(Genesis 12:1-3; Genesis 22:1-14; Romans 4:17-25)(The image is from the “Dore Bible Illustrations” that are available via Gutenberg Press. It is used legally.)

This morning we continue a series of sermons entitled, “Heroes of Faith.” We leave behind Adam and Eve and the prehistory of the World, and look at the prehistory of Israel. Israel had three great patriarchs, Abraham, and Abraham’s son Isaac, and Abraham’s grandson Jacob. This morning we look at Abraham who started life as Abram, and at Sarah, who started life as Sari.

It was the Apostle Paul who called Abraham, “the father of… all (who have faith).”(Romans 4:16 and Galatians 3:7).

It was a Madame Cornuel who lived in 17th century France that made the often quoted remark, “No man is a hero to his valet.” Not only does a man’s valet know that he gets up in the morning and puts his pants on one leg at a time, like any other man, a man’s valet is witness to a side of his master’s character that the world does not see.

The Scripture is at least as critical of Abraham as any valet would be. The Scripture tells us about Abraham’s good points and bad.

The Book of Genesis tells us that Abraham is rich in cattle, silver, and gold. However Genesis 13 reveals that Abraham is sadly lacking in character. It tells us that Abraham was forced to take his household down into Egypt because there was a famine in Canaan land. Abraham was afraid that his pretty young wife, Sarah, would draw trouble to him, so he cuddled up to her and said, “Honey, you are a real beauty. Would you mind too terribly if I told these folks that you are my sister instead of my wife? It will save my skin!” He did just that. And Pharaoh thought that Sarah was beautiful, and he took Sarah into his household. And if it had not been for the fact that God rained misfortune on Pharaoh because of Sarah, and then revealed to Pharaoh in a dream that Sarah was the cause of it, Sarah may have become “the Queen of the Nile” instead of a biblical heroine. I wonder if Abraham was Sarah’s hero after this episode?

The bible reports several other episodes involving Abraham that a valet would blush to tell.

The story of Abraham and his willingness to sacrifice Isaac is not one of them. This is a story that even the most faithful servant could not refrain from telling. Yet, it is this episode that may have prevented some of you from thinking of Abraham as a hero of faith. Abraham loved Isaac as the son of his old age; but, at one point, Abraham was ready to drive a dagger into Isaac’s heart, simply because God told him to do it!

Now the first question that people ask when they hear this story about Abraham and Isaac is, “Why in the world would God ask Abraham to do such a thing?”

I have had more than one dedicated, thinking Christian come to me with that very question. On another occasion, I had a woman walk out of church during the reading of the Abraham and Isaac story, never to return again, even though her husband attended faithfully for years afterward. Nevertheless, this first question is easy to answer. The answer is two fold.

On the one hand, God did it to test Abraham’s love for him. God had to know if Abraham were really the man who was worthy to be called “the father of all who believe.” That is in the text. It is hard but true. In Genesis 22:12 God said to Abraham:

“Do not lay your hand on the lad or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”

On the other hand, God did it so that God might prove once and for all that God is not a god who requires child sacrifice. Remember, child sacrifice was a common practice in Abraham’s day. All the false gods created by the mind of man demanded it. Only the One True God did not. I am sure that the story of Abraham and Isaac was told over and over again by generations of thankful Jews. And many a Jewish mother remembered it gladly as she clutched her newborn son or daughter to her breast and listened to her husband tell of how some Canaanite neighbor had just sacrificed yet another child to Baal. The true God does not demand child sacrifice; and, thanks to the story of Abraham and Isaac, people of faith have known it beyond a shadow of a doubt. (See Note 1:)

But now the hard question—the second question: “How in the world did Abraham ready himself to do such a thing?”

It is in the answer to that question that we discover the true heroism in the heart of the Abraham.

The answer is a five-letter word: F-A-I-T-H. And it is his F-A-I-T-H that made Abraham the man that he ultimate was. You see, God had promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky (Genesis 15:5). And God had promised Abraham that his descendants would not be named through Eliazer the slave that he had adopted, and they would not be named through Ishmael, the son of his concubine Hagar; but they would come through Isaac the son that his wife Sarah bore to him when he was 100 years old and she was 90 years old. (Genesis 17:19). On the morning that Abraham saddled his ass and assembled his servants and yanked Isaac from between the covers to head for a mountain in the land of Moriah, Isaac had not even started to notice girls. As yet he had no “seed.”

