Why did God allow Satan to tempt Adam and Eve to Sin? Did this catch God by surprise? What was the purpose for the temptation in the Garden?
Why the Temptation in the Garden?
When God placed the one tree in the Garden that Adam and Eve were forbidden to eat, He was seeing if they would obey Him or not. He said, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17). Of course Adam and Eve didn’t immediately die but due time they would for they had disobeyed God. There was nothing in particular special about the tree of the knowledge of good and evil but it was the fact that they had a choice to make. They could either listen to and obey God or choose their own way. Mankind has been choosing their own way ever since. You can take a look at the world today and see the results. When they disobeyed God, sin entered the world, “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23a).
God has said that “I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction” (Duet 30:15). For the most part, we know which way mankind has chosen for “just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned”(Rom 5:12). We still prefer our own way over God‘s. One only has to watch the news to see that the world is in a fallen condition. When mankind decided to choose his own way, his fate was sealed. When we decided to make our own choices, and today we are still choosing our way and not God’s, we see that “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Prov 14:12). This statement is repeated frequently in the Bible, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” (Prov 16:25). The fact is that “A person may [even] think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart” (Prov 21:12).
Our Way or God’s Way
When Israel tried to rule itself, chaos was the result. Ancient Israel wanted a king and what they desired was to be like the nations around them which had their own king. Today, those who are not Christ‘s still desire to be like the world around them. What they were doing was not so much wanting a king but rejecting God as their king. This is recorded in 1 Samuel 8: 4-9: “Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.” And ever since, mankind has been rejecting God as their king and not wanting anyone to rule over them. The results have been disastrous. This is why when even the king’s were not ruling Israel anymore, “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). When people decide for themselves to do what is right in their own eyes, or in their own opinions, suffering results.
Carried Away by our Own Lusts
God does not ever tempt us to sin (James 1:13). Eve was tempted and deceived by Satan but Adam went into it with his eyes wide open. We read the account in Genesis 3:6, “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. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” Please note that Adam was not off somewhere tending the Garden but Adam “was with her [and] ate it.” No excuse Adam. Satan was using a clever human strategy in tempting Adam and Eve as the apostle John wrote, “all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:16). Notice that the three lusts John mentions are in this eating of the forbidden fruit: Once the fruit was picked it must have appealed to their lustful nature (lust of the flesh) and it surely must have looked delicious (lust of eyes) and Satan said they would be like “God” after they ate it, knowing good and evil (the pride of life). The unholy trifecta of appeal was just too much. Ever since then, humans have been born into a sinful state as the Psalmist said, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5) and in fact, “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3) and “there is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 53:3).
God knew that we would choose to sin. He was not caught by surprise. The Lamb of God was chosen, even before the foundation or creation of the world, to be the sinless sacrifice to redeem and restore fallen human beings (Rev 13:8) and so God made a provision for us…long before the fall in the Garden. We are free moral agents and can choose what we wish and so in the Garden, “by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man” but “how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17)! God is still allowing Satan or his fallen angels (demons) to tempt us but God never, ever tempts anyone. James wrote, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13). The fact is that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire” so we can not blame God (James 1:14) because “desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:15). God does not leave us defenseless though because “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).
Today, believers face their own unholy trifecta of temptation; the world, the flesh, and the Devil and his demons. Even after a person is born again they will face these enemies but we can resist since we have the power of the Holy Spirit and when we put on the whole armor of God (Eph 6:10-18) and we can fight the Devil and resist him and he must flee (James 4:7). We are not helpless victims and we can not blame Adam and Eve for being born into a sinful state because if we had been there, we would have done the exact same thing. Today when we sin, we don’t have Adam or Eve tapping on our shoulders and saying, “Go ahead, take it, its good.” No, we are carried away by our won temptations and when our temptations are not resisted, they give to birth sin. The good news is that Jesus has made a way for us to escape the wrath of God. How can this be? By repenting of our sins, confessing them to God, and putting our trust in Christ to save us. This is possible because God “made him [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21).
Jack Wellman is Senior Writer at What Christians Want to Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible.
Resources: The Holy Bible, NIV