As we have already seen in previous sessions. Mankind was created in the image of God; free-will beings. Under one single law of God, recorded for us in Genesis 2:17, Adam was placed under probation:
“but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”” (Gen 2:17 NKJV)
At some point, soon after this command was given, the original sinner, satan, entered the body of a serpent, and was allowed to tempt, or test, God’s man and woman. Unlike satan, whose temptation came from within; pride leading to lust; Adam and Eve were tempted from without; lust leading to pride.
In his jealousy and lust for the dominion given to Adam, Satan sought to tear them from their perfect relationship with God and ensnare them in the same sin of self-will and self-exaltation he himself had fallen into.
Mankind was tempted in their total being – body, soul and spirit
The perfect garden in Eden was the location of this frightening scene. From the outside in, satan sought to entice Adam and Eve to sin:
“Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, “You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 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.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” (Gen 3:1-7 NKJV)
Man’s total being was tempted – and fell into depravity. It must be remembered however that to be tempted is not sin. Only when we succumb to temptation do we actually sin. John the Apostle defines the boundaries of temptation for us:
“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.” (1John 2:15-17 NKJV)
- Temptation of the body, the lust of the flesh. The tree was good for food.
- Temptation of the soul, the lust of the eyes. The tree was pleasant to the eyes.
- Temptation of the spirit, the pride of life. The tree was desired to make one wise, making them as gods, knowing both good and evil.
The fall of man was total, producing total depravity; body, soul and spirit.
In describing this event theologian Lewis Chafer writes:
“The essential fact, which cannot be restated too often, is that, in his temptation, Satan proposed to the first parents that they adopt the precise course he had himself espoused and pursued, which was to assume independence of God by departing from His will and purpose. Short-sighted ambition doubly blinded by unholy pride was willing to exchange the perfection of estate and destiny which the infinite love, wisdom, and power of the Creator has designed, for the wretched warfare of a self-centered life with its eternal agonizing experience in death. Evidently the whole truth was not displayed before these human beings. They were told that they would be like Elohim (Gen. 3:5 ), but only in one respect—their eyes would be open and they would know good and evil they were, as created, experiencing the good; as fallen they would experience the evil. They had nothing to gain but rather everything to lose. The creature, whether angel or human, is by creation not only the property of the Creator by rights more vital than any other, but, as created, the creature is wholly dependent on the Creator. This relationship was blessed indeed before the fall and engendered no offense. By repudiating God through disobedience, Adam and Eve embarked upon a tempest-tossed, shoreless sea without compass, rudder, or helm. Such a course could only lead to ignominious failure and to the final judgments of the One whom they had rejected and abjured. The truth that sin is insanity is thus fully demonstrated.
In the last analysis, there are but two philosophies of life. One is to be conformed to the will of God which is the original divine arrangement, the other is to forsake the Creator and renounce His authority and purpose. In respect to the latter philosophy, it may be said that there is probably no pride so despicable as that which resents the authority of the Creator and which presumes to devise a program of life and achievement which is a substitute for the original plan and purpose of God. One philosophy is satanic, and this hideous fact is not changed even though the whole human race has embraced the satanic ideal. Appearing in the Garden, Satan brought no great volume elucidating his philosophy. Having led up to his ignoble proposition with such strategy as only Satan can command—he appealed to natural desires, he belittled sin, he attacked the character of God by intimating that God is untrustworthy and unloving—he proposed a likeness to Elohim. The translation ‘Be as Gods’ is most misleading. The original text says, ‘Be as Elohim.’ The satanic philosophy is expressed perfectly in these brief words and it leads on, regardless of a moment of satisfaction of self and pride, to the lake of fire, and the same end is announced for all, angels or human beings, who adopt and pursue this course to its bitter end.
Satan’s purpose did not consist merely in rejecting God; he was designing a vast cosmos world system in which he proposed to utilize and misappropriate the elements which belong to God’s creation, which, in themselves, are good. Satan creates nothing. No step in the satanic cosmos project was more essential than that he should secure the allegiance of humanity. The issues at stake in the Garden of Eden were, in respect to Satan’s career, such as would determine his realization of his whole undertaking. He must gain supremacy over man or fail completely. Little did Adam and Eve realize that, so far from attaining independence, they were becoming bondslaves to sin and Satan.” (Systematic Theology, Vol. II)
The awful power of this one transgression is hard to comprehend. Again Chafer writes:
“One individual, the first of the human creation, committed one sin and that sin being apparently so innocuous men are prone to ridicule the thought that God would notice it at all; yet that one sin is, according to divine estimation, sufficiently evil to cause the degeneracy and depravity of the unfallen person who committed the sin, and to cause uncounted millions of his posterity to suffer in the flesh and die, and the vast majority of them to spend eternity in the realms of woe.” (Systematic Theology, Vol. II)
Just as it is impossible for us to comprehend the lofty heights of God’s holiness, so the depths of man’s sinfulness, and the nefarious nature of even the most seemingly inoffensive sin, can only be slightly penetrated. As we consider however the potency of sin, we cannot fail to wonder at the overwhelming, almost unspeakable, power of grace.
