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 Jn 3:15). He then birthed the sin of violating God’s command and his sin plunged him into death.

C. We learn thirdly, about the essence of the Fall.

The essence of the Fall consisted in Adam’s eating the forbidden fruit. Adam acted contrary to the law which was written in his heart, the law of their creation. But when he violated the command given unto them which forbade the eating of that particular fruit, he failed his probation. This is the essence of sin: the willful violation of God’s law. Adam acted contrary to his innate moral nature and in defiance of the explicit command which was given to him by God concerning the forbidden fruit. In this the Confession gives us a definition of sin: sin is a rebellious transgression and disobedience of God’s law. Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4).

Sin entails the refusal to comply with the authority of God. Sin involves the desire to be independent from God and His commands: to act as I please as law unto myself (to be autonomous); to do my will, not God’s will (to be antinomian: against God’s law). The modern concept of “freedom” is very close to the Biblical concept of “sin.” Modern “freedom” often means the liberty to do whatever one pleases even if one violates laws and even if one harms others. Biblical freedom is the liberty to love God and express love to others – and that by freely choosing to obey God’s law. But the violation of God’s law is hatred of God and of neighbor, and hatred is murder and results in death.

D. Lastly, we learn that God permitted the Fall.

The Fall was something which God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory. In our study of chapters 3 and 5, we were confronted with the Bible’s teaching that God is sovereign over all things – even sin and its accompanying evil. LBC 5:4 confesses God’s unsearchable wisdom whereby His determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall as well as all other sinful actions of both angels and men. His “permission” is not that of a mere passive observer. He most wisely and powerfully boundeth, and otherwise ordereth and governeth all events and acts to His most holy ends, having purposed to order it to His own glory.

Yet man is fully responsible for his sin since he acts, not as puppet on a string, but with the full integrity and power of his created faculties. Adam, with creaturely freedom of will, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress. Adam, created with moral accountability to God his Creator, Lawgiver and Judge, is fully accountable to God for his actions. The Creator’s transcendent sovereignty over creation does not negate the creature’s responsibility and accountability in creation. Adam and Adam alone committed the sin. Adam therefore introduced death into this world.

But God has not been dethroned, nor has His purpose been frustrated. In the mysterious inscrutable wisdom of His own decree, God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren (Rom 8:28,29). God, even through the tragedy of the Fall, is determined to bring man into an eternal state of life and blessings in union with the last Adam, His perfect Image-Son, Jesus Christ, who in loving obedience glorifies the Father and delivers His people from death.

In our next issue, we will examine the remaining four articles of LBC chapter six. May the Lord give us discernment and wisdom, and direct our hope to Christ Jesus.


Chapter 6: Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof


A Biblical understanding of life and reality is based upon three pillars: Creation, the Fall, and Redemption. In our last issue, we began to examine the second of these pillars: the Fall. The London Baptist Confession describes the Fall in chapter six. Here is that chapter in its entirety:

1. Although God created man upright and perfect, and gave him a righteous law, which had been unto life had he kept it, and threatened death upon the breach thereof, yet he did not long abide in this honour; Satan using the subtlety of the serpent to subdue Eve, then by her seducing Adam, who, without any compulsion, did willfully transgress the law of their creation, and the command given unto them, in eating the forbidden fruit, which God was pleased, according to His wise and holy counsel to permit, having purposed to order it to His own glory.

2. Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.

3. They being the root, and by God’s appointment standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of this sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.

4. From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions.

5. The corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated; and although it be through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and the first motions thereof, are truly and properly sin.

We have analyzed article one which is broken into two parts. The first part deals with the setting of the Fall. Adam’s original state of integrity is acknowledged. It is also evident that Adam was put on probation: a period of testing that was designed to mature his love for his Creator-Father and to bring him into what we would call “the eternal state.” However, Adam did not remain in this original state for very long. He fell into death through sin.

