Message title: Man’s Calling to Serve God, Genesis 2:16,17
Broadcast date: October 23, 2022 (No. 4164)
Radio speaker: Rev. Wilbur Bruinsma, Pittsburgh PRC
Dear radio friends,
God—Satan; elect—reprobate; light—darkness; good—evil; right—wrong. All these are exact opposites, yet opposites that do not stand parallel with each other. God and Satan are not two eternally equal forces that are in constant conflict with each other. Many wish to construe evil and good in this way—that they are two primal principles warring against each other in order to eradicate the other. It is contended that God is pure and infinite light, perfection, and wisdom—the Creator of everything good, while Satan is the originator of evil and darkness—the creator of everything bad and twisted. God and Satan then stand in a life and death struggle with each other attempting to destroy one another to gain the mastery over this world. The outcome of that struggle is not yet known; either could win. Over against this misconception of many in the church stands the clear testimony of Scripture itself. God alone is the one, eternal principal cause of all things. He is not constantly warring against Satan. Satan may war against God. But God is Creator and Satan is but a creature of God’s hands and serves the will of his Creator. God also is good, pure perfection in whom is no evil. He is undefiled light without a shadow of darkness in Him. But this good and glorious God has chosen to reveal the riches of His glory against the black background of sin. He has chosen to reveal the virtues of His Being antithetically, i.e., in opposition to darkness. For this reason, the Scripture and we must view Satan, the reprobate wicked, darkness and evil as subservient to God, the elect, light and goodness. The former serve the purpose of the latter.
Another mistaken notion in this regard is that the need to make a stand against evil did not exist until after the fall of man into sin. It is thought that Adam and Eve in perfection had no idea what sin and evil were. They were created good. The creation around them was good. Therefore they were called to serve God without opposing evil. It was only after they were tempted by Satan that they now had to contend against evil. In light of the Word of God, however, we find that this notion is not true. Adam and Eve in Paradise, in perfection, had to refuse to walk in sin and disobedience to God. That they did is revealed in the two trees that God placed in the Garden of Eden. We read of one of these trees in Genesis 2:16, 17: “And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” Let us consider these verses today.
Man’s Calling to Serve God
To understand the calling of our first parents to serve God, we must take a close look at where the two of them lived. We learn in Genesis 2:8 that God planted a garden in the eastern part of a place called Eden. The exact location of Eden and this garden is not known. But it is assumed that it could have been located somewhere within the Fertile Crescent or Mesopotamia area since the rivers mentioned are those flowing into the Persian Gulf. Yet, where that garden was located is not really of the essence. What is of the essence is that it was “home” to man. God planted this garden and specifically placed Adam there to live. In all of God’s creation, therefore, the Garden of Eden was a special place. It was special because the Garden of Eden was Paradise! The Bible refers to it as such. It was an earthly paradise, that is, a place of wonderful earthly bliss and perfection. Out of the ground God made trees to grow that were not only pleasant to the sight but good for food. The temperature must have been consistently warm each day and night since Adam and Eve had no need for clothes. The curse of sin did not yet affect the earthly creation, so it produced fruit without death and without being forced to grow by means of difficult labor and toil.
But what really made this garden a paradise is that it was here in this special place that God chose to dwell with Adam and Eve. God walked with them in the garden. They could speak with Him. He conversed with them. They were able to share in blessed fellowship with their Creator in Paradise. They were able to taste of God’s goodness and blessedness. But only taste! Though an earthly paradise it was only earthly. It was not as high or as eternally blessed as our heavenly Paradise will be. Yet, it was the most glorious earthly place that ever existed. There Adam and Eve enjoyed the covenant of God with them into which they were created. He made them a part of that. That truly was the bliss of Paradise. God was their personal Friend who came to visit them regularly in their home. That must have been something: to have God come and visit them in their home every day!
Yet, we ought not to forget that God was Creator and man was a creature. We must not somehow conceive of God as no more than an equal to Adam and Eve, a next-door neighbor of sorts. God is Creator, and all creatures are called upon to serve and glorify Him who made them! Though a friend of God, Adam was also a servant. For example, a father and a son can live in the same home and have the closest of friendship and love, yet the father remains a father and the son a son. The son is always called to bow before the authority of his father and honor father. The same is infinitely more true in our relationship with God. Adam may have been God’s friend, but he was also and always God’s servant. This is evident from the fact that God gave Adam a command—do not eat of the tree—and Adam was called to bow in obedience to it. Obviously, Adam and Eve were under God’s command, and they were called to love God by serving Him and reverencing Him in all things.
