Vol. 1 - No. 10
The Fate of Innocence
by Darwin Chandler
(This is one of several articles by Darwin, who I considered to be one of my best friends, which indicated to brethren that he was on the road to apostasy. This article and others by him are offered only for historical value and cannot be endorsed as representative of truth. This article is reviewed in Vol. 1, No. 12 by Robert McDonald and Glen Burt)
What was the “tree of knowledge of good and evil?” Why did Adam and Eve not die “in the day” they ate (or did they)? What happened that day to make them see their nakedness for the first time? Why did God not allow them to clothe themselves with “fig-leaf” garments” The answers to these questions provide absorbing lessons concerning God's dealings with fallen man. With a Bible open to Genesis 2 and 3, study with us.
The Tree of Knowledge
The nature of the fruit of this tree was such as to provide, in Adam and Eve, the knowledge of good and evil. Too swiftly, we assume that the only means of learning this lesson was by eating. Perhaps not. Obedience to the Divine restriction would have led to a God-like knowledge of good and evil; knowledge that harmonized with their own likeness to God. Had they resisted Satan's lies by making a purposeful choice, they would have graduated to a high plane of liberty -- the liberty of full, voluntary service to God. Thus obedience would have brought the knowledge of good and evil in the manner God desired them to learn it.
But in rebellion, the lesson was learned the hard way. In 3:22, man is said to “know good and evil” yet he knows it from a guilty experience: by receiving the evil into his own soul and becoming victim to threatened death. So the tree that would have brought man true freedom, brought death instead, as a result of man's misuse of it. A modern comparison is seen in the circumstance that all of us know the evil of murder, theft, etc., though we have never done such things, as contrasted to those who know the same evils as a result of doing them.
The sense of “good and evil” appears then to be this: The use of the tree provided a knowledge of “good” as a result of shunning sin and obeying God; “Evil” was learned as a result of experiencing sin, and the loss of good.
“Thou Shalt Surely Die”
Subsequent events show us what is meant by “death.” The meaning “shall become subject to death” or “diable” as one put it, simply does not fit the language or events. That “spiritual death” is the idea, is without adequate foundation, and further disproved by other Scripture. Paul argues in Romans 5:12, 14, that physical death resulted from Adam's sin and reigned over all men. In 1 Corinthians 15:54-56 the same argument is made applicable in a context concerning our physical resurrection. Consider too, that separation of man from the “tree of life,” was done in order to prevent “living forever” (Genesis 3:22, 24). This removes the idea of anything other than physical death being the penalty threatened against violation of God's law.
In harmony with God's preplanned arrangement for atonement, physical death was required “in the day” of the sin, and was just as surely given! An animal was slain from which clothes were taken in the form of skins. It must be so that the slain animal was the substitute victim for Adam and Eve. Physical death came into Eden “in that day,” but it came upon man's sacrificial substitute. When the animal was slain, it represented the death owed by the man. But consider further.
Why Clothes of Skins?
Nakedness as such was not sinful. The guilt of sin has marred the proper concept of all things, and what had formerly been viewed in perfect purity is now a symbol of their spiritual impurity. Their spiritual nakedness is all the more plain in their physical nakedness, and they seek to hide. The first attempt was to make clothes from leaves. (Genesis 3:7). Do you wonder why it is man alone, of all God's creatures, who wears clothes? Nakedness is the natural order of all God's creatures. The only thing that explains why men wear clothes, is that man alone can sin, and have a guilty conscience about what is inherently good. Shame is the result of sin, and clothes are the symbols of our shame.
But why not allow them to clothe themselves with fig-leaf garments? Again the too easy answer: “because modesty demands more adequate clothing,” simply does not satisfy the scene. If clothing an unclothed body was all that was involved, fig leaves would have been most adequate. But in this set of circumstances, man must be taught some fundamental lessons about himself and his relationship to the God he is estranged from.
First, he must learn that only God can cover sin and its consequences. Until sin came in, man felt no need for covering. And now he is to be taught that only Divine effort can hide his sin. The root of “atonement” in Hebrew is “to cover.” The covering is a type of justification -- God's gift to the sinner who has no capacity to provide his own covering. Adam's attempt to cover his sin was merely the first attempt to do what billions of lost souls have tried ever since -- in Paganism's sacrifices, holy pilgrimages, abuse and neglect of the body, saying rosaries, doing “acts of penance,” etc. Since God alone can cover sin, it would have made no difference how adequate Adam and Eve clothed their bodies; God would have done something different in order to impress this truth upon them.
But why kill animals merely to take skins for clothing? Adequate clothing could have been provided without senseless shedding of blood. The need for slaying the animal provides the second lesson man had to learn. It is this: Sin can only be covered by sacrifice. Read Hebrews 9:22 again. Adam's guilt requires the life of an innocent victim in his behalf. In God's act, there was the sacrifice of animal life in order to fulfil the verdict of death against sin, and yet preserve the life of the sinner. This initial act of sacrifice, “in the day” of the sin, laid the foundation for the whole system of sacrifice that proceeded unbroken from that day to the death of Christ.
What must have Adam and Eve thought of the unexpected cries, the appalling sight of streaming blood and struggling agonies of that original dying creature! What they must have felt as they witnessed the breathless, motionless body, and being told “this is death!” How stricken with horror at such a sight and being told they were the guilty authors of such a grisly scene!
When God made that sacrifice, slaying them in their substitute victim, He then took the skins of those victims, and clothed the sinner as a perpetual reminder of the two lessons he must never forget: that only God can cover sin, and the only covering that is adequate is the covering of blood sacrifice. As they left Eden, the man and woman wore on their backs, the symbol of everything the rest of the Bible unfolds. They wore on their persons the promise of the ultimate Redeemer.
So God did indeed inflict the penalty of death on the very day of sin. He took the life of an animal and gave it to Adam and Eve. What happened there is a perfect picture of what happened to every Christian when we entered Christ. We died, but only in the sense that Christ died for us and His life transferred to us. This is the sense of 2 Corinthians 5:14. God inflicted the penalty but showed mercy in so doing.
Outside the garden, Adam and Eve taught their sons the meaning of and necessity for such sacrifices. (Genesis 4:1-8). That they knew these things is proven by God's reaction to their offerings. Cain's sacrifice was rejected because it was not a sacrifice of life. (vs. 3, 4). By repetition of sacrifice through the several thousand years since, men learned that such animal offerings would only provide partial covering of sin. Something better was needed. Christ came as the perfect realization of what numberless slain substitutes before Him had imperfectly represented.
The lessons God taught Adam and Eve that day must not be lost. No man can be saved from his sin unless he learns and believes that God alone can cover his sin, and that the only means God provides for that covering, is the blood of His only Son, Jesus Christ. He gave His life that I might live.