How did Abraham ready himself for such a deed? The Jewish rabbis who commented on this passage suggested two reasons: 1) Some of them said that Abraham was so sure of God and so sure of God’s promise that he believed God could raise Isaac from the dead, if need be, in order to fulfill God’s promise. This is echoed in Hebrews 11:19. (Note 2:) 2) Others, pointed to Abraham’s statement in Genesis 22:8 that God would provide the sacrifice, and said that Abraham was confident along those lines. The point is, Abraham was somehow able to obey God and to leave the results with him.

Abraham, like many of us, had a shaky beginning with God; but no man (with the exception of Jesus) ever had more faith in God than Abraham. That is what makes Abraham a “hero,” and that is why we call him “the father of all who believe.”

Now, how do we respond to this heroism?

In may be that we respond as Soren Kierkegaard did after reading this story. S.K. said:

“Abraham I cannot understand, in a certain sense there is nothing I can learn from him but astonishment.”

That is absolutely true. When you and I hear the story of Abraham and Isaac, we do not even pretend to aspire to a faith just like Abraham’s. Elayne and I just drove 1,600 miles to see our new granddaughter. After seeing her we would have driven 5,600 miles to see her if necessary. Yet the love that we have for her is but a fraction of the love that her parents already have for her. We are absolutely convinced that should God call upon the parents of today for such a cruel test, we would reject God wholesale. That is o.k. You and I are not called upon to be the father or the mother of all who have faith. And we are not called upon to be the one through whom God mediates his message against child sacrifice. We are only called upon to be “children of Abraham,” and follow his lead of faith.

So, do we stop with a relationship, or should we try to emulate Abraham in some way?

There are things in Abraham that we would do well to imitate. I would mention two.

1. We can imitate him in Abraham’s willingness to abandon the security of the familiar for the adventure of the unknown.

In Genesis chapter 12 God called upon Abraham to go from (his) country and (his) kindred and (his) father’s house to a land that he would show him. And God promised Abraham a land, a seed, and a blessing for his obedience. And Abraham went out in obedience to God, not knowing where he was going.

In commenting on the faith of Abraham, Oswald Chambers says, “Being a Christian means a continual going out.” Sometimes we are called to go out physically. We leave our country, our kindred, our father’s house to go to some place where God calls us to go, like a missionary going into a foreign land. Sometimes are called upon to go out spiritually. We are called to go out of familiar and comfortable ideas and creeds and theologies in order to be true to Jesus Christ. As the man said, “It is often easier to be faithful to our convictions and our creed than it is to be faithful to Jesus Christ. “

I know this from personal experience. When I was first went to seminary I used to pray that God would give me the spiritual gift of prophecy. Then I went to my first church and I would gladly have claimed any spiritual gift but prophecy. I came to see that Jesus was right: “No prophet is accepted in his own country.” (Luke 4:24) All the great prophets of the Bible, like Abraham and Moses and Isaiah and John the Baptist and Jesus and Paul, lived during times of great change. God called upon them to lead people into a new spiritual truth, and they paid the price for it. Jesus paid with his life when he came as a suffering Servant, for no good Jew could imagine a Messiah who suffered. And Paul’s biggest battle was over circumcision, whether or not people could become followers of Jesus Christ without first becoming Jews.

When I was in Boston I prayed the prayer for my granddaughter Caroline that I pray for all our children. I prayed that, in every dimension, she might be as beautiful as she was in the mind of God when God first thought of her, and that every good possibility of life might become a reality for her as she follows Jesus Christ. Do we want to be as beautiful as we were in the mind of God when he first thought of us? Do we want to see all of God’s plans for us fulfilled? It will never happen unless we are willing to go out of all that is secure and comfortable to risk the unknown, and so discover the breadth and length and height and depth of the God who reveals himself in Christ.

A.W. Tozer the great Christian Missionary and Alliance preacher once said that, in order to be all that God wants for us to be and to claim all that God has for us, we must place two bundles upon his alter: 1) the bundle of the known—and 2) the bundle of the unknown. In other words, we must be willing to abandon what we think we want to be for what only God knows can be.

This takes courage. The Commanding General of the 2nd Marine Division has a personal launch to be used during an amphibious landing or assault. It is named, “Follow me.” That is what Jesus said to his first disciples, and that is what Jesus says to us: “Follow me.” It often takes more courage for a Christian to follow where God leads than it does for a soldier to follow his general into battle.

Now here is the good news. We don’t have to have all the courage we will need on our journey with God at the beginning of that journey. Abraham did not have it in in the beginning of his journey. He was so fearful he was willing to give his own wife into the hands of another! What we need is enough courage to take the next step. Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac, and God provided a lamb for the sacrifice. If we take the next step, God will provide the thing that will give us the courage for the step after that.

