Compost as a Picture of the Fall and Restoration, Sin and Grace

That pile of biodegradable organic material is more than plant food: it's a natural picture of the fall of man (sin) and God's restoration (grace).

Compost?  Really?

Yep, you read that right.  Compost.

The other day at work I realized that compost is a great illustration of God’s sovereignty, his grace, our sin, and the gospel.  I’m not exactly sure how I got there, but probably heard or something about revelation, leading me to nature, taking me to compost.  Yeah, my mind is weird.

Strange thought processes aside, if you think about it, compost reveals things about God and illustrates, at least in part, the gospel (cf. Rom 1:20).  It depicts the fall of man and God’s grace.

Compost Depicts the Fall of Man, Sin, and Death

God told Adam and Eve that if they disobeyed him then they would die.  We know that they understood this because Eve repeated this warning to Satan:

The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’”

– Genesis 3:2-3 (NASB)

Despite his warning, Adam and Eve ate of the tree — that is, they sinned — and thus were sentenced to death.  Furthermore, we’re told that their sin corrupted all creation, bringing death and decay to everything God made:

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat from it’;

Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.

– Genesis 3:17 (NASB)

Paul re-iterates this in his letter to the Roman believers:

20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

– Romans 8:20-22 (NASB)

From these verses and many more throughout Scripture, we discover two basic truths:

  1. Sin corrupts all creation, including all nature
  2. All creation is under the curse and penalty of death

The reason things in nature break down and die is because of sin.  It’s not God’s fault, it’s our fault. We are to blame.

No, you and I didn’t commit the first sin, but we do continue to sin, even in our thoughts (Matt 5:22, 28; Eph 4:22).  Thus, none of us can claim innocence, for each of us are guilty and fall short of God’s glory and perfection (Ps 53:1-3; Rom 3:23).

As a result of sin, including our own sin, we will die and decay.  In fact, from the minute we are born we are are already traveling death’s highway.  Everything we do to prolong our lives is a fight against death itself, and it’s a battle we will lose.

Compost depicts this death and decay with perfection.  Biological matter had died and is breaking down. However, that’s not the only thing compost illustrates.

Compost Illustrates the Grace of God, Restoration, and New Life

Man was condemned to death for sin.  All creation was cursed as a result. But look at Genesis 3 again and you’ll see there’s also grace, mercy, and a promise of restoration as well.

After they sinned, God gave Adam and Eve an opportunity to fess up and repent: “Then the Lord God said to the woman, ‘What is this you have done?’” (Gen 3:13a).

God then told Satan that he will be defeated at some point in the future by the seed of Eve (that is, the Son of Man, referring to Christ Jesus):

And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her seed;
He shall bruise you on the head,
And you shall bruise him on the heel.

– Gen 3:15

Then two other things happen that reveal God’s mercy: God indicates that Adam and Eve will live out natural lives and he clothes them:

Cursed is the ground because of you;
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.

– Gen 3:17b

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

– Gen 3:21

Despite the judgment and punishment of death and decay, there was still mercy and restoration.  The rest of the Old Testament looks forward to the coming promised one, Messiah. In the New Testament we discover that Jesus is Messiah and that he fulfilled God’s prophetic promise in Genesis 3:15:

  • Jesus was beaten and killed, but it was only temporary (bruising the heel)
  • Satan was defeated by Jesus by paying for sin on the cross and rising again from the grave (bruising the head)

Satan’s ultimate and total defeat will come in the end when death and Satan are thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:10, 14).

Compost illustrates this concept beautifully.

Compost is decaying biomatter.  In order to have compost things must die.  However, nutrients are released that nourish plants and animals, enabling them to live and even thrive.  Thus, out of death comes life.

Compost illustrates the judgement and curse on all creation.  It also illustrates God’s mercy and grace.

As such, compost illustrates the gospel of Jesus!

Compost Illustrates the Gospel of Jesus

A while back I preached about the cross is a picture of both sin and salvation.  In the cross we see God’s judgment of sin and his grace to save. Thus, it is a picture of the gospel.

Compost also illustrates the gospel.

In order to fully understand it, let me first summarize the gospel message: we sinned, we suffer death, Jesus died to pay our penalty, and he rose again to give new life.

In compost we see death and new life.  We also see that new life comes to one plant through the death of another.

Every one of us is guilty of sin and thus are under the penalty of death.  That punishment will not be ignored, but must be paid. Jesus came and laid down his life to pay the penalty for sin, satisfying God’s wrath and rose again to give new life.  Because of his death and resurrection, all those who put their faith in Jesus alone will be saved and have new life.

Just as one plant dies in order to give life to another, Jesus died to give new life to others, though on a far grander and glorious scale.

Hopefully this article will help you as you share the gospel with others.

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