Text: Genesis 3:1-19
In Romans 15:4 Paul wrote “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope”.
God wants us to Learn from the experiences of others. The scriptures have in large part been written for that purpose. They serve us and not the people whose stories they tell. Even when those experiences are sinful, God wants us to figure out what went wrong and to avoid those same sins ourselves.
This article is something of a case study in the dynamics of temptation, leading to sin.
Our focus is on the entry of temptation and sin into human history and that way that that process has continued to play out over time.
Satan’s involvement in the world of men and women dates back almost to the very beginning. It intruded upon the human – divine relationship at the earliest stage of human society, when it was made up of only two people.
God had created Adam and allowed him to live on earth for some time by himself. God and Adam had a first-hand relationship with each other. In fact, God was the only person with whom Adam could have a conversation. God gave him the job of tending the garden where he had placed him…so Adam was usefully employed, having an immediate and tangible purpose in his life.
God placed Adam over the animal world and gave him dominion over it. That dominion is reflected in the fact that God consulted with him over the naming and categorizing of each member of the animal kingdom. Whatever name Adam gave to each creature was what it came to be called. *As far back as names have been used, they are primarily reflective of character and meaning. For example; Abram means ‘exalted father’ while Abraham means ‘father of a multitude’. Jacob means ‘heel snatcher’ or ‘the one who supplants”, while Israel means ‘God contends’.
The exercise of naming the animals called upon Adam to examine the nature of each and to assign a name which fit the character of every one. Adam was functioning at an administrative level and had nothing to fear from any part of the created order. Having dominion was not just something which he exercised in name alone. Made in the image and likeness of God, Adam was given rule and authority on limited scale here on earth. But it was real authority all the same.
Along with that freedom and authority, God placed certain limits on Adam’s behaviour.
God said to Adam:
‘From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die” (Gen.1:16b-17)
We are not told how much time had passed, but a significant number of events had taken place prior to the creation of Eve. The scriptures are not explicit about this, but we might infer from Adam’s response to his new companion that he was lonely and in need of human company.
God seems to have let Adam experience his alone-ness before filling the void. One of the things that Adam discovered through the process of examining and naming the animals was the fact that he was well and truly alone. He was one of a kind…and this was out of the ordinary for the other creatures with which he shared the world. With the creation of Eve, the family and social dimension of human life on earth was complete.
It is then into this most basic of human societies that Satan made his entrance. As we will see, both Adam and Eve were fully aware of God’s will for their lives. Both knew and understood the restrictions placed upon them along with the consequences that had been promised. There was no breakdown in communication or diminished faculty on their part.
In Genesis chapter 3 Satan appeared to Eve in the form of a serpent. In scripture, there is no question about his identity.
Paul makes reference to Satan’s deception in 2nd Corinthian 11:3 when he says;
“But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.
(And then in verses 14-15 he adds) “And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to the their deeds”.
Satan both can and does appear in a variety of forms…even as an angel of light.
The apostle John calls him “the serpent of old who is also called the devil and Satan who deceives the whole world” (Rev. 12:9b)
So the serpent in Genesis 3:1 is Satan… and there is no period in the history of human society when he has not been active.
In the first six verses of Genesis 3, there are four major ways in which Satan challenged God. Satan challenged whether or not it was right for ‘rule’ or a hierarchy to exist at all. He then questioned God’s right to be the ruler and his motives for ruling. And then Satan summed up by challenging the outcome(s) of which God had warned.
Satan began by asking Eve: Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?
At the outset, there is the fact that a rule exists in the first place. Satan draws attention to that fact. Adam and Eve seem to have accepted God’s rules as a natural state of affairs. The existence of rules and commands was not out of the ordinary for them. But Satan wanted them to consider the idea that perhaps rules themselves should not exist. That rules in general and this one in particular can be examined, questioned and weighed by those on the receiving end.
The thing about rules, is that someone has to make them up. The fact that there are rules instead of no rules is a direct indication that there is also a ruler. Rules and commands imply authority. They imply the right of the ruler to make them and the power of the ruler to enforce them. God’s rules said as much to Adam and Eve.
