Tag Archives: tree of the knowledge of good and evil

God’s Enemy

let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, a
and let him trample my life to the ground
and lay my glory in the dust.
Selah. (Psalm 7:5 ESV)

Who is God’s enemy? Enemy means a personal foe that may be an individual or a corporate group, whose main characteristic is hatred. God’s enemy is an adversary whose intent is to usurp God’s ultimate authority and destroy all which represents Him.

God alone is uncreated and created all things. Does this mean He created His own enemies? Before He created the heavens and the earth and all contained in the universe, there was nothing but God. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2 ESV). We do not know, and He does not tell us, when He created the heavenly beings, mostly called angels, who dwell with Him in eternity. They are created beings. We are told He created Man in His image. 

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27 ESV)

We are not told if angels carry the image of God. Angels are intelligent, moral, active beings, capable of making decisions. Yet, the theological assumption of many is that angels do not have the total image of God. This is an assumption which cannot be verified with Scripture or in nature. The writer of Hebrews tells us angels are God’s servants, as is all creation, sent to serve those created in His image. “Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14 ESV). Peter tells us angels “long to look”into the grace and salvation offered to a rebellious people spoken of by the prophets of Scripture (1 Peter 1:10-12).

In the Garden of Eden was a creature, called a serpent, who was a created being who spoke to, lied to, and tempted our first parents. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?’” (Genesis 3:1 ESV). We assume the Deceiver, a heavenly being who rebelled against God, inhabited a dumb creature, a snake, and spoke to Eve, a person given the image of God. Within free-will, and within both Adam and Eve, was the possibility of rebellion, the ability to obey out of love or disobey out of self-interest. Within the Deceiver, a created being, was the desire to destroy the relationship between every person and God, who created all people for relationship with Him. Eve saw, and reasoned correctly, that the fruit of the forbidden tree“was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6 ESV). She reasoned incorrectly that God was withholding something from her. Her flesh, the intentions of her heart and her pride in desiring something not given to her by God, influenced her decision to rebel. “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John 2:16 ESV). She was tempted and succumbed to the temptation and sinned. Because Adam followed her into sin, sin affected all their offspring, which includes all people except Jesus, separating everyone from God.

There are now three enemies of God, actively fighting against Him seeking to destroy anything created and designed to serve Him. First, people are God’s enemies. Yet, God created people for relationship by giving them His image. He, therefore, offers a means to reestablish that relationship, changing those who are His enemies into those who actively serve and love Him. Secondly, sin is His enemy. Sin acts like it has a personality by taking on the personality of the sinner. God told Cain “sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7 ESV). Sin enslaves people. Finally, the Deceiver is an enemy of God. One of God’s promises is to destroy the Deceiver. “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15 ESV). The fulfillment of this promise is in Jesus Christ. 

We were enemies of God but are now servants. “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Romans 5:10 ESV). Sin will finally and ultimately be destroyed. The Deceiver will be cast away from God’s presence. “[A]nd the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Revelation 20:10 ESV). God’s enemies cannot succeed.

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Rebellion Judged

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (Psalm 5:10 ESV)

God does not tolerate rebellion against His will. From Adam and Eve to the present and into the future until time ends, people mutiny against God. Those who strive against Him, who disobey His will, are finally separated from Him. God told Adam to not eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil “for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17 ESV). God actually said, “die die.”  Eat this fruit and you will die spiritually after you die physically. Spiritual death is separation from Him who gives spiritual life, while continuing to exist. To exist eternally without spiritual nourishment is hell. Psalm 5 is God warning people of the consequences of rebelling against Him.

People do not commit just one sin. Those who are enslaved to sin can only sin. Everything they do springs from the thinking of their hearts, which is corrupted. Every thought, emotion and motivation is against God. Jesus tells those who would believe in Him the truth about sin and salvation. Everyone sins because it is their nature and are therefore under the judgment and wrath of God. In Jesus, God sets people free from the eternal consequences of sin. “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34-36 ESV). Instead of accepting freedom from sin people chose continued bondage.

One sin brings separation from God. One act of righteousness brings God’s grace and forgiveness to all. “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men”  (Romans 5:18 ESV; see Romans 5:12-21). After there is an understanding of what God has done, and God’s grace is rejected, only one sin is enough to separate the unrepentant sinner from God.

