By Wayne S. Walker
A few years ago there was a newspaper article in which several leading scientists were asked to discuss whether the forbidden fruit of Genesis chapters two and three was really an apple or not, since apples do not generally grow in the part of the middle east where it is believed the Garden of Eden was located. A couple of these so-called experts even said that we would probably have to check the Hebrew and Greek translations of the Bible to see exactly what was meant by the word “apple” to be absolutely sure. (For those who wish to check the accuracy of this, the story is found on page 3 of the July 7, 1974, Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune. The author was Derrick Blakely and his title was, “Apricots in Eden? Experts Take a Bite.”)
However, all of this discussion was a manifestation of ignorance because the Bible does not even claim that Adam and Eve ate an apple. It just calls it a fruit. “Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 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 (Gen. 2:15-17, NKJV). Our purpose in this article is not to determine the kind of fruit that God forbade Adam and Eve to eat, but to look at this text and see what lessons can be learned from it.
I. God gave man a job to do. Adam was put into the Garden of Eden and told “to tend and keep it.” God despises idleness. Of the slothful man he said, “So your poverty will come like a prowler, And your want like an armed man” (Prov. 24:34). One of our own proverbs is that an idle mind is the devil’s workshop and idle hands are the devil’s tools. God has always required man to work in the physical realm. “Let him who stole steal no longer, but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need” (Eph. 4:28). God has given his people a spiritual work to keep them busy. “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). When you sing the grand old gospel song, “I Want to Be a Worker for the Lord,” do you really mean it?
II. God gave man provisions to live. God said to Adam, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat.” God also provides for us. He is the source of every good and perfect gift. It is him who “gives to all life, breath, and all things,” and it is in him that “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:25-28). God provides for all our physical needs. While preaching in Lystra, Paul said of God, “Nevertheless He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good, gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). May we ever be thankful for these wonderful material blessings. But God has also provided for all our spiritual needs in Christ. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift!
III. God gave man a commandment to keep. His specific words to Adam were, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” In every age, God has revealed his commandments to mankind. The Psalmist wrote, “You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; For they are ever with me” (Psa. 119:98). One of the purposes of these commandment is to try or test man’s faith whether he would obey or not. Moses told the Israelites, “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not” (Deut. 8:2). It is by keeping his commandments that we show our love for God. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jn. 5:3). To say that we “love God” and then refuse or fail to obey his commandments is to lie.
IV. God gave man a threat of punishment to motivate him. Adam heard God say, “For in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Law without punishment is, in fact, no law. “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil” (Ecc. 8:11). One of the major problems with the laws of our nation is that punishment is not sure and swift. This has resulted in the skyrocketing of our crime rate. Most people recognize the need for occasional punishment in the home. “He who spares the rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Prov. 13:24). In order for children to learn the difference between right and wrong, wrong behavior must be punished. In the spiritual realm, the reward of heaven would mean relatively little without the contrasting punishment of hell. Only when the wicked go away into everlasting punishment and the righteous into eternal life will justice finally be perfected (see Matt. 25:3141).
Adam and Eve had enough to do in the garden that they really did not have time to stand idly around thinking about the forbidden fruit. They had plenty of other fruit to eat so that they did not even need it. Furthermore, God commanded them not to eat of it and promised punishment if they did. However, in spite of all this, Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. And God did punish them. God has given us everything we need to get from earth to heaven. “As His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Pet. 1:3). But if we do not do his work and keep his commandments, we shall also be punished – eternally. Yet, because Jesus died for us, we can escape the punishment of our sins and receive God’s eternal reward by giving our lives to him in obedience to his will. If you are not a Christian, or are unfaithful, will you not consider your spiritual condition and come to Christ for his blessings?
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 2, pp. 44-45
January 21, 1988