"Was it a Consequence or a Punishment?"

“The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”” – Genesis 2:16-17

This was the command that changed everything for mankind. For this was the one command that God gave Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. And it was the one act of breaking this one command that placed all of mankind under the dominion of sin and death. (see Romans 5:12)

“Do not eat, or you will die.” It is important to understand that God was warning them of a consequence, not a punishment. Do you understand the difference? A consequence is the direct result of an action, whereas a punishment is a subsequent act, separate and added to the initial act.

For example, if I warn you, “Do not to run head first into a brick wall or your head will hurt.” that is me warning you of a consequence. It’s not like I am going to come and do something after the fact to make your head hurt – that would be a punishment. Instead, your head hurting is the direct result of running head first into a brick wall.

Likewise, God was not threatening to kill (punish) Adam and Eve if they disobeyed Him. Rather, He was warning them against trying to find life somewhere other than Himself. For only God has life in Himself (see John 5:26), meaning only God is a source of life. While all of creation then becomes dependent upon God to receive life from Him. Life being the very things that we all need. It includes things like food, water and air, but goes much deeper to things like love, worth, acceptance and security.

That was the point of the two trees in the first place. God, out of love, since love demands a choice, was providing man with the option of finding life in Him, and therefore eat of the tree of life. Or, eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil and try to find life on their own. But since God is the only source of life, if man tried to find life apart from Him, he would only find death. The command in the garden was God warning Adam and Eve of the consequences of their choice to be independent.

But Adam and Eve chose independence, to find life on their own terms. They lost access to their source of life and no longer experienced love and acceptance. But instead they began to experience death immediately. Now they were dominated by shame and felt unloved, insecure and worthless, as evidenced by their actions in hiding and blaming others right after their sin.

And the rest of mankind has suffered under the same problem. How many wars (both national and in our own homes) have been fought in an attempt to find life? To find love, significance, security (mankind often wrongly thinks power will make him significant and safe) and worth?

John 10:10

Since life cannot be found anywhere other than in God Himself, all our best efforts leave us wanting. But despite our rejection of Him, Jesus came to redeem us, “I have come that you may have life and have it to the full.” (see John 10:10)

It is much more than an offer of life with Him in Heaven after we die. He has come restoring to us what we lost in Adam back in the garden so that we might experience His life today. The opportunity to trust in Him and satisfy all that we have longed for. To be the source of love and acceptance that we have been wanting and looking for from others. To be the source of worth and significance that we have vainly tried finding in our jobs and careers.

As Major Ian Thomas put it, “Jesus didn’t come to get you into Heaven, but to get Heaven into you.” This life is the result of our choice to experience each day walking with Jesus, abiding in Him moment by moment to provide all that we need to face the day.

In Christ who is our Life,

Ross

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