God’s Covenant with Adam
"And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (16) And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: (17) 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 2:15-17
When the Lord God placed Adam in the Garden of Eden, he made a covenant with our father Adam, as the federal head and representative of all men, a covenant which Adam broke, by which he plunged the human race into sin and death and placed us all under the curse of God’s holy law. This is what is spoken of in Genesis 2:15-17.
The Covenant with Man
God governs all rational creatures by law. This is what is often referred to as, “God’s moral government of the world.” The Lord God gave a law to his angels, a law which some obeyed and others broke. The angels who kept their first estate were confirmed forever in a state of obedience. Those who kept not their first estate were plunged into everlasting destruction and misery by their disobedience.
God also gave a law to Adam. This law was given to him in the form of a covenant, with a revealed threat of death, destruction, and misery if it was disobeyed and an implied promise of life if it was obeyed. In this covenant which God made with Adam, Adam was, by Divine appointment, made to be the representative of the entire human race.
We know that the commandment given to Adam (Gen. 2:15-17) by God was a covenant because God says so (Hos. 6:7). This covenant made with Adam was a covenant of works. The covenant was given as a trial, a test of man’s obedience to the will of God. As long as Adam complied with this Divine law, he displayed reverence for, submission to, and faith in the Lord his God as his rightful Master and King.
This was a covenant sanctioned by the promise of life and the threat of death. The only thing God required of Adam was perfect, personal, perpetual obedience. If Adam had obeyed God, his obedience would have secured for him a continued life of innocence. In making that statement, I grant that it is something implied, rather than clearly revealed, in the text. However, the implication is obvious. -- As long as Adam did not break the law, he would continue in life. However, we are not to infer from that that Adam would have gained eternal life by his obedience to this command. I stress this fact because many preachers and theologians of great reputation teach that if Adam had obeyed the terms of this covenant for a specified length of time, he would have won for himself and all men eternal life. That is neither stated nor implied in the Scriptures. The life Adam would have gained would have been the life he had as a creature, an innocent, natural life upon the earth; but no more. Here are five reasons why I say Adam could never have attained eternal life in the Garden.
1. Eternal life was promised to God’s elect in the covenant of grace made with Christ long before this (Eph. 1:3; 2 Tim. 1:1; Tit. 1:2; 1 John 5:10).
2. Eternal life is the free gift of God’s grace in Christ the Mediator, through the merit and virtue of his blood, and by the knowledge of him (John 10:10, 28; 17:3; Rom 6:23).
3. If eternal life could have been won by Adam’s obedience, then eternal life would have been gained by works, not by the grace and gift of God. Eternal life is nothing less or more than the consummation of salvation in everlasting glory with Christ; and this, the Scriptures everywhere declare, is the work and gift of God’s free grace alone (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8-9).
4. Life and immortality are brought to light by the gospel of Christ, not by Adam, Abraham, or Moses (2 Tim. 1:9-10).
5. There is no proportion between the best works of man, not even in his state of innocence and sinlessness, and eternal life.
The other sanction of the covenant God made with Adam was death. God said, “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” It has been suggested that that sentence might be better translated, “In the day thou eatest thereof, dying, thou shalt die.” The death threatened upon Adam and executed upon men as the result of sin is a threefold death.
1. Physical Death -- Physical, corporal death is the separation of the soul from the body, the returning of ashes to ashes and dust to dust (Gen. 3:19). As soon as Adam sinned, he was stripped of immortality. The seeds of corruption and death were put in him. He became subject to sicknesses, diseases, and miseries, which are the forerunners of death. As soon as he sinned, man began to die. “The wages of sin is death,” physical death.
2. Spiritual Death -- Spiritual death is the separation of the soul from God, alienation from the life of God, banishment from communion with God, deformation of the image of God in man, corruption and defilement in every moral, mental, and emotional faculty, spiritual impotency, and a disinclination to all that is holy, good, and spiritual. Thus man is born, dead in trespasses and sins, in a state of enmity against God (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 8:6-7). “The wages of sin is death,” spiritual death.