So…on the one hand, these two people were elevated above the rest of creation and given dominion over it. On the other hand, they are themselves creatures and subject to the creator. The force of God’s command is this: ‘You are to keep your place as the creature before the creator’.
The starting place for all temptation is to question God’s Authority. In it’s impersonal form, it denies the existence of absolute being. But the One who is challenged in Gen.3:1 is God himself.
Satan began by drawing attention to the fact that rules exist. He suggested that this was both odd and oppressive. How had it come about that Eve had never stopped to think about it? As a newcomer on the scene, that which seemed normal to Eve might not be normal at all. For if rules given by a ruler are the norm, then life as it now exists is not really free at all.
But Satan was not finished challenging the rule. He shifted attention to the content of the rule. His challenge arose from the basic principle…that all rules say something about the one who gave them. So is the rule a good one or ill conceived? Is it wise or foolish, self serving or fair? Are there hidden motives on the part of the rule-giver that become evident upon some reflection. In other words, if it is obeyed, who ‘wins’ and who ‘loses’?
And then there are the consequences. Do the supposed consequences follow necessarily or are they at the discretion of the rule-maker? Or might He in the face of rule-breaking; pause to reconsider? When we start to second-guess God, it easily turns into a full-time occupation. But any effort to set aside God’s rules is a direct challenge to his sovereign authority.
Satan pointed out that rules can be dispensed with in at least two ways. One might deny the right of the rule-maker to give them, or dismiss the rules as fundamentally flawed. When combined, these rebel against God’s authority and impugn his character.
Eve was only too happy to discuss the content of God’s command with Satan, who allowed her to correct him. She pointed out that the prohibition applied only to one tree in a garden full of good things. She affirmed her freedom while Satan highlighted her limitation. That was what he wanted to talk about. Satan did not want to talk about the high and lofty position of Mankind or the privileges and blessings extended by God.
No matter how many Good things that God has given us…no matter how many blessings, Satan will always turn to a ‘thou shall not’ and say “challenge the rule”…stand up for yourself.
- When the Bible says that ‘salvation is a gift’…Satan says – that obedience is not necessary.
- When the Bible says ‘Repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins’… Satan says that ‘if God is a good God, he will save you anyway’
The bottom line is that it does not matter what the Bible says…what God says; Satan will always question it, deny it and find a way to refute it.
Satan is doing his best to develop an attitude in us which says…’I answer to myself first’. “It really bugs me that God has to meddle in all of my business”
By coming to Eve in this way, Satan began a process of deceit and disinformation. It was the first time that Eve had ever met anyone who talked to her like that. It was her first contact with another person who both thought to question the rules and who even dared to do it.
When you meet someone like that and they seem none the worse for it, the case for
rebellion begins to be made. Here was the serpent, questioning and discussing God’s right to rule and doing it with freedom and impunity. If he could do it, then why not Eve? The seeds had being sown.
The second step that Satan took was also a bold one. He challenges the Ruler. On the face of it, he seems to take issue with the rule.
Has God indeed said that of the tree ‘you shall not eat from it or touch it lest you die’
Satan negated the force of the command assuring Eve that ‘you shall surely not die’
We noted already that all rules reflect the nature of rule-giver. Therefore, if the rule is a lie, then the ruler is a liar. This was an accusation…an attack on the character of God. If God is a liar, then God not only lacks goodness but is actively evil. In a word, He cannot be trusted. God is not your friend. Your friends are the ones who tell you the truth. So Satan is your friend. He is the one opening Eve’s eyes…The one who “tells it like it is”.
There is almost a note of pity for Eve who has been so gullible. How foolish of her to have been taken in like that.
Have you ever been deceived? Have you ever had someone lie to you and been able to use you as a result? How did you feel? The more intimate the relationship, the greater the sense of betrayal. So it was with Eve. Satan does not just work on our minds, he knows how to get to our emotions. He knows how to stir up doubt and distrust. He works on us through envy. He encourages the kind of alienation that leads to revenge.
There is no better, no purer relationship than the one between God and his children. But to hear Satan describe it…it is ugly and destructive.
