(Key verse: Genesis 2:17)
In our last study in the book of Genesis (Part 13) we saw how the theme of a garden is assisting our understanding of God’s works in the generations of the first man Adam to make him (and all in him) in the image of God, even in Jesus Christ (1Cor 15:22; Rom 8:29). God is working in His garden in the generations of the first Adam so that all of them will eventually bear “the fruits of righteousness…by Jesus Christ” at their appointed time (John 5:17-18):
Php 1:11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
By God’s design, we all, like Adam, start off with in the natural (our earthly garden) which only produce the “fruit unto death” (Rom 7:5; 1Cor 15:46; Gal 5:19-21; Matt 7:15-20; Eph 2:1-3). All natural plant life (“after his kind”) was created on the third day on the earth (Gen 1:11-13). This included briers and thorns because God created all evil (in a physical and spiritual sense), and these briers and thorns were also not an afterthought of God. God is not caught off guard. God does not change His mind and He does not react to a creature’s behaviour and deeds…
Job 23:13 But he [God] is in one mind, and who can turn him? and what his soul desireth, even that he doeth.
Isa 14:24 The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:
Mal 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not…
Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.
Jas 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
God knows all things in advance and He also “works” all things in this creation.
Isa 45:5-7 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. 7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
Isa 48:3 I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass.
Isa 46:10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.
Eph 1:10-11 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.
Adam and Eve was naked (nakedness in Scripture is spiritually connected to sin and sinfulness – Lam 1:8; Lam 4:21-22; Rev 3:17) before their eyes “opened” to see their condition. It was also only after this event that the briers and thorns were made visible by God:
Gen 3:17-19 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
All these plants on earth, even the thorns and briers, were God’s creations on day three, even if they are only made visible at a later stage. It is when we grow, physically and spiritually, that we will discover (many times with shock) what is hiding in our flesh. We will discover, like Paul, that there is actually nothing good in our flesh!!!
Rom 7:18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
All the plants, good and evil, were created on day three of the creation days, and among these plants were also the two trees mentioned in Genesis 2 – these were purposefully placed right in the middle of the garden in Eden by God:
Gen 2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree [on the third day of creation] that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.
The tree of life was not made with “comeliness” and the natural, carnal man will not desire this tree and what it represents:
Isa 53:1-3 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
It was the tree of knowledge of good and evil which was made “to the satisfying of the flesh” (Col 2:23) as God also drew special attention to this tree when He gave Adam (and Eve) a commandment concerning this particular tree.
Gen 2:17 (KJV) But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thoushalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely [Hebrew: “mûth] die [Hebrew: “mûth].
Gen 2:17 (CLV) Yet from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you arenot to be eating from it, for in the day you eat from it, to die shall you be dying.
This verse touches on two important themes in Scripture – commandments given by God, and the theme of death. The Hebrew word “mûth” appears for the first time here and is even repeated in this verse. Death and sin was in the world (in Adam) before any commandment was given…Adam was made in a “body of this death” which is a “body of sin” – death and sin dwells in flesh:
Rom 5:12-13 Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
Rom 7:24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?
Rom 6:6 Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
There is indeed NO GOOD THING in flesh from its creation!!!
Rom 7:17-18 Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
The commandment (like any law) was given to work “the motions of sin” in Adam and Eve (and in all of us), and reveal to us our sinful nature and that we never can please God through the works of flesh!
Rom 7:5 For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
Rom 3:19-20 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
Adam was in flesh and imperfect (morally deprived from the hand of the Potter), and he could not and did not please God in any way because God is spirit and perfect (John 4:24; Rom 8:8).
Jer 18:4 And the vessel that he made of clay [flesh] was marred [Strong’s #7843] in the hand of the potter…
Rom 8:20 For the creature was made subject to vanity [Strong’s #3153], not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope,
A primitive root; to decay, that is, (causatively) ruin (literally or figuratively): – batter, cast off, corrupt (-er, thing), destroy (-er, -uction), lose, mar, perish, spill, spoiler, X utterly, waste (-r).
From G3152; inutility; figuratively transientness; morally depravity: – vanity.
