Why God Permitted Adam’s Transgression
September 12th, 1954 @ 7:30 PM
WHY GOD PERMITTED ADAM’S TRANSGRESSION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
9-12-54 7:30 p.m.
We are in the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans. And if you have your Bibles, follow it with me. Romans, the fifth chapter; read the eighth verse and then start at the twelfth and through the chapter. Romans 5:8, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Now, the twelfth verse:
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:
(For until the law sin was in the world: [but] sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is a figure of Him that was to come.
But not as the offense, [so also] is the free gift. For if through the offense of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one Man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
And not as it was by one that sinned, [so] is the gift: for the judgment by one was to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification.
For if by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more, much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ.)
Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of One the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.
For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many be made righteous.
Moreover the law entered, that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace, grace did much more abound:
That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.
As I began to study and to prepare for this hour, there came to my heart in this study a marvelous message. Oh, if God would just help me deliver it tonight! There are some things about this life, universe, creation, that I’ve thought about ever since I’ve been able to think. There are things that come and crowd into your heart and into your soul. So we are going to see what God has to say of those things tonight. Maybe I could entitle the message Why God Permitted Adam’s Transgression. Why didn’t God stop it? [Genesis 3:1-6]. Why does God allow it?
God knew all of the evil consequences that would follow to Adam’s posterity through the generations down to us today; the woe and misery, the war and bloodshed, the pain and sorrow, the suffering and death that are written large on every page of human history since the day of Adam’s sin. Didn’t God know that? Didn’t God see that? Then, why did God permit it? There is an answer in this passage I have read out of the Book of Romans; so let’s start at the beginning.
There are two conflicting—evil and good—there are two conflicting, opposing spiritual powers, principalities, dominions, kingdoms, in this creation. There’s not one, there are two. We see it one time in the first verse of the first chapter of the Book of Genesis: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” [Genesis 1:1]. If God did it, how do you think it was done? Could God do an imperfect thing? Could God create something bad and ugly as it came from the hands of the great benign, beneficent, almighty, all-powerful Creator? Whatever that was that God created, that He called the heaven and earth, was beautiful and glorious beyond compare [Genesis 1:1]. In those pre-mundane days, God’s angels, the seraphim and the cherubim, worshipped in His holy presence. And above all of the angelic and seraphic and cherubic orders [Ezekiel 28:14], the Lord created “the son of the morning,” and he walked in the glory of God Himself [Isaiah 14:12, Ezekiel 28:13-15].
And in those days long before the foundation of this present world, in those days sin entered the heart of that chief archangel [Ezekiel 28:15], who guarded the ramparts of God’s heaven. His pride lifted him up. And looking upon Christ, God’s Son—co-equal with the Father [Philippians 2:6]—looking upon Him, envy and jealousy made him say, “And I, I will exalt myself above the very highest throne of God” [Isaiah 14:12-14]. And that was the origin of evil; it started, it began in the heart, in the soul, in the mind, in the will, in the pride of Lucifer, the son of the morning [Isaiah 14:12], the archangel who shepherded all God’s celestial creation [Ezekiel 28:14].
Now, you have an insoluble mystery: why God allowed that in the beginning? Nobody shall ever know until we talk to God face to face in the world that is to come [Revelation 22:3-5]. But, the origin of evil was in the heart of Satan, Lucifer [Ezekiel 28:15], the son of the morning [Isaiah 14:12], the crown prince of the seraphic orders of glory [Ezekiel 28:14].
So when that happened, something happened to God’s creation. These stars that we see in the universe, brown and dull and burned—this whole galaxy that’s been broken apart—there’s not an astronomer that lives but who could tell you all of these stars and all of these galaxies somewhere are the result of vast explosions, tremendous cataclysmic convulsions. Back there somewhere in primordial time, at the dawn of creation, sin entered the world, sin entered God’s heaven, and the result was a vast, illimitable, indescribable cataclysmic devastation: “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep” [Genesis 1:2]. So you see it there; you see it there.
You see it again: you see it once again in the glorious story of the coming of Jesus into the world [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 2:1-16]. There’s not a more beautiful story than Christmas. The angels sang [Luke 2:13-14]. All heaven was aglow with celestial music. The very song of the spheres was in tune with the earth that beautiful, holy, and sacred night. There was a ladder, a stairway [Genesis 28:12]; and up and down, over the angelic day, they sang the chorus of heavenly joy and earthly goodness. It was gladness in God’s heaven. It was glory upon God’s earth [Luke 2:13-14].
