Human beings did not originally exist in a state of wickedness but rather had the ability to obey the Lord (Gen. 1:26–27, 31). Thus, something must have happened in history to render us incapable of following God’s law perfectly and incline us toward hatred of God and our neighbors (Eph. 2:1–3). Based on Genesis 3 and other passages, question and answer 7 of the Heidelberg Catechism explains that our state of misery results from “the fall.” In fact, this is what orthodox Christians have confessed throughout history.
Most of us are probably familiar with the story of the fall recounted in Genesis 3, so we will look at only a few of the most important points in the account. First, we should note that the actual temptation was for Adam and Eve to become their own gods, to cast off the restraints imposed by the Creator and become like the One who is subject to no law outside of Himself (vv. 4–5).
Second, we see that disobedience to the Lord shattered the relationship men and women had with Him and with each other. After their sin, Adam and Eve tried their best to hide from their Maker instead of running with open arms to greet the Lord God when He visited the garden of Eden (vv. 7–8). Then, when God confronted Adam for his transgression, he immediately began to play the blame game, throwing his own wife “under the bus,” as it were, instead of taking responsibility for his fall (vv. 9–12). We see all this discord worked out in human history and in our own experience. Men and women hide from the one true God by cowering behind idols that are easier to control. People look out for themselves alone, try to avoid responsibility, and are willing to hurt those who are closest to them.
Finally, despite the grace seen in God’s promise to one day destroy the Tempter and, implicitly, the power and presence of sin (Gen. 3:14–15), we see that human beings lost the privileges of paradise. In punishment for their sin, Adam and Eve were cast out from the garden and from access to the tree of life (vv. 22–24). Since they were the first parents of the entire human race, their descendants would be born outside the garden, without any way to get past the cherubim guarding access to the life-giving tree. Clearly, Adam’s sin had consequences for all his children, and we will consider this idea further in tomorrow’s study.