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Confusion & Transgression

Have you ever heard anyone say, as an explanation for some sinful action, "I have become so confused I don't know what is right anymore"? As a rule, the person who says such a thing is one who has had clear convictions but has acted, or is about to act, contrary to them.

This must be what the Holy Spirit was saying about Eve in 1 Timothy 2:14. "Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression."

To say that she was deceived is not to say that she was ignorant. She quoted perfectly what God had said: "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 has said, 'You shall not eel of it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die'" (Genesis 3:2-3). She was deceived when she thought there could be any valid reason for disobeying God.

We cannot know how long Adam and Eve avoided the forbidden tree. With so many other trees from which to eat, there was no need to eat of it. There is no evidence of confusion regarding the right and wrong of eating or the wisdom of abstaining. They were happy ignoring it.

But along came Satan to draw Eve's attention to the tree she had been avoiding. He drew her attention to the beauty of the fruit and somehow convinced her, perhaps by eating of it himself, that it was good for food. If he did eat of it, the fact that he did not die surely gave support to his contention that she would not die. One can see the confusion mounting. The arguments she had considered conclusive against eating were rapidly being matched by arguments for doing so. Which arguments were valid? Both seemed to be.

Had Adam been nearby, or had God spoken again, she might have been reminded once more of the strong reasons for rejecting the fruit. But as it was, the voice of God grew weaker in her memory as the desirability of the fruit was magnified by Satan's glib lies. All that was needed to tip the balance was the final suggestion of an apparent virtue in eating—the thought that she would become like God. Never mind the legalistic prohibition; surely one could not be blamed for wanting to be like God.

"She took of the fruit and ate" (Genesis 3:6). Tragic words! Tragic consequences! Consequences reaching down through countless generations even to us!

The great mistake of Eve was in allowing herself even to begin thinking about disobedience. This was the mistake of Aachan when he first saw the Babylonian garment (Joshua 7:21), of David when he first saw his beautiful neighbor bathing (2 Samuel 11:2) and of Judas when he first thought of betraying Jesus. It is the same mistake each of us makes—men and women alike—whenever we sin.

The Bible says as much: "Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death" (James 1:14-15).

There is ample defense available. If we are wise enough to meditate on God's laws in such circumstances (Psalm 119:11), and to ask Him for deliverance (Matthew 6:13), He will, with the temptation, "also make the way of escape" (1 Corinthians 10:13).

But all too often, in the name of openmindedness and objectivity, we feel we are obligated to look at the other side, to consider the "arguments in favor of" sin. We may even be so foolish as to parrot the existential line: "I must get away to myself and sort things out." If this means getting away for Bible study, meditation and prayer, fine! But this is seldom what it means. As a rule, what it means is: "I want to be left alone to rationalize my way through the sin that entices me without having to reason with those who would logically or scripturally expose my folly.'

Such conflict between conscience and passion, between logic and emotion, between authority and anarchy, between flesh and spirit will indeed produce confusion—confusion bordering on insanity. But it is a confusion for which we are responsible. It is the peculiar malady of "those who perish because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved" and who "did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2 Thessalonians 2:10,12). It is never surprising when such a person, "being deceived," falls into transgression.

In Jesus' day, "there was a division among the people because of Him" (John 7:43). They were confused by the contradictions between His claims and the accusations of their rulers. Jesus stated clearly who would not be confused: "If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak of My own authority" (John 7:17).

Wanting to obey God will save us from the confusion, deception and transgression into which our mother fell.