REFLECTIONS UPON THE FALL OF MAN:

WHEN WORSHIP WENT WRONG

By

LARRY D. HARVEY

 

            As a Lutheran, I believe that all of my new life, what is truly "life", is received through, defined by, and filled with the Word of God.  It was the Word with the water of my baptism that put me into the death of Christ so that all of my sinful being has truly died, and my life remains a life in my baptism which will be completed in the grave.  It is His Word that sustains me day in and day out.  It is His Word that feeds me life without end in, with and under the common elements of the Lord's Supper.  I receive this Word as a member of God's people when He gathers us together before Him in worship today. 

 

            With that in mind, have you considered Adam and Eve at worship in Garden before the fall into sin?  Let us review the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis and consider Adam and Eves' relationship to God's Word and at worship, but before we do so, please stop and think about how you define "worship".  We will return to a consideration of a proper understanding of "worship" at the end of this article.

 

            Throughout the first revelation of the creation in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, we repeatedly hear the words "And God said" (Genesis 1:3,6,9,11,14,20,24, and 26; ESV).  All of creation found its source, definition, and norm in God's word.  There was no existence outside of His Word.  The separation of light and darkness was according to His Word.  (Genesis 1:3-5).  The separation of the waters from the waters was by His Word.  (Genesis 1:6,7).  The separation of "the waters under the heavens" from "the dry land" was according to His Word.  (Genesis 1:9,10; ESV).  The fact that vegetables, plants, and fruit trees appeared was because He said it would be so.  (Genesis 1:11,12). 

 

            It was His Word that established the sun, moon and stars in the heavens and the role of the sun and moon providing light during the day and the night and separating the already created light from darkness.  (Genesis 1:14-18).

 

            The fact that there would be living creatures on the land, in the air, and in the seas was because He said so.  (Genesis 1:20,21).  The fact that those creatures would multiply was because God's Word said they would be so able.  (Genesis 1:22).

 

            What about man?  Man's life begins in God's Word.  "Then God said, 'Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.  And let them have dominion  over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.'  So God created man in his own image, and the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."  (Genesis 1:26,27; ESV)  Their ability also to have any ordered relationship with creation and to be able to multiply was because God said so.  "And God blessed them.  And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.'  And God said, 'Behold, I have given you ever plant yielding seed...every tree with seed in its fruit.'"  (Genesis 1:28,29; ESV)

 

            When creation was finished and God had seen that everything within creation was "very good", (Genesis 1:31; ESV) there was nothing about or within  or constituting life that was not purely according to God's Word. 

 

            Even the relationship between Adam and Eve was a matter of God's Word.  "Then the LORD God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.'"  (Genesis 2:18; ESV)   Adam was husband of Eve, and therefore the spiritual head of this the first marriage, family, people of God, and therefore, Church.  Did Adam and Eve, constituting all of the people of God at that time, have a place in the Garden whereby they might particularly worship the Lord?  Let us look at the Garden a bit more.  "And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.  And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food.  The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. ... The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying 'You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.'" (Genesis 2:8,9,15-17; ESV) 

 

            Let us consider the tree of the knowledge of good and evil as the place of corporate worship of Adam and Eve before man's fall into sin.  It was there, at that spot in all of the garden, that Adam and Eve could stand before God's Word, receiving all of the blessings that was theirs through that Word, and by their not eating of the fruit, return God's Word to God with their thanksgiving in complete joy-filled, thanks-filled, and full obedience to His Word.  That is truly corporate worship.  Sadly, however, it was within the place and time of corporate worship that sin entered into this world.

 

            Let's look at the fall of man from that perspective.  First of all, we see that both Adam and Eve were in that place of worship, "...she also gave some to her husband who was with her."  (Genesis 3:6; ESV)  All the people of God were gathered in the place for worship, as defined above, and with the fullest of opportunities to be in worship, passively receiving all the blessings of God, fully enjoying them according to God's Word, and with the perfect opportunity to return that joy and thanks-filled obedience to God.  But watch worship go wrong in the story.  We encounter the serpent speaking in the place and at the time of worship to Eve.  The serpent was a  part of creation given  into the dominion of man as a part of the outpouring of God's free and abundant love for man.  Genesis 1:28-31)  Yet, this subordinate part of creation was allowed to elevate itself to one who teaches mankind.  We have here the first false teacher within the church claiming authority equal to God, therefore over man, questioning and changing the authoritative Word of God and tempting man to join in such perversion by elevating other parts of creation, including man's reason, man's will, man's sight and senses, and the like to redefine man's worship relationship with God.

