Gen 2:15-17 A Covenant of Works 4/27/2003

 

 

 

 

#1. Two Very Unequal Parties (Gen 1:16, Psalm 19:1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#2. The Reward (Gen 2:7,9, 3:22, Eph 2:9, Gal 3:21)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#3. It Was in God's Plan (Rev 13:8, Gen 2:4, Matt 25:34, Eph 1:3-4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please open the sermon outline in your Bulletin. This entire sermon will be based on three verses. In the sermon outline you can see how this is going to be accomplished. I look forward discussing with you this afternoon the notes that you have written about this sermon. Please open now your Bibles to the first Scroll in your Bibles, Genesis chapter 1:31 (2X). This sermon is titled: "A Covenant of Works" (2X). It is a surprise to many that there is a Covenant of Works in the Bible, but that is the truth. Admittedly, this Covenant of Works did not live very long, but we read about it here in Gen 2.

Let us read about it in Gen 2:1-17, and let us start with the last verse of chapter 1.

Genesis 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Genesis 2:1 Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them.

Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.

Genesis 2:3 And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

Genesis 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,

Genesis 2:5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

Genesis 2:6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Genesis 2:8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed.

Genesis 2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Genesis 2:10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

Genesis 2:11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

Genesis 2:12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

Genesis 2:13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

Genesis 2:14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates.

Genesis 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

Genesis 2:17 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.

Here in verses 15-17 is that Covenant of Works. God said: "If you do that, then I will do this". If you eat from the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil", then I will cause you to die in that same day. That sounds like a contract! That is indeed what a Covenant of Works is. It is a contract. This type of contract between God and man does not occur anywhere else in the Bible; only here in Gen 2. God made this covenant only with Adam. God did not wait until Eve was created. Therefore, when did this covenant come to an end? It came to an end when Adam sinned. It came to an end when Adam broke his covenant with God. Let us look at the two parties in this contract. They are:

#1. Two Very Unequal Parties (Gen 1:16, Psalm 19:1)

On the one side we have God, the Creator of the universe, and on the other side we have Adam. Look at how Almighty God humbles Himself by getting into a contract with one of His creatures. God was making Himself very low. Look at Gen 1:16 (2X) and see how God great our God is:

Genesis 1:16 And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also.

It means that God made the sun and the moon. Is that a big deal? It is an enormously big deal! The mass of the sun is 330,000 times greater than the earth, and the sun consists almost completely of hydrogen. The sun is radiating light to us because the sun is one gigantic hydrogen bomb, burning slowly. By now the sun has used up about 10% of its energy, and it still has a long time to go. And look how humbly God says: "He made the stars also". In Hebrew it is only two words "The stars also". All the stars are hydrogen bombs like our sun. The nearest star is about 4 light-years away from us. It takes the light 4 years to travel from that star to us, which means: if that star explodes, we would see it 4 years later. But if that star explodes in a supernova, we would be fried to a crisp. So great is the power that God has created in this universe. But there are billions of stars out there in our galaxy, which is called the Milky Way. We are just a speck of dust in our solar system, and our solar system is just a speck of dust in our galaxy. But there are billions of galaxies out there in outer space. Think of it now: God made all this. And God is greater than His creation. This is the Almighty God who went to make a contract with puny man, the creature Adam. Can you see, God made Himself very low? God lowered Himself to make a contract with Adam, as if Adam was on an equal level with God. Now we understand the words of Psalm 19:1, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handiwork". No one today should imagine that God would make such a contract with us. How terrible it is when people make God their equal. They imagine that God made a contract with them, saying: "If you take the action to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, then I am going to save you". They have made the terrible assumption of making God their equal.

But here in the Garden of Eden God did make such a contract with Adam. On the one side we have Almighty God, and on the other side we have Adam, the creature: A naked man. He was as naked as a worm. There are not many animals that are naked, did you know that? Most land animals are covered with fur, or with feathers, or with scales. Even a snake is not naked. But Adam was as naked as a worm. He did not look beautiful, and he did not possess anything, and he had no credits before God. He was just a creature. Did Adam realize whom he was talking to? Absolutely yes! Adam knew that God was the creator of everything He could see. God made Adam, and God did not make a dummy. Adam was not like any human being today. God made Adam as a highly intelligent being. Both physically and mentally Adam was a Superman, because he was not yet infected with sin. And in his soul Adam was sinless; Adam was righteous before God, and he had fellowship with God, but all these were given to Adam as free gifts. These were all gifts of grace. But God's covenant with Adam was a pure contract. Next week we will see, when Adam ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, he was struck with stupidity, and Adam began acting like a fool. What was:

How much freedom did Adam get and what was his limitation? We read this in Gen 2:15-17 (2X),

