Genesis 015 – The Cost of Forgiveness

Genesis 015 – The Cost of Forgiveness
Genesis 3:20-24 • Dr. Andy Woods • November 22, 2020 • Genesis


Genesis 015 –
The Cost of Forgiveness

Dr. Andrew Woods

Genesis 3:20–Lord willing, trying to make it through verse, well, to the end of the chapter today.  Can we do that?  You’re probably saying it’s not up to me.  It’s up to you, Pastor.  Genesis 3; trying to look at 3:20-24.  The title of our message this morning is The Cost of Forgiveness.

Forgiveness is free to us, but it’s very costly to God by God’s design, as we’ll see. And this is a great thing to think about as we enter the Thanksgiving time, where we’re giving thanks for our many blessings, as the song said, counting them one by one. And probably the greatest blessing that we have is the forgiveness that Christians have in the person of Jesus Christ.  I can’t think of a greater blessing than that.  I can’t think of a better or a greater blessing than to be condemned to death, and then to discover that I have been acquitted because of a price someone else paid. And when we understand the price that someone else paid, that’s what gives us a spirit of thanksgiving.  Because unless that price was paid, our salvation would be an impossibility. But we are continuing 3:20-24, our study through the book of Genesis, [and] Genesis 1-11, as we have tried to explain, is about the beginning of the human race.

And the first major topic that’s dealt with is the subject of creation.

Genesis 1 was the whole creation week. Genesis 2 was about what happened on one of those days of creation, day 6.  And so by the time you get outside of Genesis 1 and 2, things are humming along so beautifully and perfectly.  Everything is working the way God designed it.  And we ask ourselves, ‘Well, what went wrong?’  Well, what went wrong is Genesis 3, the fall of man.

Genesis 4 and 5 are basically describing the aftermath of the fall.  But the fall itself is in Genesis 3, a chapter that we’re going through relatively slowly, because without Genesis 3, the rest of the Bible makes no sense. Without Genesis 3, the condition of our world makes no sense.  Without Genesis 3, salvation through Jesus Christ that’s offered to us as a gift makes no sense.

I think it was Dwight Moody who said, ‘you can’t get a man or a woman saved until you get them lost first.’ It’s only a drowning man or woman that will reach out for the life preserver.  If you don’t realize you’re drowning, there’s there’s no incentive to reach out for the solution.  And it’s in Genesis 3 that we find out that we’re drowning. We’re in a hopeless condition without the Savior.  That’s why I like to use this quote here by W.H. Griffith Thomas, who said, “This chapter, [Genesis 3], is the pivot on which the whole Bible turns.” We’ve seen verses 1-5, the temptation by the Serpent and his tactics and Adam and Eve’s mistakes.  We’ve seen verse 6, the actual sin of Adam and Eve.  That’s where they ate from the forbidden tree.  And we’ve also seen the results of that sin.  Consequences follow sin like night follows the day. And there are four consequences that are described there.  But you want to pay attention this morning to the first one.

Man and woman became very religious.  Religion is very different than the salvation that will be offered to them at the end of this chapter, 3:21.  God Himself moved into the situation 3:14-19, and He pronounced a series of judgments on the sinners:  two judgments upon the serpent, as we saw in prior weeks, two judgments upon the woman, and two judgments upon the man.

And it’s very tempting at this point just to sort of throw your hands up and say, ‘This is the most depressing book I’ve ever read; this is the most depressing church I’ve ever been to.  I mean, this is so negative.’ And yet this chapter, perhaps the darkest chapter that we have in the entire Bible, ends with a note of flaming optimism. And we see that optimism in 3:20-24.

And so this week, what God does should add to our celebration of thanks. Because unless God does something in 3:20-24, we are caught in a hopeless condition.

There are three marvelous, gracious acts with which the Creator Himself does.  This is what He did for Adam and Eve, and by extension, it’s what He does for us.  And I believe this:  that if you cannot understand these verses, you really can’t understand the gospel.  Most people really don’t, to be frank with you, even in churchgoing circles, really understand the gospel.  And yet the gospel itself is portrayed so cleanly and clearly here at the end of Genesis 3.

What’s the first thing that God did by grace?  He promised to continue the human race, and I’m getting that right out of Genesis 3:20.  Notice what that says. “Now the man called his wife’s name, Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” And you can’t really appreciate that unless you remember what came right before 3:19, which we saw last time.  Remember what God said to the man in 3:19, “…For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.” (NKJV)

Physical death is now a reality for the human race.  The last time I checked, the mortality rate is still 100%.  COVID or no COVID, people are going to die.  I’m going to die.  You’re going to die, assuming we’re not the Rapture generation.  And maybe we are, maybe we’re not.  But barring the Rapture itself, we are all headed back into the dirt from which we came.  And you would think with a pronouncement like that, that the human race would be wiped out; that it would disappear; that death would take out everybody to the point where the human race would be completely and totally eradicated.

