One of the key elements in a narrative is a conflict. What then, is the problem of life according to the Bible? In the Christian worldview, Gen 3 is an important passage and it is important to understand what it says before moving on to understand the rest of the Bible.
With this in mind, let us begin!
A. The temptation of the Fall: the evil of sin is rebellion and idolatry (3:1-6)
A new character enters the scene in verse 1. We are introduced to the serpent, who is not called the devil/Satan yet. The serpent was described as being one of the beasts of the field. This flows from the idea of categories established in Genesis 1 and 2, and we are told that the serpent is merely a part of creation. The Bible is consistently clear that there is truly only one Creator, and all other creatures fall under the created. Right at the beginning, the Bible rejects the idea of dualism. God and Satan are not equal. Furthermore, the voice of temptation comes from inside creation and not from God. Right at the beginning of chapter 3, we learn one important lesson. We are reminded that we are to read God's Word regularly and carefulyl on God's terms. How are you in your walk? Are you assuming things and just uttering Christian clichés without knowing their meanings? Are we endeavoring to know God as He is, not what we assume He is or what others say He is?
Verses 2-6 is the temptation of Eve. Notice how the serpent leads Eve:
- The serpent begins with a question, and the use of the word "actually" to cast doubts on God's command. His aim was to get Eve to recall what God said and doubt His words.
- Eve replied, but she added an extra clause (“touch it”). Implied in this addition was some form of doubt, probably wondering what the big deal was with the tree. In this we see that temptations begin when we begin to doubt.
- The serpent then replies with the statement “You will not surely die”. Satan distorts the truth and through it implies that God is a liar. He continues to imply that God is selfish and keeping her from something (“For God knows...”). Sin begins when we distort what God has revealed about Himself, thinking of Him as less that who He says He is.
- Finally, Eve has an epiphany. The serpent's words have evoked creaturely longings in he (v.6). Even hungered and longed for beauty and widom above God. This was the real problem. To her, the fruit was a “delight to the eyes”. There is nothing wrong with beauty but Eve was preoccupied with just that one forbidden fruit despite all the other good trees and fruits that God had provided abundantly. Furthermore, in desiring the fruit that made one wise, what is she saying about God? Implicit in that desire is the fact that God had no place in her heart as she wondered about the goodness of God. She chose to focus on this one restriction while forgetting all the abundance and generosity of God. Why is this evil? Is God just petty? This is evil because, as we are reminded in Rom 1, we live in God’s world and we should be responsible to Him. Her desire for food part of a human nature, but in this case, she sought to rebel against God’s instructions. For the Christian, Gen 3 helps us understand our constant battle with sin. Since then, sin has marred this world that we live in. Look at the injustice, rich-poor divide, broken hearts, lying and cheating in relationships etc around us. Genesis 3 helps us make sense of our world.
How did Eve react? Firstly, she took and ate it. Then, she gave it to Adam. What did Adam do? He did nothing to stop her from taking and eating, and thus, he was as responsible as Eve was. Adam too, was present when God gave the command not to eat from that tree. Adam too, ate when Eve gave it to him.
Throughout the temptation sequence, it is obvious to us as readers that the serpent took truths and twisted them. Through his lies, Eve gradually began to think that she needed to look out for herself. The serpent casted doubts on God's character and his lies led her to ignore the other good provisions that the powerful Creator God had in place for her. How insidious! Yet, sin always works this way. This account also helps us realise that desire in and of itself is possibly a good thing, but the problem arises when something in creation rises above the Creator and usurps the rightful place of this Creator God.
What is sin, then? Sin is not just the action of disobedience. It is so profoundly evil because it puts God below us. In the fall, creator and creature roles are reversed. In Rom 1:21, we see how sin is a failure to honour God or to give thanks to Him. In Rom 1:22-23, we read of how all sin takes creation and lifts it above the Creator. Until we begin to see that and see that sin is so evil, we will not be able to grasp the goodness of God. The horror of Gen 3 is not just because the first man and woman took a forbidden fruit. Their actions was a sign to the great God who created everything and provided for them that they did not need Him. Sin is evil, because it is the creaturely Man's rebellion against the all-loving, all-powerful Creator God.
B. The consequence of the Fall: a broken world (3:7-8)
Because of their actions, things change. Verse 7 helps us see the consequence of sin. Their eyes were opened and they knew that they were naked (c.f. 2:25). Their physical nakedness was a reflection of spiritual nakedness. At this moment, guilt entered paradise and they began to see their own spiritual ugliness and who they had become. As a result of their shame, they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths to cover up their embarrassment. Do you realise that in the same way, we are always trying to cover up our guilt and shame and our sins by rationalizing them? Adam and Eve felt ugly outside because they were truly ugly inside. Furthermore, they were trying to hide from God and from each other! Sin, ultimately led to alienation at different levels.
- Alienation from self, as they saw their failure to live up to self
- Alienation from the other, as Adam did not fulfill his role as protector and Eve failed in her role as helper
- Alienated from God, as their action betrayed their rebellious hearts
They tried to hide, but God did not allow them to. In verse 8, we read that God was walking in the cool of the day, a picture of God enjoying and delighting in His creation. Yet, where was man? Man was hiding. Man's relationship to God was marred because of sin. Gone were the days of close intimacy and relationship. If we pause and reflect, we will realise that in many ways we are still hiding and running away from God today. We could express it in blatant rebellion and idolatry. Yet, we could also do it more subtly, by being close but not close enough. We could do all the right things and appear right on the outside, yet our hearts are not close enough. Gen 3 reminds us that sin has ruined all our relationships with God. How is your walk with God today? Are you running away and hiding from Him?
C. The response to the Fall: God’s initiating grace (3:9-13)
God pursues the matter of Man's transgression, and Man responds by hiding (v.9-10). Notice how God approaches man in verse 9. He posed a question to Adam, but it was not as if God did not know the answer. Even as God confronted Adam, He was staging an encounter of grace. God was gracious and patient in reaching out to them, for he could just destroy them immediately! Yet He did not.This kind and merciful God wanted to meet Adam. God wanted them to account for their actions. He was willing to fix it, but not in an indulgent way to offer just blanket forgiveness. This is a God who calls, who reaches out.
Gen 3 helps us see the insidious nature of sin, that begins with a tiny doubt, and grows into rebellion against God. It shows us the consequences of sin and the brokenness that ensues. Yet, it hints at God's grace. Though man continues to run and hide and find ways to cover the guilt from sin, God continues to pursue him. Like Adam and Eve, we battle the same sin nature today. Like the first man and woman, we resort to many ways to hide from each other and from God. But the good news is that the God of Gen 3, is the same God today who relentlessly stages encounters of grace with those who run away from Him.
Dear friends, are you running away from this God today? Why not try running to Him instead?