Romans (Part 42) – Atonement Part 3 (13:14)
We often hear that the bruising of the heel and the crushing of the head involves Satan himself. Satan bruises Christ’s heel by driving him to the cross, but Christ destroys Satan in a stunning turnaround as the cross and resurrection defeat Satan and death. However, my conclusion was that it was not the interplay with Satan that is pointed out in Genesis 3:15 but rather with physical creation. Here’s why. First of all, let’s discuss the serpent; who is he? Well, we have already talked about him as Satan, but how do we know that? After all, Satan is not once mentioned in the whole passage. Satan, in neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament, is ever expressly mentioned in conjunction with Eden. And actually, the name Satanis never used as a name in the OT. The Hebrew word satanmeans adversary, and in 28 of 29 appearances in the OT, the word is preceded by a definite article rendering a complete translation “the adversary” (although the OT has the Hebrew word translated often as “Satan” though in others as “the adversary”). Only one time is it missing the article, and that is in 1 Chr 21:1: “Satan stood up against Israel and incited David to count the people.” Reading that on its own, we could think of it as the Devil’s name, but this verse has a parallel in 2 Samuel 24:1, which reads, “The Lord’s anger burned against Israel again, and He stirred up David against them.” Therefore, one verse says Satan incited Davidwhile the other verse says the Lord stirred up David. If we want to insist that the name of Satan is used in 1 Chronicles, there is, of course, a way to reconcile that (in the same way we reconcile Pharaoh hardening his own heart in one passage and God hardening Pharaoh’s heart in another). However, we could also understand 1 Chronicles to be talking about God as (at this precise point) being Israel’s adversary and thus inciting David. The point of this all is that the naming convention is not so clear as we may have supposed. However, when we turn over to the New Testament, we have a little more clarity. While the Greek satanasdoes come from the Aramaic and Hebrew root satan, it is translated in its full 36 occurrences as the proper name Satan. And it is in the New Testament where we get a better understanding of this evil demon so that we can confidently link him to certain adversarialactivity in the OT.
In the NT, we find that the name Devil means accuser or slanderer, which perfectly links to “the adversary” in Job. We also read of the Devil tempting Jesus in the wilderness, and the character of those temptations perfectly aligns with the tempting by the serpent in the Garden. Jesus calls the Devil a “murdererfrom the beginning” and the “father [originator]of lies,” further linking the Devil to that serpent in the beginningwho firstlied, leading to death. And finally, we find the ultimate connection in Revelation 20:2, linking serpent, Devil, and Satan: “the dragon, that ancient serpentwho is the Deviland Satan.” All this connection leaves us with a bit of confidence that the serpent of the Garden was, in fact, Satan.
But if so, why did Scripture not explicitly says so? After all, in other places, Scripture tells us exactly when Satan is acting. We know Job’s calamities where instigated by Satan. We read that Satan entered Judas (John 13:27), propelling him out into the night toward his betrayal. So why not mention that Satan entered the serpent? I think the silence about that in Genesis 3 is to keep the emphasis on physical creation rather than Satan. Although we may deduce with some confidence that Satan was involved, the passage keeps our thoughts focused on the choice of Adam (and Eve) in favor of physical creation over God. It is physical creation then that has the influence over the spirits of the image bearers (in contrast to Genesis 1:26–28), and physical creation then should be seen as the receiver of the consequence of that sin in its curse.
There is still one more question with which to grapple: why did God even allow Satan to slither into the Garden? The place is called Eden—pleasure, and it is here where God is intent on teaching Adam and Eve about relationship and their Covenant of Life, demonstrating that he would provide truth, goodness, and beauty. So why allow the influence of evil?
We should remember that in the previous scene (the end of chapter 2), God had just completed forming Adam and Eve fully as beings, but they had only begun on their journey toward relational maturity. The first step in that journey was involved with God’s command not to eat of the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The purpose for the command was not because he didn’t want them to know good or evil. Rather, he was emphasizing that they needed to learn that truth of good and evil from him; he planned to teach them about it. Therefore, the serpent’s entrance was not an accident that occurred when God wasn’t looking. The serpent’s communication to Eve and Adam was a part of God’s plan for their relational learning. Note that the only attach the serpent was allowed to conduct was in challenge of the only good-and-evil lesson given thus far: don’t eat (that’s good); do eat (that’s evil).