And you see it again: four miles away from Bethlehem is a little hill called Calvary. And on that hill [Luke 23:33], in this evil and darkened world, the man gave back to God, on the point of a Roman spear [John 19:30-34], what God had so wonderfully given at Christmas time in the little town called Bethlehem [Matthew 1:20-2:1; Luke 2:1-16].
And you see it once again in this passage of the creation of man. He is perfect [Genesis 1:27]. He’s in the garden of Eden. All good things are about him. Then comes that same dark and sinister evil being: Satan, Lucifer; he who challenges God, he who had lifted himself above the throne of God Himself [Isaiah 14:12-14], Lucifer comes [Genesis 3:1-6].
And once again, the same story reiterated: the ground that once was made fruitful with the tree of life, with all manner of fruit for the goodness and glory of man [Genesis 2:8-9, 15-17], the ground is cursed. And it raises thistles and thorns and briers [Genesis 3:17-18]. And the animals, made beautiful and holy, lovely and tame—the animals developed fang and claw, are carnivorous and destroy one another on the earth, in the air, and under the sea. And man himself becomes a prey and a victim of murder, and hate, and bloodshed, and pillage, and rapine [Genesis 4:7-8]. And the earth becomes a spirit of darkness and death and woe of man’s first disobedience [Genesis 3:1-6] and the fruit of that forbidden tree, whose mortal taste brought death into our world and all its woe [Genesis 2:17].
Didn’t God see that? Didn’t God know that? Acts 15:18, “Known unto God are all of His works from the beginning of the world.” Didn’t God see that? Didn’t God know that? Then why did God permit it? Your answer is in the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans and the fifteenth verse. God saw the terrible woe of the world. God saw the death and devastation that followed in the sin. But God also saw something else, God also saw “Not as the offense is the free gift” [Romans 5:15].
In the permissive will of God, the Lord allowed Satan to enter the garden [Genesis 3:1]. In the permissive will of God, the Lord gave to Adam moral choice. In the permissive will of God, the Lord allowed Adam to choose to sin and to die [Genesis 3:2-6]. In the permissive will of God, all of Adam’s posterity have died in sin and in guilt ever since [Romans 5:12]. But God also saw that “Not as the offense, so is the free gift” [Romans 5:15]. For where sin abounded and where death abounded and where the curse abounded, grace, grace, God’s grace did much more abound! [Romans 5:20-21].
What Paul is saying here is that out of that sin, and its suffering, and its heartache, and its curse, and its death, God wrought some greater and more glorious thing for us, for us, for us! The Lord permitted Adam’s transgression, Adam’s offense [Genesis 3:6], in order that out of the abundance of His grace, there might be wrought, in His love, under His hands, a more wonderful thing for us who turn in faith to Christ [Romans 5:15-21].
All right, what are those things? What are those things? Paul says the good things, the greater things, the nobler and more blessed things that arose out of the Fall [Genesis 3:1-6]; if Adam had not fallen, if he had not transgressed, if he had not offended, these things would never have come, but, God’s grace overflowed and abounded, far beyond the offenses [Romans 5:20-21]. God permitted the offense because out of it were to be wrought these great blessings that ensued for Adam and his posterity. What are those things? I name four of them tonight—four of them. The first: had Adam not fallen, had there been no mortal transgression, had there been no first offense—first, there would never have been the incarnation of God’s Son and our Savior [Matthew 1:20-23]. He came into this world and assumed our life and assumed our death and lived in this body of flesh because of Adam’s transgression and Adam’s sin! [Philippians 2:7-8; 1 Peter 2:24]. It is for the purpose of taking away the iniquity and the sin of this world that Jesus came and became a man like you, like me [Hebrews 10:5-14].
The incarnation was made possible and necessary because of Adam’s transgression. Had Adam not fallen [Genesis 3:1-6], there [would] have been no cross [Matthew 27:32-50]: that amazing display of the wonderful love of God. Had Adam not fallen, the hosts of heaven would never have been astonished at that glorious birth [Luke 2:13-14]. “For God so loved the world, that He gave, that He gave His only begotten Son” [John 3:16]. Had it not been for Adam’s transgressions, there would have never been a gospel of redemption, a story of seeking love [1 Peter 1:18-19].
In the twelfth verse of the first chapter of Simon Peter’s letter, speaking of the gospel, he said, “Which things the angels desire to look into” [1 Peter 1:12]. Did you ever look upon that verse and think of it? This gospel, “which things the angel desire to look into,” what does that mean? It means this. An angel never fell, an angel never sinned, an angel never transgressed, an angel could never know what it is to ask God for forgiveness, to be reborn, to be regenerated, to be redeemed. An angel could never know what it is to have faith in the Son, to believe in Him, to become a child of God, to be adopted into the family of the Almighty [Galatians 4:4-7]. These things are strange to angels, God’s Book says [1 Peter 1:9-12]—these experiences we go through, these heart-to-heart touches we have with God, these bearings of our soul to Him, and the great grace that comes from heaven to us; all of those things are mysteries to the angels. They desire to look into them, but cannot understand [1 Peter 1:12].
