And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.”
And thus encouraged, Satan comes on stronger with a flat-out contradiction—the first contradiction of something that God says in scripture. And the first contradiction is the contradiction of the doctrine of judgment: “You shall not surely die.” It is not always the case, but it is often the case that when orthodoxy begins to go astray, it goes astray on the doctrine of judgment. For, after all, if you can remove the ultimate sanction, then there is less threat to go astray in a lot of other areas.
—D. A. Carson, “Sin and the Fall”
“You will not surely die.” This is a common lie about sin, and it is the oldest lie. It is a lie found in the heights of human arrogance: “A God of love would never send people to hell! If God is like that, I won’t believe in him!” It is a lie found in the depths of human weakness: “If I give in to this temptation, God will still forgive me.” Both of these statements are utterly Satanic. Those who say them—and who has not thought either one or the other?—are imitating the devil himself.
What is at the heart of this lie? It is a denial of the holiness of God. It ignores his moral purity. It imagines that God is all love and no holiness. Of course, this is nonsense—God’s holiness and his love are inseparable—but to our foolish ears, it sounds good. Good enough, anyway, to give us an opening for sin. It is not an appreciation of God’s love; rather, this lie tramples on his love. “Do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Romans 2:4).
Last night was Good Friday. Our church memorialized the crucifixion of Jesus Christ with a special service structured around the seven sayings of Christ on the cross. The cross itself, and the Savior who was hanged on it, are a testament to the falsehood of Satan’s lie. The truth was found in the words of God: “You shall surely die.” For the sin of the world, death was required. It was supplied by the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ. He died in our place, bearing the full penalty for our sins, satisfying the holy wrath of a holy God.
The sacrifice of Jesus Christ was not intended to allow us to live life as usual, presuming on God’s kindness. Let’s remember the extreme cost of our sin, the curse that awaited us, and stand in awe of our Savior’s love.