by Rob Beames
In the beginning, God’s first creation had a perfect relationship with God, partly because even though they were created with the ability to sin, they never had sinned—yet, it would be more accurate to say that their relationship with God started out perfectly because there was no sin in the world, at all. This means there was nothing between them and their perfect Father.
The moment at which all of this changed is often the focus of the theological-minded because of its incredibly long-reaching, long-lasting implications, as it altered not only all of humanity, but also all of creation. In fact, even those with a casual curiosity about the relationship between God and mankind have shown interest in the beginning, especially how everything went wrong.
The way it all began to fall apart is also commonly known: with a lie. The devil uttered the first ever lie earning him the right to have Jesus dub him “the father of lies” in John 8:44. This lie has been further dissected, and not without good cause. Understanding the way the serpent tricked Eve can help us understand our tendencies to which the constant presence of sin, now in our lives, has made us even more vulnerable. With this worthy endeavor in mind, we consider this lie once again—or at least the last part of it.
The first lie was hardly subtle, “‘You will not surely die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4). Only a few verses before this we find that God did say to Adam exactly that: “But you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” (Genesis 2:17). This fact shows that the false statement from the devil was a bold attack on the very words of God and most assuredly on God’s character, as well. In short, the father of lies told Eve that God could not be trusted. The devil’s explanation to her was that God had lied in an effort to cover up His true alterative motive: keeping them from becoming like Him. The devil was, no doubt, quite convincing with this argument since he already believed he was like God.
What the devil was actually offering was independence from God. The appeal was to be free of their reliance on God to tell them what was right or wrong. No longer would they have to learn from God which tree was the right tree. They would be able to determine that for themselves—or so the lie said. No longer would they have to ask themselves, “Is God okay with this action”? No longer would they need to trust Him. Never would they have to fear the punishment of God’s death sentence as the result of disobedience. They would no longer wonder what God might do to them out of His disapproval if they failed. They would never have to doubt that God approved of them, period—not that they ever had a reason to doubt before. They were offered the ability to know these things for themselves. They were offered control over their lives and even their destinies. They were told they would have the ability to make their own choices.
In fact, the ability to discern right from wrong was the little sliver of truth that could be found in the lies spewed out by the crafty serpent. Adam and Eve certainly knew they had done wrong, immediately. Knowing what was right may have taken them longer to realize, and it may be that only their offspring after receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit many years later obtained this ability, but there was nonetheless some truth in that. It sounded like a reasonable offer to them. After all, the prospect of becoming like God wasn’t so tough of a sell since they were already made in His image. Why should they trust someone who threatened to kill them if they stepped out of line? Why not trust someone who offered them autonomy, instead?
Do you know why it is important to understand the first lie and its attractiveness in such detail? Because we still buy the same lies today. Instead of resting in the approval which God has already given us based on the peace Christ attained for us, we would rather attempt to please our Creator. In this way, we can rationalize that our justification is deserved—though we do not grasp how incredibly far we fall short. Instead of trusting that He knows what is good for us when He tells us, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Corinthians 12:9), we continue to attempt perfection so we don’t have to rely on his grace. In this way we reason that we don’t need quite so much grace to make it. We seem to constantly be trying to prove to Him, and to ourselves that we are worthy enough to be in His presence—journeys of futility.
We have already been provided righteousness from Christ. The only catch: we have to accept it by faith. It cannot be earned. We have to trust God that it is true although our soul might scream that it’s a lie. We desire to know that these things are true for ourselves. We don’t want to be forced to trust in them by faith.
Faith is always more difficult than seeing for ourselves. Unfortunately, our eyes don’t always see things as they truly are. They can’t because of sin. Actually, our minds don’t always reason things out the way they truly are. They can’t either, because of sin. Because of this first lie on which Adam and Eve acted—and all the countless lies their offspring have jumped on ever since—sin has damaged us in every aspect. There isn’t one part of us which isn’t plagued by sin. It essentially runs through our veins—that doesn’t sound like someone I want to trust with my eternity.
Should we trust in the efforts of fallen, damaged creatures for our justification—maybe just a little? No, not in the least! Yes, it’s difficult to trust, but it’s also inevitable. In the end, I would rather trust completely in a perfect, loving Father who cares deeply for me and has already prepared a place for me to be with him forever. Wouldn’t you? (I believe he wanted me to remind you of this.)