Understanding God’s Love and the Sin that Changed the World
ATTENTION: You are reading the 8th chapter in a blog to book series about Genesis (God in the Garden). I recommend starting with the introduction if you haven’t read it yet. If you are interested in learning when the book will be released or discussing anything said in these posts, please reach out through the contact page.
It can be hard to understand an all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God. How do we wrap our minds around the idea that God knew Adam and Eve would sin in the Garden and still allowed it? God’s foreknowledge doesn’t negate free will, though. We are not blameless for the bad decisions we made yesterday or thousands of years ago simply because God knew the future.
If we could go back and change any of our bad choices, we might somehow change our lives, but we would never have learned from those choices. Most likely, we either would repeat them later or, in time, would’ve ended up making an even worse decision. Our lives are a series of victories and failures. As sweet as our victories can be, it is in our failures where we often find the seeds of our greatest blessings. For in our failures, we realize we are weak and flawed. Our failures humble us and allow us to draw nearer to the Most High God (giving us perspective and wisdom).
Maybe that’s why God allowed Adam and Eve to commit the original sin. For all that resulted (pain and suffering) doesn’t compare to what would’ve been lost if God had prevented it. God is not a helicopter parent. If he swooped in at the beginning (keeping us from making bad decisions), then he would’ve had to in all things. We would have no real choices and would never have grown and learned in relationship with him. It’s vital for our eternal relationship that we have a choice.
We might complicate things with our sin, but God’s endgame is unchanging. It has always been about walking in relationship with him and growing to be more like him each day. It is in relationship (our walk) that we grow. We are immature at first, but we grow spiritually as we learn to imitate Christ through our relationship. Dying to oneself and walking with Christ is a continual process. We start that process when we accept Christ into our lives, but it never ends. Jesus calls us to take up our cross daily (die to ourselves as we pursue a relationship). This starts with prayer, bible reading, and fellowship, which in turn aids us in loving others more than ourselves (Philippians 2:3) and honoring God in all things (Deuteronomy 6:5). In all of this, we become more like God.
Through the blood of Jesus, God sees us as he saw Adam and Eve before the fall (sinless). He forgets our sins (Hebrews 10:17). Yet, God commands us to walk with Him as we die to our self will each day. This would have been God’s original plan for Adam and Eve as well. Though they were sinless, they still had the free will to sin, and like a garden needs to be managed, so do our hearts. God would have done this by encouraging them to continue to grow spiritually in relationship with Him. The purpose of the Garden was a mature spiritual relationship with God, which we gain back through Jesus’ sacrifice.
The big difference between us and Adam and Eve is the world we are born into. Without this corrupted world, their walk would’ve been much easier than ours. There wouldn’t have been all the confusion and evil that surrounds us. Yet we need not mourn our loss, for out of it has come the most beautiful story that has ever been told. We often take for granted what is easy, but when something is difficult and hard-fought, we truly appreciate it. This is why we can even be thankful that the fall happened (Romans 8:28). Through it, we can understand God’s love, maybe even in ways that wouldn’t have been possible if it hadn’t happened.
Because of this benefit, we again might be tempted to ascertain that God orchestrated our disobedience, but that is false. Our salvation is not conditional on Adam and Eve eating the fruit. It is only all the more beautiful because it happened. Had it not happened and humanity followed God’s will at the outset, then no doubt history would be different. Yet, God’s ultimate plan would still be the same. His plans are unchanging.
Theologians have argued forever that the entire purpose of the tree was our free will, and while there’s no doubt that was a part of its purpose, we can’t know if God had more in store. We can only wonder what would’ve happened if Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten the fruit. Could there have been another purpose for the Tree of Knowledge? Could the tree have been a part of the plan for Adam and Eve when they had matured? Something that they were not fully ready for yet, but one day would be?
Just as we need to learn to crawl before we walk and walk before we drive, so it is spiritually, some things take time. There are many examples throughout the Bible of God preparing people before using them (Moses, Abraham, Jacob, David, etc.). There is good reason to believe this pattern would’ve been the same at the beginning. It’s not something that changed because of the fall. Christ was sinless, and even he needed to spend time in the wilderness before beginning his ministry.
The big question is, was God’s command not to eat of the tree an eternal prohibition or a temporary one? Could it have been a no in the sense that a parent tells a toddler that they can’t drive the car or operate a chainsaw? In time, as the child matures and grows, that no changes to a yes as they prove themselves capable. Might it have been the same in the Garden of Eden? This would mean it wasn’t just about free will. It was a gift (a reward for spiritual maturity). The catch was that only in that mature relationship would we be adequately prepared to take of it.
