In the previous lesson, I asked you to imagine a world where, because of various forces, the Bible was no longer available. Based on various social and technological developments, the reading, sharing and teaching of the Bible was severely limited to the point that no full-text version was available.
In such a situation, I proposed that one way to keep the essential message of the Scriptures alive and productive was to maintain seven key passages from the Bible that would summarize everything contained in the Bible.
In the first lesson of this series, we looked at the first of these 7 passages, Genesis 1:1:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
In the study of this foundational verse, we learned that it not only explained that on the first day of creation God called into existence the building blocks of existence, time-space-matter, the simple ten words of this verse also refuted thirteen major philosophies that try to explain the existence and condition of the world without reference to God.
Genesis 1:1 is often referred to as the foundational verse of the Bible because it not only is the most read verse of any book in history, but if believed, it sets the stage for the most productive and satisfying study of the entire Bible.
This then brings us to the second of 7 passages that summarize the Bible.
The Passage of Promise – Genesis 3:1-24
Our first verse of the seven (Genesis 1:1), provides information (where does this world come from) and how this world came to be ("God created") through God's Word and power.
The second of the seven, Genesis 3:1-24, provides the explanation for how the world and the human race ended up in their present condition. This is a long passage but easy to remember because it is a narrative involving four individuals – God, Satan, Adam and Eve. In its 24 verses, three key ideas are introduced that will inform all that will be written afterwards:
The Reason for Mankind and the Creation's Fallen State
At some point in their life, everyone realize that they are not perfect, and that they live in a world where others are imperfect, and that the natural world around them is also flawed and dysfunctional.
People write books, write songs and make movies based on the fallen nature of mankind and the slow but steady degeneration of the environment. The Bible, however, reveals that the original cause for this imperfect world and imperfect human nature is disobedience to God's commands which results in sin and its destructive consequences.
This truth is eloquently wrapped in the origin story of Adam and Eve's temptation and fall.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.
– Genesis 3:1a
We only learn about the serpent's true identity (Satan) later on in the Bible (John 8:44; Revelation 12:9). In this scene, the serpent is presented as being crafty and his deceitful nature is immediately on display as he begins to speak.
And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?
– Genesis 3:1b
Verse 1b begins with not just a question, but a subtle questioning of God's authority and goodness. Has God really said this? Is He really serious about this command? The inference is that He has denied you something that could be good for you.
The method is the same today. The temptation to doubt that God really means what He says and the suggestion that what God forbids is actually good and pleasant for you. (God is spoiling my fun!)
In the garden, there were two special trees (the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil), one tree prepared Adam and Eve for the other. If they did not eat of one, they would get to eat of the other. The lesson that free will needed to learn was that obedience to God's laws results in eternal life. Adam and Eve failed to learn that lesson and Genesis 3 is the story of that failure. I call it Eve's five mistakes.
Mistake #1 – She Compromised with a Rebel
The woman said to the serpent,
- Genesis 3:2a
Not only did Eve respond to a rebel sinner and try to reason with him, she became part of the rebellion by condescending to talk with him. She should have rebuked him. She tolerated the serpent's challenge to the order of things and began immediately to take a weaker position. She should have acted like Michael the archangel who, when in dispute with the devil, simply declared, "The Lord rebuke you" (Jude 9): he did not engage.
Mistake #2 – She Changed God's Word
2b"From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 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 3:2b-3
She attempted to correct the serpent's question but in her answer you can see that the damage has already been done. In her answer, she both added and subtracted from God's Word. She made God more restrictive and demanding that He really is, thus reinforcing what Satan was suggesting.
God said, "You may freely eat…", Eve said, "We may eat…" God gave them full rights, abundance, she said that they had access. Eve said that you could not touch. God did not restrict touching. To examine and understand what was forbidden was okay. It was to partake that was forbidden.
Changing God's Word to be too strict or too liberal is wrong. We tend to think that being too strict is a safeguard against liberalism but to change either way is a violation. She was too strict.
Mistake #3 – She Considered the Offer
4The serpent said to the woman, "You surely will not die! 5For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6When 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,
- Genesis 3:4-6a
Had Eve rebuked Satan at this point, the matter would have been closed and history much different. Note that the temptation is the same one that led to Satan's fall, "You will be like God."
Eve discussed the matter with Satan thus considering his proposal. This made him bolder. When you do not put down someone's evil idea or action, they get more ambitious and double their attempt to win you over. Now Satan did not question the law, he actually accused God of jealousy and dishonesty:
- Liar – it is not that you will die, it is that you will be like God.
- Jealous – He lied to you because He does not want you to be like Him.
He made the way of the curse the way of the blessing. Good is evil and evil is good. God said that if they would refrain form the tree of good and evil, they would eat of the tree of life. Satan told them the opposite. Yes, they would know good and evil, but it would not make them like God. In "considering" the offer, she was opening herself up for temptation at three levels:
- Physical temptation: "good for food." Something that appeals to the senses, pleasure, etc.
- Emotional temptation: "pleasant to the eyes." Something beautiful aesthetically, something that moves you.
- Spiritual temptation: "desired to make wise." An appeal to one's mind, intellect, pride. To have a special insight or vision.
John talks about these three areas of temptation:
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.
– I John 2:16
Jesus faced the same threefold temptations in the desert:
1Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led around by the Spirit in the wilderness 2for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And He ate nothing during those days, and when they had ended, He became hungry. 3And the devil said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread." 4And Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'Man shall not live on bread alone.'"
