God’s Covenant with Adam

Heritage Presbyterian Church https://heritagepresbyterian.org

Trinity Sunday
June 4, 2023

Scripture reading:  Genesis 2:4-17

Intro: For the next few weeks, I am going to be preaching a theme called “Covenant Agreements with God.”  In this series, we will explore the various covenants that God made with his people throughout history.  

First, let’s begin by defining covenant:  a covenant is a holy deal between God and his people.  God creates the covenant, and people are given the chance to follow it.

You might ask, “How could ANYONE turn down a deal with God that God had made?”  The answer, of course, is that human beings have turned away from various covenants with God throughout recorded history.  Unfortunately, we might see it clearly from a nice, safe distance, but we also know that we might have done the same thing if we were in their places.

So, instead of wallowing in that reality, let’s hear about the very first covenant that God ever made with human beings; it all started with Adam.

The first covenant is not as clear-cut as the others that follow in the Bible.  The word “covenant” is not used when discussing God and Adam.  Yet, a covenant is clearly there.

When God created Adam, that first man was set up in the Garden of Eden with all he needed.  God told Adam he could go anywhere in the Garden and eat from any fruit that was there.  But God also told Adam he must not eat from the Tree of Life; if Adam did this, he would die.

And there is the first covenant: God will take care of Adam and let him prosper, but Adam must follow this one direction.  In case you missed it, this is the beginning of sin.  This is what broke that first covenant – human beings sinning by turning away from God, even if it’s just for a minute…even if it’s only one little action…even if it seems to be no big deal when compared with worshiping other gods or failing to love God or doing anything that the other covenants will spell out for us.  

It’s just a piece of fruit from one tree…but it’s not that simple.

Here’s the most important part: once that first covenant was broken by human beings sinning, God still worked to make that failed covenant work in other ways.

Recall that original statement from God to Adam: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it, you will certainly die.”

Adam did NOT die; Eve didn’t either.  As a matter of fact, Adam and the other original patriarchs lived for hundreds of years.  That is the clearest evidence in the Bible that God does not give up on those he loves, even when those he loves turn away from his covenants.

This covenant from Genesis has been misused, misunderstood, and misapplied for centuries by some who refuse to see the love and mercy of God and instead almost seem to enjoy the wrath and hurt of God.  It has also been virtually rewritten to justify those narrow-minded opinions.  Just to hit a few high points from this negative type of interpretation:

  • Sin wins.
  • Women lead men astray.  
  • God gave up on humanity.
  • Human beings deserve to be punished and punished severely because of their sinful nature.

I think another view of this first covenant is more appropriate:

  • Sin and the goodness and sovereignty of God exist together, but this does not mean they are equal.
  • “The Fall” is real – but it is not the first or the last reality in our relationship with God.
  • We are never given a clear, satisfactory explanation as to why the tree is there in the Garden, but there is no “cheap grace” existing here.  Something must be earned, even when it is freely offered.
  • The God of the Garden is chiefly remembered as the one who prohibits, but this makes sense only in terms of vocation and permission; it completely ignores the tender God, the Creator God, the God of second chances and third chances and fourth chance and so on.

To boil this down to a simple thought, even though we are separated from God by our sin, God does not give up on us.  This is a clearly demonstrated concept throughout the Bible.

So, what about today?  

  • None of us were there in the Garden;
  • None of us committed the first sin of disobedience;
  • None of us is responsible for the concept of original sin.  

Yet, all of us must deal with sin in our lives, whether we are close to God or not.  Sin keeps our feet anchored firmly in the harsh reality of the real world; but again – God continues to work in us and work on us.  We are offered renewing and redeeming covenants in order to constrain sin and to empower all that is right and good.

Let me close this sermon with one final thought; it is called the “Boiling Frog Theory.”  (I apologize for the imagery in those words.)  It goes like this: 

If you take a pot of boiling water and try to put some live frogs in it, the frogs will fight strenuously to get out and get away from that water.  However, if you take a pot of cool water and some live frogs in it, they will swim around and enjoy it.  Then, if the heat is gradually turned up, those same frogs will stay in place until they are all dead.  (Again, I apologize for the imagery in this.)

This illustrates to us how sin can work in our lives.  The worst part about sin is not that we give into temptations – but that we gradually adjust to those temptations and begin to see them as normal or no big deal.  That is how sin can slowly kill us without us even being aware of it.

We even create the illusion in our own hearts that sin can be managed or controlled if we straighten out our own lives; this lesson lessens the need and the dependence upon God.  This even lets the devil off the hook!  Pride is a foolish thing, no matter how it shows up.  Instead, the doctrine of sin frees us from any delusions about the perfectibility of ourselves and our institutions.

We need God, especially when we think we don’t!

History is the drama of God’s repeated efforts to show us a better way.  May we be strong enough, steadfast enough, and humble enough to grasp those efforts whenever they may appear.

And may we always remember…as a father loves his own child, so does our Heavenly Father love every one of His children.