Copyright © 2013 Robert B. Thompson. All Rights Reserved.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

The story of mankind begins with a test. There were many trees in the Garden of Eden. There were two trees in the middle of the Garden: The Tree of Life, and The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Adam and Eve were invited to eat from every tree in the Garden except the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They were not to touch it or eat from it. Notice that it was not the tree of good and evil, but the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eating from the tree did not result in evil, it resulted in the knowledge of good and evil.

It must have been a genuine tree, because the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye. But this is difficult to understand. It could not be a tree like trees we have known. How could an individual eat an apple, or orange, or some such fruit, and gain knowledge? Yet to say it is an allegory does not fit the text of the Bible.

Things were somewhat different in the Garden, in that the serpent spoke. So there must have been a tree with fruit that imparted knowledge when it was eaten. I can’t see any way around it at this time.

Growth in Christ consists of growing in the ability to distinguish evil from good, and in the willingness to embrace what is good and reject what is evil. I have written previously that as the Tree of Life assuredly is Christ, perhaps the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil also is Christ. Yet, I am not so sure. I notice that there is a Tree of Life in the heavenly Jerusalem, but not a Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

We “eat” of Christ by being fed in the spirit realm by His body and blood. But how does one eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil?

The Book of Hebrews tells us how important it is to grow in the ability to distinguish between good and evil.

Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:13,14)

Note that when it comes to learning about righteousness, the emphasis is on what we eat and drink. The knowledge comes from what we partake of as we are training ourselves. The knowledge is internal, not just facts stored in the mind. And so it is with partaking of Christ. We eat His flesh and drink His blood.

My personal opinion is that the reason for the apparent moral weakness in the Christian churches is there is too much emphasis on “Statements of Faith” and not enough on character development as Christ is formed in us.

For that matter, I believe the knowledge of what is good and what is evil does not proceed from what we read, although it assuredly is true that if we are to be a victorious saint, we must meditate continually in the Scriptures. Rather, the knowledge and life that come from Christ are written in our mind and heart by the Spirit of God, as distinguished from grasping intellectually the words of the Scriptures.

Adam and Eve did not begin to practice evil because of eating from the forbidden tree. Rather it is true that they already were guilty of being naked. But they did not perceive their evil condition. The Bible speaks of nakedness as being a shame.

It appears to be a Kingdom principle that we are ignorant of our sinning and have a clear conscience toward God until the Divine law comes to our attention. It is then that we must go to God for forgiveness. Yet, we may pay the price for our unconscious sinning, such as smoking tobacco causing cancer even when we were unaware we were displeasing God.

Paul pointed out that the Law of Moses brings death to us. Instead of delivering us from sin, the Law strengthens the sin. Here is the superiority of the new covenant. The new covenant contains spiritual provisions that are able to remove the compulsion of sin from us. The new covenant deals with our sinful nature, whereas the Law of Moses can tell us what not to do, but then our sinful nature practices what is forbidden, and we must resort to an animal sacrifice to make an atonement for our sin.

The term “grace” is not understood, apparently, by many Christian ministers of the Gospel. They are viewing grace as an alternative to living a victorious life in Christ. The result is the present moral weakness in so many Christian people. They know they should not sin, but they are counting on “grace” to bring them to Heaven.

If the present understanding of Paul’s teaching of grace were true, then Paul is inconsistent in his teaching. Several times in his writings, Paul says if the Christian persists in yielding to his sinful nature, he will not inherit the Kingdom of God. He will die spiritually.

Now if the present understanding of “grace” were accurate, Paul would accompany his severe warnings with the reminder that sin would bring spiritual death, but now we are free from condemnation and spiritual death because by believing in Christ, the grace of God ensures our welcome into Heaven when we die.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them. (Ephesians 5:3-7)

The behaviors listed above are evil. They result in spiritual death. They prevent our entering the Kingdom of God. The Lord Jesus instructed us to place at the top of our priorities seeking the Kingdom of God.

Evil behaviors will keep us from entering through the gates into the Heavenly Jerusalem.

Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood. (Revelation 22:14,15)

So many of today’s Bible teachers would say that the above is true, but because of “grace,” the warnings do not apply to those who believe in the Lord Jesus. Any believer who would prayerfully go through the New Testament should be able to see that today’s stance is hopelessly in error. The United States is facing moral and physical chaos because the testimony of righteous behavior is weak in the Christian churches. This the result of the misunderstanding of the Apostle Paul’s teaching of “grace.”

The purpose of “grace” is to free us from the authority of the Law of Moses so we can turn from the Law to obedience to Christ, and still be accounted righteous in God’s sight. “Divine grace” most assuredly is not an alternative to the growth of righteous character in the believer in the Lord Jesus.

The Law of Moses emphasizes rules of conduct. It does not tell us how to overcome our disobedience to these rules. It does not provide the power we need if we are to conquer the lusts of our flesh and spirit. It did provide an atonement through the blood of animals. But now that there is no Temple in Jerusalem, we do not have any means of making an atonement in the proper manner.

But we do have the atonement made on the cross by the Lord Jesus. The blood of the cross makes an eternal atonement for us, provided that we live in obedience to the Spirit of God. The blood does not cover us when we keep yielding to our sinful nature, no matter how much we “believe” in Jesus.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin. (1John 1:7)

If we do not walk in the Light of God, the blood does not purify us from all sin. It is as simple as that. Should we fall into sin, we are to confess our sin to the Lord, renouncing it utterly, and through Christ never practice that behavior again. If we are weak, Christ will help us. But we must be totally sincere. Christ will not play games with us when it comes to sin.

We of today are entering the spiritual fulfillment of the Jewish Day of Atonement. This means that God is emphasizing deliverance from the practices of sin rather than just forgiveness. Like Adam and Eve, we are ignorant of much of the evil that is in us. If we will follow the Spirit of God, He will begin to point out the evil we are practicing. To this point we are righteous because we are ignorant.

But when the Spirit of God calls attention to our immorality, or gossiping, or fits of rage, or unforgiveness, then we must act if we are to remain righteous. We promptly confess to the Lord the evil we have been practicing. We renounce our behavior as evil. We ask Christ to keep us for eternity from practicing that evil again.

I suppose it has been true throughout the Christian Era that the believers in Christ had access to this kind of cleansing and deliverance. But from the little I know of Church history, it appears that the primary emphasis has been on forgiveness.

This is not true any longer. The emphasis today is on washing our robes in the blood of the Lamb until we are living in victory over sin.

During the Day of Atonement, there were two goats used to make an atonement for sin. The blood of the first goat was sprinkled upon and before the Mercy Seat to forgive the sins of Israel.

The living goat was also a goat of atonement. But this second goat was not slain. The sins of Israel were pronounced over him and he was led out of the camp into the wilderness. The Jews could visualize their sins being removed from them. This double ceremony reveals to us that God has not only forgiven our sins through the blood of the cross, but intends to remove them from us completely.

When you think of it, an atonement that only results in forgiveness, but does not change the sinner, is incomplete. First there must be forgiveness. Then there must be deliverance, if full reconciliation to God is to be accomplished.

We Christians do not realize it, but we are as spiritually naked as Adam and Eve were physically naked. Like them, we have been accepted of the Lord. But no longer is this true. Now the Lord expects us to follow Him in the program of redemption until we no longer are practicing evil. God has made the provision for us through the Lord Jesus Christ. Now we must do our part by following the Spirit of God each day.

Speaking to Christian people:

For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)

(“The Awareness of Evil”, 3923-1, proofed 20210906)

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