By Wayne W. Walker
The inspired account of the very first sin ever committed is found in Genesis 3:1-24. Sin is a problem that every one of us faces and with which we must cope. The more we learn about the subject from the Bible, the better we will be able to avoid and overcome it. And there is a great deal that we can learn about sin from the third chapter of Genesis.
1. First, we notice the temptation. Satan, in the form of a serpent, approached Eve and focused her mind upon the prohibition. “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'” Adam and Eve could eat of every tree in the garden except one, but Satan emphasized this one negative, and thus distorted the situation. Eve apparently understood God’s command, although we are made to wonder why she added, “Nor shall you touch it.”
Then the devil very plainly changed God’s command. “You will not surely die.” All he did was add one little word, “not,” but in so doing he simply denied God’s word. There is reason to believe that the devil was equivocating. Adam and Eve would die spiritually when they ate, but not physically. In any event, Satan was living up to his reputation as the great deceiver. Then he cast doubts on God’s goodness. “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The basic appeal of humanism is to cause people to desire to be their own gods. Thus, they are deceived just as was the woman here.
Eve was tempted in the very same ways that we are tempted (I Jn. 2:15-17). She saw that the tree was good for food -the lust of the flesh. She saw that it was pleasant to the sight – the lust of the eyes. And she saw that it was desirable to make one wise – the pride of life. Jesus was tempted through these same avenues (Matt. 4:1-11). By his example, we can know that if we will resist the devil, he will flee from us also (Jas. 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:8-9). This is what Eve failed to do.
II. Because of this failure, Eve sinned. “She took of its fruit and ate.” Not satisfied with this, “She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.” Many believe, based on 1 Timothy 2:14, that Eve, being tricked, ate without fully understanding the consequences of her actions, but Adam did so with full knowledge of what he was doing. This is entirely possible. Whatever the case, both of them did the very worst thing they could do. They disobeyed God and did exactly what he had told them not to do.
Sin takes several different forms. Sometimes it is a direct transgression of God’s law, like Adam and Eve’s, doing that which God has specifically forbidden (1 Jn. 3:4). Other times, it is a failure to do what God has positively commanded must be done (Jas. 4:17). Sin may also take the form of a violation of one’s conscience, even if the act itself is not one of disobedience to what God has said (Rom. 14:23). In fact, “all unrighteousness is sin” (1 Jn. 5:17). Anything that is not right in the sight of God, i.e., in harmony with his revealed will, is sin.
III. Adam and Eve not only sinned, but also tried to cover up their sin from God. When they heard the sound of the Lord in the garden, they hid themselves among the trees. Many other people have tried to hide their sins from God, as do many people today. David thought he could hide his sin by letting time take care of it. Jonah thought he could hide his by running away from it. However, the trees of the garden could not hide Adam and Eve from God. Neither can we hide our sins from him because he is omnipresent (Psa. 139:7-12).
Since they were not able to hide from God, they evidently decided to lie their way out of their predicament. Instead of owning up to their wrong and telling God the whole truth, they merely said that they were hiding because they were naked. Ananias and Sapphira tried to cover up their sin by lying in Acts 5, and it did not work then either. God is omniscient (Psa. 139:1-6). He knows everything about us. As soon as Adam said the word, “naked,” he was trapped! “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Num. 32:23). And even if we are successful in covering up our sins from men while on earth, we shall still have to face them in the day of judgment (Eccl. 12:13-14).
Now that their lie was exposed and their sin known, the only other route left open to them, aside from acknowledgment and repentance, was to “pass the buck.” Adam blamed Eve who “gave me of the tree, and I ate.” In effect, he was also blaming God (“The woman whom You gave to be with me”), implying that if God had not given him Eve, he would not be in this mess. Eve then blamed the devil. “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” It was from Eve that Flip Wilson must have drawn his now-famous line, “The devil made me do it.” There was some truth to both of these accusations, but notice that each one was still held accountable for his or her own actions.
IV. This brings us to the punishment. God turned his attention first to Satan, whose deception was the heart of the problem. The form that he used, the serpent, was cursed to crawl on its belly. And the devil himself was promised that the seed of the woman would arise to crush his head, that is, to deliver him a crushing blow. This is sometimes called the “proto-evangelicum” for in it, the first glimmers of hope for mankind through the gospel are found. It was in Jesus Christ, who was “born of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), that this promise was ultimately fulfilled. He came to destroy the works of the devil (1 Jn. 3:8).
Next, God spoke to the woman. It was she who was beguiled by the serpent (2 Cor. 11:3). Even so, she should have known better. Therefore, God said that he would greatly multiply her sorrow in her conception, so that in pain she would bring forth children. God’s place for the woman has always been in the home, providing for the needs of her family (1 Tim. 2:15; 5:14; Tit. 2:4-5). Also, as a result of her sin, her desire was to be to her husband and he was to rule over her. God’s word teaches that women are to be in subjection to their husbands who are their heads (Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 3:1-6). Today’s feminists may not like this, but it is what God has decreed.
Then, God passed judgment on the man. No longer would he be provided with all he needed unconditionally. The ground from that time onward would bring forth thorns and thistles so that he would eat of it through toil and the sweat of his face. For this reason, mankind has always been required to work to make his livelihood (Exod. 20:9; Eph. 4:28). “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thess. 3: 10). The responsibility to provide for the needs of the family falls upon the husband and father (1 Tim. 5:8). But even more serious, whatever God had planned for human beings before the fall, they would now return to the ground from which they were taken (Eccl. 12:7; cf. Gen. 2:7). No, we do not bear the guilt of Adam’s sin, but because we are born into a sinful world and become sinners ourselves, we must bear the consequences (1 Cor. 15:21-22).
There are many lessons that we can learn from this account. We must recognize that sin is still with us (Rom. 3:23; 1 Jn. 1:8-10). There are some who seem to want to debate which kinds of sins will condemn and which will not. I do not wish to be drawn into this argument, except to say that sins which are confessed, forsaken, and covered by God will not be imputed to us (Prov. 28:13; Rom. 4:7-8). All I know to preach about sin is that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).
However, we have good news. We know that “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (Jas. 1:14-15). Therefore, we can turn to God for help to overcome temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). “And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith” (1 Jn. 5:3). And when we do sin, it is in Christ that “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Eph. 1:7).
Jesus Christ is our Advocate with the Father (1 Jn. 2:1). Therefore, if we will confess our sins, we can know that God will be faithful to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 Jn. 1:9). In this way, we have the promise that the blood of Jesus Christ the righteous will cleanse us from all sin (1 Jn. 1:7). The statement that is often made is, I believe, true that what mankind lost in Adam, we can regain through Jesus Christ. May we ever be thankful to him who died for us as a sacrifice for sin. Praise God for his love and grace!
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 3, pp. 75-76
February 4, 1988