The Agora
The Serpent and the Woman's Seed (Gen 3:15)

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The Letters (Part 1)

Romans 3:9-19

In proving that both Jews and Gentiles are "under sin" (v 9), Paul brings to bear the witness of Scripture. He gathers together a number of passages from the Psalms and Isaiah. None are righteous; all are departed from the way. Vv 10-12 are from Psa 14:1-3 / Psa 53:1-3; v 13 from Psa 5:9; 140:3; v 14 from Psa 10:7; vv 15-17 from Isa 59:7,8; and v 18 from Psa 36:1. The verses are clearly selected from those that apply to Jews, under the covenant, so that their import cannot be sloughed off on the really "wicked" Gentiles only!

Throat (v 13), tongue (v 13), lips (v 13), and mouth (v 14) trace the stages of speech. Finally the feet (v 15) and the eyes (v 18) get into the act also. But serpent-like speech (Gen 3:1) is clearly the foundation and source of all wickedness. From the speech of that subtle denizen of Eden has sprung, indirectly, all sin. His throat was an "open sepulchre" (Rom 3:13). His tongue, the "little member" full of boasting, brought on the defilement of the whole bodies of both Adam and Eve (Jam 3:5,6). The great fire of corruption was kindled by his words, and human nature was changed for the worse. Now it can rightly be said of all mankind that "the poison of asps is under their lips" (Rom 3:13)!

Romans 16:17-20

Paul concludes his letter to the Roman ecclesia by warning the brethren against the danger of false teachers. Almost every phrase in this section is an obvious allusion to the Genesis record of the serpent and the woman's seed:

The serpent subtly cast doubt on God's Word and taught contrary to it. The false teachers of Paul's day (probably Judaizing Christians) were the serpent's "seed" (cp Mat 3:7; 12:34; 23:33). After the example of their "father" they professed a superior knowledge and thus were able to lead away the simple (2Co 11:13-15).

The influence of this particular "Satan" was drastically reduced by the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 AD. But the final bruising of "Satan" in all his aspects must of course be the work of the glorified Christ at his second coming.

1 Corinthians 15:24-28,55,56

In vv 24-28 Paul describes the purpose of God's Kingdom under Christ: the subjugation of all enemies:

"For he must reign, till he hath put all things under his feet." This will be in fulfillment of the commandment God gave to Adam in Gen 1:28:

"Subdue it (the earth)... and have dominion over every thing."
The first Adam, because of sin, was unable to fulfill this directive. The "last Adam", because of his perfect sinlessness, will be able to subdue all creation to its intended purpose -- the glory of God (Num 14:21; Isa 11:9).

"The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death."
This is the goal to which all of Christ's work is pointed. The last enemy to be conclusively destroyed under the heel of the conquering King will be death, the serpent's "offspring" (see Jam 1:13-15).

Death, at the end of a slow process of decay, has been an inextricable part of man's nature since Eden. Now, through Christ, it will finally be destroyed -- not merely offset or neutralized, but vanquished, routed, literally "swallowed up"!:

"Then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written. Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law."
The strength of sin, as a destroyer of men, lay in the law -- the law which, while holy and just and good, nevertheless condemned all men (even the most conscientious) to death as sinners. But in Christ, their righteousness was by faith in him (Rom 3:21,22) -- not their own righteousness, which was by the law, but the righteousness which was of God by faith (Phi 3:9). Thanks be to God Who gives us the victory through His Son (1Co 15:57)!

2 Corinthians 4:2-4

In an allusion similar to Rom 16:17-20, Paul refers to those "believers" who trusted in the law of Moses. They had not "renounced the hidden things of dishonesty". They were still "walking in craftiness" and "handling the word of God deceitfully " -- thus living up (or down!) to the example of their spiritual "ancestor" -- the old serpent!

Continuing his analogy, Paul evidently has in mind again the tragic history of Eden lost. In seeking to be like the Elohim, Eve departed from her "first estate". She was reaching for "greater light". She found instead darkness -- deceived by the serpent, or the "god of this world". Her mind was blinded by "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life" (1Jo 2:15,16), and consequently she "believed not" God. Thus was the creation plunged down to ruin.

But God's ultimate purpose with the earth would not be thwarted by a pair of sinners. The God who commanded light to shine out of darkness at the first creation (2Co 4:6; Gen 1:3), set about immediately with a plan to reclaim His fallen creation. This plan called for another "light" to shine into the world, that is, a new "Adam" made in the express image of his Father (Heb 1:3). In all the things wherein the first "Adam" and his wife failed, the last "Adam" would succeed. He would renounce the hidden works of darkness; he would handle God's word aright; he would reject the evil and choose the good. He would show forth the full knowledge of the glory of God, which had since Eden been clouded and dim. And through his work, he would redeem his "bride", from the serpent's folly.

2 Corinthians 11:2,3

Paul continues the same analogy:

"I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ."
"Simplicity", as used by Paul, should not be equated with "simple-mindedness". Rather, in keeping with the metaphor of Eve and the serpent, "simplicity" is a single-mindedness which will not be beguiled by subtle serpent-arguments. Such "simplicity" presupposes uncomplicated vision and motives. We must remember the extreme "deceitfulness of sin" (Heb 13:3) and the inherent weakness of the flesh. We must keep these things in mind, recognizing also that strength comes from God, His word, and prayer -- and that we must cling close to these. If we do this, then in a simple single-minded devotion, we will be waiting and ready when our Saviour the Bridegroom cometh.

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