One of the most intriguing stories in the Bible is right in the very beginning. Genesis 3 records what Christians call “The Fall”—the day sin and its curse of death broke into God’s perfect world. The chapter begins with a sentence we’ve read so many times that we don’t often stop to take it all in. Read it slowly, drawing out each word:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?”Genesis 3:1
Did you catch it? “He said to the woman . . .” When God spoke the world into being, he planted a garden and placed Adam in it. After giving Adam the rules that governed his new life in this beautiful garden, God brought every type of animal to Adam to name them. Whatever Adam called the animal, that was its name (Genesis 2:19). Adam was introduced to each and every animal God had brought before him, but no suitable helpmeet was found for Adam among them. Every plant and animal formed by God was designed to multiply “according to its kind” (Genesis 1:11, 21, 24, 25), but only man was made in the image of God. When God formed Eve from the side of Adam and brought her to him, Adam said, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Genesis 2:23). Like Adam, Eve was made in the image of God. And together, they would multiply and fill the earth—not after their kind, like plants and animals, but in the image of God.
One of the defining characteristics of a being made in the image of an intelligent Creator is the gift of speech. God speaks. He spoke the universe into being. He spoke with Adam and Eve as he walked with them in the cool of the day. Adam and Eve spoke to one another. But the animals were different. They made sounds and chirps and croaks and bleats, but they did not speak. And yet, in Genesis 3, the serpent speaks to Eve. She doesn’t seem to be alarmed, but she is certainly intrigued. He leads with a bold lie phrased as a question: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Of course God didn’t say that. Nevertheless, he presents the fruit of this forbidden tree to be “good for food,” a “delight to the eyes,” and “desired to make one wise,” and Eve falls prey to the deception.1
One of the most heartbreaking details in this record is the statement, “she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6, emphasis mine). In a vile reversal of God’s perfect order, Adam—the one to whom God gave dominion over the animals (including the serpent)—is led into sin and destruction by allowing the serpent to rule over him. He had God-given authority over the serpent. He could have (and should have!) told the serpent to shut his lying mouth and thrown him out of the garden. Their seemingly simple act plunged the world into chaos. As Derek Kidner so poignantly writes,
“‘She took . . . and ate’: so simple the act, so hard its undoing. God will taste poverty and death before ‘take and eat’ become verbs of salvation.”2Derek Kidner, Genesis
We are quick to point out where Adam and Eve went wrong. It is easy to point out how quickly they believed a lie about the goodness and provision of the Creator God they had come to know and love. It is easy to point out how selfish they must have been to feel the need to eat of the one tree of which they were commanded not to eat when they had a garden full of amazing food to eat.
But you and I are not so far removed from the same beliefs and behaviors as we like to think. We often fall prey to the enemy’s lies that God is holding out on us—that he is not good and kind and loving and caring. We begin to believe he’s not really looking out for us, and we must look out for ourselves. How many times have we exhausted ourselves, working in our own strength to bring about something because we felt God wasn’t moving quickly enough for our liking? Has it ever worked out well?
In a moment of doubt and struggle, Abraham listened to Sarah when she thought of a way to make God’s plan happen more quickly than it seemed to be. Ishmael was born—a blood son of Abraham. And Abraham cried out to God, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” (Genesis 17:18). In other words, “Can’t you just take what I have done on my own, and use it as though it was what you had planned all along?” God’s response was simple: “No, but Sarah your wife shall bear you a son . . .” (Genesis 17:19).
Humans are predictable creatures. Each generation faces its own challenges and struggles, but our propensity to seek our own way is perennial. How can we hope to have a better outcome than our first parents? Using Moses’ record of their fall into sin, I would like to draw out three observations that will help us forsake sin as we are conformed into the image of Christ.
1. God is God
The serpent’s lie to Eve was a direct attack on the lordship and authority of God. God is the King of the universe—there is nothing over which he does not rule. During a speech at the New Church on Amsterdam’s principal square, Reformed pastor Abraham Kuyper famously proclaimed, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”3 But the serpent called it all into question: “Who is God to tell you that you can’t eat of that tree?” And just like that, everything Adam and Eve had come to know about God was clouded by deceit. They walked with him in the garden. They talked with him. They communed with him. They worshiped him in this perfect garden temple. They knew him. And with only a few words, the serpent had them doubting all of it.
