The Story Of The Garden Of Eden
April 13, 2008
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Genesis 3:1-12, Galatians 1:1-5
Can An Orderly Society Be "An Evil Society?"
1. In The Epistle To The Believers At Galatia, which we read for today, the following is written. "Christ obeyed the will of the One who is the Father, who is our God, and being willing to deliver us from this evil world, he offered himself on account of our sins," (1:4).
2. Jesus offered himself for our sins. In order to atone for our sin, he offered himself and died upon the cross. The Bible says that Christ did this for the fact that he was "willing to deliver us from this evil world."
3. Well, everybody, when you hear the phrase "this evil world," what does it remind you of? [Does it remind you of] a recently committed atrocious crime? [Or of] the depravity of the politicians? It is, no doubt, that one aspect of this could be a society filled with horrible crimes, a society morally depraved. But, as Paul looks at that type of world at that simple level, he does not mean this.
4. Paul is a Jew. He grew up in a Jewish society. By no means was it a vulgar and depraved society. He was brought up in the kind of environment, which, in a certain sense, was highly devout and not morally bankrupt. Even during the period of time in which Paul was writing this epistle, this type of moral society was familiar to him. In addition, it was the same way for the people in receipt of this epistle. In the church at Galatia, the ones holding the power were the Judaizers, who preached forth a strict observance of the Torah, [the commandments and instructions in the "Old Testament."] In the church at Galatia, there were a lot of Christians who accepted the influence of these [Judaizers] and had a most serious and utmost strong respect for order and discipline.
5. That word is being used in that type of backdrop. With Paul looking on at the non religious, secular, and depraved world, he is not simply saying, "this evil society." [He is not saying] that, but that even a very religious, moral, and orderly society looks in the eyes of Paul as a part of "this evil society."
6. Therefore, we must understand first of all what does the Bible mean, when it speaks of "this evil society?" Unless we do, we won't understand what "save from this evil society" means either. With that I would like for us to turn our attention to a story that was very familiar to Paul and which is one of the stories we also know so well. It is the story of the garden of Eden, which was read during the first reading for today.
The Story Of The Garden Of Eden
7. Today we read a part from chapter three, but as you know, the tale begins in chapter two. Chapter two is the story where humans were created by God and made to dwell in the Garden of Eden. In that passage we are taught what kind of beings humans were originally, and what kind of world this world was originally.
8. In that passage the text reads as follows concerning the creation of humankind. "The Lord God fashioned a human from the dust of the earth, and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life. The human thus became a living person. The Lord God set up a garden in the eastern part of Eden, he put the human that he had made in it," (Genesis 2:7-8). That's what's written. God made a human, just like an artist crafts a product, concentrating, taking time, taking care. What's more, God himself blew his very own breath of life into the person. We were given precious life, living from God's breath, as a product which God had molded by pouring out his love. A person alive means that.
9. In addition, the scripture says that God caused trees to grow in the land "of all kinds, which are pleasing to the eyes and bring forth good things to eat." Like parents who love the children born to them will give their entire strength to prepare all that their child needs to live, God made everything ready that a person needs to live. Thus, we receive from the hands of God which are full of his love everything that we need to live, and we give thanks to God, we rejoice that we are loved by God and we live loving God. To live as a human being means that much.
10. Furthermore, in the story of the garden of Eden, humanity does not appear on the scene alone as one person, but as two persons. It is the story where [God] takes Adam's rib and constructs a woman out of it. It does not mean that the female is inferior or is a subordinate being. It means that human beings were made as mutually complementary beings to one another [as male and female]. Because of the fact that they live together, they are human beings. As human beings live complementary to one another, they rejoice that they are given life together by God, they give thanks to God together, they love God together, and live loving each other. That is the original way human beings were supposed to be. The story of the garden of Eden, first of all, describes this original happy figure of humankind, the original figure of the world.
11. However, we know that it is not that way in the real world. What is described in chapter three that we read for today is the figure of this world of reality. There a serpent appears on the scene. You could say that the temptation from a snake to a woman symbolizes the temptation from the devil to humanity. It is a story where that snake tempted the woman, causing her to take and eat the fruit from "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil" which God had forbidden, and then through that woman, it also caused the man to eat the fruit.
12. "The tree of the knowledge of good and evil." It was the one tree that God forbade to them. It was the tree that held great significance for humans. That tree gave a reminder to the humans of something important. That the Garden of Eden did not belong to humankind. That it was God's garden. That they could eat from the trees in it because God told them to "Take and eat from every tree in the garden," and that everything was given to them by the grace of God. That God was the one who had the power to determine what was good and what was bad and how they ought to live in the garden.
