Let's turn together now to Genesis 3. As we turn there we can note that since Satan is present here in the garden, that lets us know that the fall in the angelic world must have already taken place. There couldn't have been a tempter if Satan and his angels hadn't already fallen. This is also a stark reminder for us, that what God is about to do for Adam and Eve something that He didn't have to do. He didn't give the fallen angels a second chance. But God would put into motion a plan of redemption for fallen humanity.
But before we can talk about what God would do to redeem fallen humanity, we have to understand why it is that fallen humanity needs to be redeemed. The passage that we're going to be looking at together is absolutely essential, because without a true understanding of our sin, we can never really understand or embrace God's grace. And we can learn a few things in particular about sin in Genesis 3:1-13. . .1
1. The ENTRANCE of sin: How Satan Tempts
A) He questions God's CHARACTER (v1): Here in verse 1, Satan begins with insinuation rather with an argument: “Has God really said. . ?” What's He doing? He's questioning God's character. How? By making God's command seem much harsher than it really was. What was God's command? To eat of any tree in the garden except one. But what did Satan insinuate? “Eve, did God really say you couldn't eat any of the fruit trees in this whole garden?? Gosh, that seems pretty stern and unreasonable, doesn't it. . ?” Satan is insinuating that God is a harsh and domineering God. He's calling into question God's character. He's insinuating that God isn't really, truly, good.
And Satan hasn't changed. Isn't it true that one of his favorite ways to draw our hearts away from Christ is still to call into question God's goodness to us?2 Just like Absalom drew away the hearts of the people by whispering lies about the King (remember that?).3 The snake's still whispering lies to us about our God.4 One pastor put it really simply: “In time of temptation, believe Christ rather than the devil. Believe truth from truth itself. Hearken not to a liar, an enemy, and a murderer.”5
B) He contradicts God's WORD (v4): Now in verse 4, Satan directly contradicts what God had said. In particular, Satan lies about what God had said concerning the consequences of sin. In verse 4, Satan lies to Eve about what will happen if she eats the fruit: “You surely will not die!” Satan is telling Eve that there won't be any consequences for doing this—there won't be any consequences for sin.
That sounds familiar too, doesn't it. The whole world seems to be captivated by the lie that the only kind of sin that would endanger anyone eternally is reserved for people like Hitler or Stalin or ISIS' “Jihadi John.” The world recklessly affirms just like the snake: “You surely will not surely die!” God tells us different: “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). The smallest sin merits God's wrath.
C) He perverts God's WAYS (v5): In verse 4, Satan lied to Eve about sins' consequences. Now in verse 5 he lies to her about sins' pleasures: “For 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.” What's Satan doing? He's whispering to Eve the lie that sin will make her happy. He's telling her that sin is something desirable and good. He's feeding her the lie that happiness isn't found in following God—but in defying Him.
Has he ever whispered that lie into your ears? Did you believe it? If you believed it and took and ate that poisonous fruit (whether it was lust or unforgiveness or anything else), did it really make you happy? Satan always feeds us this lie that sin will make us happy—but we only end up miserable.
In particular, Satan tells Eve that she and Adam6 would “be like God.” It's ironic that Satan uses this lie in particular for at least two reasons. First, Adam and Eve were created in the image of God and embodied that image in the fullest sense possible. It was only when they disobeyed God's command that that image was frightfully corrupted. So, never was humanity more “like God” than Adam and Eve before their fall into sin. Secondly, Satan's lie here is ironic because it was exactly the desire to be like God that caused Satan himself to fall from heaven.7 Satan here implants into Eve's heart the same deadly covetousness that had led him to rebel against the Lord and fall from Him forever.8
So, here we see Satan luring Eve by declaring that she (and Adam) would be like God. We saw that it was a lie (sin would make man profoundly unlike God). But why was it that this sounded so good to Eve? To be like God? How sobering that Eve began to think that knowing God wasn't enough—that it was a more preferable thing to actually be God. Eve was willing to trade in knowing God for being God. What about us? What ways are we tempted like Eve to try to be like God (be God)?9
We all know what happened.10 We read in Genesis 3:6, “When 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, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.”11 Some scholars12 have compared the description of Eve's fall into sin to what Scripture says in 1 John 2:16:
We might well ask, where was Adam when all this was happening? Even Eve's falling into sin was ultimately Adam's fault. It was Adam's duty to protect his wife. And by the way, if you are a husband, this is exactly what your duty is. But Adam was silent. So, we read in Genesis 3:6 that Eve ate of the fruit and Adam ate with her. And death was unleashed. But before we judge Adam and Eve, let's remember that we are just as foolish and fickle. We fall prey to the lies of sin every day.