We cannot become a Hero of Faith like Abraham over night, but we can continue Abraham’s journey this very morning. We do that when we say:

“God, here I am, surrounded with the familiar. Nevertheless, I stand prepared to follow you into the unfamiliar, into territory where I have never set foot before. I am stepping, Lord, I am stepping!”

2. Finally, we can imitate Abraham in thinking that God is great enough and powerful enough to keep His promises.

God promised Abraham a child when he was 99. And Abraham became a father at 100. God promised Abraham that his descendants (and Isaac’s )would be as numerous as the stars in the sky. Perhaps Abraham believed that God could raise Isaac from the dead, if necessary, to keep that promise. Abraham certainly believed that God would provide him with a sacrifice. You and I must believe something almost as difficult. We must believe that all of human history is still under God’s control, still moving toward the accomplishment of God’s purpose. More than that, we must believe that God will keep God’s promises for us as individuals. We must believe that God is bigger than the loss of someone we love, cancer, heart disease, the war on terror, Aids, pollution, the lost of our livelihood, the changes in society, and unbelief itself. More than that, we must believe that if only we will have faith, God will accomplish God’s purposes for us. We have introduced many detours into the journey that God planned for us, yet we must believe that, if we will allow it, God can overcome those detours and bring us to the place and purpose that God had planned for us all along.

The poet Sidney Lanier once watched as a Marsh Hen built her nest as all Marsh Hens have always built their nests—-on the marsh. It seems a foolish place, but that is where the Marsh Hen thrives and all Marsh Hens that want to thrive must do as all successful Marsh Hens have always done. And then Sidney Lanier thought about building a nest for himself, a nest of faith, and then he wrote a poem about it. One stanza reads:

As the Marsh Hen secretly builds on the watery sod,
Behold, I will build me a nest on the greatness of God;

That’s it! We may doubt the muscle in our faith. That’s o.k. If we trust God enough to make the next step in our journey, we will, like Abraham, “grow strong in faith,” as God supplies the strength we need for the step after that. After all, faith is like a muscle. The more we exercise it, the stronger it gets.


Worth Green, Th.M., D.Min.

(Note 1:) There is a parallel situation in the Law of Moses. In Exodus 13:1   The LORD said to Moses, 2 “Consecrate to me all the first-born; whatever is the first to open the womb among the people of Israel, both of man and of beast, is mine.” The first-born belongs to God. However, Exodus 34:20 allows for the redemption of the first-born:

Exodus 34:20 The firstling of an ass you shall redeem with a lamb, or if you will not redeem it you shall break its neck. All the first-born of your sons you shall redeem. And none shall appear before me empty.

(Note 2:) Hebrews 11: 19 (Abraham) considered that God was able to raise men even from the dead; hence, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

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Let me tell you a story. It is not a funny story, but it is an important one. It might help you to understand why I am so bull headed and independent. When I went to seminary, I did not go to Moravian Theological Seminary, though I would today. I went to Asbury Theological Seminary near Lexington, Kentucky. I went there because I wanted to please my dad. Their hero at Asbury is John Wesley, the founder of Methodism; and Asbury is a Wesleyan-Arminian Seminary. Immediately after I arrived at Asbury, and embraced that ethos, I told my dad about it, thinking it would please him. My dad said to me, “Well, that is all well and good, but I am a Calvinist.” This put me in a difficult position. I wanted to please people. I wanted to please my dad—he was the reason I choose Asbury, and I also wanted to please my teachers and my fellow students at Asbury seminary. I found that I could not do both, as both my father and the teachers and students at Asbury took their theology very seriously.

Then I met Dr. Robert Lyon, a professor of New Testament at Asbury. Though Bob had to whisper it, especially within the confines of the seminary, he asked his students to take a different approach to reading the Bible. He told us not begin with a doctrinal approach. He told us to, “Have a high view of Scripture, trust it, and follow it where it leads.” We all have presuppositions when we approach scripture, and Dr. Lyon talked about them. He told us that people believe in Jesus Christ for the sake of the Bible. This is a scholastic approach. The problem with the scholastic approach is that if we find one error in scripture the whole approach collapses. We spend all our time defending the Bible. He told us that other people believe in the Bible for the sake of Jesus Christ. He said this is a relational approach, and it is the approach he saw in the scripture. People in the New Testament believed in Jesus long before the gospels were written down. Most of us believe in Jesus because of the witness of our parents, or of some friend, and only later do we begin to read Scripture, and work out our doctrine of scripture.

If we simply trust the scripture and follow it where it leads, we discover some marvelous things. Take for instance, the Six Days of Creation that we read about in the first creation story of Genesis. When I went to seminary, my grandmother told me that if I gave up the idea that God created the world in six literal days, logically, I had to give up all of Scripture. I could not trust it. I still hear fundamentalist preachers say this all the time. It is simply not true, for if we approach scripture without the presuppositions of a certain theology, that statement conflicts with the facts. Let me demonstrate.

