Monday, August 16, 2010

A Great Temptation

     This is surely a great temptation. With it Satan tries to induce Eves mind to reach the conclusion that God is not inconsistent. Accordingly, if He turned over all the other creatures, He also turned over all the trees. Therefore it follows that the command about not eating of the tree is not God’s command, or at least is not to be understood as though He did not want anyone to eat from this tree.
     Thus a twofold temptation is put before Eve, by which, however, Satan has the same end in view. The first is: “God did not say this; therefore you may eat from this tree.” The second is: “God has given you everything; therefore you have everything in your possession; therefore this one single tree is not forbidden you.” However, each aims at the same end: that Eve be drawn away from the Word and from faith. This command about not eating from the tree, which was given them by God, is a convincing proof that even if his nature had remained perfect, Adam, together with his descendants, would have lived in faith until he would have been translated from this physical life to the spiritual life. Where the Word is, there necessarily faith also is. Here is the Word that he should not eat of this tree; otherwise he would die. Therefore Adam and Eve ought to have believed that this tree was detrimental to their welfare. Thus faith is included in this very commandment.
     We who are being brought out of sin into righteousness and from our mortal body to the immortal body also live in faith. But we have a different Word, which Adam did not have when his nature was perfect, since he would have been directly translated from the physical life to the spiritual. For this reason I said above that this tree in the middle of the garden would have been like a temple in which this Word would be preached: that all the other trees were wholesome, but that this one was destructive.9 Therefore they should have learned to obey God and to render Him the service of refraining from eating of it, since God had forbidden it.
     In this way uncorrupted nature, which had the true knowledge of God, nevertheless had a Word or command which was beyond Adam’s understanding and had to be believed. Moreover, this command was given to Adam’s innocent nature that he might have a directive or form for worshiping God, for giving thanks to God, and for instructing his children. Since the devil sees this and knows that this command is beyond the understanding of the human being, he tempts Eve so that she herself may proceed to ponder whether this is God’s command and will or not. This is the beginning and the main part of every temptation, when reason tries to reach a decision about the Word and God on its own without the Word.
     It was God’s intention that this command should provide man with an opportunity for obedience and outward worship, and that this tree should be a sort of sign by which man would give evidence that he was obeying God. But by getting a discussion under way as to whether God had commanded this, Satan is trying to lead man away from this obedience to sin. In this situation the only salvation would have been if Eve had laid emphasis on God’s command and had not allowed herself to be drawn away to other discussions about whether God had commanded this, or whether, since God had created everything for the sake of man, this one tree had been created for the ruin of man. It seems a matter of wisdom to investigate these questions rather carefully; but the moment the mind engages in discussions of this kind, it is done for. Now let us hear what Eve’s reply was.

Luther, M. (1999, c1958). Vol. 1: Luther's works, vol. 1 : Lectures on Genesis: Chapters 1-5 (J. J. Pelikan, H. C. Oswald & H. T. Lehmann, Ed.). Luther's Works (1:153). Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

photo credit: Sint-Katelijne-Waver

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