We're no better than our fathers. But the time would come in which God himself would mend everything that happened on that day. A second Adam would come into the world. In the wilderness, Jesus was likewise tempted by the serpent in three ways to give into sin (Luke 4:1-13).13 But where Adam fell, Jesus stood. And because He stood, we stand in and through Him. Death had come into the world through one tree; but life would come into the world through another. In one garden, it was death that was unleashed; but later—in another garden—it would be resurrection.14
2. The NATURE of sin: What Sin Is
From this account of man's fall in Genesis 3, we also learn about what sin is. What are Adam and Eve doing when they start to listen to Satan's lies? They are setting themselves up as judges to decide for themselves what's right and wrong. And in doing so, they're rebelling against God's rightful authority over them. This is the essence of what sin is: it's rebellion against God's authority (vv4-6).15
Psalm 8 is a psalm that David wrote reflecting on creation and man's place in creation. David asks in the psalm, “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him. . . ?” In other words, David's asking, “Who are we, O God? Who are we that You should take thought of us?” It's a good question. But when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden it was because they went from asking, “Who are we?” — to asking “Who is He?” They went from asking “Who are we that God should do anything for us?” — to asking, “Who is He that He should tell us what to do or how to live?” Wow. That's what sin is.16
It was this issue of authority that was the major theme of the book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). This is the essence of sin—making ourselves the judge of right and wrong instead of submitting to God's authority. And, if you remember, this is precisely the opposite of what the Savior did. Jesus submitted himself in every way to the Father, “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
Maybe we need to let God search us here. Are there any ways we're refusing to surrender ourselves to Him and His Word? Are we submitting our heart and life fully to the scrutiny of the Bible?17
3. The EFFECTS of sin: What Sin Does
Satan had told the woman that eating the forbidden fruit would bring enlightenment and happiness. Instead, sin brought nothing but shame and estrangement. Satan had told them that their eyes would be opened (3:5). The father of lies is an expert at telling half-truths. It's true, when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit, Scripture tells us that, indeed, at that moment, “the eyes of both of them were opened” (3:7). Their eyes were opened. But not in the way that they had thought or wanted. Instead of stepping into a dreamworld, they found that they had woken up into a living nightmare.
A) Sin created DIVINE discord: It brought SHAME and DEFILEMENT: In Genesis 2:25 we read, “the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” But after eating the fruit the Lord had forbidden, the two of them realize they're naked and begin to sew fig leaves together to cover themselves (3:7). They were once naked and unashamed. But now they find themselves defiled and shame-filled. Sowing together the fig leaves was a feeble attempt to cover over the shame they were newly experiencing.18 And this is what sin continues to do: it promises life but in the end it only leaves us dirty and ashamed. Sin also resulted in GUILT and FEAR: When the Lord comes into the garden, Adam and Eve hide themselves (3:8-10). Before, they had enjoyed sweet fellowship with their Creator, but now they run from Him. Sin had created a massive chasm between God and man.
B) Sin created HUMAN discord: Sin didn't only create estrangement between God and man. It also created estrangement between the man and his wife. As the Lord speaks with them, they now begin to blame each other. Adam admits to eating the fruit, but puts the blame directly on Eve—and not only on Eve—but even on the Lord himself when he says: “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (3:12). It may have been that Adam himself couldn't believe the words as they were coming out of his mouth. Up until now he had only defended Eve with his words. Now he's using words to attack and condemn her. Adam blames Eve, then Eve in turn blames the snake (3:13). In effect, she says, “Satan made me do it.” Making excuses for sin would be a characteristic of mankind from that day onward: “Yes, I did it—but it wasn't my fault. . .”
