Ashley Mak

The Fall of Friendship (Genesis 3:1-24, Proverbs 16:28, 20:6, Psalm 55:1-23, Romans 1:18-32)

Is This Friendship?

One bright spring day the leader of the Republic strode confidently across the square. He was on his way to the Senate where he would give a speech prior to his departure, for he was leading the armies east to engage the enemies on the eastern front. He had already proven himself to be a brilliant military strategist by defeating a coalition of armies in the west and significantly expanding the western border. The square was full, many senators headed in the same direction. As he crossed the square, the throng of people seemed to crowd in, and an ominous feeling crept over him. The leader had many enemies – men who resented his achievements, men who disagreed with his political reforms, men who wanted his position – in sum, men who hated him. But he also had friends, a huge number of friends, and many people who were dependent upon him. It was impossible for anything truly dangerous to happen. Suddenly there was a signal. Knives were drawn. The crowd fell upon him, inflicting terrible wounds until it began to seem as though this were the end. The greatest wound was the blow struck by his best friend, and Julius Caesar breathed his last in words made famous by William Shakespeare, “And you, too, Brutus?”

What sort of a world is this when friends turn on you? The story of Caesar’s assassination captures our imagination because of Caesar’s enormous stature and its improbability, but above all for his betrayal by his friends. Especially Brutus. Caesar loved Brutus like a son, and had designated him his heir in his will. They served together in the great Gallic Wars Rome fought against the barbarian tribes in present-day France. What does friendship mean if such a friend kills you?


I hope you have never been killed by a friend, but even for us, friends aren’t always as reliable as we wish, are they? I am sure you have been let down by a friend at some point. Maybe you have even had the painful experience of having been betrayed by a friend. Then it is time to get another friend, right? But Proverbs 20:6 says, “Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love, but a faithful man who can find?” Even good friends can be ornery and unreliable. Friendship can easily be derailed by the wickedness of others as Proverbs 16:28 says, “A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.” Friendship is hard! Why is it hard to find and keep good friends? To understand this we need to go back to the beginning.


Eternal Friends

Last week Pastor Brian proclaimed the wisdom of God in creation. God made a wonderful universe, and it was all good. The capstone of creation, and the pinnacle of its glory, was man. Man is also a created being. Man is not God, and never will be. He shares with the other animals and everything in the world the fact that he is a creature. But man, and only man, was made in God’s image. And that sets him completely apart from everything else in the universe.


Much has been said about the image of God. This is a favorite topic for theologians (and doctoral candidates!). Essentially it means we are like God. When someone looks at creation, he sees the marks of the creator – the wisdom, beauty, and power of God. When someone looks at man, these marks are more vivid. One of the primary characteristics of God is friendship. There is one, and only one, true God; but in some way incomprehensible to us, God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These three persons always love and trust each other. They are the best of friends! When God made man in His image, man also loves and trusts other persons. This is one aspect of the image of God, and is true of all human beings. You might say that man was created with the capacity for friendship, and that is true. But friendship is not a latent capacity in man. Friendship is a present reality in all mankind. It would be more accurate to say man was created a friend. At his creation man was a friend of God and other men and women. Friendship is an aspect of the image of God, so all men and women are friends. The only question is whether they are good friends or bad friends, faithful or treacherous, loving or betraying. And sadly, we have experienced some of all these qualities in our friends.


Everything is rooted in God. God made this world, and it bears the marks of its creator. God is three friends: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. These friends always love and trust each other. Man is made in God’s image. He was made a loving, trusting person. The first man loved and trusted God, and then he loved and trusted the woman God made for him. God and man talked with each other, as friends do. God showed Adam where to get good food, and showed him the tree which was off-limits. Adam trusted God. He ate the good food and avoided the dangerous tree. God brought the animals to Adam to name, and when it became obvious that Adam needed a mate, God put Adam to sleep. Adam trusted God as he underwent major surgery in the creation of woman, and Adam shouted with joy when he first saw the astonishing new creature God had made for him. There were five friends in the Garden of Eden: Father, Son, Holy Spirit, Adam, and Eve. All five loved and trusted each other.



