The Scriptural account of the fall provides an adequate explanation of man’s present fallen state and the evil that surrounds us. It is also upon this dark background that the bright glories of God’s mercy and grace appear. Only to the degree that we understand the tragedy of Adam and his condemnation can we comprehend something of the glories of Christ and His Gospel.
In any study of the fall, we are faced with some of the most important and complex theological questions in all of Scripture: the origin of evil, the nature of human freedom, the sovereignty of God, and His eternal purpose. Although what we know about these issues will always be mingled with a certain degree of mystery, it is necessary that we endeavour to know what we can. We will address the following questions below:
Did God ordain the fall?
What is God’s eternal purpose in the fall?
The Scriptures affirm that the fall was not due to any fault of the Creator. All God’s works are perfect (Deuteronomy 32:4), He cannot be tempted by sin (James 1:13), nor does He tempt others with sin (James 1:13). The blame for the fall rests squarely upon the shoulders of Adam. As Ecclesiastes 7:29 declares, “Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices.”
This truth presents one of the greatest theological problems in all the Scriptures: how is it possible that a creature created in the image of God came to choose evil and sin? Adam and Eve had a true inclination toward good, and there was nothing corrupt or evil in them to which temptation might appeal. How such righteous beings could choose evil over good, and choose the words of a serpent over the commands of their Creator, is beyond human comprehension.
There have been numerous attempts throughout history to explain the fall of Adam, but none of them is without its limitations. We must therefore be content with the simple truth of Scripture that although God made man righteous and holy, he was finite and mutable (i.e. subject to change) and capable of making a choice contrary to the will of God.
DID GOD ORDAIN THE FALL?
The word ordain means to put in order, arrange, or appoint. To ask if God ordained the fall is to ask if He put it in order, arranged it, or appointed that it to occur. Other words that carry similar meaning are: “decree,” “predetermine,” and “predestine.” Did God determine beforehand or decree that the fall should occur? The answer to this question is “yes,” but we must be very careful that we understand what this does and does not mean.
God’s ordaining of the fall does not mean that He forced Satan to tempt our first parents, or that He coerced them to disregard His command. What God’s creatures did, they did willingly. God is holy, just, and good. He does not sin, cannot be tempted by sin, and He does not tempt anyone to sin.
God’s ordaining of the fall does mean that it was certain to happen. It was God’s will that Adam be tested, and it was God’s will to let Adam both stand and fall alone without the divine aid which could have kept him from falling. God could have hindered Satan from laying the temptation before Eve, or in the face of such temptation He could have given Adam special sustaining grace to enable him to triumph over it. From the testimony of the Scriptures, we understand that He did not.
God’s ordaining of the fall also means that it was a part of His eternal plan. Before the foundation of the world, before the creation of Adam and Eve and the serpent that tempted them, before the existence of any garden or tree, God ordained the fall for His glory and the greater good of His creation. He did not merely permit our first parents to be tempted and then wait to react to whatever choice they made. He did not merely look through the corridors of time and see the fall. Rather, the fall was a part of God’s eternal plan and He predetermined or predestined that it should and would happen.
At this point a very important question arises:
“Is God the author of sin?”
This question can and should be answered with a strong negative. God is not the author of sin, nor does He coerce men to sin against Him. Although He predetermined that the fall should and would happen, He also predetermined that it should happen through the willing actions of Satan, Adam, and Eve. Although our finite minds cannot fully comprehend how God can be absolutely sovereign over every event of history and over every individual act without destroying individual freedom, the Scriptures abound with examples that demonstrate this to be true. Joseph was sold into slavery as a result of the willful sin of his brothers, and yet when the final story was told, Joseph declared, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20). The Son of God was crucified as a result of man’s willful sin and hostility toward God, and yet God had ordained or predetermined the death of Christ before the foundation of the world. In the Scriptures we read:
“… this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” -Acts 2:23
“For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.” -Acts 4:27-28
From the Scriptures, we see that God does ordain or predetermine an event to occur and yet brings it to pass through the willful sin of men. He does this without being the author of their sin or coercing them to do that which is against their will. Godless men willfully nailed Jesus Christ to the cross and were responsible for their actions, but the entire event was according to the predetermined plan of God. The fall of Satan, and the later fall of the human race through Adam and Eve, were the results of their own sin for which they alone were responsible, and yet the events came to pass according to the ordained, predetermined, predestined plan of God. God has decreed a great eternal purpose for His creation and has ordained every event of history by which that purpose is being fulfilled. Nothing, not even the fall of man or the death of God’s Son, occurs apart from the sovereign decree of God.