And yet God says here, or as Adam is naming his wife Eve, because she became the mother of all living, it’s a promise in a sense—that the human race will not be wiped out.  The human race is always going to be preserved.  Eve is the mother of all living.  Yes, death has come—3:19, end of the verse.  But at the same time, Eve will be the mother of all living.  Death is very severe, but death will not eradicate, death will not destroy humanity.  And so that in and of itself, when you compare it to 3:19, is actually a statement of God’s grace.  It’s a statement of how God is going to continue to work in spite of or despite the reality and the prospect of death where the mortality rate is going to be 100%.

Of course, the evolutionists have a very difficult time with this verse because it says here that Eve was the mother of all the living.  In other words, through Eve, Adam and Eve, would come the entire human race. There were no people prior to Adam and Eve.  There was no pre-Adamic race. That flies directly in the face of what your biology teacher or university professor believes, because essentially what they believe is that human beings are the product of random chance that’s gone on for billions and billions of years.  And through this long process of the survival of the fittest, man, finally, oh, I don’t know, a few billion years ago, climbed out of the primordial soup.  And yet prior to that, there was a long chain that led to our forebears that led to Adam and Eve.  Such a statement goes directly against the Word of God, where Eve is the source, the mother of all living.  You don’t have human beings or pre-human beings prior to Adam and Eve.  Through Adam and Eve, the human race began.

And this is why the book of Genesis is discarded.  It’s why it’s rewritten in many circles, because many people think that man or woman themselves is the product of a great chain of being that came before.  And yet that’s not what the Bible says. In fact, Paul, the Apostle in his Mars Hill address, stated the same truth.  In Acts 17:26, Paul says “He, [that’s God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation.”  You’ll notice that Paul here is very clear that from one man, that would be Adam, every nation, every human being came.  You don’t have missing links, [a] pre-Adamic race.  You have no such thing prior to Adam and Eve.  The human family can all trace its lineage directly back to Adam and Eve.

And so this human race is going to continue on despite the prospect of death. It starts with Adam and Eve. And death now has come into the picture.  And yet at the same time, the human race is not going to be wiped out. You know, the human race, biblically, came very close to being eliminated just prior to the flood and in the flood.  Some chapters that we will be getting to eventually in our study in the book of Genesis—and 1 Peter 3:20 tells us that it got so bad that God sent the global deluge, and humanity was almost destroyed except for eight souls 1 Peter 3:20–eight souls on the Ark.  And if those souls had not survived, this promise of the perpetuation of the human race could not be fulfilled.

When we get into the events of the Great Tribulation period, the human race once again will be on the verge of extinction or elimination.  Matthew 24:21-22, says “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will.  Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, those days will be cut short.”  Think about what the tribulation period is.  The more I study it, the more I’m grateful for the Lord’s promise that, we as the church, won’t be here during that time period.

But think of, and we’ve studied in depth at this church, the book of Revelation. Think of the judgments that are going to be unleashed on planet earth during that time period.  Think of the seal judgments.  The trumpet judgments, the golden bowl of wrath judgments.  In fact, when you look at Revelation 6, a quarter of the world’s population will be eliminated.  And then when you look at Revelation 9, you learn that a third will be eliminated, taking the human race down to 50%.  And, you know, today we’re caught up in the hysteria of COVID and the COVID craziness.  And COVID, I believe, is a very real thing.  But the fact of the matter is, it pales when you look at the actual death rates. It pales in comparison to what is coming upon the earth. And yet the severity of COVID, the severity of the flood, the severity of the great tribulation period— in it all, the human race will not be eradicated.  The prospect of death itself, the reality of death, will not eliminate the human race, although it will become close to extinction at least twice:  flood and tribulation.  God is not going to allow the human race to go out of existence, and so 3:20, I’m understanding as a statement that God makes that’s gracious.

The second thing that God does is He offers Adam and Eve forgiveness. Forgiveness for what?  Forgiveness for violating His standard.  And what was His standard? It was very clear going back to Genesis 2:16-17, that they were to not eat from the forbidden tree of knowledge.  They just went right ahead and did that and the consequences quickly came into the picture.  And the human race now is in a place of deterioration.  Things are not going to get better and better.  They’re going to get worse and worse because you have the opportunity to pick your sin, but you do not have the opportunity to pick the consequences of that sin.  And God has detailed the consequences that are coming in very severe terms in Genesis 3.  And yet, in spite of it all, God offers forgiveness immediately.  Not ten years or 100 years or 1000 years down the road, but right then and there.  That’s the nature of God.  God is a forgiving God.