5And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. 6And the devil said to Him, "I will give You all this domain and its glory; for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish. 7Therefore if You worship before me, it shall all be Yours." 8Jesus answered him, "It is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.'"
9And he led Him to Jerusalem and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here; 10for it is written,
'He will command His angels concerning You to guard You,' 11and,
'On their hands they will bear You up,
So that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.'"
12And Jesus answered and said to him, "It is said, 'You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'"
- Luke 4:1-12
- Physical appetite: bread when hungry.
- Emotional desire: possession of world and kingdoms.
- Spiritual pride: special protection by the angels.
Eve was attacked at all three levels at once and she considered and pondered these things. What should she have done?
Stand Firm with the Armor of God (Ephesians 6:11)
A rebuke, a firm stand not to compromise, a stand based on the protection of God's armor which is the Word and Spirit. Not a discussion or consideration or a negotiation but a firm stand.
…Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
– James 4:7
Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.
– II Timothy 2:22
Psychologists tell us that we have two basic reactions to danger and that is to fight or fly away. Depending on the circumstances and on our assessment of the situation, we choose one or the other. Sometimes the temptation is too great for our strength, sometimes we may be misunderstood. It is better to run away than to risk being seduced.
Better a live dog than a dead lion.
- Ecclesiastes 9:4
Eve did neither of these. She did not make a strong stand nor run away for protection. She shopped, she admired, she considered, she said to herself, "Why not?"
Mistake #4 – She Disobeyed (Challenged)
… she took from its fruit and ate;
- Genesis 3:6b
No matter what Satan said, no matter how attracted she was, no matter how mixed up the serpent made the situation, the bottom line was that with her own mouth she had said that she understood what the instruction was: do not eat the fruit.
Here is where her will came into being. She chose to believe Satan regarding the situation rather than God. She liked his explanation of how things were more than what God said about how things are.
There was nothing in Eve that pushed her to sin, no weakness of flesh (like us) that led her to sin. She sinned because she chose to disregard God's Word. Although her sin was more serious (she had received "much"), it was not any different than our own today. We sin when we challenge God with our disobedience.
Mistake #5 – She led Adam to sin
And she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.
– Genesis 3:6c
As a prototype of all sinners, once Eve has sinned, she led Adam to sin with her. (Misery loves company). She went from being God's defender to being Satan's helper. There are so many questions about this:
Why did Adam also eat?
Because he loved her; because he wanted to share her punishment; this would make Adam noble in sinning (this concept is not a Biblical one). We do not know what went through his mind other than the fact that he was not deceived like the woman (I Timothy 2:14). All we know is that he also chose to disobey God. He probably had the same arguments put to him but by his wife rather than by the serpent. Eve was deceived because Satan seduced her in the disguise of a serpent. Adam was convinced by the person he knew and loved. He may have thought all was lost anyway (disbelief and distrust of God). Either way the result was disobedience to God.
Note that the five mistakes of Eve are a preview of the stages that each of us go through when we fall into temptation:
1. Failure to rebuke sin when it appears
Sinfulness is usually attractive, desirable or powerful and our lack of quick and decisive action at its first appearance is usually our downfall. Effective rebuke requires three things:
- Knowledge of what is truly good and evil (Word knowledge).
- Conviction of our own position.
- Immediate response – call the spade a spade immediately (e.g. gossip).
2. Compromising God's Word
When we want to sin and still remain Christians, we simply change what God's Word really says. "Christian" homosexuals have their own theologians and commentaries and churches. If we want to continue our bad habits we simply "block out" the parts in the Bible that deal with them or find a group that will accept and even applaud our sin.
3. Considering the pleasure of sin
When we do not rebuke sin right away, what we wind up doing is trying it on for size. Do not go for a test-drive if you are not going to buy the car because you are going to desire it if you try it out. That is the salesmen's basic approach to get you hooked). Do not "play" with sin in your heart because pretty soon you will be acting it out.
If we do not initially refuse to sin, we will eventually give in to it. There are only two ways to go: you do or you do not, and if you do not say NO then with you will eventually say YES.
The trick is to decide ahead of time that you will say no, then when you are faced with temptation you will not weaken yourself by considering the pros and cons, you will just say no!
5. Start a club
It is no fun to sin alone and so the next step is always to find a sympathetic partner who will let you sin in peace or who will join you. Romans 1:32 mentions this phenomenon. Paul even says that the eventual state is that sinners, who know they are doing wrong, encourage others to do wrong and applaud them in their sins. This helps justify their position. Sin is the original problem and the method has always and will always be the same.
In the first section of passage #2 (Genesis 3:1-6), we find the reason why mankind and the creation are in their fallen state.
- Adam and Eve have disobeyed God's command and by exercising their free will in this manner, they have separated themselves from God.
- This separation from God (death) is the direct and automatic result of disobedience or sin against God.
- The natural consequences of separation from God is decay, destruction, the extinguishing of life (i.e. unplug a lamp – no light; separate a branch from its tree – dry up, decay, back to the earth).
Thankfully this is not the end of this passage nor is it the only thing it teaches and reveals to us.
In our next lesson we will review verses 7-24 of this passage where it will describe both the negative and the positive ways that God has responded to man's disobedience.
In these two actions, God laid out the natural consequences of man's disobedience and the promise that He gave Adam and Eve, as well as every generation that came after them, a hope that not all was lost, a promise that made life on earth worth living.