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For “who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” Or “who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again?” For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” -Romans 11:33-36
“… In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will….” -Ephesians 1:10-11
WHAT IS GOD’S ETERNAL PURPOSE IN THE FALL?
Having demonstrated that the fall was the result of the creature’s willful disobedience and yet also according to the eternal purpose of God, it is now necessary that we endeavor to know that eternal purpose. In light of the evil and suffering that has resulted from the fall, it may seem difficult to accept that there can be any good purpose in it. Nevertheless, God’s Word assures us that there is such a purpose.
We know from the Scriptures that the creation of the universe, the fall of man, the nation of Israel, the cross of Christ, the Church, and the judgment of the nations have one great and final purpose. It is that the fullness of God’s attributes be revealed to His creation and that all creation know Him, glorify Him, and fully enjoy Him as God.
THE FULL REVELATION OF GOD ’S ATTRIBUTES
God created the universe to be a theatre upon which He might display the infinite glory and worth of His being and attributes, that He might be fully known, worshipped, and enjoyed by His creation. It has been said by many that the fall of man is the pitch-black sky upon which the stars of God’s attributes shine with the greatest intensity of glory. It is only through the fall and the advent of evil that the fullness of God’s character may truly be known.
When the Christian worships God, what are the attributes that seem most dear to him? Are they not God’s mercy, grace, and unconditional love? Are these not the divine attributes most exalted in all the great hymns of the Church? Yet how could these attributes be known except through the fall of man?
Unconditional love can only be manifest upon men who do not meet the conditions. Mercy can only be poured forth from the throne of God upon men who deserve condemnation. Grace can only be granted to men who have done nothing to earn it. Our fallenness is our doing, for which we are obliged to take full responsibility. Yet it is through the dark theatre of our fallenness that the grace and mercy of God takes the centre stage and shine forth upon an audience of both men and angels. It is in the salvation of fallen man that the wisdom, grace, and mercy of God are revealed, not only to man but also to every created being in heaven, earth, and hell.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” -Ephesians 2:4-7
“To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” -Ephesians 3:8-10
THE FULL REVELATION OF THE GLORIES OF CHRIST
The greatest work of God is the death and resurrection of the Son of God for the salvation of God’s people. However, if man had not fallen there would have been no Calvary and no Savior. The very thing that most explains God (John 1:18), draws us to Him (John 12:32), and causes us to love Him (I John 4:10, 19) would be gone.
What would take its place? What other means could have been used to demonstrate the immeasurable mercies of God? Christ crucified is the great theme of every worthy Christian hymn, sermon, conversation, and thought. Without the fall, redemption would be unknown to us. We would be like the angels, longing to look upon something that we would never and could never experience (I Peter 1:12).
It is wrong, and near blasphemy, to even hint that the cross of Christ was a mere Plan “B” that was employed only because of Adam’s wrong choice in the garden. The cross is the main event to which every other work of God’s providence points. All things stand in its shadow. In one sense, the cross was necessary because of the fall, but in another sense, the fall was necessary so that the glories of God in the cross of Christ might be made fully known.
THE FULL REVELATION OF THE CREATURE’S DEPENDENCE
One of the most awe-inspiring and humbling truths about God is that He is absolutely free from any need or dependence (Acts 17:24-25). His existence, the fulfillment of His will, and His happiness or good pleasure do not depend upon anyone or anything outside of Himself. He is the only being who is truly self-existent, self-sustaining, self-sufficient, independent, and free. All other beings derive their life and blessedness from God, but God finds all that is necessary for His own existence and perfect happiness in Himself (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 36:9).
The existence of the universe requires not only the initial act of creation but also the continued power of God to sustain it (Hebrews 1:3). If He were to withdraw His power for even one moment, all would turn to chaos and destruction. This same truth may be applied to the character of moral beings, whether angels or men. Adam in paradise and Satan in heaven, although created righteous and holy, could not stand apart from the sustaining grace of an Almighty God. How much less are we able to stand and how much more quickly would we fall apart from the same sustaining grace? The fall, therefore, provides the greatest example of our constant need for God. If we cannot continue our existence beyond our next breath except for God’s preservation, how much less are we able to maintain any semblance of righteousness before Him apart from His grace (John 15:4-5; Philippians 2:12-13)?
(SOURCE: THE TRUTH ABOUT MAN – PAUL WASHER)
NOTE: Dear friends, it is the time of the year where we need to renew our WordPress subscription fees for the Heavenly Remnant blog. The annual fee amounts to USD139 and currently we are out of pocket.
In addition, we wish to expand the ministry, Lord willing, and to distribute tracts to the Zulu people in the area in South Africa where we live.
We humbly ask for any donations, no matter how small. Should you feel led to donate, donations can be made to our PayPal account.