Temptation and the Fall of Mankind
February 18, 2024

Temptation and the Fall of Mankind

Passage: Genesis 3:1-7

The Backdrop of God’s Goodness

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been in the earliest pages of the Bible – in the book of Genesis. Over and over again, we’ve seen here in the Bible that God is good. He is kind. And he shows special kindness to humanity by giving a variety of blessings, privileges, and gifts. They have everything they need for life. They live in paradise. They have a special relationship with God. They have a utopian relationship with one another. Everything is perfect. The first man and woman are given every reason to admire God, and to trust Him, and to love Him. But humanity doesn’t hold on to these things because they fall to temptation, as we’re going to see in Genesis, Chapter 3. So if you have your Bibles, turn with me to Genesis Chapter 3 – at the beginning of your Bibles. We’ll be starting in verse 1. But before I read the text, please pray with me:


The Problem of Temptation

Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil – it was the one thing God insisted that mankind must not do. God had given every other tree in the garden for food. But he warned that eating from this one tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that would bring death.

So there was an opportunity here for Adam and Eve to prove their allegiance to God by respecting His Word. But they miss their opportunity. Instead, the man and woman give in to temptation – they disbelieve God, and disregard His command. And tonight I want to explain how this happened – how Adam and Eve fell into sin – so that you and I will be equipped to recognize sin and resist it.

What Temptation Do Adam and Eve Face?

There are four basic questions I’ll be answering as we work through the text. Here’s my first question: What Temptation Do Adam and Eve Face?

In verse 1, we’re introduced to a creature in the garden – a crafty serpent. And the serpent asks, “Did God actually say ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” Now, of course, God didn’t say that at all. In Genesis 2:16, God said, “You may SURELY eat from EVERY tree in the garden BUT” – verse 17 – “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day you eat of it you shall surely die.” That’s what God said. There’s just one tree that’s off limits, because eating from that tree will bring death. And this is basically what the woman affirms in verses 2 and 3.

But right after this, the snake openly contradicts God’s warning. He says, “You will NOT surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

So what temptation is Eve facing here? Yes, she’s being tempted to eat from the forbidden tree – but there’s more going on here. When the serpent contradicts God’s Word and says, “No way – what God said will not happen – what God said is not true,” he is tempting the woman to reject God’s trustworthiness. And notice, in verse 5 – the serpent says, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened…” In other words, the serpent is claiming that God is intentionally trying to deprive Eve of wisdom and freedom and happiness. The serpent is tempting the woman to reject God’s goodness. And there’s one more thing, here, at the end of verse 5. The snake says that if the man and woman just eat this fruit, they’ll truly be like God, knowing good and evil. The snake is tempting the man and woman to reject God’s divine sacredness and otherness, and to elevate themselves as His equals.

Though there’s certainly a decision that Eve needs to make here about the fruit – what she’s going to do with it – there’s a bigger decision that’s even more foundational. What is she going to do with God? And this is ultimately the question we face every time we’re being tempted, too. Will we believe His word, or reject it? Will we be confident in his goodness, or question it? Will we honor God as God, or will we attempt to crown ourselves as King or Queen of the world?

Why Do Adam and Eve Disobey?

Adam and Eve are tempted with these questions in the garden, and in verse 6 we see that they give in: “When the woman saw the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.”

Notice, Adam and Eve were both on the scene. The text says, “She also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” So both Adam and Eve were tempted, and both gave in. But HOW COULD THIS HAPPEN? Why did Adam and Eve Disobey? This is the second major question I want to deal with tonight. Why did Adam and Eve Disobey?

We could simply say that the man and woman were deceived. But even this requires some explanation. So let me very quickly point out ten observations from the text that help to explain how Adam and Eve were seduced by temptation.

Observation 1: The temptation was unexpected. It came at an unexpected time. Temptation didn’t call ahead to schedule an appointment. It came uninvited and unannounced. And temptation also came from an unexpected source. Though we know the ancient serpent here is actually the devil from other parts of the Bible, like Revelation 12, verse 9 and Revelation 20, verse 2, Adam and Eve wouldn’t have known this! To them, he probably just seemed like another one of God’s good creatures. So the temptation came unexpectedly.

Observation 2: The temptation presented itself as friendly to our self-interests. In the second half of verse one, when the serpent takes an interest in Eve and strikes up a conversation – that snake probably sounded sincere and sympathetic. And this would have given some weight to his deception.

Observation 3: The temptation gave a plausible reinterpretation of life experience. In reality, God is warning Adam and Eve to avoid the forbidden fruit, because he wants what’s good for them, and the consequence of disobedience will be death. But the snake denies God’s explanation, and instead lays out a different storyline where God is the bad guy. The snake doesn’t provide any evidence that God is bad, or that God is dishonest, or anything like that. But he simply gives a new storyline of reality that makes just enough sense to convince Adam and Eve they might be wrong.