Any commandment or law of God is given to reveal to us our deadly, marred, corrupt, morally deprived, sinful condition which is from the hand of the Potter Himself. We cannot prevent the thoughts and actions that stem from this marred condition, although we will give an account of those thoughts and actions to God (Rom 14:2; 1Pet 4:5):
Deu 8:1-2 All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD sware unto your fathers. 2 And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no.
God knows what He created within our natural hearts, but we do not know it. Our humbling trials and tests are good because they are given for our knowledge, not His. This is the true condition of any natural heart in the generation of the first Adam:
Jer 17:9-10 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? 10 I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.
It is indeed “the fruit of (our) doings” that reveal to us our deceitful and wicked hearts within this marred condition called flesh. And the commandment of God is therefore necessary to reveal this to ourselves. When we transgress, our natural man usually wants to cover up like Adam and Eve also did (Gen 3:7-8). We indeed should feel sad when we discover our evil heart, but God “is greater” than our hearts. He created that evil heart and caused our actions, and for most people this accounting of “stewardship” is impossible to admit to in this age (Luk 16:2; Rom 14:2):
1Jn 3:20-22 For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. 22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.
The commandment or law works “the motions” of death and sin in us. But that does not make the law sinful, just as God is not evil when He created evil (Isa 45:7):
Rom 7:7 What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said,Thou shalt not covet.
The laws and commandments tell us of the evil things which God created in us. When we are tempted to break God’s commandment, we are “drawn away” and enticed by those inward evils, like pride and lusts, to transgress the law which reveals our sinful condition and the spirit of the world in us:
1Jo 2:16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
Just notice how the spirit in Adam and Eve’s hearts corresponded with this spirit of the world before they actually transgressed by eating of the forbidden fruit:
Gen 3:6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [the lust of the flesh], and that it was pleasant to the eyes [the lust of the eyes], and a tree to be desired to make one wise [the pride of life], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Transgression is indeed sin, but the transgression follows what the heart (the thoughts) and condition of the flesh direct. Because Adam (and Eve) was made in a body of sin (marred in the hand of the Potter), there was no way they could prevent the transgression which naturally followed. Our transgressions are the fruits of the condition of sin and death in us:
Rom 7:8 But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me allmanner of concupiscence [lusts]. For without the law sin was dead.
Jas 1:13-15 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin [in the form of transgression]: and sin,when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
All laws are from the one lawgiver, namely God. That includes all the natural laws we are to obey (Jas 4:12; 1Tim 1:8-9; Rom 2:14-15: Rom 13:1-9). We are first under “the law of sin and death” as that law applies “lawfully” to all the unrighteous in the first man Adam. When we are given the strength to overcome the flesh, then we are given spiritual liberty to be under the law of the spirit (Rom 8:1-2; 1Cor 15:42-46). It is clear from the focus God placed on the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that the tree of life was not at that stage something Adam would desire. Adam did not eat of the tree of life, and that tree still does not appeal to the “motions of sin” in us because of the following reason.
1Cor 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
The natural man walks after the flesh and not after the spirit because the fruit of the spirit needs no “law of a carnal commandment” ”to bring it forth (Heb 7:16):
Gal 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering,gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
The fruit of the spirit comes through the “law of liberty” or “royal law” which is in the other tree – the tree of life which was a type of the tree of spirit life, Jesus Christ (Jam 1:25; 2:8,12; Rom 8:1-2). The prophet Isaiah tells us also why Jesus (and His true doctrine) does not appeal to our natural man:
Isa 53:1-3 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? 2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him,there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
The tree of life (first as a “tender plant”) grew out of the same “dry ground” and that is how Jesus fulfilled all laws aimed at the natural man. He was made of the same flesh as us, and made subject to the law for a natural man although He never transgressed in any way (Mat 5:17; Gal 4:4; Heb 2:14-18).
2Cor 5:21 For he hath made him sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
But to get to the tree of life we must first understand our death state in a body of flesh by eating of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, toil in this flesh and see our spiritual death as well, and then be judged by the flaming sword of the Word of God.