Satan always attacks the truth. Jesus describes him as a liar and the father of lies. A murderer. When Satan lies to us about God and about salvation…and we believe it, this leads to our spiritual death. It kills us spiritually and leads to eternal separation from God. This is murder in the ultimate sense. Jesus warned against those who could kill the body but not the soul. This is a killing of the soul and Satan is the murderer.
Having attacked the rule and the ruler, Satan next turned to the reason. Why should Eve believe that God has lied…that God is a liar? What motive might reasonably explain the deception? And could this motive be the real reason why God has imposed rules at all?
Satan explained God’s motive this way: “For God knows that in the day that you eat
from it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God knowing good and evil”.
In other words: ‘God has played you for a sucker’. He is not on your side, he is holding out on you. Haven’t you ever asked yourself what the real reason was? Obviously there is nothing bad about the tree at all. If God is good and God created the tree, then the tree is obviously good. In fact, the name of the tree should tell you why God does not want you to eat its fruit.
The truth is that the only thing separating you from deity is this one rule. So – eat the fruit and you will become like God. Eat the fruit make yourself equal to God. You are already a ruler…go on an finish the job. Take by force what God is withholding from you.
To sum up…
- God is a liar.
- He is selfish and insecure…and for good reason.
- God is actually afraid. He knows what will happen if you eat the fruit. He does not want to share his position with anyone else.
Time for action:
- The game is up now that you know ‘the rest of the story’.
- It is time to stand up to God and show Him that you are not going to ‘take it’ anymore.
- Time to assert your rights and fulfill your destiny.
This was not just about a fruit tree and some idle time. Satan was hard at work, questioning the integrity of God…by calling him a liar. One could never worship and extol the worthiness of a god why disqualified himself in this way.
But even if God was bad, what might one make of his authority? Even bad gods might still gods and ought to be feared. So Satan suggested to Eve that she ought to relate to God as her peer…and not as deity at all. The tempter would have us question every command and to strain every statute and precept through the cheesecloth of our own sensibilities. He assures us that we have every right to reject everything that is not right in our own eyes – because god is actually weak and often afraid.
According to Satan, God is selfish, which means that you and I are truly on our own. God is an adversary…and not a friend. The truth about life is that you’ve got to look out for number one because that is precisely what God is doing.
The Genesis record does not tell us how long Eve thought about it before deciding to Act. But it does point out that the appeal was threefold.
“When the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was a delight to the
eyes and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate;
Temptation to sin always begins with a damaged relationship with God. As long as Eve believed in God…as long as she trusted God, there was little that Satan could do.
But belief in Satan’s lies opened the door to a whole new world of sin. It freed her up to do what God had forbidden. It was with this new sense of freedom and choice that Eve turned to the tree and began perhaps for the very first time to consider the possibility of breaking God’s command.
The Genesis record does not tell us that Eve was deceived, but the Apostle Paul does.
In 1st Timothy chapter 2, Paul was discussing God-given roles within the church. He appealed to two things to explain why God has given spiritual leadership to men. The first is God’s order in creation – and the second is linked to the entry of sin into the world.
Paul wrote: “For it was Adam who was first created and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being quite deceived, fell into transgression”
Our topic in this article is not gender roles in the church. The point that I want you to notice is that Eve was deceived. In other words, she actually believed what Satan had said. In her mind, his lies were now the truth…and God’s truth…his commands were now a lie. She was as committed to Satan’s lie as she had been to the truth. Satan had taken God’s place – for those few moments – as a trusted friend. That is what it means to be deceived…and Eve was deceived.
This deception became the foundation for her decision. Believing in a lie is never the end of a matter. And given that God was a liar and up to no good, she took another look at the tree. It was intrinsically good – certainly good for food. It appealed to a basic human appetite. It was tangible, it was here and now and at her disposal. Surely the benefits of something so very good and able of making her just ‘like God’… had to outweigh the punishment that God was probably not serious about. So she decided to see for herself who it was that was telling her the truth.
It may even be fair to say that at that moment it looked better than all of the other trees. It appealed to her eyes. God said no…but her eyes said yes. If beauty is it’s own reward, this tree was especially a delight to the eyes. It spoke to her sense of aesthetics just as it promised to make her wise. Just one taste of fruit and wisdom would be hers. It was forbidden wisdom – the very best kind. And along with it, answers to the mysteries of life..
