Seeds of Forbidden Fruit, Part 2

How can we be reconciled to God? Pride, independence, unbelief, and self-will — the “seeds of forbidden fruit” — find their counterpart in the conditions for salvation.

1. From pride to humility

God designed the gospel to require humility on the part of the sinner. To the natural mind, the idea of redemption through the substitutionary sacrifice by a crucified Messiah is foolish. Therefore, Paul declared,

“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’ Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor. 1:18-24).

Jessie Penn-Lewis observed,

“He [Paul] beholds it [the Cross] as the master-stroke of Jehovah against one cause of the Fall in Eden.’The woman saw the tree … was to be desired to make one wise.’ The desire of knowledge beyond the limit set by the Lord was one of the causes of the Fall, the effect thereof continuing unto this day, for pride of intellect is still a barrier between men and the knowledge of their Creator.  Salvation through the Cross, was a master-stroke of the all-wise Creator against the pride of knowledge in His fallen creatures, for the ‘word of the cross’ is the power of God to ‘destroy’, or bring to nought ‘the wisdom of the wise.’  The Cross as the power of God is so wholly beyond the comprehension of the natural man, that he must submit his intellect to his Creator, and accept the message on the word of Jehovah alone” [see 1 Cor 2:14]. [1]

The Lord Jesus illustrated humility by referring to child-like faith: “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it” (Mark 10:14,15).

2. From independence to dependence

I once saw an advertisement for a TV series titled, “Inventing Your Own Religion.”  This is what unregenerate people desire. Like going down a buffet line at a restaurant, they pick and chose the doctrines and disciplines that appeal to them. This is nothing less than a carry over of Adam’s choice to live by his own independent source of spiritual knowledge. However, Proverbs warns us, “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Prov. 14:12).

It is significant that the first beatitude describes the necessity of total dependence on God: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). You are “poor in spirit” when you confess that nothing you can achieve could commend you to God (see Isaiah 64:6).

The natural bent of fallen people is to rely on their own merit to earn acceptance with God. This was the major hindrance to self-righteous Jews in the first century. Paul explained that,

” … Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law … For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Rom. 9:30-32;10:2-4).

Man typically tries to bind himself back to God by religion — works of merit. Salvation, however, is based on grace and a personal relationship with God (see John 17:3; 1 John 5:10-13). The former is a matter of opinion; the latter is a matter of revelation.

Saving faith requires that a lost person fully depend on God’s grace in Christ for forgiveness and eternal life: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8,9).

3. From unbelief to belief

The condition of faith is the essence of our positive response to the Gospel. The Gospel of John has this purpose: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). Although the unsaved person is oriented to live by physical senses only, God — who is Spirit — requires faith as a condition for reconciliation of sinners to Himself. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6; John 4:24).

At the Fall, Adam and Eve disregarded God’s Word (in which God had ruled out the forbidden fruit); in salvation we repent and accept God’s Word (the “incorruptible seed” – 1 Peter 1:23).

A. T. Pierson wrote of the necessity of faith in Christ as Savior: “God forsaw that sin was going to be a heavier burden than any man could bear, and so He laid it on One who is mighty to save, and who, upon the broad shoulders of omnipotence, could sustain that burden …’The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! [John 1:29]”‘  That sacrifice of Jesus must be appropriated by faith to be of any benefit in the salvation of a human soul.” [2]

4. From self-will to submission to God’s will

Receiving Christ as Savior involves more than intellectual assent to the work of Christ. (Even demons “believe” and tremble – James 2:19). Rather, conversion requires a response of your will: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12). Thus, your will is directed to call upon Christ as Lord: “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation… For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved'” (Rom. 10:9,10,13).

We usually think that an unbeliever’s lack of faith is solely due to a lack of evidence for God’s existence and will. Instead, we should recognize that the mind usually rationalizes data to accommodate the desires and affections of the heart. Negatively, this is seen in the sin of unbelief. Romans declares,

“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom 1:18-21).

The pivotal role of man’s will is seen positively in Christ’s promise, “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (John 7:17).

The last chapter of the Bible includes a symbolic vision of the things God has prepared for those who love Him. “And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb. In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the TREE OF LIFE … The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations” (Rev. 22:1,2).

Here we see a glimpse of the glory of the future new heaven and new earth in the imagery of a renewed Garden of Eden. As the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil depicted man’s fatal choice in the Fall, the Tree of Life pictures the blessings of God’s salvation. Although sinners were barred from Eden’s Tree of Life, God offers this new life in the person of His Son (Gen 3:24; 1 John 5:12). Have you received Him as your Lord and Savior?

A miracle of grace has turned the Cross of Calvary into a Tree of Life! So all of us who have been made alive in Christ need to herald God’s gracious invitation: “And the Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let him who hears say, ‘Come!’ And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17).

Part 2 of 4. Part 3 focuses on the counterparts to the “seeds of forbidden fruit” as seen in the conditions for abundant life in Christ.

[1] Jessie Penn-Lewis, The Cross of Calvary, 11th edition, (C.L.C.), pp. 20-21. emphasis added

[2] Arthur T. Pierson, The Hopes of the Gospel, (London: Pickering & Inglis, 1966), pp. 65,66,74.


“unregenerate”: the condition of being spiritually dead — cut off from the life of God (Eph. 2:1; Titus 3:5).

“substitutionary sacrifice”: the payment for our sins by the death of Christ in our place (1 John 2:2; Isaiah 53:6).

“reconciliation”: the act of reestablishing a personal relationship with God; the change from being His enemy to being His child (Rom. 5:8-10; 2 Cor. 5:19-21).

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).

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