Fearing the Lord

February 24, 2010 at 7:01 PM

The Garden of Eden.  A perfect paradise that God created specifically for Adam and also for Eve, who was created to be Adam’s helper.  It was in this garden that God set the man – Adam – and gave him the responsibility of taking care of it, along with the animals and plants.  Adam was ruler over all that he surveyed.  All that is, except for one tree, which stood in the garden.  It served as a living and constant reminder of the one rule that God had given Adam.  Don’t eat of that tree.  It doesn’t matter what fruit lived and grew on that tree.  What mattered was that it was off limits to humanity.  “Don’t eat,” said God.  He meant it.  “For in the day you eat of it,” said the Lord, “you’ll die.”[1]  Lewis Sperry Chafer says “It is therefore clear that in angelic realms, as in that of humanity, sin arises from the abuse of moral freedom.”[2]

Now, I may be totally spitballing here.  I may not have the answer.  I know that I’m learning and I have a great deal to learn about how God works and about the truth that is found within His Word.  However, one would think that living in a paradise such as Eden, with its compliant animal kingdom, where it never rained, but a mist watered everything, where the temperature was always perfect and where there was no strife at all, would be enough for Adam.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t.  The fruit from the one tree that was forbidden became the very thing that Adam wanted.  It became a distraction and it really didn’t take much for the Tempter to push them over the edge into sin.  Now, technically, no one can really say that the devil made Adam and Eve do anything.  He suggested it and even went so far as to call God a liar, but really, when all is said and done, what the Tempter used as the weapon of choice on our first parents, were words.  We are told that Eve was deceived.  The wool was pulled over her eyes and it’s doubtful that she really and completely understood what she was doing.  Nonetheless, she is still culpable and fully guilty as the record shows.  “The inner cravings of her own being responded to the temptation from without and she yielded to evil and thus repudiated God.”[3]  Adam on the other hand, went into this situation with his eyes fully open.  He knew what he was doing when he ate of that forbidden fruit.  He knew that he was setting his will against God’s.  As Chafer points out, “he was not deceived but sinned knowingly and willfully.”[4]

I have to ask one simple question.  Why would Adam do this?  It literally boggles my mind to think that in an environment of perfection, Adam would be willing to give it all up by crossing the line that God had drawn in the sand.  What would cause Adam to do this?

I know why I would do it.  The answer is simple.  For me, it would be a lack of fear; a lack of respect for God’s boundaries, and a lack of reverence for Who God is and the authority that He possesses and wields.  I am a sinner.  I possess a sin nature.  Though I am saved by God’s grace and His alone, my sin nature abides with me still.  While I am free to not sin, by the indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit, in all likelihood, I will continue to sin from time to time throughout the remainder of my life on earth.  I am unlike Adam in that I am not perfect.  I recognize this and have no trouble at all admitting it and relying on God to complete the work that He began in me.

Adam however, is a different story.  He was created complete.  Being created in a state of perfection does not mean that he was like God though.  While Adam was created in God’s image, it does not mean that he was created omniscient, or all powerful, nor does it mean that Adam had no ability to sin.  Adam was created as a human being with a freedom to choose; the first of his kind.  He was complete in that he lacked nothing.  He was placed in an environment which lacked nothing.  Yet, I am still troubled because something was missing.  The New Testament letter of James sheds some light on how the process leading up to sin works when he states “every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.[5]  It is difficult for me to understand how both Adam and Eve could have lusted without sinning at that point.  Yet, James seems to say that sin begins with lust and when carried to its potential, is sin.  Sin begins with lust.  In essence then, we can say that even before Eve or Adam actually carried out the sin, they lusted for it and thus began their journey into sin.  Chafer’s comment here is noteworthy when he states regarding Adam, “If he were lusting after forbidden knowledge and independence of God, he was fallen already.”[6]

After considerable searching, reading, studying and praying, I have come to the conclusion that Adam did not possess the one thing that might have kept him from falling.  That something was experiential knowledge.  Seemingly, there were two ways that Adam could have acquired this knowledge.  One way was to actually sin and the resultant fall would bring about the experience of sinning; one which would stay firmly rooted within the memory.  The other way would be to have God provide that experiential knowledge without actually having to sin to gain it.  I believe that this latter option is what would have occurred had both Adam and Eve stayed the course and remained true to God’s spoken Word.

When God told Adam that if he ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, he would die, I have to wonder whether or not Adam had the ability to fully process that?  He would certainly have known that this was something to be avoided because God said he must.  However for Adam, trying to understand the sorrow and pain of separation that is always associated with death in an experientially way (in a world that had not yet experienced death or even pain), would have been difficult to say the least.  It would be like trying to explain to someone who had no ability to feel physical sensation, what pain actually feels like and how it can hurt.  Hurt?  What does that mean?  It’s an unpleasant sensation?  Okay, if you say so.  What does “unpleasant” feel like?  They might know what the word means, but have they experienced it?  Or, what about people who are blind from birth?  They see nothing and trying to picture what a tree looks like or the colors of the sunset is beyond their ability to comprehend.  Yet, they can in some sense know what we are talking about, though not experientially.

