Many people are familiar with the biblical account of God creating Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. But do you know what it means for you?
The story of Adam and Eve in the garden is not just their story. It’s our story too.
The basic facts about Adam and Eve are well known. They disregarded the instruction given them by their Creator and suffered the consequences for their terrible mistake. In biblical terminology, they sinned. This was the original sin committed by humans in the Bible. And here is the immediate connection between Adam and Eve and each of us. All of us have also sinned.
This familiar narrative regarding the first humans is one of the most instructive explanations of sin and its effects that can be found in Scripture. As we will soon see, a major theme of the rest of the Bible focuses on how sin can be forgiven and how we humans can be reconciled to our Creator.
Let’s take a closer look at what happened.
Garden of Eden meaning
After creating Adam, God “put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). God then created Eve, “a helper comparable to him” (verse 18). In this environment, Adam and Eve had safety, abundant food, meaningful work and fellowship with God.
To say that life was good in the Garden of Eden would be an understatement. Life was great! It was almost perfect. The only way it could have gotten better would have been if Adam and Eve could receive eternal life. And that opportunity was also available to them.
Unfortunately, Adam and Eve lost access to this idyllic environment. This happened because of disobedience to God.
Two trees in the Garden of Eden
Among the trees in this garden were two of special significance: “the tree of life … and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (verse 9). God told Adam and Eve that they could eat the fruit of every tree in the garden except for one. As part of His instruction God “commanded” them not to eat the fruit of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (verses 16-17, emphasis added throughout).
God, as mankind’s Creator and superior, was teaching Adam and Eve how they could live happy, successful lives and eventually receive eternal life.
Even though God gave Adam and Eve the guidance they needed, He did not force them to obey His instructions. They had free moral agency. God allowed them to decide for themselves what they would do.
When the serpent, that is, Satan (Revelation 12:9), lied to Eve that she would not die if she ate the fruit of the forbidden tree and told her that if she ate of it she would “be like God, knowing good and evil,” Eve succumbed. She decided to trust her own ability to determine what was right for her. She “took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6).
People today make the same mistake as Adam and Eve when they trust their own reasoning abilities and hearts apart from God. People today make the same mistake as Adam and Eve when they trust their own reasoning abilities and hearts apart from God. We humans simply don’t have the innate ability to make sound spiritual decisions apart from God (1 Corinthians 2:14).
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God stated, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9). Similarly, wise King Solomon wrote, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death” (Proverbs 14:12).
Writing hundreds of years later, Paul noted that when people reject God, their foolish hearts become “darkened,” and they lose the ability to discern good from evil (Romans 1:21, 31).
The penalty for sin
The Bible teaches, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). The point is, sin always exacts a terrible penalty—death.
Because of their sin, Adam and Eve were punished by God. From this time forward, Eve would experience pain in childbirth, and Adam would have to work harder to get the ground to produce food for their sustenance. Even more significantly, they were driven out of the Garden of Eden, losing their closeness to God and access to the tree of life, which represented their opportunity to receive eternal life (Genesis 3:15-19, 22-24).
Adam and Eve’s sin was a monumental event in mankind’s history. Sadly, we humans have all followed their example of sinning against God. As Paul noted, “Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).
Just as Adam and Eve removed themselves from a close relationship with God, so we, when we sin, likewise alienate ourselves from God.
How we can be reconciled
Our reconciliation with God is made possible by Jesus Christ, who came in the flesh to pay the penalty for our sins. Our sins are forgiven when we repent of having committed them and are baptized to receive the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
Having the Holy Spirit within us is God’s guarantee that we will receive eternal life. Paul explained this, saying, “If the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Romans 8:11).
Obedience to God’s commands
The importance of obeying what God commands cannot be overstated. It is how we show love to God. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments” (1 John 5:3).
Demonstrating our love for God by voluntarily obeying His commands, even when it is difficult, develops righteous character. This attribute of character is what God desires of humans.
Abraham, the father of the faithful and friend of God, obeyed God and kept God’s commandments, statutes and laws (James 2:23; Genesis 26:5). The ancient Israelites were reminded that they needed to keep God’s commandments if they wanted to possess the land God had promised to their fathers (Deuteronomy 8:1-2). They also learned that blessings came when they obeyed God’s commandments and curses came upon them when they disobeyed (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28).
When Jesus came to earth, He told a rich young man to “keep the commandments” if he wanted to have eternal life (Matthew 19:16-17). The last book of the Bible affirms this continuing promise from God. “Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city [New Jerusalem]” (Revelation 22:14).
The choice Adam and Eve had in the Garden of Eden—whether they would obey God or not—is likewise ours today. May each of us choose more wisely than our ancient ancestors!
For additional study on this foundational section of Scripture, see “The Tree of Life.” To learn more about God’s loving and beneficial commandments, see “The 10 Commandments and God’s Way of Life.”
Sidebar: God Still Tells Us What to Eat and Not Eat
God’s instructions about what we may eat and what we should not eat did not end when Adam and Eve were driven from the Garden. His rules on this issue did not end when Jesus came and the New Testament Church began. Commands from God continue on this subject today.
Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 provide detailed lists of animals that we may eat (referred to as “clean”) and animals that we should not eat (designated as “unclean”). We should consider eating animals designated as unclean by God to be an “abomination”—something extremely awful and “detestable” to us (Leviticus 11:10-13, 20; Deuteronomy 14:3).
According to these instructions from God, pigs and shellfish are designated as “unclean” and should not be eaten. Unfortunately, many people today reason as Eve did in the Garden of Eden—that these things look good, taste good and seem to be acceptable for food. Thus, they reject God and His teaching on this subject.
The issue regarding these animals is not whether people can eat them without immediately dying or becoming sick. After all, many people eat pork and shellfish and live long lives. The issue identified in Leviticus 11:44 is being holy. God wants us to be holy because He is holy. As Christians, our goal is to obey and become like God.
Jesus never ate unclean animals. Nor did His disciples. The members of the first-century Church of God continued to obey this instruction from God. For additional teaching and clarification of misunderstood New Testament passages on this subject, see “Clean and Unclean Animals: Does God Care What Meats We Eat?”