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The First Covenant between God and Man

Pastor of Iglesia Conexiones, and author of Biblical Prayer for Today's Believers: Transform Your Prayer Life (available on Amazon).

Genesis 2:16-17

"And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, 'You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.'" (Genesis 2:16-17, ESV)

God's Covenant with Adam

In Genesis 2:16-17, we find God's ageement (covenant) with Adam. After bestowing many gifts on Adam, God gave Adam great freedom, one restriction, and a stern warning of a horrible consequence that would befall Adam if he were to trespass the restriction God had imposed on him.

The doctrines of God's attribuates and character prevent us from entertaining any idea that suggests this agreement was something God said on a whim. Instead, God's covenant with Adam was deliberate: this had been God's plan all along.

Why, then, would God put in imminent danger him whom He had created according to his own image and likeness, and whom He had gifted with many gifts and blessed with many blessigns? Did God not love the man (and the woman) whom He had made?

Yes, God loved them—God is immutable, and God is love—God is unchanging love. Nevertheless, it would seem that by creating them to be like Him (bearers of his image and likeness), God had also bestowed on them a great ability, a great power, and a great right: the ability, the power, and the right to choose.

It seems to me that God had made a choice to create, love, and respect humanity, along with the choice to bear with the consequences of creating them and allowing them to make their own choices; now, God wanted the man to make a choice.

Although God loved them to such an extent that He would give Christ Jesus for them, God still wanted them to make a choice. What choice? Whether to love God and obey Him, or whether to reject Him and rebel against Him. Love that doesn't choose to love is not love—therefore, God wanted them to choose to love Him, who first loved them.

God Wants Us to Choose

Today, after so long, God want us to choose. True it is that humankind has been corrupted by sin to such an extent humanity does not seek after God by itself (Romans 3:11-12), but it is also true that the Scriptures assume that God counteracted this effect of sin in many ways (Acts 10:34-35, Acts 17:26-28, Romans 2:14-15) and that the image of God in humanity has not bee completely lost (Genesis 9:6). So, by God's grace, we can still choose.

For this reason, after presenting ancient Israel with a limited amount of choices (two choices), God urged them to "choose life" (Deuteronomy 30:19). His command did not imply that He made the choice for them, but He urged them to make a choice. The choice was theirs.

Similarly, the Lord Jesus both urged the people to repent and believe (Mark 1:5, Matthew 4:17), and disapproved of those who did not repent (Matthew 12:41-42). Jesus wasn't making the choice for them, the Father wasn't making the choice for them, but they had to make a choice upon receiving the testimony of the Spirit.

And when the apostles were asked what one must do to be saved, they did not respond "There is nothing you can do, for God's grace is irresistable;" nor did they say, "Do not ask what you can do, for faith is a work, and salvation is not of works." But what did they say? "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31-32, ESV).

Consiste with God's covenant with Adam, God's gospel about Jesus Christ urges us to make a real choice. Why would God's word use such language if the choice were not ours? And if God chooses for every individual, why did He have Adam make a choice? And if God loved Adam, why did He choose to harm him and condemn him? The whole story makes no sense if Adam didn't have a real choice, and the way the gospel is proclaimed in the Bible makes no sense if God's grace is irresistable and faith is a work. Then, the Bible would not tell us to choose life or death, to repent, and to believe, but instead it would ask, "Have you been given life? Have you repented? Have you believed?"

Questions for Reflection

  1. Have you repented and believed in Jesus Christ?
  2. What does the author mean when he says "love that doesn't choose to love is not love"? Do you agree with his interpretation of love?
  3. Do you agree with the author's view that God's covenant with Adam asked Adam to make a real choice, and that God's gospel asks us to make a real choice?
  4. Against what two reformed (Calvinist) doctrines does the author argue in this devotional?
  5. If God is sovereign, can God still allow human beings to make his own choices? Or are God's sovereignty and the free will of human beings mutually exclusive?
  6. Why does the author emphasize that the choices God gave Israel were limited choices? How do limited choices enhance God's sovereignty and rule over humanity's free will?

© 2021 Marcelo Carcach

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