But let’s look a little closer. What is this forbidden fruit? (I’m not opening a debate about whether it was an apple, a pomegranate or a passion-fruit. I’m asking what it represented; and what its promised effects were.) In Genesis 2:9 it is first named, along with another unique tree: And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up ever tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Did you catch that? The tree has a name, and the name is a description, and the description is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So it represents something – it represents knowledge, and perhaps the case can be made that it promises that same effect – but we’ll discuss this in a moment. There is another promised effect that God made clear to Adam in Genesis 2:16-17 – And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.’
It is fascinating to me the disproportionate amount of attention people in general, and skeptics in particular, place upon this one tree. So many wonder aloud at God’s goodness, generosity and grace because of the presence of one tree that is forbidden. Yet the garden is filled with trees from which Adam and his wife are encouraged to eat. They are given abundant freedom! Every provision for every need has been foreseen! But they are under a covenant of works. Their relationship with God is to be maintained by their own effort and merit. What does this effort require – simple obedience – they are to refrain from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That is it. One law and every imaginable freedom.
We could get into a prolonged conversation about why God would put such a deadly thing in the garden – but let us agree that God sets before man a test, with every desire that he should pass the test, and should keep himself from sin. Satan, on the other hand, presents a temptation, with every desire that man should fail and give in.
So let’s turn the page for a moment and consider Genesis 3:1-7 (to save space I won’t write it out here – but since you’re online why not open a window and look it up – you should read it first). Okay – now that you’ve read that you have heard Satan’s temptation. He makes a suggestion about the PROMISED EFFECTS of this fruit also. Listen – But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ (Genesis 3:4-5)
Was the serpent lying? Satan is a liar and the father of lies – but this wasn’t a complete lie – it was contained in the very name of the fruit – the fruit had a promised effect and part of that effect was the KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL. But Satan baits the hook with the fruit hiding the barb – God had promised Adam that he would surely die.
But that leads to the final question I want you to wrangle with today.
Did God not think it necessary that Adam know good from evil. Are you ready for a shocking reply? No – the knowledge of good and evil was not a necessary component to Adam’s freedom, joy, and walk with God provided Adam trusted God and obeyed his Word.
In fact, I believe the temptation in the garden is really a situation we see repeated over and over again in the world; not only outside the church, but tragically within the church. We don’t trust God. We don’t believe his Word. We suspect that he is keeping something from us, and so, from time to time, we reach over and take control of our lives and insist that we will decide right from wrong for ourselves.
Now, of course, Adam had only one law to contend with, but his disobedience opened the door for sin and its effects and the result is a plethora of laws and rules necessary to protect us from sin. But ultimately, all these things can be reduced to trusting God – to allowing God to be God and for me to be his creation – dependent on his wisdom, and suspicious of my own hearts desires.
So, here is the question I lay before you. Where is the serpent suggesting to you that God’s Word might not be sufficient or trust-worthy? Which part of the Bible is he trying to make seem unreasonable or less-weighty? He loves to suggest that God has no concern about your thought life, or that sexual-ethics in the Bible can’t be considered relevant for a modern world, or that the whole idea of submission to the will of God is only for pastors and missionaries. But is this not the temptation in the garden played out again in your life?
Do what Adam and Eve did not. Let God be God; take him at his Word. Trust him. He has your freedom, life and joy at heart – Satan would see you in bondage to sin and ruin.