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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Saturday Evening, September 15, 2007
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-5).

The third chapter of Genesis is one of the most important parts of the Bible. Many things are revealed here for the first time in the Word of God. Satan appears, speaking through the mouth of a beast. Temptation is introduced, as well as man’s first sin, which plunged the human race into depravity. Here we also see for the first time conviction of sin, human excuses, judgment and salvation by grace. Tonight we will begin an overview of this great chapter by going through it verse by verse. In this analysis we will see six great themes related to sin and salvation. I can only give the first one tonight.

I. First, temptation.

Look at verse one.

“Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (Genesis 3:1).

God had plainly told Adam,

“Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:16-17).

A little later Adam told Eve what God had said. It was simple enough: you can eat as much as you want from all the fruit trees in the Garden of Eden. But do not eat of that one tree, the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” If you eat that fruit you will die “in that day.”

Satan was an archangel who had rebelled against God, and was thus cast out of Heaven onto the earth (Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:12-17). In Ezekiel 28:13 we are told, “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God.” That clearly points beyond the “prince of Tyre” (Ezekiel 28:2) to the “king of Tyre” (Ezekiel 28:12) – Satan who was the true ruler of Tyre. And we are told that “Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God.” This means that Satan had already been cast out of Heaven and was now on Earth. He inserted himself into the serpent, possessing it, and then speaking those words to Eve, who was alone at the time, her husband being somewhere else in the Garden. In her newly created innocence, it seems likely that Eve didn’t realize that serpents don’t talk. So she was not startled when the creature spoke to her. The question Satan asked her was really a temptation to doubt the reliability of God’s Word, “Hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” Did God really say that? Did He tell you you couldn’t eat the fruit of any of the trees?

This temptation was very great, for the Serpent questioned the very Word of God, and then twisted what God had really said, that they could eat from all the trees except one. He implied that they could not eat of any tree, thus making God seem harsh and unfair to them. He changed the Word of God to “Ye shall not eat of every tree” (Genesis 3:1). This is the same temptation he uses today. When the Bible is preached in the church, Satan does his best to “pervert” the Word of God (Galatians 1:7), twist or distort the Word (II Peter 3:16), and take “away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12). He used these same techniques to persuade Eve that God was being mean to them by withholding good fruit from the forbidden tree, by insinuating that God did not want them to eat from the fruit of any tree (which was a lie).

The root of all temptation lies in Satan’s attempts to get us to disbelieve and doubt God’s Word. If he can persuade you to doubt the Bible, or disregard the plain Word of God, he has gone a long way in tempting you to sin. For instance, the Word of God tells you to separate from sinners in II Corinthians 6:14-18. The last two verses make it quite plain.

“Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate…

And [I] will be a Father unto you” (II Corinthians 6:17-18).

But Satan distorts that clear command to separate from lost friends. He may say to you, “They want you to separate from all friends.” That is a twisting, a distorting of what God really said. In II Corinthians 6:14-17 God simply tells you to separate from entanglement with lost friends. When a person doubts that God is right to tell him this, he has already fallen into a terrible temptation, as did Eve, for God will not “be a Father unto you” unless you obey Him when He says, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers” by having them for your bosom friends. If you listen to Satan on this question, you will enter into a deeper temptation, as Eve did. This is true of all temptations to doubt the Bible, which Satan puts in a person’s heart. All temptations can generally be traced to a person not believing what God says in the Bible.

But the temptation of our first parents was very great. Satan distorted the command not to eat of that one tree; he tried to prove that God was not being kind to them. Luther said, “[Satan] therefore assailed the very (divine) image [in man] and the highest power that was in (man’s) perfect, [as yet] uncorrupted nature. Indeed, he sought to abrogate [do away with] the highest worship of God which he himself had [done earlier when he was cast out of Heaven]” (Martin Luther, Th.D., Luther’s Commentary on Genesis, Zondervan Publishing House, 1958, volume I, p. 66). Satan attempts to do the same thing today. He tempts people to sin so they will not honor God in their lives. Now, notice what Satan said when he tempted her, in verses four and five.

“And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:4-5).

Here we see how Satan misled her. She had misquoted God when she added “neither shall ye touch it” and when she said “lest ye die” (v. 3). Thus, she distorted God’s command, “For in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2:17). By changing the words which God had said, she wavered back and forth between faith and unbelief. This gave Satan the opportunity to tempt her further, and tell her she would “not surely die” if she disobeyed God.

Thus Satan lied to her. That lie brought death to Adam and Eve. They died spiritually the moment they ate the fruit, and physical death was also implanted in them at that moment. This why Jesus said of Satan,

“He was a murderer from the beginning…for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44).

Satan also lied when he said, “Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (v. 5). Dr. Morris said, “Satan’s deceptions are always most effective when they have some truth in them. Through eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve would indeed come to know ‘good and evil’ but not ‘as gods’” (Henry M. Morris, Ph.D., The Defender’s Study Bible, World Publishers, 1995, note on Genesis 3:5).

When Satan lies today, he uses the same method. He twists the Word of God in people’s minds. He tells them they will not surely die if they continue in sin. He tells them that God is trying to keep them from having something good. Thus, Satan changes doubt into total unbelief. Luther said,

From this we learn what a dreadful thing it is when Satan begins to tempt a person. From one wrong he leads them to another and from seemingly little sins into even greater…ones. It was indeed wrong that Eve turned from God and His Word and listened to the Devil. But it was a far greater offence for her to yield to Satan and to regard God as a liar, for following Satan, she now began to despise God, deny His Word, and trust the father of lies against [God’s] command. This teaches us how weak man is, for if this has happened when men were still in a state of righteousness and perfection, what will happen to us now when we are sinners? (Luther, ibid., p.70).

We must conclude that our study of Genesis chapter three on that point this evening. Remember that there is a Devil. His purpose remains the same – to draw you away from God in Christ; to make you doubt the Word of God, the Holy Scriptures; to lead you away from God, into sin. He still says, “Ye shall not surely die” if you sin. Jesus said,

“Then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:12).

Dr. M. R. DeHaan said,

The tactics of Satan have not changed one bit…The Bible says you are a sinner, and unless you repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ you are lost forever, and will spend eternity in the lake of fire, in outer darkness, separated from God and His love throughout all eternity. God says this is a certainty. And the same old deceiver [Satan] comes and says, ‘Don’t you believe it; it is not as bad as all that. God will not punish [you] in eternal Hell. ’Thou shalt not surely die. Don’t be alarmed. You are not as bad as the Bible says.’ Listen, my friend, it is the Devil’s same old lie which he told in the Garden of Eden and the rest will be the same. It is God’s word against the Devil’s and common sense alone should tell you who is right, for the Devil is a liar from the beginning…Which will you believe? This Word of God – or the Devil? (M. R. DeHaan, M.D., Genesis and Evolution, Zondervan Publishing House, 1962, pp. 130-132).

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