HH, Sir Godfrey Gregg D.Div
LESSONS FROM OUR FIRST MOTHER
We owe honour to our first mother on Mother’s Day; because her story is a key part of our own story of redemption.
Mother’s Day Sunday is a day we set aside to learn from the life of one of the Bible’s great ‘mothers of faith’. We’ve been doing this for many years now; and I keep thinking that, one day, we’re going to run out of ‘biblical mothers’ to learn from. But so far, we haven’t.
If anything, the challenge has been for us to choose which one of the many great mothers of the Bible to consider. I believe that says something about the high view God has placed on motherhood in His word.
This morning, today, we will consider a very important mother in the Bible. She’s so important, in fact, that it’s rather surprised that we haven’t studied her life before. She truly deserves special honour and recognition from us on Mother’s Day, because she’s the very first of all mothers and her name is Eve.
Now; I take it for fact that Eve was a real, historical person. Her life was real-life, and the events that compose her story constitute real history. She was literally created from the rib of the first man Adam and lived in the Garden of Eden—a literal place that actually existed on earth. She truly was tempted by the devil, who came to her in the form of a serpent. All of humanity can trace its existence back to her. I believe that everything that the Bible tells us about her is meant to be viewed by us as the record of literal history—and not mere “mythology”.
And I have very good authority for this conviction. It was the same conviction as was held by Jesus Christ—the Son of God in human flesh. He treated Eve’s story as literal history. When Jesus was debating with the Pharisees over the subject of divorce,
He quoted from the book of Genesis and said, “And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, 5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? 6 Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” (Matthew 19:4-6).
What’s more, those whom He sent to bear testimony of Him and His teaching also took Eve’s story as literal history. Key arguments in the New Testament are based on a belief that Eve was an actual person and that her story was actual history. Paul once wrote to the Corinthians and said, “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.” (2 Corinthians 11:3). The Apostle Paul based some of his instructions for orderly conduct in the church on the idea that Eve was a literal person (1 Timothy 2:12-15); and even preached the gospel to pagan people on the belief that Adam and Eve were literal people (Acts 17:25-26).
I say all of this because some professing Christians believe that it doesn’t really matter whether or not Genesis gives us literal history, or whether or not Eve was a literal person. But I believe that if Eve didn’t really exist, and if story of our original two parents wasn’t true, then neither would the unity of the human race be true. And if the unity of the human race isn’t a fact, then neither is the fall of all humanity in Adam true, nor is humanity’s need for salvation what the Bible says it is. Jesus would then not be able to be our Saviour, because there would be no unity of the human race that makes it possible for Him to be the single atoning sacrifice for all mankind. Nor would their be any need for Him to have served as our sacrifice at all, because the human race would not truly be fallen.
Don’t make any mistake about it! If the story of Eve is not literally history, then neither is the gospel of Jesus Christ. The two stories are inseparably bound together in God’s redemptive program. As the story of Adam and Eve stands or falls, so does the gospel.
And so, I take the life-story of Eve—our first mother—to be as literally true as is the story of our Saviour. I believe that our hope for salvation in Jesus Christ is deeply rooted in the story that the Bible tells us of Eve. And I trust that, if you are consistent in your faith as a follower of Jesus, you see it this way too.
Now; looking at the life of Eve makes for a very interesting character study. We can certainly learn a lot about how to appreciate mothers by considering Eve. But as worthy as that may be, I believe looking at her life should have an even greater impact on us than that.
Eve’s story is a ‘redemption’ story. And her story of redemption is also quite literally yours and mine. You and I cannot be redeemed from our sins, and cannot enter into the relationship with God that He intends for us to have with Himself unless we come to terms—in a very personal way—with the realities that Eve’s life presents to us.
So; with all of that in mind, I invite you to turn with me to the first few chapters of the Bible. Let’s honour God’s gift to us of our very first mother—Eve. And more than that, let’s honour God for the message of redeeming love He has declared to us through her story.
The first thing we learn may be a rather obvious point. But it is also a very profound and significant one. We first learn that we should honour Eve’s memory as a mother; because . . .
1. GOD USED HER TO GIVE LIFE TO ALL OF HUMANITY.
In the first chapter of the Bible, in Genesis 1:26-28, we read these words;
And God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. 27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. 28 And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26-28).
On the literal sixth day of Creation, and as the crowning act of His creative work, God made “man”. But notice how “man”—of which Adam was the first being—is described: “in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” “Man” is designed to be a plurality—a “them”. The “them” consisted of both Adam and Eve.
And notice the command that God gave to “them”—that they were to be “fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it”. We must never forget that this ordinance wasn’t given to just one person; because it was not God’s design that just one person would be able to fulfil it. It was given to Adam and to his wife Eve.
