The Fall and the Promise — Sermon by Pastor Rolf Preus

The First Sunday in Lent
March 5, 2017
“The Fall and the Promise”
Genesis 3:1-21

Biblical history explains the way things are.  What Moses records in today’s Old Testament Lesson is history.  It happened.  What Matthew records in today’s Gospel Lesson is also history.  It happened.  Moses records our first parents’ fall into sin and God’s promise to send them a Savior.  When the perfect man and woman engaged in spiritual battle against the devil they lost.  Matthew records our Lord’s temptation by the devil.  When Jesus, the Son of God, engaged in spiritual battle against the devil he won.  Adam and Eve lost, and we lost with them.  Jesus won, and we won with him.

God told Adam not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  This was before he made Eve.  Adam told Eve of God’s command.  That’s how she knew.  It was Adam’s job to serve his wife with God’s word, to love her, and to protect her from threats to her body and soul.  God gave him this duty.  Instead of exercising his husbandly duties as Eve’s pastor, he withdrew from her his spiritual care, leaving her to contend with the deceiver without his help.  He kept his mouth shut as the devil lured her away from God’s word to trust in her own feelings.

And the beat goes on.  For six thousand years now, men have abdicated their spiritual duty given to them by God to speak God’s word faithfully to their wives and to watch out for their wives’ souls.  They treat God’s word as something beneath them.  They think it is the manly thing to avoid theological conversation, unless they’ve had a few drinks and their natural inhibitions are sufficiently lowered to loosen them up to pontificate on all sorts of theological topics, making up in forcefulness for what is lacking in coherence and truth.

Those who dismiss the account of Adam and Eve’s fall into sin as a myth and reject the doctrine of original sin are spiritually blind.  The effects of Adam’s fall are obvious.  God told Adam, Adam told Eve, Eve listened to Satan, and Adam stood by watching.  There you have it.  That’s the history of the human race.  Why do people behave this way?  Because we all fell in Adam’s fall, that’s why.

It is called the original sin.  From the time of Adam, everyone born into this world with the sole exception of our Lord Jesus is born with the constant inclination and desire to do what is evil in God’s sight.  We are fallen creatures – especially in spiritual matters.  Doing what comes naturally, we sin.  We fall into idolatry and every kind of shameful sin.  Only God can restore us to life.  He does so through his word.

This is why the devil, in his temptations, always goes after the word of God.  False doctrine comes from hell.  It parades as wisdom.  It looks quite attractive, but it is always conceived in the mind of the father of lies.  “Did God really say?”  That’s the question.  Adam should have responded to Satan’s temptation by repeating God’s words, namely,

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. (Genesis 2:16-17)

Instead, he kept quiet and let his wife do the talking for him.  She replied to Satan’s question by garbling God’s command with an addition and an omission.  Well, let’s not worry about details.  She added the command not to touch the tree and she amended “you shall surely die” to “lest you die.”  She left out the surely.  Maybe we won’t surely die.  Maybe we might die.  The devil exploited her amendment of God’s words by providing the word “surely” but in contradiction of God’s word.  He said: “You shall not surely die.”  First, he engages Eve in a bit of ecumenical dialogue.  Once she’s engaged, he directly contradicts God’s word.  That’s when she leaves the word of God and begins to rely on what she sees.  It’s good for food.  And what she feels – it will make them wise.  God knows something he doesn’t want us to know.  What is he keeping from us?  Why doesn’t God want us to know good and evil?  The word of God is not enough.  There is something more.  It must be very valuable.  So she sets aside the word of God.  Once the word of God has been set aside the devil has won.  It’s just a matter of time before she eats.

And he eats.  He eats because she ate.  God spoke to him.  God gave him the command not to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  It was simple.  It was easy.  But he listened to the voice of his wife instead of listening to the voice of God.

They sinned.  That’s when they noticed that they were naked.  They were guilty.  They covered themselves up.  That’s what sinners do.  They cover up their sin.  Then, when God confronted them with their sin, they passed the buck.

Eve passed the buck to the serpent.  Adam passed the buck to the woman and by implication to God himself, referring to her as “the woman whom you gave to be with me” as if it was God’s fault for giving him a wife.  You notice, however, that Satan was speechless.  God didn’t let him say a word.

God issued a threefold punishment in response to the first sin.  The first was against the devil himself.  The second was against the woman.  The third was against the man.

The first is the most important.  God spoke judgment against the serpent, cursing it to crawl on its belly and to eat dust.  But the real judgment was against Satan, who had taken the form of a serpent in tempting Eve.  That God is not just talking to a snake becomes obvious when he says,

And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.