First, consider the word “day.” The Hebrew word day does not always mean a day of 24 hours. It often simply means “a unit of time.” So, too, in 2nd Peter 3:8, we read that with God, a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” The truth is, if we believe that God is the Unmoved Prime Mover behind the Big Bang, then we can say that with God, a day is like more than a billion of our years, and several billion of our years is like, well, a minute, or even a second, in the life of God. As Christians we believe that God is eternal. God lives in eternity where time is meaningless. The Bible teaches that time is a part of creation—the sun and moon are created for signs, for seasons, for days, and for years.” (Genesis 1:14) According to the Genesis story, time, like everything else, was created for the sake of humankind. God understood that we human beings would need a sense of progress.

Now consider a few details of the creation story itself. When we read the first story of creation, in Genesis 1:1-2:4, we see that on the first day, God separated the light from the darkness, and morning and evening were the first day. Now this is interesting because the sun and moon—by which we get our light, were not created until day four. Now, if we trust the scripture, and take it seriously, we who live in the 21st century know immediately that the story in Genesis is not meant to be a scientific account of creation. If it were science, there would be a sun and moon before there was light on the earth. So where does that leave us. Some will think, “Oh, if this creation story is not science, it must be poetry. It is a beautiful, poetic account of creation.” That, I think, is an equally big mistake. The text of the first story of creation is more than poetry. It is theology, which is the study of God, and, I believe the queen of the sciences. We know it is theology because it names God 35 times in 34 verses. Now if this creation story is theology, what does it tell us about the sun and the moon? It tells us first and foremost that they are a part of the creation. This was explosive news for some of the first people who heard these stories told or read. Remember, the ancient peoples that surrounded Israel, whether the Egyptians or the Canaanites, worshiped the sun and the moon as gods. Yet, this story said to them, “The sun and moon are not gods. They are certainly important. One rules the day, and the other the night. but the sun and moon, like everything else, is just part of God’s creation.”

The primary emphasis of the first creation story of Genesis is to insist that God is the creator of all things, and that mankind is the apex of God’s creation. In the first creation story God made “adam” with a little “a,” meaning, “mankind” in God’s own image. The text declares, “in the image of God he created him, male and female he created them.” Last week we saw that whatever else this means, it must mean that God gave human beings a measure of the Divine freedom. The animals are ruled by their instincts. We are not. We can go north in the winter. We can choose between right and wrong. God even gave us the freedom to disobey God.

The second story of creation is not just about the creation, it is about things as they are. (See Note: Theodicy) It is not science, and it is not poetry, it is theology. It attempts to explain why the world is like it is, and it roots those things in the attitudes and actions of three important players.

First there is Adam, meaning the man, the first man. Then there is the man’s helper made for him by God. Adam said, “I will call her woman, for she was taken out of man.” Many women do not like this story for in this story women are made subject to men. This story did not create that situation. It is just the way that it was. Men were stronger than women. A woman needed a man’s protection. It was a man’s world, and it would be for thousands of years to come. In the New Testament Jesus lifted the station of women, but that did not last. By the time 1st Timothy was written we read: (See Note on 1st Timothy)

12 I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.

Churches, who do not let women teach, or serve of church boards, take this text and other like it at face value. Moravians have women pastors, and teachers, and bishops, and elders, because we set these texts over against Galatians 3:27-28 and find them wanting. There we read:

27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

According to the story, Adam was the first to be created, but in my mind it was the woman who took leadership in this first family. Eve was a smart cookie. Eve was wise enough to let her husband think he was in charge, and Eve was smart enough and sexy enough to get her husband to do what ever she wanted him to do.

Eve was smarter than Adam, and more ambitious, too,  but Eve was not as smart as she thought she was, for the serpent, who is the third major character in this story, deceived her.

The serpent deceived Eve with a lie. The serpent convinced Eve that God did not have our best interest at heart. First, the serpent misdirected her. He asked, “Did God tell you not to eat of any of the trees in the Garden?” Eve answered:

“We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

Then the Serpent told an out and out lie, the first recorded in Scripture. He said, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Eve saw that the tree is a delight to the eyes, and good for food, and desired to make one wise, so she ate, and she gave some of the fruit to her husband and he ate.

And the world changed. Suddenly the first pair knew that they no longer lived in a perfect world of carefree freedom. To this point they had been naked and not ashamed. That is no longer true. Their eyes have suddenly been opened, and for the first time they see their nakedness. In response to this change, they fashioned clothes for themselves from leaves, and they hid themselves from God, in the garden.

