Perhaps the most powerful gospel sermon that was ever preached was preached by the Lord Himself and is recorded in Genesis 3. This sermon is of great importance for us in the times in which we are living, because it addresses the issues that we are facing today.
Parameters of the Bible
“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? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 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. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 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.” Genesis 3:1–5.
Though we will see more dimensions as we progress, in these few verses the parameters are set for the rest of the Bible.
“Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?”
Did you notice what happened? The devil used what is known as a covert negative. A covert negative is the insinuation of a doubt while seeking to appear otherwise.
“And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden.”
Eve did something that we have been warned never to do—she parleyed with the enemy. Ellen White tells us that the devil, through the serpent, hypnotized her. (See Review and Herald, February 24, 1874; Manuscript Releases, vol. 21, 10.) He used conversational hypnosis, otherwise known as NLP [neuro-linguistic programming].
God has given to us a commission to proclaim the everlasting gospel, not to parley with the enemy. The enemy, however, seeks to engage us in negotiation, and, like the woman, we parley with him, allowing him to gain control over our minds.
“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. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die.” Now the devil directly challenges the word of God.
He continues, “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.” In other words, you, rather than God, will determine what is good and evil. This is the philosophy presented by Friedrich Nietzsche in his book, Beyond Good and Evil. (Vintage Books, New York, 1989.) He presents the concept that it is possible for a person to develop a personal lifestyle established upon his own norms of good and evil and without regard to the definition of good and evil laid down by the Lord. This is the original lie that the serpent told Eve. Even though today the majority of people in the world no longer question this idea, it is spiritualism, which, like a dark fog, is settling over all society. There is scarcely an aspect of human life, whether it be government, religion, law, or culture, that is not affected.
“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. 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.” Genesis 3:6, 7.
Having accepted Satan’s assertions as truth, Adam and Eve were now allied to him—one in nature.
“And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden.” Verse 8.
They had never responded this way before. This was their first experience in hiding from God.
“The Lord God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where [art] thou?” Verse 9.
This same question has come ringing down through time. Where art thou modern man? Where are you in your thinking? Where are you in relationship to My Word? Where are you in relationship to My presence? Where art thou?
“And he [Adam] said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I [was] naked; and I hid myself.” Verse 10.
Man hides himself from God because of the sense of his nakedness and his fear of appearing in the presence of His Creator unclothed by the garment of Christ’s righteousness. It is to meet this great need that the Three Angels’ Messages focus on the proclamation of the righteousness of Christ, which is to be received by faith.
“And he [God] said, Who told thee that thou [wast] naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, wherof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat?” Verse 11. Have you partaken of spiritualism? Have you fallen into the trap of the devil?
“And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest [to be] with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” Verse 12.
The spirit of accusation, which leads to the fracturing of human relationships—something never before known—now brought division between Adam and his wife. Today, under the impact of spiritualism, human relationships are being broken apart, unraveling the very fabric of society. Ellen White tells us that this process will continue to grow worse until we will see a situation in this world which will exceed that which brought about the reign of terror in France. (See Education, 228.)
“The Lord God said unto the woman, What [is] this [that] thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou [art] cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; and upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life.” Verses 13, 14.
Now comes the first gospel sermon ever preached. Notice that, in addressing Adam and Eve, God directs His words to the serpent. “And I will put enmity [hatred or hostility] between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” Verse 15.
In these few words, the Lord laid down the great parameters for the struggle that would take place in the working out of the great controversy—the unending warfare that would exist between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent until the close of time.
Good and Evil
Ellen White, commenting on this, says, “His [the devil’s] seed will war against the righteous, and the wicked will endeavor to exterminate the good from the face of the earth. . . . Whenever a soul takes a decided stand for truth, the head of the serpent is bruised by the seed of the woman, and the serpent can bruise but the heel of the seed.” The Youth’s Instructor, October 11, 1894.
“The enmity referred to in the prophecy in Eden was not to be confined merely to Satan and the Prince of life. It was to be universal. . . . The seed of Satan is wicked men, who resist the Spirit of God, and who call the law, as did their father the devil, a yoke of bondage.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 16, 117. “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” 1 John 3:8.
Here the distinction is clearly made. The seed of the woman are those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony and faith of Jesus. The seed of the wicked one, the devil, are those who call the law a yoke of bondage and who commit sin. This is the cleavage point. It is also the cleavage point between Israel and Babylon, as we will shortly see.
