Jeremy Sarber
Disciple of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Reformed Baptist, funeral home chaplain, and host of Sunday Tapes. All glory be to Christ.

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Twisting God’s Word is deceptively easy

The devil is dangerous because he is cunning. Most would never succumb to his temptations if he told bald-faced lies, but that is not his approach. He prefers subtlety.

According to Genesis 3, the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the LORD God had made (Ge 3:1). The devil is dangerous because he is cunning. Most people would never succumb to his temptations if he told bald-faced lies, but blatant lies are not his approach. He prefers subtlety. Sometimes he does little more than plant a seed of doubt, merely asking questions. Other times he sprinkles the truth with just enough lies to be believable.

In the garden of Eden, the serpent asks Eve, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?” (Ge 3:2). Let’s pause here and remind ourselves what God did say. In the previous chapter, he told Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Ge 2:16, 17). The serpent deliberately misquotes God, but it sounds similar enough that Eve doesn’t seem to notice.

God had liberally provided for Adam and Eve. He gave them every tree in the garden to eat from except one. The serpent twists his generosity into stinginess. His question suggests God withheld more than he gave. He turns God’s positive statement into a negative one, and Eve doesn’t realize what he’s doing.

Eve attempts to defend God as the conversation continues, but her mind is already poisoned. She also perverts God’s words. She replies to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die’” (Ge 3:2, 3).

Notice how Eve diminishes God’s provision. God said, “You are free to eat from any tree of the garden” (Ge 2:16). Eve says, “We may eat from the trees in the garden” (Ge 3:2). Forgetting the word any isn’t a trivial mistake. Unknowingly, she has let the serpent lead her to compromise the truth of God’s abundant giving.

Notice how Eve also exaggerates God’s strictness. God said, “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Ge 2:17). Eve quotes him as saying, “You must not eat it or touch it” (Ge 3:3). She expands the penalty of death beyond God’s original command.

Lastly, notice how Eve softens the punishment for sin. God said, “You will certainly die” (Ge 2:17). Eve drops God’s emphasis, saying, “You will die” (Ge 3:3).

The serpent confuses Eve with a surprisingly simple, albeit misleading, question. Before she gives herself time to think through the situation, she responds with three subtle errors. When she finishes speaking, she’s primed and ready for the serpent’s next trick. He says to her, “No! You will certainly not die. In fact, God knows that when you eat it, your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Ge 3:4, 5). And with that, he convinced her to disobey God.

According to the apostle Paul, “The woman was deceived and transgressed” (1Ti 2:14). As seemingly harmless as her mistakes were, Eve’s reckless handling of God’s Word led to her condemnation. Adam, by the way, was not deceived. He was with her the entire time, knew what was happening, and chose not to intervene (Ge 3:6). The serpent did not dupe him. He was blatantly rebellious.

The result, however, is the same. Paul tells Timothy to correctly teach the word of truth (2Ti 2:15). David McKenna once wrote:

If we slight the reading of the God-breathed Word, the Holy Spirit is handicapped with dull tools for teaching, reproof, correction, and instruction in right doing. Why then should we be surprised that we fall short of godly character, feel spiritually incompetent in Christian witness, and fail at good works? The loop of learning takes us back to the basics. If we want the qualities associated with spiritual maturity, we must be avid readers of the God-breathed Word and serious students of Scripture. (How To Read a Christian Book)

Man must not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Mt 4:4).

We must read the Bible. We must study the Bible. We must learn the Bible as carefully and thoroughly as possible. Otherwise, as Eve did in the garden, we may find ourselves on the losing end of the serpent’s cunning temptations. Furthermore, we must be doers of the word and not hearers only (Jas 1:22).