We cannot hide from God. God knows when we rise up and when we lie down. He discerns our thoughts from afar. (Psalm 139) We cannot hide, and neither, according to the second story of creation, could Adam and Eve. The first pair was transparent before God. God made a visit to them, and God said to Adam, “Who told you that you are naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?”

Like men everywhere—remember, this story is about things as they are, the man tried to pass the buck. He said, “The woman whom you gave me to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:12) (See Note: The Woman Also Passes the Buck)

And you know the rest of the story. You know that God pronounced a judgment on the man and on the woman and on the serpent. These judgments handed down by God do not give us any new information about how things are for us, but they offer an explanation, albeit not a final explanation, of “why” things are the way that they are. Consider the punishments:

The man is punished through work. God cursed the ground and tells the man that he will eat his bread in the sweat of his brow. I do not regard my work as a punishment. I am among the fortunate few whose work and vocation go hand in hand. I am one of those whom Thomas Carlyle had in mind when he said, “Blessed is he who has found his work, let him ask no other blessedness.” But the truth is that for the vast majority of humankind, work is a terrible drudgery. If you don’t believe this, you have never pulled tobacco, dug ditches for Shutt Hartman Construction Company, or worked a double shift in a cotton mill.

The woman is punished through child bearing. A man may work hard, but no labor of man is harder than a woman’s labor. The author of 1st Timothy says that a woman is redeemed through bearing children, if she will continue in faith, love, and holiness, with modesty. When we talk about the sexual revolution brought about by birth control, we highlight the negative consequences, sexual promiscuity and the spread of sexual transmitted diseases. We forget that birth control has been God’s gift for many married women, because thanks to birth control they are no longer forced to bear child after child, simply to satisfy their husband’s sexual appetites. There is a new option. This is a recent development in our world that still benefits just a tiny minority of women. In this regard, I think the Pope should get on with the game!

The serpent is punished by having to crawl in the dust all his days, and God puts enmity between humankind and serpent kind. I know all about this enmity. I know snakes have an important role to play in our world, but as a rule I hate snakes, and I am reasonably sure that snakes feel pretty much the same about me. I once stepped down off a log onto the back of a Timber Rattler that was as big around as my arm. They say white men can’t jump, don’t you believe  them. And don’t believe that snakes are slow, either. By the time I came down, he was in the next county. Of course, the serpent of Genesis stands for more than serpent kind. If you take this talking serpent too literally, you miss the point altogether. The author Revelation identifies “the ancient Serpent” as the devil and Satan. (Revelation 20:12) Likewise, Jesus identifies the snake with the devil. In John 8:44 he calls the devil, “a liar and the father of lies.” It is a clear reference to the snake. It does this story a disservice to take it too literally. We know that Satan is much more than a talking snake that is still forced to crawl on his belly all the days of his life. In 1st Peter 5:8 we read that Satan goes about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Scarier still, in 2nd Corinthians 11:14, St. Paul says that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. That means that the very thing that promises good to us, frequently delivers evil.

Finally, I would mention that the man and the woman are expelled from the garden, and forbidden to re-enter. God put an angel with a flaming sword at the gate of the garden, paradise, to keep out the man, and the woman, and all their children after them, including you and me.

The Bible never uses the word “fall.” Nevertheless, theologians of every stripe and persuasion, Wesleyan and Calvinist, liberal and conservative, say that this second story of creation is really the story of humankind’s fall into sin.

Last week we saw that mankind is like the animals, we are finite, creatures of dust. “From the dust we have come, and to the dust we will return.” Yet mankind is also made in the image of God, and like God we posses a measure of freedom and choice. This dual nature means that we live in a halfway house, halfway between the animals and God. We struggle to live in this halfway house. We can’t stand being part finite, and part free. We are constantly trying to breakout. There are two ways out. Sometimes we deny that we were made in the image of God, and we throw ourselves out the door of our animal nature. We give in to sex and lust and the desires of the eye, like Jack Kerouac who’s goal in life was to sleep with 1,000 women. Sometimes we throw ourselves out the door of freedom. We pretend that our freedom is absolute, and greater than it is. A good example of this is Raskolnikov in Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment.” He is destitute, and he kills the old pawnbroker for her gold because he regards himself as superior to her—he is a great man who will do charitable things with her money. On a larger scale, this is what Hitler did when he convinced the German people that Aryans were a superior people who deserved to prosper and flourish, and that Jews were an inferior people who deserved to be exterminated. This is what some American militia did in 1792 when they smashed the heads of 96 Christian Delaware Indians at Gnadenhutten like pumpkins, and laughed to see their brains spill out. Some will say, “Some of those Indians fought on the side of the British.” This did not justify the killing of 28 men, 29 women and 39 children.

