Last month we looked at the fall of man from the viewpoint of man’s sin and God’s grace. We now consider more closely the activity of Satan, who appears for the first time in the Bible in Genesis 3. Next we consider the consequences of the fall and, finally, return to the subject of the grace of God.
We learn of Satan’s prior existence, his original glory, and his terrible fall in Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:12-19, and Revelation 12:7-11. Words cannot adequately describe the craft, deceit, subtlety, and power of this creature, who is variously described as the devil, Satan, the serpent, and the great dragon.
He is too wise for us to outwit him without divine wisdom. He is too powerful for us to overcome him apart from Christ. He is too subtle for us to recognise him without the aid of the Spirit of God and the Word of God. In the third chapter of Genesis, the Lord reveals three things to us about Satan. Let us be wise and understand them.
His sphere of activity
Firstly, the primary sphere of Satan’s activity is the spiritual or religious realm. Contrary to popular opinion, it is not Satan but the natural depravity of the human heart that leads men and women into adultery, fornication, blasphemy, drunkenness, witchcraft, and so on (Mark 7:21-23; Galatians 5:19-21).
Satan’s chief aim is to get between us and God. He seeks to keep man from his Maker. His goal is to keep us from trusting Christ. The way he does that is by inspiring confidence in ourselves. He seeks to usurp the place of God, to make God’s creatures his own subjects. His work consists of substituting his own lies for the truth of God.
Beware! You will find Satan at work, not in bars, brothels, and dark alleys, but in churches, pulpits, seminaries, and religious activities (Ephesians 6:10-12; 2 Corinthians 11).
Satan goes to church every Sunday. Satan has preachers. Satan leads men to seek a righteousness of their own, to keep them from trusting Christ alone for righteousness. Satan is perfectly willing to give men peace, comfort and assurance. His ambition is not to keep men from being religious or moral. His desire is to keep eternity-bound sinners from trusting Christ.
Perverting the Word
Secondly, Satan’s method is to pervert Holy Scripture and appeal to the flesh. He throws doubt upon God’s Word (Genesis 3:1). He substitutes his own word for God’s (v. 4). He casts a slur upon the attributes of God (v. 5). He appeals to the flesh (v. 5).
His appeal to the flesh takes several forms. He uses our bodily senses – the eye in Eve’s case. He appeals to our fleshly emotions — the desires. He appeals to our intellect — our desire to be considered wise. He appeals to pride – the vile pride that makes men want to be ‘like gods’.
Thirdly, however, we learn in Genesis 3:15 that ‘our adversary, the devil’ will be destroyed by the power of God. At Calvary our Lord Jesus Christ destroyed the devil’s usurped dominion over the nations of the world (John 12:31; Revelation 20:1-3). He who deceived the nations was bound by the crucified Christ, who now gathers his elect out of every nation, people, tribe and tongue.
In the new birth, as he converts chosen sinners by his almighty grace, the Son of God enters their hearts by the power of his Spirit. He binds the ‘strong man’, takes his house, and spoils his goods (Matthew 12:29; Ephesians 2:1-4). In the day of judgement, our blessed Saviour shall, finally, crush the serpent beneath our feet (Romans 16:20).
Returning now to Adam and Eve, what were the consequences of the fall? As soon as they sinned against God, they began to suffer the results of his transgression.
‘The eyes of them both were opened’, we read (v. 7). Their eyes were not enlightened, but opened. They acquired no ennobling knowledge, nothing pleasant, or profitable. Their eyes were opened to distressing, evil things.
Satan has deceived our race. We lost communion and fellowship with God. Since the fall of our father Adam we are all by nature without God, without life, without light, without Christ, and without hope (Ephesians 2:11-13).
Then, again, ‘They knew that they were naked’ (v. 7). They felt things they had never known or felt before. They lost their innocence. Guilt engulfed them. Shame embarrassed them (v. 12). Fear terrified them. Hatred rose within them.
Next, ‘They sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons’ (v. 7). The fallen pair sought to quieten their consciences, cover their nakedness, and shrug off their shame.
Finally, ‘Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of God’ (v. 8). When they heard God’s voice, they ran away. When they were exposed, they excused themselves (vv. 12-13).
Thus it has been with the sons and daughters of Adam from that day to this. Adam and Eve were cursed of God. The woman was cursed (v. 16). The man was cursed (vv. 17-19). They were driven from the presence of God (vv. 22-24).
Above all, they died. They acquired physical mortality but they also died spiritually, becoming ‘dead in trespasses and sins’. Nor is this mere history, for we also died in our father Adam (Colossians 2:13; Ephesians 2:1-3).
They began to die physically; and to this day the seeds of death are passed from father to child, generation after generation. But they were also sentenced to die eternally; and all the sons and daughters of Adam are born ‘children of wrath’ (Ephesians 2:3).
God’s gracious character
Genesis 3 shows us the fall of man, the subtlety of Satan, and the ruin of our race, in Adam; but it does not leave us there. This chapter also shows us something of the gracious character of our God.
Here we are given great reasons for praise and gratitude to the Lord. Here, for example, is the first call of grace (v. 9). The voice Adam heard was not the voice of a policeman seeking a criminal. It was the voice of a Father seeking a lost son. Yet it was a call of divine justice that cannot overlook sin. It was a call of divine love that cannot be quenched. It was a call of divine grace that cannot be resisted (1 John 4:19).
Here also is the first gospel sermon (v. 15). The preacher was God himself. The audience a pair of guilty, helpless sinners. The subject was redemption by Christ. It speaks of conflict, enmity and war between the seed of the serpent and the Seed of the woman (Revelation 12). It speaks of God’s sovereign election and predestination, separating the sons and daughters of Adam into the seed of the serpent and the seed of Christ.
This first gospel sermon speaks of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:4-6), his death (his heel is bruised by the serpent) and his victory in death (the serpent’s head is crushed). In a word, this first gospel sermon promised redemption, grace and salvation by the substitutionary sacrifice of God’s dear Son at Calvary (2 Corinthians 5:21).
A covering for sin
Here, thirdly, is the first portrayal of redemption by Christ (v. 21). The guilty pair, under the sentence of death, stood before God. A sacrifice of blood was made — an innocent animal. Adam and Eve were stripped of their fig-leaf aprons by the hand of God himself.
The only way any sinner will ever give up his imaginary righteousness is for God himself to strip away our pretence. Then, the Lord God made coverings, without human aid, and put them on the fallen pair. Like sinners in the experience of God’s saving grace, Adam and Eve were totally passive. God did everything. They did nothing (Ephesians 2:8-9; Luke 15:22; Isaiah 61:10).
Here, finally, is the first description of man’s lost condition (v. 24). The fallen couple were driven from the garden, separated from God. They were barred from God’s presence by the sword of justice. They were utterly incapable of returning to God.
But God, in great mercy, love and grace, found a way to bring fallen, ruined, helpless sinners back to himself (John 14:6; Zechariah 13:7-9; Hebrews 10:19-22).