WCF 6: Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof

WCF 6: Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof

Having corrupted natures we can’t reform ourselves. We can’t even choose Christ as our Savior unless the Father makes “us alive together with Christ” (Ephesians 2:5). By God’s grace sinfulness can be pardoned and weakened but not destroyed in this life. Even born-again people sin because they are still sinners till the day they are fully redeemed in glory.

One of the first questions friends ask parents of newborns is, “Does she look like mom or dad?” Often it’s hard to say; kids inherit traits from both their parents.

Children share more than their parents’ looks. They also acquire their nature. “When Adam had lived 130 years, he fathered a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth” (Gen. 5:3). That sentence is both happy and sad. Seth was a gift from God, a new start. But Seth was born to sinners; the likeness he now shared with his father and mother was marred. And so the human story has continued.

To know ourselves we need to understand what happened to our first parents when they tried to make their own way in the world contrary to God’s truth.

The First Sin (6.1–3)

The event of the first sin is narrated in Genesis three. Satan, taking the form of a serpent, seduced and deceived Eve (1 Tim. 2:14). Eve disobeyed God and ate fruit from a forbidden tree, as did Adam, following his wife.

The Bible doesn’t explain how it was possible for Adam and Eve to sin. But we know they had a truly free will; they were not forced into disobedience. The serpent was “more crafty than any other beast of the field” (Gen. 3:1). But the father of lies (John 8:44) still has creaturely limitations. Today too if we resist Satan he will flee from us (James 4:7; Matt. 4:11). Even fallen humans can rule over sin (Gen. 4:7). Moreover Adam and Eve had one rule to respect. They clearly understood God’s word and could have lived by it (Matt. 4:4). Finally, Eve had a partner. She should have asked Adam, the master of the garden, to help her withstand the devil. She didn’t have to stand alone (see Eccl. 4:12). Despite every advantage to obey God and retain their innocence, our first parents disobeyed.

Even this catastrophic first sin, “God was pleased, according to his wise and holy counsel, to permit, having purposed to order it to his own glory.” Just how sin is part of God’s plan doesn’t have to make sense to us.

Our first parent’s sin had immediate tragic consequences. From a plain read of Scripture clearly something happened to the relationship between God and his first people after their sin. Hiding from God was something entirely new and totally unexplainable apart from disobedience. God had warned that death would come to earth if they ever transgressed; and it had. Humans had become “dead in sin.” Evil now defined them (see Gen. 6:5). So it was no longer natural for man to commune with God. As further evidence of their fallenness their eyes were truly opened (Gen. 3:7); they now knew shame, fear, and conflict.

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