I was talking to a friend a few days ago and he asked me why God created the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and then prohibit Adam and Eve to eat from it? In answering this question we need to realize that the Word of God is a progressive revelation of truth. God doesn’t give us everything we need to know about a particular event, subject, or person in one book or chapter of the Bible.
We might say the Spirit of God explains and reveals truth precept by precept or Word by Word. Insight on one subject may be spread out over the course of sixty six books, written by about forty men under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and recorded over a span of 1,050 years. In order to have the whole counsel of God, we need to know what is taught in the entire Bible about a particular subject.
Therefore, it’s beyond the scope of this simple teaching to incorporate all of Scripture into the question my friend was asking, apart from focusing on just a few Scripture verses mentioned in the third chapter of Genesis since Satan is first mentioned there.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die. (Genesis 3:1–3).
God’s command not to eat this tree was given because He did not want them to experience good or evil. The word knowledge means a personal experience of something or someone. Whereas evil is not something you can touch or physical, it is something moral. Evil did not start with human beings.
In order for Adam and Eve to learn the difference between good and evil, God told Adam and Eve to enjoy everything in the garden as they saw fit, but there was one tree that He did not want them to eat. Not eating from that tree was the will of God so that was good and eating from it was contrary to the will of God, so that was evil.
When they sinned their response to sin was to look at themselves, feel naked, and then try to cover themselves and hide. They felt a great amount of guilt after they had sinned. Whether we admit it or not, we feel a great amount of guilt after we do any wrong.
This guilty conscious bothers you that you broke God’s laws, which is then translated into your body. Scientists discovered that we have no enzymes or chemicals to handle guilt. It is only the blood of Jesus Christ that can set us free from this guilt of sin. We may be forgiven and wounds might but healed but we can’t regain our lost innocence. God wanted them to retain their innocence which is not different today. Have you ever noticed that a little baby can run naked through a room full of strangers without feeling ashamed? This is the way Adam and Eve were in their innocence.
There at times most of us wish we would begin life all over again, with a fresh and innocent personality of a newborn child. But of course it’s impossible to rewrite history at this side of eternity. There is a song that says “God heals the wounds but leaves the scars to remind us of how merciful He is.” Now if at all the Lord did not want Adam and Eve to eat from this tree, why did He put the tree in the middle of the garden and make it so appealing? The first answer could be: God created Adam and Eve as moral beings and placed within Adam, the self-will, the freedom of choice. There would have been no point in God giving Adam the freedom of choice if He had given Him nothing to choose between.
As someone has well said that evil was necessary because without it free will was impossible; without free will we cannot become what God wants us to become. In other words we cannot truly obey if there is no freedom to disobey. This freedom requires that we make the right choice in every area of our lives. And like that tree in the Garden of Eden most of our tests and temptations are placed right in the middle of our lives where it is very difficult not to face them. C.S. Lewis wrote,
God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either go wrong or right…..If a thing is free to be good it is also free to bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then did God give them free will? Because free will, though it make evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata-of creatures that worked like machines-would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that reason they must be free.
Secondly, it was God’s way of saying to them that He retained moral authority over them. They could not decide for themselves what was right and wrong but to trust Him to tell them what was right or wrong. He was the source from which all their reasoning power came from.
Three Channels of Temptation
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6)
According to the Scriptures, there are only three channels through which Satan will tempt us to live or act independently of God. John summarizes these three tests as the lust of the flesh (craving for sensual gratification) and the lust of the eyes (greedy longings of the mind) and the pride of life (assurance in one’s own resources or in the stability of earthly things) (see 1 John 2:15-17)
Satan approached Eve through the lust of the flesh which is mainly a temptation for self-gratification and includes three basic appetites: food, drink, and sex. The tree was beautiful (lust of the flesh). The fruit looked delicious (lust of the eyes). The tree was delightfully to look at (lust of the eyes or craving for everything we see) and the tree would make one wise (pride of life) which includes the temptation to direct our own destiny and act independently of God – in other words get the power, fame and be our own god (which is the theory of the New Age movement and the humanists). This was the sin that Satan taught the human race—wanting to be God.
What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.
It is interesting to note that Adam was right there when the serpent was tempting Eve. The Bible tells us: “She also gave some to her husband, who was with her. Then he ate it, too.” (Genesis 3:6) Adam had received God’s instructions regarding this tree. God had clearly told Adam that of every tree of the garden you may freely eat, 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 2:16-17)
When they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. (see Genesis 3:9-10) As stated, the natural response to sin is to hide it, pretend there was no sin, or rationalize it. Every human being will spend his or her life trying to hide from God if the cross of Jesus Christ is not embraced. Every man repeats the sin of Adam, every day. We won’t defend our wives, our sisters, we won’t risk and fight and we don’t rescue Eve and we are hiding, every last one of us:
Well aware that we too, are not what we were meant to be, desperately afraid of exposure, terrified of being seen for what we are and are not, we have run off in the bushes in offices, at the gym, behind the newspaper and mostly behind our personality. Most of what you encounter when you meet a man is a facade, an elaborate fig leaf, a brilliant disguise…
At that crucial moment of temptation Adam should have fought and told the serpent to back off but he failed to communicate God’s original instructions to Eve. He couldn’t risk offending the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. As John Eldredge says,
There was a time when Adam drank deeply from the source of all Love. Our first father lived in an unbroken communion with the most captivating, beautiful, and intoxicating Source of life in the universe…..True, it was not good for man to be alone, and God in His humility gave us Eve, allowed us to need her as well. But something happened at the fall; something shifted. Eve took the place of God in a man’s life.
We are back to this matter of choice. God gives us a choice everyday to choose and love Him or reject Him. Love is a choice and act of the will. Love is not what you feel, neither is forgiving someone who hurt you. It’s not what you feel that matters because feelings come and go. Agape love is the love of God. The whole law is fulfilled in the two great commandments, loving God and loving one another.
The reason why Satan did all he could to annihilate the woman’s seed from Genesis 3 onward is because when humanity sinned, only a sinless person could come and redeem us. When Jesus became fully man, He, too, had to be tempted by the devil just Adam was. (See Matthew 4: 1-11) But Jesus never yielded to sin; therefore, He was offered as the Lamb of God, unblemished and spotless, to redeem us from sin and death so that we would be delivered from Satan’s power and kingdom.
The Bible tells us, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). God loved us that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes Him should not perish but have everlasting life. This kind of love is sacrificial and it’s the love that God has for us—while we were still sinners.
The ultimate risk anyone ever takes is to love, for as C.S. Lewis says, “Love anything and your heart will broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.“ But God does give it, again and again and again, until He is literally bleeding from it all.”
Yet as John Eledredge again says, God gave us a remarkable choice. He did not make Adam and Eve obey Him. He took a risk. A staggering risk, with staggering consequences…God’s willingness to risk is just astounding-far beyond what any of us would do were we in His position.”
Next time we will look at how Adam and Eve’s first reaction was to blame someone else. This is how the blame game entered the human race.