They fulfilled this ordinance. We’re here today because they did. And if you go all the way to Genesis 3:20, you’ll read that “Adam called his wife’s name Eve” (in the Hebrew, it’s hawwāh; and in the Greek, it’s Zōā; both of which mean “life”) “because she was the mother of all living.”
One of the first commandments from God that we learn as children is, “Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). We are to honour our mothers because—just as through Eve—it is through them that God has seen fit to give us an existence that will endure throughout all eternity. As eternal beings, we were temporarily preserved and protected in our own mother’s body, and our very own bodies were formed and woven by God within her womb (Psalm 139:13)—protected for a day when we would be born, live, grow and come to intelligently know God and trust in His Son.
Our own individual mothers should, for this reason, be sacred to us. And so, God commands that we honour His providence by being sure that our mother is honoured by us. And we should certainly also honour Eve; because it was to her womb that, by the providence of God, all of humanity may trace its being—even and including our own mothers!
As we read further on in Genesis, we find that another reason we should honour our first mother is that. . .
2. GOD COMPLETED HUMANITY THROUGH HER.
We find this in the second telling of the creation story in Chapter two. The emphasis of the story in Chapter one is on the relationship of mankind to all the rest of God’s creation, and the emphasis of the story in Chapter two is on the relationship between the man and woman themselves.
In Genesis 2:18-24, God’s word says;
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. 19 And out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air; and brought them unto Adam to see what he would call them: and whatsoever Adam called every living creature, that was the name thereof. 20 And Adam gave names to all cattle, and to the fowl of the air, and to every beast of the field; but for Adam there was not found an help meet for him. 21 And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 22 And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man.
23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.
24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. (Genesis 2:18-24).
When God made all the rest of Creation, it was declared “good”. But there was one thing that was “not good”; and that was that Adam was alone. He allowed all of the other living beings to come to Adam so that he could name them, and I believe this was so that Adam himself could see that none of them was found to be a “helper comparable to him”.
So; God caused Adam to sleep, and he took one of Adam’s ribs and formed a helper comparable to him. She was not made separately from the dust of the earth, as Adam was; but rather, she was made from Adam so there would a unity of identity between them. And she was not taken from his foot so that he oppresses her as a slave; nor from his head so that she would hold dominion over him; but from his side, so that they would truly be one in companionship as well in identity.
Not only should children honour their mothers on this day; but so should those children’s fathers! Adam was able to say, “this is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh”; and we men truly honour the mothers of our children rightly when we say—and live—the same words!
Now; a third reason we should remember Eve on Mother’s Day is a sobering one. It’s because . . .
3. GOD MADE HER IMPACT ON HUMANITY IMMEASURABLE.
I see this immeasurable “impact” as the reason why we don’t, typically, think of honouring Eve on Mother’s Day. The impact I’m referring to is a negative one.
I see this negative “impact” first in Eve’s temptation. Back in the second chapter, God had a personal conversation with Adam. Let us read it together ….
“And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:” (Genesis 2:15-16).
It’s clear that Adam must have passed this commandment on to his wife Eve at some point. But Genesis 3:1-6 tells us;
Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3:1-6).
Now; before we get a little smug, and reject this whole idea that our first mother should be remembered with honour on Mother’s Day; let’s note a couple of things.
First, let’s note that the very devil that tempted her is also the same devil that tempts you and me. And back then, he presented himself as a subtle serpent; but as 1 Peter 5:8 warns us,
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”
Who can say how many times we ourselves have fallen prey to him?
Secondly, let’s note that the ways that the devil tempted her are the very same ways that the devil causes you and me to fall. He got her to doubt God’s integrity by asking, “Has God indeed said . . .?” And has the devil ever gotten you and me to doubt God’s word in the same way? And then, he got Eve to look at the fruit—to appeal to her fleshly appetites that it was good for food, and to appeal to her senses that it was pleasant to the eyes, and to appeal to her pride that it was desirable to make her as wise as God in knowing good and evil. And doesn’t Satan tempt us in these ways also—through, as the apostle John said, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:16)?
One way Eve has had an immeasurable impact on us is by the fact that her temptation in the garden is replicated in our lives almost every day! We really aren’t all that different from our first mother.
And a second way she has had an immeasurable impact on us is by the consequences of her surrender to that temptation and by her fall. The impact of Eve’s fall was certainly felt upon Adam because we’re told that he was with her when she ate. “She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.”
Her surrender to temptation impacted him and caused them both to fall together. And as a result, we read,
“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.” (Genesis 3:7-8).
