Genesis chapter 3 is the Biblical record of the Fall of Mankind. It’s a chapter we should frequently read to remind ourselves how this world became the way it is. You see, we only know this world in its fallen state, but it didn’t begin that way. When God ended His creative work in Genesis chapter 1, He declared it to be good. Genesis 1:31 says God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. So at the end of chapter 1, God declares the goodness of His creation and by the end of chapter 3 we have a world plunged into complete turmoil because of the disobedience of Adam and Eve – the account that we read today.
But before we dig into our passage, let me take a few minutes to address another issue that we must face any time we open this part of the Bible – and that is the historicity of Adam and Eve (by that I mean that Adam and Eve were real people and Genesis 3 is a true account of a real historical event). There is an enormous amount of pressure on Christians to surrender the historical account of a real Adam and Eve and to reinterpret it into something less literal. This comes from the conflict between evolutionary theory which denies that all mankind descended from one pair of humans and the Biblical claim that Adam was the first man and Eve was the mother of all living – and our young people especially feel this tension in their biology and life science classes and it will only get worse as they move on through college.
So in order to resolve this conflict, some very creative solutions – sometimes even ridiculously creative solutions – have been suggested by some theologians and scholars to reinterpret the first 11 chapters of Genesis so that they fit the claims of evolutionary theory. Now, dealing with this issue could be a sermon or a series of sermons in itself, but I just want to make a couple of statements to lay a foundation for us today.
The Bible always treats Adam and Eve as real, historical people. They are mentioned 24 times in Scripture including 10 times in the New Testament and not once are they understood as anything other than real, historical people. Adam is specifically mentioned in 2 genealogies – one leading to King David in 1 Chronicles 1 and one leading to Jesus in Luke 3. In fact, the genealogy in Luke 3 is one of the clearest Biblical supports for Adam as a real historical person. It is a reverse genealogy starting with Jesus working back through David, Abraham, Noah, Adam – all the way back to God the Father Himself. Luke was a doctor and historian – he wrote with precision and Adam would not have been included in his genealogy of Christ if he were merely a mythical figure or some character in an allegory.
Both Jesus and Paul treat Adam and Eve as real historical people and the fall as a real historical event with real sin. You can read through Matthew 19, Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15 to see specifically how Jesus and Paul viewed the historicity of our first parents. They never assumed they were anything but real people.
You see if you we deny a real historical Adam and Eve, we open up all kinds of theological problems that put us on a slippery slope that ultimately ends in denying the inspiration, truthfulness and authority of Scripture. We’ve given up enough ground in Genesis already. So my challenge to the young people here today is that when you are presented with an alleged conflict between the claims of science and the claims of Scripture, don’t automatically assume that it’s the theology that’s wrong. Take a high view of Scripture with you into the classroom. If you don’t, by the time you get through college and into young adulthood your faith will be dismantled by secularism piece by piece until you’re so full of doubt that your entire belief system collapses under the pressure of the secular worldview.
I hope that gives us all something to think about and study. With that dealt with, let’s get into the text before us today.
It is here in Genesis 3 that we are first introduced to mankind’s mortal foe – Satan who approaches Eve using a snake and sets in motion a process of temptation that will end with all of humanity being alienated from God and brought under the slavery of sin. Revelation 12:9 calls him “the great dragon that was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world…” In fact, the first seven verses of this chapter can serve as a case study for temptation. Satan’s strategy has changed little really – and why should it? He managed to deceive our perfect and pristine parents who were created sinless and innocent in their original state, so we shouldn’t think that we would have done any different than Adam and Eve. Today each time we are tempted to sin, we find the same basic process that we see here in Genesis 3.
The first thing we see here in Satan’s temptation of Eve is…
The Goodness of God Doubted (vv.1-3)
Look at verse 1: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” What Satan does here is to call into question the goodness of God. The question “Did God actually say?” is a statement of disbelief. It’s as if some of you teens tell your friends that your parents said you couldn’t go on a spring break trip with them to the beach and they say, “What? Did your parents really say that? Do they not trust you? What is wrong with them? Man, your parents are weird.” That is the sense of the serpent’s question to Eve.
Satan is not yet directly challenging God’s command, but he wants Eve to doubt that God has her best interests at heart. He wants her to doubt the goodness of God. Notice the way he asked the question: “Did God actually say you shall not eat of any tree in the garden?” He frames his question in a way that makes God’s original command seem more restrictive than it really was. The original command in Genesis 2:16-17 reads this way: And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” God told Adam to freely eat from any tree in the garden. The idea in the original Hebrew is that Adam could eat to his heart’s content from any tree except one – the tree of knowledge of good and evil. So – God’s command was not so restrictive as the serpent implied in his question. Of all the trees in the garden, Adam and Eve could eat as much as they wanted. There was just one they couldn’t eat.
In verses 2-3 we see Eve’s reply to Satan’s question: And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, 3 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.’ ” Now her first mistake was talking to the snake. She should have immediately dropped what she was doing and ran after Adam and he should have crushed that thing’s head right then and there in the garden. And that’s exactly what God promised in Genesis 3:15 about Christ our Redeemer – that He would one day crush the serpent’s head – He would do what Adam failed to do. That’s why Paul calls Christ the second Adam in Romans 5 - because Christ would succeed where Adam failed.
But you can already see the doubt beginning to creep up in Eve’s reply to the serpent – verse 2 “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden.” But that’s not what God said. He said “You may surely (or freely) eat of every tree.” The original command is full of freedom and goodness, but Eve leaves out the words defining the freedom of God’s command. She is starting to question the goodness of God in what He had given them. Instead of her trusting in God’s gracious provision, Eve began to fixate on the one thing that He had set a boundary around.