Now, you see this in Genesis 3:21, “The Lord God made….” Now let’s stop right there. Who’s doing the work?  God is.  It’s very different than what Adam and Eve were doing in 3:7 when they were making for themselves loin coverings.  Now in 3:21, God does the work. “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife. And [and He, that’s God doing the work…He] “clothed them.“  Now, the big question here is where exactly did these garments of skin come from?  I mean, did God stop by the garment manufacturer and pick up a jacket or two?  No, the implication is very clear that the garments of skin came from the corpse of a dead animal, the body of a dead animal, a corpse.  And how did that animal die?  God killed that animal right there on the spot.  And He took the skins from that animal, and He clothed Adam and Eve, and you say, ‘Well, what did the animal do that was wrong so God could kill the animal and take the garments of skin from the animal and clothe Adam and Eve?’ There is nothing that the animal did wrong. The animal was not involved in the sin. The animal was completely innocent, and God did this transaction by treating the animal as an innocent substitute. An innocent substitute dies under the decree of God, and God takes the skin from that innocent substitute, and He transfers that to Adam and Eve, who were pathetically trying to cover themselves.  And if that is not an open, naked presentation of the gospel, I don’t know what is.  God at the very beginning of human history said, ‘Here’s how it’s going to work. You are not going to clothe yourself and come into My presence in sin.  Here’s how it’s going to work.  I am going to kill an innocent substitute in your place, and through that transaction I will clothe you.’ God, at the very beginning, is revealing how He is going to forgive sin and yet still maintain His character of holiness.

This is what we call the atonement which means substitution.  That’s a big issue when you think about this.  I mean, God, He can’t just ignore sin—that would violate His character.  It’s got to be punished.  But at the same time, He loves Adam and Eve too much to see them fall into condemnation.  So He pours out His wrath on an innocent substitute.  And through the skins of that innocent substitute, they are transferred to Adam and Eve.

I believe this:  that when this animal died, and I believe it died—it doesn’t say it squarely in the text, but it’s there by implication.  When God killed this animal, I think it shocked Adam and Eve to the absolute core of their beings.  Why would it shock them?  Because they, prior to this, were living in a world where they didn’t even know what death was.  They didn’t even know what animal death was like. You remember in Genesis 1:29-30, it says, “Then God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth, which has life, I have given every green plant for food’ and it was so.”

And when we were in that passage, as we’re moving systematically verse-by-verse through the book of Genesis, we made the point that early man, Adam and Eve, were not carnivorous.  They were herbivorous.  They were not meat eaters.  Now, why weren’t they meat eaters?  Because to eat meat involves death. You have to kill an animal to cook it and then eat it.  That involves the death of the animal.  And yet God created a world where there was no death.  That’s why they’re herbivorous and not carnivorous or meat eaters.

Now, man is going to be transferred by God from herbivorous to carnivorous post-flood.  You’ll see that transfer made in Genesis 9:3, where God says, “Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant.”  Now things are different.  A man can be carnivorous, but that’s not the original design of God.  The original design of God was herbivorous.  No death.

So Adam and Eve, really, when you think about it, had never experienced death themselves.  Maybe they understood something intellectual about it because God told them that ‘now that you have sinned, you’re going to go right back to the dirt from which you came,’ but they had no experiential knowledge of death. They didn’t even know what death was like in the animal kingdom.  And yet it was no doubt a shock to their system when God took an animal and killed it.

And they’re starting to realize something—that this issue of forgiveness is available, but it’s costly.  I mean, somebody has to pay here.  And that’s a lesson, I think, that was a shock to their system, and it was hard for them to grasp.

You know, your Bible is very clear that there was no death at all prior to Adam’s and Eve‘s sin.  God was very clear in Genesis 2:16-17 that death would become a reality if they ever ate from the tree of knowledge.  Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:21, talks about how death came by a man: “For since by a man came death…”For as in Adam, all die…”  Prior to this infraction, there was no death.  There wasn’t even death in the animal kingdom.  Romans 5:12 teaches the same point.  It says, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—

There was no death prior to this infraction.  God did not create a world with death in it, and that in and of itself contradicts evolutionary thought because evolutionary thought says the survival of the fittest; the strong dominating the weak for billions of years is progress.  And humanity has finally arrived at this point by looking at a wreckage in its path. That’s what your children are being taught; that’s what your grandchildren are being taught; that’s what you read when you look at all of the nature type magazines and cable shows.  This is the assumption all of them are making. And this is why they don’t like the Bible.

