Think with me about a place where everything is perfect. By any evaluation, there are absolutely no problems—nothing needs to be added or taken away. It is absolutely perfect in every way. In this place (and I'm not taking about heaven)
- No human or animal has ever died
- Neither animal nor human has disease or predator
- There is no pain or suffering
- The animals are all tame and walk freely among the other species and the people
- Animals do not have to look for food, because there is such an abundance everywhere
- For the humans, there is more than enough to eat, and no need to worry about clothing, either
- There seems to be a continuous growing season of all vegetation; it is always a time of harvest, and the climate is perfect—no rain, storms, hurricanes, floods or tornados, etc.
- Everyone seems to be a vegetarian, because no one has ever tasted meat of any kind because (again) no animal has ever died
- There is no government, no taxes, no police, no military, no laws, except one. (We'll talk about that one in a minute.)
- No one has to go to work, because everyone works at home.
- There is no domestic violence, rape, murder, lying, coveting, stealing, divorce, painful communication problems, shyness, anger, lust, welfare (everyone has a job). There is no human dysfunction of any kind.
- All work is meaningful, fulfilling, far-reaching, and perfectly suited to every person.
- Every relationship is peaceful, very nurturing, and supportive.
What a place! But that's not all. How about the spiritual and emotional climate of this place?
- Everyone has deep peace and is extremely happy.
- In this special place, no one has ever sinned, so they are holy enough to see God and not die.
- There are no churches, but everyone walks and talks with God personally each day!
'm describing the Garden of Eden. An understanding of the Garden is very important, because we can tell a lot about God's intention for us and understand the deep needs and longings of all people by returning to this place and seeing what happened there. The Garden of Eden is what God provided for all mankind. It's where we see the kind of world God intended for us to live in and to enjoy.
The fact that we are not living in that kind of world and experiencing what the Garden inhabitants experienced is because of the choices Adam and Eve made, and which we continue to make even today.
God made man and woman and planned a garden world in keeping with the people He created, but even with all that perfection Adam and Eve still sinned. The Garden makes it very clear that even if we had everything we could ever want, we would still make bad choices; we too would get kicked out of the Garden.
Let me show you what I mean by reviewing this very familiar story.
The Garden Scene: a picture of all mankind
Gen. 3:1-24; Rom. 5:12;3:10; 3:23; 6:23.
The Genesis story of Adam and Eve tells how God placed them in the garden to work and to care for it. He allowed them to eat any tree in the garden except for one; they were forbidden to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Everything went smoothly for awhile, and Adam and Eve enjoyed a wonderful friendship/fellowship with God. Can you imagine what it was like to see God and to have a daily time to walk and talk with Him... to ask a question and get an immediate answer? Can you perceive of an experience with God where you could share your deepest concerns, your joys, your laughter, as you walked in a perfect garden of beauty and peace?
This was a picture of the relationship God intended us to have, and it is still possible if we find the solution to our sin problem. (More about that in a moment.)
Soon, however, Satan came in the form of a serpent and tempted Adam and Eve. He asked Eve, "'Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'"? His first move was to plant the seed of doubt by questioning God's Word.
Eve answered, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" Her added prohibition about touching the tree indicates that Eve questioned her God-given life and chose to follow a lie.
"You will not surely die," the serpent said to Eve. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil"—Gen. 3:1-4. That was an effective move. He appealed to her desire to be like God, but to do it in her own way. This is a temptation we all continue to face today. We want to know God, even to be like Him, but we want to know Him in our way!
We say: "I know it is the best thing to worship God, to pray and to attend a church; but I can find God in my time with my family, on the mountain, or with my friends, or when I really feel like it." Every time we make choices to know God in our way, at our pace, as we see fit, we are falling into Eve's trap. We are being deceived into thinking we can go against God's clear instruction and everything will still work out.
I want you to note that the one who deceived Adam and Eve—Satan—is still active today. Satan wants to capitalize on the God-given ability to choose your own way, to lead you from God's way. Sometimes it seems so obvious to me that the words people are saying to me about why they don't want to serve God or go His way are words they are repeating from someone else. Satan's words of temptation soon become your own if you fall for them.
If you listen, you can hear the same ideas and thoughts planted in Adam and Eve. Satan casts doubt on what God said. He uses your desire to be with God and like God to tempt you to make decisions contrary to God's plan for your life. Satan knows you want to know, to experience the truth, so he'll tempt you into thinking that maybe God's way is too narrow, that there may be something you are missing and that you probably didn't hear God right in the first place. If you fall for that reasoning, Satan has you, and you will make some dumb choices.
