What would have happened if Adam and Eve never ate from The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden?
It’s a hypothetical question since they did eat, but the parallel with the last Adam, Jesus Christ, shows that obedience would ultimately have led to the destiny that Jesus Christ achieves for believers – eternal life with bodily life and creation brought to a higher form.
What are some of the most common misconceptions people have surrounding the Garden of Eden and what takes place in the early chapters of Genesis?
It is too readily thought that creation in the beginning was not just good in the sense of being what God intended and free of moral evil, but absolutely perfect. In reality it is clear that there was a probation with life and death as possibilities, and that man did not possess eternal life in the beginning which was only in prospect. In the world to come humanity no longer requires food (1 Cor 6:13) and has an eternal life that has moved beyond marriage (Matt 22:30). In the world to come, when Christ returns and the dead are raised, the redeemed bear the likeness of the earthy man no longer but of the heavenly man (1 Cor 15:47-49).
How does what Jesus did connect with the Garden of Eden?
After Jesus identified with us as our representative by his baptism he was tested. Unlike Adam he did not listen to Satan’s temptations but trusted in the word of God. He secures what was held out to Adam but forfeited by disobedience. See also point 6 below.
What is a “Covenant” and what do they have to do with the life of the person reading this interview?
Marriage in the Bible is a bond of love. It involves obligations but you can’t reduce it to a mere business contract. God’s covenants are something like that although God is the one who initiates and sets the terms as he, in his goodness, decides. Covenant is the way two unequal parties can relate in love. Jesus ratified the new covenant in his blood. You need to be beneficiary of that covenant.
In your brilliant work (just recently re-released by the good folks at Tulip Publishing!) God and Adam: Reformed Theology and the Creation Covenant you said “Labour has purpose, and creation has a goal. The seventh day shows that work is not an end it itself, but has its proper place when it is consecrated to God as we subdue the earth in his name. The seventh day represents the goal of history when humanity’s work is done and God’s rest is entered.” This is a new thought for many, especially that the “seventh day represents the goal of history when humanity’s work is done and God’s rest is entered”. Can you unpack that a little bit?
The goal of creation was (and still is) communion with God on the highest possible level and of this the tree of life in the Garden of Eden speaks. Its pledge is also seen in the creation sabbath, God’s rest, a day not closed with the formula of evening and morning like the other days. God’s image bearers, made like God but on a creaturely level, have life in the Garden, but a fuller and eternal life is to come as they obediently imitate God in their work and rest.
What is the “Gospel” and what practical implications does the Gospel make in my everyday life?
The promised Saviour is the Satan-crusher (Genesis 3:15) and is called ‘the Lord our righteousness’ in Jeremiah 23:6. Paul likewise describes the Gospel as concerning ‘the righteousness of God’ (Rom 3:21-22). Too often want to make it all about us, and we think God exists to forgive us as if that’s his job. We need to think more deeply. The Gospel is about God’s provision of righteousness through the obedient last Adam (1 Cor 15:45); a righteousness accessed through faith, so that God is both just and the justifier of whoever believes in Jesus (Romans 3:26). Justification is by Christ as the meritorious foundation in his obedient life in my place and in bearing my sins on the Cross fulfilling all required and being raised and glorified in our nature so that he lives in the power of an indestructible life. He gains what the first Adam forfeited. Faith is the instrument that unites me to Christ in his saving work. Deeds truly good because they proceed from a renewed heart that seeks to please God are evidences of justification. They are fruits of the new relationship not causes of it.
What is “sin” and what is so terrible about it when I do sin? And what is my motivation to not sin?
Sin is any failure to measure up to what God requires or any disobedience to God’s commands. God is our Creator and our sin ruptures the relationship because God is good and holy. That is why Adam and Eve try to hide from God and twist what he had commanded them; and it is why they have to leave the Garden. Yet God is so gracious that when he drives them out they are not left without hope (Genesis 3:15). As sinners we try and get right with God by who we are or what we do, and even develop religions that teach this way. But trying to buy God’s favour or earn salvation by being or doing good doesn’t meet God’s holy requirements. We have to look to God’s promise and God’s provision of the Satan-crusher.