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. (Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV)

God gives everyone His image because He wants a relationship with everyone. It is the image of God, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, which draws people toward God, commanding them to turn away from sin. Those who reject the prompting of the Holy Spirit disobey the command of God. They continue to mutiny and fight against God.

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.  (Matthew 12:30-21 ESV; see also Mark 3:28-29, Luke 12:8-10, 1 John 5:15-16).

God does not ask for obedience, begging those who are His by creation to stop sinning and be holy. He commands obedience. God never ask any to obey. He expects obedience because He is God. For any to continue to rebel, after knowing what God expects and demands, is an in-His-face act of insubordination.

People are without excuse in their rebellion. Those who are enslaved by sin are given the opportunity of freedom and choose continued slavery. It is the image of God in each person that is the catalyst for change. This change is ignited by the Holy Spirit, who wants relationship, who shows all their place before God. Choosing sin over God means separation from God.

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:18-21 ESV)

God’s Decree

Meditations on the Psalms

I will tell of the decree (Psalm 2:7 ESV)

All creation is bound by the laws of God. What is a decree? A decree is a legal ordinance prescribed by a ruling authority to resolve, to limit, or to fix and approve a specific required action. God is speaking in the first person about an action He has determined necessary which has already been done and finished. History, from God’s perspective, is complete and finished, even though people have yet to live it. He sees and knows what will happen. God is telling us about that which He decided in eternity to accomplish in space-time history.

King David desired to build a temple for God in Jerusalem, to house the ark of the Lord. Before he died God told him, through the prophet Nathan, that he was not the one who would build a temple for God. “When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-13 ESV). God decreed David not build the temple but that Solomon, David’s son, would build a house for God and the ark of God in Jerusalem. This is what happened in history.

From the beginning, when God created Adam in His image, He gave Adam a boundary. There was only one constraint placed upon him. He was to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. “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” (Genesis 2:1 6-17 ESV). Adam was given dominion over the earth and everything on it. He was given the enjoyable responsibility of being fruitful and multiplying and subduing the earth. He was even given direction to care for everything, including the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The only restriction place on him was that he did not have permission to eat from this one tree. If he ate from the tree he would die both physically, though not right away, and spiritually. Surely die is actually the word die twice. Die die.

When God brought His people out of Egypt, making them wander through the desert, He gave them laws and ordinances. He decreed they follow His laws. Exodus through Deuteronomy are a compilation of laws and the history of Israel from the time they entered Egypt until they entered the Promised Land. In two places the Ten Commandments, ten irrevocable statements of God about Himself and those who are His, are given, once at the beginning of their wanderings and then at the end. God is specific and pointed in His statements. They are to worship Him only and love each other. (See Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21.) These are immutable laws, absolute in the physical world and the eternal realm. They transcend space and time, and are upheld by God throughout eternity.

God’s decrees are not simple corporate mandates for nations and peoples to blindly follow. They are commands for each individual.

God leaves the Christian in the world as a testimony to the world about Him and His grace. Having the image of God gives the ability to naturally follow God and His will. For the Christian, having the indwelling Holy Spirit, because of the corruption of the vessel containing the image of God, gives the tools needed to live righteously in an unrighteous world. Christians do not try to be salt and light. They are salt and light.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

Following God’s laws and decrees are a natural ability for those created in the image of God. That He has to tell us His decree about His Son is a testament to the truth of rebellion and sin. God gives His written laws so there is no mistake about His absolute will. Go sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as irrefutable evidence of the need of Man and the grace of God toward those bent by sin. Jesus’ life is God’s decree about life

Separation

Meditations on the Psalms

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous; (Psalm 1:6 ESV)

God gives another parallel statement about the ultimate end of those, beginning with the Deceiver, who rebel against Him and do that which is unrighteous. Stand is a different word than used in the first verse and means to fix oneself, to endure, to validate and prove. Judgment is to stand before a court, to declare your case and receive the judgment and sentence. Congregation is a gathering and righteous means right, correct, justified.

Those who are wicked will not prevail as they present their case before God. Those who are sinners are not included in the community of those who are righteous before God. Since the basis for righteousness is identity with God the Son, Jesus Christ, nothing done by the righteous qualify them for inclusion in the community of believers standing before God.