It is my contention that Adam had no real depth of understanding when it came to trying to figure out just exactly what death meant.  He had not experienced pain in any form.  He had not known what it was to have a headache, to stub his toe, to cut his hand, to have heart palpitations, or to experience any other health issue.  One day, Adam was not there and the next day he was, and he was there as a full grown man without a history; without memories of a childhood.  He had a relationship with God who “walked in the cool of the garden,”[7] and while Adam was not a caveman, dragging his knuckles on the ground, there is a likelihood that Adam needed to learn a great deal, since it is commonly recognized that Adam could not have been all knowing.  However, even in all of his learning, some of what he learned would only be head knowledge and not something he would have experienced.

H. L. Willmington says this of Adam, “It has been estimated that the most brilliant genius uses but one tenth of 1 percent of his total potential brain ability.  This means Adam was at least one thousand times superior to today’s intellectuals.  We are probably 95 percent blind to the total color scheme displayed by nature and 98 percent deaf to her many sound patterns.  But Adam’s five senses were tuned to absolute perfection.  He may even have possessed E.S.P.  He perfectly understood both himself and his environment.  He apparently was able to communicate with animals (Gen. 3:1, 2) and perhaps all nature also![8]  Yet, in spite of Adam’s intellect and intelligence, it seems to me that Adam did not possess at least the awareness of the experiential that might have kept him from moving toward sin by disobeying God’s one law. 

Now, I’d like to stop here and state unequivocally that Adam’s sole responsibility throughout this situation was to do one simple thing:  obey God.  Whether he understood the ramifications of failing to do so to any real extent was secondary.  His job was to conform to God’s expressed will and He failed to do so. Because of this God was perfectly justified in pronouncing judgment on Adam and Eve (and the world).  God is not culpable in any way, shape or form for what Adam did, or for any experiential knowledge that he (or Eve) may have lacked.  Adam failed the test.  “It is certain, however, that, had the test been withstood, it would not have returned again.  Its pressure was not to have remained as a constant experience until the first parents were broken down.”[9]

While I understand perfectly what fear is all about and how it affects me emotionally, I don’t believe Adam had any sense of that.  Why would he?  There would be no reason because had he feared anything, it would have ruined an otherwise perfect environment.  I’m sure that Satan, the master deceiver, would have done everything to keep his malevolence under lock and key as he stood before our first parents.  To show himself as he truly is would have been to give himself away and signal something in Adam that he had not heretofore experienced.  Why would Satan blow his cover?  Better to keep things under wraps and hope that he can get away with it by simply coming across as the smoothest salesman who ever lived.  In fact, that seems to be his favorite disguise.  It worked in a perfect environment.  Why wouldn’t it work in a corrupt and fallen one?  Adam knew no fear because he had not sinned.  I fear because I do.

So Adam had no reason to fear, and the command of God to avoid eating of the fruit of that one tree, seemed far away.  The tree was probably something that Adam and Eve discussed.  It’s obvious that Adam “forwarded the message” about not eating of that fruit to Eve.  Unfortunately, either Adam got the message wrong, or Eve understood it incorrectly.  In either case, they could have easily spent time discussing the situation. 

Why did God say we can’t eat of the fruit of that tree, Adam?” asked Eve.  “I have no clue, Woman,” would be Adam’s reply.  “He just said we can’t.”

 “Well, why did He put it here with the other trees if we can’t eat from it?” continued Eve. “I have no idea.  I don’t understand why,” Adam would respond.

 Maybe their conversation continued with questions about why God would place a tree in their garden only to say they couldn’t eat from it.  It didn’t make sense to them.  What was the purpose?  In essence, they took their eyes off of the rule itself and began to consider the subject of that rule.  Does there need to be a reason greater than just because God said?

Unfortunately for Adam and Eve, the reason why God gave them that one rule to follow was so simple that it was painfully easy to miss.  It didn’t require any depth of thought, or any deep contemplation.  It didn’t require a person of genius level to understand it.  It wasn’t the type of question that made a plethora of education mandatory.  In fact, the reason was purposefully kept simple so that no excuse could be given if and when the command was transgressed and in such a case, no excuse would stand.  There really was no other reason than the fact that God wanted them to use their moral freedom to obey Him.  He wanted their allegiance to His command(s) to be voluntary.  It was a command that God gave and He rightfully expected it to be obeyed.  He also knew that it would not be.