How horrible! They immediately felt a distance within themselves from God. God cried out to mankind, “Where are thou?” (Genesis 3:9).
The consequence of their sin was separation from a holy God. And that separation is “death”. And thus, the dreadful consequence of death has been spread to every one of us as their offspring. It’s as Romans 5:12 says—that “ Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” Adam and Eve fell, and we were in them in their fall. And thus we fell with them, and now suffer the consequence of “death” that resulted from their fall along with them.
Our first mother has brought a lot of harm to us. But let’s remember what Romans 5:15 then goes on to say; “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.”
And this leads us to a fourth reason we ought to honour Eve on Mother’s Day. It’s because . . .
4. GOD PROVIDED THE REDEEMER OF FALLEN HUMANITY THROUGH HER.
Eve yielded to temptation, and all of sinful humanity fell under a holy God’s curse. But it’s fascinating—and wonderful—that when God was speaking a curse upon the serpent; He said, “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).
Theologians throughout history have referred to this as the protevangelium—that is, the first preaching of the gospel. A Redeemer is promised. Satan would bruise Him on the heel—which is not a fatal blow, but the promised Redeemer would bruise the serpent’s head—which is a fatal blow.
And isn’t it fascinating that this promised Redeemer is called the “SEED” of the woman? Throughout the Bible, the curse of death upon humanity is presented as Adam’s doing. He’s the representative head of the human race; and so, it’s “through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin”. But the redemption of fallen humanity is promised through the woman—”her Seed”. As Galatians 4:4 puts it, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
We should very much honour Eve on Mother’s Day. Even though she fell under temptation in the garden; and even though it was through her and our father Adam that we all fell under the curse of sin; it was through her that God promised a Redeemer! Her redemption story is our redemption story! How much we to owe her!—and to God, who kept His promise through her!
Let me close with one more reason why we should remember Eve on Mother’s Day, and that is because . . .
5. GOD GIVES HER TO HUMANITY AS AN EXAMPLE OF FAITH.
I’ll bet you’ve never thought much about Eve in those terms; but she most definitely was a woman of faith. I believe she had a ‘saving faith’ in God’s promised Redeemer; and that we will one day see her in heaven.
You see; at the time that she and Adam fell, they had not yet had any children. But it was immediately after they fell, a curse upon brought themselves, and they heard God give the promise of a Redeemer, that Adam named her “Eve”—the mother of all living. Adam called her that before she had any children.
Her first-born son was Cain; and her second son was Abel. But Cain became a murderer and killed Abel; and was thus driven away as a “fugitive and a vagabond” on the earth (Genesis 4:12). A whole race of ungodly people were born from Cain. But as we read on in Genesis 4:25-26, we discover this:
And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. 26 And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the Lord.” (Genesis 4:25-26).
It was Eve who gave her third son the name Seth; and that name means “The Appointed One” or “The Substitute”. And do you notice what she said about him? She said, “For God has appointed another seed for me . . . ” She had faith in God’s promise that a Redeemer would come; and she rejoiced in the birth of her son as a part of what would eventually be the fulfilling of God’s promise.
We should u and remember Eve on Mother’s Day as a great woman of faith at the very earliest stage of God’s redemptive history. She was an imperfect woman certainly, as we are all imperfect; but she was clearly a woman of great faith in a perfect Redeemer!
And by the way; this directs her example back to you and me. We must respond to what God has done through our first mother.
I wonder if you have ever really thought about that seemingly perplexing thing that Paul wrote about Eve in 1 Timothy 2:13-15;
For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. (1 Timothy 2:13-15)
Is this saying some strangely chauvinistic thing?—that women are saved through bearing children? Of course not! Paul didn’t say “women” (plural) are saved by bearing children, but rather that “she (singular) will be saved in childbearing . . .”; and the “she” Paul is obviously referring to is Eve. She would be the one who is saved in childbearing because it was through her that the promised Redeemer of fallen humanity—Jesus Christ—would one day be given. He is her “Seed”.
And note, further, that Paul goes on to say,
Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety (verse 15).
And who is the “they”? This isn’t the “SEED” (singular). Rather, its the children she bore (plural)—that is, you and me.
So you see; her redemption story is very important to us. It’s very much our own redemption story. It’s through her that a Redeemer was promised and given. His name is Jesus Christ—the eternal Son of God who was born of a woman into humanity. That woman, Eve, was saved through faith in the promise of His coming; and we too are saved by faith in Him if we continue in faith, love and holiness with self-control.
And I can think of no greater way that you and I could honour our first mother—particularly on Mother’s Day—than by each of us following her example of faith; and by making sure that we have placed saving faith in the sacrifice that her greatest Son has made for us on His cross!