As you may have noticed, my bible is entirely electronic. I have a traditional paper study bible, and over the years, I’ve highlighted all the significant passages. Every word of the book is highlighted.
There are have been, for my entire life, horrible stories in the news. Mass murderers, earthquakes, shootings. Recently there have been stories of 500,000 refugees fleeing from Middle East countries to Europe, with predictions of up to 35 million people. And I’m not convinced it’s entirely a refugee situation, as ISIS flags have been seen among the groups and imams saying that the refugees should breed with the Europeans in order to conquer those countries for Islam.
If God is all powerful and all good, why does he let terrible things like this? Why doesn’t He stop it? Nonbelievers struggle with this more than believers do, I think. God could have created robots to be good all the time. But is that really free will? God created us to love him voluntarily. And along with the freedom to love Him comes the freedom not to love Him.
As we’ve studied recently in Revelation, we know that the entire bible points to Jesus as the redeemer of mankind. Regardless of the problem, Jesus is the solution. Today we’re going to talk about the source of all the problems. William Griffith Thomas, a theologian in the early 1900’s, said about Genesis 3, “This chapter is the pivot on which the whole bible turns.” Open your bible to the cause of all of our problems in Genesis Chapter 3.
II. The Sham, Genesis 3:1-5
While this is a familiar story, let’s study it carefully today for additional insights. Let’s begin with Genesis 3:1-5,
Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”
“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
The serpent is not identified here by name, so let’s identify him. Who is the serpent? Coincidentally, the last lesson I taught was from Revelation 12, which in Revelation 12:9 says,
The great dragon was hurled down (out of heaven) – that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.
The serpent is introduced as a created being and as one who spoke against the word of God. We know that when God creates something, it is good and it is perfect. So where did the serpent come from? There are two accounts that talk about the origin of Satan, in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14. Both of these verses talk about how beautiful and pure Satan was at the beginning of Creation. Satan was so beautiful that he believed that he himself was God. Pride, self-generated pride, was Satan’s downfall, worshiping God’s creation instead of worshiping the Creator.
So here is the serpent, saying crafty things to Eve. And I’m going to call her “Eve,” even though that’s not her name yet. In the previous chapter, Adam says, “She shall be called ‘woman’ because she was taken out of man.” It just sounds funny to me to just keep calling her “woman.”
There is a new Disney Movie coming out next year, and I happened to see the trailer for it. It’s a live action remake of “Jungle Book” and here’s an edited clip that I think is illustrative:
Satan’s first strategy is to get Eve to question the very word of God by misrepresenting what God said. Satan asks Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” But that’s not what God said to Adam. God said to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17,
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
Notice how the Evil One focused on the negative. “God is being mean to you, telling you what’s not allowed. There are so many rules for you. You deserve to have whatever you want.” God’s message was generous, gracious, permissive, “You may eat from *any* tree except the ones that may harm you.”
Notice also how Satan talked to the woman instead of the man. Some studies make a big deal out of how God provided the instructions to the man, how it was his job to protect the woman, and while that may be true, I want to focus instead on how Adam had received the knowledge first hand, and Eve relied on what somebody told her God said. Adam talked to God, but Eve had talked to Adam. It’s important in our spiritual life that we are communicating directly to God through His Word and through prayer. Going to church and listening to Dr. Young has tremendous benefits and is good, but it cannot replace personal study. We want to be able to respond to any challenge with, “The bible says…”, not “my pastor says…”. In this case, Eve may have found it easier to ignore God’s commands because she didn’t hear it firsthand.
Eve’s response to the serpent reveals a lot of subtle shifts. While God said, “You are free to eat from any tree,” Eve phrases it defensively, “We may eat fruit from the trees.” God doesn’t sound so generous the way Eve phrased it.
Eve also overstated how restrictive God had been with her. Eve says that Gold told Adam, “You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it.” God didn’t say anything about not touching it. Probably not a good idea to touch it, but God didn’t prohibit them from touching it, just from eating from it.
God’s Word is precisely and absolutely true. Satan twists God’s word to get Even to question what God says. In verse 4, the serpent says, “You won’t die.” This is a direct contradiction to what God said. This is the very first heresy in the bible, that sin is not punishable by death. Romans 6:23 states it clearly, “For the wages of sin is death…” We can still hear this heresy today. How can a loving God send people to Hell? God wants us to enjoy life, so you should do whatever you want. It doesn’t matter how destructive it is to your lives and the lives of those around you as long as you are enjoying yourself.