Then a sixth person appeared in the garden. This curious animal had an innocent-sounding question – “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” Eve politely answered the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” At this point the serpent introduced a new thought. “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Huh. Now what? The only way to discover the truth about the tree is to test it, right? That’s what all you modern men and women would do. That’s what all you scientists do. In the dark ages men believed that Aristotle knew about the world, and the path to knowledge was to study Aristotle’s writings. When men woke out of their ignorant slumber, they saw that it is necessary to test claims of truth. The scientific enterprise is propelled by empiricism – by testing all ideas to determine which are true – and even those of us who are not professional scientists want to think that we are wise enough not to fall for untested opinions. So the first scientist – the first modern woman – Eve, took fruit from the tree in question and tested it. And she discovered that the serpent was right! She didn’t die. And also the fruit was lovely and delicious.


You cannot do modern science without the scientific method, and the experimental approach to life has helped us to create the most wealthy and comfortable society ever. But you cannot treat friends like bacteria in a petri dish. Friendship consists of love and trust, and when there is no trust, friendship dissolves.  You have experienced this. If you encounter someone who does not believe what you say, you do not count him as a friend. And are any of the people you call friends serial liars (or so you think)? There are degrees of trust in human relationships. You may have a friend who is completely trustworthy, but often gets directions wrong. You will maintain your friendship, but check his directions. My college professor was a great guy and we were good friends, but he could not tell his left from his right. Literally! If he had told me to go to the lab on the left side of the corridor, I would definitely have sought a second opinion. However, it is very hurtful when a friend does not trust you in a matter in which you are confident you are right. If you are an expert computer programmer and have been writing Java code for decades, and a friend doubts that you can write a simple program, it is quite hurtful. Your friend has called into question something that is clearly and obviously true and important about you. He has implied that you are incompetent, and furthermore a fraud! Your friendship is unlikely to survive repeated episodes like this.


But there are no degrees of trust with God. God is completely trustworthy all the time. And if you are an empiricist and are looking for evidence, the whole creation is evidence that God is wise, powerful, and good. Trustworthiness is integral to God’s nature. People are fallible, but God is not. A friend may give you wrong directions by mistake or in ignorance, but God knows all things and never makes mistakes. What else is left? If someone gives you wrong information, and it is not a mistake, what is it? It is malice. No one would solemnly assure you to turn right if he knows there is an ambush awaiting – unless he wants you to die. And when we re-examine the serpent’s reply to Eve, we see that malice is in fact what he ascribed to God. “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” he said. “Eve, honey, you have a world of possibilities ahead of you. But God is holding you back. Don’t let Him get away with it! Eat that fruit. Expose God’s lies. Achieve your full potential.” And when she ate the fruit, Eve showed that she agreed with the serpent.


Could your friendship survive if someone showed that he thought you were a despicable liar? Or that you intended to ruin his life?  Friendship can survive misunderstandings, and mistakes, and ignorance – but how could you be friends with someone who is trying to hurt you? And so in a moment Eve ceased being God’s friend, and became His enemy.


We usually think of Eve’s eating the apple as an act of disobedience – and it was. The King of the universe gave a command, announced the punishment, and Eve broke the law. She was guilty, and deserved the punishment the law demanded. Today we are looking at this story from another angle – an angle neither more nor less true and important – the angle of personal relationship. The legal angle reveals Eve’s guilt and exposure to the death penalty. The relationship angle reveals Eve’s betrayal of God and the death of her friendship with Him. So what about the other friends?


Adam Joins the Betrayal

Eve’s treachery accomplished the immediate death of her friendship with three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – for God is all three. What about Adam? Speaking of Adam? Where was Adam all this time? Verse six tells us that Adam was with Eve. Adam watched the serpent approach Eve. He heard the discussion. Adam watched while Eve took the fruit. What was Adam doing?


What should Adam have been doing? God placed him in the garden to care for it. The text says, “to work it and keep it.” Adam’s first job was to cultivate the garden, planting, pruning, harvesting, and doing all the things necessary to keep the garden a lush, healthy place. His second job was to guard the garden – to protect it from damage and keep out enemies. When God gave Adam a helper, Adam was responsible to nurture and protect his wife as well. It was Adam’s job to tell Eve about the trees – which ones were good for food, and which one they must avoid.


