Genesis 2:16-17 – 27 Oct 2013
Four Sundays ago, I presented a broad overview of Genesis chapter 2 & gave you some homework to do.
If you can’t remember what that homework was, please talk to me afterwards.:)
This morning, I want to zero in on Gen 2:16-17.
16 And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;
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.”
These 2 verses establish what we call in theology “the covenant of works”.
This is the origin on which the gospel is built.
It conveyed what God required of Adam & therefore mankind.
Our meditation this morning consists of 3 questions:
1) What is the covenant of works?
2) What’s so important about divine covenants – ie. the covenants that God makes with man?
3) What is the implication of the covenant of works for us today?
Now, this is not an easy topic.
But every now and then, we need some spiritual meat.
Otherwise, we will not grow in our faith.
I will try to keep things simple; but I certain need you to listen attentively.
Question 1: What is the covenant of works?
It is God’s stipulated requirement of obedience from Adam to continue in the blessed state that he was created in.
What is a covenant?
A covenant is a contract or agreement between 2 or more parties.
It typically consists of 3 parts:
– An obligation,
– a penalty if the covenant is broken
– & a promise associated with keeping the covenant.
We’ll study these 3 parts of the covenant of works, beginning with the obligation.
Almost all of you in this room have entered into covenants without you realising it.
If you have a smart phone, you would have downloaded many apps.
Every time you download an app, you would have accepted the terms & conditions of that software.
And if you are like me, you don’t even read the terms & conditions, you just click “accept” – isn’t it?
Here in Gen 2:16-17, God laid down a simple set of “terms & conditions” for His creature Adam.
There is no “Accept” button for Adam to select.
Why? Because God is the Creator & He alone should decide what He requires of His creature.
It sounds very humbling – but that is what man has to realise.
And God says to Adam: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat…
“… but of the tree of the knowledge of good & evil you shall not eat….”
This is the obligation that Adam had as God’s creature – to respect & obey His Master & Creator.
Some people wrongly perceive the “covenant of works” to mean that Adam had to “work his way to earn salvation”.
No, that is not the case.
Adam was created in a blessed state.
Adam did not “earn” this blessed state because of any good thing he had done.
It was out of God’s grace & mercy that Adam was created in that blessed state.
So, from the beginning to the end, salvation was all by God’s grace.
But for Adam to continue in this blessed state, he was “NOT to eat from the tree of knowledge of good & evil”.
That is the “obligation” of Adam in the “covenant of works”.
Next, What is the penalty for breaking the covenant of works?
V17: “…for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
The moment Adam “ate from that tree” – which he did in Gen 3, he broke the covenant – “he died”.
Now, Adam did not die physically straightaway.
In fact, he lived till he was 930 years old – Gen 5:5.
But the moment he broke the covenant, he introduced physical death into God’s creation.
Prior to that, in Gen 2 – there was no decay, no tears, no fears & no death at all.
The students in our midst who study science – you know what “a food chain” is, don’t you?
Let me tell you that there was no such thing in Gen 2 at that time.
Because Gen 1:30 tells us that all the creatures were herbivores – they ate only plants.
So the earth in Gen 2 is very different from the earth that we have today.
Besides dying physically, Adam also died spiritually the moment he broke the covenant.
He was totally defiled in his soul.
Gen 6:5 tells us that “…every intent of the thoughts of man’s heart was only evil continually.”
I know the bible is true because that is exactly what I see when I examine what is in my own heart.
But let me tell you something even scarier.
In John 8, Jesus was speaking to a group of Jews.
They were religious people who thought they were OK because Abraham was their ancestor.
But Jesus said to them in John 8:44 “….You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do.”
Jesus, the Son of God is telling you that you are a child of Satan.
Are you, at all, concerned about this?
You don’t even need to join the Halloween party – you are already one of them!
If I were you, I definitely want to get out of that relationship with Satan immediately.
I want to have nothing to do with Satan at all.
Some of you may say: “Now, calm down, it can’t be that bad …”.
Let me tell you 3 things that happened when Adam died spiritually besides being a child of Satan:
1) His spiritual eyes became blind.
He was no longer able to see the goodness of the blessed state he once enjoyed in Gen 2.
2 Cor 3:15 tells us that a veil covers our eyes.
As a result, we can’t see our real desperate condition anymore.
That’s why most of you are indifferent to spiritual things.
That’s why you are not worried about being related to Satan.
2) Secondly, Adam became self-centred instead of God-Centred.
Adam’s existence was meant to glorify God.
But after he broke the covenant, he was only concerned for himself.
He blamed his sin on his wife Eve & Eve in turn blamed it on the serpent – Gen 3:12-13.
