Community Busters

Genesis 3-11

January 15, 2006 | Brian Bill

I’d like to begin this morning with a Bible Quiz to see how well you know the major events that took place in the early chapters of Genesis.

Q: How did Adam and Eve feel when they were expelled from the Garden of Eden?

A: They were really put out.

Q: What excuse did Adam give to his children as to why he no longer lived in Eden?

A: Your mother ate us out of house and home.

Q: What is one of the first things that Adam and Eve did after they were kicked out?

A: They really raised Cain.

Q: Where is the first baseball game in the Bible?

A: In the big-inning, Eve stole first, Adam stole second and Cain struck out Abel.

We’re going to cover a lot of material this morning.  I won’t give you any more pop quizzes today but I am going to ask you to work hard because this section of Genesis will answer a lot of your questions as it relates to why the world is so wicked, and why our own hearts are so unholy. 

Last week we learned that God is eternal, that He created everything and that people are the pinnacle of His creation – we come from dust, we’ve been created with dignity and we’ve been commissioned with duties.  Adam and Eve had everything they needed.  They were literally living in Paradise and had access to all they could ever want in a garden of delight.

What follows is on one hand foolish, and on the other frightening.  How quickly they fell and how swiftly their sin spiraled them downward.  Instead of focusing on what they had, they fixated on what they did not have.  Rather than playing by the rules, they went outside God’s boundaries.  We’re going to see in four scenes, how mankind went from good to bad to worse.  We’ll start by looking at Adam and Eve’s fall, then we’ll concentrate on Cain’s sin, next we’ll focus on the flood, and end up very briefly at the Tower of Babel.

Where is Adam?

Let’s begin with the obvious observation that the Garden of Eden was real.  The name means a “beautiful plain.”  This had to have been an incredible place, filled with natural beauty, rivers, peace and where perfect harmony existed between plants, animals and God.  Adam was placed into this perfect paradise in Genesis 2:15-17: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 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.’” Adam is given three responsibilities; two are positive and one is negative.

  • Work it
  • Care for it
  • Don’t eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil

Imagine that there were 10,000 trees in the garden.  If that’s the case, Adam was given 9,999 trees to enjoy.  He could eat oranges and grapefruits and peaches and coconuts and figs.  He could have as much as he wanted whenever he wanted.  He just had to avoid one tree that would cause death.  Why couldn’t Adam do this?  It would have taken years for him to sample every tree that was available to him.  God gave him a lot to choose from and a good job to go along with it.  God is certainly not a cosmic killjoy.

Look with me now at the first part of Genesis 3:1: “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made…”  Revelation 12:9 tells us that the serpent is Satan.  The word crafty means “subtle and cunning.”  Let’s look at the subtle ways that Satan tries to get us to sin.  His methods haven’t changed much over the years so like a General studying his enemy before going into battle, we need to be aware of his tactics so we don’t fall into the same trap.

Tactic #1: Satan always appears unexpectedly

Eve was just out enjoying the exquisite beauty in the perfection of paradise when suddenly she is ambushed by the evil one.  When everything is going well in your life, watch out.  Have you ever noticed that temptation always comes when we least expect it?  She wasn’t looking for him but he was sure looking for her as 1 Peter 5:8 reminds us: “Be self-controlled and alert.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

Tactic #2: Satan twists the truth

Notice the second half of verse 1: “He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” Right away, Satan twists the truth and misquotes God.  God never said that they could not eat from any tree.  He said they could eat from every tree except one.  The serpent has a plan here.  He’s trying to get Eve to doubt the goodness of God by thinking, “I can’t trust that God has my best interests at heart.  If I obey God fully, I will miss out on something good.”  Friend, when you’re tempted to sin, Satan is trying to get you to doubt the goodness of God by thinking He is keeping you from something that you really want.  Related to this, make sure you know your Bible if you’re going to tangle with the evil one.  When Jesus was tempted, he quoted Scripture.  Remember that Satan knows Scripture better than you do and he will twist it and turn it to get you to do what he wants you to do.  Stand firm.  Read the Word.  Study it. Memorize it.  And use it as your sword (see Ephesians 6:17).

Tactic #3: Satan tries to “talk” to us

Satan enjoys filling our minds with destructive thoughts.  Let me say this strongly.  If you think you’re a match for him on your own, you’re mistaken.  Joseph ran away from Potiphar’s wife when she was trying to seduce him.  He didn’t hang around and talk about it.  1 Timothy 6:11: “But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness.”

