The “Knowledge of Good and Evil” Ruined Everything!

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The “Knowledge of Good and Evil” Ruined Everything!

James R. Aist

“…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5)

For the longest time, I read right through Genesis 3:1-7 not really understanding what the tree of knowledge of good and evil was about. After all, isn’t it essential for us to know what is good and what is evil in order to obey God?  So what is it about us knowing good and evil that upset God so much that He cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden for it? Then one day, I read in a book an explanation of it that made all kinds of sense to me. And, it truly does explain a lot!

Let’s begin by reproducing Genesis 3:1-7 here: Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God said, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the garden; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You will not eat of it, nor will you touch it, or else you will die.’ ” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasing to the eyes and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. So they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Next, let’s unpack this passage, point by point, and “Fact Check” each claim:

Claim # 1: Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. True. This claim that Satan uses subtlety to entice his victims is confirmed elsewhere in the Bible (e.g., 2 Corinthians 11:14, Ephesians 6:11 and Revelation 12:9);

Claim # 2: And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit from the trees of the garden; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You will not eat of it, nor will you touch it, or else you will die.’ ” True. In Genesis 2: 16-17, God gives this very same instruction to Adam, before Eve was created. They have no excuse;

Claim # 3: “You surely will not die! False. Satan is lying here, in order to set Eve up for the accusation against God that follows;

Claim # 4: “…God knows that on the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened…” True. Satan begins with the truth, in order to make the lie that follows more easy for Eve to accept as being also true, but he doesn’t tell her the whole truth;

Claim # 5: “…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Patently False and not really True! Herein lies (pun intended) the subtle deception. Satan himself was driven by his ambition to be like God (Isaiah 14:14), so he tempts Eve with the same ambition. But, in reality, no created thing can ever be like its creator; not Satan, not Eve. (I doubt that Eve was aware of that fact.) Then, he says she will become aware of good and evil, like God is, and she did (Genesis 3:22). Well, sort of. God’s awareness of good and evil included His authoritative determination of what actually is good and what actually is evil, whereas Eve’s awareness of good and evil was nothing more than her personal opinion, without any authority to actually determine what is right and what is wrong. In other words, her believing that she had been given the last say as to what is right and what is wrong was nothing more than a subtle delusion. Moreover, now that she was aware of good and evil, she was responsible to God for honoring His moral code. Ouch!

To summarize: Satan lured Eve into the delusion that, if she would eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, she would not only become aware that there is good and evil in the world, but that she would also, by the same act, commandeer from God the right and the authority to determine what actually is right and what actually is wrong. That is the delusion that ruined everything!

So, “How has that delusion ruined everything?”, you might ask. Well, in a nutshell, this delusion is at the heart of every manifestation of mankind’s rebellion against God (i.e., sin), from the Garden of Eden until now; this delusion that it is OK for every man to do what is right in his own eyes (cf., Judges 21:25); this delusion that there is no “higher moral authority” to which we will be held accountable; this delusion with which every human being is born, the “sin nature” that we all have inherited, somehow, from Adam; this delusion that has caused the whole creation to groan and travail in pain together until now (Romans 8:22).

All was “very good”  between God and man in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 1:31) until Adam and Eve believed a lie of the devil; namely, that they could usurp God’s moral authority to determine what is good and what is evil. That’s when the trouble began. But, “Whatever the Lord pleases, He does in heaven and on earth…” (Psalm 135:6). In the fullness of time, He will end all rebellion against His absolute moral authority and reign on the earth in righteousness and peace, forever. The good news for mankind is that all who accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior will rule and reign with Him. Will you be there?

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

The Gospel of John 3:16

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The Gospel of John 3:16

James R. Aist

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)

In the New Testament, the word “gospel” refers to the “good news” that Jesus brought to mankind by way of His sinless life and effective solution to our sin problem. The fulfilling of the Great Commission by those who are saved – by grace through faith in Jesus – requires that we share this good news with unbelieving sinners so that God may also save them.  There are several sets of scriptures that have been identified that can serve as a guide to sharing this good news, perhaps most notably the “Romans Road”: Romans 3:10 and 23; 5:12; 6:23; 5:8; 10:13; and 10:9-10, in that order.

Not long ago it struck me that if one is looking for an inclusive, yet concise, summary of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one need not look any further than John 3:16. This one Bible verse contains all of the skeletal elements necessary to present the Gospel to an unbeliever; just add some details, and there it is! Or, if you are a pastor or evangelist, it presents an excellent outline for a powerful sermon series.

To show you what I mean, let’s take John 3:16 and insert, in italics and parentheses, pertinent key phrases: For God (the doctrine of “God”) so loved (the “love of God”) the world (the doctrine of “man”) that He gave (the substitutionary death of Christ) His only begotten Son (the incarnation), that whoever believes (God’s supernatural gift of saving faith) in Him should not perish (eternal suffering with the devil and his angels in hell), but have eternal life (everlasting fellowship with God in heaven).