God is not talking to a snake.  A snake is incapable of enmity.  Snakes don’t hate.  They act by instinct.  The devil hates.  The battle between God’s children and Satan is the cosmic battle of the ages, stretching from the original sin to the end of the world.  At the center of human history is the event where God defeated Satan.  It is described as the Seed of the woman bruising the head of the serpent.

He is called the Seed of the woman.  But a woman has no seed.  The man has a seed.  But there is no man.  There is no father.  She is a virgin.  She gives birth to a Child who can destroy him who led our first parents into sin.  How does he destroy him?  He crushes his head.  He silences his forked tongue, his lies, and his deceptions.  But it costs him.  His own heal is bruised.  He suffers, dies, and rises again.  By his suffering he takes away from the devil the power to accuse.

The woman will bear children in pain and suffering.  She will want to govern her husband but won’t be able to.  As God said to her, “your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”  When she was created in God’s image, she wanted to submit to her husband as to her head.  Now, it’s a real pain for her to do so.  And so it is to this day.

The man will fight the elements and be frustrated in his efforts.  His dominion over all things was broken.  At the end of a life of labor, he will return to the ground from which he came: ashes to ashes, dust to dust.  The wages of sin is death.

God assigned the blame to Adam because God gave the original command to Adam.  A man who blames his wife for his own failure embraces Adam’s sin.  God made Adam to be a man.  Real men teach God’s word to their wives!  They don’t treat the instruction of the children in God’s word as women’s work.  They embrace it as a man’s work.  Real men teach God’s word to their children.

In the midst of the curse, the death, the pain, and the guilt, was the promise.  The Seed of the woman shall crush the devil’s head.  God brings life out of death.  Adam knew that when he named his wife Eve, which means mother of the living, not mother of the dying.

When Adam and Eve sinned, they covered up themselves but couldn’t cover their shame.  God could.  He didn’t cover them with plant leaves.  He covered them with clothes made from animal skins.  Those skins were obtained by the shedding of blood.  God covers us today with the garment of salvation, purchased by the blood of Jesus.  We walk, talk, go here and there, and live as children of God, covered by the blood and righteousness of Jesus.  We live lives in defiance of him who led the human race into sin and death.  Our Lord crushed his head under his feet.  The father of lies would deceive us, accuse us, and bring our faith into doubt.  But the word of God shuts his lying mouth and drives him away.  Amen

About Pastor Rolf Preus

Pastor Rolf David Preus grew up on the campus of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, the fourth of ten children, where his father, Dr. Robert David Preus, taught for many years. Pastor Preus graduated from high school in 1971, from Concordia College, St. Paul, Minnesota in 1975 and from Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Indiana in 1979. He was ordained on July 1, 1979, at Trinity Lutheran Church, in Clear Lake, Minnesota. He served Trinity Lutheran Church in Clear Lake (1979-1982), First Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (1982-1989), St. John's Lutheran Church in Racine, Wisconsin (1989-1997), River Heights Lutheran Church in East Grand Forks, Minnesota (1997-2006), and First American Lutheran Church in Mayville, North Dakota and Grace Lutheran Church in Crookston, Minnesota from (2006-2015). On February 15, 2015 he was installed as Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Sidney, Montana and St. John Lutheran Church, Fairview, Montana. Pastor Preus received his Master of Sacred Theology degree from Concordia Theological Seminary in 1987. His thesis topic was, “An Evaluation of Lutheran/Roman Catholic Conversations on Justification." Pastor Preus has taught courses in theology for Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, Concordia University Wisconsin, and St. Sophia Lutheran Theological Seminary in Ternopil, Ukraine. Pastor Preus married Dorothy Jean Felts on May 27, 1975, in Coldwater, Michigan. God has blessed Pastor and Dort with twelve children: Daniel, David, Paul, John, Mark, Stephen, Christian, Andrew, James, Mary, Samuel, and Peter. David, Paul, John, Mark, Stephen, Christian, Andrew, and James are pastors in the LCMS. God has blessed Pastor and Mrs. Preus with forty-three grandchildren so far. Pastor Preus' mother is living in Minneapolis. Three of his brothers and two of his brothers-in-law have served as pastors in the LCMS.

Comments

The Fall and the Promise — Sermon by Pastor Rolf Preus — 12 Comments

  1. This is always a tough topic. It gets to the heart of the gospel by making us face our sin. Adam and Eve chose death, and because of it we are told, “you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” We see this same choice time and again throughout the scriptures: Obedience and life, vs. disobedience and death. Moses reminds the Israelites of this choice in Deuteronomy during his last address to the Israelites, before they cross into the Promised Land. Joshua does the same, as the Israelites establish their footprint in the Canaan. Yet they didn’t listen. The prophets remind the Israelites of the covenant blessings and curses provided by Moses in Deuteronomy. Yet they still didn’t get it right and ended up in exile. Paul reminds us of this in Romans 3 when he tells us that the “wages of sin is death…” Luckily God provided a promise during each phase of his redemptive plan, realized in the death and resurrection of his son as our atonement. Now we get to experience the other side of those passages, the blessings, through the righteousness of Christ that has been imputed to us through faith. “But the gift of God is eternal life.” Nice reminder Pastor Preus.