 

            The serpent asked , "Did God actually say, 'You shall not eat of any tree in the garden'?" (Genesis 3:1; ESV), note the serpent subtly changes the entire field of inquiry by referencing "any tree", i.e. the entire garden, and not limiting the question to what was authoritatively known as God's Word, the "it" of "...but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that eat of it you shall surely die."  (Genesis 2:17; ESV)  Even the formulation of a theological question can be a rejection of God's Word.   This may also be the first example of a creature trying to usurp the role of teacher by the use of questions.

 

            Eve begins the path of false worship when she responds "...but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'"  (Genesis 3:3; ESV).  She now tries to bring "better clarity" to God's revealed will by adding to God's Word.  How often do we hear teachers claiming the authority to do the same thing today?

 

            After the serpent responds to Eve promising that mankind can now ascend up to God and His level with "...when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil."  (Genesis 3:5; ESV), Eve employed her God given senses and reasoning, now no longer completely subordinate to God's Word, and rationalized her relationship with God and this life ignoring, twisting, and ultimately denying the absolute clarity of God's Word establishing the entire relationship between God and man.  "So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate...." (Genesis 3:6; ESV)   How often do we hear teachers exhorting us to try to ascend up to God today?

 

            Where was the spiritual head of the family and church during all of this?  He was with her, as noted above, yet he allowed a self-claimed authority to enter into the worship life of he and Eve by remaining silent throughout this process.  He never challenged the propriety of any part of creation becoming a teacher without the clear authority of God.  His role in relationship with Eve had been clearly given according to the Word of God.  A serpent's role as teacher was nowhere to be found in His Word.  Adam, as spiritual head, did not challenge the formulation of questions that were not really within the proper questions of "What does this mean?"  as a question that knows the source and norm for truth is only God's Word.  He did not challenge changing God's Word even if the "human motive" was to provide a better clarity to God's intent as defined by the recipient of the revelation, not the One who truly knows his intent and speaks it.  

 

            Lastly, he did not assert his place and immediately lead himself and Eve in praising the Name of God by bursting worth with a proclamation of joy and thank-filled obedience right in the face of temptation and false teaching. 

 

            Adam and Eves' worship life had been now completely perverted, and mankind fell into the dismal abyss of sin. 

 

            I asked you at the beginning of this article to state your definition of "worship".  Did your definition first center upon what people are doing towards God?  Did you note that in the first and second chapter of Genesis, God is the Actor, Doer, Creator, and Giver of all things?  In the story of man's fall into sin and death in the third chapter of Genesis, we saw that when Adam and Eve became the actors, doers, authorities, and judges within that relationship with God, Death came upon mankind.  When we are gathered by God's gracious call on Sunday mornings, we have Divine Services.  First and foremost, the Divine has gathered us together to serve us.  He has His Word to feed to us that we may be given by Him anew forgiveness, a complete reconciliation to Him, and eternal life as His heirs by adoption through Christ Jesus.  Yes, His people do respond through faith and return His Word to Him with joy and thanksgiving in the liturgy, the prayers, the hymns, and all the Amens to His free gift of life everlasting for the sake of His Son.  That is true worship, first and foremost from Him, and then returned to Him with thanksgiving through faith.

 

            My last question on this is whether or not a lot of the new definitions, teachings, preferences and promulgations of corporate worship are anything more than a repeat of man's fall.  We certainly know what happened when God's Word lost its proper place in the worship life of Adam and Eve.  Sin and death came upon mankind.  So often today we hear an emphasis on "worship" that is centered in what we do, what we think, how we feel, all in a focus where man is the center, as if we can somehow add to Him and His Name, give Him some greater glory, or in some manner improve upon His work of our salvation.  When we "bless the Lord", we through faith give thanks to Him for all He has done, is doing, and will be do according to His promises.  Any other focus is to mimic and repeat the sin of Adam and Eve today.   

 

 

LDH

 

 

Larry D. Harvey has served as a Bible Class leader and Lay Leader in several congregations in Texas for over thirty years.  He is an attorney practicing in Houston, Texas.  He has served as General Counsel and a Director of Crossties Lutheran Ministry Resources, Inc. since its inception.  He and his wife, April, reside in Spring, Texas.  

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