Two Coverings for Sin: A Reflection on Genesis 3 & Psalm 32

Two Coverings…

Upon eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “the eyes of [Adam and Eve] were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.”[1] These loincloths, however, did not sufficiently cover their nakedness; therefore, “the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.”[2] And so begins the history of redemption. There is one Law of God to which one is either obedient or disobedient. Prior to the Fall man did not need to have his nakedness covered. However, after the Fall man knows that he must cover his nakedness. And it is at this point that we see that there are only two coverings for sin that Scripture speaks of: (a.)the covering for sin sewn together by man in his attempt to cover his own nakedness (which God rejects), and (b.)the covering for sin made by God Himself for His people, to clothe their nakedness, the covering of skin with which He is well pleased. There is no mixture of fabrics in Genesis 3; rather, there is a stark contrast that reveals many things about the condition of fallen man.

Firstly, we note that fallen man did not kill an animal, skin it, and create for himself a coat of skin. Instead, man goes to the plants and makes his clothing out of their leaves. Why is this significant? Because, to put it very plainly, man’s self-created covering for sin does not involve the shedding of blood. And this reveals that man’s conception of his own sinning, as deserving death, is found to be lacking. Adam is aware of the commandment, as well as the consequences; yet, he does not acknowledge the rightful penalty for his rebellion. For if he did, then he would have wanted to remit these sins by the shedding of blood. And this reveals that man’s covering for sin is not only rooted in man’s high view of himself, and in his low-view of God’s Law, it cannot cover his sins in a manner that is pleasing to God. Secondly, we must note that man’s self-created covering for sin is derived from his works, for it is written: “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.”[3] These works, moreover, were done in obedience to God’s Law, for it is written: “God said to them, ‘fill the earth and subdue it.’”[4] Thirdly, the covering for sin made by God is the fruit of sacrifice, death, judgment and yet, because it is freely given it is the fruit of love, mercy, and grace.

This foundational passage of Scripture is making a distinction between two coverings for sin. The first covering is made by man and, therefore, results from a faulty understanding of the depth of sin, does not remit sins (for there is no bloodshed therein), and is based upon one’s good works (i.e. one’s obedience to the Law); the second covering for sins, however, is made by God, who mercifully refrains from destroying those whom He has purposed to save via the death of another whose perfect skin is to cover man’s nakedness. Here we have the Law in Adam’s fig leaves and the Gospel in our Lord’s coats of skin. Here we have the self-covering of one’s sins and the covering of one’s sins by God our Savior. We have the false gospel of justification by works contrasted against the true Gospel of Justification by the freely imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ who was given for our sins. This is perhaps what David has in mind, one could reasonably conjecture, when he writes about the blessed man whose sins have been forgiven, whose transgressions have been covered by the Lord. This covering given by God is contrasted against David’s self-covering.[5] The covering for sin that comes by the Law stands in antithetical contrast to the covering for sin that comes by faith alone. In other words, there is no mixture of faith and works, or of God’s work and man’s work.

Salvation is by faith alone.

-h.


[1] Gen 3:7

[2] Gen 3:21

[3] Gen 2:15

[4] Cf. Gen 1:28

[5] Cf. Ps 32:1 & 5

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