Observation 4: The temptation mixed falsehood with half-truths. The serpent was lying when he said that eating the fruit would make Adam and Eve more like God, and that it wouldn’t lead to death. But the snake was right when he said that their eyes would be opened with a certain kind of knowledge – that happens in verse 7, even though it’s not quite as wonderful as they expected. But the point here is that half-truths are often more seductive than flat-out lies, as it was in this case.

Observation 5: The temptation promised that disobedience would have no negative consequence. This made sin seem more attractive. Adam and Eve thought there would be little or no cost.

Observation 6: The temptation promised that disobedience would have a beneficial outcome. This likewise made sin seem attractive – more attractive than doing nothing, or continuing on in obedience toward God.

Observation 7: The temptation encouraged them to use a good thing, but in a bad way. Remember, that tree of the knowledge of good and evil – it was one of God’s good trees. The issue wasn’t that it was inherently or morally a bad tree. The problem was that this good tree was not to be used for evil – in a way that dishonored God. But because the temptation involved something that was good (the good fruit from the tree), it likely made it harder to say NO to sin.

Observation 8: The temptation encouraged them to rely on human perception. Notice in verse 6. As the woman thinks about the snakes words, she looks at the tree – and what does she see? She sees fruit that looks like it’s good for food, that looks pleasing to the eye, that seems to be desirable for wisdom – and that pushes her over the edge. Temptation makes progress because the woman decides to trust her own sight and perception instead of trusting God’s Word.

Observation 9: The temptation encouraged them toward a noble-sounding pursuit – Godlikeness. The serpent says they’ll be like God if they eat the fruit. And the man and woman knew that God was the most wise, most powerful, most glorious being in existence! They probably had a better understanding of that then we do – and so it seemed obvious that if something would make them more like God, it must be good, right? Temptation can be very seductive when it disguises itself as a noble pursuit.

And finally, Observation 10: The temptation was not meaningfully resisted by either the man or woman. Even though the temptation was unexpected, and seductive, and enticing, the man and woman shouldn’t have given in to it! They had a clear word from God. And as we’ve seen so far in Genesis, the man and woman had every reason to trust Him. He gave them life, food, shelter – he surrounded them with beauty, pleasure, and everything good. Why did they choose to believe the snake instead of God? Why didn’t they stop each other? Especially the man, who had more experience with God’s provision and kindness, who had more responsibility as the husband and head of the family – surely the man, at least, should have done something! But they did not resist with faith. And this is why temptation succeeded.

What Does Sin Deliver?

I’ve dealt with two questions so far. What Temptation did Adam and Eve Face? AND Why did Adam and Eve Disobey? But here’s the third question, now, which I’ll deal with briefly: What Does Sin Deliver?

Verse 7: “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” Sin doesn’t deliver happiness or freedom. Instead, it delivers guilt and shame. As soon as Adam and Eve eat the fruit, they recognize that they have violated God’s covenant with them. They have broken God’s special contract with them, and they can’t do anything to fix it. And since they have no way of removing their shame, the only thing they can think to do is to cover it all up – to conceal themselves.

But I need to point out here – when Adam and Eve broke that covenant with God, it wasn’t just bad for them. It affected all of their descendants as well – the whole human race. The deep shadow of Adam’s broken covenant covers the whole world – it isn’t just Adam and Eve who are plunged into death, but we all are. Our bodies physically are subjected to death. And the human soul is naturally unresponsive to God’s Word, and has no heartbeat for obeying Him, or impulse toward reverent self-denial and true worship. That original sin of Adam and Eve is something we have inherited, and this is why selfishness, corruption, and death exist in the world today. This is why the world continues to be filled with temptations to ignore or reject God, and why we’re so vulnerable to temptation.

How Can We Withstand Temptation?

So how can we withstand it when it comes? This is my fourth and final question: How can we withstand the temptation? First, we can be aware of sin’s deceitfulness and destructiveness, so it won’t convince us or catch us off guard.

Second, we can humbly but firmly trust God’s voice. Adam and Eve had every reason to trust God (and his goodness). But we have more! God demonstrated his love for Adam while He was still innocent and clean. But God has demonstrated his love for us, in that while we were still his enemies, Christ died for us! And in God’s kindness, He offers to have His own Spirit come near to us – to take up residence in our hearts to strengthen us for good and to help us to stand against temptation.

Third and finally, we can withstand temptation when we stand alongside our brothers and sisters – as Adam and Eve should have done for each other. We can remind one another of sin’s deceitfulness, and God’s trustworthiness. We don’t have to live the Christian life alone. In fact, we shouldn’t – we weren’t ever intended to. So as we close, let’s pray, together, for God’s help in serving one another as a faithful Church.