“The enmity that exists in the heart against evil has no natural existence [now, this is a very important point], but is an enmity that has been created through the agency of the Holy Spirit. . . . He [Satan] originates traditions, and through his maxims he succeeds in assimilating to his own nature the nature of those who do not yield allegiance to the law of God.” The Signs of the Times, June 11, 1894.
We do not have a natural hatred against evil, but the Holy Spirit has put this hatred against evil in our hearts.
Notice how Satan works by introducing traditions and maxims to conform all, who do not yield allegiance to the law of God, to his own nature.
“It is God alone that can continually put enmity between the seed of the woman and the serpent’s seed. After the transgression of man his nature became evil. Then was peace between Satan and fallen man. Had there been no interference on the part of God, men would have formed an alliance against heaven. . . . There is no native enmity between fallen angels and fallen men. . . . Fallen angels and fallen men join in companionship.” The Gospel Herald, July 1, 1898.
In the outworking of these principles, we see a separation but also unity. On the one hand, we see the seed of the woman in harmony with God, with His Law, and with the unfallen beings throughout the universe. In contrast, there develops a harmony between fallen man and fallen angels. Jesus wants us to recognize these distinctions, which is why, when the Jewish leaders confronted Him seeking to engage Him in a debate, He said, “Ye are of [your] father the devil.” John 8:44. They were the seed of the serpent, and Jesus clearly identified them as such.
Concept of Christian Love
How different from this clear demarcation between right and wrong is the present concept of Christian love. This idea has captured the thinking of American society, completely divesting love of the control placed upon it by an awareness of the holiness of God.
The modern approach to love is really the result of merging Buddhism with Christianity. The Buddhist view of love is primarily oriented to human beings and the elimination of hatred. It seeks to teach beautiful concepts of love while denying the fall and the need of a Saviour from sin. While it sounds like a beautiful concept, and is one with which most people would heartily agree, it is spiritualistic in nature and does not reckon with the reality of Scripture. Today, these concepts have infiltrated all our psychology, entirely altering the culture of the Western World. But what did God say to Adam and Eve? I will put hatred between thy seed and her seed.
The true Christian view of love recognizes that God’s love does not naturally exist in the human heart. Jesus, the Saviour, is needed. In the pure, holy love that He gives in the gift of His holiness, righteousness is supreme and results in supreme love to God and impartial love to man. Christian love, centered in Christ and regulated by the Law of God, is in complete harmony with the Scriptures.
Genuine love is ever antagonistic to the spirit of Satan, for there is an unreconcilable conflict between Satan and Christ. Jesus said, “Ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name’s sake.” “I came not to send peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:22, 34.
If all of humanity were to accept Christ and come into harmony with the principles of heaven, the most wonderful love would exist. It would be a heaven on earth, but true everlasting peace can only be achieved through surrender to Christ and His principles.
The Buddhistic concept of love is a tolerance of everything but the truth as it is in Jesus. It is, therefore, especially opposed to the proclamation of any message which warns against false religion, such as the exposure of the man of sin. It is one of the foremost antagonists of the love of Christ as manifested in the gift of His righteousness. It gives evidence of its hostility to the Lord and His truth by striving to turn the soul’s loyalty from Christ while seeking to destroy the operation of the Holy Spirit in the soul, which works in the heart of man, inspiring hostility against Satan and his seed.
God is a being of holiness, and God’s holiness involves hostility against sin. He commits Himself to act in the defense of the presence of holiness in humanity, which is why again and again, as at the Red Sea when with a strong arm He delivered Israel, God has acted in behalf of His people. In doing so, He is praised as a holy God, because He has acted in complete harmony with the purity of His righteous character. It is this holiness of which we are to be partakers.
“For they [earthly fathers] verily for a few days chastened [us] after their own pleasure; but he for [our] profit, that [we] might be partakers of his holiness.” “Follow peace with all [men], and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.” Hebrews 12:10, 14.
This helps us to understand some of the passages in the Psalms that are so perplexing to our society. “The foolish shall not stand in thy sight: thou hatest all workers of iniquity.” Psalm 5:5.
Is God not a God of love? How, then, can the Scriptures say, “Thou hatest all workers of iniquity”?
God is a God of love, but His holiness involves a righteous hostility against sin and against the seed of the serpent.
True peace and true love is found only in the new birth and in surrender to Christ. “I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers. I have hated the congregation of evil doers; and will not sit with the wicked.” Psalm 26:4, 5.
Who are dissemblers? They are the people who profess what they really do not have in their heart. These people are going into the congregation of the Lord professing one thing, while their hearts are quite out of harmony with their profession. By their actions, they are seeking to deceive.