Believing Satan she took some of the fruit and ate. Eve gave in to temptation.
Paul’s statement about deception makes it clear that Eve and then Adam made separate decisions. Eve had a mind of her own and made up her own mind. As Moses makes clear in Genesis 3, each were held individually accountable by God.
We come then to the final type of temptation in this chapter. As we do, two things about the situation are very clear while two others are perhaps not.
We are not told if Adam was present and heard what Satan said to Eve. And we are not told how much time elapsed between Eve’s decision to sin and Adam’s decision to join her in sin.
But we do know, that sin made it’s entry into the world through Eve. Eve stood condemned before God and was at that time under the penalty of death while Adam was not.
The second thing that we do know is that Adam was not deceived. This means, that he did not believe that God had lied. He did not believe that if he sinned, he would not die. Adam knew that God was good and truthful. And Adam also believed that God would keep his word and punish them. This also means that Adam knew that Satan had lied and that Eve had come under God’s condemnation.
That is what it means to say that he was not deceived.
The obvious question, then is this: If Adam was not deceived, then why did he go on and sin? If Adam’s eyes were wide open to the truth, then why did he do it?
What we are introduced to here, is another level of sin. It is flagrant, self willed and ‘in God’s face’. It is the most flagrant kind of rebellion that there is.
Adam knew the truth but chose to sin anyway.
Let me submit to you that Adam faced Satan’s ultimate weapon. Genesis 3 makes it clear that Satan doesn’t have to deceive you in order to get you to sin. The choice forced upon Adam was most unwelcome.
On the one hand there was God, his creator, benefactor, companion and friend. On the other, there was his his wife. ‘bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.
- God knew that it had not been Good for Adam to be without her.
- God had made Adam so that he needed her.
- Who can question his love for her. She is not only his wife, she is the only other human being on the face of the earth. She was all of human society in one person…for Adam.
- To make the choice that much more difficult, it was between God who is a Spirit…completely different than Adam and Eve…and Eve, who was flesh and blood. She was his wife – with whom Adam shared his life with. A person who he could hold in his arms and love as he loved his own soul.
Satan loves to force this choice upon us, because he knows that for most of us, there is no contest!!
The apostle John says: ‘if you don’t love your brother whom you have seen then you do not love God who you have not seen’. Loving God has always been a much harder thing. Faced with that choice, Adam said in effect ‘I choose her’.
It’s no wonder that God warns us over and over again against union with unbelievers.
Abraham was commanded by God to take wives for his sons from among his God-fearing relatives in Haran. God’s Law for Israel forbid intermarriage between Israel and foreign nations. Jesus spoke through the apostle Paul instructing us ‘not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers’
God would spare us this choice. The temptation to sin is strong enough on it’s own without being fortified by our love for family and friends.
Through Moses, God demanded love and loyalty to himself first (Deut 13:1-11)
Even Jesus said:
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of me. He who has found his life shall lose it and he who has lost his life for My sake shall find it. (Matt 10:34-39)
Adam also sinned. He chose to join Eve in sin. He took her side against God. His loyalty was misplaced. It sided with sin in the name of love, honour and family. This is not true love or loyalty to God.
Satan might even use our loyalty to loved ones who have passed on, to turn us away from God. I knew a widow once who for many years refused to be baptized into Christ
because her husband had never been baptized. This is Loyalty to family over loyalty to
Summing up, let’s beware that Satan is relentless. He is not God, not all powerful, not all knowing and not even present everywhere at once. But He is far more than a match for us…on our own.
God has placed boundaries around his power. He does not allow Satan to tempt us beyond what we are able to bear. (I Cor 10:13)
James wrote: ‘submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you’. (James 4: 7-8a)
Resisting the devil is not so much a function of saying no to Satan as it is a matter of saying yes to God. Submit to God…obey his will. Draw near to God…move in his direction…live in his presence. This is how we resist Satan
We are the children of God. We have died to sin and come alive to Christ.
“For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” (Col.3:3-4)
May we be alert to the wiles of the Devil, fortified by the truth of God’s word and strengthened in the inner person by the Spirit of God.