Adam knew about the animals. God showed the animals to Adam and he named them. Adam knew serpents do not talk. When a talking serpent showed up in the garden, Adam should have known that he didn’t belong there. When the serpent began to seduce his wife, Adam had to destroy the serpent. Eve’s reply to the serpent reveals that Adam had done a poor job of instructing his wife in the words of God – for the answer she gave the serpent was inaccurate. Eve reported that God had forbidden touching the tree, but God had done no such thing. Then when the seduction was complete, Adam should have ripped the covers off the faithless couple and torn the fruit from Eve’s hand. Instead of fulfilling his duty as guardian of the garden and protector of his people, Adam stood by and watched as Satan led Eve into catastrophe.


Paul tells us in 1 Timothy that Eve was deceived. She was new, and Adam had failed to pass on God’s word to her accurately. She had not seen all the animals and did not know that serpents could not talk. The text tells us that “the serpent was more crafty then any other beast.” Satan twisted God’s word and Eve was confused. She broke God’s law and sinned, but it was a sin of confusion. Adam, however, was not confused. He knew exactly what was happening. Adam knew that an enemy had invaded the garden, twisted God’s word, seduced his wife, and led her into a deadly sin. Why? This is not the time to ponder what might have led Adam to this horrible behavior. It is enough to see that Adam horribly betrayed his wife. Adam knew what to do, but instead he chose to allow Satan to lead his wife to death. It was not instantly apparent, but that was the moment Adam’s loving friendship with Eve was dashed. Even worse, if anything could be worse, was Adam’s betrayal of God. By his failure to guard the garden, Adam turned the world over to Satan. Becoming friends with Satan meant he was now an enemy of God.


The Consequences of Betrayal

What do you do when a friend maliciously betrays you? If he is more powerful than you, you will hide. If you are more powerful than he, you will eliminate the threat. Adam and Eve assumed that God would be out to get them now, so they ran to hide when God arrived. The text says, “they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden. The Hebrew word translated “sound” can mean anything from voice to a roar. I was not there, so I do not know exactly how God sounded, but Adam and Eve experienced God’s arrival as the roar of Godzilla. After all, they had betrayed someone much more powerful than they, and God had warned them that the penalty for eating the fruit was death. Friendship with God was utterly demolished – replaced by fear and vengeance. So we have this pathetic, embarrassingly pathetic scene of Adam and Eve hiding from God among the tress. It reminds you of the toddler who plays hide-and-seek by putting his head under a pillow – as if as long as he cannot see you, neither can you see him.


But when God showed up, He did not execute Adam and Eve. Like a good father, God asked them to explain themselves. And then everything came apart. Adam performed the impressive verbal feat of blaming in one sentence both God and Eve for his failure. “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree…” No taking responsibility for his failure, Adam blamed God and his wife for the disaster. When God turned to Eve, she blamed the serpent. Friendship with God is in tatters, friendship in marriage is gone, and friendship with the creation is destroyed. God holds the universe together, and when man became separated from God, there was no harmony anywhere.


God explained the consequences of sin. The serpent had his own culpability, and God sentenced him to a life of groveling in the dirt. Whenever you see a snake slithering across the ground, God wants you to remember that sin entered the world through the lies of Satan. God put the fear of snakes into our hearts, especially women, so we hunt and destroy them. Whenever you kill a snake, God wants you to remember that Satan, in the guise of a snake, is the bringer of death. For the woman, her most delightful and important act, childbearing, would forever be marred by pain. Whenever you women are laboring in childbirth, God wants you to remember your role in bringing sin into the world. With friendship with God severed, women will be unable to have a stress-free marriage. Surely arguments in marriage are one of the worst consequences of sin. God explained to Adam that his sin had brought curse upon the ground. Adam was still responsible for cultivating and guarding the earth, but now the earth would put up a fight. Men, whenever you are miserable in your job, God wants you to remember that this is the fruit of sin. Snakes in the grass, labor in childbirth, fighting at home, sweat at work – these are the enduring signs that friendship with God has been destroyed – and with it all hope of true friendship anywhere else.