Notice, also, the concept of separation from the wicked, which is foundational to the holiness of God. We are to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness, and holiness involves complete separation from all evil.
There is a very interesting development brought to view in the parable of the wheat and the tares, as given in Matthew 13. “Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.” Verses 24, 25.
The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that the “tares represent a class who are the fruit or embodiment of error, of false principles.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 70, 71. The enemy that sowed them is the devil. Neither God nor His angels ever sowed a seed that would produce a tare. The tares are always sown by Satan, the enemy of God and man. The sowing of tares in the professed church of Christ is an act of revenge Satan commits against Christ. Jesus pointed it out in this parable so that the true church members could be warned that Satan would sow his tares—infiltrators and destroyers—among the pure wheat seed of Christ.
Surely, this is true of our time, for while we were asleep, a crop of tares has sprung up in the structure. I was at the seminary when there was a great flowering of tares that seemed to suddenly appear. All of them were in harmony in their belief that the Law of God could not be kept.
“The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.” Verses 28, 29.
The Lord has such a regard for our protection that He does not want even one soul to be lost. Because the fabric of life might be involved and some of the wheat might be destroyed in the process of removing the tares, He says, “Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.” Verse 30.
Here is demonstrated the separation and unity that comes at the time of the harvest, just before the close of probation.
Later, the disciples came to Jesus seeking for a clearer understanding of the tares. This concept of the tares troubled them. In explaining the parable to them, Jesus clearly delineated along the same parameters that He had in Genesis 3:15.
“Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field. He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of Man; The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked [one]. The enemy that sowed them is the devil.” The devil, at work in the professed church, sowed the tares. “The harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Verses 36–43.
True Church Defined
“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Revelation 12:17. Here is anger, hostility, and warfare.
Once again, at the end of time, we see manifest the hatred that is to exist between the seed of the woman and that of the serpent. The remnant of the seed of the woman is the last in the long line of those who keep the Commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus. The seed of the serpent, which are the tares, have hostility against the truth of obedience to God’s Law. The devil, working through them, attacks the wheat, seeking to destroy the seed of the woman.
This raises a question. What happens when you have a situation where there gets to be so many tares that they are choking out the good seed?
Jesus was faced with this same problem in His day. When He came we are told that when Jesus came preaching, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel,” He first labored in Judea. Mark 1:15. “If the leaders in Israel had received Christ, He would have honored them as His messengers to carry the gospel to the world. . . . But Israel knew not the time of her visitation.” The Desire of Ages, 231, 232. As the jealousy and distrust of the Jewish leaders ripened into open hatred, the Sanhedrin rejected Christ’s message, and the leaders sought to turn the hearts of the people away from Him. Jesus was dealing with tares that were bent on His death. Therefore, Jesus departed from Jerusalem, leaving behind the temple, the religious leaders, and the people who had been instructed in the law. Instead, He turned to another class, in another field, to proclaim His message and to gather out those who should carry the gospel to all nations.
“As the light and life of men was rejected by the ecclesiastical authorities in the days of Christ, so it has been rejected in every succeeding generation. Again and again the history of Christ’s withdrawal from Judea has been repeated.” Ibid., 232.
But I ask you, Where was the good seed? The tares were not the good seed; they were never the true church. The Spirit of Prophecy tells us that Caiaphas had not one ray of light from God. (See Review and Herald, June 12, 1900.) The followers of Christ had no thought of separating themselves from the established church, but the religious leaders would not tolerate the light. Those who bore it were forced to seek another class who were longing for the truth. There were so many tares that they could no longer function in the professed church.
Today, few are listening for the voice of God, ready to accept truth in whatever guise it may be presented. Too often, those who follow in the steps of the Reformers are forced to turn away from the churches they love in order to declare the plain teaching of God’s Word. They are, however, the wheat, the seed of the woman. They are the church. The tares are not the church of God; they are the servants of the devil. They are the seed of the wicked one who war against the seed of the woman.
And so, this great message that the Lord preached in the Garden of Eden comes ringing down to our day, clearly defining whom the true church really is. It is the remnant of the seed of the woman, those who keep the Commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.
We must never ever forget this principle, because it is essential to our salvation to understand who the seed of the woman really is. We must know the great cause, to which we are committed, if we are to be prepared to sacrifice our life for it.
Reprinted from LandMarks, September 1993.
Pastor Bob Trefz is dedicated to preparing people for the coming crisis and Jesus’ soon return.