But soon Satan appeared on the scene in the form of a serpent, and he asked Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1). And with that question, the fall of man was set in motion. It essentially began by bringing what God clearly said into doubt. The devil was the first recorded being to question the validity of God’s word.
What’s changed? Today we have the inspired, inerrant and infallible recorded word of God called the Bible and people still essentially ask, “Did God really say that?” All kinds of arguments are offered up in an attempt to demonstrate that the Bible is only a book written by man, and is no more inspired than Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets.
Look very closely to how Eve responded to the serpent; “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die’” (Genesis 3:2-3). If you closely compare what she said with what God said above, you’ll notice that Eve left out the word “any” regarding the permitted trees which minimized God’s bounteous provision. She added, “or touch it” regarding the forbidden tree which made the command sound even more restrictive, and she softened and undermined the certainty of God’s warning by leaving out the word “surely” regarding the punishment of death. With this, the first step towards disobedience and the fall was taken.
Eve’s response helps us understand more fully what is really at the root of man’s rejection of God’s written word. Man thinks that he, the creature, knows what’s best for himself, and that God is not good because He puts limits on what is right and wrong. That’s like the teenager who thinks his parents are mean because they won’t always let him what he wants to do. Man, like the teenager, is desirous of being autonomous, and resents being told what to do by God. He finds God’s laws to be oppressive and restrictive.
And fallen man certainly doesn’t believe God’s threats of judgment. If he did, he would rush to God and seek to be reconciled with Him on His terms. Instead, he believes Satan who further said to the Eve, “You shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Apparently, it was the devil who first denied that God actually judges and punishes disobedience. This denial finds expression today in the rejection of the existence of hell where God judges for all eternity those who remain unrepentant and un-reconciled.
But God who judges is also a merciful God. We read that God provided garments for Adam and Eve by slaying an animal and using its skin as a covering for them. This was very significant in that it outwardly put on display what Jesus Christ does for guilty breakers of God’s law. Jesus Christ was slain in place of the sinner because of the believer’s sin. Further, Christ’s righteous obedience to God’s law was given to the believing sinner, who is now clothed in it and thereby able to stand in God’s presence, innocent of all charges. In this way, God’s righteous judgment is satisfied, and at the same time, He shows mercy and grace to believing and repentant sinners.
Look out for the “hiss” of the serpent in all its forms in its “Did God really say that?” approach to God’s revealed word. The Bible tells us that God’s moral law exists, that man is guilty of breaking it, that he is therefore under condemnation, and that there really is a hell. But it also tells us of a Savior who has met all of God’s requirements of the law. And because of Jesus Christ, there’s a divine pardon and the sure hope of eternal life for those who believe.
Don’t give yourself any rest in this life until you know yourself to be in possession of this salvation, this gracious gift from God.