Even Christians will rewrite vast sections of God’s Word to accommodate their evolutionary pre-understanding.  And yet the Bible says what it says, means what it says, and it says what it means. Death is not the responsibility of God. That’s the consequence of sin. God designed the world without death in it.  And so when this animal was killed, now they’re beginning to see that, yes, forgiveness is possible, but it’s going to be costly.  Your sin was very, very severe is what God is saying.  You might laugh it off as just a bad choice, but it was an offense against a holy God thereby necessitating an innocent substitute to die in your place.  I am confident that that was an absolute shock to the system.

Why does God have to do it this way?  Why can’t God just wink at sin and say, ‘Well, you know, there go the kids again acting up, and boys will be boys, etc...’  It relates to God’s nature, which is holy. And one of the problems that we have today in communicating the gospel to people is [that] we, for whatever reason, don’t do a very good job communicating the holiness of God.  ‘Well, wait a minute now, Pastor. God is is loving.’ Yes, yes, He is, 1 John 4:8. God is love, but that is one, an important part, but one part of His character. The other part of His character is that He is holy.  In fact, the angelic beings, Isaiah 6:3, what do they say day and night? “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts,…”

I mean, the entities that know God the best, that stand in His presence day and night, they don’t sit there and say, ‘God’s rad. He’s my dad.’  They’re not even so much talking about God’s grace.  They’re talking about who God is.  Holiness, God Himself clothed in unapproachable light.  ‘Oh, come on, Pastor. That’s just Old Testament stuff.‘ Well, here’s a New Testament passage, Revelation 4:8.  The four living creatures are saying the exact same thing. ”HOLY, HOLY, HOLY IS THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY,….“

Once that is understood in terms of the character of God, then you start to see why the atonement becomes so important.  Someone or something has to be judged.  The judgment is required because God’s nature requires it. That’s why God can’t turn His back on sin.  He cannot ignore sin.  There has to be a transaction of payment.  An innocent substitute or sacrifice must pay.  And that’s why the Bible is such a bloody book.  Do you realize how bloody this book is?  Do you realize that when the animal sacrificial system was set up during the time of Moses, which would be about 1500 years, there was nothing but blood and guts spilled by unblemished animals for over a millennia around the clock. Animals killed. Blood flowing.  I once heard from a somewhat popular preacher, and he said he will never mention blood in his church.  And I thought to myself, ‘Well, you just threw out the Bible. I mean, what Bible are you reading by making such a ridiculous, inane, non-biblical statement?’  If you don’t have the blood of the innocent being spilled, you don’t have the atonement.  You don’t even have Christianity.  Hebrews 9:22 says, “Without [apart from the] shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” I mean, blood and death through innocent scapegoats for 1500 years, and then Jesus shows up; Jesus, the Incarnate, eternally existent, second member of the Trinity.  John the Baptist says this concerning Christ, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Now, you read that, and that is designed to just take your breath away. Because that’s where you learn that it’s actually God Himself who is going to be the wrath-bearer.  God Himself is going to step out of eternity into time in the person of Jesus Christ to bear a sin debt that I can’t bear.  And Genesis 3:21 is the foreshadowing of it.  It’s the prefigurement of it.  The death of an innocent animal sacrificed in the place of the guilty, simultaneously satisfying the two natures of God.  His holiness is satisfied because sin is punished.  And His love is satisfied because now His wrath does not have to be poured out on the human race at large.  It is now limited to an innocent scapegoat.  And humans can take refuge in that by way of faith and avoid the wrath of God.

The two natures of God coming together simultaneously in the atoning work of Jesus Christ: this is Christianity. What is Christianity?  It’s one member of the Trinity, God the Father, pouring out His wrath on another member of the Trinity, God the Son, who is innocent.  That’s why you go through the Gospels, and it keeps talking about the sinless Christ.  Christ did nothing wrong.  And yet He was, by the design of God the Father, the wrath-bearer, and by receiving what He has done as a free gift, we are made right before a holy God. Two-thousand years ago outside of Jerusalem, one member of the Trinity, God the Father, poured out His wrath on another member of the Trinity, God the Son so that wrath would not have to fall upon you.  And it would not have to fall upon me.

I’ve used this example before.  It’s sort of like an individual in a city who happened to be a judge, and he was known for being a tough law and order judge in that municipality. When criminals committed crimes, he punished them to the full extent of the law.  He threw the book at them. Then there’s a problem because one night his own son committed a crime. He was out drunk driving or whatever the case may be, and he comes before his own father for sentencing.  There now is a conflict in this judge. On one end of the stick, he’s got to uphold the law as he has done throughout his entire career.  But on the other end of the stick, compassion wells up.  This is my son.  So what does the judge do to resolve this issue? He gives the strictest penalty that can be given.  Then he steps down from behind the bench, takes off his judicial robes, and he says to the bailiff. “Take me away in my son’s place.” You see what just happened there?  The character of the judge is upheld.  And yet the love of the judge for his son is upheld.  And that’s Christianity.