3. Eternal Death -- Eternal death is the separation of the soul and body from God and good forever. It is the everlasting banishment of man from light, life, liberty, and love in the presence of God. Eternal death is everlasting darkness, everlasting destruction, everlasting dismay. Eternal death is everlasting hell, whatever that is! It is not annihilation, but torment. It is not a cessation of being or of consciousness, but a cessation of blessedness and peace.
Adam broke the covenant. We are not told how long he lived in that state of innocence in which he was created. However, it appears that it was not for very long. Adam and Eve were sinners before they were parents.
In this covenant, Adam was God’s appointed substitute, federal head and representative of all men. It is in this sense that he was a type and figure of him that was to come (Rom. 5:14). Nothing happened when Eve sinned. The covenant was not made with Eve, Eve was not the one responsible. Adam was the covenant head and representative even of Eve; just as he was the covenant head and representative of the entire race. This is, itself, a sign of hope. If we were lost by a representative, there is hope that we might be saved by a representative (Rom. 5:17-19).
The breaking of this covenant did not take God by surprise. Ever remember that nothing is out of God’s control or outside God’s purpose. He said to Adam, “In the day thou eatest thereof,” (not if you eat, but when), “thou shalt surely die.” The sin and fall of Adam was typical of and made way for the coming of the second man, the Lord from heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ and the new covenant of grace in him (Ps. 76:10). Yet, the breaking of this covenant, Adam’s disobedience to God led to the sin, corruption, and death of the whole human race.
The Corruption of Man
All men and women became sinners when Adam sinned and are born as sinners, totally depraved .All the children of men, since the sin and fall of Adam, are estranged from the womb and go astray, as soon as they are born, speaking lies. There are no exceptions. Like the aborted infant described in Ezekiel 16, we are all born dead, polluted in our own blood, cast off, and utterly helpless. Like the bones in the prophet’s vision, all the human race is, by nature as an army long ago slain. None of those slain can ever come to life again, but by the power and grace of God the Holy Spirit. Like Lazarus in the tomb, all human beings are by nature spiritually dead.
The Conversion of Man
The fall of the first Adam made room for the obedience of the last Adam. Adam’s sin made necessary Christ’s righteousness. Our ruin by Adam made room for our redemption, resurrection, and restoration by Christ. As soon as they sinned, Adam and Eve were made aware of their nakedness before God. They were pricked in their consciences with guilt. And they began the religion of fallen man, the religion of works and self-righteousness, by which man attempts to hide his sin from God. Such religion will never give a sinner real peace. Though they were wearing their fig leaves, when God came to them, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the Lord. If they were to be saved, they must be saved by grace alone, altogether by a work of God.
As we saw in the preceding study, after Adam and Eve sinned, the Lord came seeking the fallen pair (Gen. 3:9). The Lord God himself preached the gospel to the guilty couple (Gen. 3:15). Before he drove them from the Garden, God made a sacrifice for Adam and Eve and clothed them with the skins of an innocent victim (Gen. 3:21). And that is exactly what God did for us in the sacrifice of his dear Son upon the cursed tree (2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13).
Adam and Eve believed God. You might wonder, “Where is that found?” You will remember that named his wife Woman, because she was taken out of his side. But in Genesis 3:20, after hearing and observing all; that the Lord said and did, Adam gave her a new name. He called her Eve, because she would be the mother of all living. Adam believed that though he must die physically, he would live to have sons and daughters and that Eve would as well. He believed that God had not only forgiven their sins through the life and death a Substitute man, but that that man would be born of Eve, through whom all who live before God shall live. That is why Eve, exclaimed with joy when Cain was born, “I have gotten a man (The Man!) from the Lord!”
The Lord Jesus Christ is that Man, that Man who is God, by whom the serpent’s head has been crushed, through whose blood sinners are forgiven, with whose righteousness all who believe are clothed. Thus, in the very beginning of things, even in the sin and fall of our father Adam, we have a picture, a promise, and a testimony from God of his free, saving grace in Christ (1 John 5:9-13, 20.