Adam was no longer concerned about whether God was pleased with his actions anymore.
3) The 3rd thing that happened when Adam died spiritually was that shame was introduced into the world.
In Gen 2, there was no such thing as shame on the earth.
Gen 2:25 says “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”
What is shame?
It is the consciousness that something dishonourable, improper or embarrassing had been done.
And as a result, we want to hide those things from people.
Especially those things that laden our hearts with guilt.
Children try to hide things from their parents – don’t you?
You don’t dare to tell our Pastor certain things, isn’t it?
But even if your parents or Pastor don’t know, do you think that God does not know?
That’s what Adam thought as well when he died spiritually.
You see, ever since Adam died spiritually, we were all born in sin as well – Psalm 51:5.
That is the penalty for breaking the covenant of works – Physical & Spiritual death for Adam & his descendants.
And there is no cure for that! What a terrible tragedy for mankind!
But what is the promise for keeping the covenant of works?
As long as Adam did not eat from “the tree of the knowledge of good & evil”, he will continue in the blessed state that he was created in.
This means that he will constantly enjoy God’s presence & the wonderful creation which God has pronounced as “very good”.
I want you to notice that there is no “expiry date” for that covenant.
There are 2 implications to this:
1) Adam’s blessed state in God was without end.
It will continue for as long as he continued in his obedience to God.
2) Secondly, & more importantly, since there is “no expiry date”, this covenant is applicable to all of Adam’s descendants as well.
So you can’t make excuses & say “Adam broke the covenant – not me, so how can I be responsible for his sin?”
Because if any of Adam’s descendant can fully obey God, that descendent will be in the blessed state that Adam was created in.
But is there any of Adam’s descendants who can keep this covenant?
Rom 3:10 “…there is none righteous, no, not one…”
No one amongst Adam’s earthly descendants can or has ever kept the covenant.
If there is any man who can keep that covenant, this Man has to come from heaven.
That is why God made another covenant called the “Covenant of Grace” found in Gen 3:15.
God said to the serpent “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.”
Instead of letting man continue in his state of death, God extended His grace to us.
God promised that He will rescue His fallen people through His Son sent from heaven & born amongst man.
Jesus Christ – the Son of God came from heaven to be a son of man so that the sons of men can become sons of God.
Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary.
Do you know why the Virgin birth of Christ is so important for Christianity?
Because if Jesus was ever conceived by man, He would be like us – born in sin!
But the bible tells us that He was conceived of the Holy Spirit – Luke 1:35.
He lived a sinless life while on earth.
Heb 5:8 tells us that “…though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.….”
In other words, Jesus kept the covenant of works – the very covenant that Adam broke.
Friends, we are saved not just because Jesus died & paid for our sins.
We are saved also because Jesus lived a sinless life when He was on earth.
He is the only one who kept the covenant of works on our behalf!
This is the good news! No more guilty conscience!
Yes, I broke the covenant! I am accountable for all my sins.
But Jesus paid up for me & totally kept the covenant of works!
And by faith in Him, we can all be restored to that blessed state which we lost in Adam – Praise the Lord!
Question 2: What’s so important about these covenants that God made with man?
Why are we spending prime-time Sunday morning on such a technical subject?
Let me give you 2 reasons:
Firstly, your life & this world that you live in, do not belong to you.
If I live in a rented house, I need to know the terms & conditions of my landlord.
Because if I broke any of those terms, my landlord has every right to “kick me out of that house”.
In the same way, we are obligated to know what God requires of us as His creatures.
And if God is not pleased with us, He has the right to “send us into hell”.
And the reality is that He is not pleased with us!
He is only pleased with His Son – the only one who kept His covenant.
And He will be pleased with you only if you rest your hope in His Son.
Secondly, the divine covenants show us how our eternal security & hope rest totally upon God.
If our hope for eternity is ever dependent upon what we need to do, we are doomed.
But our hope is founded on what God has promised in His covenant with His people.
And if you are a serious bible student, you will find 7 covenants that God progressively reviewed.
And in the new covenant recorded in Luk 22:20 Jesus said “….this is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you….”.
We are secure because God promised to save us & God never breaks His word!
That’s why you need to understand what God has promised in His covenants!
Question 3: What’s the implication of the covenants on us today?
When God made His covenants, He often blessed His people before he conveyed the obligations required of them.
For example, God created Adam in a blessed state.
And then, He tells Adam what he needed to do to continue in that state.
In the same way, God rescued the Israelites out of Egypt.
And then at Mt Sinai, He gave them the 10 commandments.
Now, what do these mean to us this morning?
I want to address the children & the youths, the believers in this Church & the parents seated here.