The fall is certainly a fall down into sin, and sin is more than an action. Sin is a power. Sin lures us. Sin snares us. Sin compels us. That is what St. Paul is getting at in Romans 7:15 when he writes, “I am carnal, sold under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” It is impossible to overestimate the power of sin. Likewise, it is impossible to overestimate the spread of the infection. The late Herbert Weber, my first Senior Pastor, once told me that the one Christian doctrine that Christians and non-Christians agreed upon was the doctrine of universal sin! “None is righteous, no not one!”

The fall is a terrible thing—but there is some good in the worst of things. On the plus side, according to Eric Fromm, the fall of Genesis is also a fall upward, into self-awareness, reason, and imagination. Before humankind could make progress we had to know that we were naked. Our shame before God and our weakness before the elements, the wind, the rain, the cold, the heat, compelled us to use the minds God gave us to make progress in the world. Necessity is the mother of invention, especially when it is cold outside.

Now let me quit this section with a caution. Some people say that Adam and Eve possessed eternal life until they disobeyed God. The Genesis story itself does not say that. In this story Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, but they never ate from the Tree of Life. In point of fact God barred Adam and Eve from the garden “lest they eat of the Tree of Life.” Even a very conservative approach to the text, if it is honest, recognizes this. Oswald Chambers, the author of “My Utmost for His Highest,” put this into perspective. He said that Adam and Eve possessed the potential for Eternal Life, for God created them with the potential for holiness without which no one shall see God. “It was their task, “ he wrote “to transform (untested) innocence, into (true, tried and tested) holiness, through a series of moral choices, but they failed.”

Likewise, some people say that we die because of the sin of Adam and Eve. Jesus never mentions this, but in Romans 5 St. Paul assumes it to be at least partially true. Even so, Paul steadfastly refuses to lay all the blame on Adam, the first and archetypical man. He put some of it on each of us and on all of us. In Romans 5:12 Paul says: “Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned.”

People ask me if I believe in the fall. I not only believe in it, I participated in it. I well remember the day I stole a box of Diamond Brand stick-matches from my grandmother’s kitchen on Cotton Street, and lighted a fire in the back alley of her house. I directly disobeyed my mother, and broke the 4th commandment. It is the first sin I remember, though I am sure that there were others before. It does not matter. I am solid in Adam. I am under the sway of sin and death. If I had been in the garden in place of Adam, I would have done as he did. There is only one who, “…though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, and being found in human form, became obedient unto death, even death of the cross. “ (Philippians 2) Jesus Christ was the last Adam (1st Corinthians 15), and the only way to escape our solidarity in Adam is to join ourselves to him in faith become solid in Him.


Worth Green, Th.M., D.Min.

Note: Theodicy

Theodicy is an attempt to vindicate the goodness of God. Genesis transfers the blame for death and every hurtful thing from God to man. It is an answer, but not the only answer. In my view this answer is not nearly so satisfactory as the idea that in the Cross of Christ, God suffers with his people, and, in the resurrection of Christ, God gives us hope. Brunner has the Genesis story and the Cross in view when he says that the best answser for theodicy is not an intellectual one, but a redemptive one.

Note: The Woman Passes the Buck

The woman also passes the buck. Thus we read, “13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, ‘What is this that you have done?’ The woman said, ‘The serpent beguiled me, and I ate.’”

Note: 1st Timothy

It is my conviction that the pastoral epistles were written by a disciple of Paul incorporating genuine remembrances by Paul, but they are obviously set in a later time frame, when the church had become as much an organization as an organism, having bishops (and elders) and deacons.

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I received an email from Judy Gatewood that forms a perfect bridge from the sermons on Humor, to the sermons on the Heroes of Faith. It purports to be “a reading from Genesis.” I have been unable to find it there, perhaps you can. Judy quotes:

And God promised men that submissive and obedient wives would be found in all corners of the earth. Then God made the earth round. And God laughed and laughed and laughed.

We begin this series on the Heroes of Faith with a pair of anti-heroes, or villains, named Adam and Eve. In a real sense, all the heroes of the Bible are in a fight against Adam and his partners, and I use that word, “partners,” advisedly. Perhaps you remember the comic strip Pogo, written by the late Walt Kelly. It was Pogo who said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” That is good theology. It means that no amount of interference and temptation from the outside is a powerful as the interference and temptation we partners of Adam have in our own hearts.

The senior partner in all crime against God is Adam.

