Faithlife Sermons

Smooth Talker, Naive Walker

Genesis  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The smooth-talking serpent tempted mankind, leading to the fall.

Genesis 3:1–7 KJV 1900
1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.


Identity of the Serpent

Genesis 3:1 NKJV
1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?”
A few years back a guy, we’ll call him Tom, was out for a ride on his motorcycle when he stopped at a local gas station to top off his fuel. He was getting ready to ride up the coast on one of those old and really winding roads that lots of motorcyclist love to tackle. While he was gassing up his bike another rider pulled up to the pump across from him, hopped off, and started gassing up too. Tom, being the cordial person that he was, spoke to the other rider and the other man responded by asking him where he was headed. Tom told him he was riding up the coast to grab a bite of supper at a small restaurant he’s been told about by a friend. The stranger laughed and said, “I’ve been there a couple of times and it’s an awesome place to eat!” Then, to Tom’s surprise, the man asked him if it was okay if he came along as well because he was headed that way also. The stranger had a good air about him, and Tom thought he was nice enough, so he agreed. The ride up the coast was hard as it had lots of curves so when the riders finally got to the restaurant, they were both thirsty and starving, only to find out that they had arrived 30 minutes past closing time. Tom was bummed, one, he had really been looking forward to eating there, and two, he was starving. Now he’d have to ride all the back down the coast for several miles to grab a bite of supper. The stranger hopped of his bike, not even taking time to remove his full faced helmet and headed for the door motioning for Tom to come with him. Tom smiled and said, “Sorry man, but we’re a little late!” The stranger stopped dead in his tracks, pulled off his helmet, and without turning around said, “Oh, they’ll let us in!” Tom just laughed, and then the stranger turned around. He hadn’t realized the man he’d been riding with was actor, Brad Pitt!
Knowing who someone is can be very important, and I’d be willing to say that if Tom had have known the identity of the person he’d been riding with he might have acted a little different. Knowing the Identity of who we’re dealing with in Genesis 3 is very important to the plotline of the story. Look at verse 3. One of the first things you’ll notice is that the text calls whoever this is “the serpent”. We’re not given a proper name at this point in Scripture, but when you put all of the pieces together from beginning to end, you find out just who this is your dealing with. I think the best answer is probably found at the other end of the Bible in Revelation 12:9. Listen to what John writes in Rev. 12:7-10,
“7 Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon. The dragon and his angels also fought, 8 but he could not prevail, and there was no place for them in heaven any longer. 9 So the great dragon was thrown out—the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the one who deceives the whole world. He was thrown to earth, and his angels with him” (HCSB).
Now, some interpreters try to take this as referring to what happened in the garden, but it’s much more likely that this is referring to the preliminary defeat of the powers of evil that Jesus won on the cross. Either way, John tell us who their ringleader is in Rev. 12:9, he’s the “great dragon, the ancient serpent, called the Devil and Satan”. So, now we know “who” we’re talking about all the way back there in Genesis 3:1, but the next question that comes up is “what” he was, and in order to answer that question we need to look at a few of the details in Genesis 3:1. First, let’s look at what verse 1 says about him, it says that he was “subtil”. Other English translations use a couple of different words here to get the point across, some use the word “crafty” others the word “cunning”. I like the word “subtil” because it seems to pick up on both the deception and ability of Satan to be a smooth talker. The Hebrew word used here for subtil עָרְמָה (ʿār·mā(h)) can also mean “prudent”. Next, the text says that he’s “more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made.” A number of things could be said about what you read here, so I’ll be brief. The fact that this says the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field doesn’t have to mean that he was a member of the animal kingdom per se, although it can and many have taken it that way. The big thing I would point out is that the emphasis here in verse 1 is on the fact that Satan is a created being. In other words, he’s not on par with God, not even close! Also, I’d like to point out one other thing concerning the question of “what” Satan was, and it centers on the term “serpent”. In Hebrew the word is נָחָשׁ (nā·ḥāš). As a noun the word means “serpent or snake”. If the word is taken in its verb form here it would mean “deceiver”. Lastly, if it’s an adjective, a word used to describe something, it means “shining one” So, taken together what does all of this mean? It means that if you take all of the biblical evidence, particularly passages in Ezekiel and Isaiah that discuss spiritual beings that guard God’s throne, what you find out it that what you’re dealing with in Genesis 3, is not about zoology, there’s more to this than just a talking snake, although you’d be correct to say that the “form” of a snake or serpent is what Satan took when he deceived Eve. The point is that this being, called the serpent, was a powerful spiritual being who had made the decision to rebel against his creator, and his ultimate goal was to take humankind with him! Knowing someone, or better something’s, identity is VERY important to your understanding what’s going on in Genesis 3. Why? Because it has an effect on how you read the Bible in other places and it also effects how you view the spiritual warfare mentioned in the NT by writers like the Apostle Paul (Ephesians). Friends, the evil powers at work in this world are far more powerful that I think we often realize.

