Before Adam and Eve drew near to sin they drew away from God
Genesis 3 presents the person of Satan and the plan of Satan. We are introduced to the Serpent and his strategy. His strategy is 4 steps: 1) Dialogue, 2) Doubt, 3) Deny, 4) Disobedience.
Lets pick up in the 3rd stage, “Deny”, where we left off last week.
Last week we saw two things related to the Deny phase
- Key to Satan’s strategy is to make you think that God will not judge sin. “You will not die” he says in verse 4. That was the core of the DENIAL phase. Deny that God will judge sin. Don’t fear going forward into sin because there are no consequences.
- We also saw that Satan promised that if they ate from the tree they would be like God in that they too would “know good and evil”.
Now, lets look closer at this. What is “the knowledge of good and evil”?
I was frustrated with my commentaries in seeking an answer. Everyone sidestepped that question. No one attempted to answer it. So I’m going to try!
Does it mean that having “knowledge” of “evil” means you are practicing evil and guilty of evil? It can’t. Because we saw last week, in 3:22 that God has knowledge of good and evil. So knowing good and evil can’t be something in and of itself evil.
Furthermore, wouldn’t knowing good and evil indicate at least the ability to distinguish between what is good and what is evil? And isn’t that capability a good thing? It is a good thing. And more must be embedded in this “knowing good and evil” than what I’m asking about.
The word for “knowledge” in the Hebrew means “know by experience”, “acquainted with”, “distinguish”. Knowing good and evil then by experience means you had a run in with evil. You came face to face with it. You were in some kind of engagement with it. Not necessarily that you participated in it. Not that you acted evilly. But, that you saw it, heard it, were affected by it, in some way – it interacted with you. Like Job said about God, “My ears heard of you but now I’ve seen you.” In the same way, my ears had heard of evil and its been described to but now I’ve seen it. I’ve watched it in action. I know how it is different from good. I can distinguish what is good from what is evil based on my experience.
But, here divine mastery is woven into the situation. The tree itself was not corrupt or evil: God does not make anything evil. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil would have been declared “very good” like everything else God made. He doesn’t make evil. So the fruit itself was not evil – nor was it poisonous as though poison was the cause of their death.
Instead, what made the tree deadly was not the tree at all but rather the disobedience of man. There are lots of commands in Scripture you could question based on the harmlessness of the act itself: why circumcision? Why seashells? Why not animals that chew the cud and have split hoof? Why march 7 times around Jericho?
The tree was lovely to see and tasted wonderful for sure. But it was not the tree itself that was the source of evil. Evil is a moral thing and a tree is not a moral thing. To think so begins the error that evil is physical. What is moral regarding the tree is how that tree was treated by man. Morality has to do with oughts and ought nots – how we should behave and shouldn’t behave. Man was not to eat from the tree. It was the way man interacted with the tree that was moral or immoral. Man took from the tree of his own free will choice and in doing so engaged in a moral action that God deemed evil because God had prohibited him from taking from that tree and eating.
APPLICATION: As a side note: This is why you cannot solve people’s moral problems with physical remedies. Morality is not from molecules. Someone’s addiction is not physical. It is spiritual. Someone’s immorality is not genetic. It is spiritual. If you make the physical world the source of man’s evil you have materialized evil. You have made sin no longer about moral decisions of the human will exercised in defiance of God and you have made it instead to be molecules. Evil and sin is spiritual and it is addressed spiritually.
So man, made in God’s image, a free moral creature, and comprehending the command of God, chose to disobey that command. And God arranged it so that in the event of that action by man it would be that action that would be the source of man’s death.
One thing that is not mentioned much that I’ve come across is the true wisdom of God that was waiting for Adam and Eve if they had been obedient. Satan promised a wisdom by defying God. The Scriptures tell us that there is a true wisdom that is rewarded for obedience:
- If you obey my teaching you will find out if what I say comes from God
- Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom
- Who is the wise man? He who puts my teachings into practice.
- True wisdom was displayed by Jesus in the wilderness when He was tempted: He correctly handled the Scriptures and He was perfectly obedient. And Jesus is the source and fount of all our wisdom. Wisdom is never in disobedience: wisdom is in obedience.
