God's Promise to Fallen Man
In the previous chapter, I asked you to think of a world where the Bible was no longer available. I described an imaginary plot where the politically powerful in partnership with big tech, academia, mainstream news outlets and Hollywood managed to limit the access to and teaching of the Bible to the point that no full-text version was available for public or private use any longer.
In such a situation, I proposed that one way to keep the message of the Scriptures alive and productive was to memorize seven key passages that would be able to summarize the essential teaching and purpose of the entire Bible.
We began our study by looking at the first of these seven key passages, Genesis 1:1:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
In the study of this foundational verse, we learned that on the first day of creation God called into being the building blocks of existence: time, space and matter. We also demonstrated that the simple 10 words of this verse actually refute 13 major philosophies that try to explain the existence and present 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 the seven passages that helps summarize the Bible.
The Passage of Promise — Genesis 3:1-24
The first verse of these seven (Genesis 1:1), provides the information concerning the origin of the world (God created it through His word and power).
The second of the seven, Genesis 3:1-24, provides the explanation for how the world and the human race came to be 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:
Key Idea #1 - The Reason for Mankind and the Creation's Fallen State
At some point in life people 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, 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 both the imperfect world and fallen nature of humanity is disobedience to God's commands, which is sin. It also details sin's destructive consequences.
These truths are eloquently and concisely wrapped together 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, however, 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 (i.e. "Has God really said this? Is He really serious about this command?"), the inference, of course, suggesting that God had denied them something that could be good for Eve and Adam.
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 continues to draw mankind into disobedience of God's commands with similar disastrous results.
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 resulted in eternal life. Adam and Eve failed to learn that lesson and Genesis chapter 3 contains the story of that failure. Dr. Henry Morris in his book, The Genesis Record, calls 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 we see that the damage had already been done. In her reply she both added and subtracted from God's word. She made God out to be more restricting and demanding than He really was, thus reinforcing what Satan was suggesting.
God said, "You may freely eat…", Eve said, "We may eat…" God gave them full rights and abundance but she said that they simply had access. Eve added that they were forbidden to touch, however, God did not restrict touching. To examine and understand what was forbidden was permitted. It was partaking that was forbidden.
Changing God's word to either be too strict or too liberal is wrong. We tend to think that being too strict is a safeguard against liberalism, but to change God's word in either direction is a violation. She was too strict, but this did not protect her from eventually disobeying God's command.
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 was the same one that led to Satan's own fall, "You will be like God" (Isaiah 14:12-15).
Eve discussed the matter with Satan, thus considering his proposal. This made him even more aggressive. When you do not put down someone's evil idea or action, they become more ambitious and are emboldened to win you over. At this point Satan did not simply 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 (i.e. good is evil and evil is good). God said that if they would refrain from the tree of good and evil, they would eat of the tree of life. Satan told them the opposite. 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 - "desirable to make wise." An appeal to one's mind, intellect and pride. To have 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 the world and its kingdoms.
- Spiritual pride: special protection by the angels.
Eve was attacked at all three levels at once and she seriously considered these things without thought of the consequences. 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. Her response should not have been a discussion, consideration or a negotiation, but rather 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 instincts when facing danger and that is to fight or run away. Depending on the circumstances and our assessment of the situation, we usually 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 God's instruction was: Do not eat the fruit!
Here is where her free will came into play. She chose to believe Satan regarding the situation rather than God. She liked the devil's explanation of how things were more than what God said about how things were.
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 disobedience today. We sin when we challenge or disregard God with our contempt for His commands.
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 had sinned, she led Adam to sin with her. She went from being God's defender to being Satan's helper. One question that often comes up at this point is the following:
Why did Adam also eat?
There may have been many reasons: because he loved her, because he wanted to share in her punishment. This, of course, would make Adam noble in sinning and this concept is not a biblical one. We do not know, therefore, what went through his mind other than the fact that he was not deceived like the woman (I Timothy 2:14). All we do know is that he also chose to disobey God. He probably had the same arguments put to him by his wife rather than by the serpent. Eve was deceived because Satan, in the guise of a serpent, seduced her. Adam, on the other hand, was convinced by the person he knew and loved. He may have thought that all was lost (which demonstrated both the weakness of his faith and lack of trust in God). Either way, the result was disobedience to God and the consequences of that disobedience.
Note that Eve's five mistakes are a preview of the stages that each of us go through when we fall into sin because of 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 (knowledge provided by God's word).
- Conviction of our own position (the rightness and value of obeying God).
- Immediate response (recognizing and denouncing sin as sin immediately).
2. Compromising God's word
When we want to sin and still remain Christians, we simply change what God's word says. "Christian" homosexuals, for example, have their own theologians, commentaries and churches that support their lifestyle and shape their religion around it. 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 immediately, we are more inclined to examine and experience it. The salesman's basic approach is always to encourage you to try the product (of course this is acceptable when purchasing a car or some other item), however, it leads to disaster when the "product" in question is sin. Contemplating sin often leads to acting out sin.
If we do not initially refuse to sin, we will eventually give in to it. The most successful strategy is to decide ahead of time what you will do when confronted with temptation. This leaves no room for hesitation when tempted, only an automatic decision to reject the temptation and move past it through right action and prayer.
5. Start a club
Once we have given in to temptation, the next step is usually to find a sympathetic partner who will let us sin in peace or join us. Paul mentions this phenomena in Romans 1:32. The Apostle says that the eventual state is that sinners, who know they are doing wrong, encourage others to do wrong and even applaud them in their evil actions thus justifying their own disobedience somehow.
In the first section of passage #2 (Genesis 3:1-6), we find the reasons why mankind and the creation are in their fallen state.
- Adam and Eve disobeyed God's command and by exercising their free will in this manner have separated themselves from Him.
- This separation from God (eventually resulting in death) is the direct and automatic result of disobedience or sin against God.
- The natural consequences of separation from God are decay, destruction and the extinguishing of life (i.e. unplug a lamp from its power source and it will no longer be able to produce light; cut a branch away from its tree and the branch will in time decay, dry up and eventually return to dust). In the same way, separating a human being from God through sin will result in that person's eventual physical death and the eternal separation of their spirit from God.
Thankfully this is not the end of this passage nor is it the only thing it teaches and reveals to us.
In the next chapter we will review verses 7-24 of this passage where it will describe both the negative and the positive ways that God responded to man's initial disobedience.
In His response, God laid out for Adam and Eve (and every generation that would come after them) the natural consequences of man's disobedience as well as an all important promise that not all was lost, and that life on earth would still be worth living.