As we approach the Thanksgiving holidays, particularly this week, is that on our mind?  Or is it just, ‘Lord, thank you for the economic benefits.  Thank you for the the sale at the local whatever. Thank you for the gift card.’ And we lose sight of the whole thing.  We lose sight of the price.  We lose sight of the cost. And anybody who understands the atonement should be the most grateful of people on planet earth. You know, your your life could have fallen apart in 2020.  And a lot of people’s lives did.  A lot of people, particularly in the small business world were put under lockdowns and shutdowns and they could never recover their businesses, and we have a tendency to be thankful to the Lord that that didn’t happen to me.  ‘Thank you, Lord.’  And that is such a superficial understanding of our Bible.  Your life could have fallen apart completely in 2020.  And yet you can leave here today grateful as any person on planet earth because of the atoning work of our Lord Jesus Christ.

First Peter 2:24 quoting Isaiah 53 says, “…and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the [tree] cross,… for by His wounds [stripes] you were healed.” What is a stripe?  A stripe is an infliction.  It’s a wound.  It is a suffering that takes a person literally to an inch of their lives.  There’s a reason Jesus was beaten 39 lashes.  They figured 40 killed somebody.  And we need this guy alive, at least to die on the cross.  That’s Jesus.  That’s the atonement.  That’s what it means when it says by ”His stripes, we are healed.” And the foolishness; the folly of the religious, prideful spirit of man who thinks, in his arrogance, that he can supplement that; that he can add to it.  ‘Jesus did 95%.  I’m going to kick in my 5%.’  Do you realize how completely arrogant that is to even think that ‘God bought lunch, I’ll leave the tip.’  No, the price that was paid is of such a severity that you can’t amend it, you can’t complement it, you can’t supplement it, you can’t add to it no matter how well-intentioned you are.  You can only receive it as a gift because that’s the only way it comes to a person—as a gift.  Jesus, of course, said in John 19:30, the very last words He spoke on the cross, “It is finished!

The Greek, as you probably know, is to tetelestai: paid in full. It’s an accounting term. They’ve found these sort of inscriptions all over the Greco-Roman world.  And when a bill was paid, what was stamped on it was tetelestai: paid in full.  Payment, finished, payment complete. Nothing can be added to it.  It’s a done deal.  Tetelestai is also in the perfect tense in Greek, meaning a one-time action with ongoing results, and thus, it can only come to a person when they trust in what Jesus did.  John 3:36 makes it about as clear as it can be made.  It says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides [meno—remains] on him.”  I’m a sinner by nature.  And the fact of the matter is, somebody’s going to pay.  For somebody not to pay would violate God’s character.  And that judgment hangs over my head.  And it could fall at any minute unless I’m in by way of faith, the atoning work of Jesus Christ, where that wrath has already been satiated; that wrath has already been satisfied.

You’ll notice Genesis 3:7; let’s go back to that for just a minute.  By the way, this is why we celebrate communion.  Is it just a ritual that we go through? No, it’s not a ritual.  It’s designed to assist memory.  It reminds us of the cost of forgiveness.  Because as you grow in the Lord, and you become so comfortable in the grace of God and in the blessings of God, you sort of lose sight of the price that was paid to give you those blessings.  And thus, the Lord mandated and commanded in His church that communion would be practiced consistently and regularly because the cup represents something, as does the bread.  The bread represents a body which absorbed the wrath of God in my place, and the cup would represent His blood that was spilled on my behalf, and how I need that memory!  I need that assistance as a Christian.  Because it’s so easy to become so comfortable in the things of God that we forget about the cost of forgiveness.

I think that, by the way, is one of the reasons in the millennial kingdom that there are going to be animal sacrifices.  Now, people get very upset about that.  And they get out their White Out, and they just take that out of the Bible. But there’s a reason for it. The millennial kingdom is a time period when people will largely have forgotten about death.  Isaiah 65:20 talks about how if someone dies at the age of 100, he’s going to be thought to be a curse.  Such a young man died.  The curse is largely rolled back. Death is kind of almost a foregone reality.  And wouldn’t it be easy living in that environment for 1000 years with Jesus reigning from David’s throne and every human need being met, basking in the grace of God, wouldn’t it be easy to sort of forget the price that was paid to get us there, particularly when we’ve lost sight of what death even is in the 1000 year kingdom?  And then you go into the millennial temple and you see these animals being killed, not to add to the atonement, but to look backwards to what Christ did.  And you see that and you see the violence in it.  And you see the blood spilled through it. And you just say to yourself, ‘Lord, forgive me. I’ve been so comfortable in grace that I’ve forgotten the cost or the price that was paid to have this grace come to me.‘

It’s interesting that God took the animals of skin, and He clothed Adam and Eve. Is that not a portrait of the transferred righteousness of Christ?  God took his blessings and he transferred that to them.  And that’s what a human being has when they trust in the Savior.

