Q. 12. What special act of providence did God exercise towards man in the estate wherein he was created?

Q. 12. What special act of providence did God exercise towards man in the estate wherein he was created?

A. When God had created man, he entered into a covenant of life with him, upon condition of perfect obedience; forbidding him to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, upon pain of death.

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“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.”” (Gen 2:16-17)

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We know how things turned out. As it turned out, man’s relationship with God in Eden had a certain precarious aspect. Adam’s (and Eve’s) relationship with God, as it turned out, was a relationship which could be broken. As it turned out, their privileges in the Garden could be revoked. The life Adam and Eve had, also as it turned out, could be lost. In other words, the many gifts from God which they enjoyed could be taken from them.

But it would be a great mistake to suppose this precarious (for a lack of better word) - or probational - relationship with God caught them by a surprise. Adam and Eve were clearly told. “You may eat of every tree of the garden, 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.” Notice two things here. First, God commanded them to eat from every tree of the garden. Sometimes we only remember the other half of God’s command where he forbids Adam from eating from that one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. But notice God’s forbidding that one tree followed his lavish gifts of all trees! It was not a cruel or unreasonable command. Second, note that God clearly told Adam and Even their life was one that could be lost. “You shall surely die.” So from the very beginning, man’s relationship with God was covenantal, because it was a relationship based upon certain terms and certain promises between the two parties, God and man.

The word “covenant” does not appear at this point in the Bible. But God’s relationship with Adam was covenantal nonetheless. It is noteworthy that the marriage between Adam and Eve is not called a “covenant” either in Genesis 1-3. Only later we see that we should have seen it as a covenant. “But you say, “Why does he not?” Because the LORD was witness between you and the wife of your youth, to whom you have been faithless, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” (Malachi 2:14 ESV) Likewise, in light of Scripture’s later revelations we know that God’s relationship with Adam was covenantal (see Hosea 6:7 and the covenantal argument Paul makes in Romans 5). A covenant establishes relationship based upon terms and promises. So God established terms by which Adam and Even would continue to enjoy the gifts God had lavished on them, and more (DV we will see what this “more” is later). The terms of the covenant: “You shall not eat.” There was a promise also: “You shall surely die.”

This covenant relationship between God and Adam is sometimes called (although more commonly in the past) the covenant of life. It directs us to think about the fact that death was the promised consequence of disobedience, and disobedience only. As hard as it is for us to imagine now, death was not a natural part of God’s creation. Death is the result of sin, and where there is no sin, there is no death. (Think about eternal life - a life that does not end! - in heaven in this connection.) This is not a speculation, but directly from God himself. And from what God says above in Genesis 2:16-17 it is a very short and a necessary step to realize that if Adam and Eve had obeyed, they would not have died. “Covenant of life,” therefore, teaches us what was at stake: Life.

More commonly, this covenant relationship is called “covenant of works.” As gospel believing Christians we are programmed to react negatively to anything that involves “works.” But “works” is not always a dirty concept. It is only dirty because people who perform them now are fallen sinners. We stain everything we touch with our sin, and that is why our works are not acceptable before God. But it is not always so. After all, we are saved by works, aren’t we? Yes, we are! We are saved by the works of Jesus Christ - his obedience, his suffering, his death, and his resurrection. We are saved by what Jesus did.

Covenant of works directs us to think about Adam’s duty and responsibility before God. He was given a work to do. See Genesis 2:15. And, of course, his obedience to God’s command to refrain from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was also his duty and responsibility, his works to perform. Thus covenant of works is a very fitting description of Adam’s standing before God. Adam was not God’s equal, but a created servant (highly exalted and honored with God’s image!) with duty and responsibility before God.

At this point we should realize a few things. Eden may have been a paradise, but there is something better. Eden was a place where man’s relationship with God could be ruined and life lost in death. But there is another Adam, the last Adam (1 Cor 15:45), who brings us not back to the Garden, but something better. That is Paul’s glorious conclusion.

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39)

In Jesus, because of what he did, we have a relationship with God that cannot be ruined. We have life that cannot be lost in death. We have gifts that cannot be withdrawn. For nothing will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.