Satan goes on to say in verse 5, “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Listen to how mean God is. Do you want to spend the rest of your life with eyes closed, or do you want to be like God? Satan tells us that God is restrictive, God won’t punish sin, God is looking out for himself. Genesis 1 and 2 tells us that God has provided everything necessary for the good of man, and that’s God’s true motives are looking out for man’s best interests, but Satan’s half-lies and half-truths says that God is just looking out for his own interests by withholding the best parts of the garden unfairly.
The scam is complete.
III. The Shame, Genesis 3:6-7
Eve, tempted by the serpent, now justifies her sins. Verses 6,
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, she took some and ate it.
God has given Eve desires that are in line with His creation. It is good to be satisfied with food that God has provided. It is good to appreciate God’s beautiful creation, things that are pleasing to the eye. It is good to gain in knowledge and wisdom. But the things of this world will cause us to stumble if we do not satisfy them in a way that pleases the Lord. It’s like Eve is saying to herself, “God wants me to be happy, and these things will make me happy. So even though God says ‘no,’ I’m going to do them anyway because I know what is best for me.”
But this justification isn’t in line with God’s word. It say the tree was good for food. But was there other fruit in the garden that was good for food? Of course there was, and God said they could eat from any of it. Was there anything else in the garden that was pleasing to the eye? Are you kidding? They were in the Garden of Eden, *everything* was pleasing to the eye. God had provided for everything man and woman needed. But Eve was deceived, and believed by sight – not by faith – that she should have this forbidden fruit. She deserves this forbidden fruit, and it’s not fair that God should withhold it from her. How does she know God is telling the truth unless she experiences the fruit for herself?
Failure to appreciate God’s goodness leads to distrust of His goodness. Distrust leads to dissatisfaction, dissatisfaction leads to disobedience. Admiring the beautiful fruit was not a sin. Even touching it was not a sin. But disobeying God by eating of the fruit led to spiritual death.
Eve has been deceived by the serpent that this is God’s desire for her.
Then the verse goes on to say,
She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
If Eve was deceived, Adam’s response was rebellion. Adam knew firsthand that God had withheld the fruit of this tree from him. Adam was not deceived; Adam sinned with understanding. Man wants to be independent, to be in control of our own destiny, to make decisions for ourselves.
I spoke to someone at work this week about some of our past work experiences; he told me about working at a nuclear facility. The US government decided that everyone that had been working there less than 5 years had to take a psychological profile, and since he had only been there 4, he had to take the test. There were a lot of yes/no responses, and if you didn’t get them all right, you had to see the psychologist and explain your response. The question that got him in trouble was, “Someone is in control of my life, true or false.”
He answered “true.” And in my head, I’m also thinking “true.” God is in control of my life, and He is most definitely someone. My colleague’s response was “true” for a different reason. He was in control of his own life, and he was someone.
Of course, it dawned on me that both his response and my response would probably land us on the psychiatrist’s couch.
I think this independence, to say to God, “You’re not the boss of me,” is pride, pure and simple. If I am my own boss, then nobody else can tell me what to do, including God. To take a step further, pride will lead me down a path that I can tell God who He is and what He can do. God can’t tell me what the truth is about sexual immorality, about gluttony, and judgmentalism. I know what is best for me. I am worshipping God’s creation, me, instead of worshipping the awesome powerful God who created me. It’s the same pride that had Satan cast out of heaven.
When Adam’s rebellion led him to sin against God, the entire human race from that moment on fell. The apostle Paul makes this clear in Romans 5:12,
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.
Because of this sin, in verse 7 it says,
Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.
Knowledge of good and evil necessarily requires us to have knowledge of evil. I was not a particularly rebellious kid, I made good grades in school, I didn’t get into much trouble with the law. My police record is clean, though Mr. McIntyre in 5th grade said he would be making notes in my permanent record. But in my 30’s I got a wild streak that led to indiscretions, and let’s just say I’m glad that iPhone cameras were not available back then.