Treacherous Humanity

Into this scene of utter disaster God injected a note of hope. In speaking to the serpent, God said, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Eve would have a child! And the child would do what Adam had failed to do. Her child would cut off the head of the serpent who had caused this awful mess. Eve would live long enough to bear a savior. So imagine Eve’s thrill when she had a baby. God’s promise had come true! There was hope for deliverance from the misery their sin had brought into the world. Adam and Eve were doubly delighted when they had a second child, and more followed. Then disaster struck again. The friendship between those two boys steadily deteriorated, until one day Cain’s anger boiled over and he killed Abel. The child whom God had promised to save mankind turned into a child of Satan. Like his father, Cain was a murderer and had to flee. Imagine the anguish of Adam and Eve. One son was dead, and one was gone forever. Was this the end? Was death all that man could look forward to, or could they trust God to send another child to save them?


Cain’s descendants were evil, bloodthirsty men who celebrated violence and rejoiced in death. Eventually the whole world was full of violence. Murder, rape, and destruction were daily occurrences. As the world grew uglier, a few clung to the old hope. They trusted God to send a child to save them. A few men and women were friends of God. Finally the world was so consumed by evil, God washed it clean and started over with Noah and his family, and put in place human government to control the spread of sin. But scripture continued to be full of failed friendships. Jacob deceived his brother and Esau vowed to kill him. Joseph’s brothers hated him and sold him into slavery. King David’s son Absalom led a revolt and almost tore the kingdom from his father. Once again the world grew blacker and uglier.


In his letter to the Romans the apostle Paul described the course of mankind apart from God. The conclusion of chapter one shows the climax of sin’s progress through mankind.


Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  (Romans 1:2831)


Thousands of years passed. Most men and women lived lives of violence and betrayal, like their father Satan, but always a few clung to the old hope that God would send a child to save the human race. Finally the time was ready. A peasant girl in an obscure village in an occupied nation had a boy. She knew this was the one, because an angel told her, but no one else knew – until Jesus began to preach and heal. Next week we will see how Jesus saved us and made good friendships possible, but today we see that even Jesus was betrayed by a friend. For Judas was not an intruder. Judas was Jesus’ friend. Jesus speaks to us in Psalm 55:


For it is not an enemy who taunts me –

then I could bear it;

it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me 

then I could hide from him.

But it is you, a man, my equal,

my companion, my familiar friend.

We used to take sweet counsel together;

within God’s house we walked in the throng.

Psalm 55:12-14


So we see in the betrayal of Jesus the full fruit of sin as it came to maturity in mankind. If even Jesus was betrayed by his friend, is it any wonder that we have trouble finding trustworthy friends? If the best men and women in history failed to be reliable friends, is it surprising that we also struggle to be faithful to our friends?


Friendship Restored

Satan succeeded in damaging our friendship with God and each other, but he failed to destroy it completely. Adam failed. Eve failed. If it were up to any of us, we would fail to love and trust God. No one would be friends with God, and no one would be faithful to each other. But God, who is friends with Himself in all eternity, is a faithful friend with man. Through all the awful sin and miserable failures of Adam and Jacob and David and all the patriarchs and prophets, God was always faithful. God is an unfailing friend. And when the time was ready, God came as a man to restore our friendship with Him and with each other. On the night of His betrayal, Jesus said, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15)


On this Lord’s Day Jesus calls us into heaven because He loves to be with His friends. Jesus talks to us in His word, hears our needs and worries as we pray, and feeds us in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus is our perfect friend, and so we have hope that we may be friends with each other.



O God, we come to You this morning bearing the scars of failed friendships of the past, and the sorrows of wounded friendships in the present. Jesus, we are exhausted by our efforts to cultivate and maintain friendships, and we fear that true, deep friendship in this world may be impossible. Loving Father, we are horrified at the heartless way Adam and Eve rejected You, but we must admit that we are just like them – for we are their children. Almighty God, You are our only hope in this world. Our only comfort this morning is that at the moment of betrayal You promised a Savior – and in the fulness of time You came in person to save us from destruction. Help us always to live in the wonder and joy of this hope. We ask in the name of Your dear Son, Our only true Friend, Jesus Christ our Lord.



Now to Him who loved us when we were His enemies,

to Him who is called Faithful and True,

to the only wise and eternal God,

be all majesty, power, dominion, and worship,

Now and forever, into all eternity. Amen.

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