Genesis 3:5. The serpent tempted Eve by telling her that “her eyes would be opened and she would be like God, knowing good and evil.” And as we know, Eve believed the serpent and ate of the fruit and she gave to Adam also and he ate. Thus mankind was plunged into sin, and shame and fear immediately appear.
But let us consider the serpent’s temptation. First, he tells the woman that she will not die if she eats of the forbidden fruit. The serpent is, of course, Satan and this is a lie, a direct contradiction of what God had specifically told Adam. Satan is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44) and here he initiates lying into the human experience. “You surely will not die!” The serpent tells the lie and the woman believes the lie. God, who is altogether perfectly trustworthy, has given a warning and the serpent, who is altogether deceitful, has denied the warning, and the woman believes the serpent. Next, consider what the serpent says then. He said she would be like God, knowing good and evil. In this one statement there are two lies. She will never be like God and God does not know good and evil. God is ever and always uniquely God and no human will ever be like God. But also God is only good and knows only good. The Bible makes clear that there is no darkness with God (1 John 1:7) and that He can never do evil and He can never sin. Whereas Satan is only evil and knows only evil, God is good and knows only good. Is God aware of sin and evil? Of course He is, but He does not know evil and has never personally experienced evil, because He is perfectly holy and good. So Satan’s lie to the woman fails on several counts. Nevertheless it succeeds in deceiving the woman and then the man and thus the human race becomes sinful.
What results from this disastrous decision? Man experiences guilt and fear and shame. These next verses are among the most poignant in the Scriptures although they are so simply stated. The eyes of the man and the woman are opened (3:7) and they knew that they were naked. When they were without sin there was nothing wrong with being naked, but now that they know evil, they also know the shame of nakedness (Revelation 3:17-18, etc.). From now on, until we are finally clothed with our heavenly clothing (2 Corinthians 5), nakedness will be shameful, and only those who are beyond shame will not experience it as such. Nakedness is shameful to sinful man because all is exposed to the eyes of the LORD. Because they are ashamed of their nakedness, they desperately sew fig leaves together to try to cover themselves. So shame results from sin.
But also notice that fear came from this act of disobedience. Now they hear the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden and they hide themselves from Him. Before they welcomed the time to walk with the LORD God and to have fellowship with Him, but now He comes to meet with them and they hide. Why? They hide because now the LORD God is not their friend but He is their Judge. They have sinned and are therefore condemned before the holy God and they have no refuge from His wrath. In an instant they have gone from His dear friends to His enemies because of their sin. Adam says, “I heard the sound of You in the garden and I was afraid.” O, how painful this must have been to the LORD God. Before they had sweet fellowship with the LORD, but now they are afraid of God. Imagine the sense of loss that must have washed over Adam! Of course, the LORD knew that Adam had sinned and had eaten of the fruit, but will you notice the grace of our great God. Instead of judging Adam immediately, God gives Adam an opportunity to confess and repent. “Have you eaten from the tree?” I wonder how different our human history would have been if our first father had confessed his sin and asked for forgiveness and repented of his transgression rather than trying to blame God and blame the woman for his sin. What would we be like if Adam had been a man of confession rather than a man of blame-shifting?
Finally and obviously, the man and the woman experience the guilt that comes from disobeying the LORD. All disobedience brings guilt, whether we acknowledge it or are aware of it or not. Deny it though we may, the guilt of disobedience remains and we know, at the core of our being and in the depth of our conscience, that we are guilty and deserve punishment. This guilt is like a wound that never heals, but only festers and oozes and stings. Adam and Eve felt for the first time this sting of guilt.
We are just like Adam and Eve, in that we, too, experience shame and fear and guilt. The truth is that we experience these things for exactly the same reasons that they did; namely, that we have all sinned and all disobeyed the LORD. We are all guilty because of our sin, and we are ashamed of our being exposed before a holy God (Hebrews 4:12-13), and we are all afraid of this great Judge who will call us to account for our disobedience and defiance of His holiness. How can we escape from these three curses? Is there a remedy for our sin? Yes, there is! Jesus Christ is the mediator between God and man and He is the one who can take away our guilt. He died on the cross to rescue from God’s wrath all those who would place their trust in Him. He is the one who pays our penalty by dying in our place on the cross. He thus takes away our guilt and our shame, and we can boldly approach our holy God without fear, because His Son has become our Savior. We can walk with God as a friend of God with no fear of God, since He is no longer our Judge, but has become our loving heavenly Father. So just as Adam and Eve in an instant with one sin went from being unashamed and walking with God in fellowship with Him, to being guilty and ashamed and afraid and hiding from Him, so we, too, in an instant can go from being afraid of God and ashamed, to being a friend of God and free from shame. How? By placing our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the Lord and as the Savior who has risen from the dead. Jesus Christ is the “seed of the woman” (Genesis 3:15) who has crushed Satan (the serpent) and has conquered death and sin by His crucifixion and resurrection and who now offers to all who believe in Him freedom from fear and shame and gives them instead life abundant and everlasting.