And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. … And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:12, 15 ESV)

God separates those who are righteous in Jesus Christ from those who disobey His command to follow Christ and continue in their rebellion and sin. Scripture is filled with separation. From the beginning of Genesis to the end of the Apocalypse, God continually separates from Himself those who rebel against Him. Yet, there is even more to separation, which seems like a normal function of the created universe.

In the beginning God separated light from darkness. He separated day from night. He separated waters from waters and the expanse above from the waters below. He separated one species from another, plants and trees and herbs, each with seed according to its kind. He separated animal from animal, fish and birds and the beasts of the field and the livestock. He separated seasons from seasons. He separated Man from the rest of creation, giving Man dominion over the earth.

He made a garden and placed Man in the garden and told him to not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil lest he be separated from both physical and spiritual life. When man rebelled, God separated Adam and Eve from Himself, from the garden and from each other. He separated Cain from his family when he murdered his brother. He separated Noah from the rest of humanity, whom He then put to death in a flood.

He separated out Abraham, then Isaac then Jacob. He separated out Moses and Joshua. He separated Israel from the rest of the people of the earth, not because Israel was special but because through the people of Israel would come His Son. He separated out David from his brothers, Solomon and the line of Judah. He separated the northern kingdom from the southern kingdom, then He separated the northern kingdom from Israel forever.

He separated out His Son, the disciples, the Church from the world.

Scripture is filled with separations. It is no wonder Psalms begins with a hard separation between the righteous and the wicked.

Separation is a spiritual and eternal principle, woven into the spiritual laws of eternity and natural laws of the physical universe.

Dirt

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19 ESV)

God told the man that when he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he would die. Adam ate the fruit from the tree but he did not immediately, physically die. God’s command states that when he dies (physically) he will die (spiritually) (“you will die die” Genesis 2:17).

Now God tells Adam that he will live his physical life by hard, frustrating work, and that when it is his time to die he will become dust, or dirt. The very ground he works to grow food to live will claim him and he will become indistinguishable from it as his body deteriorates back to dirt. “Then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). God used dirt to make the man and to dirt the man will return when his body dies.

What happened to Adam happens to all who follow him. Had he obeyed God then those who followed would have received God’s blessing. That he disobeyed God, rebelling against Him, means he was sentenced to separation from God and the earth was cursed. We are not going to speculate about the probability of whether people would have individually rebelled against God if Adam had not. We do not know and cannot know the answer to that question. We do know sin infected all of humanity because of Adam’s rebellion. We do know all people die and their bodies become dirt after a time. Once the body is dead it cannot be made alive again by natural means.

Scripture does not use the term “federal headship.” Yet, Scripture is filled with historical examples of the children and citizens bearing the consequences of the actions of their fathers or leaders. “Federal” is a system of government where the leaders speak for the people. It is not a democracy where each has an equal voice but a system where the leaders are charged with the responsibility of implementing the will of those they represent. It is not fair but it is just.

Adam died. His body, after his life was no longer sustained, returned to the earth from which he was made and over which he was to have control, or dominion. He kept dominion as part of the image of God but lost the ability to exercise dominion. Before the fall, he was God’s representative over the earth. After the fall, the war began between those who hate God, even as they were created to know Him intimately, and everything pointing to God.

God makes it clear to Adam, and to all who follow him, that though they work and fulfill their responsibilities, they are still wholly dependent upon Him for their lives. Yes, people have to work and their work is both painful and stressful. God, after the rebellion of the first man, calls people to turn either toward Him or allows them to run away from Him. Those who turn away from God will work in their own effort and accomplish only what lasts a short, unfulfilling time. Those who turn toward God, acknowledge their inability to accomplish anything without God’s direct intervention. Physical death becomes the great equalizer among all people. Either there is a truthful and honest admission of separation from God because of sin or there is an attitude of not needing God, which is rebellion.

Thorns and Thistles

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, … “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19 ESV)

Because Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God had said he was to not eat from, sustaining his life and the lives of his family by growing food would now become difficult and even painful. God cursed the ground, not Adam. This is a serious consequence for everyone who comes after Adam.

