Genesis 2:17. 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.
A very common question that people ask about this verse is, “If God knew Adam and Eve were just going to sin, why did he create the tree of knowledge in the first place?” At best God is foolish, and at worst God is evil for setting them up for failure.
But what if there’s a third option? Could it be that creating the tree of knowledge, and then forbidding it, was actually an act of love?
For there to be life beyond physical life, the life of the soul, there must be two things: love and liberty (or freedom). The Bible tells us that God is love (1 John 4:8) and God is liberty (1 Cor. 3:17). If God made us to image him, wouldn’t it make sense that he must allow man to freely choose to love him?
It’s easy to just think of Genesis 2:17 as only a restriction by God. And yes, it is that. But, coupled with the tree of life, it’s also an invitation. An invitation to truly live from love and freedom. How? Because Adam and Eve would have to choose to sacrifice something – the knowledge of good and evil, and with it power, control, and self-determination. All in order to humbly receive the life of God by grace through faith.
All true love requires this kind of sacrifice.
No choice, no sacrifice.
No sacrifice, no love.
No love, no life.
But what exactly did the tree of knowledge offer? It offered a moral system. A religion. Self-righteousness based on how good or how bad you are. This is why most people believe that when you die God will judge your good against your bad. So keep the ten commandments. Follow the eight-fold path. Practice the five pillars. Build up good karma. Be a good Christian. Then die and hope your good was good enough.
And ironically we all love this system. All of us default to it. Why? Because it offers us control. “If I do good, I get good. If I do bad, I get bad.” Simple.
But this way of life is death. For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. Or literally – “dying you will die.”
A life where you get to be your own moral compass, your own decider of truth, your own god, actually just produces a slow death inside of you as you move farther and farther away from God’s life of grace. A death that comes from having to constantly figure your own life out, have all the answers, always get it right. A death from never knowing if your good was good enough. A slow death as you wonder, “Why if I’m so good is my life so hard?” A slow death from the despair or pride that comes when you alone are your only source of righteousness.
Living or dying. This is our same choice today. Christ came to show us what living truly is. Not self-determination, but self-sacrifice. Not independence, but dependence upon God’s grace. Not earning a good judgment by our good deeds, but receiving the judgment of Christ’s cross and the justification of his resurrected life. Not trying to live like Jesus (another form of self-righteousness), but receiving the life of Jesus. Then allowing Jesus to live out his love through you. That’s “to live is Christ.”
In what ways are you trying to control your life with a system of good and evil?
You in Christ
How would your life be different today if you really believed that your goodness was from Christ and not your own good or evil?
Christ in you
How can Christ live out his perfect knowledge of good and evil through you? What good can he do through you? What evil can he overcome through you (big or small)?
Playlist: Tree of Knowledge.
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I don’t understand will God judge us to enter the gates of Heaven? In my past raised in Catholic church there was alot of judgements, I still don’t understand and very confused.
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Very simply – God will let Jesus judge everyone at the end of time. The Father turns all judgment over to the Son (Jesus). So, yes, everyone is judged by Jesus. BUT if you are IN CHRIST (saved, born again, trusting in Jesus) then you will be judged as if you are him. So the judgment will reveal you to be just as righteous and blameless as Jesus. ie: forgiven! This is why the Apostle Paul will call us “justified” – already judged and found to be blameless in Christ. In a very real way we both WILL be judged, but we have ALREADY been judged because Jesus was judged FOR US on the cross.
I hope this helps.
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Hi Cynthia, When I grew up, my mom told me God would love me if I was good, if I did what I was supposed to do. I did my best to be good and to do all that was right. Living by the law I failed–I could not please my mom, and I didn’t think I pleased God either. My life was filled with despair and loneliness. I cried out to God and told Him I didn’t want to go on anymore because I had made such a mess of my life. He spoke to my heart, “Could you make it if I stay with you?” I felt His amazing love fall on me and decided if He would stay with me, I could make another go of life. I learned to live in light of what Jesus did for me. He loved me so much He died on the cross for my sins-all my failure and shortcomings. When I read His word, each word seemed to jump off the page into my heart. It changed my life. My suggestion is for you to focus on God’s love for you and read His word. Yes, there are judgements, but if you love and serve God, you will be with Him forever.
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