Therefore, the choice made by Adam and Eve to choose creation over God at the urging of the serpent caused the enmity between the human spirit and its essence: physical creation. And it is that conflict—working its way through the seed of the woman and the seed of physical creation—that reaches the climax in Christ’s first advent as his human body nips at his heel though in the end he crushes the cursed creation to carry away redeemed essence in triumph.
To wrap up this step 4 concerning the consequences of sin, we should see the Bible’s repeated examples of the activity of the Garden. The picture of Israel’s escape from Egypt parallels the story, just as Paul’s metaphor using himself in Romans 7 recounts the same thing. Adam and Eve were issued a command: don’t eat (in other words, wait for God’s teaching of relationship). Israel, at the base of Sinai, was issued a similar command: wait. Both those commands parallel Paul’s declaration in Romans 7 that he knew (from God’s revelation) to do good. And the purpose in all three cases was for good to come: relationship, the teaching of the Law, and the goodness contrasted by the Law’s judgmental regulation. Adam and Eve did not wait, and neither did Israel or Paul’s character in Romans 7. They all participated in sin, choosing for physical creation. And the result in each case was physical death. Paul ends chapter 7 crying out for separation from that physical creation—from that “body of death” (7:24). And that is what leads us, in all three cases, to the atonement—the rescue of us from the curse of creation, which is our corrupted essence.
For our next step (step 5 toward understanding the atonement), we’ll discuss how our conclusion in step 4’s the breaking of the covenant finds its way down through the ages even to us today. Adam’s sin, which we often term original sin, did have an effect for all humankind; however, it is not the effect that many seem to surmise.
Back in chapter 1 of our Romans series, we discussed this same issue. The name traducian became assigned to those who believed that our spirit’s were somehow derived from our parents just as our bodies are. And therefore, the guilt of Adam’s sin passed from Adam’s spirit to his children’s spirits and on down the line even to us. However, the problem with this thought is that if Adam’s sin passed to us by way of our heritage of generated spirits, then too the guilt of our parents’ sins and their parents’ sins and their parents’ sins all the way back passed to us as well. Imagine being the child of a Hitler or Stalin and standing before God having to answer for the genocide of millions, and not being able to offer the excuse, “But I didn’t actually do it!” Doesn’t seem fair, does it? Well, apparently God doesn’t think it fair either. In Ezekiel 18:20, he makes it clear that we do not inherit the sins of our parents.
So the creationists come to the forefront. They are those who believe each spirit is created anew as each being is born (or, rather, conceived). And while it seems more likely than traducianism, we still read in Psalm 51:5 that we are born in sin. And how would Paul know, as he says in Romans 3:23, that all have sinned, unless there was some common connection to Adam by which we all sin?
The puzzle is not an easy one and has been sloshed through for hundreds of years. Calvin, seemingly giving up on trying to understand, stated, “Whence does it happen that Adam’s fall irremediably involved so many peoples, together with their infant offspring, in eternal death unless because it so pleased God?” (Institutes, V2, 955). Yet I would not, as Calvin and so many of his followers who bear his name, so easily want to assign this and other horrid actions to the pleasure of God. In fact, in this case we know it can’t be so because God firmly states in Ezekiel 18:32, “For I take no pleasure in anyone’s death.”
The idea of creationism found support from federalism (or, the federal headship idea). Federalism states that Adam was, rather than the actual father of our souls, the representative of our race. Therefore, as representative, when he sinned, we all became guilty. Of course, several of us may bristle at the idea of being charged with guilt for his sin, but the federalist normally responds by saying, “Well, Jesus is also our representative, and we don’t seem to mind that his atoning work may be imputed to us all. Therefore, if we’re going to accept the imputation of Jesus’s atoning work, we must be willing to accept Adam’s damning work.”
But the ideas are not parallel (i.e., not comparing apples with apples). Jesus’s atoning work maybe imputed, but that imputation is based on the faithful acceptance by the individual, whereas Adam’s sin guilt is supposed to be imputed to us without any faithful acceptance. The argument, then, doesn’t hold.