The next thing that Eve says to the serpent is in verse 3 – “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.’” Now the part about touching the tree isn’t in God’s original command. Scripture doesn’t tell us where it came from. One theory is that because the original command was given only to Adam (Eve had not been created yet), Adam may have told Eve not to even touch the tree as an extra measure of protection against disobeying God. That seems very reasonable but where Scripture is silent, we must be silent also and avoid reading certain things back into the text. In any case, regardless of whether it came from Adam or if Eve added it herself, the command not to touch the tree is yet even more restrictive than what God originally said.
So, Satan’s first strategy is to get us to doubt His goodness toward us.
The second part of Eve’s temptation we see here is…
The Wrath of God Denied (vv. 4-5)
Look at verses 4-5: But the serpent said to the woman, “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.” Satan finally shows his true nature in this direct, blatant, flat out denial of the word of God. God told Adam that if they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they would surely die and Satan calls God a liar. Notice that the first thing Satan denies in Scripture is the doctrine of divine wrath.
Look at the way he denies the wrath of God – in verse 5 he promised them that they would be like God. Again, suggesting to Eve that God was withholding something from them that could make them better. He says, “You’re not going to die! That’s not the real reason God doesn’t want you to eat the fruit. He just knows that you’ll be like Him.” This is a false promise for two reasons: 1) Adam and Eve were already as much like God as they were going to be. Genesis 1:27 says that God made man in His own image. Humanity bears the divine stamp of the Creator – but that’s as far is we go. The other reason is: There is no one like God. The triune God exists alone as the sovereign creator and ruler of the universe – of everything – and there is no one like Him. 2 Samuel 7:22 says Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you. Isaiah 46:9 says I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. Satan replaced the promised wrath of God against sin with the lie that they could be like God.
When we diminish or deny the wrath of God against unbelief and disobedience, the very fabric of the Bible begins to unravel. Listen young people – if you have a friend, teacher, or pastor who diminishes the consequences of sin or altogether denies the judgment of God against sin, beware of that person. Do not listen to them. They are selling you the same lie that the serpent sold Eve – “you will not surely die.”
The current culture of Christianity in America is obsessed with distorted view of the love of God. The Biblical God has been replaced by a god who is more like a passive and permissive parent whose threats of punishment are hollow and who just forgives everything in the end. But the only way we can get a glimpse of the glory of God’s love is by viewing it against the backdrop of His wrath and hatred of sin. Paul spells this out for us in Romans 5:8-9. He says “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” Did you see that? The love of God for sinners is demonstrated in the deliverance from the wrath of God – not the denial of it.
The last part of Eve’s temptation we see in Genesis 3 is…
God’s Command Disregarded (vv. 6-7)
Look at verses 6-7 So 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 to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.
With this, the serpent’s deception was complete. Eve believed Satan’s lie and demonstrated this by her total disregard for God’s command not to eat from the tree. Notice the progression in verse 6: she saw that the tree was good for food, pleasant to look at, and desired to give wisdom. Nothing about that sounds dangerous. Nothing about that sounds like it can bring the death God said it would. But you see it wasn’t the tree that was dangerous. We shouldn’t think that this tree’s fruit had some magical quality that enlightened Adam and Eve when they ate it – it was the act of disobedience that brought guilt, shame and death – not the fruit.
You see this whole account is not about trees, fruit, wisdom or being like God – It’s about LORDSHIP. Are we going to submit to the Lordship of God and be obedient to His commands, or are we going to do things our way? The serpent enticed Eve to eat the fruit, but they could already eat of any tree they wanted except one. The serpent said this fruit would make them wise, but they already had immediate and unbroken access to the God of all wisdom. The serpent said they could be like God, but they were already made in His image.
In the end, Adam and Eve wanted God’s provision and blessing apart from God. That’s the same fruit Satan entices us with everyday. We want God’s stuff without God Himself. In one of his sermons on Genesis 3, John Calvin comments, “There is nothing better than yielding ourselves to God’s governance…If we are not resolved and persuaded within ourselves that everything God has taught us is right and good, we will not be upheld by his promises and find our complete rest and contentment in them.”
Notice that at the end of the day, the serpent is nowhere to be found. Once the deed is done he leaves Adam and Eve standing there afraid and ashamed, trying to sew together fig leaves to cover their nakedness. Students listen – Satan cloaks sin in beauty, happiness, fun, a good time – but after we eat the fruit of disobedience, he leaves us naked and ashamed – picking up the pieces on our own, trying to put our lives back together. But we can’t – nothing we do can fix the brokenness that sin brings to our lives – only Christ can do that. Down in verse 21 of Genesis 3 we see God making Adam and Eve clothes from animal skins – and with this we see the very first death for sin to take place on this planet. This points us to nothing less than the death of Christ in our place, to satisfy the wrath of God against our sin, so that we could be clothed with His perfect righteousness and not our own feeble attempt to cover our sin and shame.
I want to give you some brief thoughts of application as we bring this to a close:
1) There are things that God has told us not to do. Sometimes Christians are so afraid of legalism, that we forget that there really are certain things that God has set boundaries around. Galatians 5:19-21 says Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. We live in obedience to God’s commands not out of legalism, but out of submission to His Lordship.
2) Do not linger around temptation. Recognize when you are being tempted and get away from it. Do not experiment with sin. Satan is smarter than us and we have to Be sober-minded and watchful. [Because] our adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8
3) Be satisfied with God. The Westminster Confession of Faith so beautifully states “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Is it not enough that the Creator of the universe made us to be in communion with Him? Is it not enough that the same God who flung the cosmos into existence and upholds it by the word of His power also created us to enjoy Him? Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:21-23: all things are yours, 22 …whether the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, 23 and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. We will never experience the true freedom and joy we seek until we seek it in the enjoyment God Himself.