Studies in Doctrine


I was reading through Genesis 1-3 again this morning and the thought of what I preached on a couple of months ago came to me again – The tree of knowledge of good and evil. Many often view this as the “bad” tree or the tree of temptation. This often Imagemade clear in drawings and in many sermons, but was the tree of knowledge of good and evil actually evil in itself? To find Biblical answers, we need to search Scripture and let it interpret for us. From Scripture we know that God made everything in the Garden and we know on the 6th Day the Lord observed everything he had made, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good.” (Gen 1:31) Therefore, we must conclude from Scripture that the tree was also very good.

Why, then, did God tell Adam he would die if he ate of the tree? Does that mean that the tree was deadly? According to God, yes, it was obviously deadly to Adam but for the same reason giving my car keys to my 12 year old daughter would be deadly. There are many things in this world that were created for good, but not meant for everyone to handle. Fire keeps us warm and cooks our food making it safe to eat, but I tell my son not to handle the fire in the fireplace.  The tree was in the garden for a good reason, it just was not meant for Adam or Eve to eat or they would die.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil is an interesting name of a tree. Good and evil are contrasts against each other and like right and wrong. In Genesis 1 and 2, it was God and God alone who guided Adam to what was good and what was not because Good reflected His nature and Evil reflected everything against His nature. It was God who judged what was the right Complement to Adam as a helper. It was God who judged what was good for Adam to eat and what was not. Adam and Eve were made in God’s image – they were not begotten. This means that they were created to represent His image, but they were not in nature (by birth) his image. Therefore, they needed to follow Him and obey Him to remain in His image. They could not judge for themselves what God is or isn’t. As long as they remained solely devout to Him and His will, they would remain in His image – thus live in Him

As I said before, Adam and Eve did not need to Judge. Everything they needed to know as to what was right and wrong, good and evil, the Lord their God would reveal to them. When Satan tempted them, it was a temptation to break away from relying on God alone and make their own judgment as to what is good and evil. He asked Eve, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Gen 3:1) This was not only asked to make her (and Adam who was with her) to question their understanding of what God said, but quietly lead them to question God’s judgment as well. After Eve gave a careless response to the question, took advantage of her lapse and said, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” The whole point of Satan’s deception was to destroy God’s plan of creating a people for his own. Adam and Eve were already “like God” as they were created in His image but they did not possess the perfect righteous judgment of what was good and evil – of that, they needed to completely rely on God’s guidance.

The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was not evil in itself but it was not meant for man to take up and judge for themselves. The judgment seat belongs to God alone. The “victory” Satan had in this scene was to convince Eve and eventually Adam to separate themselves from God and judge good and evil by their own eyes. The death God spoke of when telling Adam that he would die the day he ate of the tree was the spiritual death – the loss of the life breathed in him in his creation, not the physical death that Satan deceived them into thinking and Adam seeing no evidence of Eve experiencing. They actually died the minute they judged with their own eyes God was a liar and Satan was truth.

The moment they died spiritually, they began to make mistake after mistake in judgement -they hid perceiving that God would not see them, that God would not know anything was wrong. They judged the body God created for them was shameful, they judged they could get away from their sin by blaming the other. They made lapse after lapse in judgment and that continues today. The world is constantly judging good and evil and no one can seem to agree with anyone totally. This just proves without doubt that God was right in forbidding Adam from eating from that tree and losing his trust in God’s perfect judgment. Today God’s people struggle daily with Satan’s deception through the media, through other people, and through false teachers sneaking in the church. They all ask the same question Satan did in the garden, “Did God actually say…” This is why God has been ever gracious to present us with His image again through the Holy Bible. Even Satan knows what is in the Bible and he tries to twist it through his children who present themselves as Holy, but we who have Christ in us should always do what Adam and Eve failed to do – seek God’s righteous guidance. If we really want to know what God judges right, we only need to pray and seek his truth. This will not only defend us from Satan’s attacks, but it will also let us drink deep in the fountain of life. Jesus tells us in John 6:63, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.” We must always return to the God and seek His counsel in all things or we will fall victim to the deception of Satan also.

