The Fall and Original Sin

Preaching and Worship Resources about The Fall and Original Sin

In Scripture

The serpent's deception "Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, `Did God say, "You shall not eat from any tree in the garden"?' The woman said to the serpent, `We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, "You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die."' But the serpent said to the woman, `You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.' So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves" (Gen. 3:1 - 7).

Human's sinful response to God "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, `Where are you?' He said, `I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself.' He said, `Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?' The man said, `The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.' Then the Lord God said to the woman, `What is this that you have done?' The woman said, `The serpent tricked me, and I ate'" (Gen. 3:8 - 13).

The pervasiveness of sin "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned — sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. . . . If, because of the one man's trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:12 - 14, 17).

The consequences of sin "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23).

The effects of sin on creation "[T]he creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Rom. 8:20 - 21).

Points to Ponder

We all keep living our lives against what's good for us The real human predicament, as Scripture reveals, is that inexplicably, irrationally, we all keep living our lives against what's good for us. In what can only be called the mystery of iniquity, human beings from the time of Adam and Eve (and, before them, a certain number of angelic beings) have so often chosen to live against God, against each other, and against God's world. We live even against ourselves. An addict, for example, partakes of a substance or practice that he knows might kill him. For a time he does so freely. He has a choice. He freely starts a "conversion unto death," and, for reasons he can't fully explain, he doesn't stop until he crashes. (Patrick McCormick, Sin as Addiction, Paulist, 1989, p. 152) He starts out with a choice. He ends up with a habit. And the habit slowly converts to a kind of slavery and, ultimately, a death that can be broken only by God or, as they say in the twelve-step literature, "a higher power."

Our whole race "has a habit" where sin is concerned According to Genesis 3 and Romans 5, our whole race "has a habit" where sin is concerned. Near the beginning of our history, we human beings broke the harmony of paradise and began to live against our ultimate good, our summum bonum. As Genesis 3 and Genesis 4 reveal, we rebelled against God, and then we fled from God. We once had a choice. We now have a near-compulsion — at least, that's what we have without the grace of God to set us free. Over the centuries we humans have "ironed in" this near-compulsion, with the result that each new generation enters a world that had long ago lost its Eden, a world that is now half-ruined by the billions of bad choices and millions of old habits congealed into thousands of cultures across all the ages. In this world, even saints discover in exasperation that whenever they want to do right, "evil lies close at hand" (Rom. 7:21). We are "conceived and born in sin," as Calvinists sometimes put it when they baptize an infant. This is a way of stating the doctrine of original sin — that is, that the corruption and guilt of our first parents have run right down the generations, tainting us all. As the author Garry Wills writes, none of us has a fresh start: "We are hostages to each other in a deadly interrelatedness. There is no `clean slate' of nature unscribbled on by all one's forebears. . . . At one time a woman of unsavory enough experience was delicately but cruelly referred to as `having a past.' The doctrine of original sin states that humankind, in exactly that sense, `has a past'."

The history of sin and corruption keeps moving on down the ages in a cast of billions . Each new generation and each new person reaps what others have sown, and then sows what others will reap. This is true not only of goodness (much-loved children can offer a sense of security to their own spouses and children), but also of evil, which each generation not only receives, but also ratifies by its own sin. Terrorists, for example, do not think of themselves as others think of them — irrational zealots consumed by some nameless malice that has turned them into enemies of the peace established by decent people. They think of their violence as retaliation. (James T. Burtchaell, The Giving and Taking of Life: Essays Ethical, University of Notre Dame, 1989, pp. 219-220.) And because they have long memories, terrorists may think of themselves as redressing grievances that are decades or even centuries old.

The glory of God's good creation has not been obliterated by the tragedy of the fall and of original sin, but it has been deeply shadowed by it. The history of our race is, in large part, the interplay of this light and shadow.


Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.