Tactic #4: Satan wants us to see God as more severe than He is

In verse 2, Eve is now making God out to be really restrictive.  She corrects the serpent by saying that they “may eat fruit from the trees in the garden” but then she adds in verse 3 that they are not even to “touch” the tree in the middle of the garden.  What’s happening here?  God never said they couldn’t touch it but in Eve’s mind she’s making God a little more severe than He really is.  We do this as well when we think that God’s commands are unreasonable.  We do this so our disobedience becomes a bit more justifiable.

Tactic #5: Satan attacks the doctrine of God’s judgment

God says if you do this, you will certainly die and in verse 4 Satan says, “You will not surely die.”  The reason the evil one wants us to believe that there is no judgment is so we will think that we can get away with sin.  After all, if no one will ever know or call you to account for your actions, why not do what you want to do?

Tactic #6: Satan attacks our vulnerable spots and isolates us

In Genesis 2:16, who was the command concerning the forbidden fruit given to?  Adam.  That means that Eve got her information secondhand.  Notice also that while she is dealing with this temptation, she does not involve Adam or ask for any help.  When we play around with temptation and we do it in isolation, we are in big trouble.  The enemy wants us to keep things hidden in the darkness of our own hearts.  

Tactic #7: Satan wants us to fixate on sin

Genesis 3:6 gives us a picture of one who is obsessing about sin: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it…” The word saw means “to be near.”  You get the sense that she moved in closely to admire the forbidden fruit.  It was all she could think about.  She thinks she’ll miss out if she doesn’t eat it.  The closer she got to the temptation the better it looked.  That reminds me of something I heard this week.  Children were lined up in a cafeteria for lunch.  At the head of the table was a large pile of apples with a note from the principal that said, “Take only one, God is watching.”  At the other end of the line was a large pile of chocolate chip cookies.  A boy had written a note and placed it in front: “Take all you want, God’s watching the apples.”  Actually, God watches everything, doesn’t He?

Notice that Eve’s obsession focused on three very powerful forces.   In fact, most TV commercials capitalize on these same things today.  

  • Appetite: “good for food”
  • Beauty: “pleasing to the eye”
  • Intelligence: “gaining wisdom”

These are the exact three things the Apostle John warns us about in 1 John 2:16“For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man (good for food), the lust of his eyes (pleasing to the eye) and the boasting of what he has and does (gaining wisdom) -comes not from the Father but from the world.”

Have you ever heard the hiss of the serpent in your ears?  If you listen closely, you’ll hear something like this: “Go ahead and do it.  God is just trying to keep you from having fun. This will satisfy the deep hunger you have been feeling.  It will make you look good and you’re smart enough to not get caught.”  As a pastor friend says, “When you start fondling forbidden fruit, you’re already in the pit.  You’ve committed the sin in your heart long before you take the first bite.”

Do you know that you can always justify disobedience if you try hard enough?  Ever heard these statements?

  • “I know God commands that I keep my marriage vows but I just want to be happy.”
  • “I know God says stealing is wrong but it’s not that big of a deal.”
  • “I know God says gossiping is wrong but I’m just so mad at that person.”
Sin will always take you further than you were planning to go

Friend, when you hear yourself saying, “I know God says but ,” you are on the verge of committing a sin that will send you down a slippery slope.  Remember this: Sin will always take you further than you were planning to go.

\Tactic #8: Satan entices us to invite others into our sinHave you ever noticed that sin loves company?  Notice the second half of verse 6: “She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.”  People often feel better when others join them in sin.  1 Corinthians 15:33: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’”

Doesn’t Adam seem a bit apathetic and passive in this whole encounter?  When Eve offers him some fruit, he takes it and eats it: “…She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.  It’s as if he doesn’t think about it or hesitate at all.  If you ask children why they do something foolish, they typically respond with “I don’t know.”  Adam probably wasn’t thinking of the implications, ramifications, or the consequences.  Billy Sunday once said, “One reason sin flourishes is that it is treated like a cream puff instead of a rattlesnake.”  

By the way, we don’t know if Adam was with Eve during her dialogue with the diabolical one, but verse 6 tells us that he was with her when she ate it.  Why didn’t Adam say anything?  Adam, where are you?  Why didn’t he take a shovel and slice off the serpent’s head?  God gave the command to Adam but he either didn’t tell Eve everything (imagine that; a man who doesn’t fully communicate with his wife!) or she knew the command and went ahead anyway while Adam kept quiet.  

Let me make one final observation.  Neither Adam nor Eve got up that dreadful day and said, “I think I’ll sin today.”  It was a series of small steps and compromises in the wrong direction that led to their fatal fall.  Don’t minimize the magnitude of your choices.  Stay close to Jesus and immerse yourself in Scripture.  Get an accountability partner.  This is serious stuff!


