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Overcoming Temptation (Newsletter 5-1)


By David K. Bernard

THE CREATION ACCOUNT IN Genesis reveals God’s plan for the human race. It also reveals Satan’s attempt to thwart God’s plan, giving us insight into temptation and the means of overcoming it.

God created Adam and Eve to have a personal relationship with Him. He placed them in the Garden of Eden, where they had everything they could need or want and where they communed with Him every day. He gave them freedom of will so they could truly love Him as He loved them. In the center of the garden He placed the tree of life. As long as they remained in fellowship with God, they were sustained by His life.

Adam and Eve lived in a state of innocence under God’s authority. Of all the trees in the garden, God forbade them to eat the fruit of only one, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This command was not burdensome, for they had access to all the other fruits and herbs of the bountiful garden. It showed that they needed to acknowledge Him as Lord and did not have authority to decide for themselves what was good or evil. They had the ability to understand right from wrong and to obey God freely.

The devil, a fallen angel, decided to attack God’s beloved image creatures as a means of hurting God. He began by tempting Eve to disobey God, which is sin. We can identify five aspects of his temptation.

1. He questioned God’s Word.

“Hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” (3: 1). He replaced God’s command with a question, undermining truth with doubt.

2. He distorted God’s Word. God had prohibited only one tree, but the devil subtly implied that God’s command was much more comprehensive and restrictive than it actually was.

3. He denied God’s Word. After undermining God’s Word, he eventually contradicted it boldly. God had told Adam that if he sinned, “You shall surely die” (2: 17, NKJV). Satan said, “You will not surely die” (3:4, NKJV).

4. He questioned God’s motive.

God gave the command because He loved humans and wanted to protect them. He knew that sin would separate them from Himself, the source of life, which would result m spiritual and physical death. But the devil as­serted that they would actually become like God, insinuating that God was jealous of their potential.

5. He made a threefold appeal to human desires, human perception, and human pride. “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’ (3:6).

All temptation employs these basic elements. When the devil tempted Jesus, he used the same tactics and the same threefold temptation. (See Matthew 4:1-11.) He tried to instigate pride, tempting Jesus to jump off the Temple without being killed as a spectacular means of glorifying self. In the process he distorted a promise of protection in the Psalms, claiming it meant Jesus should test God by deliberately attempting to harm Himself. The devil also appealed to a desire for food and used a vision of the world’s kingdoms and their glory. Jesus resisted these three temptations by relying upon the Word of God.

The same threefold temptation confronts us today. The world promotes the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life instead of love for God (I John 2:16). The New Testament teachings on holiness, including modesty of dress, are designed to protect us in these same areas.

Eve sinned first, but Adam was with her and immediately joined in the sin (Genesis 3:6). Eve was deceived, while Adam was not (I Timothy 2: 14). Eve genuinely believed the devil’s lies. Adam didn’t, but he wanted to please his wife more than God and wanted to taste the forbidden fruit, so he knowingly participated in the sin. Instead, Adam should have reminded his wife of God’s command, told her to ignore the devil, and stopped her from talking to him about disobedience to God. If Adam had exercised proper leadership, then apparently neither he nor Eve would have sinned. (See I Timothy 2:11-14, where Paul used this example to advise Timothy to silence a woman in Ephesus who was teaching false doctrine and usurping authority.) God had created Adam first and given the command directly to him as the representative of the human race. Thus He held Adam supremely accountable for the sin. Because of Adam’s sin, sin came upon all humans
(Romans 5:12-14).

Jesus came to destroy the devil’s works and impart power to overcome a sinful life (I John 3:8-10). By His death, burial, and resurrection He gives victory over sin and Satan (Colossians 2:11-15). Instead of imitating Adam and Eve, we can imitate Jesus. If we resist the devil, as Jesus did, he will flee from us (James 4:7). We can overcome temptation by faith in Jesus, by the Word of God, and by the in­dwelling Holy Spirit.

DAVID K. BERNARD

General Superintendent / UPCI

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