Genesis is the book of beginnings. In it we discover the beginning of the universe and life on earth — plant life, animal life, and human life. Chapter two records the creation of man and the beauty of his environment: “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:7-9).
As human beings made in the image of the Creator, Adam and Eve were created to enjoy a love relationship with Almighty God. Yet, since love is voluntarily given, Adam and Eve had free will and the potential of rejecting God’s way. The test was a very simple one. Adam was clearly warned by God concerning the devastating consequences that would follow the violation of the LORD’s one prohibition: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘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'” (Gen. 2:17).
What was the nature of this forbidden fruit? We are not told what it looked like. (The popular notion of it being an apple is conjecture.) One thing is clear: it was designated as being of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. By understanding the nature of Adam and Eve’s sin in eating this fruit, we will perceive the cause of human misery and gain insights about how we appropriate God’s salvation.
Consider four “seeds” that were involved in Original Sin: the “seeds” of pride, unbelief, independence, and self-will.
1. The Seed of Pride
Genesis records, “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.”‘ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil'” (Gen. 3:1-4).
The bait that the Enemy used for Eve was the alluring prospect of being “like God.” (Notice the deception involved. Adam and Eve were already like God and living in uninterrupted communion with Him!). It shouldn’t surprise us that Satan would use pride to entice our first parents. He himself succumbed to pride in his prehistoric rebellion, claiming “I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14).
2. The Seed of Unbelief
Although God directly communed with Adam, the nature of this fellowship was spiritual. Since Spirit cannot be seen with physical eyes, the spiritual life requires faith (John 1:18; 4:24; Heb. 11:6).
Faith in God was challenged by Satan when he questioned God’s character, then denied His warning. By suggesting that Adam and Eve could not eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden, the Tempter insinuated that God was unkind. (Eve started to slip when she replied that they could eat of the other trees but neglected to say “freely.”) Satan’s suggestion of doubt mushroomed into full-blown denial of God’s Word: “You will not surely die.” By eating the forbidden fruit, our first parents chose unbelief instead of faith. The forbidden fruit appealed to Eve’s body and soul; Eve’s invitation appealed to Adam’s body and soul. Faith, however, requires continual acceptance of God’s Word through the human spirit.
3. The Seed of Independence
God gave the animals instinct to guide their behavior. The animals were given special wisdom through instinct for adapting to the environment, acquiring food, finding protection, etc. But man was not created to be guided by instinct; God made humans to be guided by spiritual communion with their Creator. Dependence on God was not a disadvantage, but a glorious privilege and opportunity. Such trust was the basis of delightful fellowship with the LORD.
Man’s knowledge was to be discerned through his spirit’s intuition; his conscience was to guide moral choices. Both of these faculties were to function under the guidance of spiritual fellowship with God. However, the forbidden fruit represented the attempt of man getting his ultimate needs met independently of God.
4. The Seed of Self-will
Since God created Adam and Eve innocent, their will naturally cooperated with God’s governance. In avoiding the forbidden fruit they could take dominion of the earth, delight in one another, and benefit from all of God’s gifts. This was a life of freedom!
However, the Tempter enticed Eve to exercise self-will: “‘For God knows that in the day you eat of it [the forbidden fruit] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ 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.”
God’s warning was instantly fulfilled. They ate the forbidden fruit and — that day — they died spiritually. (Death involves separation; they became separated from the life of God in their human spirit. This triggered the beginning of physical mortality.)
The results of guilt, shame, and alienation were immediately evident: “Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked.” Self-styled religion was their natural reaction: “and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” However, after God pronounced judgment, He mercifully provided atonement for Adam and Eve: “Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them (Gen. 3:7,21).” (This implies the shedding of blood in substitutionary sacrifice.) So, original sin forfeited the benefits of eternal life as represented by access to the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:24).
How grateful we are for our Redeemer — the Lord Jesus Christ! His saving work established Him as the new spiritual Head of all those who receive Him: “For since by man came death, by Man [Christ] also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21,22; Cf. 47-49).
The contrast of Adam and Christ, the second “Adam,” is profound. Romans expounds this further: “For if by the one man’s offense [Adam’s] death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ… For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:17-19).
Praise God for the blessings of being in Christ through saving faith! (2 Cor. 5:17-21). In the next article, let’s examine how the way of salvation involves the opposites of these “seeds” of forbidden fruit.
Part 1 of 4
Copyright (c) 2001 by John Woodward. Revised October 2006. Permission is granted to reproduce Grace Notes for non-commercial purposes.Scripture quotations from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (c) 1982 Thomas Nelson (unless indicated otherwise).
This article refers to man as spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. 5:23). Books that support this view include this author’s book, Man as Spirit, Soul and Body; A Study of Biblical Psychology, and Exploring the Treasure of Your New Human Spirit, by Dr. John Best, and Biblical Psychology by F. Delitzsch.