Do you know that there is a difference between wisdom and mere knowledge? Wisdom is in the fear of the Lord and obeying Him. Did you know there was something to be gained on the other side of this test in the garden had they been obedient to God? True wisdom from God lay in the path of obedience. The “wisdom” and the “knowledge” Satan pointed them towards was nothing of the sort. Oh sure they would learn new things, but they were things they would come to know that they wish they never knew: shame, fear, guilt, alienation, insecurity. Those were the new things, the new “knowledges” Satan wanted them to acquire. There was a kind of understanding and “knowing” awaiting them had they been faithful to God. What was that? Their obedience would have been a more real and genuine obedience to God.
We are seeing something of the nature of sin and of temptation. Sin is rebellion against the authority God has over us. The Garden sin was a rejection of God’s rightful rule over man’s moral life – God was cast aside as the authority of what man could do and couldn’t do. That tells us something about sin as sin.
Temptation is the way in which a person is seduced into sinning. Temptation is the way in which sin interacts psychologically with man. And we learned that core to temptation is entitlement. Man in his coveting begins believing that he has a right to that which he does NOT have a right to. There are 2 powerful, fundamental forces at work inside us when we go after sin: Desire & Justification.
- Desire for sin. “When the woman saw.” Do you see that? Saw what? “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom…” Satan showed her how to see the fruit in a whole new light. Once he showed her the fruit she didn’t take her eyes off it. This is a powerful part of temptation: staring lustfully at sin. Staring at someone, even if its in your mind; staring at your revenge, staring at your greed….It’s when someone allows a mental obsession with sin. In their heart they keep dwelling on it, focusing on it, wanting and wanting it. Imagining how they will get it. Planning and plotting how they will engage in it. All sin begins with an inappropriate focus.
APPLICATION: Be very careful that how you are “seeing” sin is not leading you to commit sin. When you are moving from seeing sin as wrong to seeing it as “alright” and then “right”, you are sliding from God. Sin is always appealing to your flesh. There are always an endless number of “convincing” reasons to sin. Your flesh and your enemy want those reasons to win with you. The only reason you and I need to see sin as wrong is God has said it is wrong. Be ready for an avalanche of “reasons” why God is wrong.
- Then there is Justification. This is powerful. This is the most powerful element in temptation. In verse 5 Satan “justified” sinning to them. Sin’s success with us occurs in the moment we realize what we get out of sinning while also wanting what we will get. She was given over in her heart the moment Satan presented what was in it for her if she ate. In that moment it became about her and not about God. And why not? She was now convinced that God was holding back good things from them, things that He really didn’t have a right to hold back from them, things that they had a right to. Reaching out and seizing that fruit was simultaneously an act of reaching out and seizing what she now believed was rightfully hers.
Now in combination with desire for sin a person is justifying it in their minds. They’re working on rationalizing why engaging in sin is okay. A person will be stopped from sinning by their conscience if they do not successfully justify to themselves why they have a right to sin. Once you’ve been able to convince yourself that you’re entitled to sin your “will” will be engaged and your body will be put into motion to consummate that sin. Basically once you think you have a right to the sin that you desire so badly you will carry it out.
Temptation is the process where your thinking shifts from “What does God get out of me?” to “What do I get out of this?” What gain for “self” becomes the motivating thought rather than what glory can God get from me in this temptation. That is the reason for temptation by the way that God allows: so that in it, like Job, you choose God rather than the sin in front of you. That’s how God is glorified: that in your decision to turn from sin and turn toward God you are by that act declaring the infinitely greater glory of God over indulging that sin.
Notice the progression in the text: “she saw…..she took…..she ate…” With that bite she has stepped over into a place she can never return from. She stepped from life to death. From fellowship with God to alienation. She has missed the mark, as one definition of sin goes. She has transgressed, which means to step over the line, the boundary. Leaving the light she has stepped into darkness.
But the disobedience of sin must be more sternly defined: she was in violation. She violated God’s command. More core to sin we have to say that she was in outright defiance of God. That inner defiance was now outwardly manifest in her action. What is in you will come out of you!