If we had quoted to Adam “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever”[10] he would have laughed at us.  “Fear the Lord?!  Fear the Lord?!  What are you talking about?!  Why should I fear the Lord?!”  Adam had absolutely no reason to fear the Lord.  It’s too bad that he seemed not to have that capacity because it’s that fear that would have likely kept him from making that fatal mistake.  Unfortunately, fearing God did come to them, but it was the result of their disobedience.  Could they have obtained this awareness of what was evil without having to experience the sin and therefore learn experientially about fear?  Of course they could have and that is what they should have done.  Was God wrong in not allowing Adam to experientially know what fear was and how it affected human beings emotionally?  Not at all.  The law should have been obeyed for no other reason than it was a law that God gave and expected to be obeyed.  Whether Adam experienced fear or not is completely beside the point anyway.  As has been noted, the command should have been obeyed for no other reason than because God gave it.  Our parents fell.  Their eyes were opened.  Again, Dr. Willmington makes this point concerning Adam and Eve, “Their eyes were opened and they did know good and evil, but not as God did!”[11]  Had Adam and Eve passed the test by not succumbing to the Tempter’s snare, then we can be certain that God would have opened their eyes to understand evil, without having had to actually experience it.  “Instead of recognizing the evil from the summit of the good, they now must recognize the good from the abyss of evil.”[12]

In some way, I feel a deep sadness for Adam.  A sadness that stems from the fact that he was not able to follow a simple rule and move closer to God because of it.  While I’m sure he had great intellect, in many ways, he was a baby when it came to life’s experiences.  He didn’t have anything that he could draw upon, except God’s voice.  While that certainly and unequivocally should have been more than enough, it wasn’t.  Adam fell into sin and plunged the entire human race into it with him.  God’s righteous judgment fell not only on Adam but also on every living soul that came after him because as Romans 5:12 says “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…[13]

In at least some ways, I feel Adam had it more difficult than I do.  I know what sin is before I sin.  I know how it makes me feel inside and I know the struggle that I go through sometimes when I am faced with the temptation to sin.  I know the fear I experience after I sin and sometimes, when I lean on God, I know that fear before I sin as well and that fear can and has kept me from allowing the temptation to give birth to sin.  I believe with God that had I been in Adam’s place, I would have done exactly the same as Adam did.  God’s justice and righteous act of judgment is beyond question (cf. Romans 5:12).

Who among Christians is not familiar with the verse in Psalms 111?  This verse (or ones similar to it) can also be found in Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 14:26-27; 15:33; 16:6 to name just a few.  Interestingly enough, there is a train of thought which believes that this word “fear” is better translated to mean “reverence.”  However, as my pastor has stated, “Fearing the Lord means just that – to fear Him!”  We have reason to fear Him, even as Christians.  Paul tells us “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”[14]  Yet, it behooves us to understand that we must adopt a spirit of fear when it comes to dealing with sin and temptation.  As Christians, we are truly His children and heirs of righteousness, but even children should rightly fear the wrath of a parent whose just law has been broken.

Our stance should be like Joseph’s who found it reprehensible to even consider doing something that was against God’s just laws.  Joseph’s question should be one that we all ask when faced with every temptation:  “how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?[15]

Fear among Christians today is largely absent, at least in America.  Let’s face it; there is no real fear of God.  We’ve reduced God to something that makes us feel good.  We have devalued God’s Word and in many ways, have elevated ourselves to what we think is God’s level, whereby we erroneously believe that He accepts us for who we are and is “fine” with us.  Too many Christians in today’s world see Him as a celestial Grandfather, who dotes on his grandchildren, ignoring their faults and foibles because of His great “love” for all of humanity.  Is it any wonder that we’re screaming towards Armageddon which is laced with God’s righteous wrath and judgment?  The world deserves what He righteously proclaims is coming.

I recall years ago, listening to theologian Manfred Brauch, who essentially stated that “sin is brokenness.”  That certainly sounds gentle and kind enough for those who are merely dabbling with the notion of God and religion in general. Certainly that definition is enough to make them feel okay about themselves.  But between not fearing God enough and believing deceptive definitions about God’s classification of the mess that humanity has gotten itself into, one can only wonder how much longer God will put up with all of these things that continually attempt to heap injustice on His very nature, character and position.

If we consider the first act of sin, through which sin and death entered the world, we see the exact opposite of fear.  We also do not see a resultant ‘kind and gentle brokenness’ either.  What we see instead is a firm defiance; a setting of our will against His will and ultimately, against Him, which resulted not in brokenness, but in death, absolute, immediate and complete.  Spiritual death occurred immediately and physical death began immediately.

Would that our first parents had opted instead to simply obey God and depart from evil.  This they chose not to do.  But God is not mocked.  Sin will run its course, to one day never again cast a shadow upon the new heavens and the new earth and the glorified people that God places within it.  Glory to God in the highest.  Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus.  Amen.

[1] Genesis 2:17 KJV (King James Version: public domain)

[2] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology II, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993), 236

[3] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology II, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993), 211

[4] Ibid, 211

[5] James 1:14-15 KJV

[6] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology II, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993), 212

[7] Genesis 3:8 KJV

[8] Dr. H. L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 1981), 21

[9] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology II, (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1993), 213

[10] Psalm 111:10 KJV (King James Version: public domain)

[11] Dr. H. L. Willmington, Willmington’s Guide to the Bible, (Carol Stream: Tyndale House, 1981), 6

[12] Ibid, 6

[13] Romans 5:12 KJV

[14] Romans 8:15 KJV

[15] Genesis 39:9b KJV

Entry filed under: Atheism and religion, Demonic, dispensationalism, Life in America, Posttribulational Rapture, Pretribulational Rapture, Religious - Christian - End Times, Religious - Christian - Prophecy, Religious - Christian - Theology, salvation. Tags: , , , , , .

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