Genesis 2:15 And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

Genesis 2:16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

Genesis 2:17 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 first consider the historical end of what we read here. Adam was free to eat of every tree in the Garden of Eden. He could even eat from the Tree of Life without any problem. But Adam had to stay within the boundaries of this Garden of Eden. Why did God create the Garden of Eden anyway? We saw in Gen 1:31 that "God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good". If all of creation was very good, the entire earth must have been a beautiful garden. But we read in verse 8 that "God planted a garden eastward in Eden". Then we must believe that historically God indeed planted such a special garden in Eden, which means "pleasure", wherever Eden was at that time. And in verse 15 God historically placed Adam there in that garden to keep it and to serve God with his work. It means that Adam should occupy himself with cultivating this garden. Therefore, God ordained by this that men should work for a living. God condemned hereby all laziness and emptiness of life. God said in II Thes 3:10, "This we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat". Moreover, God commanded Adam, in verse 16. In this mode, God designed that the whole human race should be accustomed from the beginning to reverence Him as God. This is the only rule of living well and rationally, that men should exercise themselves in obeying God. And then God gave Adam the Condition of this contract: "You may eat from every tree that is in the garden. From this great variety and abundance of fruit I will only make one exception; you may not eat from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The day you will eat from this tree, you will surely die". This is God's condition. This is the Law of God in its most primitive form. Now, let us apply this to our time.

What would you say to anyone who would attempt to neglect this part of the Bible as mythological, and not real history? For example, when he brings up the theory that man evolved from monkeys. You would take him to the last page of your Bible, and point out to him Rev 22:19, where God says, "And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life". It means: if you do not believe this story in Genesis, then you have in your mind ripped out the first 11 chapters of Genesis from the Bible, and God will also withhold eternal life from you, which means you are still on the way to Hell. This is the Condition that God has sounded in this person's ear. This is the Law of God that God has placed before this person.

But God also used this entire scenario to paint for us a picture of the future Kingdom of God, as we can experience it now. When God was speaking about Adam in Rom 5:14, God said, "who is the figure of Him that was to come". Adam was a figure of Him who was to come, Christ. We read in the NT that after Adam's sin this whole earth is in the power of Satan. But on this earth is an enclave, the Kingdom of God, where God rules in the hearts or souls of those who truly have become children of God. There is that spiritual Kingdom that God has planted, and where the second Adam, Christ, is tending the garden. But Christ will not be tempted to sin, and therefore none of His people will be drawn away from Him. All those who are in Christ shall remain in the Kingdom of God.

#2. For Adam, what was The Reward? (Gen 2:7,9, 3:22, Eph 2:9, Gal 3:21)

The reward was that Adam was promised eternal life if he obeyed God's commandment. This Covenant of Works existed only in the Garden of Eden. From the NT we learn that such a covenant cannot apply to today. God says in Eph 2:9, "Not of works, lest any man should boast". And God says in Gal 3:21, "If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law". In other words, if anyone could become saved by obeying a law, any law, then that is the way God would have people saved, instead of through Christ. But that is not possible! Today we must reject any plan of salvation that suggests a "Salvation as a reward for work", in whatever shape or form that work is presented to us. But not so with Adam. Why can we say that Adam was promised eternal life if he obeyed God's commandment? Look at verse 7.

Genesis 2:7 And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

Since Adam became a living soul it was guaranteed that Adam's soul would live forever. God created man to worship Him and glorify Him forever. That is the purpose for which God created man. Literally and spiritually Adam was a child of God. Adam lived in fellowship with God, which means that Adam was righteous in the sight of God. Adam had no sin. Only if Adam would sin would he die. Therefore, if he would not sin he would not die. That was the conditional reward promised to Adam. Moreover, there was also the Tree of Life. Look at verse 9,

Genesis 2:9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the Tree of Life also in the midst of the garden, and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

Eventually Adam would also eat of the Tree of Life, and then He would live forever. Is that not what is indicated by Gen 3:22 (2X)? Look for a moment at Gen 3:22,

Genesis 3:22, And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever:

The Tree of Life is the source of everlasting life. Adam was allowed to eat of the Tree of Life, but he never did. In our day and age the Word of God may be considered a Tree of Life, but how many turn to the Word of God to find out what God has said exactly. In the NH&NE the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Word of God, is our Tree of Life, and that is why He is so prominently on display in Rev 22.

This reward promised to Adam is of a different nature than the "reward" given to the saints, because that is not a reward given to the saints but to Christ. The saints receive salvation as a free gift. A reward is always a pay for work performed. To Adam the reward would be for obedience to God's command. To Christ the reward is given for having endured the wrath of God for the guilt of all our sins. The reward of the Lord Jesus Christ is the possession of all the saints who have entered, and who shall enter, into the Kingdom of God. Christ conquered that Kingdom every inch of the way.