What is God’s end goal for this world, all humans of this world, and me personally? Where is He taking it and what does it look like for me to be a part of that goal, and how can I have a role and purpose in that goal, and find meaning, and value, and my joy in that goal?
The sabbath in the creation narrative should not be thought of as a memorial of creation, a looking back to something that cannot be changed. Rather it is the climax of the narrative pointing forward to the purpose and goal of creation. Hence the grounds for sabbath observance in Deuteronomy 4:15 rest on the new creation brought about by the deliverance from Eqypt. See further under point 5 above. God offers eternal life to sinners that begins now: it’s good news, so repent and believe the Gospel!
How can I, as a Christian who believes the Gospel and affirms orthodoxy, be compelled to genuinely desire God and the kingdom of God enough to become a true disciple, one who is willing to consider all things loss in comparison with knowing and loving Jesus?
I think we sometimes try hard to be a Christian when we haven’t quite understood the good news of the kingdom (Mark 1:15). The good news is not that you get yourself to a point where you qualify for acceptance by God by stopping some bad behaviour, or that you hold to some orthodox doctrines. Rather you repent that you have run your own life and done your own thing and you put your trust in Jesus as the king. In other words, you come under new management so Jesus is Lord now to direct your life. True repentance and faith are the two sides of the one coin. Seek and you shall find, said Jesus, who promises the Holy Spirit to those who ask. There’s a big difference between doing Christian ‘stuff’ because you are motivated by guilt and doing such because the love of God has been poured out in your heart through the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5).
As a Christian, at the end of a long day (when I have done what I ought not to have done – and not done what I ought to have done) what are God’s thoughts of me when I lay down my head at night and fall asleep?
You come to your Father through Jesus Christ, who is seated on a throne of grace, to confess your failures of the day but thank him for his fatherly care and his many great and precious promises. He knows and loves you as his dear child. If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us. Read Psalm 4.
What is God’s mission given to us and how do I fulfill it without it becoming a feeling of another thing I have to do for God? And based upon that, what is needed at the personal, and church level to shape culture and to be on strategic mission?
Always keep your eyes on Jesus Christ, crucified, risen from the dead. Consciously rely on the promised aid of the Holy Spirit. Don’t be imprisoned by past failure and in that sense forget what is behind but press on toward the mark of your high calling in Christ. There are obligations in the covenant – the righteousness of the law is to be filled in those who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit (Rom 8:4). So we need teaching on this. In other words, the whole counsel of God needs to be covered in local churches. Utilising the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly would be very helpful.
What is the overarching story of the Bible?
God’s loving determination to bring many sons and daughters into blessed communion in glory with himself by his one and only Son and through the life-giving work of the Holy Spirit.
For you personally, what has been the most compelling or powerful aspect of the story of the Bible that you delight in, has come to you fresh, and resulted in you loving God more and being excited to be a part of God’s story?
At different points in your spiritual life different facets of truth are brought to bear. It was very helpful to me to see the progressive unfolding of God’s loving purposes through his dealing by covenant which assures us of a predictable world, deepens our understanding of the work of Christ and enables us to relate creation and redemption and envision the bright future for believers.
For those who read this interview and get pricked of mind and heart; what can I do today, right now at this very moment (and beyond), that can result in the story of the Bible taking root in my own heart and shaping me as it has you?
Thoughtful lay people who are dissatisfied with the preoccupation of many with treating the Scripture as primarily a scientific text or dismayed by endless debates over ‘the last things’ should look into covenant theology as providing a biblical reading of Scripture that highlights union with Christ through faith as the hallmark of vital Christianity. My book is quite easy to read or get a copy for your pastor.