And notice the very significant next step. Satan did not leap with joy when Eve bit into the fruit. He kept himself composed because he was only half-way home. There was still one more human who needed to eat of that fruit: Adam, her husband.
Adam was not far off somewhere working in the garden. Adam was right there with her. This speaks volumes. It speaks of his abject failure to lead. We can talk about Eve’s usurping her husband’s lead but Adam’s passivity and in action is where the real fault lies. Let’s notice a few things.
One: Rather than guilt for what she did she turned and gave some to Adam. She did not in that moment get wide-eyed with guilt and clasp her hand over her mouth mortified at what she had done. She did not spit the fruit out. She did not tell Adam “NO! Don’t do what I just did!” She turned and gave some to her husband.
Did you catch that? “SHE turned and SHE gave”. Not Satan. Satan N.E.V.E.R touched the fruit. It is my opinion that Satan did not even suggest she give it to Adam. He didn’t have to. He just watched the momentum he created. She became Satan’s agent in Adam’s life. She became Satan’s co-worker of iniquity and she became useful in his hands.
APPLICATION: That’s the nature of sin: sinners love to evangelize others into sin. Sinners love to recruit others to join them in sin. Satan was the sinner in this scene and look at him evangelizing Adam and Eve. Eve joins in and then gets her husband to join in. She became the “anti-helpmate”, no longer suitable.
- Bad company corrupts good character – 1 Cor 15:33
- Romans 1 talks about how the wicked are cheerleaders for others committing sin when it says, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.” In other words approval, being on the “in”, giving entrance into the “crowd”, requires you do what they know is evil.
- First Peter 4 says the wicked abuse you when you don’t join in with them, “They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you.”
Therefore: CHOOSE YOUR CIRCLE CAREFULLY AND WISELY. CHOOSE YOUR SPOUSES CAREFULLY!
APPLICATION: Focus on your blessings. Satan succeeded in getting them to have tunnel vision. They were blind to all the rest of the trees in the garden and only had eyes for that one forbidden tree. When all you can focus on is “what you don’t have” and “can’t have” and you’re down that road of coveting you are on a highway to sinning.
APPLICATION: Remember the true character of God. Before Adam and Eve drew near to sin they drew away from God. In order to “see” sin as good they had to “see” God as bad. In order to believe that the serpent meant well they first had to believe that God meant them ill. They no longer trusted God was good, wise, just and true. They believed He was unjust, unfair, holding out on them, and not supremely wise. “Before the human soul disobeyed it learned to distrust” (Matheson). Before the Fall into sin man’s trust in God fell.
Do NOT allow or entertain evil suspicions of God in your heart. In your doubt and confusion and pain cry out to Him, call on Him, seek Him. But do not retreat from Him because you believe Him to be evil and do not harbor such doubt of His righteousness in your heart. Be Job and the darker it got the more he called on God.
APPLICATION: Kill sin in the egg. Stop it where it begins: in your mind and heart. “ Do not allow yourself to obsess over a sin and definitely do not be deceived into thinking you have a right to sin. “God made me this way” is justification. “It doesn’t hurt anyone” is justification. “I can’t help myself” is justification. “They/God hurt me so I can do this” is justification. “I need this” is justification. Stop sin in your heart and your head so it doesn’t proceed into action.
Satan never forced her hand. Milton said in Paradise Lost, “Whoever overcomes by force has conquered but half his foe.” Meaning that real victory over your enemy is winning them heart and soul over to your side so they now see with your eyes. Satan won her mind. Having done that she reached all by herself. Win your mind for Christ. Win your mind for Christ. “
APPLICATION: Turn to God’s Word and to wise counsel. Eve NEVER countered Satan’s points with God’s word. She never turned to her husband to ask his help to make sense of what she was hearing. Adam never interjected to be a man and counter Satan with God’s word that he heard personally from God. Neither Adam nor Eve withdrew to seek God and ask Him about what they were hearing from the serpent. They just gulped down what he said and acted how he led them to act.