1 The outline of this section gleaned from Ligon Duncan's course on Covenant Theology.
2 Octavius Winslow applies this particularly to difficult seasons in the Christian life: “Hard and harsh thoughts of God will be the effect of wrong interpretations of his dealings. If for one moment we remove the eye from off the heart of God. . .we are prepared to give heed to every dark suggestion of the adversary; that moment we look at the dispensation with a different mind. . .we view. . .the covenant God. . .as unkind, unloving, and severe.” (Personal Declension and Revival, p58).
3 See 2 Samuel 15:1-6. Absalom here serves as a picture of how Satan whispers lies to us about the King.
4 And still so subtly; not now coming to us in the form of a snake, but doesn't he often come to us in the form of a thought?
5 Richard Sibbes, The Bruised Reed, p61.
6 The Hebrew second person pronouns here are plural.
7 This is alluded to in Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:11-17. See also 1 Timothy 3:6 and Jude 6.
8 So, though Satan pretended to have Eve's best interest in mind, his real motivation was to make her just as miserable as he was. A good thing for us to remember: Satan doesn't have your best interest in mind; he just wants to make you miserable.
9 Let's get really practical for those who are called to the ministry in particular: Ambition comes straight from the pit of hell. But it can so often appear in sheep's clothing: being remarkable, exceptional, extraordinary, noteworthy, set apart from others. These can be attractive, alluring qualities for a minister of the gospel. And they can flow from pure desires: IE, “I don't want my life to be ordinary: I want to really make a difference for Jesus.” But when our goal in life and ministry begins to transition from simply knowing God and walking with Him to being radical or extraordinary, something has gone terribly wrong. Amidst the ooh-ing and ahh-ing of the religious crowd of his day, John the Baptist took his stand and said, “I am not the Christ.” It's a truth we ought to engrave on our hearts. Much of these applications are taken from Zack Eswine's Sensing Jesus, pp21-25. Let me quote one more section here at length: “Whatever he once was—earnest, or zealous, or genuine—Jesus teaches us that a breach within the being of this teacher has grown. But what's scary is that the teacher does not know this. He believers that what he sees in the mirror accurately reflects his true and not his false self. . .So he says the awful thing with conviction and, of all places, in prayer: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men' (Luke 18:11). And there it is: the deadly air; the poisoned belief that in comparison to other men we can become exceptional in God's eyes. This Pharisee doesn't have to surrender to the same human reality that others do. So somewhere along the line this man of God began to say to himself statements such as, 'For God's sake, I will not be ordinary.' 'Mine will be no usual life and no routine ministry.' 'I will do what no others can for God.' 'God will treat me more favorably than he does others.' 'I will preach, pray, and serve in a way that sets me apart from my neighbors and colleagues.' 'I do not sin like other men do.' ” (From Sensing Jesus, p21).
10 We know Adam fell. But why? Vos makes the following clarification: “One may not say that Adam fell because the grace of God left him, but through his fall, one must say, Adam fell in an incomprehensible way from the grace of God.” (p53).
11 We could note here that these same three Hebrew verbs (saw, coveted, took) are used to describe Achan's sin in Joshua 7:21. Achan's sin seems to serve as a picture for us of this first sin in the garden, for his whole family is put to death with him on account of the sin which only he himself committed (stealing the bar of gold during the conquest of Jericho).
12 For example, Henry Ainsworth (Annotations on the Pentateuch); Herman Hoeksema (Reformed Dogmatics).
13 Some believe these temptations can also be described as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.
14 John 19:41 says, “Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. Therefore because of the Jewish day of preparation, since the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”
15 Berkhof: “Starting from the pre-supposition that he had certain rights as over against God, man allowed the new center, which he found in himself, to operate against his Maker.” Hoeksema: “Here sin is revealed in its deepest principle: to negate God, to deny his sovereignty, and to be our own God, determining for ourselves what shall be good and what shall be evil.”
16 Insight gleaned gratefully from Tim Cain, pastor of Kaleo Church in San Diego.
17 This question convicted me. Taken from The Reformation Heritage Study Bible, pXII (Reading the Bible Experientially).
18 As Herman Hoeksema puts it: “The first result of the disobedience of Adam and Eve was that their eyes were opened, and they knew that they were naked (v7). This does not mean that they now passed from a state of childish innocence or naivete into a state of moral self-consciousness, but that they realized their sinful condition; they knew and were conscious that their bodies had become the instruments of sin.” (Reformed Dogmatics, pp364-65).