by Robert Andrews

In order to properly and fully understand the cross of Jesus Christ and what happened there we must understand the nature of the predicament in which we find ourselves. Why do I need to be “saved,” as the Bible teaches? Saved from what? Saved to what? Any discussion of the scandalous gospel of the grace of God begins where everything begins—with the creation story in the first three chapters of the Bible’s book of Genesis.

After God created Adam and Eve, they lived in complete dependence upon Him. They knew nothing else but to trust Him for their provision, for direction in their daily tasks, for literally every aspect of their lives. They lived completely by faith in the mysterious One who had created them. To question what God said never entered their minds; it was not on their radar screen. To act independently of God was an option that never occurred to them. They were completely content to be “man” as God created “man” to be—to live by simple, dependent faith in the One who was above them and greater than they were, never asking “why?” of any of His directives, never doubting His love for them nor His ability to care for them.

They had no concept of right and wrong, of good and evil. “Right and wrong? What’s that?” they would have said. These are issues that concern a judge—God, the Judge of all the earth (Genesis 18:25). Ethics and morality, what is right and what is wrong or, in other words, “the law,” were not in man’s realm at all. Adam and Eve had nothing to do with these questions; they were matters that existed totally in God’s sphere of concern. Adam and Eve knew nothing of a “law” that they “ought to, needed to, and should” obey. They knew nothing but to trust their Creator who had given them life.

As a result of this simple faith, they very naturally did what God said as they continued in this life of faith in their Creator. Obedience to God was not a goal or an objective for them at all, but a very natural, spontaneous result of their faith. They never even thought of anything but doing what God requested.

God placed them in a beautiful garden, the Garden of Eden, and gave them instructions on how to tend and care for it and for the animals that lived there with them. In the process, He gave them the freedom to eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden. One of those trees was the Tree of Life, a tree whose fruit represented God’s divine life—a different type of life entirely than the human life being lived by Adam and Eve.

Adam and Eve needed only to eat of the fruit of that tree and they would permanently internalize this dependent, loving, faith-based relationship with God that they enjoyed. They would become actual partakers of God’s divine life and then live eternally in simple faith in that unique life, no longer directing them from without as God did in the Garden, but now actually residing inside of them,  to order their existence from within.

Eventually, they would then fill the earth with righteous human images of what God was like as they reproduced similar men and women with the life of God Himself inside of them as well. They would “showcase” their Father to the universe as that life naturally expressed itself.

God’s eternal standard of right and wrong would never concern Adam and Eve or their descendants, though their lives would naturally, spontaneously and unconsciously reflect that standard, because God’s life always does. They would live solely by faith in that life, and then as “carriers” of it, they would progressively spread the life over the earth through their progeny.

In order to live in this manner, it was necessary for Adam and Eve to continue to live as God created man to live—by simple faith in God. They must always leave God’s concerns to Him, especially the concern of deciding what is right and what is wrong—the determination of which is solely the job of the Judge of all the earth (Psalm 94:2). God therefore instructed them, just as He had instructed them in all their tasks of caring for the Garden, to refrain from eating of the fruit of another tree, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The knowledge of good and evil, or “the law”, was in God’s domain exclusively, not in man’s, and they must leave God’s job to him and remain in their dependent role as man. What is good and what is evil was of no concern to them—only to God.

An ancient choice

At this point, the plot thickened. Satan, the fallen angel through whom sin had already entered God’s universe, approached Eve in the garden in the form of a beautiful serpent with this question (expanded to underline his subtle message to Eve): “Has that mean, old God told you that you cannot eat of the delicious fruit of any of these many wonderful fruit trees in the garden?”

When Satan addressed Eve, she was innocent, not sinful, but she was not righteous, either—we would say that she was “naïve”—susceptible to Satan’s innuendo as to how unreasonable God was. Her response tells us, as does 1 Timothy 2:14 in the New Testament, she was deceived by this approach, and she took Satan’s bait.

First, she corrected Satan’s blatant lie. “God said we could eat of any of the trees except one”—and then she put words in God’s mouth He didn’t say—“but we not only can’t eat of its fruit, we can’t even touch it.” God had said nothing about touching the tree or its fruit. You can almost see the wheels turning in Eve’s mind—“I never thought about it before, but the serpent is right—that really was most unreasonable of God to make such a demand!”

Now Satan moved in for the kill—literally. “You will not die, but God knows that if you eat of the fruit of this tree, your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Satan was right; their eyes were opened. Up until now Adam and Eve didn’t know right from wrong, good from evil. Being good by obeying some law that defined “good” was not a concern to them at all. They lived completely by faith in their Creator. Satan’s temptation was to cast doubt in Eve’s mind as to the Creator’s love for her, His concern for her welfare and whether or not she could trust Him to take care of her. Then he enticed her to move from this life of simple faith in God to a life of taking care of herself—making decisions for herself about matters concerning right and wrong, matters that did not concern her because they are in God’s sphere of concern and not in man’s. Satan’s temptation was to entice Eve to compete with God by doing His job for Him, to literally “be like God.” You know the story of Eve’s decision and Adam’s passive willingness to share in her tasty snack.

The fall — a reach upward

When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, they did, in a real way, “become like God” as Satan had said. Their “eyes were opened” and they saw the world for the first time in terms of good and evil, just as does the Judge of all the earth. We call this event “the fall,” but in one sense, it was not a fall downward but a reach upward. It was man attempting to be what he was not, an attempt to assume God’s exclusive prerogative to distinguish and decide between good and evil, and therefore an attempt to be like God Himself.

From faith to obedience

So, you can see that the name of the tree from which they ate is very significant. The issue was not simply that Adam and Eve disobeyed God by doing what He had instructed them not to do, but by disobeying God and now being able to distinguish between good and evil they moved from a faith basis of operation in their lives—simply trusting God for everything irrespective of any ethical code—to an obedience basis. They didn’t just disobey, but in the act of that disobedience they rejected a whole way of life—a life of faith alone. Now with opened eyes, right and wrong became a concern, a natural result of rejecting their Creator’s love and provision. They saw what they had done—disobey God—and they saw with their new insight into good and evil that to disobey God was evil. They became aware for the first time how little like God they really were!

Before they sinned, Adam and Eve didn’t mind not being holy and righteous like God. They were content with being man just as God had made them. Now, however, since eating of the fruit of the tree, they felt a desire and a new responsibility to be good as God is good and not to be evil—to be ethical and not unethical; to be moral and not immoral. Before, they were content to be acceptable to God based on who they were: objects of His love, a love that creates the object of its affection. Now, their desire was to be acceptable to God based on what they did—good and not evil.

This fundamental change in their thinking was demonstrated by their attempt to cover their now-recognized nakedness, or lack of God-likeness, with fig leaves. “I don’t want you to see who I really am—because now I know that I am not good like God is good.” Their modus operandi changed and they became performers, recognizing good and evil like God does and then trying to be good and not evil, rather than simply walking in transparency by faith in their Father and letting Him as the Judge be the One concerned with right and wrong in their lives.

Recommended further reading:

Robert Andrews: The Family-God’s Weapon for Victory
Steven Lawson: Foundations of Grace
John Calvin: Grace and its Fruits