13. Humankind was supposed to live in this world not being forgetful of these things. [People] were supposed to live in obedience to God, loving God, being thankful for being placed in God's garden, and living in this world as God's world, God's garden. For that very reason, then, [they] could have maintained the original figure of humanity as the kind described in chapter two, and [they] could have maintained the original figure of the world.
14. But, the snake said to the woman, "If you eat it, God knows that your eyes will open and that you will become a person who knows good and evil just like God does," (verse five). That's how the snake tempted [her], "You will become like God." "You'll become the head over this garden. God doesn't need to be the only one who knows about good and evil. You'll decide how you should live in this garden. You'll be like God in deciding good and evil." As a matter of fact, doesn't that sound attractive? That we live the way we want, deciding for ourselves just what is good or bad. The scripture puts it like this, "When the woman saw it, the tree looked so delicious, it attracted her eyes, and was seducing her to become wise," (verse six).
15. The woman took and ate the fruit, then she handed it to the man who was with her, and he ate it too. Thus, the originally happy and blessed relationship with God was broken. The Bible expresses this reality in this way, "Adam and the woman avoided the face of the Lord God and hid among the trees in the garden," (3:8). What were its results? Even the relationship between one person and the other ended up being broken. God questions the man. "Did you eat from the tree which I had commanded you not to take and eat from?," (3:11). The man's answer was as follows. "The woman that you made to live with me took from the tree and gave it to me and so I ate it," (3:12). Indeed then, when man becomes like God, the one who is guilty is always somebody else beside himself. He says, "God is guilty, he made [me] be with the woman," and he says, "The woman is evil, she took it from the tree and gave it to [me]." When man becomes like God, the original relationship between humans is broken.
In Order To Deliver From "This World Of Evil"
16. This is "the evil world" which the story of the garden of Eden portrays. It is not some faraway tale. It is the real world we're looking at now. [It is] the figure of humanity that has forgotten to love God. [It is] the figure of humanity that no longer values this world as God's garden. [It is] the figure of humanity that thinks it will be happiest when it can be like God and do as it pleases. Thus, [it is] this world where because the original relationship with God is broken, and relationships between human beings are broken too, as a result [the world] is being torn apart, and it is shrieking because of those pains and suffering. Thus, the Bible calls this world, which has gotten so far from the first picture of it in the garden of Eden, "this evil world." As I touched on at the beginning, it is not just an issue of an immoral and disorderly world. It is an extremely moral and religious world which maintains its systems through discipline and order, but it often turns into a dreadful dog-eat-dog condemnatory world. That is also a part within "this evil world."
17. Christ has come into this same "world of evil." "Christ obeyed the will of the One who is the Father, who is our God, and being willing to deliver us from this evil world, he offered himself on account of our sins."
18. The reason behind Jesus' offering up himself on behalf of our sin and his hanging on the cross as an atonement for sin was not merely to release us from a sense of guilt. It was not to release us from anxiety and fear. Nor was it so that we would feel peaceful. It is not for those reasons but rather in order to deliver us from "this evil world." It is so that we might live not as Adam and Eve did avoiding the face of God and hiding among the trees, it is so that we might live [with] the world as God's world. It is so that we might live rejoicing that we are loved by God, as we love God who has built this world, and rely on Him, and receive each thing one by one from the hand of God. Most of all, it is so that we might live rejoicing not by ourselves alone for God's graces and gifts, but along with others who are neighbors, and so loving each other as fellow partakers in God's grace. In conclusion then, it is so that we are delivered from "this evil world" in these ways.
19. Therefore, we who believe in Christ hold assembling, worshipping, and partaking of God's grace together as precious. And we make every intention of living in a fellowship where we love one another. The deliverance from "this evil society" begins from here in this form. Of course, the prefect deliverance from "this evil society" will be fulfilled in the world that is to come, the kingdom of God. However, Christ has already offered himself on behalf of our sins. The Spirit of God which brings deliverance and salvation has come inside of us. [Deliverance] has already begun. Therefore, we should keep on steadfastly seeking. There must never be times among us where we cause divisions, condemn each other, and end up going back to "this evil world." We should keep seeking first and foremost that we truly be delivered from this evil world. And so let's steadfastly seek that deliverance from "this evil world" be brought into the various relationships we are given, among family, friends, school, work, regional communities, where ever we are sent.