Resisting the serpent voice
The Bible instructs to resist the devil, or temptation, and it will flee – James 4:7. Many attribute temptation to a personal devil, an embodiment of evil having power to afflict hapless humanity. Yet, the Bible reveals that temptation comes as a thought or suggestion, rather than as a devilish personality. It is sometimes symbolically represented scripturally as a serpent voice.
How can Christians recognise temptation? Discernment is a spiritual quality, natural to man made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). All have the capacity to identify temptation, which comes in different guises – as a contradiction of God’s message, a belief that there is pleasure in evil or wrong doing, insistence that a knowledge of evil is requisite for salvation, a belief that God created evil. Whatever suggests anything other than God as the source of our existence, happiness and health, whether subtle or overt, can be deemed the serpent voice. Evidently, this is neither a talking snake nor a devil with an evil personality.
Succumbing to temptation, openly or in secret, dishonours God, and should bring remorse and a deep sense of the need for repentance, especially since we see from Jesus’ handling of temptation, that we have God-given authority to resist evil and sinful thoughts.
Two Bible examples highlight the need for Christians to be prayerfully watchful at all times and resist falling into temptation. The first example is of the serpent (Genesis 3), which shows up only after Adam was in a deep sleep. In this state of spiritual slumber, Adam, heeding the voice of temptation, together with Eve, disobeys God’s. The second example is of Eutychus (Acts 20). It also shows the consequence of spiritual slumber. Eutychus came to listen to Paul preach, but succumbed to the temptation of sleeping, rather than being attentive to Paul’s message. Falling from the third floor of the building, he died, though, Paul subsequently raised him. In Ephesians 5:14, Paul urges Christians to be spiritually alert thus: ‘Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give you light’. –
Resisting temptation is a moment-by-moment Christian activity. It is a fight with self and sin. It is overcome by the grace of Christ enabling us to work out our salvation. Because we are God’s children, God is for us, therefore nothing can be against us – no temptation can overcome us.
In her primary work, entitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Church founder, Mary Baker Eddy, highlights the importance of watching and resisting temptation. She writes, ‘The parent of all human discord was the Adam-dream, the deep sleep, in which originated the delusion that life and intelligence proceeded from and passed into matter.’ Or, as Paul puts it, ‘As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’ – I Cor 15:22,
Eddy says further that the serpent is a Scriptural metaphor for evil – the suggestive or tempting thought that there is another creator, which made evil and matter. Such thoughts tempt us to break the First Commandment, to have other gods. The metaphorical serpent voice belongs neither to animal nor a personality, but thoughts leading into temptation must be resisted; and through Christ, we prove them powerless.
Watchful, praying Christians can recognise the serpent voice regardless of its disguise, and through God’s grace, resist temptation as Christ Jesus did in the wilderness after His forty-day fast. The promise is that temptation will flee; and thus we would have taken another forward step in the path of salvation.
Moji George, Christian Science Committee on Publication for Nigeria West