The second half of the first article then describes Adam’s Fall. He was attacked by Satan who subdued Eve who then seduced Adam into sin. Sin is seen as a willful rebellion against God and a violation of His command. There is nothing as tragic as the Fall. Yet God’s purpose for man is not frustrated. In the unreachable wisdom of His sovereign decree, God yet directs even the free actions of His creatures, to accomplish His own glory.

The first article of this chapter informs us of the nature of the Fall. In the remaining four articles we learn about the results of the Fall.

Article Two: Representative Sin

Article two further describes the effects of the Fall. Those effects are threefold.

First, the Fall alienated man from God: our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God. No longer having their original righteousness, our first parents lost their communion with God. They were alienated and separated from God. Fallen man would run from God. He misunderstands God’s approach to him and hides from God. God, in Gen 3, does not approach man to execute Final judgment, but man knows that he has sinned and deserves judgment, so he covers himself and hides from God. God comes to be gracious, but man has believed the Devil’s slander that God is not good nor just and therefore, God cannot be trusted. God calls to man, but man is reluctant to answer. Communion with God was lost.

Secondly, death came. Death and alienation are closely related. Separation is the essence of death. Death divides and separates that which God created to live in united oneness. The Biblical concept of death is not annihilation. Death is not obliteration into non-existence and nothingness. Death separates that which is united in life. When God created all things, He joined them into interconnecting mutually contributing unions all existing in union with Himself. When Adam fell, separation became the dominant principle of creation. When the fallen couple opened their “enlightened” eyes in Gen 3:7, they looked upon a world plunged into death. They immediately act as two dead people. They separate from all to which God had joined them in the original creation. The fig leaf in particular, symbolized their rejection of life as God created it. Adam experienced separation within himself. For the first time he contemplated himself and discovered that he was naked. He experienced a division within himself whereby he could stand outside of himself, as it were, and look back upon himself. He experienced separation with his wife. He no longer assumes the role of protector, but when God inquires of him, he blames her for his sin and would bring the threatened death sentence upon her (Gen 3:12). With the donning of the fig leaf, the couple in essence got a divorce. They separated from God’s purpose for marriage. Adam desired to return to that not good loneliness which God rectified when He created Eve (Gen 2:18). By donning the fig leaf, they separated from the mandate to procreate (Gen 1:28). They were dead to God’s creation designs for them as a couple. Adam also died to his stewardship over the earth. He was given plants for food and placed into the Garden to work for the glory of God, but he used the plants as weapons and a fortress against God. However, the most tragic of these separations was that experienced between God and man. The communion between God and man died. All that God had made to exist in unified oneness was now separated by Adam’s sin. What tragic words: death came.

Thirdly, man became wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. This is an expression of the doctrine of “Total Depravity” which is again considered in article four. When man fell, death and sin permeated every dimension of his humanity. Every aspect of both his inner man and outer man fell prey to the enemy death. Consequently, man is defiled, morally impure. Adam was no longer upright and perfect in moral integrity. He was defiled, no longer oriented to righteousness but oriented to sin, death, and the lies of the Devil.

These three effects of the Fall are mentioned in article two, but the main thrust of this article is a confession of “representative sin.” In other words, God sees Adam as acting as the entirety of mankind so that all men, individually, are said to have sinned and fallen in Adam. Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (Rom 5:12). Not only was Adam created in union with God and creation, he was also united to all those who would be born of him. This union is such that when Adam sinned, we sinned in him. In a legal sense, we were all in the Garden in Adam and his sin was, and is, our sin. This is so because God made Adam to be the head and representative of his race.

This is not a popular teaching. But it is a teaching of Scripture nonetheless. Paul instructs us concerning Adams’ representative sin in Rom 5:12-21 and 1 Cor 15:14-22. If we recoil at the thought of being indicted and punished for Adam’s sin, we must realize that the same principle of representative solidarity operates in the way God saves us through the obedience of Jesus Christ. As Adam represented his fallen race, so too Jesus represents His redeemed race. In Jesus we are rewarded with the righteousness that he wrought and the life that He deserves. We see, by way of analogy, how the conduct of those in leadership affects the life of those whom they lead. The action of a husband and father has an immediate impact upon the lives of his wife and children. The actions of government officials and church leaders affect the lives of those whom they represent in leadership.