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two- edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. (Heb 4:12)

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“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

I have been preaching lately on the parables of the kingdom of heaven Jesus told in the book of Matthew and using them to study different aspects of the kingdom. The Bible gives us many hints that when Jesus’ ministry began, his kingdom was coming yet already offered to all who repented and believed. We can see this in that Jesus’ proclamation that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (near) in Mark 4:17 and that it is already present as Jesus told the Pharisees, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” (Luke 11:20) Jesus was proclaiming that the kingdom of God was presently available to everyone who repented and believed in him and he said this to everyone he met. One problem, no one could enter the kingdom of God on one’s own merit; the price was too high; perfect righteousness and holiness was demanded. Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless you are born again, you cannot enter the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) Many have wondered why Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again when it was impossible for him to do it on his own. The reason Jesus told this to Nicodemus (and everyone who hears the good news) is so he (and we) can understand the priceless value of his work on the cross and the resurrection. You see, in the resurrection of Christ we receive the resurrection of our souls, as Paul puts it “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” (Philippians 3:10). There were two reasons Jesus challenged Nicodemus (and us): to see how great a sinner we are, and how great a savior he is.

In the parable of the pearl of great value (Matthew 13:45) Jesus begins his parable saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls”. In this parable we have a merchant here and a merchant is a tradesman searching to exchange something of value for another. If a person does not have anything of value, he is not a tradesman. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again to enter the kingdom but Nicodemus (or anyone else for that matter) did not have anything of value to purchase such a privilege to enter the kingdom of heaven on their own which, as I said, is perfect righteousness and godliness. Jesus told Peter, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” (John 13:36b) So the Merchant here in the first sense is Jesus because he came for one reason which is to purchase his people with his blood. He was the only one who could do this because his own life was undefiled in every way. Death could not keep him in his grave because it had nothing on him to hold him down and this perfection was used to purchase for his people the right to enter the kingdom of heaven and to be children of God. John reminded us that this right did not come to us because of our birthright or our own desire or the desire of others, but the desire of God (John 1:13).

The parable continues in verse 46, “On finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” We must never look upon the sacrificial work of our Lord on the cross as of limited value because it took everything Christ had to purchase our salvation, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8). Jesus told us in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends.” This Merchant sold ALL that he had for the purchase of his people. For this reason Christ came and died, that his people shall be reconciled with the Father in heaven. And this price included intense rejection and suffering which he received at the hands of the his own people, it included humiliation and death on the cross and it included separation from the eternal Father in heaven and all this was done in innocence. What more could one ask of a friend? As the prophet Isaiah wrote:

Out of the anguish of his soul he

Shall see and be satisfied;

By his knowledge shall the

Righteous one, my servant,

Make many to be accounted righteous,

And he shall bear their iniquities.

Isaiah 53:11

In the second sense, the merchant is those who are born again by the resurrection of Jesus Christ who has fulfilled the works necessary to purchase their salvation. It costs us nothing because we have nothing to give; we only need to redeem the work of Christ for our salvation. Remember what Jesus told Peter, “Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.” Now is the “afterward” and now we can follow Jesus to the cross which we can bear with him and in his resurrection which we can share with him. You see, once we are born again we have in our hands the blood of Christ which has the power of salvation and “to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Thess 5:9) Paul tells us in Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” When we are born again, we are freed from the bondage of sin and death and we can freely look on the cross and confess Jesus is our Lord as Paul continues in verse 10, “For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” But to confess Jesus as Lord” means we are to belong to him both in body and soul and life and death. As the merchant sold everything he had to purchase the pearl of great value, we also give everything we have when we receive the Lord Jesus Christ. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Here is the problem; many people do not see it this way. They see Jesus as the savior, but not Lord. Such is too much of a burden for them, they say. They believe that the salvation was accomplished by both sides, the sinner and Jesus; he paid his part and I paid mine so he is my savior, but not my Lord. Jeremiah wrote of the Lord saying in Jeremiah 31:33, “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Here God is not vague and that the people he brings to him through Jesus (the blood of the new covenant) will see Jesus as he is; Savior AND Lord. The new birth enables us, “to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me” (Act 26:18). As Jesus gave all he had to purchase so great a salvation, so is the same asked of us. Ask yourself then; is Jesus Lord of your life? I am not asking if he is on Sunday, but is he Lord in your life on Mondays through Saturdays, in your marriage, at home, at work, in your social life. He did not purchase you only for Sundays, but every moment of your life and it cost everything he had.

