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THEOLOGY > Sin > Man's Disobedience > Adam's Rebellion  


Adam’s rebellion against God is reported in Genesis 3:1-7. As a result of his act that which was very good in Chapters 1-2 becomes very bad in Chapter 3, for all of creation is cursed because of his deed. And the introduction of sin into the race established the perspective which governs the rest of the Scriptures, one in which God’s plan for redemption is progressively unfolded under three broad themes:

Anticipation of Redemption (Genesis – Malachi)

Accomplishment of Redemption (Gospels)

Application of Redemption (Acts – Revelation)

The account in Genesis is a record of history; it reports what happened at a place and at a time. It reads like history, with no suggestion that it is anything but history, and there is no hint by the author that he is writing from some perspective other than history. If Creation (Chs. 1-2) is historical and if Abraham (Chs. 12-25) is historical, then Chapter 3, in which the events are chronologically between Creation and Abraham, should be treated as history. On the other hand, if Creation and Abraham are less than history, then perhaps the historicity of Chapter 3 is brought into question. But if that is the case, then why take any of the Scriptures seriously?

Later passages treat this incident as history (Jo. 8:44; Rom. 5:14; I Cor. 15:22, 45; II Cor. 11:3; I Tim. 2:13-14; I Jo. 3:8; Rev. 12:9); names and details from Genesis are all mentioned in the New Testament. Not only do later passages treat Genesis as history, but the events of Adam and his descendants in Chapter 3 are compared and contrasted with the events of Christ and His elect (see, for instance, Rom. 5:12-21). If the account in Genesis is less than history, then the accounts in the Gospels and the interpretations of those accounts in the Epistles must also be questioned. They stand or fall together.

The sin in Eden cannot be repeated because no historical event can be repeated; any event can only occur once. But this event involved an additional distinctiveness—the event was a solitary act of disobedience and rebellion that brought culpability not only to the first man but also to all men, meaning that mankind became guilty before God because of the act of Adam, who both in his person and in his act was identified with the race (see: Principle of Identification).

It was unlike any sin today, for that sin arose in a righteous life that was inclined toward God, whereas all sin today arises in a state that is inclined away from God. Adam yielded to a temptation that was from without, a mere suggestion by Satan and an offering of fruit from his wife; he had no inner lustful desires and sinful nature to which Satan could appeal—Satan did not have the power to force Adam to sin. “There was nothing but an external temptation addressed to an innocent susceptibility” (Shedd, DT, II, 161). It is amazing how easily Adam fell.

There simply is no rational reason for Adam to sin, for the sin arose contrary to what he was and could continue to be; in this sense his sin was irrational and makes no sense. It was a gratuitous and deliberate act that defies understanding.

The New Testament teaches that Adam knew what he was doing but that Eve was deceived (I Tim. 2:14); this simply adds to the unbelievable nature of Adam’s act. How could Adam comprehend his actions and still continue in them? Was it deep rebellion against God or a foolish desire to be like his wife? Shedd makes an interesting observation: “Sin is the divorce of will from reason” (DT, II, 157)—how true this was in the case of Adam. Adam was not deceived so his receptiveness to sin perhaps is seen in his desire to be like his wife; if this interpretation is valid, then his desire to follow her was a love for the creature more than the Creator. Here was the beginning of peer pressure, the drive to be like those around you.

By his act Adam placed himself in opposition to God and His Word; he chose to devise his own way and rejected the right of God to command him (see: God’s Command). His rebellion was against God’s command, a command which was clear and concise. Adam sinned against the knowledge he had. “To desire what God has forbidden is to prefer self to God, and this is to sin” (Shedd, DT, II, 175). To go against God’s command was to go against God Himself; it was to manifest contempt for God’s authority, contempt for His right to rule.

Adam was inclined away from God, and in that leaning away from God and His Word is to be found the internal sin that was the initial sin—the creature was turning from the Creator, and in the turning Adam sinned. Displayed in the turning was a rejection of God. In the inner life of Adam an evil desire was arising, and in the rising desire there was the introduction of sin into the race. This internal disposition of Adam is the original sin of man.

Adam’s rebellion was an assertion of self-rule: Adam’s desires verses God’s direction, or Adam’s will versus God’s will; it was an assertion of human and moral autonomy. In rejecting God Adam established himself as the authority; he exercised selfish and self-centered sovereignty, declaring himself free of God, and by his action asserting his freedom from God, His word, and His rule.

Adam’s rebellion was deliberate and willful; his act was free in the sense that it was self-will, the will of the self; it arose from within and not from without. What he thought he did; what he wanted he grasped; what he desired he obtained. It was a selfish satisfaction of self.

Was Adam’s rebellion in the understanding or in the will, the intellectual or the volitional? Or did the initial sin partake of both? It is impossible to fathom how a sinful desire and a subsequent sinful act came to be in a mind that was set on righteousness and a will that had never chosen evil. How did the impulse to sin arise within Adam and Eve? From whence was  the rebellion? From whence was the thought, the deliberation, and the subsequent act? It was consistent with God’s determined will; what more can be said?

Return to: Man's Disobedience; Next Article: Pattern of Rebellion

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