Summary: Like our first parents, each of us have sinned and fallen short of God's glory. The story of the Fall tells us much about God's giving heart, Satan's destructive lies, and humanity's need for a Savior, of which God provided from the beginning.
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
“Genesis” means “beginnings.” This first book of the Bible introduces us to the beginning of creation and lots of other things. Today we’ll look at “The Fall,” the beginning of sin and all that goes wrong with the world. It would be nice to blame Adam and Eve, our first parents, but if we’re truthful, we all find a way to rebel against God from time to time. G. K. Chesterton put it another way when he said, “There is only one doctrine that can be empirically verified: the doctrine of original sin.” We have all tested it as we have each sinned against God.
But we’ll also see that God is not surprised by the first couple’s fall from grace, nor from ours. Indeed, he has had a solution to our sin problem from the very beginning. In fact, when we look at the story of “Paradise Lost,” we discover something important about God, something important about Satan, and something important ourselves.
First, let’s start with God: we see in this story that God wants to bless us with everything we need, including himself. He told the first man, “Feel free to eat of any tree in the garden of Eden, any tree that is, except one.” Healthy protective love gives boundaries. Some people say, “Why did God even plant that tree of the knowledge of good and evil if he knew Adam and Eve would choose it despite his warning?” From the very beginning, God allowed his children the ability to disobey, for without that, how can one freely obey? And what kind of a relationship would he have with them if he compelled their obedience?
Now compare what God gave them with what he declared off limits: they could enjoy many, many trees with wonderful fruit, but would need to avoid just one tree. The Hebrew conveys very empathically in Genesis 2:16, “You may freely eat;” today we might say, “Eat to your heart’s content.” The New King James Study Bible notes, God gives “permission before restriction.”
We have a generous God. Sometimes we focus only on his restrictions, thinking he holds back all the fun stuff. Yet, the Bible says his commands are not burdensome, but are for our own good. And we’re like the child who sulks because Dad won’t let us play in the road, even though we have a large fenced yard all around us.
Consider all the blessings God gave this first couple. Not only did they have lots of food, they had productive work—to take care of the garden; they had God’s presence as he walked with them in the cool of the day; and they had all this forever, as indicated by the Tree of Life. They had everything they needed. They of all people should have been most grateful. Yet they were not content.
Instead of focusing on what they did have, they focused on the one thing they did not have. Instead of trusting God and his word, they trusted the word of a creature we now know as Satan. The Bible calls him the devil, the father of all lies (John 8:44), the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). And we see him here, the craftiest of all the creatures, misleading Eve with half-truths and outright lies.
The first thing Satan did was to get Eve to question God’s goodness. He did this by exaggerating God’s boundaries. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Now Eve corrected Satan’s error immediately, but notice how she was now focused on what she did not have instead of what she did have.
Next Satan questioned God’s motives. He said in verse 4 and 5, “You will not certainly die, for God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” He suggested God lied to them out of jealousy that they would become like him. This is ironic, because Adam and Eve were already like God. They carried the image of God within them. In thirsting for all knowledge apart from God, now they would gain some knowledge all right, but it would all be evil knowledge.
Recently we watched a show about Aldrich Ames, the Soviet mole in the CIA back in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. One day he reported in fear to his KGB handler, stating he had been ordered to take a polygraph. The Soviet agent assured him he could pass it, that all he needed to do was to couch a little truth within each lie. So that is what he did. And that is what Satan does with us. He feeds us half-truths, or half-lies, just as he did Eve.