This one sin – one act of unrighteousness – spewed into the generations that followed untold suffering, death, disease and confusion. Following this, thousands upon thousands of equally destructive sins were added. Within only a few years the murderous instinct of earth’s new ruler was manifest, brother against brother, to the point where even the imaginations of the world’s population were defiled from their youth. If one sin could wreak such havoc, what of the host of transgressions that followed it?
Paul tells us in the book of Romans:
“Well then, as one man’s trespass [one man’s false step and falling away led] to condemnation for all men, so one Man’s act of righteousness [leads] to acquittal and right standing with God and life for all men.” (Rom 5:18 AMP)
Regardless of it exceedingly potent nature, even the multitudinous sins of generations were no competition for one act of righteousness. Christ’s sacrifice was completely effective to eradicate sin’s power over mankind!
The nature of temptation
From these first verses exposing how the tempter works we can learn much about the nature of temptation.
Mankind was tempted in relation to God-given instincts
- Lust (covetousness)
Satan always seeks to pervert basic God-given instincts. Satan appealed to the appetite of Eve’s flesh, tempting her to satisfy a God-given appetite for food. Eve could have satisfied this desire with any other fruit of the garden, but the tempter sought to exploit and pervert a God-given instinct. God ordained instincts for self-preservation (enabling man to take care of himself), self-sustenance (seeking food and drink) or self-propagation (the sexual instinct), are perverted into inordinate and self-destructive lusts.
“For people will be lovers of self and [utterly] self-centered, lovers of money and aroused by an inordinate [greedy] desire for wealth, proud and arrogant and contemptuous boasters. They will be abusive (blasphemous, scoffing), disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy and profane.” (2Tim 3:2 AMP)
Out of inordinate desire for what is forbidden, pride was engendered in the hearts of the mother and father of mankind, creating a compulsion to ignore the loving parameters set by the Creator and venture in their own direction. Every temptation places something before the imagination that exalts itself above the knowledge of God; a pretender promising satisfaction but in reality lacking all substance.
“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” (2Cor 10:4-6 NKJV)
Adam and Eve could have taken such imaginations captive, knowing that they were contrary to their Father’s will, and expelled satan from their presence as the impostor that he was.
Enticed by the serpent’s appeal, the final step was to wilfully take an independent and deliberate step to disobey God. This act of self-will is the very thing satan was aiming at. Until Adam made a definite response of his will toward the principle of sin, he remained outside of its grip. Immediately his will submitted to the suggestions of the serpent, Adam’s choice was made; he chose to be independent of God, to be a law unto himself, “and thus chose death for himself and for the entire unborn human race in his loins.” (Conner, “Foundations” p146)
Mankind was tempted in relation to the law of God
At this time one law existed: do not eat of the tree of good and evil. The consequences of transgression were made plain, and Adam and his wife were at liberty to do everything other than this one thing.
The schemes of satan are openly displayed in this transaction:
- First he seeks to cast doubt upon the authority of God’s word; “hath God said?” To even enter the conversation with the serpent concerning the integrity of God’s Word is the beginning of unbelief.
- Secondly, the serpent utilised Eve’s ignorance of God’s actual words. Eve added to the word, extending its restriction to even touching the tree, and then watered down the consequences, substituting “lest ye die” for the more definite and conclusive, “thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17 and 3:3). A thorough personal knowledge (not second hand) is necessary to fight temptation effectively, as we witness with Jesus temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4 and Luke 4).
- Once unbelief and doubt have been sown, satan outright denies the Word: “ye shall not surely die.”
- The character and intention of God is then slandered, suggesting that God is somehow selfishly withholding what ‘rightfully’ belongs to mankind. Such deception is rampant today when men accuse God of unfairness, spitefulness and injustice in any form. God’s awesome love for mankind could not be clearer, displayed for all to see in the person of Jesus Christ. Any man arguing against the perfect character of Christ must indeed be deceived.
- The conclusion of this awful affair was the deception of Eve, who transgressed; and almost unbelievably, the wilful sin of Adam, who knowingly rejected God’s command in favour of satan’s lie. As the head of his wife, and because he was not deceived, the sin was charged to the man as the seed bearer of the entire human race.
“And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.” (1Tim 2:14 NKJV)
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned—” (Rom 5:12 NKJV)