Let me first address the children & the youths.
Many of you come from Christian families.
Even if you are not from a Christian family, you are now amongst Christians.
You did not do anything to be born in a Christian family – it is God’s grace & mercy upon you – never take that for granted.
You could have been born in Timbuktu or some poor village in Kalimantan without a Church.
But you are all in a privileged state – enjoying what we call covenantal benefits.
You get to hear about God & even see His love in action.
And if God sends His angels to protect His Church, you get the protection as well.
And the gospel is presented to you when you are in this privileged state -just like Adam; just like the Israelites.
But Rom 9:6 tells us that “..not all Israel are of Israel.”
That means that not all who enjoy the covenantal benefits are really part of the covenant family.
Therefore, I urge you to seek NOT to lose those blessings the way many of the Israelites did.
In Acts 3, the Apostle Peter was preaching to the Jews who crucified Jesus.
These were the descendants of Abraham & had all the background required for faith in God.
They, like many of you, enjoyed covenantal benefits.
Yet, they were also the ones who denied Jesus and crucified Him.
But what did Peter say to them?
Acts 3 Verse 17 “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers…“
Peter acknowledged that there was a time when a veil covered our eyes & we do many things as if we were drunk.
Many of you seated in this room could be in the same situation.
You grew up in this Church, you heard the gospel & you know about the things of God.
Yet, very often, they mean nothing to you.
The world seems so attractive & you continued to behave as if God did not exist & there is no judgement day.
This is, in effect, just like the actions of the Jews who crucified Jesus.
You have denied the God who gave you all these covenantal privileges without you doing anything.
And Peter continues to say to them in Acts 3:19…
“Repent therefore & be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,…”
I say the same to you this morning – “Repent & be converted, that your sins may be blotted out….”
Be part of the covenant family & not just an outsider who will lose the benefits once the days of grace are over.
Make a clear profession of faith in Jesus by seeking baptism & Church membership.
If God is speaking to you today, do not harden your hearts the way the Israelites did.
Let me now address the believers in this Church.
I refer to all of you as members of the covenant family because you are believers of the covenants God made with His people
And as members of this covenant family, you have covenantal responsibilities.
Right here in our midst is a mission field for you to do your work.
The young adults who are now in the covenant family will remember that you did not grow up on your own.
You had the influence of some adult members of this covenant family in one way or another when you were growing up.
And that’s the model provided for us in the bible.
The bible tells us that we were all born foolish – Prov 22:15
But Prov 13:20 tells us that “He who walks with the wise shall be wise..”
We become wiser as we mix with people we can learn from over time.
Interestingly, in tribal cultures, you will never see young people going hunting together.
Instead, an adult will always be paired with a younger one so that he may learn how to become a warrior.
And the younger one understands that he must learn from the adult, else he may be killed.
And it is the same in spiritual warfare.
The young adults & adults must constantly connect with the youths & the children in our midst.
If you don’t, the world will connect with them & we would have failed in our covenantal responsibilities.
And we have great opportunities to do so during tea-break & lunch fellowships.
So I urge you not clique in your own peer groups only.
I urge you to spend time connecting with the youths & children in our midst.
Don’t leave them alone or they will be playing with their phones & balls in the room, damaging furniture.
Talk to them, be interested with what is happening in their lives.
Share with them your spiritual struggles so that they understand how Christ is working in your life.
Encourage them so that they realise what a privilege it is to be in the covenant family.
Treat this as your mission field & let us fulfil our duty to one another in this covenant family.
Finally, let me speak to the parents in our midst.
In Ebenezer Church, we do not baptise infants.
We baptise only believers who profess faith in Jesus Christ.
This is because we recognise that there are significant differences between the old & new covenant.
The sign of the new covenant – baptism ought to be applied only to professing believers.
But that doesn’t mean that your children are disadvantaged or any less important.
We love them & must continue to keep them under the influence of the covenant community.
And as a Church, we must continue to regularly pray for them in every aspect of their lives.
And I trust that you, as parents, are regularly praying for your children as well.
And I trust you are also regularly having family worship with them.
Please talk to me if you need help with your family worship.
While these things are not a magic formula that will guarantee their salvation, they are our responsibilities to keep.
God saves His people in His own time.
Sometimes, He saves them in their youth – like He did for Spurgeon.
Other times, He saves them much later in their life – like He did for Augustine.
Sometimes, God may bring our children & us through very humbling experiences before they find their rest in Him.
We do not know when He will save our children, but we pray that it will be sooner rather than later.
But in the meantime, our duty is to persevere in our covenantal duties for them & to encourage one another in the covenant community.
May God help us in perseverance. Amen.