Bishop Eric Menees
A couple of weeks ago on a parish visitation, I had my standard Q & A with the congregation during fellowship. I asked if anyone had any questions, and a gentleman asked with a broad smile: “Yes, why does evil exist?” This was followed by chuckles from those gathered around. Clearly, he didn’t expect an answer...but ask a preacher a question, and you’re going to get a sermon...which they did.
Fortunately, last Sunday’s lesson from Genesis chapter three answers that question better than I did. The short answer is: because our first parents chose independence over dependence on God! Adam & Eve were in the midst of paradise. Man had been given a job: “15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” (Genesis 2:15) Woman had been given a job: 18 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) And they had both been given clear directions: 16 “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 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 2:17) The command was a test, and a warning – disobey this command, and there are serious consequences. Looking back on it from this side of the Fall, we’ve got to ask our First Parents: “What were you thinking?!” They lived in the Garden of Eden for God’s sake (no pun intended); they had each other without shame, or sorrow, or heartache; but more importantly, they had the Lord, who would stroll with them in the cool of the evening.
We know what happened: Satan deceived Eve – tempting her to disobey God and seek independence; Eve convinced Adam – and as a consequence, sin and death, pain and sorrow, alienation and separation from one another and from God, entered into the world.
Adam & Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden: “24 He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.” (Genesis 3:24) And yet, even in our willful disobedience, God did not withdraw His love and instead set out to heal the breach – as we heard in what is referred to as the “proto-evangelium:“15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Genesis 3:15 KJV)
The fulfillment of the proto-evangelium, and the answer to evil, came in the person of Jesus Christ. As we read in Romans Chapter Five: “18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:18-19) Paul, in two sentences, sums up the Gospel Message. Sin and death came into the world through Adam; Righteousness and Eternal Life came through Jesus Christ!
That’s it in a nutshell. We have come to know that abstract reality as a concrete and life transforming reality, because we have come to know Jesus Christ as our King and Savior – our Redeemer – who bore the wrath of God, so that we would not have to; who overcame the sting of death and rose from the grave on the third day!
The question is, “What are we going to do with that reality?”
I pray you all a Holy Lent!
Thirty-nine Articles of Religion
XVII. Of Predestination and Election.
Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby (before the foundations of the world were laid) he hath constantly decreed by his counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation, as vessels made to honour. Wherefore, they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God, be called according to God's purpose by his Spirit working in due season: they through Grace obey the calling: they be justified freely: they be made sons of God by adoption: they be made like the image of his only-begotten Son Jesus Christ: they walk religiously in good works, and at length, by God's mercy, they attain to everlasting felicity.
As the godly consideration of Predestination, and our Election in Christ, is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons, and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh, and their earthly members, and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal Salvation to be enjoyed through Christ as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: So, for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination, is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the Devil doth thrust them either into desperation, or into wretchlessness [sic] of most unclean living, no less perilous than desperation.
Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth to us in Holy Scripture: and, in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed, which we have expressly declared unto us in the Word of God.