The reward promised to Adam was a conditional reward: Adam, you may live forever in fellowship with God, but you will lose your state of bliss at any time that you violate My Commandment". Wow! Who would want to live for eternity with such a threat above your head? And yet, the Arminian gospel is like that. They say, "Yes, you may receive eternal life, but you can lose it any time that you mess up, which could be within the next 5 minutes", because in their theology the saints can fall from grace.

We have looked at the two parties in this Covenant of works, we have looked at the condition stated within that covenant, and we looked at the reward. But what is the penalty for breaking that C?

Why was it called the "Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil"? That is a peculiar name for such a tree. Does God know good and evil? Yes! God knows everything. Did Adam know good and evil? No! Adam was righteous. Adam had no sin. Adam knew only good. That was all he needed to know. If Adam would expand his knowledge to include both good and evil, then Adam would dirty his mind and dirty his soul, and Adam would no longer be righteous. You can see this process in your children. They start out with not too much sin in their life. But then, in their teenage years, they get in touch with pornography, and then they know both good and evil. The result is very much like when Adam got to know evil. It did not make him wiser, but it did make him evil, and he became a bumbling fool.

When we consider the penalty we have to look at Gen 2:17 (2X),

Genesis 2:17 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 (Lit: "dying thou shall die").

What kind of death was God talking about? What was the opposite? From what kind of life did Adam fall when He ate from this tree? He was in every respect happy. He was happy in his soul, because he was righteous in the sight of God. In his body there were no defects, and therefore he was free from physical death. His earthly life would have been temporal, and he would have passed into heaven without death and without injury.

What is the cause of death? The cause of death is alienation from God. Some people think that death is alienation from God. That is not so. Alienation from God is only the cause of death. But death itself is all those miseries in which Adam was plunged when he sinned against God, the fountain of life. As soon as Adam sinned he was cast down from his happy state, so that he might experience that the life of man with God is wretched and miserable in body and soul, and it is miserable to live under the tyranny of sin and Satan. But this is only the shadow of death. The miseries and evils of both the soul and body that men experience on this earth are a kind of entrance into death, till death itself totally absorbs them. But the death of the body is only a shadow of the death that God has in view. Since our souls must live forever, and our bodies must be resurrected as immortal bodies, the death that God has in view is a continual existence of body and soul in the process of dying under the tyranny of Satan. This is Hell. This is what God described as a "lake of fire". We read in Rev 21:8,

Revelation 21:8 But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.

It is called "the second death", because it is the process of dying, lasting forever, as God has promised: "For in the day that thou eatest thereof dying thou shall die". This is the penalty for sin. This is the penalty for transgressing God's Law. This is the penalty for just one sin. Did anyone here commit sins? Is there anyone in the whole wide world who has committed no sin? No! God says in Rom 3:10, "There is None righteous, No Not One"! Therefore, everyone in the whole wide world is on the way to Hell, because "the wages of sin is death", and the death that God has in view is to spend an eternity in a place called Hell. Only this way the righteousness of God can be satisfied.

But even though the 2nd death is a grievous penalty, it is proved to be no deterrent to sin. We see that in Cain, who murdered his brother Abel. We see that in the descendants of Cain. We see that in so many murderers throughout time. We see that in Saul of Tarsus, who was murdering Christians in the first few decades after Christ went back to heaven. How can people be saved from their slippery slide into Hell? There is only one way. They have to get to know the Lord Jesus, like Saul of Tarsus did on the Road to Damascus. Why don't people fear God? Why did Cain not fear God, even though God talked with him personally? It is because they are confronted by the Law of God, but not by the grace of God. We read about this in Rom 8:3. Let me just read it to you:

Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:

The Law cannot change people's hearts. Since they are unchanged in their heart, or in their soul, they continue in sin regardless of how great the penalty might be. The only possibility for anyone to be saved is if the Lord Jesus Christ has stood in their place, in the likeness of their sinful flesh, and has endured God's condemnation for their sins while He was hanging on the cross nearly 2000 years ago. This is the only basis on which God can forgive the sins of anyone. Christ must have paid the penalty that had to be paid to satisfy the righteousness of God, "for the wages of sin is death".

But when we look at all this in retrospect, we see that:

#3. It Was All in God's Plan (Rev 13:8, Gen 2:4, Matt 25:34, Eph 1:3-4)

For example, we know from Rev 13:8 that Christ is called: "The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world". The cross of Christ was in view before God created anything. The sin of Adam and Eve did not catch God by surprise, even though God is not the author of that sin. Look at Gen 2:4 (2X),

Genesis 2:4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens,

Did you see that the word "generations" here is plural? Therefore this verse has to do with more than just the creation of the present universe. I will read to U what the Lord Jesus said in Matt 25:34,

Matthew 25:34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

Literally He said: "the kingdom having been prepared for you from the foundation of the world". In other words, after this world has come to an end the NH&NE that we will inherit has already been created, way back in the beginning of creation. God's whole plan of salvation was developed before the foundation of the world. Please turn now in the NT to the Epistle to the Ephesians 1:3 (2X). In Eph chapter 1, verses 1 and 2 God extends His greetings to the "saints" in the church at Ephesus, by the hand of the Apostle Paul. Saints are not a special few who have been canonized by the Roman Church. In God's terminology saints are all those who have become saved. They have been set apart for Christ through the action of God whereby they became "Born Again", and are called "saints".