Paul the Apostle writes in Philippians 3:9, “…and may be found in Him,…” Is that you today? Are you found in Him? Watch this: ”…not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith.”  ‘Well, why can’t I work for it?’  Because Jesus says it’s finished.  So the only way you can receive this as something finished is it has to be transferred to you.  This is the great doctrine of imputation, which means transfer.

And did you know that as a Christian, as God the Father looks at you, that He looks at you as if you are just as righteous as His Son?  You say, ‘Well, I don’t feel that way.  I don’t deserve it.  I failed this part of my week.  I failed that part of my week.’  It doesn’t matter.  It’s transferred to you. It’s not something you gin up on your own.  Imputation; transfer. And quite frankly, that’s how I plan on standing before God one day.  I have absolutely no interest in standing before God, whose holiness is perfect, with my religious axe and my loin coverings, telling the Lord, ‘Look at what I did for you,’ thinking somehow that’s going to get me anywhere with God.  No, I’m not standing before God in my own righteousness.  I am not standing before God one day in self-righteousness. I’m standing before God in transferred righteousness that I received as a gift by way of faith.

Adam and Eve, of course, were not doing that initially. What were they doing? Genesis 3:7, we’ve covered it in prior sermons: it says, “Then the eyes of both of them were opened and they knew they were naked...; [they know there’s a problem.  ‘We’ve goofed up.‘ Goof is a terrible word to use.  ‘We’ve committed an offense against a holy God.  We ate from the forbidden tree, so we’re going to fix it ourselves’].  That’s religion. ”Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made for themselves...[made for themselves]… loin coverings.

That’s how they thought they could be forgiven, how different it is when God kills the animal sacrifice in their place and takes the skin and clothes them.  Genesis 3:7, man is doing all the work; 3:21, just look at the verbs. God is doing all the work.

In fact, Isaiah 64:6 says, “And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;…” Notice that: all of our righteous deeds [it] doesn’t say unrighteous deeds.  All of my religiosity, all of the things that I do where man stands up and applauds me—if that is the basis that I come into the presence of a holy God, God looks at that just like He looked at Adam and Eve’s loin coverings.  It’s just a filthy garment.  It has no power to save.  It has no ability for a lost sinner to stand in the presence of God who is so pure that the seraphim do nothing night and day, but say, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty.”  The human race is pretty simple.

People make this very complicated. It’s not complicated. Here’s the breakdown. You’re either in 3:7. or you’re in 3:21. There’s only two options. You’re either trying to fix your sin problem through some path of your own choice, or you’re trusting in Jesus Christ and His atonement.   I know a little something about it.  Having spent 16 years of my life in 3:7, banking on good works to make myself right with God.  And how things changed about the age of 16 when I understood the clarity of the gospel. [I was a] very religious person; didn’t know the first thing about the gospel; very religious church never taught the gospel. Finally, by the providence of God, I came into the presence of somebody who understood the Gospel.  I understood it for the first time.  I don’t think I really understood it before, and my whole life is changed.  I’m no longer a Genesis 3:7 person.  I’m a Genesis 3:21 person.

May God help us to understand this grace that we have been given. We conclude here with 3:22-24. “Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”— …the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.  24 So He drove the man out; and at the East of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.“

Why can’t we just go back in?  Why can’t things just be like they used to? Because that’s the nature of sin. That’s what sin does. All of us have experienced things in our lives that we brought onto ourselves through sinful choices, and we so much want to fix it.  For me personally, I can think of certain relationships that I’ve destroyed by saying something or writing something in a moment of anger. And you feel bad about it and you try to correct it and you try to fix it, and yet things never really get back to where they once were.  Why can’t it just go back to how it was? Because we really don’t understand the nature of sin.  Sin has a horrific price tag.