Heb 9:27 And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment.
Gen 3:22-24 And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24 So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.
This tree of knowledge of good and evil typifies “the law of sin and death” which God appointed to be our “schoolmaster” to bring us to Christ at the appointed time:
Gal 3:22-25 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.
When we can see our sinful condition via the carnal laws and then revile sin in all forms in us, then God gives us the faith and courage to totally cancel (“disannulling”) the old law and receive the law of the spirit – the tree of life, Jesus Christ who alone has immortality as a creature of God, the Father, at this stage (Gal 3:22-24; Heb 7:18-19; 1Cor 15:53; 1Tim 6:15-16). But because we are still in the flesh (the old “bottle”) our natural man is still subjected to the natural laws, even the laws of those “powers” God ordained over us, until we are fully redeemed to receive the new “bottle”, our spiritual body, with the new “wine” at the resurrection (Rom 13:1-7; Rom 2:14; Ecc 10:20; John 19:11; Eph 1:13-14; Mat 9:16-17; Luk 5:36-39; 1Cor 15:44). Those in Christ, however, is given the faith to reckon themselves dead to this world, and sin has no dominion over them (Rom 6:6-14; Eph 2:1-3; 2Pet 2:22):
Rom 8:1-2 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.
We all start of in spiritual blindness and advocate the false doctrine of “the fall of man” when we cannot see the plan of God from beginning to end (Ecc 3:11). In our time of earthly wisdom and pride we cannot honour God for creating and causing both good and evil in the world of the generation of first Adam. In our time of spiritual delusion we cannot see God’s purposes with His two different set of laws. God’s commandments are good for us because they reveal to us how awful sin is to a good and holy God:
Rom 7:13 Was then that which is good [the commandment or law of God] made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.
Sin relates to death and the commandment reveals what sin and death entails. Adam’s mind, and all natural minds, cannot see what death is all about and how it is to be understood (1Cor 2:7,14). The double use of the one Hebrew word “mûth”in Genesis 2 verse 17 is also significant to our understanding of death. Death has two applications in our lives. Firstly, on the physical level the commandment will help Adam to get the true knowledge about his physical condition which was “subject to vanity” from the hand of His maker (Rom 8:20: Jer 18:4; 1Cor 15:53). Adam was mortal and death was present in his own body and in all physical things around him. But there is also an inward application of death which is even harder to detect and understand for the natural man. As Adam’s own physical body was a “body of this death…and sin”, even so was his invisible natural mind ruled by death at that stage (Rom 7:24; Rom 6:6):
Rom 8:6 For to be carnally [that is naturally] minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
The natural man in the first man Adam will always struggle to see and accept “death” physically and spiritually. The dead indeed “know not anything”…
Ecc 9:5-6 For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. 6 Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun.
Both applications of death work together in God’s creation from the beginning. Death is a temporary creation of God. Death was never ordained to be in God’s plan forever. All death will be destroyed as all will be given the life of God in Christ:
1Cor 15:22-28 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. 23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming. 24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.Rev 21:1-5 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.
God knows all things in advance and He knew Adam would disobey His commandment (Isa 63:17; Lam 3:9; Rev 1:8; Ps 139:2-16; 1John 3:20). Adam’s steps were directed by God from the beginning as Adam (and all in him) will live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Mat 4:4; Lam 3:37-38):
Jer 10:23 O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is notin man that walketh to direct his steps.
All natural things have death linked to it. Like darkness was on the face of the deep on day one of creation, so is spiritual death (ignorance and disobedience) part of the natural mind in Adam from the beginning. But God called forth the light of His knowledge OUT of the darkness and this light will shine in all eventually (Gen 1:2-3; Hos 4:6; Ps 119:105; 2Cor 4:6). The carnal fruit of disobedience testifies that we are indeed made in a body of death and that flesh cannot bring forth spiritual fruit that pleases God. But out of and through this darkness of death God will bring His spiritual light, life and fruit to us, even “in the knowledge of Him”(John 17:3; John 14:6; John 12:24):
Eph 1:17-18 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him: 18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.