The first 11 chapters are God’s introduction of himself to the world and explanation of who we are. In the first two chapters we see that we are made in the image of God, male and female were created by God, and they were created to be different, uniquely filling what the other lacks. Further, we see that marriage is God’s solution for human loneliness. Humans were created for relationship: relationship with God and relationship with others. Today we come to another text where we cannot impose our will or desires over it. The point is not about the serpent or its origins. We are not told why the serpent is doing what it is doing. Genesis 3 is about us and why we are the way we are.
The Mockery of God (3:1-5)
You will notice that the serpent begins with a mockery of God. “Did God actually say that you both should not eat of any tree in the garden?” The “you” is plural so this is address to the command given to both Adam and Eve. You will notice that the serpent poses what God said to be utterly ridiculous. It is laughable. How could God say such a thing to you? Did he actually say you can’t eat from these trees? Notice that what Satan is trying to do is change how the woman looks at God’s commands. First, mock what God has said. What God has said is ridiculous. Second, he gets the woman to focus on what is forbidden. God said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat” (2:16-17). But the focus is not on all the trees you can have but the one tree you cannot have. But the mockery is stated in a way so that you think about what you cannot have. Did God tell you there is something you cannot have?
Eve offers her correction in verses 2-3. She notes that they can eat of the fruit of the trees but they must not eat of the tree in the midst of the garden, to not even touch it, or they will die. But look at what the serpent says in response in verses 4-5. The serpent says that nothing is going to happen to you if you eat it. You will not die. There are no consequences for doing this. This is the temptation that we are exposed to when it comes to sin. There are not going to be consequences for what you are about to do. Do not worry because nothing bad is going to happen if you do this. Everyone is lying to you and God is lying to you in telling you that there will be consequences. You can have what you have been wanting and it will be no cost to you.
Not only this, the serpent says that God is holding out on you. God knows that your eyes will be opened and you will be like God. God does not want that. Satan tempts by getting us to doubt God’s goodness and integrity. God is not telling you the whole truth. He is being deceptive. God is being restrictive. God is being strict. God is holding you back, limiting you, and keeping you from true joy. God is the cosmic kill joy who is trying to keep you from what you want. He does not want you to enjoy life so he has given you these rules.
We need to think about the nature of these temptations because it is instructive for us to understand what the tempter is doing. The apostle Paul said that we are not ignorant of Satan’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). So our adversary keeps using the same tools because they work on us as we see they work in the account in Genesis 3. The first scheme is to doubt God. God is being unfair and ridiculous. God is holding out on you. God is being deceptive in what he has said. You cannot believe everything that God says. Every temptation comes to us and tells us that we are missing out.
The second scheme is that your sin will make you free. You will have freedom. You can call the shots. You see that Satan is subtly offering this to Eve. When you eat, you will be free from the shackles that God has placed you under. When you eat, then you will be like God, knowing good and evil. You will be able to determine right and wrong. You will be sovereign over your own life. You can elevate your life for the better and be your own god if you will ignore your Creator.
This is where we often act like a teenager in the way we listen to the temptation. When we were teenagers, we looked forward to turning 18. Now we will be free. Now we can do what we want. Now we will have no one to tell us what to do. But what we did not understand was that when we turned 18 we now had a whole new set of responsibilities. You have been set free from the protection of the parents, the financial care of the parents, and the shelter of the parents. Yes, you are free but not in the way that you thought. So then you look back at the time when you lived at home and you were care-free and did not have all of these responsibilities.
We want to challenge the definition and nature of sin. But God defines sin for us as thoughts and behaviors that are going to be destructive to ourselves and others. Now we in our wisdom want to tell God what is destructive. But we do not have that wisdom. We do not see the outcome. This is the problem for Eve right now. She was told the outcome but does not understand it. So she rejects what she was told. We do the same thing. Since we cannot comprehend the outcome we deny the existence of the outcome. We cannot see how are actions are destructive so we think God is lying to us.