Last week at our small group we read the first two chapters of Genesis outloud and then I challenged our group to come up with 50 observations.  It was pretty easy coming up with about 30 but we really had to knuckle down to get to 50.  It was very rewarding.  In a similar fashion I want to share some observations as it relates to Genesis 3.  Some of these come from John Ortberg.  There are several consequences to the sin of Adam and Eve that still reverberate in our lives today.  

  • The image of God is marred.  Verse 7: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened…”  They looked at each other and for the first time did not like what they saw.
  • Shame.  Shame had now filled their souls: “…they realized they were now naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.”  Genesis 2:25 tells us that before the fall they were naked and knew no shame.  That has all changed now.  One commentator puts it this way: “They shrank from the glare of every condemning eye.”
  • Alienation.  They were alienated from themselves, from each other, from their work, from creation, and most importantly from God.  They had previously been walking with God in the cool of the garden and now they tried to get away from God.  Notice verse 8: “Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden.”  Instead of being close with God, now conflict had corrupted the community they once had.  
  • Fear.  In verse 9, God asks Adam a question that sends fear through him: “Where are you?”  God is certainly not asking because He doesn’t know; He asks because He wants to give Adam the opportunity to come clean and confess.  Adam answers in verse 10: “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked…”  This is the first time fear appears in the Bible.  Notice that Adam thinks his problem is nakedness and doesn’t declare that he disobeyed.  Like us, he focused on the consequence, not the cause.
  • Concealing.  When we sin, we like to keep it secret.  We try to hide instead of asking God for help.  At the end of verse 10, Adam adds, “…So I hid.”  It’s absurd to think we can hide from God but most of us do so at one time or another.
  • Blaming.  After God asks Adam a very direct question about whether he has eaten from the tree that he was commanded to not eat from, Adam carefully reflects on the importance of taking personal responsibility for his actions.  He summons all his courage in verse 12 and blames his beautiful wife and then God himself: “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”  It’s almost as if Adam doesn’t think he has any responsibility for his own sin.  He’s basically saying that Eve is to blame and that the fruit just ended up in his hands somehow and suddenly it appeared in his mouth.  Fortunately, they are the last married couple to blame each other, right?  

His charge that it’s God’s fault is something we must guard against as well.  Be careful about saying things like: Why didn’t God take this temptation away from me?  God, I was doing fine when it was just the animals and me.  The woman was your idea.  Interestingly, Eve doesn’t own up for what she did either because she blames Satan in verse 13: “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”  We’d rather blame than accept the shame of our sin.  It’s no coincidence that the first disobedience led to the first denial.  As Ray Pritchard says, “The first trespassing led to the first buck-passing.”

  • Cursed.  As a result of their sin, the serpent is cursed in verse 14, the woman is told she will experience pain in childbirth and conflict will be continuous in the marriage covenant according to verse 16.  We could say it this way: The woman will be apt to usurp the man’s authority and he will try to dominate.   The oneness of chapter two has been shattered in chapter three.  Harmony has been replaced with harboring grudges and blaming and fighting.  And Adam will struggle to find joy in his job as he is now going to be faced with thistles and thorns.  The sweetness of work will now be replaced with sweat in verses 18-19.  Incidentally, while Eve sinned first, the Bible blames Adam.  She was deceived but Adam took the fruit deliberately in direct disobedience to God’s command.  And as head of the family, he is held morally culpable.  We see this in Romans 5:12 and  following: “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.”
  • Cast Out.  Verse 23 says that God “banished” them from the Garden.  Verse 24 adds that God “drove the man out.”  These are very strong words to indicate they were forcibly evicted from Eden.  The idea is that they were sent forth, pushed out, and removed forever. 
  • Death.  Physical death has now entered the human race and spiritual separation is the lot of all humanity.  God had said in Genesis 2:17 that disobedience would result in death.  Here’s a very important truth.  When Adam sinned, you sinned.  It’s what theologians refer to as the Fall.  Because of what Adam did, you and I deserve to die.  If Adam was the driver of the bus of humanity, when he drove over the cliff, we all went down in flames with him.   We sin because we are by nature sinners.  We need help because we are doomed to depravity and our sins have caused us to be separated from Him.  Total depravity means that we not only do bad things but that our thoughts and our feelings have also been stained by sin and there’s no hope of freedom apart from Christ.

We all carry Adam and Eve’s sin with us today.  I’d like to share with you something that one of our students posted:

With just one bite

We unveil ourselves:

The apple peels its shell

In long, perfect pieces

That never seem to end.

We were never secrets to begin with.

We taste the fruit and share the blame

We peel our own skin

And we, too, come undone.

