Turn in your copy of Scripture to Genesis 3:14-15. Over the last two weeks we looked at the account of Adam's fall, and we saw several things about the nature of sin. Now we come to the beginning of the passage that gives us the Lord's sentence against the serpent, the woman, and the man. Ironically, the curses of Genesis 3:14-19 are the first step forward in the covenant of grace. In these words of curse, blessing is implied and combined. The creational ordinances of marriage, labor, and even, by a very subtle implication, the Sabbath remain in force as continuing responsibilities, as is seen in the very curses that the Lord administers. Finally, notice that there is a movement towards restoration even in these words of penalty. This time we’ll see these things in the curse of the serpent, and next week we’ll look at the curses of Adam and Eve, as well as the aftermath of this fall into sin.

In verses 14-15 we see the curse of the serpent combined with the first giving of the gospel. We learn there that we must realize that some curses are blessings. You will note that, unlike Adam and Eve, no question is put to the serpent because the serpent was already convicted of his rebellion. There was no remedy for the sin of the serpent. By the way, that fact that God provides no remedy for Satan is a reminder of the freedom of God in giving grace to us. There is nothing that made God forgive us, and that only magnifies the significance of His grace as He freely pardons us.

It is very important for us to see that this curse, especially in verse 15, contains in it an implicit blessing in the very first phrase of Genesis 3:15: "And I will put enmity between you and the woman." This enmity is a war that God has established between the woman and the serpent designed to protect the woman from the enemy of her soul. You remember the woman had been drawn to the enticing words of Satan. Now God is establishing a wedge between the woman who had been deceived and the one who had deceived her. And by the way, we have here in seed form the doctrine of predestination: God, taking divine initiative and establishing in the heart of a human being a seed of enmity against evil that will work for their ultimate salvation. By our nature, we are at enmity with God since the fall. But here is the Lord, by His will, changing our nature so that we are not at enmity with Him but at enmity with Satan.

And I want you to see the enmity expressed here in Genesis 3:15. It's on three fronts. First of all, notice that He says, “I will establish enmity between you and the woman”--that is, this particular woman. The Lord begins here, first of all, because the woman was the first seduced. He immediately begins to apply His remedy against Satan's strike. This also establishes the woman's role in redemption. As the woman had first been seduced and so used as a tool to bring sin into the world, now the Lord will use the woman to bring the Savior into the world.

Notice also that there is enmity “between your seed and her seed.” This is an expansion of the conflict between Satan and Eve. But who is the woman's seed? Is it all mankind? No. John tells us in I John 3:12 that Cain himself, Eve’s son, was of the evil one. So the seed of woman does not refer to all mankind. Instead it refers to the descendants of the woman whom God has redeemed out of the world and has placed in divine enmity against Satan. Satan's seed refers to those humans that God does not set in enmity against Satan and Satan's fallen angels.

So first there's enmity between Satan and the woman, then between her seed and his seed, and then the Lord comes to an individual battle: “He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” Now the conflict returns to hand-to-hand combat between two individuals, one representing all the hardened hosts of Satan and one who represents the redeemed hosts of God. The book of Revelation and Romans, chapter 5, make it clear that we have in here the representation of the Lord Jesus as the covenant representative of His people in hand-to-hand combat with Satan himself.

You see that the history of redemption is the history of a God-originated warfare. That's why spiritual warfare is good terminology as we think about the warfare in us against sin and against the sin and worldliness with which we're surrounded. And this warfare culminates in the conflict between Satan and the singular seed of the woman, Christ.

Now there are many applications of the truths seen just in this passage of curse against the serpent. The first is that the signs of spiritual warfare within us are the very evidence of life and grace. Sometimes we look at our internal struggle against sin as a mark that we are lost. That's what Satan would like us to think. But the very warfare between sin and the flesh which is in us is a mark that we are alive spiritually. When we see ourselves wrestling against sin, sins that frustrate us and so often defeat us, but sins which we can never become comfortable with, we are seeing an evidence of the life that the Spirit has engendered in us and the life which is a result of this divine enmity that the Lord has implanted in us.

That brings us to our second point of application. If we can be at peace with sin in our lives, if we can resent the faithful preaching of repentance, if we can resent when the Bible begins to encroach upon our freedoms to do what we want, if we can be satisfied with living out of accord with the revealed will of the Lord, then that is a sign, the most serious sign, of not only soul-sickness, but of spiritual death. The believer cannot be satisfied with a walk apart from communion with the Lord and apart from the way which He is revealed in His Word. And so this passage reminds us that in all those whom God redeems, He plants a spiritual enmity in our hearts so that we can no longer love and coddle and tolerate sin in ourselves. We long to see sin mortified in ourselves, but we cannot do it on our own. We must depend upon the grace of the Holy Spirit. But we can never be satisfied with a state of living apart from God again, because he has planted in us an enmity against sin.

The Rev. Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III is Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary. He can be reached at 601-923-1600 or by email at jhyde@rts.edu.