The first humans, Adam and Eve, lived in God’s garden paradise. They enjoyed fellowship with God. Everything was good. But this wonderful state of affairs didn’t last. God’s enemy Satan, tempted them to rebel against God, and they fell to his temptation. We look at the consequences of their rebellion for us and for our world. But right at the end of this session, there’s a hint of how God is going to put everything right.
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Leader’s Guide for group study
This Group Study Guide contains three questions, with Bible passages to read, together with some notes to help the group leader to guide the discussion.
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What does “the knowledge of good and evil” mean? It’s wider than just moral knowledge. For example, we use the phrase “a good idea” or “a bad idea” for ideas that are respectively wise and unwise – their morality may well not be at issue. The “knowledge of good and evil” doesn’t primarily mean knowing right and wrong. It’s the ability to make wise decisions. One writer says: “in the Bible ‘knowing good and evil’ (or some approximation of that phrase) refers to the kind of wise discernment and discrimination exercised by mature and capable adults” .
But only God knows everything. Only God is all-wise. So we humans must depend on God to understand what’s really wise and unwise, to know what choices to make, to know how to live our lives. Adam and Eve still had to learn life’s most important lesson – that God loved them, that He was trustworthy and good, that He could always be depended on to know what was wise, what was good for them and what was bad for them. God wanted Adam and Eve to love and trust Him, not themselves. As the writer of the Proverbs tells us: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3.5).
By planting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden, God was giving them a choice. Would they love and trust and obey Him? Or would they reject God’s authority and decide for themselves what was wise and unwise, to decide for themselves how to live? As C.S. Lewis said: “From the moment a creature becomes aware of God as God and of itself as self, the terrible alternative of choosing God or self for the centre is opened to it.” Who would be the first love of their lives? Would it be God, or themselves?
God said to Adam that he would die if he ate the forbidden fruit. But He didn’t explain further. Adam and Eve simply had to trust that God loved them and had their best interests at heart. They just had to obey Him – even though they didn’t know exactly why. In short, they had to live by faith in God. Right through the Bible we see God looking for and rewarding faith in Him (see especially Hebrews 11).
But Adam and Eve decided that they didn’t want to remain under God’s supervision. They decided that they would do what they wanted. In eating the fruit of this tree, Adam and Eve were saying to God, in effect: “I know better than You. From now on I’ll decide for myself what’s wise and unwise. From now on I’ll decide what’s best for me.” In so doing, Adam and Eve made themselves their own gods.
In the same way, when we act independently of God, we make ourselves gods; we make ourselves the ultimate standard of judgment by which we live. Ask the group this question: are we also tempted to do this in our lives? If so, in what ways are we tempted to do this?
Paul says “the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning” (2 Corinthians 11.3). Satan is cunning. He’s a deceiver.
1He hid his true identity. He appeared as a serpent – one of the beasts “of the field that the LORD God had made” (Genesis 3.1). The serpent was at least his mouthpiece. He may, in fact, have been Satan himself in disguise. It wasn’t at all obvious at first that this serpent’s words were the words of an evil being.
2He invited Eve to question God’s word. He said to her “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3.1).
3He tempted Adam and Eve to think wrongly about God – that God wasn’t trustworthy, that He didn’t love them, that He was selfish, and that He didn’t have their best interests at heart.
Satan focused Eve’s mind on God’s one restriction, rather than His generosity. God said: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden;” (Genesis 2.16 NIV). Satan said “You shall not eat . . .” (Genesis 3.1). So he misquoted God. He robbed God’s command of its liberal generosity, and portrayed God as a mean oppressor, rather than a generous provider.
Satan said “You will not . . . die, . . . . For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3.4-5 NIV). We can paraphrase and expand this as follows: “God is lying. You won’t really die if you eat this fruit. God is being mean. He’s keeping something back from you. That ‘something’ is freedom. God is free to do whatever He likes. But He doesn’t want you to be free. Go eat from that tree. Choose for yourself what’s good for you and what’s bad for you. Only then will you be truly free! Only then will you have a life that’s really worth living!”
Satan slandered God to Eve. Satan pretended to be her friend; he portrayed God as her rival and enemy.
He made Adam and Eve think wrongly about God – something he tries to do to all of us. One lie underpins all the Devil’s lies – that God does not love. Satan wants us to think God doesn’t love us and hasn’t got our best interests in mind.
God is love (1 John 4.8,16). Love is, so to speak, at the very root of Who He is. Satan was slandering the very core of the character and nature of God.
4He tempted Adam and Eve to think wrongly about themselves. He tempted her to think that she could do without God and decide for themselves how to live. In short, he made them think that they could be their own gods.
This is the very first prophecy in the Bible about Jesus. Try to help the group understand this verse. It’s a key to the whole of the rest of the Bible. From this point onward in the Bible, we’ll be looking forward to the Person Who will crush Satan. That Person is Jesus Christ.
●“I will put enmity between you and the woman” This enmity began with the serpent and the woman as individuals – “between you and the woman” .
●The hostility is also “between your offspring and hers” . The offspring of the serpent and of Eve are involved, too. Through the Bible, we read about these two ‘offsprings’, God’s offspring and Satan’s offspring, “the children of God, and . . . the children of the devil” (1 John 3.10) – in other words, people, organisations, governments and ideologies that are under Satan’s control, and those people who are loyal to God. Through the ages these two ‘offsprings’ have been enemies locked in mortal combat.
●But the woman’s “offspring” is also an individual. These words “he” and “his” ultimately refer to a single offspring. That offspring is Jesus. He’s the unique “offspring” of Eve, Who crushes the serpent’s head – in other words, puts him out of action fully and finally. The big showdown was Jesus’s crucifixion. On the Cross, Jesus turned the tables on Satan. He defeated him and all his forces. And He rose again, victorious over all the powers of darkness. He’s now “seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12.2). Satan’s power over God’s people is broken (see, for example, James 4.7). One day, Satan’s defeat will be complete and final. He’ll be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulphur” . (Revelation 20.10).
CREDITS ► Text copyright © 2017 Robert Gordon Betts ► Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ► Scripture quotations marked ‘NIV’ are taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.