God’s anger is revealed from heaven against every ungodly and immoral thing people do as they try to suppress the truth by their immoral living.  (Romans 1:18)

Suppressing the truth is the same as twisting the truth by making it small when it is big in order to stop it from bothering your conscience. We discussed in the Doctrine class how some religions do not accept sickness, but say it is only imagination and not real. No matter how sick you get, you need to accept the truth that “there is no sickness” or “it is your imagination”. That reminded me of the Matrix movie when a young boy was bending a spoon with his mind. The little boy told Neo:Spoon

Monk boy: “Do not try to bend the spoon, that’s impossible. Instead, try to realize the truth.”

Neo: “The truth?”

Monk boy: “There is no spoon”

Sinners try to suppress (or hide) the truth in the same way to suppress the clear evidence in Scripture and nature that there is a God and to suppress the wrath of God that burdens on us and reveals our sin. They lie and say, “There is no God.” But there is too much evidence so they make man out to be god or custom design their own god. Whatever they choose, they try to rise their “god” as high as they can even if they have to lie, cheat, steal, or even kill. But their God will only go so high because, as we studied, The true God is far beyond anything we can understand. Man can build their “god” only so high before it leads to confusion and often chaos.Tower of Babel

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. (Romans 1:24-25)

Are we, believers, immune to this? No,  here on earth in the flesh, we have to resist such temptations every day. Everyone tries to build an image they want others to see them as. “Image” is a worldly term, as I would prefer “illusion” for it is all smoke and mirrors. We paint a picture we want others to see us as and often we will add a few fibs (lies) to spice it up. Just as with other “gods”, the illusion of ourselves often lead us to pamper this image and build into our own personal god. We also can paint an illusion of ourselves to a point that others can no longer believe it as many televangelists do. Pride. Wretched pride.

On a lighter side: The monk boy confesses

Last Sunday evening we studied the incommunicable attributes of God. This is the study of God’s attributes that are different from us humans and I said I would publish some questions on the blog related to the lesson. For those who did not attend the study, please join us next time (November 5th). Below are questions related to the lessons I would like the class to ponder:

  1. In addition to the Bible, what proof do we have that God exists?
  2. How can it be true that we cannot fully understand God, but we can truly know God?
  3. What is the difference between “incommunicable attributes” of God and His”communicable attributes”?
  4. How is God’s independence and ours different?
  5. How can we understand that God does not change when the Bible says he changed His mind?
  6. Why doesn’t time have any effect on God?
  7. If God is present everywhere, is He also present in hell?

Verses to consider: Psalm 102:25-27 (HCSB)
25 Long ago You established the earth,
and the heavens are the work of Your hands.

26 They will perish, but You will endure;
all of them will wear out like clothing.
You will change them like a garment,
and they will pass away.

27 But You are the same,
and Your years will never end.

Grace and peace,

dale

Last week in Studies in Doctrine Class we studied the history of the English Bible and I mentioned that I would give the PowerPoint to whoever wanted to. I did not mainly because it was quite a big file to send over the Internet. I have found it slow when trying to send a 4MB file through my mail account so I am placing the file on the this Silent Matters so you can download it yourself. Download the Bible Timeline Powerpoint here.

I mentioned one English translation called the Geneva Bible which was first printed around 1560AD. Tonja found out that Tolle Lege publication was, after all these years, bringing it back and the hard cover and Leather editions are now available for purchase this month. it is called the 1599 Geneva Bible because that edition was the most popular. You will remember the Geneva Bible was the first to have chapter and verse numbers and also had study notes which got it in trouble with the king of England.