Act 2: Fall
As with Act 1: Creation, Act 2 is told in a small section of Scripture, only one chapter in Genesis. It is an important chapter, though, and does serve as a very important act within the grand story. It gives us three important themes which are relevant in our lives: the nature of sin, the unchanged nature of God in the face of our sin, and the nature of the enemy, Satan.
The Nature of Sin
In Act 1 we saw that Adam and Eve – representative of all humanity – were created for close relationship with God. The only restriction given to them is that they cannot eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This Tree is often misunderstood in Christian thought when it is reduced simply to doing wrong. As Bartholomew and Goheen explain in The Drama of Scripture, though, eating of this Tree represents something bigger than that:
It is a quest for autonomy, a desire to separate ourselves from God. The consequences of sin are also clearly demonstrated. Just as Genesis 2 shows humankind in our created and unfallen relationships, so Genesis 3 focuses on the breakdown of those relationships following the human mutiny against the divine King. We humans are made for relationship, but sin’s effect is to drive us apart. Above all, humankind is made to enjoy relationship with God, but the sin of Adam and Eve causes them to flee from him and be afraid, ashamed and alone. (pp 24-25)
In other words, The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil can be paraphrased to “the tree of deciding for myself what is right and wrong.” It is not about making one individual decision to do something against God’s will. Rather, it is an active willful choice to live in a way that disregards God entirely by putting ourselves in God’s place as arbiter of right and wrong. This inevitably results in a severing of this relationship with God as well as with each other.
It is important to note that God’s character does not change in response, contrary to the assumptions that most make about what a holy god should be like. Yes, God does spell out the consequences/punishment for the actions of Adam and Eve, yet still chases them down when they hide. God even still clothes them to help cover their new-found shame, despite that it is the same shame that is causing them to flee. While the curse of Genesis 3 is mostly negative in explaining consequences, it also expresses a fascinating promise that one of Eve’s offspring would be the one to crush the head of the serpent. This is commonly understood to be the first prophecy pointing to Jesus and his eventual victory over evil. God’s Kingdom plan has not changed and his love for his creation has not changed, even with this barrier of our sin in place.
Finally, we are introduced to the serpent, later identified to be Satan (Revelation 12:9) which in Hebrew literally means “Accuser.” In this text we already see that the primary characteristic of this being in line with his name: he is a liar and an accuser. He tempts God’s people away from their created purpose finding fulfillment in God and into idolatry of trying to find fulfillment elsewhere. He makes accusations that God is not as good as he pretends to be. Even though in Act 4 we’ll see that Jesus has already defeated Satan in principle, he is still roaming like a lion seeking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8) with much the same strategy and character. Therefore these characteristics of our adversary are still relevant to keep in mind for our daily decisions.