God originally created man in His image, and the sixth day of creation ended with God proclaiming everything, including the creation of man as male and female, to be “very good” (Gen 1:31). Genesis 2 gives a complementary and more detailed account of the sixth day of creation (Gen 2:4-25). But then Genesis 3 comes, with its account of how man fell from his original sinlessness and God cursed all creation with decay. As the third article of The Baptist Faith and Message says,
In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.
Man was originally sinless, but Adam’s fall resulted in all his progeny being sinful thereafter. Nevertheless, all people still remain divine image-bearers.
From Sinless to Sinful
As the goodness of gender was one implication of the “very good” nature of God’s original creation (Gen 1:31), so the sinlessness of man is another. And God in His grace gave Adam a choice whether to obey God’s command not to eat from the forbidden tree (Gen 2:16-17). In the original creation, without a sin nature, Adam had absolute choice whether to continue in his sinless state or to introduce sin not only into his own life but also into all the created world if he ate the forbidden fruit.
Tragically, Adam chose to disobey God and therein became a sinner. Satan in the form of a serpent tempted Eve directly (Gen 3:1-5), but Adam “was with her” (Gen 3:6). Satan distorted God’s word (Gen 3:1) and then after Eve inaccurately quoted God’s command herself (Gen 3:3) denied God’s word outright (Gen 3:4-5). Adam was with her, Eve—but he didn’t correct the serpent himself or even correct Eve’s misquotation. Adam didn’t stop
Eve from eating, he allowed her to eat the forbidden fruit, and when she didn’t drop dead immediately, he joined her. Eve was deceived into sinning—but Adam sinned with eyes wide open, willfully, flagrantly. Adam failed as Eve’s husband, as a man of God, as priest-king of the garden of Eden. And in so doing he abdicated his throne over the rest of creation to Satan. By getting Adam and Eve to obey him in the garden and give in to temptation to disobey God, Satan gained mastery over the human race. He is “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30), “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4), and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:2). Satan boasted to Jesus in his own wilderness temptation, “all this authority and their [nations’] glory … has been delivered to me” (Luke 4:6). Indeed, as John summarizes, “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19).
In describing the original fall into sin, the Bible shows that temptation comes not only from external sources (e.g., Satan) but also from internal desires (Gen 3:6). Eve saw the threefold goodness of the tree: its goodness for food, its physical beauty, and its desirability for acquiring wisdom, she took of its fruit and ate. God Himself proclaimed the tree to be good in these ways (Gen 2:9; 3:22). But it was wrong for Adam and Eve to take the tree’s fruit apart from God’s permission. Their desire for a good thing was greater than their desire for God, who is the greatest good, so they sinned.
Adam’s sin had immediate consequences. He and Eve felt shame. Sin broke their relationship not only with God but also with each other. Having broken trust with God, Adam and Eve could not trust one another. So they hid from one another by sewing together leaves into loincloths (Gen 3:7), and they attempted to hide from God, as well (Gen 3:8). Of course, they can’t hide from God, and God the just Judge passes judgment on them. Eve will have pain in childbearing, and there will be conflict between her and Adam (Gen 3:16). God’s judgment on Adam is most lengthy and last, because Adam bears covenantal responsibility for humanity’s fall into sin and the subsequent curse on the rest of creation. God curses the ground on account of Adam, and Adam’s work will be tiresome and troubled (Gen 3:17-19). Because of sin, Adam and Eve must be separated from God’s relational presence in Eden and be in exile to the east (Gen 3:23-24).
Because of sin, every life will end in death (Rom 6:23). Such is evident from the near-universal refrain of Genesis 5: “and he died” (Gen 5:5, 8, 11, 14, 17, 20, 27, 31). “This unique litany of death … functions as the death-knell of the judgment in Eden.”1 Paul explains why everyone dies:
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.Romans 5:12-14
In Adam all die, because in Adam we all fell. Adam was the founding father of the whole human race. He was our head. But he fell. He sinned. He
transgressed God’s law, and mysteriously, we sinned in him, also. From Adam, we all inherit “a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.” But as soon as we all have the ability to choose to sin, we sin. We rebel against God and are set against Him (Rom 3:9-20). None of us are able or willing to save ourselves. We need God’s grace in order to save us, as our plight is so severe that we are in fact dead in our sins (Eph 2:1, 8-9).
Sacred though Sinful
God had created to be His image bearers (Gen 1:26-27). By sin, Adam marred that image. Ever since Adam’s original sin, we all by nature and by choice continue to be like carnival house mirrors. We distort God’s image even more than we portray it. Only Jesus, the sinless perfect man, is “the exact imprint of His nature” (Heb 1:3). Though the divine image in each of us is effaced by sin, it is not altogether erased. All people continue to be made in God’s image. Through faith in Christ, that image may begin to be restored.
Jesus died for sin, so all people are “worthy of respect and Christian love,” as our statement of faith affirms. Christian unity transcends all ethnic differences because of Jesus’s death for our sins (Gal 3:28; Eph 2:13-18). Jesus commissioned us His people to “make disciples of all nations” (Matt 28:19). The gospel should be proclaimed to “every nation and tribe and language and people” (Rev 14:6). By His blood, Jesus “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). In the end, this pan-ethnic group will be “a great multitude that no one could number” (Rev 7:9). So we Christians should treat everyone we encounter with great respect and love, both through acts of sacrificial service and through telling them the good news of Jesus.