Entry Level Theological Truth [31]

“Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” Genesis 3:7

An old saying affirms: “Be careful what you wish for – you may get it.” The serpent promised Adam and Eve new and illicit knowledge. After a fashion his promise came true, but not in the manner that our first parents desired. As good as his word, the first humans did gain a new perspective on the world, but with tragic consequences for their progeny and themselves. Similarly, modern people often think that sin will lead to personal fulfilment; in reality it only leads to shame and fear.


Knowledge Tainted By Failure


Adam and Eve’s newly found insight did not produce the results for which they were hoping. As one commentator says: “The knowledge to which they have attained is neither that of happiness, wisdom, nor power, but that of the consciousness of sin and of its conflict with the Will of God.”1 Echoing the historian Kurtz, Groves makes the same point: “It actually happened as the seducer promised, though in malice and in an evil sense. Their eyes were opened, but they only saw their nakedness, and were ashamed; they knew good and evil, yet only by their sad loss of what was good, and by their disastrous experience of what was evil…”2 Kidner confirms it in these words:

The serpent’s promise of eyes … opened came true in its fashion (and cf. 22), but it was a grotesque anticlimax to the dream of enlightenment. Man saw the familiar world and spoilt it now in the seeing, projecting evil on to innocence (cf. Titus 1:15) and reacting to good with shame and flight. His new consciousness of good and evil was both like and unlike the divine knowledge (3:22), differing from it and from innocence as a sick man’s aching awareness of his body differs both from the insight of the physician and the unconcern of the man in health.3


The End Of The Innocence


Nakedness is a picture of innocence. Infants and toddlers are unashamed when they are unclothed. But Adam and Eve passed from their spiritually juvenile state of innocence to an unwanted position of guilt brought on by their sin. Rather than exhilaration and enlightenment, they experienced shame for the first time. This was part of the penalty for disobeying God – one element of the death that they had been promised. As Candlish notes: “Their shame, therefore, and their fear, prove that they really died; that having sinned, they in that very day came under the guilt and the curse of sin,—the guilt of sin, causing shame,—the curse of sin, causing fear. Such is their instant knowledge of evil.” Henry eloquently explains: “What a dishonour and disquietment sin is; it makes mischief wherever it is admitted, sets men against themselves disturbs their peace, and destroys all their comforts. Sooner or later, it will have shame, either the shame of true repentance, which ends in glory, or that shame and everlasting contempt to which the wicked shall rise at the great day. Sin is a reproach to any people.”5

Accordingly, Adam and Eve’s first impulse was to cover themselves with homemade garments fashioned from fig leaves (Gen. 3:7.) This primitive attempt at self-deception was the prototypical human effort to mask personal wrongdoing – the first act of self-deception in a long line of works that are intended to hide the true moral and spiritual condition of fallen mankind. Toplady poetically refutes this common conceit in these famous stanzas:

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.6

Fellow hymn writer and preacher, Horatius Bonar reminds us why man’s efforts are futile in this regard: “He forgets the eye above, that can look through every human covering; and hence, as Adam tried his fig-leaves, so he tries his good deeds, his prayers, and his repentance; forgetful that the eye of flame (Rev. 2:18) can look through them. The covering he needs is one which will hide his shame from the eye that is divine.”7 Human works can no more cover sin, than could our first parents’ jungle aprons could deceive the all-seeing God. A sacrifice that satisfies the Almighty’s righteous demands must be offered in place of guilty human beings. The sentence of death must be carried out; only through God’s gracious provision in Christ can people be rescued from the penalty for their sin: eternal separation from the Creator. This sacrifice is foreshadowed in the covers of skins that the Lord uses to replace Adam and Eve’s inadequate garb (Gen. 3:21.)


Sham Religion Versus Salvation By Faith


Sacraments, ceremonies, philanthropy, church membership, civic mindedness are all good things, but when they are employed as a means of gaining merit before God, they are no better than fig leaf clothes. Billions of people continue to labor to cover their sin and fashion facades of pretended piety under the guise of religion and human altruism. Nevertheless, manmade spirituality is an exercise in futility. C.H. Mackintosh accurately summarizes the dissimilarity between human-devised religion and the divinely ordained way of salvation in this way:

…the difference between true Christianity and human religiousness. The former is founded upon the fact of a man’s being clothed; the latter, upon the fact of his being naked. The former has for its starting-post what the latter has for its goal. All that a true Christian does, is because he is clothed—perfectly clothed; all that a mere religionist does, is in order that he may be clothed. This makes a vast difference. The more we examine the genius of man’s religion, in all its phases, the more we shall see its thorough insufficiency to remedy his state, or even to meet his own sense thereof. It may do very well for a time, it may avail so long as death, judgment and the wrath of God are looked at from a distance, if looked at at all; but when a man comes to look these terrible realities straight in the face, he will find, in good truth, that his religion is a bed too short for him to stretch himself upon, and a covering too narrow for him to wrap himself in.8

1 Herbert E. Ryle, The Book of Genesis in the Revised Version With Introduction and Notes, The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921), pp. 51-52.
2 Henry Charles Groves, A Commentary on the Book of Genesis, (Cambridge: Macmillan and Co., 1861), p. 52. Italics original.
3 Derek Kidner, Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, vol. 1. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1967), p. 74. Italics original.
4 Robert S. Candlish, The Book of Genesis, Vol. 1. (Edinburgh: Adam and Charles Black, 1868), p. 73.
5 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume, Ge 3:6–8 (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994); electronic ed. (Logos.)
6 Augustus Toplady, “Rock of Ages cleft for me,” found here: http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/r/o/rockages.htm Accessed on 7/6/12.
7 Horatius Bonar, Earth’s Morning: Or, Thoughts on Genesis, (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1875), pp. 130-31. Italics original
8 C. H. Mackintosh, Genesis to Deuteronomy: Notes on the Pentateuch. (Neptune, NJ: Loizeaux Brothers, 1880, reprint 1972), p. 32.


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