Things Go Badly Wrong – the Fall
Genesis chapter 3 is one of the saddest, yet one of the most important, chapters in the whole Bible. Without it the rest of the Bible, and indeed human history, does not make much sense. Genesis 3 records the tragic entrance of sin into the world. The account in Genesis 3 is never treated in the rest of the Bible as anything other than historical fact. It may be presented in pictorial form but is a record of what actually happened. What happened in the Garden of Eden has affected everyone in the human race. It is our story too.
I want to divide our message today into three parts. The first part is:
1. The Cause of Sin – Temptation (Verses 1-6)
The story begins with the serpent. From many other Scripture passages we know that it was in fact Satan, or the devil, who disguised himself as a crafty snake when he came to tempt Eve. At the time, of course, in the Garden of Eden there was nothing harmful to man. There was nothing frightening about the snake. Who then was Satan? Elsewhere in the Bible we are told he was an angel who rebelled against God and was expelled from heaven. So sin and evil had come into the created order even before the serpent came to tempt Eve. When God made Adam and Eve He made them perfect – without sin. God didn't make sin and evil. Satan is the one behind sin and evil. Why did Satan tempt Eve and why does he tempt us today? I am not sure I know the answer, except that by choosing to rebel against God, Satan seems to want to destroy all that God has made. He wanted to drag others into his rebellion, and he is still in the business of trying to get people to follow his way rather than God's way. He even tempted Jesus – but of course Jesus refused to give in to Satan.
Sadly Eve did give in to the temptations of the evil one. Temptation itself is not sin. Only when we give in to the temptation do we fall into sin. And that is what happened to Eve. It all began so innocently. The tempter aroused her curiosity first of all by simply speaking to her. Then he asked a question. “Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?” It was a very subtle question. “Did God really say...?” He is trying to flatter Eve by making her think she can actually question God. On top of that Satan exaggerates things trying to make God look bad. Of course God had not said they could not eat from any of the trees in the garden. He had in fact said that they could eat from any of the trees, all except one. They had so much to enjoy and needed nothing. But Satan comes along suggesting maybe God was trying to stop them enjoying certain things.
Does this sound familiar? The evil one uses the same tactics today. He tempts us by suggesting that we are somehow missing out by sticking to God's plan and God's way. He tries to get us to doubt God and to question God's love and wisdom.
Rather than refuse to listen to the serpent, Eve started to debate with him. This is always dangerous. It is not worth arguing with Satan. He is far cleverer than we are and, like Eve, we will find ourselves confused and misled. Satan now comes out with a straight challenge to what God had said. Verses 4 & 5, “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Having distorted the Word of God, Satan now denies and contradicts it. His aim is to get Eve to doubt God's goodness, His righteousness, and His holiness. Satan tried to tempt Eve by mentioning something good – “that she could be like God”. It would not have been wrong for Eve to want to be like God. We all want to be more like Jesus – right! But Satan was misleading Eve by suggesting that the way for her to be more like God was by disobeying God. In other words, Satan was tempting her to play God herself by doing what she wanted rather than by following God's way. This is the root cause of all sin – when we choose to go our own way rather than obey God and follow His way.
Notice the steps in this downward path to disaster. First of all Eve listened to the lies of the tempter. Somehow by verse 6 we find her (and her husband by the way) with the serpent right by the tree and she was looking at its forbidden fruit. “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.” She looked at the fruit.
Believing Satan's lies about all she would gain from taking the fruit, she now starts to crave it. Then she stretches out her hand. Then she takes the fruit. Then she eats it. It is so often the same with us. We first of all believe the lies of Satan – which come through the voices around us – the media, magazines, movies, the Internet – yes, so often what comes through our ears and our eyes. Then we begin to follow the fascination which turns into craving. The craving turns into evil thoughts which in turn so often turn into evil actions and even habits. Like Eve, we take and eat.
Satan tried to make Eve think sin was good, attractive and harmless. He does the same today when he tempts us. People usually choose wrong things because they have come to believe, for them at least, those things are good. Our sins do not always appear as ugly or evil to us. Temptation is usually very attractive – at least on the surface. It is only later we discover, too late, that we have made a big mistake.
Our sinful choices and acts usually affect others too. After taking the fruit and eating it, Eve passes some over to Adam for him to eat as well. In fact all along he was there with her and said nothing. He is equally guilty of disobedience.
Someone has said “You cannot stop birds flying over your head but you can stop them making a nest in your hair”. How true. Temptation itself is not sin but yielding to it, giving in to it, is sin. None of us has to give in to Satan. Do not allow him to come in. The Bible says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Yes, we can say no to temptation. We can say no to Satan. Of course when we are tempted, we need to pray for strength from God to resist the temptation. Sometimes we need to literally run away from the temptation.
