We’re in the midst of studying how God created the world. We move now to looking specifically at Adam and Eve. Surprisingly, Adam and Eve are a bit divisive within certain circles of Christianity.
The question of “Are Adam and Eve historical people or are they meant to be understood allegorically?” tends to split a room. So…let’s not start there.
Let’s start in a more helpful place.
Let’s begin by tracing one of the main themes of this creation story.
It’s a theme that is so important that it shows up several times throughout the Bible.
It’s a theme you see run through Adam to Israel to Jesus and finally, to us today.
What is the theme, you may ask?
Let’s take a look…
In the story of how God created the world, God made humans (that’s us!) in his own image. That means that God wants us to bear his image in the world. This was true for Adam and Eve too. When people see Adam and Eve, they are supposed to see God in them.
This is the original intention for God’s creation.
I think you know what happens next.
The image bearers, Adam and Eve, decide that rather than be a reflection of God in the world, they wanted to point the mirror at themselves. They wanted to be their own gods. Their focus becomes inward and God’s plan goes astray.
This theme of “image bearer- sin- repeat” runs throughout Scripture. In fact, it comes up again in the story of Israel.
Why did God choose a small group of people to be his “chosen people” in the world? So that they would be the image bearer of God to the rest of the world. As the prophet Isaiah recounts for us, “I will make you a light to the Gentiles (i.e. all non-Jews), and you will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 49:6
To accomplish this purpose of being a light to the nations God provides not a garden, but land. Theologian NT Wright writes “Israel is placed in the Holy Land, the garden of God’s delight, and warned that if they don’t keep the Torah they will be expelled, sent off into exile.”
I bet you can guess what happens next.
Israel, the people of God, play out the story of Adam and Eve by seeking other gods and ending up in exile
Image bearer- sin- repeat.
The cycle that begins in Genesis 1-2 and plays out again through the nation of Israel is ultimately brought to an end through the only image bearer who does not sin.
In Romans 5, Paul explores the relationship between Adam and Jesus. I invite you to read the whole chapter on your own. Here are the highlights.
Paul writes “When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” (5:12)
Yup, got it. We are all stuck in the cycle of image bearer- sin- repeat.
“Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come.” (5:14)
Alright, so the story of Adam and Eve points us to something that happens much later- Jesus. They are connected.
“But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.” (5:15)
So where Adam represents sin and death, Jesus, through his obedient, sinless life, represents the ultimate grace and forgiveness of God. Sweet!
“Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone, but Christ’s one act of righteousness brings a right relationship with God and new life for everyone.” (5:18)
You know what this is called in other parts of Scripture?
God did not give up on his plan for humans to be the image bearers in the world. Where Adam failed, and Israel failed, and we fail- Jesus succeeded. Anyone who lives in Christ is God’s new creation- the old has passed and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17).
Once more from NT Wright: “…now the whole world is God’s holy land, with Jesus and his people as the light of the world.”
Awesome. One of the main points of Adam and Eve’s story is that it looks ahead to a time when Jesus would fulfill where the first creation ultimately failed.
But wait, you were still curious if Adam and Eve are historical people, right?
It turns out that that question matters a lot less than you think. No matter how you answer that question, the main point of the story is answered in a different set of questions.
Are you a part of the new creation that God is at work creating? Is God building new life in you? Are you being changed because of what Christ has done?
Adam and Eve’s story is like an arrow that directs us to Jesus’ story. And in Jesus’ story, we are part of a new creation that God is at work in. When we let God work in us and create in us, we become the type of disciples (or image bearers) that God originally intended.