In the midst of all this there is, however, a bright note. God does not abandon Adam and Eve or eliminate them, even in their sin and failure. His words, “Where are you?” are the words of a seeking God. He doesn’t ask this because He is ignorant, needing information; He is omniscient. He is seeking them and their honest repentance. He knows precisely where they are, hiding among the trees clothed in their useless fig-leaf loincloths, and He knows why they are there. In His love and concern, He ignores their feeble excuses and presses them to speak the truth.
At the same time, in grace, He announces a judgment on the Serpent that contains within it the declaration of Satan’s defeat through the offspring of the very woman who has been instrumental in the collapse into sin. The ongoing drama of redemption will reveal this to be the Lord Jesus, who dealt a fatal blow to Satan through His victory at the cross. God’s Promised One will be a human being who will strike the blow that decisively brings to an end the work of the Evil One (genesis 3:14–15).
Undoubtedly Adam was deeply troubled by the declaration of the Divine Judge as He pronounced the consequences of sin. No area of life was left unchanged. Nothing would ever again be the way it had been. Adam would fight the ground all his life, and in the end it would win: “You are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
It would not be surprising to hear him blurt out invective accusations against his wife, to call her a name that reflected blame and shame. In fact, Adam did almost exactly the opposite. In God’s awesome words of judgment, Adam heard the gracious promise of God’s final victory over sin and evil. We are told, “The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.” The Hebrew word translated “Eve” is, in fact, another form of the Hebrew word that means “life.” What a strange name for Adam to choose! After all, their sin had set in motion the events that had brought about the certainty of death. The only explanation for Adam’s choice of the name Eve is that he had chosen to believe God’s promise, in direct contrast to the distrust and disobedience that had been at the heart of his rebellion.
God then provided a further basis of hope: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” On the surface, this may seem like nothing more than a simple act of God’s kindness, replacing their pathetic fig-leaf skirts with more substantial and durable leather robes. Yet further consideration leads to a stronger conclusion. The fig leaves represented the man and the woman’s instinctive and inadequate attempts to deal with their guilt and shame. They could cover their genitals, but they couldn’t remove their shame. They still felt naked before a holy God. But now God himself provided a covering for them, apparently at the cost of an animal’s life (the most likely source of the “garments of skins”). If this is so, the first suggested death after the fall is the death of a substitute to provide a covering for them. This covering is a gift of God, given not earned, complete not partial. All of this points us to the Lord Jesus, who provided a perfect sacrifice so that we can be covered with His righteousness. As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (niv).
Despite this glimpse of hope, Adam and Eve are not allowed to remain in the garden. They have forfeited the right to the way life was, fresh from the hand of God. Sin, their sin, tainted everything. So God, “drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.”
Paradise is not only lost; it can’t be regained by anything humans can do. The false claims and foolish hopes that we can reproduce paradise all mock us. Yet the end of Eden is not the end of God’s story—or ours. God provided a way for Adam and Eve to go forward, a journey that would find its climax at the cross of Christ, and its culmination at His return to establish a new heaven and a new earth.
When the Son of God, the Lord Jesus, took human flesh in the incarnation, it was God’s strongest affirmation of His purpose for our bodies.Christ did not come as a kind of gender-neutral being. He came as a male, taking a sexual identity that impacted all that He was. By His crucifixion as the Lamb of God bearing our sin, He not only crushed the Serpent’s head, He restored humanity’s lost relationship with God. His resurrection was not only evidence of His victory over death; it was also a pledge of His intention to reform His image in us. The holiness He intends is not merely the absence of sexual sins, but an increasing likeness to His character. And we look forward to the time when He will return in glory and we will receive our resurrection bodies, when He completes His restoration and redemption of all things in Christ.
Joshua Harris puts it well in his book Sex Is Not the Problem: “The truth is that Jesus didn’t come to rescue us from our humanity; He entered our humanity to rescue us from our sinfulness. He didn’t come to save us from being sexual creatures; He became one of us to save us from the reign of sin and lust, which ruins our sexuality.”6
One of the painful experiences of life is the discovery that we cannot go back. Once virginity has been given, it cannot be regained. Once adultery has been committed, once imagination has been defiled through pornography or sexual experimentation, once . . . the list goes on. There is no way back. But the glorious message of the gospel is that there is a way forward—through the gospel. We need to refuse to hide behind fig leaves, attempting to hide our guilt and shame. We need to stand as we are before a holy God, trusting His promise that there is a covering for us—the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, made available through His death on the cross. We cannot go back, but by faith we can go forward, covered by the provision of the Lord Jesus and accompanied by His gracious Spirit.
We are glorious ruins. We are not what we were created to be. The brokenness and corruption that fills human history is eloquent witness to that. Yet God’s image remains. Even though our sexuality bears witness to the fall, it also bears witness to God’s original creation. And as we go forward in the saving power of Christ and the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, it is in the confidence that He is at work in us, and we are “being renewed in knowledge after the image of [our] creator” (colossians 3:10).
We do not glorify God merely by avoiding sexual sin, although clearly that is part of what God’s Word calls us to do. But we most fully glorify God when we realize the purpose for which we were created, and employ and enjoy His good gifts as He intended.
The creation account makes three things clear:
Sex is a God-given blessing. It is God’s idea, not ours.
Sex has a God-intended context: marriage.
Sex has a God-designed purpose: intimacy.
When we trust Him by living within these boundaries under His authority in this most personal part of our lives, God receives glory and we display and enjoy the way life ought to be.
6 Joshua Harris, Sex Is Not the Problem (Lust Is): Sexual Purity in a Lust-Saturated World (Colorado Springs: Multnomah, 2003), 35.