They can’t go back in.  The Garden of Eden is over.  It’s interesting that He tells them ‘You can’t go back in, and one of the reasons you can’t go back in is because you might eat from the tree of life and live forever.’  I don’t know if I fully understand all of this, but apparently there was something in the tree of life which gave people the capacity to live forever. And in their sinful state, they can’t just go back in to eat from the tree and live forever. And the fact that God prohibited that, listen to me very carefully, is a token of His grace.  People in their sinful state are bad enough, but living on and on and on in that sinful state—think of the wickedness that could be accomplished over the human race without death.  Think of an Adolf Hitler or a Saddam Hussein or a Fidel Castro living on and on and on and on and on.  I understand that God takes no joy over the death of the wicked, but the truth of the matter is this:  there are certain people that when they die, it’s a good thing because the evil stops, and the human race is about to get really evil.  Genesis 6:5, ‘every inclination of their thoughts is going to be perpetually wicked.’  Genesis 6:11,Now the earth was corrupt… and… filled with violence.” You want people living forever like that?  Don’t miss this here.

Genesis 3:22, one of these little nuggets. “Then the LORD God said, Behold, the man has become like one of Us...” Why does God call Himself ‘Us?’ Because that’s who God is.  He’s Us.  He is plurality.  One God who has perfectly expressed Himself through three different personages.  God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.  We saw that in Genesis 1:26, “Let Us make man in Our image;...”  If there’s no Us, there’s no atonement. Who would be qualified for the Father to pour out His wrath upon other than God the Son.

Genesis 11:7, the tower of Babel, “Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language.” The famous Isaiah calling passage Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?”  This is a latent form of the triunity of God.  Now, granted, we’ve got to get to the New Testament to see it fully fleshed out.  God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. Three separate personages expressed through the monotheistic singular God.  But it’s here.  It’s the beginning of it.  And the Bible is going to amplify it.  It’s going to to clarify it.  And what does this mean here?  Genesis 3:22. “…Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil;…That’s the beginning of a very important institution that God has started here called conscience.

There are, in the grace of God, certain preservatives built into the fabric of fallen creation so that humanity, even in its fallen state, can be perpetuated. This is one of the reasons I believe that death cannot wipe out the human race because God in His grace has built into humanity, preservatives.

The first is conscience.  Conscience is that little, actually, not so much little, that barometer inside of all people that tells them right from wrong. Even unsaved people have this.  You’ll find a description of it in Romans 2:14-15. Then there’s the institution of marriage in the family. One man for one woman for one life to raise up godly seed. And if parents have any responsibility, it’s teaching their children to curb their sin nature.  Then if we were just left to our own devices, and I could whittle the day away, think of the evil I could commit.  So God says, ‘Go get a job.’  It’s called labor because leisure can be lethal given our propensity for sin.

Then we will discover the institution of human government, Genesis 9:6, where capital punishment will be implemented against those that murder those that bear God’s image.

And then God creates nationalism.  Tower of Babel.  He’s against one world government because the people running the government might go corrupt.  I’m glad that never happens.  So let’s divide power up.  And so what you see here is the first of these five divine institutions.

By the way, when these come under assault, and they get dissipated, the judgment of God is right around the corner.  The flood happened because there was a gross breakdown in all of these. And as hopefully you’re recognizing, as I’m teaching this today, every single one of these is under assault in the United States of America.  It is an attack on these divine institutions. You can call it whatever you want, liberal, conservative, Republican, Democrat.  Those names are irrelevant.  There are people that are assaulting these over and over and over again, and if they win, there’s nothing left to hold back the tide of evil.  This is how countries die.  This is how the world goes under the judgment of Almighty God.

The interesting thing about conscience is that your conscience can be seared as with a hot iron, 1 Timothy 4:2. You can watch so many video games and blood splattered everywhere on all these video games.  And you can watch so many horrific, murderous movies that eventually someone gets shot in daylight, and you just lose your sensitivity for it. That’s the eradication of conscience.  But prior to it being seared, conscience is there.  Take your two kids and say, ‘You mow the lawn. I’ll take you to Denny’s, and to the second kid, ‘You mow the lawn, and I’ll take you to Disney World.’  What’s the first kid going to say? ‘That’s not fair!’  Oh. ‘Who gave you any idea that things were supposed to be fair?’  Why is it that you instinctively know what’s equitable and what’s not without having anybody ever teach you that? Because it’s conscience. It’s something that God has put into people.  It’s one of the great curves against mayhem and wickedness and evil along with these others, but the cord gets clipped on these, and there’s nothing left to curtail the level of evil that will sweep across this country and across the world.

Now you can call it whatever you want—Republican, Democrat.  I call it an attack on divine institutions.  That’s why you ought to show up and vote in every single election.  And you ought to vote for people that you think, and sometimes it’s hard to find them, that are going to support these because if these go, the country goes.

And now man has entered into the second dispensation. You say, ‘What are the dispensations?’ The word dispensation means house rules, or oikonomia.  Oikos: House; nomos: Law, or rules. God is putting humanity through seven tests.