Adam has two meanings in Hebrew. On the one hand “adam” means humankind, and it reminds us that humankind was taken “from the earth.” On the other hand, “Adam” is also a name, like “Adam Smith,” or “Adam Cartwright.” When someone in the Bible uses the name Adam they may be referring to a single individual, or to the whole race of man, or to both. For instance, when St. Paul refers to the man Adam, he refers to him as the representative of the whole human race. Thus in 1st Corinthians 15:22 the apostle says:

22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

According to St. Paul you and I are either in Adam, which means that we are a part of sinful humanity, and partners in crime against God. Or, we are “in Christ,” which means that our sins are forgiven, and we have received the promised Holy Spirit by which we were sealed against the day of Redemption. (Ephesians 4:30) The day of Redemption is that day on which all God’s promises to us will become a reality, including eternal life. It is impossible to overestimate the importance of being in Christ, for, as Paul writes in In 1st Corinthians 15:45:

“The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam (Jesus Christ) became a life-giving spirit.

Lets talk about the Creation for a minute.

Many times we speak of the story of Creation as if there was only one. By my count, there are more than half-a-dozen creation stories in the Bible. My two personal favorites are in the New Testament.

In John 1:1-3 we read:

“1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. ”

This means that Jesus Christ is co-creator with God.

Then in Colossians 1:15 we read:

“15 He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; 16 for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible.”

“He” refers to Jesus Christ. I love that all things were created “in him,” whether visible or invisible. We might easily translate that all things were created in Christ whether known, or unknown. We don’t know all we want to know about our world and its creation, but we know that each bit of new knowledge we gain fits easily into the character of God as revealed “in Jesus Christ.”

There are two creation stories in the first three chapters of Genesis, and each compliments the other.

The first story of creation is found in Genesis 1:1-2:3. The heart of this story is found in Genesis 1:27-28. It records the events of the 6th day of creation.

27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”

There are two things I would have you to note.

Note that man is created. In this regard we are like the animals. We are creatures of the earth. We are finite. We live in one time and in one place, and our lives are marked by birth and death.

Note that man was not just created, but created in the image of God. We share the divine life. For almost three thousand years believers have debated what it means to be created in the image of God. It cannot mean that we look like God. We are flesh and bone, and in John 4:24 Jesus himself said, “God is Spirit.” It cannot mean that we have God abilities. We are weak. God is strong. The Bible teaches God is all-knowing, and all-powerful, and all-over. I believe that the fact that we are made in the image of God means that we posses a measure of the Divine freedom. The animals are ruled by instinct, but human beings are seldom left without a choice. The animals go south in the winter according to their instinct. We can travel north in winter. We can do right, or we can do wrong. Victor Frankel says there is one freedom that can never be taken from us: The freedom we have to choose how we respond to what life dishes out to us. Just this week a man facing a risky cancer surgery said to me, “If I wake up after the surgery and see the face of my wife, I know I will be o.k., and if I wake up and see the face of Jesus, I know I will be o.k.” That is a profoundly Christian Response. He has been freed from the fear of sin and death.

The 2nd story of creation is found in Genesis 2:4-3:24. According to the 2nd story of creation, God created a single individual by the name of “Adam,” or “the man.” God created Adam from the dust of earth, and breathed into him the breath of life. Once more we see that man is created like the animals, but we breathe the very breath of God. God made Adam, and then God put Adam in a garden, and told him to tend and keep it. Then, in an attempt to find a helper for “the man” God made the animals. In the first story, man is created after the animals. In this story the animals are created after man. There is no real contradiction. The first declares God saved the best for last, that man is the apex of creation The second story declares that man is preeminent. It is all the same. . In either case we are “the apple of God’s eye.”

As God made the animals from the dust of the earth, God invited the man to name the animals. The first task of science is naming things, so Adam can be said to be both a gardener (or a farmer) and a scientist. According to Genesis 2:17-18 the man gave names to the beasts of the field, and to the birds of the air, and everything else; but he did not find a fit helper.

The man was lonely, and disappointed, but God took pity on him. According to the story, God made a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he was asleep, God took one of the man’s ribs, and God used that rib to make a woman. When the man woke up and saw what God had done he said:

This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman, because she was taken out of man.

When I was in 4th Grade at South Park School, WTOB Radio used to play a song that folded the two stories of creation together. Gene McDaniels sang it. It went:

HE took a hundred pounds of clay, and he said, “Hey listen!”
I am going to fix this world today, because I know what’s missin’.
Then he rolled his big sleeves up, and a whole new world began,
He created a woman, and—-lots of loving’ for a man.

In this act of creating human beings, male and female, God adds the possibility of human love to the reality of divine love, which God has always showered upon us.