Adam’s fall plunged mankind into death, real and legal. Adam’s fall so altered the very nature of what it means to be human, that all men since Adam, are born morally defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. The following articles elaborate further on these results of the Fall.

Article Three: Original Sin

This article begins by reiterating the position held by Adam as the representative of mankind: being the root, and by God’s appointment standing in the room and stead of all mankind. Although the confession says that they, Adam and Eve, held this position, it would be more precise to say that it was Adam alone who held this position. In Rom 5:12-21 and 1 Cor 15:20-49 where Paul teaches on this doctrine, he makes no mention of Eve as holding a representative position. It was Adam who was the root, the fountain head, the originator of all mankind. Adam was by God’s appointment standing in the room and stead of all mankind as our legal and organic representative.

Our connection to Adam and our liability to his sin is due to two aspects to the relationship in which God sees us immediately identified with Adam. The first aspect is legal. This is what theologians call “federal headship.” Adam’s standing in relation to the law of God is immediately the legal standing of all men. As Adam is guilty, so too is all mankind. The guilt of this sin was imputed to all their posterity. The word imputed is an important legal term concerning God’s courtroom. “Imputed” means to legally credit, to charge to one’s account and hold legally responsible for what is thus charged. This legal guilt inherited from Adam is called “original sin.”

The second aspect of our union with Adam concerns what is often called “total depravity.” Corrupted nature is also conveyed to all their posterity. “Corrupted nature” refers to what article two describes as all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. This original corruption will be further described in article four. What this speaks of is man’s nature, his natural moral inclination and orientation. The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer 17:9) There is no human faculty which is not, naturally, oriented away from God and toward corruption and defilement.

The mind is not a morally neutral faculty, it is morally blinded and defective. This I say therefore, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality, for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness (Eph 4:17-19). This does not mean that the human mind is incapable of astounding knowledge, but that man, like fallen Adam, possesses his knowledge in sin and separation from God. Fallen man’s knowledge is rooted to disobedience and deception for what is known is known with a willful suppression of the knowledge of God and a commitment to worship idols (Rom 1:18-22). And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper (Rom 1:28). For all that man has learned, he is still unable to educate himself away from immorality, criminality, hatred and sin.

The will is not a morally neutral faculty, it too is defective and disinclined to obey God. Many, recognizing that men exercise a free will and make choices without any compulsion, mistakenly assume that man’s free will operates as did Adam’s before the fall. That is a false assumption. Yes, man still has a free will, but his will is determined by his moral nature. He freely chooses to do that which is in compliance with his moral nature. After the Fall, man being born with a corrupted nature, freely chooses to sin (see chapter nine). He freely chooses what his moral nature determines. Unless the Lord Jesus set them free, men willingly choose the sin to which they are enslaved. When Jesus confronted the Pharisees, he told them that the issue was not their ignorance but their stubborn willful rejection of Jesus: you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life (Jn 5:40). Many people come to know enough about Jesus and the salvation which He offers to sinners, but they do not come to Him simply because they do not want to come to Him. They know they should want to come to Him, nevertheless they do not choose to trust Christ. Their wills are fallen and they continue to make choices even against their own consciences because their wills willingly chose disobedience – even when they know they are disobeying and that it is wrong to disobey and that they will be punished for disobedience (Rom 1:32).

Although the conscience is a monitor of man’s moral behavior, alternately accusing or else defending themselves (Rom 2:15), the conscience too is a morally defective faculty. It can be weak and defiled (1 Cor 8:7; Tit 1:15), seared (1 Tim 4:2), and evil (Heb 10:22). Fallen men easily become morally disoriented and confuse right and wrong. Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isa 5:20)
In Rom 3:10-18, Paul indicts all mankind, both Gentile and Jew, for being thoroughly sinful in every faculty of their humanity. The mind, the will, the conscience, the affections, the desires and motives – all that constitutes a man’s “nature” is fallen, separated from God and oriented to sin.