I don’t know about you, but I see the makings of an eight-part sermon series right there! And when you’re finished, you will have presented a wonderfully amplified version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with John 3:16 as the springboard! Whether you are preaching or sharing the gospel privately with a friend, you may want to include also a discussion of John 3:17, which completes and confirms the points made in verse 16 by explaining the purpose for Jesus’s coming into the world: that the world, through Him, might be saved. Now that is good news indeed!

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

When “All” Is Not “All” At All!

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When “All” Is Not “All” At All!

James R. Aist

“The Lord is not slow concerning His promise, as some count slowness. But He is patient with us, because He does not want any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)

Unfortunately, within evangelical Christianity, there have spring up over the years, several teachings that seem to be biblical and sound right and true at first glance, but, upon closer study and more thorough examination, are found to not really be biblical teachings at all. One such example is found in 2 Peter 3:9. Many have erroneously interpreted this verse to be saying that God does not want “any human beings” to perish but, rather, that He wants “all human beings” to come to repentance (and be saved). While these may be outcomes that God would prefer, that is not at all what this verse is saying, and here’s why:

  1. Any correct reading of this verse must provide an explanation of why Jesus has not already come again, as He promised He would (2 Peter 3:3-4);
  2. 2 Peter 1:1 makes it clear that this letter was written to all and only to Christian believers of his day. 1 Peter 1:2 reinforces this identification of Peter’s audience as “the elect” of God, which, by extension, would include those elect who were not yet saved;
  3. Throughout 2 Peter, Peter refers to his audience as “us”, “we”, “you” and “brothers” and consistently speaks of their heavenly inheritance;
  4. By contrast, unbelievers are referred to as “they” and “them” throughout, emphasizing their eternal punishment in hell;
  5. So, we can see that when 2 Peter 3:9 speaks of “us”, he is referring to only God’s elect, both the already-saved and the not-yet-saved, not all of mankind;
  6. Thus, a more explicit and scripturally harmonious rendering of this verse would read something like this, “But He is patient with the not-yet-saved elect, because He does not want any of His elect to perish, but all of His elect to come to repentance.”
  7. Further confirmation for this rendering can be gleaned from 2 Peter 3:15, where Peter makes reference to Paul’s explanation of why the Lord is tarrying; namely, so that all of God’s elect, in particular, the chosen Gentiles, will be someday included among the believers before Jesus comes again (Romans 11:25, and click HERE). That is what Peter means here, in verse 15, when he writes, “…the patience of our Lord means salvation”, meaning salvation for those elect who have yet to accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

One could also point out that if it is not God’s will that “any human beings” perish but, rather, that “all human beings” come to repentance (and be saved), then He is not doing a very good job of saving sinners, because, as Jesus said, the majority of people do not take the narrow path that leads to life, preferring, instead to take the broad path that leads to destruction (Matthew 7:13-14). Finally, if you want to make a biblical case for God bringing “all human beings” to repentance and salvation, then you will have to look elsewhere. Such a doctrine is a heresy called “Universalism”, and that is not a biblical doctrine.

For a more comprehensive treatment of 2 Peter 3:9 “rightly divided”, click HERE.

(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)

That They May Have “Life”

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That They May Have “Life”

James R. Aist

“The thief does not come, except to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10).

In John 10:10, Jesus was speaking to Jews in Jerusalem who were taking Him to task for healing people. I used to wonder why Jesus would say to people who were obviously living, breathing beings, that He came that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. Don’t they already have life? Jesus seemed to be saying that He came to give them something that they already have. It just didn’t make sense to me.

But, I discovered recently the solution to this seeming contradiction. It all has to do with the translation from the original Greek to the English language. In the New Testament, there are mainly two Greek words having different meanings that are both translated “life” in the English versions. Sometimes “life” refers to our biological life (“psuche” or “biotikos” in the Greek) here on earth; at other times, it refers to the new or “eternal” life (“zoe” in the Greek) in Jesus. In John 10:10, Jesus was referring to the latter kind of life, “eternal life”, not our present, biological life. To help you more fully appreciate the significance of this distinction, here are some pertinent verses from the Apostle John, beginning with John’s definition of “eternal life”: “This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent (John 17:3); “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11); and “In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind (John 1:4). In all three verses, the Greek word translated “life” is “zoe.” So, now we can see that everyone has “psuche”, or biological life, but only those who believe in the One who was sent by the Father (John 5:24 and 38; John 6:29 and 40) have “zoe”, or eternal life. This is the life to which the angel was referring when he commanded Paul to “Go, stand and speak in the temple to the people all the words of this life” (Acts 5:20).

So, now the question becomes, “In what way did Jesus come that they may have eternal life more abundantly?” I believe that it is in actually knowing Jesus Christ, the long awaited Jewish Messiah, and in knowing that they now possess the “eternal life” that He won for them on the cross. Moreover, this life with God in Christ (eternal life realized) will be far more glorious than the eternal life they may have imagined before Christ appeared. The Apostle Paul described it this way, “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him”(Corinthians 2:9; see also Isaiah 64:4). That, my friends, is indeed, “life more abundantly”, and it will be yours if you put your faith and trust in Jesus!

(To read more of my articles on biblical topics, click HERE)