Dear friends, do not believe Satan's lies. To be truly happy and fulfilled we need to follow God's way and trust Him for all we need. Nothing Satan offers us can in any way compare with the joy and blessing of obeying our loving Creator.
2. The Consequences of Sin – Guilt and Judgment (Verses 7-19)
Once Eve and Adam had eaten the fruit they had a rude awakening. Satan had sold them the lie that being morally good and innocent was somehow not good enough. They also needed to know, by personal experience, about evil. That, of course, is a lie. You do not have to take drugs in order to know they can kill you. You do not have to lose your temper with someone and punch them on the nose in order to discover that anger can harm inter-personal relationships. Once Adam and Eve had sinned they lost their innocence. They were filled with shame and embarrassment – for they discovered they were naked. It is almost humorous thinking of them sewing fig leaves together to try and cover themselves. Verse 8 then says “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.” They felt guilty and they tried to hide from God. A guilty conscience is a warning signal from God. We need to listen to our conscience for it can help us avoid those things that spoil or even break our fellowship with the Lord. Thank God for your conscience and take care of it. If you ignore the voice of conscience it will become weak and ineffective.
Satan sold Adam and Eve the lie that ruling over all God's created order was not exciting or challenging enough. He wanted them to believe that by asserting themselves and by being independent of God they were being smart. Modern man often thinks the same way. He thinks religion (believing in God and in the Bible) is just a psychological crutch for the weak. Modern man likes to be in charge of his own destiny. He likes to assert his independence. But how sad and how foolish this is! No wonder men and women are cut off from the joy of fellowship with their Creator and Saviour. No wonder there is so much emptiness, loneliness and isolation in the world – despite the fact we are surrounded by other people. Like the Beatles song “Eleanor Rigby” - “A ll the lonely people. Where do they all come from? All the lonely people - Where do they all belong? Well loneliness and isolation is one result of sin. Sin cuts us off from our Creator and cuts us off from one another .
Satan sold Adam and Eve the lie that it was not enough to be content with the abundance of all God had already given. Satan wanted them to become greedy for more. As a result did they get more? No of course not, they even lost what God had given them. They lost paradise itself. Through their disobedience, sin entered the human race and so did death. Man was cut off from God and was forced to leave the Garden. Verse 23 tells us, “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”
Ever since Adam and Eve disobeyed God, sin has been a sad fact in human experience. You do not need to teach a child to be selfish or proud or naughty. It comes naturally. You do have to teach a child to be good – to learn to be obedient and to learn to share with others. We cannot blame our environment or our upbringing or our heredity. Although these things do influence us we cannot blame them for our own failures and our own mistakes. Just like Adam and Eve we do not like to admit we are ever in the wrong. Of course we are responsible for the choices we ourselves have made. God didn't make us like a computer – with everything programmed into it. He didn't make us like animals either – that follow their instincts and are locked into certain nature-controlled behaviour patterns. Man has a free-will. He is not a machine. We are responsible beings able to make choices.
Notice what happened when God confronted Adam and Eve. He asked Adam, “Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?” Who did Adam blame? Yes, he immediately blamed his wife. “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.” Do you think that impressed God? I doubt it. Adam was fully responsible. In fact if he had been the man he should have been he would have warned Eve not to listen to the evil one. And when God spoke to Eve who did she blame? Yes, she blamed the serpent. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” We always like to blame others, don't we?
3. The Cure for Sin – God's Saving Grace
In verse 15, God says to the serpent, “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 heal.” In this verse we see the first glimpse in the Bible of God's Plan of Salvation. Satan would try to strike the Saviour but Jesus, in dying on the Cross for our sins, would finally strike a death blow to Satan. Jesus would defeat the tempter, and destroy his power. By dying and rising again Jesus defeated death which came as a result of sin.
There is possibly also another picture, in these verses, of the coming salvation of God. Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves but it was not much use stitching leaves together. So too our attempts to reform or cover ourselves, to make ourselves presentable in God's sight, are just as pathetic. Notice what God did for Adam and Eve. Verse 21 says, “The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.” The fact God used the skins of animals implies the death of those animals – a sacrifice made so that man could be clothed. Jesus sacrificed His life for us so that we might be clothed with His righteousness. He died in our place so that we might be forgiven. When we put our faith in Him it is like throwing away our own fig leaves and putting on the garments God has prepared for us.
Yes, things went terribly wrong when man listened to Satan and fell into disobedience and sin. Human history reflects the sad fact of man's rebellion against a holy God. Yet our loving Creator God has made a way for us His creatures to be forgiven, to be rescued from the fear of death and judgment, and to recover the relationship we lost in the Garden. The choice is ours – either to continue following the way of the evil one or to turn back to God and follow Him.