This is not to say that men are as bad as they could be. God graciously contains sin and enables even the unconverted to do much that is ethically “good.” When God salvaged the fallen creation in Gen 3, he enveloped mankind in what theologians call “common grace” – that grace by which the goodness of the original created order is sustained, even for a race of rebellious sinners. Men who have no thought for God nor any motive to please Him yet do much that is right and good. Paul tells us that we are to respect what is right in the sight of all men (Rom 12:17), which is to say that all men have some conception, by common grace, of what is right and what is wrong. What men by common grace cannot do, however, is to save themselves from the wrath of God. Only the Lord Jesus can set them free.

The Confession teaches that this guilty legal status and this corrupted nature are things that were conveyed to their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation. In other words, all men, by birth, are conceived in sin. By nature, man is born corrupt. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me (Ps 51:5). At birth, we are already legally charged with the guilt of Adam’s sin and naturally inclined away from God toward sin. Our natural condition is truly tragic. We are in a desperate state as men fallen in Adam.

This article concludes describing men by referencing Biblical passages: now being conceived in sin (Ps 51;5); and by nature children of wrath (Eph 2:3); the servants of sin (Jn 8:34); the subjects of death (Heb 2:14,15). A world of woe and despair is then summed up with the words and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal and eternal. Consider this world and men’s activities in it. There is much that amazes us by what man has been able to accomplish technologically, medically, mechanically, even socially. Yet all of man’s accomplishments are set against a background of death and misery. God did not create the world for misery. God created the world as very good. God did not create pain. Man brought pain into the world through his sin. Although we want to alleviate pain and misery, we must listen to the message communicated to us by this anomaly. Pain speaks a message of God’s wrath. Every time we stub our toe, we should be reminded that we were not originally designed for pain, disease, and death. Pain tells us that our sin has not only brought upon us the temporal misery of this life, but eternal misery as well. That is what sin has brought to us, and unless the Lord Jesus set us free, we face eternal misery.

Article Four: Actual Sin

This article focuses not on our sinful natures, but on our actual sin: our acts of sin. When we sin, we are acting according to our fallen corrupted nature. We do not sin contrary to a basic inherent good nature. When we sin, we act according to what we are by nature: sinners. Sins are not mistakes or accidents made by basically good people. It could rather be argued that the good deeds of men are actually accidents made by basically bad people. No, we sin because we are sinners with a sinful nature. We act accordingly to the moral inclination of our hearts. Jesus says, Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. (Mt 12:33-35) But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man. (Mt 15:18-20)

Who of us with children have ever had to take one of our children aside and say, “Look, you are now almost ten years old and it is time that you learn how to lie. You have grown up in my home and I have never heard you lie. So, as your parent, it is my duty to prepare you for real life and if you are going to live in the real world, you must learn how to tell lies. Let me give you some lessons.” The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth (Psa 58:3). Who of us has had to teach our children to lie, or to fight, or to cheat, or to disobey and disrespect authority? We rather strive to teach them to speak the truth, to live at peace, not to steal, and to obey their parents. They need instruction in virtue, whereas vice comes naturally to them. Humans are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil. These words describe what theologians call “total inability”, which will be discussed in greater detail in chapter nine. The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so (Rom 8:7). Note however, that Rom 8:7 specifies how sin is to be defined: as that which is not subject to the law of God. 1 Jn 3:4 says, Sin is lawlessness. Sin is not necessarily the violation of my friend’s will, nor is it necessarily simply doing my own will. Sin is a violation of God’s will and precepts which are most succinctly expressed in the Ten Commandments. In a day of increasing moral confusion, we would do well to learn and apply the Ten Commandments in order to measure the morality of our behavior.

Article Five: Remaining Sin

This article speaks to the workings of sin that still remain in the life of a true Christian. The corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated. Even though we are regenerated, born again believers, we still are in this life which is still subject to the Fall, the corruption of nature.

