Suffering and the Gospel, Part 2

The curse of death and suffering that God brought on the world was deliberately designed to communicate the reality and the seriousness of sin.

Chris Hutchison on June 26, 2024

In Part 1 of this series, we considered how God created a physical, visible universe in order to communicate spiritual, invisible truth (Rom 1:20). This declarative role of creation must be kept in mind as we explore both humanity’s first sin and the Lord’s response to it.

Consider Adam and Eve, surrounded by the glory-shouting universe, created to see and know and love and worship the God whose undefiled majesty they saw everywhere they looked. And yet they did the unthinkable: they rebelled, choosing a piece of fruit—and what it would do for them—over the glory of God. Although they knew God, they did not honour him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and they worshiped and served themselves more than their Creator (see Rom 1:18-25). They willingly chose to disobey the Lord, challenge Him, and disbelieve His word—all in order to elevate themselves to His place (Gen 3:4).

And as their teeth sunk into the fruit… well, what did happen? As they defiantly swallowed that first bite, did Eden immediately disappear, the sky grow dark, and thorns and thistles spring fully grown from the ground? Not that we can tell. As far as we know, nothing happened to the external world right away. 

The initial change was internal. Their eyes were open to the reality of evil. But there was no blind law of nature that made death and suffering come into the world in a sheer action-and-reaction response to their sin.

What did happen, according to Genesis 3:8-13, is that God Himself came down to Eden and called them to account. It was a very personal process: He asked them questions, and He made them answer. He then responded to their actions, personally and specifically, starting with the serpent. He then addressed Eve, describing to her the struggle and pain she would now bear.

Yet His most sweeping statements are reserved for Adam. Why? Adam was the head. Adam should have protected His wife from the serpent, and certainly not followed her into sin. Adam was the one primarily responsible for stewarding the creation. That’s why Romans 5:12 says that it is through one man that sin entered the world. And speaking to Adam on that dark day, the Lord said these words:

Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, “You shall not eat of it,” cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

Genesis 3:17-19

We have to notice that “The Curse” did not fall from the sky and self-deploy. God cursed the earth because of Adam’s sin. The crucial words are there in verse 17—”because of you,” or “for your sake” as the KJV says. God deliberately declared that the physical world, from that moment on, would be changed on account of Adam’s rebellion.

Every morning that Adam woke up to go plow the fields, his work said: “your sin.” Every drop of sweat that came down his forehead and stung his eyes said, “your sin.” Every time he bent down to pull a weed up, and pricked his finger on a thorn, and felt the pain and saw the drop of blood—that all said “your sin.” And as Adam felt death began to work in his body, and saw one of his sons kill the other, it all shouted, “this is your sin.”

When we remember that the universe was designed to communicate spiritual truth to us, we can see God’s purpose in bringing the perfect creation crashing down around Adam. The physical world was being used to tell Adam about the nature of His own sin—and, thereby, the magnitude of the one against Whom he had sinned—in graphic, bloody, painful detail.

Another passage that points towards this same truth is found in Jeremiah:

Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit. Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

Jeremiah 2:11-13

The Lord looks at the horrific sin of His people and, in effect, says to the stars in the sky: “Do you see what they’ve done? You can’t just keep shining on there as if nothing has happened!” Creation declares the glory of God, and in these cases it does so by demonstrating the true scale and nature of our rebellion against Him.

It’s common enough to say that pain and suffering are a result of sin. What I’m seeking to press here is that they are a result of sin because God made it so. He cursed the earth. It was intentional. Romans 8:20 confirms this: “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it.”

The curse of death and suffering that God brought on the world was deliberately designed to communicate to us the reality and the seriousness of sin. Which means that when we experience suffering “out there”—cyclones, car accidents, cancer—we are fundamentally seeing a display of the awfulness that already existed within our own hearts.

Which means that suffering is designed to lead us to the gospel by way of repentance. That’s what we’ll explore in the next instalment.

More to come.

Picture of Chris Hutchison
Chris Hutchison is lead pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Nipawin, SK. Have any feedback or questions about what you've read here? Get in touch at .
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