In order for Adam and Eve to reach the spiritual maturity to partake of the tree, they also would have to show that they trusted God. They needed to show they were patient and faithful while simultaneously having an opportunity to sin (be disobedient). Just as when someone gets promoted because they show they are responsible in their work, or demoted because they show themselves not responsible, so it is with God. When we are faithful, reliable, and good stewards with what little we have, more is given to us. The scripture reflects this.
To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. – Matthew 25:29
Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. – Luke 16:10
If preparation is true, then God allowing us to take the fruit (in union with him) would have changed everything. In league with Satan, our eyes were opened to his lies. In service to God, they would’ve been opened to his truth. We would’ve had a greater understanding of his love, power, and glory. Instead, we lost clarity. Our eyes were open, but we became nearsighted. It became hard to recognize the truth among all the lies. We have lived in a confused world ever since. When Adam and Eve bit into that fruit, the trivial became important and the important became trivial.
Now, this is an exciting theory, you might say, but is it biblical? The short answer is no, but neither is it not biblical. Nothing in the Bible tells us it was a not yet (preparation) or a forever no (eternal prohibition). We make that interpretation based on certain assumptions that we have.
For one, we might assume that preparation would invalidate God’s word. It wouldn’t. God could still fulfill the promise of death. In unity (mature relationship) with God, the tree could have been a different death (a blessing and not a curse). Adam and Eve didn’t need to die to sin, but they could still die to their will as Jesus calls us to. They were still able to sin, and while it wouldn’t be as it is in our world, it would have been something they needed to be aware of. Taking of the tree in union with God could’ve been similar to how we see baptism in that we shed the old (die to the old self) and take on the new. We shed our sinful nature, while Adam and Eve might have shed the consideration of this nature. It would have been a final nail in the coffin, a declaration against ever consorting with the Devil.
Ultimately, it wasn’t the fruit that was the curse, but where their heart was when they ate the fruit. Adam and Eve’s hearts were with the Devil. They believed the Devil and were corrupted by his deception instead of strengthened by God’s truth. They took the shortcut (trying to become like God on their own) before there was an opportunity to see if God had a secondary purpose for the tree.
Why Consider This?
All in all, believing it could have been a ‘not yet’ does nothing to change our biblical view of God or Christ. Contemplating God’s intentions does not twist Scripture. To a believer, it doesn’t matter whether God’s intent was not right now or never. We realize that God’s ways are higher than ours and that he has reasons beyond our understanding. Of course, there could just as likely been another reason for the tree beyond these theories, but we can never be sure.
Where the possibility of preparation might be helpful, though, is in countering the lies that the world believes about God. If God’s answer might have been ‘not yet,’ it might help some better understand God’s love. It can give us another picture of his heart, which I believe is important for those that struggle with the story and have difficulty understanding his love. The possibility that the tree might’ve been a gift (spoiled by our disobedience) could change one’s entire understanding.
The Highest Good
In the end, it doesn’t matter if preparation is right or not. The important thing that I want to get across is that God’s intention is always for the highest good. So whether the tree was a spoiled gift or there was some other purpose, we should always assume there is more to God’s plans than we can ever know.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55: 8-9
Simultaneously, we can also realize that God’s intentions are always for our good. God always has our best in mind. Whether trials or blessings come our way, whether we live a long, prosperous life or a short and penniless one, God is working for our eternal good.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28
This verse speaks specifically of Christians, but God loves all people. While Adam and Eve lost the Holy Spirit and the blessings of the Lord, God was always seeking to bring us back into relationship with him. God is always working to give us another opportunity to accept that gift. Sometimes, though, the only way to receive it is when everything else in this world has failed us.
Reason for Suffering
No one enjoys suffering, and while God hates it too, it sometimes is the only way to soften our hardened hearts enough to receive him. He does not cause it, but it is more loving of him to allow it, as it opens us to receive a far greater gift. If he were to remove it, far fewer people would ever come to him or seek an eternal relationship with him. Instead, our temporary suffering or pain can draw us closer to him (believer and non-believer). It is a small price to pay for the eternal blessing and Joy that we receive in knowing God.
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory – 2 Corinthians 4:17
Our salvation is only possible by repenting and accepting Christ. Through our faith, we also believe that God’s love endures in all things (even in our worst struggles, pain, and difficulties). In this, we gain access to God’s power, strength, joy, wisdom, and peace (Holy Spirit). It allows us to act in ways we never could on our own. It’s not in our faith that this power lies but in God’s grace. Our faith is merely a conduit to us accessing it. God lives in us through the Holy Spirit. This love is not our love but his.