My point is that during this wild period, I saw man’s depravity up close, in those around me and in myself. My phrase for that period in my life can be summed up by the phrase, “what was once seen cannot be unseen.” As I work out my salvation with fear and trembling, I long for days of innocence where there were some things I was happy I didn’t know. Have you ever felt the same way, perhaps after watching a movie or reading a news article about some horrific crime? I can tell you that in my case, I am not edified or built up for God’s purpose.
Adam and Eve surely felt the same. Before, they freely walked in God’s garden; after the fall, they covered themselves in leaves and shame.
IV. The Blame, Genesis 3:8-13
Let’s continue with verses 8-13,
Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?”
He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”
And he said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”
The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”
Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
In verse 7, they sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness, but I’m guessing that fig leaves aren’t a very efficient form of covering because they’re still naked. Not only is there shame, but now there is also guilt. And with guilt, we hide from the Lord. Have you ever tried to sin while reading the bible? We all have temptations we are dealing with, and we all fall short of God’s glory, but for just a second, think of your own personal struggle, and when you knowing did something shameful. Were you hiding from God at that time, like Adam? Do you think that when God asks, “Where are you?” that He doesn’t already know the answer?
God gave Adam and Eve a chance to confess their sins, but instead they get tripped up by admitting they knew they were naked. Busted, now they know that God knows they’ve eaten the forbidden fruit. But rather than confess, the rationalizations and the finger pointing begins.
Adam’s first response it to blame both Eve *and* God. “The woman, who *you* put here, gave the fruit to me. I’d have never sinned if you hadn’t have given me a woman.” And the woman blamed it on the serpent. And the serpent, well, he didn’t have a leg to stand on.
Adam accused both the woman and God for his transgressions. This is the first accusation in the bible, and it came immediately after the serpent appeared in the Garden. Revelation 12:10 says that Satan is the accuser of all Christians, accusing us before our God day and night. Accusation, lies, name calling, shifting blame, even if it is true, comes from Satan.
V. The Fall, Genesis 3:14-21
God is holy, and His holiness demands that all sin and evil must be eliminated. There are repercussions for sin. Psalm 46:6-7 says,
Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever;
a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
You love righteousness and hate wickedness
In the account of Creation, God provided 3 blessings. In Genesis 1;22, God blessed the great creatures of the sea and the air and told them to be fruitful and multiply. And in Genesis 1:28 after creating man and woman, he blessed them and told them to be fruitful and multiply. And in 2:3, God rested on the 7th day, blessed it and made it holy.
As the result of the fall, though, there are now 3 curses. The first curse is given to the serpent in verses 14-15,
So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,
“Cursed are you above all livestock
and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
and you will eat dust
all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.”
The serpent will suffer physical changes and lifestyle changes, crawling in the dust for the remainder of its days. I know some people keep snakes as pets, and I personally don’t have a problem holding one of touching one, but I can’t say I’d ever want to cuddle up with one. They’re not exactly lovable creatures, and I’m sure a large part of that is the result of the serpent’s deception. But let’s look at the second half of this. Some commentaries see nothing more than ongoing hatred between man and snakes. But the phrasing indicates more than this is going on – it extends to the offspring of the woman and the offspring of the serpent.
The offspring of the serpent could refer to the one who possessed the serpent, Satan, the Evil One. And the offspring of the woman, literally “her seed” may refer to the virgin birth of Jesus since the verse does not say “their seed.” This verse contains the masculine, third-person singular “he” in the phrase “he will crush your head.” A seed of the woman will crush the head (i.e. provide a fatal blow), not to the descendants of the serpent (we don’t expect all snakes to be killed by mankind), but by the one who started all of this, Satan himself.
This is the first prophetic promise that God already knows the problem created by man’s sin, but has already begin a plan to redeem mankind from his sin. In Romans 16:20, Paul writes that the God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. There is a continual struggle of each generation for the good to overcome the evil while the evil tries to overcome the good. Until our Redeemer, the Messiah, the Seed of the Woman, finally defeats Satan and in Revelation 20:10 throws Satan in the lake of burning sulfur.
We’ll get to more of this in a moment, but let’s discuss the other two curses first.
The second curse belongs to the woman –
To the woman he said,
“I will make your pains in childbearing very severe;
with painful labor you will give birth to children.
Your desire will be for your husband,
and he will rule over you.”