So Eve questioned God's way and followed her own course. She made her own choice and doubted God's provision and prohibition. She seized the fruit and ate it, then gave some to Adam and he ate. Suddenly, their eyes were opened. They both knew they were naked and unprepared to face God, so they sewed fig leaves together in a futile attempt to cover their shame. We have been trying to do the same thing since. When our plans to go our own way fail, we try to cover up the consequences with
- more activities
- more sin
- good deeds
- and all kinds of pitiful human effort.
We'll do anything to cover the shame and the sense of separation from God.
Next comes one of the saddest pictures in the Bible. When Adam and Eve hear God walking in the garden, they hide from Him. What could have been a wonderful experience of communication became a time of hiding and shame. Their act of sin resulted in lost fellowship with God.
That's a picture of so many people. God is here to talk and walk with us in a kingdom where He is in charge and His provision is abundant. He is here to encourage us, but so many hide and cover/cower in pitiful and inferior ways. Sadly, some don't even know they are doing it, they are so used to being undercover, hiding from God.
How sad, because God loves us. He wants to be with us, to walk with us and to call us His friends. I don't care what anyone says, there is not a human alive who wouldn't be ultimately fulfilled and at peace if they could experience that walk with God. Sadly, however, because of Adam and Eve's sin, the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden. Before He did, however, He created a picture of the solution for our sin problem and estrangement from God.
God took an animal and killed it, the first death in the garden. He then took the skins from the animal and covered (the key word is covered) their nakedness. Adam and Eve went from fig leaves to fur coats.
In this death and covering we see the truth that God will provide a way for all mankind, to cover our sins and get us back in right standing with Him. In the Old Testament, it was through a very elaborate sacrificial system, where a perfect lamb needed to be killed and the blood applied to the mercy seat in the Holy of Holies.
In the New Testament, God provided the perfect Lamb, Jesus Christ, so that man's sins could be covered and we wouldn't have to hide from God anymore!
This loss of paradise is the Bible's way of describing "original sin." Rom. 5:12—"Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned..." It is the condition in which all people find themselves: separated from God, yet longing for inner contentment and fellowship—Rom. 3:10, 23; 6:23.
- Rom. 3:10—"As it is written: 'There is no one righteous, not even one...'"
- Rom. 3:23—"...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God..."
- Rom. 6:23a—"For the wages of sin is death..."
Someone has described our condition this way: "We are like marionettes who have cut their own strings in the hope of finding another way to dance, and finding out too late that without the strings, they cannot dance at all."
You see, even in the Garden, God gave man a choice, to follow Him and enjoy what He had provided, or to go his own way. Many have said, "Why should we have to pay the price for what Adam and Eve did?" The answer is that we would all make the same choices Adam and Eve did if we were given the same circumstances.
Is there any hope for us?
Why are we spiritually dead?
v. 1. "As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins..."
What forces contributed to our spiritual death?
v. 2. "...in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient."
We are spiritually dead because we followed the ways of this world, the ways of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, i.e., the Spirit now at work in those who are disobedient—v. 2b. In other words, we gave in to Satan's schemes and temptations. We also lived among those who were disobedient. v. 3a—"All of us also lived among them at one time...", e.g., the world and those who are disobedient. We followed and gratified the cravings of our sinful nature, its desires and thoughts (v. 3b).
What was the final result?
v. 3c. "...Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath." We received the logical consequences of our action (Rom. 6:23a).
Quote by C.S. Lewis: "It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird. It would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And we cannot go on indefinitely being an ordinary, decent egg. We must hatch or go bad."
What alleviated our miserable condition?
vv. 4,5b—"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy... 5b] —it is by grace you have been saved."
Three gifts from God made the difference:
- Love. God loved us unconditionally before we loved Him—"v. 4a; John 3:16. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
- Mercy. God didn't give us what we deserved—"v. 4b.
- Grace. He gave us unmerited favor—"v. 5b.
Wow. God gave us His love, mercy and grace!
What happens when God's love, mercy, and grace are fully expressed in our lives?
vv. 5-6—"...made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6] And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus..."
First, He made us alive with Christ (v. 5). The life of Christ has made us alive. We might say it's our own personal resurrection.
Second, we were raised up with Christ into the heavenly realms (v. 6; see also Eph. 1:20-23).
The Salvation Scene: a picture of our past, present, and future in Christ—1 Cor. 6:9-11; Rev. 21:1-8
1Cor. 6:9-11—"Don't you know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10] nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11] And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God."
By implication, Paul is giving a strong command to the Corinthians, "Live out your new life in Christ and stop living like you used to; e.g., stop hiding, stop living in shame, stop listening to the lies of the enemy of your soul, start enjoying your walk with God. Your sins have been covered. Throw away your fig leaves of self effort."
He wants us to know four things happened:
We were washed—v. 11a. "But you were washed..." This means we have been washed from the filth of our former lifestyles as expressed in 1 Cor. 6:9-10. How are we washed? First John 1:7-9 tells us, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all [or every] sin.... If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
.What was the price of this washing? First Cor. 6:19-20 says, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20] you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body."