Although the Christian’s sin has been forgiven and through Christ pardoned so that he is legally counted as righteous in the courtroom of God, during this life, he still contends with the corruption of nature in the body of this death (Rom 7:24). Although the Christian is regenerated and has a new nature in Christ, he will still commit sin so long as he lives in the flesh awaiting the resurrection from the dead. Although the Christian progresses in sanctification, mortifying his sin by the Spirit putting to death the deeds of the body (Rom 8:13), he will nevertheless not reach sinless perfection in this life (Phil 3:12-14). The Christian is no longer in a state of “total inability”, he is able to please God and walk in those good works which God prepared beforehand for him (Eph 3:10). Yet withal, sin remains.

The point being made by this article is that sin even in the Christian, is still sin. Even in a believer, sin is utterly sinful (Rom 7:13). The act of sin and it’s under girding lusts are truly and properly sin. If a Christian lies, the lie is still a violation of the ninth commandment. Even though that lying Christian is legally justified in Christ and obtains pardon through Christ, a lie is still a lie. Even though that Christian may have been a profligate liar before he was converted and has since made amazing progress in mortifying a pattern of chronic deception and has not lied in years, his lie is still a lie. Sin is sin regardless of whether it is committed by the unregenerate or the regenerate.

The classic passage that speaks to remaining sin in the Christian is 1 John 1:8-10. In the immediate context, we learn that Christians walk in the light (v5-7) and that our lives are starkly different from those who walk in the darkness. In vs 8 we learn that part of what it means to walk in the light is to be honest about our own sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. As our Confession states, the corruption of nature doth remain in those that are regenerated. As we continue to walk in the light, our sins will continue to be exposed (Jn 3:19-21). Sin is later defined by John as lawlessness (1 Jn 3:4). In other words, even as Christians we will break God’s law. The discovery of sin compels us to do what Christians do better than anyone else: we confess our sins (v9). He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion (Prov 28:13). The response promised from God is a fresh application of the blood of Christ to our consciences and our fellowship with God. He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

More will be seen concerning the Christian’s struggle with remaining sin in chapters 12 (Of Sanctification) and 17 (Of The Perseverance of the Saints). In this article, we see that sin is sin whether it is committed by an unbeliever or a believer. We also see that sin involves not only the act, but the first motions thereof; even the movement of the affections and desires.

There is much that we need to learn from this sixth chapter of our Confession. Today the doctrine of the Fall and the doctrine of sin are often ignored or minimized. But we need to understand that it is the reality of the Fall that gives urgency to the gospel. As men, we are still victimized by the ancient liar and murderer, Satan. We are still susceptible to the deceptive doctrines of demons. We continue to struggle in our roles as males and females: men abdicating leadership and women usurping leadership. We still reap the repercussions of our incompetent handling of Scripture and Satan is still hounding us with the unsettling question, indeed, has God said…? Our greatest areas of struggle are often in relation to the stewardships given to man in creation: his job, his family, his health, and especially his relationship to God. Men the world over experience conflict, as individuals, as families, as communities, as nations – conflict which is due to our own sinful aspirations (Jms 4:1,2). The world groans under the weight of the curse. Misery and anguish blanket the globe. Millions of tears stream down untold numbers of cheeks as the cries of children, women, and the oppressed waft up to heaven. Disease, war, poverty, abuse, injustice – the world is a fallen place, inhabited by a race of fallen sinners who are born with an inclination to sin and a disinclination to God.

Yet it is into this fallen world that God sent His Son (Jn 3:16). It is into this fallen world that He also sends us to proclaim the gospel of His grace. God loves sinners! God forgives sinners! God justifies the ungodly (Rom 4:5), and accepts as righteous all who put their trust in Christ (Rom 3:26). In a fallen world, certainly this is “good news.” May we perceive man’s real problem: sin. Our problem is that our sin brings us into death – even eternal death. May we address that problem with the only solution given by God: the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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