The argument is based on the idea that Romans 5:12 teaches imputation of sin. But let’s look at that verse. As we discussed earlier in our Romans series, this verse is a chiasmus, arranged as follows:
A1 Just as sin entered the world through one man
B1 and death through sin,
B2 in this way death spread to all men,
A2 because all sinned.
Thus, the point of the verse is not to say Adam sinned and therefore everyone else receives imputed sin. Rather, the balance of the verse indicates that just as Adam sinned and received death, so all sin and receive death.
The federalists also argue that in rest of Romans 5, Paul is contrasting Adam and Christ as representatives. However there is no mention of representation. And, in fact, as Paul takes his discussion into chapter 6, we learn that we’ve died to Adam (and his cursed race) and have been made alive (reborn) in Christ. We’ve no comparison of representatives here because Paul doesn’t use representational language; he uses relational language.
The problem that traducianism and creationism (federalism) share is that both presume that the effect of Adam’s sin transmits through our spirits. But what was actually cursed in the fall? It was our essence—physical creation. And how are we actually related to Adam? We are actually related through our bodies—our essence—physical creation. Then, how should we think the effect of sin passes to us? It would make sense if passed through our essence—through physical creation. Thus, Adam’s sin corrupted physical creation (our essence) into which our spirits are born, thus being dominated by the influence of sin and requiring redemption for life (relationship) with God.
Concerning this idea, one more point needs to be made. The consequence of Adam’s in (the curse of our essence) destroys God’s creative purpose (our shared everlasting love relationship with God) because relationship with God takes place within our physical essence. Thus, for relationship with God to take place, our physical essence (that is, our corrupted physical essence) must be made holy as God is holy. And that is the idea behind redemption.
The Bible all along argues that our physical essence is the place where we meet God. That was illustrated back in the Garden, which represented that place of relationship. Before the fall, meeting with God was in sinless pleasure. After the fall, Adam and Eve wanted to hide because of their nakedness—the unworthiness of their essence. In Genesis 3:22–23, God casts them out of the Garden, the place of relationship, symbolizing the now cursed and corrupted and unholy housing place for relationship.
As we move through the Old Testament, we see the same idea presented in its many stories. The Noahic covenant begins in Genesis 5 with a recounting of how humankind was made in God’s image for the intent of relationship. But just as Adam chose Eve (creation) over God, so did the sons of God chose the daughters of men (6:1–2), leading the world in its downward spiral of “widespread wickedness.” But the rest of chapter 6 showcases God’s plan for redemption, symbolized in the ark. Genesis 7 shows the destruction of the earth (the old essence), and Genesis 8 highlights the rebirth to new essence. And the story is capped in Genesis 9:1–17 as God promises never again to destroy the essence (symbolic of the everlasting life of the believer).
We see the same idea presented in the Abrahamic covenant as the three major promises are offspring (signifying our spirits), land (signifying our bodies—our essence), and the blessing to the nations (signifying restored relationship).
The Mosaic covenant indicates the picture as well. The children of Israel were imprisoned in Egypt, which images our sinful essence. Rescue through the Red Sea images our atonement escape. The wilderness wanderings showcase our time now awaiting new essence. The passing through the Jordan represents our physical death and shrugging off of this old corrupt essence. And the entering into the Promised Land showcases our new bodies—new essence received at Christ’s return.
Perhaps the greatest metaphor of our bodies (or physical essence) as the meeting place with God is in the temple metaphor. The tabernacle in the wilderness—set up in the middle of the camp—was the place to meet with God. But this tabernacle had to be made holy with the sprinkling of sacrificial blood prior to use for meeting.
Jesus told the Pharisees in John 2:19 that if they destroy his body (his temple), in three days he would raise it up, highlighting the unspotted housing of relationship with God. And Jesus is indeed the firstfruits of this purified, restored, refined, redeemed physical essence, as 1 Corinthians 15:22–23 tells us.
So then, while it is God’s essence on which relationship is based, it is the image bearers’ essence inwhich relationship takes place. And that essence must be purified and holy for relationship to take place. But Adam’s sin cursed our physical essence, making it impossible for us to have relationship with God. But God’s redemption plan, seeing fulfillment in the atonement, was to rescue us from this curse of sin—our corrupted physical essence—so that we could again meet with God.