Story of the Old Testament - Lesson 2

By Glen Pemberton

Title: The Problem of Sin

Genesis 3-11

Background Information for the Teacher


  1. To help the student understand the nature of sin and its consequences.
  2. To help the student realize that human sinfulness created enormous problems that God was determined to overcome.
  3. To help the student see that God’s response to sin was incredible grace.


  1. Bibles for every student.
  2. A chalkboard or marker board.
  3. Copies of Student Handout #2 (The Problem of Sin).


God created a perfect universe filled with good relationships between the various parts of creation. Sin, a human heart problem, wrecked the universe and these relationships. In response, God was determined to resolve the problems created by sin and restore his relationship to humanity. At the end of Gen 11, however, how God will resolve the crisis is unclear and we await God’s next action.

Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class

Introduction: (about 5 minutes)

  1. Welcome visitors, make any necessary announcements.
  2. Spend time taking prayer requests & leading the class in prayer.

Learning Experiences: (about 25 minutes)

  1. Review last week and set the stage for today’s study.
    1. Q. At the end of Genesis 2 what is the status of creation? A. The recurring refrain of Genesis 1 is “God saw that it was good” (1:10,12,18,21,25). At the end of creation, “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good” (1:31). If time permits, note the following points
      1. Q: What was the relationship between God and humans like? A: Great! Complete in harmony and relationship. God gives humans life (2:4-7) and provides food for life (2:17-18).
      2. Q: What was the relationship between humans and the land (or natural resources)? A. Great! The land is supporting the humans with abundant fruit and the humans, in turn, are taking care of the land (2:15- 16).
      3. Q: What is the relationship between the animals and humans? A: There is no animosity between the wild animals and the humans.
      4. Q: What is the relationship between the male (Adam) and female (Eve)? A: Great! They are living in complete harmony as “one flesh” and “without shame” (2:24-25).
    2. If the creation was so great and the relationships established by creation were so great, then what happened? Last time I looked around me the creation and these relationships were not working so great!
    3. Genesis 3-11 tells 4 major stories that witness to the destruction of the created order and introduce the problem of sin. Our goal today is to review these stories, understand the problem of sin, and catch a glimpse of how God deals with sin.
  2. Body of the Lesson:
    1. The Stories (Either make a transparency of the student handout or draw the chart on the board and fill it in during class.)
    2. Briefly, read key verses to identify the sin problem in each story.
      1. Adam & Eve
        1. Read Gen 3:1-6
        2. Q. How does the temptation begin? A. The serpent poses a question that subtly misrepresents God’s instructions and casts doubt on God’s goodness (3:1).
        3. Q. What is the next step in the temptation? A. The serpent makes a direct accusation against God.
          1. God is lying to you - you will not die (3:4).
          2. God is holding you back - you would be like God if only you ate the forbidden fruit (3:5).
        4. Q. What is the essence of the temptation? A.
          1. You can no longer trust God to tell you what is true and reliable for the good life.
          2. You should exert yourself and become like God. Take control of your own life and destiny.
          3. In Sum: Eating the fruit is only an external manifestation of an internal (heart) problem!
      2. Cain & Abel
        1. Read Gen 4:1-8
        2. Q. What is at the heart of Cain’s sin? A. The heart problem of anger & jealousy (4:6-7)
        3. Q. So what is the external action? A. Cain murders his brother.
      3. The Generation of Noah
        1. Read Gen 6:5
        2. Q. What is the problem of all the people? A. Every thought and inclination of their heart was evil.
      4. The Generation after the Flood
        1. Read Gen 11:1-4
        2. Q. What is the problem? What motivates these people to build a tower? A. Pride - the desire to make a name for themselves (11:4).
      5. Summary: Sin is not merely a wrong external action, but a problem of the heart (see James 1:13- 15).
    3. Punishment & Consequences. Quickly review the consequences or punishment of the various sins.
      1. Adam & Eve
        1. Immediate results of the couple’s sin. Read Gen 3:7-13