A Harmless Conversation

Genesis 3:1–5 NKJV
1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
Let’s take a look at verses 1b through 5. My wife always accuses me of being a talker. She says, “Aaron, given the opportunity, you talk way too much!” Well, I think she doesn’t talk enough! That said, any way you want to look at it, conversation is important.
Illustration: Neville Chamberlain served as the Prime Minister of England in the late 1930’s. Chamberlain was known early on for his work and focus on trying to improve the lives of factory workers in England. It was during this time that Adolf Hitler had begun his ascent up the ladder of power and many an Englishman viewed Hitler’s rise with a great deal of suspicion, wondering if at some point he might pose a serious threat to the people of England. Having already shown some aggression, most folks in Great Britain thought Hitler needed to be dealt with swiftly. However, Chamberlain took an approach that seemed for many to be too light and it came to be known as “appeasement” when in 1938 when the British Prime Minister made a trip to Germany where he signed what was known as the Munich Agreement, which simply gave pieces of Czechoslovakia to the German dictator. Needless to say, one year later England declared war of Germany, and the rest is history. You see, what Chamberlain, in Munich, considered to be a harmless conversation very quickly erupted into a conflict that would eventually involve the entire world! My point is that our conversations are important because words, and what we do with them, have power for both good and bad!
In verses 1b to 5 you read about a conversation between the woman, Eve, and the serpent, and what at first seems like a rather harmless conversation goes awry fast! The conversation begins with the serpent asking Eve if God really did say that she and Adam shouldn’t eat from any tree in the garden. Now, did you notice there that the serpent misquotes what God had said? I would argue that he does this in order to catch Eve’s attention and get her to continue in the conversation with him. It really sounds innocent at first, but what follows certainly shows us how “subtil” the serpent was. In the ensuing conversation and Eve’s response to what the serpent said, she echoes the divine command that was given by God in Gen. 2:16-17 about not eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, but she also adds a little twist of her own that you read at the end of verse 3. Eve adds to what God said by telling the serpent that if she and Adam even go so far as to “touch” the tree of the knowledge of good and evil she and Adam will both die. You have to wonder here why Eve says this, is she adding a little embellishment, is this letting us know that even here the command given by God is open to human response? Either way, the serpent, being as intelligent as he is, picks up on what Eve says and responds by telling her that she and Adam won’t die if they eat the fruit. Now, what’s REALLY interesting about that statement by the serpent is that it’s a flat-out contradiction to what God had said, and you have to wonder why Eve didn’t catch it. Several theories have been put forward, but not a single one of them gives a complete explanation. [One day I’m going to ask Eve about this!] Now, what’s said by the serpent in verse 5 is interesting and we could honestly talk about this for hours because it, when combined with verses 6 and 7, relates directly to the topic of what’s known as original sin, but before I get into that I want to point something out to you here. I think we could all learn a good lesson here about being mindful of and paying close attention to what we say and listen to, after all, I don’t think anyone would argue that Eve’s conversation here had pretty big ramifications!