The relationship between the wife and her husband were changed forever. Judgement fell on Eve and her offspring in what was uniquely hers as a woman. While death has entered the world, life will continue, but the pain of childbirth will be a continuing reminder of Eve’s role in bring the fall to all mankind.
Also, her desire will be for her husband, and he will rule over her. There are several possible meanings here, but the one that seems true to me and is in line with the New Testament is that wife will seek to dominate the relationship and will no longer intuitively submit to her husband as his “helper.”
The third curse belongs to Adam, all mankind, and to the earth –
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’
“Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it
all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
and to dust you will return.”
While Eve was deceived, Adam rebelled, and it is this sin of pride and rebellion that draws the most severe discipline. No longer will Adam and his wife be able to stroll through the garden and eat of the many fruits, but now Adam will have to work his entire life. The world is no longer beautiful and pristine, but now tainted by sin. The world itself has fallen. Romans 8:20-22 puts it this way,
For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
The world is in bondage to decay and death, just as all man, through the sin of one man, is in bondage to decay and death. I want to point out a subtle change in the words of scripture – Genesis 1:26 says, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness.” But after the fall, Adam and Eve have sons Cain, Abel, and Seth. Look at how Genesis 5 begins –
This is the written account of Adam’s family line.
When God created mankind, he made them in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And he named them “Mankind” when they were created.
When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.
While we are all made in God’s image, we also carry the genetics of sin with us. Seth was not just made in God’s image; now the scripture say Seth was made in Adam’s image. God’s perfect image has been corrupted and that corrupted images and likeness were passed along to the descendants of Adam. Nobody teaches us to sin. Because of our corrupted nature, we know all too well how to sin on our own. We do not teach our children to lie, somehow they already now. We have to teach them to tell the truth. The sinful worldly self comes naturally. The self that longs to be good must be trained and taught.
We long for the day we can again has a relationship with our Father in Heaven without the stain of sin separating us. But on our own, we have no solution, we have to strategy of success, we have no hope. How do we live when we are banished from Paradise with our Father? Let’s look at the rest of Genesis 3 and see if there is a hint of the hope yet to come.
Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them. And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.
“The man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” God in His omniscience, has all knowledge of good and evil, and he didn’t have to commit evil. Man committed a sin to learn this knowledge. It’s like a doctor and a patient diagnosing an illness. Our understanding of that illness is different. Our understanding of good and evil is both like God’s understanding and unlike it. Now man will seek to make decisions based on a poor understanding of good and evil, a problem that plagues all of us today. God has perfect divine understanding of good and evil and He asks us to trust him. Sometimes we do. Most of the time we want to do it our own way.
And this sinful self must not be allowed to live forever. An eternal, sinful life of separation from God would be, literally, a living hell. But God’s grace provides a solution. He allows us to die so that we may then live.
Notice how Adam and Eve’s fig leaves have been replaced with animal skins. Because of their transgressions, an innocent life was shed for man. This, too is a prelude for what is to come. No matter what the sin, how rebellious and prideful our decisions are, God is willing to make whatever sacrifice is necessary so that we may have hope.
We all inherit a sinful nature from Adam and Eve, and we might think this is unfair to be blamed for something one man did thousands of years ago. But we are not punished for Adam’s sins, we inherit his nature. We each have our own sins. We didn’t chose to have a sinful nature, but let’s be honest, we would have. Adam was the perfect man, created by God, and placed him in the perfect environment, the Garden of Eden. And every day, God walked with Adam in the cool of the day to instruct Adam and draw closer to him. And even with this perfect man, perfect environment, perfect relationship, Adam still sinned. Through Adam, death entered the world. We are fooling ourselves if we think we could do better. We choose our own sin.
But just as we choose our own sin, we also choose our salvation. God has begun a sacrificial system where an innocent life may be sacrificed as an atonement for sin. If we try to work off our debt by trying to be good, we will fail. Because of our sinful nature, we are no longer suitable sacrifices for our own sin. We need a savior. We need a suitable sacrifice for our sins. Earlier I read from Romans 6:23, but I only read the first half of it. Here is the entire verse:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
For God so loved the world. For God so loved you. For God so loved me, that He gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. And that is the one and only solution to the fall of man and our sin. Jesus Christ.
To God be the glory.