Ephesians 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ:

Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love:

What is God saying here? God saw us before the foundation of the world. What did God see? God saw us as dirty rotten sinners, on the way to Hell. What triggered this rotten state that we were in? It was Adam's sin. As a result all of Adam's posterity were conceived and born in sin. That is why we came into the world as dirty rotten sinners, and we added many more sins than Adam did in all of his 930 years. Therefore, Adam's sin did not catch God by surprise. God knew that Adam was going to sin. In fact, God created Adam not perfect, but "very good". What does the last verse of chapter 1 say? "Behold, it was very good". Very good does not mean perfect. Only God is perfect. If everything was made "very good", it means that all things were made such that the purposes of God would be fulfilled just as He planned. God saw all the evil that was going to take place, and God could see the sufferings of Christ, the second Person of the triune Godhead, and God could see the sufferings of those whom He chose unto salvation from before the foundation of the world, but God still went along and created this world, and Adam and Eve, and the whole kitten-caboodle. And then God did a wonderful thing: God let His Elect people know how blessed they are for having chosen them, in spite of who they are. And why did God do all of this? God did it for one purpose: That it all may contribute

How may it all contribute to the glory of God? Well, God explains it here in the remainder of this chapter. God speaks to His Elect when He says in verse 5,

Ephesians 1:5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will,

Eph 1:6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.

Ephesians 1:7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

God says here that He predestinated us to become adopted children of God, not for anything we have done, but entirely "according to the good pleasure of his will". It was by His free electing grace that He has made us acceptable in Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ had to purchase us on the cross, and through His death, so that we could obtain "the forgiveness for our sins, according to the riches of His grace". And all this was done "To the praise of the glory of his grace". It boggles our minds that this really could be to the glory of God and to the glory of His grace.

Let me try to explain it with a human example. If I had an abundant supply of perfect cubes of marble, each peace six feet wide, six feet high and six feet deep, and I had all the skillful men in the world at my disposal, then I could build a beautiful temple that might equal in beauty of Solomon's temple and that would bring me great glory. But if I had only a supply of gray and black pebbles, in all different shapes, and sizes between inch and 1 inch, and if I had only fishermen, and former murderers at my disposal, and if I then could, from these materials, build a temple that far exceeds the beauty of Solomon's temple, then this would bring me much greater glory. It is in this way that God planned this creation to bring greater glory to Him than any other plan that can be imagined. God did not use noble men, or wise people to build His spiritual temple. God used sinners, God used the riff-raff of this world, and God changed them so that they became spiritually like bricks of gold, and with them He build the Temple of God.

Allow me to summarize this sermon very briefly: God did not give us this story in Genesis to teach us some history. God gave us this story to teach us some PRINCIPLES that God uses in judging the affairs of this world. The 1st principle is that the Covenant of Works existed only in the Garden of Eden. This is a warning to everyone who practices a "free will gospel". The 2nd principle is the Representative Principle. Adam is the representative of the entire human race, body and soul. From the day we were born we too were in this category. But by the grace of God, He assigned us Christ as our representative. The 3rd principle is that God ordained work already in the Garden of Eden. This world belongs to God, and man's work is to be "to the glory of God". In the NT this is called "Stewardship". The 4th principle is that God puts all His people through a testing program. This not for God's benefit; God already knows the outcome of the test. But this is done for our benefit, so that we will know where we stand, whether we are saved or whether we are still unsaved.

Of course, knowing about God's predestinating grace and having actually experienced God's predestinating grace are two different things. If we have experienced God's predestinating grace, then all we desire is to offer our "work" and our "all" to God, because He owns us.

If we have experienced God's predestinating grace, we can sing with the saints of 130 years ago:

1.      Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee. Take my moments and my days; Let them flow in endless praise.

2.      Take my hands and let them move at the impulse of Thy love. Take my feet and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

3.      Take my voice and let me sing always, only, for my King. Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.

4.      Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold. Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

5.      Take my will and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine. Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.

6.      Take my love; my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store. Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.

Those are the words of Hymn # 462, which we are going to sing in a few minutes. These are some very practical admonitions to us, who claim to belong to Christ; especially the 4th stanza: "Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold". Can we truly sing this and not be struck in our hearts? What are we going to do after hearing this sermon? Will we take steps to make some corrections in our life? I hope so!

Amen. Let us turn to the Lord in prayer.