Teaching series from Genesis

Humanity's Wrong Turn

Genesis 3:1-6

Teaching t07297

Introduction

Review the setting. Humans were created in the image of God—enjoying God’s presence, in benevolent rulership over nature and capable of unity and diversity in relationship. All of this hinged on their free choice to trust God’s loving authority as expressed through his propositional communication.

This choice was made clear and concrete for them through the two trees in the garden. Read 2:16,17.

There was nothing intrinsically significant about the fact that they were trees. God could just as easily have said, “Don’t cross that stream” or “Don’t go past that mountain range.” The point was that they were given a clear choice to obey God.

Neither did their fruits contain any magical or chemical properties. The tree of life is so called because the choice to trust and obey God results in fullness of life. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is so called because the choice to disobey God is to arrogate to oneself the authority to define good and evil, instead of trusting God to define good and evil for us.

So the choice was clear. God gave them ample reason to trust him (personal fellowship and perfect environment), he gave them a very simple choice, and he spelled out the consequences that would flow from this choice. We do not know how long they lived in harmony with God, but at a certain point another influence came into the picture . . . 

Enter the Serpent

Read 1:1a. Who is “the serpent?” Is this simply Satan, or is it Satan indwelling a snake? Christians disagree on their answer, but I think the former.

The definite article indicates a very specific serpent. Satan is elsewhere (Rev. 12:9; 2 Cor. 11:3) identified as this serpent without any reference to a host animal. The language in 1:1 seems to purposefully differentiate him from all other beasts. And, as we’ll see in two weeks, God’s judgment is directed only against Satan.

At any rate, Satan enters the garden. We learn here that there has already been a revolt against God. (Satan means “adversary.”) This raises a whole host of questions: How long before this was he created? When did he become God’s adversary, and what were the specifics of the conflict? Why was he allowed into the garden? We have only a little information on this because the main them of the Bible is humanity and God’s rescue plan for us—not angelology. The little that is revealed, however, harmonizes with the rest of scripture and is consistent with what we would rationally deduce.

Ezek. 28:11-19 tells us that Satan was a great angelic being (“the anointed cherub who covers”) who was originally perfect. At some point, he became so focused on his own wisdom and beauty that he decided that he should not have to live under God’s authority.

Rev. 12:9 tells that approximately one-third of the angelic beings chose to follow him in his revolt against God. These rebellious angels are called “demons” in the Bible.

There is some scriptural evidence that the earth was his domain before his revolt, and that he took it with him so that it became “the silent planet” (C. S. Lewis). If this is the case, it would seem that God created humans (in part) to re-establish his authority over the earth (see 1:28 “subdue” versus “rule;” see 2:15 “guard”). God’s plan seems to have been for Adam and Eve and their descendents to gradually increase God’s rule from the garden outward throughout the whole earth (1:28). But before this could happen, Adam and Eve had to make a clear choice on whose voice they would follow—the true God or the “ruler of this world.”

The Voice of Satan

As we listen to Satan’s message to Eve, we should realize that we continue to hear his voice today. Read Jn. 8:44. His approach is not through intimidation (HOLLYWOOD); rather, he murders souls through deception.

First, he distorts God’s Word by exaggerating its restrictiveness (read 3:1b). The Hebrew should be translated: “Indeed! To think that God said you are not to eat of any tree of the garden!”1

Read 3:2,3. Eve’s response corrects this distortion, but then she adds an exaggeration of her own! God never forbade them to touch the tree—he just told them not to eat its fruit. This may seem like a small thing, but it is the first step away from simple trust in God’s authority.

The Church has a rich legacy of adding ethical imperatives to God’s Word (SEX IS EVIL vs. SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE; NO DRINKING vs. NO DRUNKENNESS OR DEPENDENCE; COMMUNION TO BE FORGIVEN vs. COMMUNION BECAUSE FORGIVEN, etc.). This has the effect of eroding the authority of God’s Word, and of portraying him as more restrictive than he is. How many of you have been alienated by God through this tactic?

Then he denies God’s Word (3:4), suggesting that Eve is a gullible fool for believing it. “He told you you would die if you ate that? You’ve got to be kidding me! Do I look like I’m dead? No way will you die! You can’t be stupid enough to believe that!”

This is the way Satan has undercut the credibility of the Bible in our culture. Not by providing conclusive proof that it makes mistakes or contradicts itself (“COMMON OBJECTIONS #4), but by simply dogmatically asserting that it’s just a human book and that only the naïve and uneducated believe it. You get this in the classroom, through the media, and you hear it in your own mind (especially as a Christian).

This raises the obvious question of why God would give them false information. Satan answers the question he has raised by slandering God’s character. “Devil” comes from the Greek diaballos, which means “to cast against” or “to slander.” The slander that was implicit in 3:1b,4 now becomes explicit in 3:5 (read).

He claims that God is deliberately keeping them in the dark through this prohibition (“your eyes will be opened”). He implies that God’s definition of good and evil is evil!

This is a message that resonates deeply within our hearts—the suspicion that God is holding out on me, that he will burn me if I entrust myself to him and his direction.