You and I can. As a child of Adam, in the posterity of Adam, as a child of the fallen human race, all of us understand. We know what it is to be saved, to be born again, to cry unto God, to look to Him in faith and to feel the love of God, “shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit” [Romans 5:5].
The first answer: why did God permit Adam to fall? The first answer: out of that transgression and out of that offense, came Christ Jesus, incarnate God, dying on the cross, bearing our sins on the tree [1 Peter 2:24]. Had Adam not transgressed, Jesus would never have come— our Brother, our God, a fellow heir with Him [Romans 8:17]—the virtue and merit of our Lord in His sacrificial death on the cross [Romans 8:29].
All right, the second reason: why did God permit Adam’s transgression? The second reason: in the Fall, in the transgression [Genesis 3:1-6], in the day of curse and of death [Genesis 2:17], we see a revelation of the heart of God, the soul and love, the sympathy, the outpouring of God that otherwise we would never have known [Romans 5:8]. Had Adam not fallen, had there been no transgression, we had known God as a great Creator, and we could have sung each early morning, “O Lord, how excellent is Thy name in all the earth” [Psalm 8:1]. “The world is filled with Thy glory” [Isaiah 6:3]. And we could have admired God and wondered and marveled at His created power: look at the star, He made that; look at those beautiful galaxies, and He made those; and look at these marvelous things, and He made those. And we could have marveled at God, and we could have known God as the great Creator [Genesis 1:1-25]. And we could have known the preexistent Christ as being the express image of the invisible God [Colossians 1:5], and the brightness of His glory [Hebrews 1:3]. And we could have wondered at such great beauty and marvelous power. But we would never have known God’s love, never have known His sympathy and His understanding, never have known His heart or His forgiveness, had it not been for Adam’s transgression. It was when the Lord incarnate suffered and bare our sins on the tree [1 Peter 2:24] that we come to see what God means when He says He so loved the world [John 3:16].
God, by fiat, made the world [Hebrews 11:2]. By the word of His mouth, “Let it be,” and there it was. But by fiat, God could not save a fallen race. That is a story of redeeming love: seeking, searching, pleading, dying for the man that He made [1 Peter 1:18-19]. That’s God. That’s the revelation of the heart of God. And it came through the fall of our first father, Adam [Genesis 3:1-6].
Three: what comes with Adam’s transgression? “Not as the offense, so is the free gift. Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:15, 20]. For what is this greater and more glorious thing that comes out of the fall of Adam? Third: all of the Christian graces that we know. All of them, without exception—all of the virtues, all of the graces of the Christian life are born in Adam’s transgression. They are the fruit of Adam’s offense. They are the result of Adam’s fall [Genesis 3:1-6]. “Not as the offense, so is the free gift” [Romans 5:15]. I say again, all of the graces, the virtues, all of the things that make for glorious and incomparable Christian character, these came out of the Fall. Out of the transgression; for out of pain, and suffering, and sorrow, and death come all of those things that are holy in God’s sight and sanctified before the Lord of glory. One: the sight of a man submitting to God’s will: however harsh, however tragic, however burdened, however sorrowful, that sight of a man submitting to God’s will; Job—Job crying and saying, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed, blessed be the name of the Lord” [Job 1:21]. Or when Satan laid his hands upon Job again—and from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, covered with boils and running sores, Job sat in an ash heap [Job 2:7-8] and lifted up his voice, and cried once again, “Though He slay me, though He slay me, yet, yet will I trust Him” [Job 13:15]. That came out of the Fall [Genesis 3:1-6]: the sight of a man surrendered to the will of God. I say, out of the tragedy of the Fall came all of the Christian virtues that we know, all of them: humility, sympathy, understanding, charity, forgiveness; all come out of the suffering and the sorrows of human life.
To be sick—somebody who’s been sick; I’ve been sick. I understand a great deep tragedy; I’ve been through that tragedy. I understand. A great disappointment; and I’ve been disappointed. All of the things that so sweetly and gloriously crown the head of a humble Christian, they come out of the pain and suffering and the sorrows, the crying of life.
I lay at ease in my little boat,
Fast moored to the shore of the pond,
And gazed up through the trees that swayed
in the breeze
At God’s own sky beyond.
