Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 28, 1960
NUMBER 37, PAGE 8-9b

Wise As God

W. P. Risener, Orange, Texas

The archenemy of mankind is a master tempter, so diabolically clever that only though the employment of God's word can men prevail against him. The account of his victory in the Garden of Eden discloses much about his methods.

His first task was to nullify the effects of God's word which is the medium selected by the Almighty through which to direct man according to His own will and wisdom. So the Devil begins his assault at this point. He opens the conversation with a very mild question whose design was to cleverly magnify the restraint against eating from the one tree that was forbidden, and the import of which was something like this; Is it indeed the case that God has said ye shall not eat from every tree of the garden? The goodness of God in giving all the other trees from which they were invited to freely eat was thus pushed into the background, while the restriction against the one tree was brought into focus and highlighted. Having been created a free moral agent, with unlimited dominion and freedom in the physical realm, the question was designed to arouse and intensify the desire to throw off the shackles of God's word.

As we sadly observe the current trends within the brotherhood, it occurs to us that this desire, here awakened for the first time, has been the bane of mankind from that day to this. The restless urge to break free from the limitations of God's word is much in evidence in this enlightened (?) generation which is "on the march", even among those who are so well educated that they ought to know better if their education educated them any at all.

The effect of the temptation is indicated in Mother Eve's reply. "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." (Gen. 3:2-3.) God had graciously invited them to eat freely from every tree except one, neither is there any indication at all that He prohibited the touching of the tree. But Eve had lost sight of the goodness and generosity of the Father, and shows how grievous the restriction regarding the one tree now seems to her by making it more restrictive than it really was.

The Tempter quickly sees the opening and loses no time. He now boldly takes direct issue with the word of God, and hurls all the fiery darts of wickedness in order to immediately complete the conquest. "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 God, knowing good and evil." (Gen. 3:4-5.) The statement that they would surely die he flatly declares to be a lie, but he hastens to build up his case by pointing to the results. He still deceives men into thinking that the end justifies the means. He promises that their eyes would be opened, and that they would be wise as God in the knowledge of good and evil. There were several implications in the Devil's statement. It is implied that they would not die by stating other results that would occur, together with the lie that they would not die. But sin immediately separates man from God, and such separation is spiritual death... Being barred from the tree of life ultimately resulted in physical death.

Satan's temptation was the tremendous appeal to the vanity of man whose relentless desire for advancement has driven him at last to look even to the heavens for new worlds to conquer. Who is the man that does not wish to have his eyes opened that he may gain new knowledge? Who is it that does not have within his very being a desire to better himself? The implication is simply that God selfishly and jealously withheld from them the very means which would enable them to climb up the ladder of success to new heights of knowledge and achievement. The precise advantage to be gained in having their eyes opened, being as God, and knowing good and evil is not stated. The temptation was designed to arouse curiosity and play upon the imagination in such a way as to make full use of these.

The Devil's purpose was to create discontent with God and His word and induce man to seek worldly means, rather than God's way, for advancement even to an equality with God, at least in respect to the knowledge of good and evil. The satanic course did not, however, lead to the heights desired, for the tragic result was death instead. But it remained for the Savior Jesus Christ to defeat the Devil with God's word, and show us the way unto His presence through submission to His will, which will is revealed only in His word. If we therefore aspire to reach heaven and dwell with God on high, let us not seek such by worldly means and human inventions, as some men educated in human wisdom do, but let us abide in the teaching of Christ. (2 Jno. 9.)

The Devil always holds out great attraction before those whom he tempts, and is the greatest deceiver this world has ever known, for the pursuit of sin does not gain for one the results which he desires. Countless millions have pursued after pleasure and good times along every pathway of sin, but have not found that for which they sought. Sinful pleasures do not bring real happiness nor satisfaction, and the final result is not that which was desired, either in this life or in that to come. The beautiful and enticing baubles of Satan will wound the head that takes them, bring disappointment and despair in this life, and in the world to come eternal damnation.

But do not deceive yourself into thinking that the temptation to enjoy the pleasures of sin is the only tool employed by the satanic one. Equally effective and ruinous is the bauble that promises greater things for Christ and the church, if we will but cast aside the tie that binds His will upon us and "take the world for Christ" by human methods and arrangements. Men today still resent the idea of being confined within the limits of faith, which never exceeds what God's word teaches. The cry on every hand is to throw off the restrictions that bind us to the will of God within the perimeter of faith, that we may march away under the banner of human wisdom to "take the world for Christ". The Tempter would have us believe that more up to date methods will take us further faster, and get the job done quicker and better. So all manner of youth camps, banquet halls, parties, gymnastic activities, and other devices invented by human wisdom, are coming into vogue even among churches of Christ, and are being employed to attract the world to the church. Those so attracted are then coaxed through the baptistery in some gentle way that will not offend them, and, presto, the world is taken for Christ, or so the Devil would have us believe. But men under the control of worldly wisdom have been taking the world for Christ by such means for many years, and a lot of good people have been taken in too.

The mere preaching of the cross is foolishness to such men who imagine that they are doing so many wonderful works in the name of Christ. But such things cannot be done "in the name of Christ" for He has authorized no such activity in His vineyard. Such men are deceived into thinking that they serve God when actually they serve themselves and flatter their own vanity by doing the works ordained by themselves. I submit that God is not served when men serve themselves through the works of their own creation. Even if good could come from such, and it will not, (any more than Eve obtained the blessing by eating the forbidden fruit), such would not reflect glory to God, but would glorify the originators of such.

Not only is the Lord not served in the doing of such things, but neither is the work of bringing sinners to Him accomplished through such activity. The Lord outlined the work by which we may serve Him acceptably and in the process save those that are in sin. "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." (1 Cor. 1:21.) Men must come to God in faith and there is no other way to kindle faith within their hearts than by teaching God's word. The path to Him will lead beyond the limits of human wisdom, "logic". and "common sense", for in the realm beyond these faith manifests itself. And the man whose faith is unable to cause him to act in obedience in the area beyond human wisdom, does not have the kind of faith that pleases God — Search and see.

Such faith is not born or nurtured through the programs of work devised by men of worldly wisdom who crave friendship and affinity with the world and worldly things, but through the works which God Himself has given us to do. It is therefore high time that we manifest the kind of faith with which Gad has always been well pleased, and in the unity of such faith work within the limitations of His word to save both ourselves and those who hear us. Lest we be deceived in our own wisdom and the foolishness of our own inventions.