God also introduces the concept of marriage. The Bible does not tell how the first pair married. There was no preacher, and no justice of the peace. Some say that God presided at the wedding. All we know is that Adam declares the woman to be “bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh,” and then, the next verse declares:

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife,
and the two become one flesh.

Flesh is important. It is worth nothing that in scripture marriage is always about a physical union, for the physical affects everything. Though the physical union can be broken, as in death or in divorce, the psychological and spiritual union that grows out of the physical union stays with us. In most marriages, this union becomes visible in the children that are born to the union. Truly, in marriage, two people, a man and a woman, become one flesh. Once we have sexually joined ourselves to another that other becomes a part of us forever. Young people thinking about rushing into sex should think about this.

This is another prime example of the way the Bible works. The Bible starts off talking about the first pair, the man and the woman, Adam and Eve, and then it starts talking about all men, and all women, even us, for the verse about “leaving” and “cleaving” it is written in the present tense, and all husbands and all wives are “one flesh.” This allows me to make a key point.

When we read about Adam and Eve we are reading about our selves. The story of creation of Adam and Eve is the story of our creation. The Bible tells this story in language that so pure and simple that even a child can understand it. However it would be a mistake to think of these stories as simplistic. These stories are not simplistic; they are the simplicity that lies on the far side of all complexity. They represent a timeless simplicity that will never be challenged or changed by the latest scientific discovery.

Does this mean that these stories are anti-science? I don’t think so. Let me see if I can draw it out.

First put yourself in the place of the people who first heard these stories. They were not schooled in science and technology. They lived more than 2,000 years before Copernicus, Galileo, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Thomas Alva Edison, Steve Jobs, or any other scientists or technologist we can name. By the standards of today, the people who first heard these stories were a part of humankind when humankind was still in its age of adolescence. Remember, High School students of today know more about the world we live in than Ph.D.’s of the 19th century. The gap between the adults of today, and adults of 3,000 years ago is even greater.

Now put yourself in the place of God for a moment. God knew that these stories would be read and told for thousands of years—almost three thousand already. God knew that these stories had to be told in such a way that they would be meaningful for people who assumed that the world was flat, and the sky just a dome that separated the earth from the heaven that was inhabited by God, and equally meaningful for people who would look at the limitless universe through a Hubble Telescope, and travel to the moon. In other words, these stories, inspired by God, had to be told in such a way as to appeal to young children, and to sophisticated adults including, engineers, and doctors, and scientists.

A distinguished scientist, and a devout Christian, once came to me and told me he was having a hard time relating his faith—which he said was firm, to the creation stories of Genesis. I knew his faith. He had survived the death of his first wife, the Second World War, and the death of a son. I knew his science. He had held a prominent position.

I told him that there did not have to be any conflict between his science and his faith. I explained like this.

I said, “Suppose you have to write a letter to a fellow scientists. You could assume a certain level of knowledge and use a specialized vocabulary could you not?” He said that he could. I continued, “Well, suppose you have to write a letter on the same subject to the eleven or twelve year old son of that scientist. Could you use the same vocabulary, and assume the same level of knowledge?”

“Of course not,” he said, “I would have to write to the level of the boy’s understanding.”

I asked him a final question. I asked, “If you were writing one letter to the scientist and to his son to what level would you write?”

He gave the answer I knew he would. He said, “I would write to the level of the son, knowing that the father could understand it, too.”

That is precisely what God did when God inspired holy men of old, moved by the Holy Spirit, to give us the creation stories of the Bible. God caused those stories to be told in language that is as sublime as it is simple. These stories speak to all people of all ages, whether an adults or a children. And these stories speak to people of all centuries, the 10th century B.C., or the 21st Century A.D.

I think I can make my point from scripture. In 1st Corinthians 13, St. Paul writes a commentary on our Christian knowledge of salvation. I think it also applies to knowledge in general. I think it certainly applies to the story of creation. The Apostle writes:

9 For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect; 10 but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. 11 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.

What does all this mean? It means that we don’t know everything about our world, or even about our salvation, but each time we discover something new we can be sure it fits “in Christ.” More importantly, we know that even before God created the first Adam, he already had the Last Adam in view, and our ultimate destiny is not to be partners in the rebellion against God with the first Adam, and all who are solidly in union with him, but to enjoy God’s forgiveness, and the life of the Spirit, find our true destiny in the Last Adam, that is, in Jesus Christ.


Worth Green, Th.M., D.Min.

Image “Adam and Even Driven from the Garden” from Dore Biblical Illustrations available at the Guttenberg Press and in the Public Domain.

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