‘And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’ Genesis 2:16–17
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Romans 7:5–13
The great God had a just right to make such an exception: when he of his mere bounty had given everything else to his creature, man was furnished with sufficient strength to obey and warned of the danger if he rebelled.
The prohibition: Thou shalt not eat—to remind him:
(i) of his state of dependence on God, and that he was not absolute Lord of himself.
(ii) that God was his chief good, and nothing truly desirable but in subordination to him.
(iii) to intimate that he was not as yet established in happiness, but in a state of probation.
The sanction or condition with which this prohibition was attended:
(i) The penalty of disobedience—death:
(a) spiritual, which immediately took place when he had transgressed.
(b) temporal, to which he became immediately subject though the execution was deferred. And,
(c) eternal, which is necessarily opposed to that life which is by the gospel (Romans 6:23) and which is inflicted upon impenitent sinners and was therefore included in the first penalty, for we cannot suppose the righteous Judge would inflict a greater punishment than he had threatened.
(ii) Since he was not to die unless he sinned, a promise of continuance in life and happiness was necessarily implied (Romans 10:5).
This is what is frequently called the ‘Covenant of Works’.
LORD, what is man! extremes how wide,
Divine at first, a holy flame
In this mysterious nature join!
Kindled by the Almighty’s breath;
The flesh, to worms and dust allied,
Till, stained by sin, it soon became
The soul, immortal and divine!
The seat of darkness, strife and death.
SERMON SERIES: GENESIS, NO. 4 [2/2], GENESIS 2:15–17