Excursus on Original Sin

When you turn over to your NT and read what Paul writes in Romans 5:12-21, you get the picture quickly that what happened in the Garden in some way impacts every person who ever has or will live. The big question that theologians argue about is how? How are you and I affected by what happened in the text we’re looking at today? How does Adam’s sin pass to us? A number of things could be said about this text, but I will really have to limit what I say due to time. (1) First, the situation that you’re presented with here points to the fact that there was likely some form of a covenantal relationship between mankind and God in the Garden. No, the word “covenant” isn’t in the text, but the concept is. (2) Second, as to the question of “original sin”, and how it is transmitted to mankind, a number of theories have been put forward. (1) One is known as Pelagianism and it comes from a British monk born in AD 360 named Pelagius. Pelagius was a strong advocate of what we might call “libertine freewill”, meaning we are completely free to choose in any situation, no matter what that situation is. In other words, your choice of what you’re going to eat is on par and just like a decision you would make as to whether or not you’re going to place your faith in Christ. Essentially, Pelagius said that Adam’s influence on mankind, if any, was that of an example, and that there is no direct connection between Adam’s sin and the rest of mankind. In other words, you might say that we “imitate Adam in his sin when we sin”, nothing in our nature was and is affected by what he did. Now, that’s certainly an enticing proposal, but the problem with what Pelagius taught is that if it’s true then there is no real need for a special working of grace within the heart of a person that effectively calls them to believe the gospel, and it’s because of this that Pelagianism was and has been condemned as a heresy nearly from the outset in the church! (2) A second view might be called “Infection view” which teaches that we receive from Adam a corrupted nature. In other words, we’re infected with the same sin as Adam because of what he did. You might say it’s like being infected with a virus. Some folks show signs of having the virus because they’re deathly sick, other simply have a little sniffle and a cough, while others show no signs at all. However, it’s important remember that all of the people mentioned still have the virus. In this view, we begin our lives lacking righteousness because all humans are unable to fulfill God’s commands, but in this view, the inability referred to here is physical and intellectual, not volitional. It’s not an issue of the human will because God gives what is often termed as “prevenient grace” to all on the basis of what Christ has done. In other words, because Jesus has conquered death, now everyone has been given the grace to believe given the fact that they hear the message of the gospel, they simple have to make the choice to believe and be saved (They can either believe or reject the gospel). This view has often been quite popular in many evangelical churches, and there is much to commend it, the only problem is that it has often been pointed out by top notch Bible scholars that the concept of “prevenient grace” is a theological category that is difficult to completely prove in Scripture at large. Also, many theologians have pointed out that this view would seem to have people going to hell when their sins have been forgiven, which is the very reason why people don’t go to hell. In order to keep from going to hell one must believe in Christ as Lord and Savior, and when that happens a person’s sins are forgiven. There are no people in hell whose sins have been forgiven. (3) The third view might be best called the “inclusion view” because of its stance on the idea that we, that is all mankind, were included in Adam when he sinned. In other words, Adam’s sin is not just the sin of an isolated individual per se, but also our sin because we all are able to trace our ancestry back to him. This view is based on a very serious and literal understanding of what Paul teaches in Romans 5:12-21. Those holding to this view would say that God must do something to individual people in order for them to believe and accept the gospel when they hear it. In other words, God must give an individual the new birth. This view would deny the stance that God has given every single person the ability to believe, but it would say that we are called to share the gospel with all people because we don’t know who God will sovereignly give the new birth to, thus causing them to believe the gospel. The “inclusion view” has often been criticized by scholars are being too mechanical in that it seems to be very deterministic, making people seem like they are robotic. Believers who hold this position would say that Adam’s sin is conveyed to you in one of two possible ways. One is through the federal headship of Adam as he is the beginning of the human race. In other words, Adam was our covenant head in the old creation whereas Christ is our covenant head under the New Covenant. Although we weren’t there at the moment Adam sinned, he resented us all because Paul, in Romans, says we are all in Adam. (There is a lot to commend this view because the words “testament” and “covenant” are derived from one another.) The second way those holding to the “inclusion view” would say Adam’s sin is transferred to you is through genetics. This is what’s known as the “seminal view”. At its most basic, the seminal view would say that your sinful nature is transferred from Adam to you because of your connection through the human race/blood line that can be traced back to Adam. In other words, through human sexuality. This view was first articulate by St. Augustine. The important thing to realize here is that although the first view, Pelagianism, has been condemned as a heresy, the second two views I described, the infection view and the inclusion view, have been held by godly men and women for thousands of years and there is much to commend both of them.

Decisions Have Consequences

Genesis 3:6–7 NKJV
6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
Let’s take just a minute and look at the last portion of our text, verses 6-8. These verses contain the information concerning what happened after Eve’s conversation with the serpent. Let me ask you a question, how many of you have ever had to make a really important decision? Maybe it was the time when you bought or built your first house, or maybe it was deciding on which college to attend, or what job offer to take. Those are all pretty big and important decisions are they not? But some decisions we have to make don’t really seem all that important. You know, decisions like what to eat for lunch, or maybe what shoes to wear. Now, when we’re in the heat of the moment these small seemingly unimportant decisions don’t really seem to be that big of a deal, but often the decisions that we think are the least important have the biggest consequences.
Illustration: Prior to the 1918-1919 season the Boston Red Sox had been one of baseball’s premier teams having won the 1903 World Series. However, after the 1918-1919 season management decided to sale one of their players, a young man named George Herman “Babe” Ruth to the New York Yankees. Little did they realize they wouldn’t play in another World Series for 86 years. This decades long dry spell on the part of the Red Sox came to be known as “The Curse of the Bambino”. The point, decision have consequences!
Now, Imagine, if you will, a decision that seems so simple, but in the long run has consequences that will affect every person who will ever live. I think that puts verse 6 and 7 into perspective. From our perspective, the sin that’s committed in these verses seems so trivial, I mean, it’s just a bite of fruit! So, what happened? Well, it seems pretty obvious from the text that Eve took a bite first, and in fact, Paul mentions this in his first letter to Timothy. He writes, “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner” (1 Tim. 2:14, NIV84). The point here is not that women are sinners and men aren’t. The point here in context is that Eve’s sin was due to her being deceived whereas Adam’s displayed willful conscious disobedience. Adam was made first, therefore he was to be the head of the human race. Genesis 3:6 tells us that Adam was there with Eve; he saw what was going on and did nothing to stop it, and because of this verse 7 tells us what happened, “And the eyes of them both were opened and they knew that they were naked …” And what does the text tell us they did? They tried to cover their nakedness by sewing fig leaves together. They realized in their inadequacy that their relationship to each other, and more importantly to God, was not what it had been.


Now, let me ask you, how many fig leaves have you tried to sew together to cover your nakedness before God? You see, a smooth talker in a garden thousands of years ago deceived our first parents and plunged the whole human race into sin, and sometimes we’re naïve walkers because we spend our lives walking around thinking we’re acceptable before a Holy God. Well, let me be blunt and say that they don’t make fig leaves big enough to cover your sin or mine, but God has given something that is more than capable of covering your sin. Let me tell you about him in the first Bible verse I ever memorized, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Will you give your life to Christ today so that your sins are covered?



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