Listen to Leigh’s profound explanation: “In essence, the poem reflects on the fact that as humans, we carry pieces of Eden with us–that is, we easily get wrapped up in our nature, tasting our own fruit and shame until we admit the need for everyday grace from our Father.  Let us always taste the sweetness of His mercy, allowing Him to take from our hands the fruit we try to tuck secretly in our pockets.  It is not until we let the apple fall from our hands that we can fill them with a new kind of fruit: the fruit of the Spirit.”

Raising Cain 

The slippery downward cycle of sin starts to gain speed when we come to Genesis 4.  After the Fall, Adam must have wondered if God was still planning to fill the earth with human beings.  Was this the end of the story?  Would the human race just die out?  Thankfully, by His grace God allows them to have children.  Let me point out some profound differences between chapters 3 and 4.  Eve had to be persuaded by an external tempter to do wrong; Cain had no one to tempting him other than his sinful and envious heart.  Adam and Eve’s sin was to eat fruit; Cain killed his brother.  Adam and Eve accept their punishment without protest; Cain complained that God was being too harsh.  What we see here is that the stain of sin is working itself more deeply into the human heart.

Every time Adam and Eve looked at Cain they were reminded that God still had plans for the human race.  Then Abel comes along as another miracle.  Cain is a farmer while Abel is a rancher.  Let’s pick up the story in Genesis 4:3-4: “In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the LORD.  But Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.  The LORD looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.  So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.”  I believe that God looked with favor on what Abel brought because he gave the “firstborn of his flock” while Cain simply brought “some of the fruits of the soil.”  Abel gave faithfully while Cain gave flippantly.  Abel gave what came first while Cain gave the Lord leftovers.  Abel’s offering cost him something while Cain’s offering appears to be quite casual.  

Friends, every time the offering plate is passed, we have the opportunity to give that which costs us something or to just casually flip in a few dollars.  When we give out of our “firstfruits,” what we give to God’s work should be the first check we write.  This is a way of really trusting God to provide for our future.  That’s what Abel did and what Cain refused to do.  By sacrificing his first lamb, he really had no way of knowing if there would be another one.  Cain first gathered all of his harvest and then gave “some” of it to God, perhaps even choosing to give something that he didn’t really need or want.  Are you giving God from your firstfruits or simply tossing Him some of your leftovers?

Cain is basically jealous of Abel and probably resents the fact that Abel seems to be more spiritual.  Spiritual jealousy is extremely ugly and leads Cain to become very angry.   Notice that God sees what is going on and even gives Cain some grace and a chance to repent of this half-hearted and sloppy offering in verse 7: “If you do what is right, will you not be accepted?  But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.” God is graciously telling Cain that sin is like a beast within him and it will consume him if he lets it.  Cain could have done a heart check at this point and changed his behavior.  Instead, his anger and jealousy drove him to murder his own brother.

You Go, Noah!

With few exceptions, most notably Enoch who walked with God and Noah who found favor with God, the world goes from bad to worse as the vortex of sin plummets the human race even further down the slippery slope of sin.  Look at Genesis 6:5-7: “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time.  The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.  So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth — men and animals, and creatures that move along the ground, and birds of the air — for I am grieved that I have made them.’” What a sad commentary on how God’s original community was now spinning out of control.  Evil was fully alive in hearts and sin was keeping the entire world in its bondage.  God was grieved and his own heart was hurting.  

Babbling at Babel

The story of Babel and the sin of the people in Genesis 11 is almost a satire on the folly of human arrogance.  Verse 2 tells us that they moved eastward.  Ever since the expulsion from Eden, people move east, which means they were going further and further away from Paradise.  The people get together and decide that they want to become like God and “make a name for themselves.”  This is in defiance to God’s direct command to be fruitful and fill the earth.  Instead of obeying, they decide to band together.  As they bond as one, they no longer think they need God and decide to build a tower to show that they are stronger and higher and mightier than the Majesty.

And so we see the stain of sin weaving its way through the first chapters of Genesis.  But we also see notes of grace if we look hard enough.

Grace Notes

1. Cain is called to repentance.

It’s amazing how quickly God follows judgment with grace

Cain is called to recommit his heart but refuses to do so.  After he murders Abel, he answers the Almighty: “Am I my brother’s keeper?”  God is calling Cain to repentance but Cain sarcastically wonders if he’s supposed to watch over his brother every second.  God is trying to get Cain to come clean but Cain brushes it off.  Notice in verse 10 there is a reference to “blood.”  He is then driven from community and according to verse 12; he will be a “restless wanderer on the earth.”  Do you ever feel like that?  Even in the midst of his sin, God gives grace to Cain by putting a mark on him.  This is a reminder of Cain’s sin but it’s also a mark of divine protection.  It’s amazing how quickly God follows judgment with grace.

