When God placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden He gave them maximum freedom and He gave them dominion over all things. They were to rule the earth. There were no restrictions as to how they would rule – except for the matter of one tree: the Tree of Knowledge of
Good and Evil. From that tree they were not allowed to eat.
Many foolish things have been said about that tree. I have read that it was an apple tree - the Bible never tells us that. One writer claimed that the fruit of the tree was grapes and the sin of Adam and Eve was making wine and getting drunk. Others say that the tree is only symbolic and the sin of Adam and Eve was a sexual awareness of one another. How they were going to “be fruitful and multiply” without that awareness is never explained.
Know this, dear reader, the Bible is the infallible, inerrant Word of God. It speaks the truth to us. There was a tree in the Garden of Eden, and although Adam and Eve had maximum freedom, although they had dominion over all the creatures of the earth, they were not to eat from that tree.
That tree was there to remind them that they were not God. They were created in His image, as we saw last month with q/a 6 of the Heidelberg Catechism, but they were still responsible and answerable to the almighty God who had created them and who had dominion over them.
Satan, the father of all lies, seems to come to Adam and Eve very quickly after they were placed in the garden. He suggests to our first parents that perhaps God is not as benevolent as He appears to be. Perhaps, Satan suggests, the words of God are not to be trusted.
It is the validity of the Word of God that is at issue with Satan’s temptation. Satan’s first words to Eve are designed to cast doubt upon the word of God. Satan asks: “Did God really say...?” This is the first question in the Bible. I am convinced that not only Eve’s sin, but the origin of all sin is involved in that very same speculation that Satan cast into Eve’s heart: “Did God really say...?”
• Did God really say you are saved by grace, or must you earn your salvation?
• Did God really say women cannothold office within the church?
• Did God really say abortion and euthanasia are wrong?
• Did God really say a loving monogamous same-sex relationship is sin?
Let us look back at the very first time Satan used those words in Genesis 3. The exact words of Satan are of special interest to us because they show us how Satan operates. “Did God really say ‘you must not eat from any tree in the garden?’”
Is that what God said? NO! That is not what God said at all. God had told Adam and Eve that they could eat from any tree in the garden with the exception of one: the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. And He even explained why they could not eat from it: Because the day they did, they would surely die.
Do you see what Satan did? Satan took a very positive invitation from God to eat of every tree save one, and he changed it into a negative prohibition designed to cast doubt upon God’s goodness. Satan suggested that God was not good, that God was nothing more than a “Thou shalt not”. He did not wish the best for His creatures.
At first, the woman disagrees with Satan, but Satan has already put her on the defensive. After she explains that she and her husband can eat from any tree except the one in the middle or they will die, Satan says: “You will not die!” This is an outright denial of God’s word.
That is really the issue, isn’t it? Is God telling the truth or is Satan telling the truth? Can the giver of every good gift be trusted? Does the Almighty Creator of heaven and earth purposely deceive His children by His Word?
Sadly, we read in Genesis 3, that the woman looked at the fruit and saw that it was good and pleasing to the eye and also desirable for gaining wisdom. Eve took some of the fruit, ate it, and then gave some to her husband and he ate as well. Since that time, the catechism teaches, everyone born of Adam and Eve is born a sinner, corrupt from conception on. The Fall has poisoned our very nature with sin. Sin is unbelief; it is a rejection of God’s Word.
We are not sinful because we were so created. We were created good, in God’s image. We are sinful because we chose to be sinful. We chose to reject God’s Word. We have no one to blame but ourselves.
Once we begin to understand our fallen state as a rejection of God’s Word, we can, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, return to that Word for deliverance. No sooner did Adam and Eve fill themselves with guilt, than God came to provide grace. That grace is found in His Word, the Word that became flesh and dwelt among men. Our trust must be in the crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ, because God really did say: “All who believe in His Son will not perish but have eternal life.”
Rev. Wybren Oord is the pastor of the Covenant United Reformed Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan and editor of The Outlook.