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APRONS OF LEAVES OR COATS OF SKIN?
(SERMON #24 ON THE BOOK OF GENESIS)
by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, October 6, 2007
“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” (Genesis 3:7).
Satan tempted our first parents to sin by eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. When they had eaten, and disobeyed God, then Satan tried another method, says Luther, “to destroy them by despair.”
“They eyes of them both were opened.” This refers to awakening to sin. In awakening, the sinner sees his sin and hates it. He comes under conviction of sin, as did Adam and Eve. But when a person sees his sin, is awakened to the horror of his sin, he then is dragged down by the Devil, who tells him he has no hope now. The Devil seeks then, as Luther said, “to destroy them by despair.” That is what happened to Judas. When he saw the wickedness of betraying Christ, he did not repent in the saving sense. He did not change his mind in Biblical repentance, which is in Greek “metanoia.” The Bible says he repented, but another Greek word is used, “metamelomai.” It means “to regret.” But mere regret is not real repentance. Real repentance changes a man’s mind and sets him going in a different direction.
Adam and Eve had the same kind of “regret” that Judas had. They sorrowed for their sin, but their minds were not changed to go in a new direction. The sorrow of our first parents (and Judas) was the wrong kind of sorrow. In the Bible it is called “the sorrow of the world.”
“For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death”
(II Corinthians 7:10).
When conviction comes to a sinner, it will at first often be “the sorrow of the world [that] worketh death.” Instead of feeling sorrow for offending God by his sin, a somewhat awakened sinner will often merely feel “the sorrow of the world [which] worketh death.” He will feel great anguish of soul, but it will be a self-centered sorrow. In effect, he feels sorry for himself, not “Godly sorrow,” that he has offended God by breaking His laws and rebelling against God in his heart.
Adam and Eve felt the first kind of sorrow – self-sorrow – that “leads to death.” Many that we speak to in the inquiry room feel that self-centered sorrow. They may weep and proclaim their agony over sin. But their so-called “repentance” is nothing more than sorrow for themselves, sorrow that they are in such a terrible situation. But they do not feel sorrow for offending God. They are just sorry for themselves. In the inquiry room, we have learned to tell the difference between self-sorrow and “Godly sorrow” for offending God.
When someone is awakened to his sinful condition, he often withdraws into sorrow for himself. This will do him no good whatever, “for the sorrow of the world worketh death.”
Satan brought self-sorrow before our first parents' minds when their eyes were opened and they were somewhat awakened. The Devil brought self-sorrow before their minds, as Luther said, “to destroy them.” For self-sorrow does just that. It does not lead you to Christ. It leads to destruction, as it did to Judas, who was sorry, yet went out and hanged himself, the Son of Perdition, the Son of Hell. “For the sorrow of the world worketh death.” Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, you must feel sorry that you have offended God and broken His laws, as though they meant nothing.
Adam and Eve were awakened to their sinful condition, but they felt no pain for disobeying God. Theirs was a shallow conviction of sin. And I must say to you that you can feel very sorrowful, you can feel great pain, and yet not be awakened to see that you have dishonored God, and flung His love back in His face as though it was worthless. When a sinner is in this superficial state of awakening God cannot help him.
Iain H. Murray said,
Under conviction individuals commonly [try to change their] behaviour…The repentance God demands is no partial change, no temporary feeling of sorrow, but an entire change of life (Iain H. Murray, The Old Evangelicalism: Old Truths for a New Awakening, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005, pp. 9-10).
That “entire” change of life comes when the sinner at last sees that he is not capable of such a complete change on his own. To paraphrase an old hymn,
No works of mine
Can make me clean,
The leprosy lies deep within.
The harder you try to change yourself, the more impossible it becomes. Sin revives and (hopefully) you die, as the Apostle put it in Romans 7:8-9, the text I will preach on tomorrow night, in a sermon titled, “Crisis Conversion and the Law of God.”
Now Adam and Eve were in that crisis. Their eyes had been somewhat opened. They knew they were sinners. But, as Iain H. Murray said, “Under conviction individuals commonly [try to change their] behaviour” (ibid., p. 9). Adam and Eve soon found out that a change of behaviour wouldn’t help them at all.
“They knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons” (Genesis 3:7).
They tried to cover up the effects of their sin by their own works. The aprons they made were a type, a picture of a lost person attempting to hide his sins by doing something himself.
It didn’t work though, because the Bible so clearly says,
“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5).