This is why God placed two special trees in the Garden of Eden: the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We are not going to spend too much time considering the Tree of Life. But we cannot fully understand the significance of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil unless we see it in relation to the Tree of Life. The Tree of Life stood in the very midst of the garden, and probably it was near this tree Adam and Eve communed with God. It was called the Tree of Life because its fruit was meant to perpetuate man’s earthly life. As Adam and Eve continued to eat of this fruit, it would give them more than the mere nourishment of the other trees. The Tree of Life would give them that which was necessary for them to go on living forever in the earthly creation. It is thought by some, of course, that if Adam and Eve continued to eat of this tree they would be given the same everlasting life that we will receive in the heavenly Paradise. This is not true. Adam and Eve were of the earth earthy and the fruit of the Tree of Life was as well. Its fruit therefore was only of earthly value and could only perpetuate an earthy existence. At the same time, the eating of the Tree of Life represented for Adam and Eve the positive assurance of God’s favor and love. The eating of the Tree of Life was an integral part of the fellowship between man and God. This is evident from the fact that after Adam and Eve fell into sin, they were barred from eating of this tree. They could eat of this tree only when they stood in a right relationship with their Creator. Only in the way of obedience was this tree open to man.
We focus our attention in today’s broadcast, however, on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This tree was the opposite of the Tree of Life. The eating of this tree meant death—death in all its implications: physical as well as spiritual. It was not as if the tree itself was evil. Remember, God saw all that He had made and behold it was very good. God did not create anything evil. With respect to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil this meant that its fruit was good and sweet just like any other tree in the garden. The fruit of the tree was not itself poisonous. It did not contain anything in it that would cause the horrible malady of death if it were eaten. But to this tree God attached a commandment. That command was in the negative: “you shall not eat of that tree! The day you eat of that tree you will surely die!” “Adam, you and Eve may not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil because if you do, then you will be disobeying me! And disobedience to me is punishable by death!” This is why the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was named such. By means of this tree Adam and Eve even in perfection were given the knowledge of what was good and evil, right and wrong. This means that Adam and Eve in Paradise knew what sin was. It is true they did not know it experientially. They had not entered into sin so as to know it through experience. But then, I do not need to become drunk to know that drunkenness is a sin punishable by God. God tells me it is evil in His Word, and I know that to become drunk is therefore sin. The same was true of man in Paradise. God told Adam and Eve that they must serve him positively by eating of the various tress of the garden. But God also told Adam and Eve that they must serve him negatively by refusing to eat of the forbidden tree. If they did, that was evil. This tree, therefore, made Adam and Eve deeply aware that serving God was good and disobeying God was evil, was sin.
Adam and Eve were given this knowledge as they enjoyed their life of perfection in this garden of bliss and perfection. This dictated to the two of them how they were to serve their God as well. As God’s friend-servants they were called upon by God to fellowship with Him in a very positive way. They had to serve God with heart, soul, mind, and strength. They were created with an intimate knowledge of God by which they loved God. In that knowledge they were to learn of God and speak to Him and about Him with fear and reverence. They were in their very creation endowed with the virtue of holiness, which means that positively man was totally consecrated to God. He must love God and dedicate his life and all in it to God’s service. Man was also created with righteousness. He was called to bow beneath God’s sovereign rule and, under God, rule over this earthly creation, subduing it for God’s sake. This was man’s positive calling to serve God. Adam and Eve did this in Paradise too.
Further, they were commanded to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Life. This surely was not difficult. Adam’s and Eve’s call in this regard was fully positive. Their entire nature was adapted to this kind of life. Adam and Eve could enjoy fully the friendship of God in this way with all their thoughts, goals, and desires fully concentrated on God alone. They willed God’s will. They thought God’s thoughts. They worked God’s works in this world. They walked in the light of God and served the one Master over all.
But this was not all. This could not be the fullness of the service man rendered to God. It was God’s will for Adam and Eve that they should choose God’s friendship in distinction from everything that would oppose him. Man was God’s friend. But man must show that he was indeed God’s friend by rejecting all that which is against God. God is light and in Him is no darkness. Man must show that he is of the light in this world by hating and turning away from darkness. God is goodness, pure perfection. Man must show his love for God’s goodness and perfection by hating evil. God was man’s sovereign Friend. Man must reveal that he is of the party of God in this world. Adam and Eve must reveal their love for God by opposing what is opposed to God. That was the purpose of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that God placed in the garden. In other words, in order to show forth the goodness and glory of God, man was called by God negatively and consciously to say “no” to all sin, to all disobedience! This is known as man’s calling to a life of antithesis.