And I thought of the want and the sin in the world,
And the pain and the grief they bring,
And I marvel at God for spreading abroad
Such sorrow and suffering.
Evening came creeping over the earth,
And the sky grew dim and gray
And faded from sight; and I grumbled at Night
For stealing my sky away.
Then out of the dark just a speck of a face
Peeped forth from his window bars;
And I laughed to see it smile at me:
I had not thought of the stars!
There are millions of loving thoughts and words
All ripe for for awakening,
That never would start from the world’s cold heart
But for sorrow and suffering.
Yes, the blackening night is somber and cold,
And the day is warm and fine;
And yet if the day never faded away
The stars would never shine!
[“The Stars,” Robert Beverly Hale]
Out of the sorrows, the cries, the tears of our lives come those Christian virtues of sympathy and understanding, goodness and charity: my hands to help, my heart to care, my eyes to weep, my soul to bow down with you under the burdens of your grief. That came out of the Fall [Genesis 3:1-6].
What are those things that came out of the Fall, out of the transgression? the whole meaning of heaven itself. I don’t know whether you ever sat down, tried to think what would it be like in glory? What would it be like in that other world? What is it: this thing that God has prepared for those who love Him? [1 Corinthians 2:9]. I don’t know all. No one could. But I know some things, as I read the Book: heaven is a place where it says,
God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for all of these old former first things are passed away.
That’s in the twenty-first chapter of the Revelation, and that’s what they say heaven is like; it says it is a place. And there is no more crying. What would that mean to a man who never cried, never bowed his head and wept until his soul cried aloud unto God? No more crying. There shall be no more pain. What would that mean to a man who had never suffered? It says there is no more sorrow. What would that mean to a soul that had never bowed in an unutterable bereavement? And no more death? What would that mean to a man who never died? What would any of those things mean to an angel; heaven, our soul, the holy city, New Jerusalem, come down from God? [Revelation 21:1-2]. “And the Lord shall wipe away all tears from their eyes, and there shall be no more sorrow, nor crying. And there is no more pain and there is no more death” [Revelation 21:1-5]. What would that mean to an angel? Nothing at all. Nothing at all. But to us, the children of the Fall [Genesis 3:1-6], the posterity of Adam—to us, it’s heaven. It’s God’s glory. We know and understand; that came out of the Fall.
Now, the fourth and the last: what came out of Adam’s transgression? [Genesis 3:1-6]. “Not as the offense, so is the free gift” [Romans 5:15]. “But where sin abounded, grace, God’s grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:20]. What came out of the Fall? This came out of the Fall: the new covenant of grace. The new covenant: you have it translated in the King James’s Version: “the new testament” [Luke 22:20]. The testament of grace, that covenant of grace, the new covenant of grace came out of the Fall.
In Adam’s fall [Genesis 3:1-6], all of us were made sinners [Romans 5:12]. In one man, all of us died [1 Corinthians 15:22]. All of us died, for we are in the loins of our fathers. I was in the loins of my parents. They were in the loins of their parents. If you ever studied genetics and eugenics, those chromosomes, they never—you don’t have a new one. It’s always the half of the one that’s in your parents. And that goes back and back and back and back to Adam. All of us were in the loins of the federal head [1 Corinthians 15:22], the representative man, the first Adam. And when Adam sinned, all of us sinned [Romans 5:12]. When he fell, all of us fell. By his offense, all of us were made guilty [Romans 5:14-17].
As it says in the [third] chapter of the Book of Romans, so God concluded all of the world guilty [Romans 3:19]. All of us are under sin [Galatians 3:22]. In Adam, we all died [1 Corinthians 15:21].
But not as the offense, so is the free gift . . .
If by one man’s offense death reigned by one; much more they which receiveth abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by One, Jesus Christ.
[Romans 5:15, 17]
Or, as Paul again writes in the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, “For since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead” [1 Corinthians 15:21]. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all of us, everybody be made alive! [1 Corinthians 15:22]. All of us made alive. That’s the reason your baby’s saved. I don’t know how many times I’ve been asked that question, “Pastor, how is it that our baby is saved? Our baby died one year old, our baby died six years old. Our baby died eight years old. Not old enough to be saved? How do we know our child is saved?” “As in Adam all died, so in Christ all are made alive” [1 Corinthians 15:22]. We all are saved. All of us are saved!
“By one man’s transgression, many made unrighteous; by one Man’s obedience, many made righteous” [Romans 5:19]. And every man can be saved. When I reach the age of accountability, I have a choice that I can make; I can spurn God’s overtures of grace, or I can wrong my own soul. But it is up to me. It is up to me [Romans 1:17-22].