When Satan tried the same game on Jesus what did Jesus do? He did what Adam and Eve didn’t: He turned to the Word of God. What was our Lord’s response to Satan’s temptations? “IT IS WRITTEN…” The Word of God. Know it. Trust it. Turn to it. Depend on it. Rely on it.
APPLICATION: Here we learn too something about the relationship between faith and obedience. Faith produces obedience. Obedience comes from faith. What is Hebrews 11, the Faith Hall Of Fame, if it is not a catalogue of the heroes of the faith, who had great faith, and out of that faith obeyed God in great ways? “By faith Abel offered a better sacrifice…BY FAITH Noah built an ark…. BY FAITH Abraham obeyed and went when called…BY FAITH Abraham offered Isaac…BY FAITH Moses parents, BY FAITH Moses… BY FAITH the Israelites passed through the Red Sea…BY FAITH Rahab welcomed the Israelite spies…” The whole chapter describes the decisions of heroes of old to obey God and do what He commanded precisely because they believed Him. “Show me your faith without deeds” James 2 says, “and I will show you my faith by what I do.” Hebrews 11 is the flesh and blood example of James 2. Hebrews 11 is like walking down a hallway looking at all these paintings on the wall of faith heroes, and the paintings are of them in their own moments of obedience.
Lot fled Sodom because of his belief. He believed the angels message that if he didn’t get out he would be swept away. Noah built the ark because he believed God’s message that a flood would come. Faith moved them to action. Faith made them spring forward to do something they would not do if they did not have faith and believe what they heard.
God said, “I will bless the nations because you have obeyed me” (Gen. 22:18).
But sin comes from unbelief. Disobedience is the result of doubting God. Denying Him. Abraham, the man of faith, so exalted in the Faith Hall of Fame, himself acted poorly in unbelief numerous times. God promised him that He would give him a son. His wife, Sarai, got impatient and didn’t believe God was going to make good on this promise. So she handed her maidservant Hagar to Abraham and said “Look we don’t have a child, sleep with her so I can have a child through her.” Did Abraham say, “Look, Babe, be patient. God is faithful. Wait on the Lord. God said He would and He will. He doesn’t lie. Just be patient.”? Did Abraham say that? Did he try to encourage his wife to faith? No. It says, “Abraham agreed.” The reason Hagar was presented to sleep with in the first place is due to the doubting of God’s character. Lack of faith, not strong faith, led to them trying to “fix” the situation themselves. There is only one acceptable response when Sarai says “God isn’t giving us a son lets find another way.” The right response is “God will give us a son in His time. He is faithful.” Faith leads to obedience. Doubt leads to disobedience. Believe me, Abraham suffered for this.
Furthermore, notice the pattern Adam gave in the Fall is the pattern seen in Abraham. They both followed their wives when their wives went down the road of unbelief. Men, be men and lead. Be men and lead your wives to trust God and act out of faith in God. Women, you wield tremendous influence with your husbands. Use that influence to encourage your husbands towards faith, not doubt. Your influence is a stewardship and like your husbands you will be accountable for how you use it.
Here Adam and Eve have a clear decision to make: is God telling the truth or is Satan. Who do they believe? If they believe God they will obey God. If however they believe Satan they will obey Satan.
We should not comfort ourselves when indulging sin with the idea of “Well, I believe in God, that He exists and all, so I’m not exactly ‘denying’ God when I disobey Him.” It is not a denial of God’s existence, I agree. It is a denial of Who He is though – His goodness, His justice, His truthfulness, His wisdom, His righteousness, His “rightness” and His sovereignty. Sinning against the God you know is a denial that He has a right to you and that He is God over you and you are not. Nowhere in Genesis 3 is Satan even attempting to convince Adam and Eve that God doesn’t exist. He is changing how they think about God. He is changing how they see God so that He can change the fact that they submit to Him. Unbelief.
Who influences you? Who are you listening to? Who keeps persuading you to go further and further from God?
What doubts are you nurturing? There is a difference between honest doubts you’re wrestling with and evil suspicious doubts about God. Honest doubts are the kind where you’re confused and you don’t know how to make sense of something God has done or said. Your confidence in God isn’t evaporating. Your doubt is making you press deeper into God and seek harder to understand what the truth is.