If they can’t trust God to tell them what is good and evil, where should they turn for this direction? Satan’s answer is “Look to yourself.” What a flattering suggestion! They don’t need God’s moral direction—they can become their own gods by defining for themselves what is good and evil. This is the path of enlightenment and freedom, and we have heard it ever since.

We hear this voice through secular philosophy.

IMMANUEL KANT: “(Genesis 3 is the account of the) transition from an uncultured, merely animal condition to the state of humanity, from bondage to instinct to rational control—in a word, from the tutelage of nature to the state of freedom.”2

HUMANIST MANIFESTO: “Away with special revelation, away with the heavenly law. We will decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.”

We also hear this voice through religion.

LIBERAL THEOLOGY: “What happens here is not a ‘Fall,’ but an awakening.”3

EASTERN MYSTICISM (VIDEO CLIP OF JOSEPH CAMBELL’S “THE POWER OF MYTH”): What is the message here?

Jesus wasn’t God in any unique sense. He is our example in realizing his innate divinity (quote is from pseudepigraphical Gospel of Thomas)

We need to realize that we are God.

We have to go past biblical doctrine because it is an obstacle to God.

We have to reject the biblical emphasis on God’s ethical authority.

We have to find the Word in ourselves.

Having accepted suspicion about God’s love and trustworthiness, Eve now looks to God’s creation rather than to God himself for fulfillment of her personhood (read 3:6a). What before she viewed as a clear rejection of God’s loving authority, she now sees with different eyes: “I need something I do not now have in order to be happy.”

She now sees the sensual pleasure of the fruit, its beauty, and the power it possesses as the keys to her own self-actualization. (Indeed, she has already revolted at this point. All revolt and obedience begin in the thought-world, and are then manifested in our words and actions.)

Note the similarity between the phrase “she saw that the tree was good . . .” and statement “ . . . and God saw that it was good . . .” (1:21). Eve has arrogated to herself the authority to decide what is good.

Satan continues to seduce us from life with God through these same means which the Bible calls the “world-system” (1 Jn. 2:15,16). Hedonism, materialism and egotism do a great job of distracting people from the only One who can truly fulfill them.

Do you recognize the voice of Satan? Is it more discernible to you now?

The Aftermath

Read 3:6b. This passage (and the rest of the biblical record) make it clear that both Adam and Eve were responsible for this revolt. Adam may have been present throughout this whole conversation (the “you”s throughout are plural; “ . . . she gave also to her husband with her . . .”—which makes him just as culpable because he should have spoken up. She initiates; he acquiesces (“Whatever . . . “), choosing companionship with his wife over fellowship with God.

IRONY: Adam and Eve were already “like God” because they were created in God’s image. In seeking to become more than what God designed them to be, they became far less than what God wanted them to be. In seeking to take a step upward, they fell downward. They gained nothing and lost everything.

TRAGEDY: And this fall has affected all humanity and the world we live in. From now on, humanity retains something of God’s image—but that image is broken and distorted. This is why we see such contradictory polarities in humanity: nobility and cruelty, power and impotence, etc.

“What a chimera then is man! What a novelty, what a monster, what a chaos, what a subject of contradiction, what a prodigy! A judge of all things, feeble worm of the earth, depository of truth; cloaca of uncertainty and error. The glory and the shame of the universe.” 4

Only the Bible both describes humans accurately in this area and explains why we are this way. We will take a close look at this next week.

HOPE: God allows us to reap the consequences of our revolt against him, but he has not abandoned us. No sooner did Adam and Eve revolt than God spoke the first word about his rescue plan. We’re going to take a close look at this in two weeks, but let’s end with one insight on it.

Adam and Eve were created in a state of “life”—fellowship with God. They were to maintain this by following God’s instructions about good and evil. We are now born into a state of “death”—separation from God, which renders us incapable of fully following God’s moral instructions. Because of this fact, God now prioritizes “life and death” over “good and evil.”

We tend to seek reconciliation with God through doing the good and avoiding the evil (WORKS). This is why people who have “been good” think they have the inside track on heaven. This is why people who have done evil assume God won’t accept them—at least not until they clean themselves up first.

But God reverses this (GRACE). It’s that he’s indifferent to good and evil—it’s that he knows we need life before there can be any lasting moral change. So he offers us life through Jesus Christ as a free gift—and then he works in our lives for good and against evil.

Therefore, as God confronts you today, his primary question is not “How evil have you been? Do you promise to be good?” but rather “Do you want life?” Read 1 Jn. 5:11,12. This is your choice today . . . 

Footnotes

1 Victor P. Hamilton, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing, 1990), p. 186.

2 Cited in “Conjectural Beginning of Human History,” in Kant on History, ed. L. W. Beck (Indianapolis: Liberal Arts, 1963), p. 60.

3 J. Baker, “The Myth of Man’s ‘Fall’—A Reappraisal,” Expository Times 92 (1980/81) 235-237.

4 Blaise Pascal, “Pensees.”

Copyright 1998 Gary DeLashmutt