Innocence was test one, which man failed. Now they’ve moved into conscience where they’re supposed to obey the decrees of conscience, and they’re going to fail that one, too.  That’s why God sent the flood.  Watch this now. The plan of salvation never changes. That’s always the same. Faith alone in Christ alone. Those in the Old Testament were looking forward to a Messiah who was coming.  They didn’t know His name.  Those in New Testament times like us, look backward to a Messiah that came. You know His name.  That plan is unalterable, but it doesn’t change the dispensations or the house rules where God puts humanity through seven dispensations.  You were just introduced to the second one.

The first one was innocence, where they were told to obey the command, not to eat from the tree.  They failed.  God brought in a judgment, the curse, and then God brought in the next dispensation.

Now they’re moving into conscience where they’re supposed to obey the dictates of conscience.  They won’t do that because by the time you get to the flood, every inclination of man’s thoughts had become continually wicked.  And so God will bring in a judgment called the flood, and they’ll start a new dispensation.

Then we’ll come in the dispensation of human government. And they’re going to blow that one, too, because instead of spreading out the way they’re supposed to, they’re going to try to take over government and build a stairway to heaven— The New World Order. And God brought judgment there. He scattered the language so the builders couldn’t cooperate.

And then God brought in the next dispensation, which was Israel under divine promise, the calling of Abraham.  And Abraham didn’t do too well. He didn’t believe God.  He left the land.

And so God brought in a judgment and a superior dispensation. Then Israel was under the law.  That’s the longest dispensation in the Bible.  Jesus Himself was born under the dispensation of law where God put the nation of Israel under the Mosaic Law, and their job was to keep God’s law. And they didn’t do very well with that one either, because they rejected the One whom the Law pointed towards—Jesus Christ, and God brought judgment and discipline again through the events of A.D. 70.

And then there’s our dispensation.  The age of the church started in Acts 2. We’re living it right now. What’s our responsibility? Orthodoxy and orthopraxy. Correct belief. Correct practice. And there’s a remnant out there, but to be frank with you folks, we’re not doing too well in that either. In fact, the Bible predicts the time will come when they will assemble for themselves teachers who tell them what their itching ears want to hear. And there’ll be a removal of the true church through the rapture.

And then the last dispensation is the millennial kingdom where they are supposed to obey the king who’s reigning on David’s throne with every human need met.  And you know what?  We don’t do very good with that one either. You will because you’ll be in a resurrected body at that point. But the earth dwellers won’t.  And they follow a satanic rebellion that’s so big [as] John describes it—it’s like the sands on the seashore. How many people rebel? Revelation 20:7-10–God brings in a judgment. Fire comes down from heaven, subdues the enemies, and God starts over with the new heavens and new earth, which is not a dispensation because there won’t be a failure.

And the story of the Bible is from a garden to a city with a cross in between.  You know, the whole concept of dispensation—it’s almost like a cuss word today.  People hate this so much.  I’ve never fully understood the hostility against this because when I learned it, it was almost like you gave me the keys to the car.  You gave me the keys for understanding the whole Bible, which I couldn’t do before without dispensations. People don’t like it because man doesn’t do well in any dispensation. That, too, is the design of God because who gets the glory?  God does, which is what He deserves.  Amen.

And so in our study here on Genesis, we’ve just moved out of the dispensation of innocence into the dispensation of conscience. And by the time we finish Genesis, if we ever do before the second coming, we will have covered just in Genesis, the first four dispensations.

So it’s a wonderful chapter to think about as we get ready for Thanksgiving, God’s tremendous work of grace, the continuation of the the human race, 3:20; unconditional forgiveness of sins, and Adam and Eve being expelled from the garden, which in and of itself is a work of grace.

You know all this talk about grace and the gospel, maybe you’ve never received it.  It’s like the unopened Christmas gift.  It’s there.  It’s available. But until the gift is taken and opened, the gift just sits under the tree.  I spent 16 years of my life, which was too long with the gift available for me, but because I didn’t understand it, I had never received it.  And you only receive this gift one way.  You receive it by faith, which means trust.  It has absolutely nothing to do with sincerity, weeping, walking an aisle, doing jumping jacks, doing cartwheels down the center aisle, giving money to a church.  It has everything to do with simply trusting in the provision of Jesus as we’ve tried to explain it today.

And if you’ve never trusted in Christ, it’s just that unopened gift.  It has no value to you until you receive it.  So our exhortation here at Sugar Land Bible Church is just to communicate that today is the day of salvation. Receive that gift today. You can do it right now as I’m talking in the quietness of your own heart, as you trust in Christ and Christ alone for salvation.

Shall we pray?  Father, we’re grateful for Genesis and its truth and what it communicates to us.  Help these things not just to be words on a page, but help these things to be deep truths of Your grace that we can glean from. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said.  AMEN.