What is the implication? We are free from the stain of our sin; we are forgiven and cleansed because of His work and because of our complete repentance. But that is not all that has happened:
We were justified—v. 11b. "...you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." This means we received a change in our status before God. It is God's action that declares a sinner as righteous in His sight. When we receive Christ, God looks at us through His perfect Son and sees us as being as righteous as Jesus. Amazing! Justification is an instantaneous occurrence; it happens in a moment, and its implication is that we are free from the penalty of sin—Rom. 6:23.
We were sanctified—v. 11b. This means a continuing work of God in our life by making us more and more like Christ. It is a continuation of what was begun when we became new believers. It differs from the other benefits of salvation because it is not what God does for us, but what He does in us. It begins when we receive new life and continues until our life on earth is completed. 1 Thess. 5:23: "May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through." (Eph. 5:26; Titus 2:14; Heb. 13:20-21; Phil. 1:6).
Sanctification is the work of the Holy Spirit in us (Gal. 5:16,25). In essence, it means believers are to work and to grow in matters pertaining to their salvation, for God is at work in us (Phil. 2:12-13).
Phil. 2:12—Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13] for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
"While sanctification is God's work, the believer has a role as well. We must willingly, actively enter into what God wants to do in us. He is the source of strength, but we must cooperate. The extent of our sanctification will depend on how much we join our minds, and hearts, and wills with His"—Jerry Jenkins, Light on the Heavy, Victor Books, 1978, pp. 87-88.
In Christ we are free from the power of sin by repeated obedience to His will. We work, for Christ is at work in us (Phil. 2:12-13). Our salvation has not only a past and present application, it also has a future application.
We will be glorified. The final stage of the process of salvation is glorification—Rom. 8:29-30; Rev. 21:1-8. In Paul's words, "those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30] And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified"—Rom. 8:29-30.
Glorification, then, is the point at which several doctrines overlap, for it looks beyond this life to the world to come. The doctrine of glorification is, however, very practical to this life, in that it gives all believers encouragement and strengthens their hope. It involves the perfecting of the individual believer, and it takes place at death when all believers pass into the presence of the Lord. It involves the perfecting of our bodies (Rom. 8:23), which will occur at the time of the second coming of Christ. It will involve the transformation of the entire creation—Rom. 8:18-25.
At the time of glorification, we will experience a time with God that will far exceed the experience of the Garden of Eden. God won't just come to us, we will go to live in His house and our eternal home forever! Glorification, therefore, frees us from the presence of sin and will usher us into eternity with God, where we will be like Him.
Rev. 21:1-8 says,
1] Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2] I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3] And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4] He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." 5] He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." 6] He said to me: "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7] He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son. 8] But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death."
In summary, then, let's look at several verses that expand and highlight the cross chart:
First, see how salvation impacts our fellowship—1 John 1:7,9.
Second, see how salvation brings us into a new spiritual family—Eph. 1:3-6.
Third, see how salvation has a grand plan in mind—Eph. 2:10.
In the biography of Robert Falconer is a story that beautifully illustrates the concept of forgiveness. Falconer was sitting in a group of poor, destitute people telling them this story from Luke 7:36-50. He was trying to show that Jesus would forgive them. As he was reading the story, someone began to cry out loud. It was a slender girl, whose face had been disfigured by smallpox. Falconer calmed her down and then she asked, "Will He ever come again?" Falconer said, "Who?" The girl replied, "Oh, this Christ, the One who forgave the woman. I have heard that He will come again."
Falconer replied, "Why do you ask?" At that she cried so hard he couldn’t understand her reply at first, but finally through her tears she put her hand up to her poor, colorless hair and said, "Sir, can’t He wait a little while? My hair isn’t long enough to wash His feet."
This girl saw herself as needing much forgiveness. But, as she receives that forgiveness, in turn she will also love much and forgive much. "He who is forgiven much will love much."
- Redraw and explain the chart above. Then discuss or write how this kind of drawing might help share Christ.
- What are some of the lies Satan is telling this culture as well as believers to keep us from trusting in the Lord's commands?
- Is it still true that even those of us who have walked with God are tempted from time to time to avoid spending time with God, i.e., of wanting to relate to Him when we want and as we want? Looking to Eve as an illustration of this tendency, what temptation set her up to want to do things her own way?
- Adam and Eve used fig leaves. What are some of the ways we cover our shame and sinfulness?
- Define the following words from Eph. 2:5-6 in your own words: God's love, mercy, grace, and alive and the heavenly realms. Write or share the impact of these words on your own life.
- Describe the impact of these four words on your everyday life: washed, justified, sanctified and glorified.
- What aspect of life in heaven do you look forward to the most? What impact will that hope have upon you now?