It is like God telling us to not walk in front of a speeding car, and we yell back, “We are free to do what we want!” and “Don’t tell me what to do!” What we fail to see is that what we think is freedom is death. God is keeping us from disaster and death. That is why God tells us what he does. Just as the rules of parents to their children is out of love and for their good, God’s rules are out of love and for our good. But Satan says you can be free and does not show us what the consequences are for our supposed freedom. So we believe that will be free in our sin, not seeing that we are enslaving ourselves and destroying ourselves and others. God’s laws are not arbitrary but for our good and our protection.
The Fall (3:6-7)
So the temptation is put before Eve. Sin is good and God is evil. The woman looked at the fruit from the tree and saw that it was good for food. Further, the fruit looked good. It was a delight to the eyes. Not only this, the fruit would make her wise. So there were a number of appealing attributes to this temptation which is also the way all temptations function. The sin looks good, sounds like it will be fulfilling and satisfying, and will show how smart I am. No temptation appeals to us by looking bad, sounding terrible, sounding unsatisfying, and showing how ignorant we are. We would not be tempted if this is what it looked like to us. Rather, every temptation must appeal to our flesh that it will be enjoyable. Not only will it be enjoyable, it will be fulfilling. It is going to satisfy what we are looking for. Finally, we will be so smart because will have finally obtained what we have been looking for in life. So the temptation hits all of these marks and she eats the fruit from the forbidden tree.
But now we are told something that we did not know as we were reading the account. Verse 6 tells us that Adam was standing there next to Eve. He was with her. She gave the fruit to her husband and he also ate. He is standing near and is not intervening. He is not stopping what is going on. He does not say no to her. He is following her leadership. This is important to see because the scriptures later will rely on this understanding regarding the relationship and dynamics between men and women. This event is going to change the nature of human relationships because of what she did and what he did.
Verse 7 shows that the results were not what they thought they would be. Their eyes were opened but it was not for the good. They knew they were naked and they covered themselves. Sin brings shame and sin creates a barrier with God. This is the nature of sin. The results that you think you will enjoy from sin will not be what you have imagined. It will not be what you thought. It will not satisfy like you thought. It will not give you what you thought it would.
The reason that life is a mess is because of our own sins. So many of our life problems, suffering, difficulties, and issues come from our own sinful behaviors and the sinful behaviors of others. Imagine what your life would look like and what the world would look like if every person did what God said: love others like God loves us, seek out other’s best interests, and do what is for the good of others. Life would be very different if your parents had done this, your friends had done this, your teachers had done this, and if you had done this yourself. So we all have to take responsibility for what we have done to ourselves. We listened to the tempter and believed his lies and the outcome was not what we thought. So our first way to fight temptation is to remember. Remember that you have tried sin many, many times and it has never come through for you like the temptation said it would. Remember the guilt. Remember the shame. Remember the hurt. Remember the emptiness.
Second, we must appreciate the goodness of God. If we do not think that God is operating for our good, then we will never do what he says or believe what he has promised. We must look at God as a good father who does all things for our good. This is the point James is making. Listen to what he says.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:16–18 ESV)
Do not believe the tempter’s lie. God does everything for good. Satan does not. Every good gift comes from God and he does not change. He does not do you evil one day and good the next day. He is not flaky. He is not wishy-washy or wavering. He brought us forth by his own will. He wants us and wants good for us. So we can trust him. We can believe him when he tells us something is good for us or bad for us.
Therefore, a full knowledge of God’s word and an unwavering trust in God’s goodness are essential for spiritual victory. This is putting on the whole armor of God so that we can stand firm against the schemes of the devil (cf. Ephesians 6:11). Consider that Jesus resisted temptation with the knowledge, quotation, and understanding of the scriptures. God is good. God’s ways are better than our ways. Do not place yourself in the place of God by evaluating his laws. Do not run into the street because you lack understanding. Trust in the goodness of your Father in heaven whose rules protect you, preserve you, and keep you so that you can enjoy eternity in paradise with him. We have taken and eaten of sin to our demise. Jesus will reverse our sin condition through his body sacrificed and the blood of the covenant given for us.