Those aprons of fig leaves represent man’s first attempt to cover his sin without the Blood of the pre-incarnate Christ. Whatever good you do, whatever resolutions you make, however hard you try to be a Christian – all these human works are only “fig leaves” – human religion based on a false view of salvation without Blood – the pre-incarnate Blood of Christ, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8) in the mind and purpose of God.
God had to strip away the false security they felt by hiding behind those bloodless fig leaves, which picture man’s religion without Christ’s atoning Blood.
We will see next time how God stripped away their false hopes of saving themselves, how God brought them to see that there is no salvation by the "fig leaves" of good works, how they were guilty and could not hide from God in their sin.
When, at last, all their excuses were gone, and they were thoroughly convicted, then God Himself cleansed their sin and clothed them in a bloody skin. Please turn to Genesis 3:21. Please stand and read it aloud.
“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).
You may be seated.
These coats represented Christ, clothing them with His own righteousness. Dr. Timothy Lin, an Old Testament expert, often points out that the Hebrew word is singular, not skins, but skin. The coats God made to cover them were from one animal – typifying the fact that there is only one Christ who can cover sins. Furthermore, blood had to be spilt by the animal from whom that skin was taken. This shows the power of the death of Christ in atoning for sin; it shows the power of the Blood of Christ to cleanse from sin; and it shows that Christ Himself covers the sinner with His own righteousness.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.
(“The Solid Rock” by Edward Mote, 1797-1874).
When you are tired of the load of your sin, when you are through playing games trying to save yourself by reforming and being “good;” trying to cover your sin with "fig leaves," when you realize that nothing you do, or hope to do in the future, can cleanse you and cover your sins, then you will understand Elvina M. Hall’s famous Gospel song,
For nothing good have I
Whereby Thy grace to claim –
I’ll wash my garments white
In the blood of Calvary’s Lamb.
(“Jesus Paid It All” by Elvina M. Hall, 1820-1899).
But there is more to see in Genesis 3:21. Please stand and read it aloud again.
“Unto Adam also and to his wife did the Lord God make coats of skins, and clothed them” (Genesis 3:21).
You may be seated. Blood had to be shed for them to be clothed in the skin of an animal. Now turn to Leviticus 17:11. Please read the last clause aloud, beginning with the words, “It is the blood…”
“For it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul” (Leviticus 17:11).
Underline the word “atonement.” In the margin next to it write “covering.” That’s what the Hebrew word “kaphar” means. It means “covering.” So, we could translate Leviticus 17:11,
“For it is the blood that maketh a covering for the soul.”
The Blood of Christ, from eternity past, covers the sins of those who trust Him. Their sins are covered, so God cannot see them. At the Last Judgment, when “the books” are opened, and God looks at their record, He will see no sin written down, because their sins have been covered by the Blood of Christ!
A friend once said that “covering” was an Old Testament concept, not found in the New Testament. He may have been influenced by a stronger Dispensational view than I was taught. But I thought about what he said for several weeks, off and on. Then one day I picked up Cruden’s Concordance and looked up the word “covered.” Sure enough, there it was in the New Testament! Please turn to Romans 4:7. Leave off the first word and start with “Blessed.” Please read it aloud.
“Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7).
Yes, I know this is a quotation from Psalm 32:1. But I also know that when the Holy Spirit quotes a verse from the Hebrew Old Testament in Greek, in the New Testament, that the Greek words were selected by the Holy Spirit to bring out the subtleties of the Hebrew – because “all scripture is given by inspiration of God” – both the Old and New Testaments (II Timothy 3:16). So, we see that the Holy Spirit said, in the Greek New Testament, that a man is blessed “whose sins are covered.” The Greek word translated “covered” is “epikaluptō” and it means “to conceal, or to cover” (Strong).
There you have it, in both the Old and New Testaments. The blood covers your sin (Leviticus 17:11). “Blessed are they…whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7). And that “covering” is typified in the coats of skin with which God clothed Adam and Eve.
To be saved from the Judgment of God, you must be covered with the righteousness of Christ. Your sins must be covered with the Blood of Christ, so God will not see them. Let us stand and sing the chorus of hymn number 5 on your song sheet, “Hiding in Thee.” This song is about hiding from the wrath of God by uniting with Christ and being covered with His Blood and righteousness.
Hiding in Thee, Hiding in Thee,
Thou blest “Rock of Ages,”
I’m hiding in Thee.
(“Hiding in Thee” by William O. Cushing, 1823-1902).
(END OF SERMON)
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Song Sung Before the Sermon by the Congregation:
“Hiding in Thee” (by William O. Cushing, 1823-1902).