Interesting word. Actually, the term “antithesis” is used in literature or in rhetoric. It is used to contrast a positive idea with the negative by placing them in parallel arrangements. For example, there is the common phrase, “give me action and not words.” The thesis of that phrase is: “Give me action!” That is the positive desire of the one using it. To emphasize that, there is added the anti-thesis, “and not words.” This negative phrase serves to support and reinforce the positive action.
Theologically the term “antithesis” is used in the realm of man’s calling to serve God. God commands us: love Me and hate evil. There is the thesis: love God. Love and obey God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is done positively by saying “yes” to everything God wills for us to do in this life. The antithesis of this is: hate evil. Say “no” to everything that opposes God and His commands. The darkness opposes the light, evil opposes good, Satan opposes God, the reprobate oppose the elect. All these are in direct antithesis of one another. God has since the very beginning of time, already in Paradise, chosen to show forth the light of His glory and perfection by means of the antithesis! God said to Adam and Eve in Paradise, You may not and cannot serve two masters. You must cling to me and reject all that which is opposed to me!
In all of this, Adam’s and Eve’s calling in perfection was in reality no different than our calling today! We are called to serve God in exactly the same way! But there is a sad development that has taken place: man’s fall into sin. Sin now interferes with our service of God. But essentially the way we serve God today is no different than Adam’s and Eve’s. Why do we have spiritual enemies in this life? Why is there Satan? Why is there the reprobate world that lures us to sin? Why is there sin in this world? The answer to all this is: because this is the way that God has willed for you and me to show forth the glory of our God! Love God by hating evil!
We must serve God positively with heart, mind, soul, and strength. But we must serve Him antithetically with heart, mind, soul, and strength too. We must love God. We do this by following after the good and hating the evil! We show our obedience to God by standing as God’s friend against the evil forces that oppose Him. We live in fellowship with God by being a spiritually separate, distinct people! In that way, we show forth God’s praises in this world! I realize, dear saint, that because of sin in us this calling takes fighting against our sinful flesh. But we must remember this when fighting against sin: we are God’s people whom He has redeemed. Christ has covered us in His blood and delivered us from the hand of Satan and corruption. The life of the antithesis God has chosen for us, therefore, is not one of forced submission. On the contrary, we who represent God’s cause and party in this world rise up to the challenge to serve God antithetically. That means we do not seek to synthesize the good with the evil. We do not seek to blend them as if somehow they are compatible with each other. Light and darkness do not mix; good and evil cannot be blended together; faith and unbelief cannot be synthesized. Our calling is clear! Say “no” to sin. Say “no” to the friendships of this world! Say “no” to that which stands opposed to God! In this way serve God!
Why did God call Adam and Eve to serve Him in this way? The answer lies in the purpose of God for all things. This purpose is found in God’s covenant, His fellowship and friendship with His people. Adam and Eve shared in the most blessed fellowship with God imaginable! To walk and talk with God must have been the greatest of all blessings. But that fellowship was only an earthly fellowship. It consisted of only an earthly paradise. We today too share in intimate fellowship with God! Our fellowship, however, comes only by way of the fall of Adam and Eve into sin. Why was there this Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil? Because in the way of Adam’s disobedience to God’s command, you and I today have come to share in the intimate fellowship we have with God in Christ!
We no longer today walk and talk with God as did Adam and Eve. Now God through the Spirit of Christ has taken up His abode in the hearts of His people. Now God lives in us! Such life we can experience only through the work of our Savior. We walk and talk with God too—not in an earthly sense, but in a highly spiritual way! So today, too, we as God’s children experience that God is our Friend. If that is true of us, and it is, then, friends of God, let us serve God as did Adam and Eve, with joy and gladness of heart! Let us reveal that we belong to His party and cause in this world. And let us stand in opposition to all those who oppose our God! We are children of the light! In God’s presence we find our happiness.
Rev. Wilbur G. Bruinsma (Wife: Mary)
Ordained: October 1978
Pastorates: Faith, Jenison, MI - 1978; Missionary to Jamaica - 1984; First, Holland, MI - 1989; Kalamazoo, MI - 1996; Eastern Home Missionary - 2006; Pittsburgh PRC - 2016.Website: www.prcpittsburgh.org/
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