It is in 1 Corinthians 13:7 that we can also see the results of a relationship dedicated to Christ. It is a relationship defined by love, courage, conviction, and selflessness. It is a stark contrast to who we were before. Those that truly understand the grace of God (through Jesus) willingly look foolish, suffer and even risk death for the love of Christ. They know where their reward is, and they joyously lay down whatever they can as they honor God and give thanks.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. – 1 Corinthians 13:7-8
Wisdom, Eternal Life & Jesus
Joy, peace, strength, and eternal life are freely given to us through Christ. In dying to ourselves, God restores our access to the Tree of Life. Eternal life is granted immediately, but wisdom takes time. Just like in the Garden, God gave Adam and Eve access to the Tree of Life but did not do so with the Tree of Knowledge. He needed them to grow in relationship with him first. This is the way it is with us, too. As we seek God, pray, read the word, and spend time with other believers, wisdom grows in our hearts, but it takes time.
Sadly, Adam and Eve lost the Holy Spirit (their connection with God) when they sinned. This was their immediate death. Yet Jesus restored this connection with his death and resurrection. One thing we might then wonder is what would Jesus’ role have been in an unfallen world? One thing we know is that in a sinless world, there would’ve been no need for him to die for our sins. In this hypothetical world, Jesus would still become a man. He is not a backup plan. However, Jesus didn’t just come to give us salvation but to teach us and show us the love of God. He came to teach us a greater understanding of that relationship and help us grow and mature in that relationship. Jesus would have still fulfilled this purpose. He would have still come to be our teacher and friend. In a sinless world, we would have met him with open arms. There would’ve been a grand celebration as they soaked in his wisdom, but in our world, they reviled him, tortured him, and put him to death. It is a stark contrast, but regardless of either situation, he would’ve accomplished what he needed to accomplish.
Protection and Reconciliation
Finally, we know God granted us access to The Tree of Life in the Garden and that it was a gift. When Satan corrupted our hearts, though God had to protect it, otherwise it would have been a curse (eternal damnation like Satan). God cared for us by keeping us away from it, but for us to take of it again, he had to reconcile our hearts. Before that could happen, humanity would have to go through a stretch of time and a series of trials. We also needed to grow before we could get to the place where we were ready to accept the gift again.
Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, God finally reconciled our hearts, restored our relationship, and returned our access to eternal life. We mature spiritually by continually shedding our will and taking on His. Becoming more like him was always God’s plan (even before the fall). Each day of our lives, Jesus calls us to take up our cross and die to ourselves. While there was no cross at the beginning of time, this call could be applicable to Adam and Eve, as they were still able to sin. In our timeline, Jesus is the antidote to sin. In the other timeline (Adam and Eve never eating the fruit), Jesus would have been the preventative medicine.
In that world, Christ may have come much sooner. There would’ve been nothing in humanity’s hearts that separated us and delayed the process. This is all speculative, of course, but there’s nothing wrong with seeking to understand God’s intent. Ultimately, in accepting Christ as Lord, it reconciles our hearts; we can take of the Tree of Life. It is only through the cross (dying to ourselves) that we can finally do this.
For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. – Matthew 16:25
- Is our salvation conditional on Adam and Eve eating the fruit? Or is it not conditional but all the more beautiful because of it? That through it, we know the depths of God’sGod’s grace?
- Might the tree of knowledge have been a gift? That it wasn’t a no but a not yet? Might God have one day granted us access? Could it have been about preparation instead of eternal prohibition? By growing in patience, faithfulness and obedience, would Adam and Eve have been able to one day confirm they were spiritually responsible and worthy of it? (Matthew 25:29)
- Might the effect of the fruit also depended on Adam and Eve’sEve’s hearts (who they allied with – God or Satan)? With Satan, their eyes were open to deception (the trivial became important, and the important became trivial), but with God, might their eyes have been opened to greater truth?
- Why would a loving God allow temporal suffering? Is it because it opens us up to receive a far greater gift (truth, eternal life, and deeper relationship)? In our trials and through God’sGod’s grace, does our faith become a conduit for his strength, joy, peace, and love? Can we be thankful for our suffering, knowing that in it, we grow closer to him and point others toward that glorious eternal relationship?
- If God intended to give the Tree of Knowledge to Adam and Eve one day, could this parallel our walk today? God gave them access to the tree of life immediately (which we are given through Christ), but wisdom takes time to grow in relationship with God.
- Would Jesus have come if Adam and Eve hadn’t eaten the fruit? If he was the antidote to sin in our world, could he have been the preventative medicine in that other scenario? Might his role have been different but no less necessary?