God had already told the man the ultimate consequence of eating the fruit from the forbidden tree would be death. Not just physical death but spiritual separation from that which sustains life. The man would be separated from God. When God cursed the ground His declaration was on top of the absolute justified sentence of death and separation. Yet, by not cursing the man, and all men, God leaves open a way for reconciliation, just as He did with the woman’s sentence. The consequence of her rebellion was pain in childbirth, with sorrow in raising children, with the knowledge that a child would come who would crush the head of the serpent. God, while holding them accountable for their rebellion, takes upon Himself the ultimate consequences of their actions.

When Adam prepares the ground to plant, then plants the seed so a crop will grow, thorns and thistles, weeds, will also grow. A weed is a plant growing where it is not supposed to grow. If Adam plants wheat and flowers grow among the crop, the flowers are weeds, taking up soil and nutrients meant for food. God says that “thorns and thistles” will grow where Adam wants food to grow. There will always be weeds, making Adam’s job more difficult. He will have to constantly pull the weeds so his crop will continue to grow.

Thorns and thistles are a constant reminder of the rebellion of Adam and the presence of sin. Adam will wage a constant war against sin as he works to sustain his life. So, too, all who follow, as they work will have to wage a uncompromising war against sin, while sin is waging an unrelenting war against them. The weeds want to take over the crops just as sin controls every thought, motive, action and consequence and wants to take over the life.

Work, to keep the thorns and thistles at bay, becomes hard. Adam will sweat as he works to get food for himself and his family. Perspiration is not evil. Avoiding perspiration by avoiding work, is rebellion. Is it not the intent of everyone who works to come to a time in life where they no longer have to put an abundance of effort into sustaining life? Those who do not have the discipline of work will not have the discipline to wage war against the sin which continually assaults.

Adam’s Sentence

Studies in Genesis 3

And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; (Genesis 3:17 ESV)

God now turns His attention to sentencing the man. In this verse God uses the word man as a proper name for the first time. Up until now the word adam means man, the human race comprising the gender man and woman. In this verse, there is an article preceding the word Adam making it a proper name.

Adam’s sentence, because of his rebellion, is the third declared by God to those present. This just sentence carries the gravest consequences for all people. To the Deceiver, inhabiting the serpent, God’s sentence is a “curse” truthfully predicting that a Son who will come from the woman will crush it even as it tries to hurt Him. To the woman, God sentences her to pain in childbirth and conflicting desires for her husband, to be over him and protected by him. God does not use the word “curse” with the woman. To the man, God uses the word “curse” as He did with the Deceiver. God’s just sentence is pain and suffering in work.

But first, God declares the reason for the sentence. For the Deceiver, the reason is “because you have done this” tempting and lying to the woman about what God said. For the man, the reason is “because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it’” (see Genesis 2:17). The Deceiver cast doubt on the words of God to those created in His image. Adam completely rebelled against the word of God, spoken directly to him.

Listening to the voice of his wife does not mean everything she said up until or following this time was contrary to God’s will. Adam cannot claim ignorance of the debate had between the woman and the Deceiver. Nor can he claim ignorance about from which tree the fruit came that she gave him to eat. We have none of the words spoken by the woman to Adam at any time after she was created and while they were living in the Garden of Eden. They talked. When she handed him the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil we do not know what was said but he knew from which tree the fruit was plucked. We do not know if he questioned her about what she was doing or why she plucked the fruit and took a bite. We do not know if they argued or if she went through the entire discussion she had with the Deceiver. We do know she plucked the fruit, took a bite then gave some to her husband and eat also ate.

Adam was given dominion over the earth. He was put in charge and was given the responsibility of caring for that which God had made for Himself. His act of rebellion showed he could not be trusted to do that for which he was created. Adam bears responsibility for his rebellion.

God confirms what theologians have labeled “federal headship” by making Adam ultimately responsible for the sentence of separation from God for all people. Because he sinned all sin. Federal headship is a theological idea foundational to Christ’s redemptive work. Just as Adam’s sin brought death, spiritual separation from God, to all people, so Christ’s just and righteous act brings spiritual life to all people. (See Romans 5:12-21.) But not all people will claim Christ’s righteousness because they desire to cling to Adam’s rebellion.