Friend, don’t doubt in the dark what you have come to know in the light. Christ is the sovereign Lord of all creation. He is the reigning Lord of the universe. There is none like him and there is none beside him (Isaiah 45:5). He alone is God (Deuteronomy 32:39). Satan tempted Eve with the allure of being “like God”—she needed only to disobey his command. She forgot in whose image she was made. She was already like God! She was made in his very image. We can never and will never be more like Jesus in our sin. The lie of the serpent is this: “If you want to be like God, you need to disobey him.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Our great God is perfectly holy. We are made in his image, but we are not God. Let God be God—and praise him that you are not.
2. God is Good
God is not only a ruler—he is good (Exodus 34:6; Psalm 25:8, 34:8, 145:8-10; Nahum 1:7). He does not withhold good things from his children (Psalm 84:11), but rather supplies our every need out of the abundance of his riches (Philippians 4:19). “Those who seek the LORD lack no good thing” (Psalm 34:10).
The enemy will cast doubt on the authority and goodness of God when he tempts us to despair. When you hear, “Did God actually say . . . ?” know this: he is really saying, “Why would God say that? What is he withholding from you?” If God’s Word is true, we can trust and know with absolute certainty that God will meet our needs and we will lack no good thing. This is a hard truth to practice, because like Eve, we too get starry-eyed over “the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life,” forgetting these things are “not from the Father but [are] from the world” (1 John 2:16). But we accept the simple truth these verses convey: if we don’t have it, we don’t need it. God is not withholding from you something you need. He is too good to be unkind.
3. God is Merciful
When the serpent’s words were enough to cause Adam and Eve to forsake the commandment of their kind and loving Father, evil swept over the face of the earth and permeated every square inch. God cursed the serpent, but even in that curse is a blessing of sheer grace: from the seed of the woman will come one who will crush the head of that vile serpent. God’s merciful plan of salvation would prevail. God speaks to the woman of the pain she will now face in childbirth and the struggle she will now have with her husband. God speaks to the man last—the one who was given dominion over every beast of the field and was charged with God’s commandment concerning the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God cursed the ground because of Adam and revealed the fatality of their error: mankind will no longer exist in the perfect state in which they were created but will now return to the dust from which they came.
God’s promise to send a Savior is reiterated and expanded across the pages of the entire Old Testament. God could have brought swift and final judgment upon Adam and Eve when they sinned, but instead he covered them and promised to send a Redeemer. I quoted Derek Kidner in the beginning of this article, and I’d like to repeat it here:
“She took . . . and ate: so simple the act, so hard its undoing. God will taste poverty and death before ‘take and eat’ become verbs of salvation.”Derek Kidner, Genesis
I’m sure you can pick up the New Testament application of Kidner’s quote. On the night on which he was betrayed, Jesus gathered his disciples around him in an upper room and instituted the very first Lord’s supper. He broke bread, telling his disciples: “Take, eat; this is my body.” He then poured wine, telling his disciples: “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28).
Every time we approach the table of the Lord to partake in communion with our church body, we are reminded of the merciful sacrifice of Christ, whose blood was poured out the forgiveness of sins. You and I can kill our sin because Jesus gave his life to conquer sin, setting us free from its penalty, power, and eventually, its very presence.4 If you belong to Christ, you have been crucified with him (Galatians 2:20), and “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Galatians 5:24).
If Jesus laid down his life, we can lay down our sin. The simple invitation from the serpent to “take and eat” plunged us headlong into sin and destruction. When you are tempted to take and eat of what the world has to offer, remember the mercy of God toward you in Christ. Remember the poverty and death he tasted in order that he might speak these life-giving words to you: “Take and eat.”
1 Genesis 3:6.
2 Derek Kidner, Genesis (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2019), 73. Originally published as Genesis: An Introduction and Commentary (United Kingdom: The Tyndale Press, 1967).
3 Abraham Kuyper, ed. James D. Bratt, Abraham Kuyper: A Centennial Reader (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 461.
4 Jen Wilkin has an incredible article on this at The Gospel Coalition website titled “How Salvation Brings Freedom,” (https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/how-salvation-brings-freedom/, accessed December 13, 2022).
Photo credit: Michael Marcagi
William Burrows is the marketing lead at Banner of Truth. He is passionate about biblical literacy, biblical theology, and loves teaching and preaching the Word. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and his five beautiful, handsome, striking sons. William occasionally blogs at williamburrows2.com and you can follow him on Instagram and Twitter.