          1. The God/human relationship is damaged. Now the humans are afraid of God (3:8-10). Note to the Teacher: The separation between humans and God needs to be especially stressed. See also Isa 59:2 and Romans 3:10-18.
          2. The Male/Female Relationship is damaged. The humans recognize their nakedness and are ashamed (3:7) and blame each other (3:12)
        2. (If time permits) The Secondary Consequences. Read Gen 3:14-24. God pronounces further consequences for their actions.
          1. The male/female relationship: Gen 3:16 - there are now problems in the relationship.
          2. The human/land relationship: Gen 3:17-18 ? the land is no longer as productive.
          3. The human/animal relationship: Gen 3:14-15 ? the human/animal relationship is breaking down.
    4. Summary: The goodness of creation & relationships are damaged or put in serious jeopardy on every level.
      1. Cain & Abel
        1. Read 4:11-12
        2. Q. What are the consequences of Cain’s sin?
          1. The ground will no longer produce for him
          2. As a result, Cain must become a fugitive searching for food.
      2. Noah’s Generation
        1. Read Gen 6:7,17
        2. Q. What is the consequence of sin? A. Destruction of humans & animals by a flood.
      3. The Generation after the flood
        1. Read Gen 11:5-9
        2. Q. What is the consequence of sin?
          1. Confusion of language that leads to scattering of the people.
          2. The tower is abandoned.
      4. Summary: In every instance, sin carries severe consequences. Human sin creates an enormous problem: What is God to do with human rebellion and a world gone mad?
    5. God’s response of grace to the human sin problem. In every instance, God’s first and greatest response is grace! All other actions are conditioned by grace.
      1. Adam & Eve
        1. Q. How does God respond with Grace? A.
          1. The punishments are severe enough to make the couple realize that they must not continue to sin (Compare to the punishment of a small child).
          2. God clothes them (3:21) - a problem created by their sin.
          3. God drives them from the Garden (3:22-24). Q. Why? Was God just angry or being mean? A. No. God drove them out of the Garden for their own good - before they created even greater problems for themselves by eating of the tree of life.
      2. Cain & Abel
        1. Q. How does God respond to Cain with Grace? A. A protective mark so that no one would kill Cain (Gen 4:13-15)
      3. The Generation of Noah
        1. Q. How does God respond with Grace? A.
          1. God spares one family
          2. God stops the spread of waters and makes them recede (8:1-3)
          3. God grants the world & humanity a new beginning, a fresh start (8:15-17)
      4. The Generation after the Flood
        1. Q. How does God respond with Grace? A. There is not really an answer to this question in Genesis
  3. Summary: Genesis 3-11 has demonstrated that God is committed to the well being of his creation and determined to work a solution to the problems created by sin. But, so far, the text has also demonstrated that none of the solutions in Genesis 3-11 really resolves the sin problem.
    1. Adam & Eve are expelled from garden for their own good, clothed and blessed with children. But the problems created by their sin are not resolved.
    2. Cain is protected from being murdered himself, but his fugitive status from God is not resolved.
    3. Sinful humanity is wiped out by the flood and a fresh start begins with Noah, but Noah is also sinful (Gen 9:20-27) and the sin problem again spreads throughout creation.
    4. God stops the building of the tower, but the heart problem of pride and rebellion against God is not resolved.
  4. Next week, as our Story of the Old Testament continues, we will see God set a plan in motion that will eventually lead to a small hill outside of Jerusalem called Calvary.

Applications (5-10 minutes)

Spend the remaining class time discussing one or more the following questions.

  1. What have we learned about God in this study?
    1. God reacts severely to sin - punishment.
    2. God reacts compassionately to sin - grace.
    3. God is determined to win the world back to him and restore his relationship to humanity. God loves you!
  2. What have we learned about sin in this study?
    1. Sin is first and foremost a heart problem.
    2. Sin brings disastrous consequences.

Assignment: Read Genesis 12-17


Prayer that: 1. Confesses our own sinfulness and acknowledges the problems our sin creates. 2. Thanks God for his response of punishment (to make us aware of the problem) and grace.

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