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Saturday Sermon: The History of the World in a Nutshell

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August 27, 2011 Tags: Adam, the Fall, and Sin

Today's sermon features Tim Keller. Please note the views expressed here are those of the author, not necessarily of BioLogos. You can read more about what we believe here.

Though some may believe that moving the science/faith dialogue forward is best left to scientists, scholars, and theologians, we at BioLogos recognize that our pastors play an invaluable role in the conversation. Across the globe, pastors are helping their congregations work through difficult issues of science and faith with honesty, insight, and a gentle spirit. To this end we present an ongoing series recognizing sermons (and the pastors who give them) that are helping to promote the harmony of science and faith. Today's sermon comes from Rev. Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Click above to hear an excerpt. Below, is a brief summary written by BioLogos editorial staff. The full sermon, which we highly recommend can be purchased from Redeemer’s sermon store. Finally, if you know a sermon or podcast related to science and faith that has especially spoken to you, please let us know.

In tracing the fluid storyline of the Bible, Dr. Keller has first focused on the early chapters of Genesis, emphasizing both the ordained purpose of creation and the great Fall of humanity. The latter addresses the pressing question: what is wrong with the world? Scripture explains that Sin is responsible for the seen destruction and chaos. Through a close reading of the story of Cain and Able in Genesis 4: 1-10, Keller draws attention to the significant aspects of Sin—its potency and subtlety—as well as to the text’s foreshadow to the coming Messiah who will conquer Sin, once and for all.

Foremost, God’s description of Sin stresses its deadly power. In this story, Cain becomes angry when the Lord is not pleased with his offering. Then, the Lord comes to him, and tells him, “But if you do not do what is right, Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is to have you, but you must master it.” This image characterizes Sin as a predatory animal lurking in the shadows, eagerly waiting to kill its prey at the opportune time. It seems from this verse that Sin is an abiding, growing presence. A person is not overcome by it in a single action, but in a series of actions through which sin gains dominance in one’s life. In a quote from Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis suggests that the “bigness or the smallness of the sin seen from the outside is not what really matters,” but it is the “twist in the central self” that dooms a man to destruction. Reflecting on this thought, Dr. Keller explains that first “you do sin, but then sin does you,” unless one turns to God in repentance. This picture of sin “crouching” also points to its hidden nature. It does not pounce on a person in plain sight, but stalks about in the darkness, in the places where vision is obscured. This is evident in the way one seeks to rationalize his or her shortcomings. When ignored, this force will overtake and kill a person; it should not be taken lightly.

Next, this narrative highlights the subtlety of Sin. The account clearly states that God looks upon Abel and his offering with favor, but does not look upon Cain and his offering with approval. This suggests that God prospers one, but not the other. Yet, no explanation is offered as to why God is displeased with Cain. Outwardly, they appear nearly identical—both present sacrifices before the Lord. Looking carefully at different verses, Dr. Keller explains that it’s a hidden issue of Cain’s heart. While Abel brought the firstborn of his flock, Cain brought forth some fruits of the soil. Since he cannot be sure of the increase of his flock without new offspring, offering a firstborn lamb demonstrated great faith on Abel’s part. However, Cain needs little faith to bring forth only a portion from his plentiful produce. In God’s eyes, Abel expresses gratitude and trust, while Cain seeks to earn his favor.

Then, when Cain murders Abel, God comes asking questions of Cain saying, “Where is your brother Abel” and “What have you done?” This is not to gain insight but to reveal to Cain his own heart. God, in his grace, has come to counsel him. However, God says in Genesis 4:10b (NASB), “The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground.” In other words, God, being just, cannot ignore sin. In this case, it is the shedding of innocent blood. The Lord’s response demonstrates his gracious and just character.

Finally, triumph over Sin comes through Jesus Christ, the ultimate Abel figure. Jesus appears to a people filled with Cain hearts. They outwardly follow religious practices in the name of God, offering sacrifices and observing the Law, but inwardly breed corruption. They see Jesus’ loving spirit, and they despise him. They condemn Jesus to death, but he goes willingly for the sake of destroying all sin and death in the world. According to the book of Hebrews, it is now his sprinkled blood that “speaks better than the blood of Able” over humanity. Since Jesus paid the full price for every sin committed, God can no longer condemn those who have received the blood of his Son. His justice is now offering grace and love and life everlasting to all.

Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. The “Influentials” issue of New York magazine featured Keller as “the most successful Christian evangelist in the city” for his engagement with the young professional and artist demographics. He received his bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Penn., his Master of Divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hampton, Mass., and his Doctor of Ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary. He is the author of such New York Times bestselling books as The Reason for God and Prayer. He is also Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which has helped start over 250 churches in global cities worldwide. He lives in New York City with his wife Kathy.

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defensedefumer - #64291

August 27th 2011

Wow, what a powerful and truthful sermon. I never saw it that way! Thank God for Jesus and justice!

KevinR - #64363

August 30th 2011

This is indeed a good way to look at the grace of God.

It’s the foolishness of God that is wiser than the wisdom of men. It’s the serpent that gets lifted up in the desert that brings healing to those who look on it - which reveals the foolishness again: What does looking up to a serpent on a stake have to do with being cured from the deadly poison from a snake bite?

It also points to the fact that sin entered the world thru one man: Adam; and sin is removed thru one man: Jesus. This is indeed the foolishness of God. Which trounces the wisdom of men who want to have evolutionary processes to create mankind on earth - and thereby making Adam into a mythical figure. This wisdom of men is foolishness with God.

God spoke and it stood fast. In six days He created heaven and earth and all that is in them. This is again words that ring foolish to the wise and educated men[and women, of course] of today who adhere to billions of years of evolution as the creator of all things, yet they have become fools in their own arrogance and pride, ignoring the plain and simple word of God, to their own detriment.

Roger A. Sawtelle - #64366

August 30th 2011


If science is the false Wisdom of Man, then why are you involving yourself in it by using the internet?

It seems to me that according to your thinking the Bible is a myth.  It separates the work of God through the natural world from the saving work of God through the Holy Spirit.  Unless you want to reject modern science in its entirety as the false Wisdom of Man, you either have to accept the Bible as a Myth independent of physical reality, or accept the Bible is spiritually and philosophically true explaining the nature of Reality, but not scientifically true in a narrow superficial sense.  I prefer the later.

Thus I believe that God created the scientific evolutionary history of life and humanity as well as salvation history based Jesus Christ.  God created the universe in time and gave it order even though you do not think that the observed order of the universe is worthy of God.           

Darrel F - #64369

August 30th 2011

The purpose of the sermon series is to celebrate that about which we can all agree, the beauty—the absolute beauty—of the gospel message.  As we gather around listening to the Word of God, our differences evaporate compared to the majesty of his Presence.  

Let’s leave the discussion of where we disagree to other posts on other days. 
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