  2. In Genesis 3:6 the ESV follows the example of the NIV with “she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate,” where the RSV had “she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.” The RSV rendering is to be preferred here, because the Hebrew (lit. “she also gave some to her husband with her,” as in the KJV, ASV and NASB) does not say or imply that Adam was with Eve at the time and place of her temptation. The ordinary way of expressing “who was with her” would be אשר־עמה, not merely עמה. There is nothing corresponding to the words “who was” in the Hebrew, and the word עמה (“with her”) in 3:6 has an adverbial force, according to a common usage of the preposition (see עם in the lexicons). This sentence should be interpreted “she gave some to her husband as well, or also.” This is the interpretation of the Vulgate, RSV, Berkeley, NEB, REB, TEV and NJPS translations, and of most of the commentators. Gordon J. Wenham in his recent commentary (Genesis 1-15, in the Word Biblical Commentary series, published in 1987) ignores the NIV rendering, explains that the phrase “emphasizes the man’s association with the woman in the eating,” and points to the similar phrases in Genesis 6:18, 7:7, and 13:1. Clearly the narrative, which represents the Serpent talking only with Eve and not Adam, presupposes a situation where the serpent has caught Eve alone. It was the serpent’s clever plan to mislead the woman when she was alone, because she could be more easily led astray in the absence of her husband. He targets the more vulnerable woman first, and through her he eventually gets the man as well. The fact that later God blames Adam not for listening to the serpent but for “listening to the voice of your wife” (3:17) also indicates that Adam was not present to hear the serpent’s words; it was through Eve’s persuasion that he ate the fruit. Evidently he did not hear the serpent’s words directly. This, at any rate, is the ancient Jewish understanding of what happened, and it is also the view presupposed by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:14, where the prohibition of female leadership in the church is based on the fact that Eve (and not Adam) was deceived by the serpent. If the ESV revisers meant to convey the idea here that Adam was at the tree with Eve while she was being tempted, watching silently while the serpent tells lies to his wife, it indicates a certain lack of exegetical sobriety and conservatism; but unfortunately it does seem that this was their intention. Several people who were involved in the production of the ESV have quoted this rendering in support of the idea that the root cause of the Fall (i.e. the “original sin”) was Adam’s passivity, his failure to take charge of the situation and control his wife’s behavior at this critical moment. 3

    3. See for example the discussion of Genesis 3:6 in William D. Mounce, The Pastoral Epistles (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2000), 125, 131, 141; Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., “Male-Female Equality and Male Headship,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, ed. Piper and Grudem (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 1991), p. 96; and Thomas Schreiner, “An Interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15,” in Women in the Church, ed. Köstenberger, Schreiner, and Baldwin (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995), p. 145. Ortlund says Adam “stood by passively, allowing the deception to progress without decisive intervention … abandoned his post as head … forsook his responsibility,” etc. Schreiner even goes so far as to say that the Genesis temptation is a “parable of what happens when male leadership is abrogated.” This explanation for Eve’s sin is less than twenty years old, but it has become so popular among gallant “complementarian” writers in recent years that Daniel Doriani in his book Women and Ministry (Crossway, 2003) blithely states that the Fall came about “when Adam failed to protect his wife” (p. 60), without offering any explanation for the statement. Clearly it owes much to the kind of pulpit exposition one commonly hears in evangelical churches, where the moral purity of women is always taken for granted, and preachers are mainly interested in reminding men of their duties.

    .bible-researcher.com/esv.html

  3. Thank you for your interesting comments about the ESV, Rev. Huntemann. I did not use the ESV in preparing this sermon, nor did I read from it when preaching the sermon, nor did I read from it when I read the OT lesson for the day. I don’t know why the text above my sermon is linked to the ESV, but then, I don’t understand all of this twenty first century technology! I think I do understand your criticism of a particular school of thought and it appears I have struck a nerve by appearing to express at least a bit of sympathy with it. Well, I don’t know about that! I am not sure that where Adam was or was not during the temptation is the point so much as the fact that Satan lured Eve away from reliance on the external word and it was Adam’s duty to point her to the external word. Consider here Luther’s treatment of this in the Smalcald Articles. But that Adam abrogated his duty as Eve’s pastor is clear.

    With respect to the ESV, I question the Missouri Synod’s choice of this translation for a number of reasons. I usually use the NKJV when preaching, and I did so in this sermon.

