The Seventh Sunday after Trinity
July 10, 2017
“The Knowledge of Life”
Genesis 2:7-9 & 15-17
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 being. The Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. . . . Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
You cannot know who you are unless you know where you came from. If you think that your ancestors are animals you will see yourself as an animal. You will think like an animal. You will act like an animal. You will live and die like an animal. If we came from the animals, then that’s what we are.
On the other hand, if you think that God formed you to be a human being, not an animal, and that God became your brother to redeem you by his blood, and that God came into your life in Holy Baptism and made you his child, well, then you might see yourself as a child of God and you might act as a child of God and you might then also live and die as a child of God.
It makes a big difference where you came from. Oh, I know what they say. They say that science proves we evolved over many millions of years from a microscopic single-celled organism. They say that science proves we share ancestors with the various ape-like creatures you see in the zoo. They say that science proves the world is billions of years old and the story of creation in the Bible is a myth because it couldn’t possibly be literally true. They say a lot of things. But saying something doesn’t make it so, even when you’re able to persuade a large group to go along with you.
The doctrine that we evolved from the animals was invented by people who want to get rid of the evidence that God made this world. If God made the world then God made them and if God made them then they are accountable to him. They want to live as they please without being accountable to their Creator. The doctrine that we evolved from the animals is anti-Christian propaganda. This is why the most deceptive form of this false doctrine is that which pawns itself off as Christian. You’ve heard it, I am sure. So called Christians teach that we descended from animals, but somehow God was involved. They say that yes, we evolved over millions and millions of years from some primitive life form, but God directed the process. That way, they can promote godless doctrine while pretending that they are honoring God.
Don’t be fooled. The teaching that we evolved from the animals is impossible to reconcile with the Christian religion. The proof is right before us. God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life and he became a living soul. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew. The Hebrew word for breath and spirit are the same. What Moses wrote here is that when God formed Adam from the dust of the ground he also filled him with the Holy Spirit so that Adam became a genuine human being.
God created us to know him and to love him and to receive from him our life. To know God is to know good. To know evil is to be ignorant of God. One knows evil by experience. This is called sin. Sin shuts out the knowledge of God and the love of God. There were many trees in the Garden of Eden, but only two are mentioned by name: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They ate of the tree of life. It sustained their lives. As long as they ate of it, it provided them with immortality. The fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the only fruit denied to them.
One cannot know good without doing good. One cannot know evil without doing evil. Good and evil are not just ideas floating around in the head. They are the stuff of living and dying. To do good one must be good. Moses, the inspired writer of Genesis, commented about God’s creation with the words, “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold it was very good.” Adam and Eve were very good. They were good because God made them good. They became bad when they did bad.
Cats and dogs cannot sin, but if we did what they did it would be sin. Why? What’s the difference? We were created to know God. We were created spiritual beings, capable of knowing God, loving God, and worshipping God. When he created the animals, God said, “Let there be.” When he created Adam and Eve, he said, “Let us make.” He made man, male and female, in his own image. He formed Adam out of the dust of the ground. He formed Eve out of a rib he took from Adam’s side. He did not make us the way he made the animals. He made us to enjoy eternal fellowship with him: to know him, to love him, and to rejoice in his presence, and to find our greatest happiness in him.
We were created to know good. We were not created to know evil. We knew good before we knew the difference between good and evil. Knowing evil blinds us to the good. Moses describes the results of Adam’s fall into sin in Genesis 6:5,
As the hymnist put it:
Faith eats what God provides. It was by faith that Adam and Eve ate from the tree of life. It was by faith that they did not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That tree, in the middle of the garden, of which God forbade them to eat, was a sign of their worship of God. By not eating, they were confessing their faith in God. He would provide them with all they needed for body and soul. They did not need to know what he chose not to reveal to them. Trusting in his wisdom was better than seeking wisdom apart from him. God’s will was good. Trusting in his words as all-sufficient made them wise. God was not just the Source of their being. He sustained their lives. He didn’t just create them and then let them fend for themselves. He provided for all their needs of body and soul.
When God forbade Adam to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he was not speaking against learning in general. Adam was a brilliant student. He knew nature, unhindered by the limitations of sin. Adam knew much more than we do. His brain wasn’t fogged up by the effects of sin as ours are. He was wiser than the greatest philosophers. He was capable of mental feats we can only imagine. He had tremendous practical knowledge. He was lord over everything he surveyed. We are constantly fighting against nature because it has been cursed by sin. It brings death and destruction. Adam was in charge of the natural world. It responded to his care without anything going wrong.
More than this perfect knowledge of nature, Adam had perfect spiritual understanding. He knew God. He loved God. He was filled with the Spirit of God. He did not want the knowledge that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil provided. He didn’t need it. Adam was already filled with spiritual wisdom that he received from God.
When God breathes his Spirit into you, he gives you spiritual life. Spiritual life and spiritual knowledge go together. When you look for spiritual knowledge apart from what the Holy Spirit reveals in God’s Word you embrace death. Only the Spirit of truth can give you life. This is why we warn and warn again against all false religions, false teachings, and false promises. They promise enlightenment and deliver its opposite. Once you know evil, once you have experienced it, felt it, done it, you are blind. This is why the human race, since Adam ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, has been spiritually blind as bats.
They are blind but they do not know it. They seek what they think is true wisdom, true spirituality, and they grasp, not the divine, but tired old lies. They look within themselves to find that spark of inner spiritual knowledge, and they find, not knowledge, but deception. Professing themselves to be wise, they become fools. They worship the profane and they profane what is holy.
Adam ate the fruit God told him not to eat. He died as God had warned. The whole human race died with him. St. Paul writes in Romans 5:19,
Our text describes the very beginning of human history. God formed man from the dust of the ground and woman from his rib. They ate what God gave them to eat and they lived. They ate what the devil gave them to eat and they died. And so it has been ever since. Jesus is the second Adam whose obedience God has reckoned to us. He proved he was God in the flesh when he fed four thousand people with seven small loaves of bread and a few fish. He feeds us with the bread of life, which is his own flesh and blood, our true spiritual food. His holy flesh bore our sins. He gave his body into death for us. His precious blood was shed for the forgiveness of sins. We are justified by his blood. We are righteous through faith in his obedience and suffering for us. When we eat his body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar, we receive, not the knowledge of good and evil, but the knowledge of good overcoming evil and blotting it out forever.
We are the crown and glory of God’s creation. We see the world dying. We are closer to the grave every day. God warned Adam, “In the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” The minister says at the grave, “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.” God will not abandon us to the grave. By the power of him who died our death on Calvary and forgave us all our sins, we will rise from the grave on the last day. This mortal shall put on immortality. St. John describes the place where God will take his children in Revelation 22:2,
We will eat and live forever. We will not know good and evil. We will know only the good. There will be no sin, no death, no sorrow, no pain, and no regret. That day will come when Christ returns. So we pray, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.”
Rolf D. Preus