For the next two class sessions we are looking at the very essence of scripture’s drama, the problem and the solution. To use more theological words, we’re looking specifically at sin and salvation.
If I ask, how is the Bible divided into two parts? Most people would answer, “the Old Testament and the New Testament.” While that is true, I think when you understand the Bible to be a larger single narrative you could divide the Bible this way: Genesis 1-11 and Genesis 12–Revelation 22. I sometimes call these two pieces, “the problem and the solution.”
The first eleven chapters of Genesis are sometimes called “prehistory”, that is they describe events that happen in very, very ancient times near the dawn of civilization. These are things so old we cannot place them in a specific time and space. They are stories of “deep memory” of the human race, explanations for how and why things have come to be why they are. They tell us about the origin of human trouble:
- Why do we long for a world better than this one?
- Why do human beings hurt one another?
- Why did that incredible natural disaster devastate the earth?
- Why is the human race so divided when we have so many things in common?
The stories of Eden and the serpent, Cain and Abel, Noah and the great flood, and the Tower of Babel are all ancient stories that represent real experiences in the lives of the earliest human beings. Ultimately, each of them are examples of how the world has come into disarray because of sin.
This week we’re looking closely at Genesis chapter three (for more background you can podcast my sermon from earlier this fall). Once again we’re seeing cause and effect at work. To understand this story we need to answer some of these questions:
- What has God asked of human beings?
- Why did the humans disobey? What did they want?
- What was the result of their disobedience?
Compare and contrast life before and after the humans sin.
- Before sin, life in the garden has satisfying work for the human beings.
- After sin, work becomes toilsome and difficult.
- Before sin, the man and woman have a relationship of equality and mutuality.
- After sin, the man and woman have an unequal relationship.
- Before sin, humans and animals coexist peacefully.
- After sin, there is “enmity” between the creatures of creation.
Sin is what sets in motion the series of events that causes conflict, struggle, violence, and pain in our world. What follows in Genesis is the story of Cain and Abel, a brother who murders another out of jealousy. Then we read on in Genesis that violence abounds so much between civilizations, that God must send a cataclysmic flood to halt the destruction human beings do to each other.
Sometimes we let the details of the story get in the way of the deeper message. The crime of the first human beings wasn’t stealing fruit, it was that the first humans would not accept their status as creatures, they wanted to have the power of God.
The New Testament describes the destructive pattern of sin and its transmission in Romans 5:12-21. Sin spreads like a disease, it infects all of creation, and it afflicts every human being. Sin has consequences. Sin causes physical death: by way of violence, by way of neglect, by way of disease, by way of catastrophe. But there is another kind of “death” that sin produces: spiritual death. Because God is the source of all life and the source of eternal life, apart from God we do not share in this eternal life. Sin separates us from God. This is the problem. But there is a solution, and his name is Jesus Christ. Knowing him, trusting him, and becoming like him is the ultimate goal of this life, and its certainly the goal of confirmation.
Next week we’ll begin studying the story of God’s solution…
Journaling Questions this Week:
Read Romans 5:12-21
- Why is there suffering in the world?
- What makes it hard for you to “be good”?
- What is a mistake you’ve made you really wish you could “undo”?