  4. ” He kept his mouth shut as the devil lured her away from God’s word to trust in her own feelings. ”

    ” Eve listened to Satan, and Adam stood by watching. ”

    ” Instead, he kept quiet and let his wife do the talking for him. ”

    Blessings Pastor.

    It is my belief based largely on the evidence presented above that Adam was not with his Wife during the encounter with satan. Even the LORD GOD doesn’t say he was with Eve. He would surely have commented on the additional evil of standing by while his wife was assaulted.

    Quom nimis multum justus solummodo satis

    ΙΧΘΥC ΖΩΝΤΩΝ
    Ἰησοῦς Χρειστὸς Θεοῦ Υἱὸς Σωτήρ

    From the greatest weakness flows the greatest strength.

  5. “It is my belief based largely on the evidence presented above that Adam was not with his Wife during the encounter with satan. Even the LORD GOD doesn’t say he was with Eve. He would surely have commented on the additional evil of standing by while his wife was assaulted.”

    I don’t think you have established that Adam was not with his wife during the encounter with Satan. If your exegesis is correct, you are still making an argument from silence. The argument that God would surely have commented on Adam standing by while his wife was assaulted if Adam had been with Eve is a conjecture. It is not conjecture to point out that Adam listened to the voice of his wife and God called him on it. He was to provide her with the word of God. Instead, he abdicated his office as her pastor. This isn’t in dispute, whether or not Adam was a witness of the temptation.

  6. Thank you for your response.

    My problem was how you strongly intimated by the material I put in quotes above that Adam was with Eve during the assault by satan.

    You are correct ” It is not conjecture to point out that Adam listened to the voice of his wife and God called him on it. ”

    It is your statement ” This isn’t in dispute, whether or not Adam was a witness of the temptation. ” that I object to. By the above quoted statements you, putting the best aspect on it, strongly imply that Adam was indeed there at the assault.

    To recap your sermon puts Adam with Eve at the time of temptation……

  7. Yes indeed, I do imply that Adam was with Eve at the time of the temptation. The implication is in the text, your arguments to the contrary notwithstanding. However, whether Adam was present with Eve while Satan tempted her is not critical to the point I make in the sermon, namely, that God gave the command to Adam and it was Adam’s job to serve as Eve’s pastor. Instead of listening to her, he should have provided her with pastoral care.

    From your initial post on this thread, it is evident that you are carrying on an argument with Evangelical theologians I have never read. Based on what you write, I suspect that I would find myself in at least partial agreement with these men, but I hasten to add that I do not take the moral purity of women for granted! In regard to your opinion that the view of the Genesis account of the fall as a “parable of what happens when male leadership is abrogated” is less than twenty years old, while I reject the use of the word “parable” to refer to this historic event, I have been teaching for much longer than twenty years that Adam’s sin was that he submitted to his wife instead of to God. He was to teach her God’s word. Instead, he acquiesced to her Schwaermer religion.

    The reigning feminist dogma is challenged by the Genesis account of the Fall into sin not only by God telling the woman that her husband will rule over her, but also by her being portrayed as an enthusiast. Frankly, I think that when the Holy Spirit inspired Moses to write this account he had in mind specifically the enthusiasms of the early twenty first century in America! 🙂

  8. ” In regard to your opinion that the view of the Genesis account of the fall as a “parable of what happens when male leadership is abrogated” ”

    I totally reject that statement as well and forgot it was in the verbiage as I quoted. ( It is too easy to cut and paste! )

    ” Yes indeed, I do imply that Adam was with Eve at the time of the temptation. ”

    That brings up another point, as the LORD GOD meted out punishment if Adam had been physically present at the assault his guilt would have been greater than Eve’s. In fact if the above is true than in a real sense Eve is without blame because Adam alone was responsible for stopping the ongoing assault on his wife. Assuming the above in a very real sense puts The LORD GOD in the wrong.

  9. The last statement that ties in with the ongoing discussion is this:

    ” Instead of exercising his husbandly duties as Eve’s pastor, he withdrew from her his spiritual care, leaving her to contend with the deceiver without his help. ”

    You couldn’t make that assumption unless you had Adam with Eve at the assault.

    But as Scripture says:

    Adam listened to the voice of his wife and God called him on it.

    Everything ties neatly together. The LORD GODS word and punishment.

    Adam had taught Eve the Word of God. He hadn’t neglected to teach. It was Eve who alone was tempted an it was she who abandoned the Word. Eve took leadership and the LORD GODS punishment fits!

  10. Eve was deceived and Adam sinned. Adam’s guilt was greater than Eve’s. It was by Adam’s disobedience that death came upon us all.

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