2. God works with a righteous man named Noah. 

We’re told in Genesis 6:9 that Noah was righteous and blameless and that he “walked with God.” God starts over with Noah and his family after the world-wide flood wipes out the world.  God’s grace is seen in that he works through a righteous remnant when He could have destroyed everyone and everything.  We see in verse 18 the first mention of covenant, which we will fully develop next week.  In chapter 9, Noah is blessed and recomissioned to “be fruitful and increase in number” and God gives the rainbow as a sign of His covenant. 

3. God scatters the people. 

Even in the scattering of the people in Genesis 11, we see God’s grace.  He knew that if they were allowed to keep building this tower, their pride would consume and destroy them.  One other note of grace is found in verse 5 where we read that “God came down.”  I’m so thankful that God came down in the form of His Son to not only see what was going on but to solve the sin problem.  By the way, do you know where Babel is reversed in the Bible?  It was at Pentecost in Acts 2, where all the people hear the message in their own language.  God is now bringing His people together in His church!

I’d like to close by mentioning three additional grace notes that ring out from Genesis 3.  While Adam and Eve sinned and plunged all people everywhere into deep depravity, God’s grace permeates this passage.  We could call this the Gospel According to Genesis.

4. Prophecy of Messiah’s coming. 

The first reference to Jesus comes right in the middle of God’s curse on Satan in Genesis 3:15: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.”

The offspring of Eve is none other than Jesus, who will be struck on the heel but through His death will crush the head of Satan, destroying the power of sin.  I love how the first mention of Jesus comes in response to the first sin.  This shows God’s sovereign plan in providing a way of redemption from the very beginning.

5. God covers by shedding blood. 

Adam and Eve, trying to cover up their sin, are running around in fig leaves that are actually doing a very poor job of concealing.  They fall apart easily, they itch, and you need a new one every day or two.  The same is true for us. When we try to cover ourselves or make ourselves look presentable, we always fall short.  In verse 21, God provides “garments of skin” for them and clothes them.  The emphasis is on God’s initiative, as He takes care of their shame.  But there’s more here.  Because these coverings were made of skin, we know a sacrifice had been made.  For the first time in history, suffering, sacrifice and innocent blood is shed so that human sin might be covered and community with God could be restored.  This is the first foretaste of substitionary atonement.  God is setting the stage for the Passover, and later for the death of Jesus as the sacrifice for our sins.  The message was clear: God can only be approached by way of sacrifice because our sins have separated us from Him.  What a powerful reminder of God’s grace in the very opening pages of Scripture!

6. The Garden is gone but the Tree remains. 

In verse 24 we read that God “placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” Adam and Eve are expelled and it appears that all hope is lost.  The path back to Paradise is blocked by cherubim, who were God’s mighty angels.  But wait.  There’s more to the story.  As the curtain lowers for the final time on Eden, our last view is of the cherubim and the flaming sword guarding the entrance, and somewhere in the distance stands the Tree of Life.  The tree is guarded but it is not destroyed.  We never hear about Eden again as it was presumably destroyed by the flood.  But the Tree of Life reappears in Revelation 22:1-2: “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the great street of the city.  On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.  And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.” 

The leaves of the tree provide healing for the nations.  God has always intended for vast multitudes of people to come to this tree.  What was once a tree for just two people is now available for people from every tribe, tongue and race.  The cherubim are gone and the flaming sword is nowhere in sight because the Lord has opened the way to the Tree of Life.  How did this happen?  When Jesus died on a tree, the great veil or curtain, in the Temple was torn from top to bottom, meaning that God’s justice has been satisfied and now everyone can come to Him (Matthew 27:51; Hebrews 6:19; 10:20).  Did you know that this veil had cherubim embroidered on it?  And that it symbolized to the Jews that they couldn’t come to God on their own?  The Mercy Seat on the Ark of the Covenant (more about that in a few weeks) had two cherubim made of gold at the two ends as if to guard it.  The cross of Christ cut the curtain in two, opening the way to God for anyone, anywhere, at anytime to receive mercy and grace.  The curse was lifted because of the cross!  That’s why the Tree of Life appears in the closing chapter of the Bible!

Friend, the door to heaven is open!  Access to the Almighty is yours, if you will but take it.  Your shame, guilt, alienation, fear, hiding, and blaming can be over.  Instead of being cast out you’ve now been invited to draw near.  The curse has been reversed.  God will turn depravity and death into love and life.  Come to Him now.  Revelation 22:17: “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.”  Are there any takers today?

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?