There at the entrance of the garden of Eden, the Lord places cherubim to guard the way of the tree of life [Genesis 3:24]. And a cherubim is always a symbol of forgiveness, of redemption, of welcome back! And that is the new covenant. That’s the new testament of grace [Luke 22:20]. Now, just for the moment, and listen to this. Just for a moment listen to this.
Under the old covenant, under the Edenic covenant, under the way that Adam lived in the garden of Eden, there was no mercy. It knew no mercy. There was no grace. It knew no grace. Had Adam not fallen, had Adam remained perfect, had Adam remained sinless, he would have continued to live and his posterity under that Edenic covenant. And that Edenic covenant is this: “In the days that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17].
The Edenic covenant was this: the soul that sins shall die! [Genesis 2:17]. And had Adam not fallen, had he preserved his integrity, down through the centuries and through the ages that followed, under that covenant, if anyone of his children, anyone of his sons, anyone of our fathers, if they had partaken of that forbidden fruit, they would have died without mercy, no hope, no help, no grace, no plan, no way of salvation! Lost, damned, doomed forever and forever and forever!
But in Adam’s transgression [Genesis 3:6], all of us were made guilty; in Adam’s transgression, all of us became sinners [Romans 5:12]. In Adam’s transgression, the whole world became guilty before God [Romans 3:19]. And looking upon us, the Lord made a new covenant. It was the covenant of grace [Ephesians 2:8]. And He sent His incarnate Son to pay the penalty of our death in His body on the tree! [1 Peter 2:24]. And the invitation is wide open to the world! [John 3:16; 1 John 2:2].
If a man stumbles, he can come back. If a man falls, he can be saved. If we are lost, we can be found. If we have erred and transgressed, there’s love and mercy and forgiveness in God [Psalm 51:1]. We live in a new covenant, in a new day, in a age of love and forgiveness and grace [Romans 6:14].
If David falls [2 Samuel 11:2-17], David can come back. If Simon Peter falls [Matthew 26:69-75], Simon Peter can come back. It’s a new day. “Not as the offense is the free gift. For where sin abounded, grace, grace did much more abound” [Romans 5:15, 20].
And even Samson, blind, led to the temple to be made sport of in the presence of Dagon’s idol, and there stood with the boy, tired of him now in the sport he was able to make, there saying to the boy, “Son, where are the pillars upon which rest the temple”; and the boy took one of his hands there and the lad puts his other hand there, and he says to blind Samson, “These are the pillars upon which the temple rests.” And Samson bowed his head and said, “O God, O God, O God, just once again, just once again, O God, hear Thy servant when he prays. Just once again, O God, hear Thy servant when he prays.” And in faith that God answers prayer, that God would give him back his strength, in faith, he bowed his shoulders [Judges 16:25-30]. And in the roll call, in the eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews: “By faith Abraham” [Hebrews 11:8]. “By faith Moses” [Hebrews 11:23, 24]. In the roll call, “By faith Samson,” by faith Samson! [Hebrews 11:32-33]. A day of grace, not as the offense, so is the gift [Romans 5:15]. A fallen humanity can come back to God. Lost men can be saved. Wrecked, destroyed lives can be reclaimed. It is a new creation; it is a new regeneration [2 Corinthians 5:17].
And in God’s will, and in the ultimate purposes of His Spirit and of His kingdom, He shall bring to pass for us a new heaven and a new earth [Revelation 21:1-5], a new body, a new life [Philippians 3:21]. All things good and glorious as God in His mercy purposed them in the day when He permitted Adam to fall [Genesis 3:6], that out of it might come the precious treasures we know as a Christian and a believer in Jesus.
“Not as the offense is the free gift” [Romans 5:15]. But what we lost, a thousandfold more have we gained in Christ, the second Adam, God’s Son and our Savior [Romans 5:19-21].
All right, let’s sing our song. And while we sing the appeal, somebody you, somebody you, a child of Adam’s race, someday facing death; somebody you, come down that aisle. “Pastor, tonight, in Christ’s saving hands I commit the care of my soul and my life, and I do it now” [Ephesians 2:8]. Somebody you, into the fellowship of this church: “Pastor, we’re coming by baptism [Matthew 28:19], we’re coming by letter, we’re coming by rededication of life. Here we are,” a family, or one somebody you, while we sing the song and make the appeal, in the balcony around, from side to side, would you step into that aisle, would you come down here by the pastor, give the pastor your hand, give your heart to God? [Romans 10:9-13]. Would you make it now? Would you make it now, while we stand and while we sing?