The Everlasting Covenant


5 God’s Covenant with Adam

by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, December 1013

And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden. -Genesis 3:8

The covenant is a formal commitment that God made to support and redeem His creation. God’s presence with His people is a central element of that covenant (Matt. 28:20). Adam and Eve were not to eat of the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17). When they did, they separated themselves from God, passed under the control of Satan, and were condemned to die. This is the same desperate situation of every human being on this earth. Without God’s remedy, we are all condemned to die. Yet, through God’s covenant of peace and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, God gives us eternal life.


God Responds with the Covenant

Before sin, Adam and Eve had God’s approval and perfect, trusting fellowship with Him. After sin, they stood under the condemnation of the law and were deserving of death (Rom. 5:18, 21). God had warned them, "in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Obviously, Adam and Eve did not die that day, and the human race continued. Before the sun set that day, the Lord came and gave them the covenant in a pronouncement directed at Satan, represented by the serpent: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15). The “seed of the woman”-the Messiah-would be stricken for them. God gave them probation and another chance to choose whom they would serve- whether Christ or Satan.

In the phrase, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman,” God took the initiative and actively “put” enmity against evil in the hearts of humankind. God gave Adam and Eve the everlasting covenant and wrote the law in their hearts (Jer. 31:31-34). He gave them a conscience, a means of resistance to evil and sin.

Christ is the seed of the woman, who would “bruise” the serpent’s “head.” By this God meant that Christ would destroy unrepentant sinners and sin. This could occur only through His suffering, the serpent’s bruising of “his heel,” which He would ultimately survive.

God graciously brought the guilty pair back under the everlasting covenant, with the new provision of forgiveness for sin. God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit had decreed the everlasting covenant in a special council before the creation of this world. Jesus became the Lamb long before He died on the cross (Rev. 13:8). He would Himself meet the demands of the law and take the sin of humankind upon Himself, offering His life a redeeming sacrifice. Through His sacrifice He would buy back the human race (1 Cor. 6:20) and place humanity where the grace of God could again work in their lives.1

God immediately clothed Adam and Eve in skins (Gen. 3:21), removing the inadequate and uncomfortable fig leaves that had covered their shame. This symbolized that the “covering” for their sin would come only through the shedding of blood (Heb. 9:22). This was a prototype of the sacrificial system, pointing forward to the Messiah who would make the true sacrifice for humankind’s sin.


What Is the Sinful Nature?

Sin caused humans to have a sinful nature. Our first parents mistrusted God, thereby breaking the bond of fellowship. Self now became the center and the focus of the human personality rather than God.

When man transgressed the divine law, his nature became evil, and he was in harmony, not at variance, with Satan. There exists naturally no enmity between sinful man and the originator of sin. Both became evil through apostasy.”| Had not God specially interposed, Satan and man would have entered into an alliance against Heaven; and instead of cherishing enmity against Satan, the whole human family would have been united in opposition to God. (Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 505)2.

A lawyer asked Jesus one day: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” Jesus said to him, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Matt. 22:36-40).

These two commandments were articulated in the wilderness of Sinai (Deut. 6:5; Lev. 19:18). The Ten Commandments expand upon these two great commandments and have been the law of love and liberty from the start (James 1:25).3 If people do not love God, they will display unbelief and pride. If they do not love others, they will be selfish. The underlying motives of disbelief, pride, and selfishness are the core of the sinful nature.

Jesus emphasized in the Sermon on the Mount that obedience to the law consists in more than just outward actions. It must arise from the motives of the heart. This is the reason that humans can break the law even while seeming to keep it. Only by grace can the motives of the heart be changed.


The Fruit of Eating the Fruit

As we see from Eve’s experience, Satan does not directly ask humans to worship him. Instead, he deceives sinners into serving themselves. The Bible describes the sinful self as “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it” (Jer. 17:9)? When Adam and Eve chose to turn from the Lord God, they chose “another god” and gave dominion of the earth to Satan. Nonetheless, God retains His position as Creator and owner of the earth, and Satan is restrained and cannot utterly destroy the planet. Paul wrote: “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey-whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:16, NIV).

What did Satan mean when he said through the serpent, -| and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5)? Adam and Eve in Eden knew only what was right. Their experience in evil did broaden their choices. They could now choose their own way, but what a tragedy that was! Truly, “it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23).

In following their own way, they would now seek their own pleasure, work for their own support, gather to themselves material necessities and, more, seek for their own power and their own meaning in life. In self-seeking, humankind would fail, separate from God, and die. “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil” (Gen. 3:22).

God interposed to change all this. The Father and Son covenanted for Jesus to die in man’s place to pay the penalty for sin. God put humans on probation and continued their life so that they could learn of His mercy and self-sacrificing love and then His joy, gentleness, patience, purity, and peace. In knowing Him, men and women could again become like Him and respond to Him in kind. God would again become Creator, Saviour, and friend. Sin would cease to be an option.

The “wisdom” they gained from eating the fruit quickly turned into a curse. It caused Adam to blame Eve, Eve to blame the serpent, and both to blame God. The fruits of disobedience were immediately apparent: condemnation, guilt, blame, loss of fellowship, and fear to meet God. Adam and Eve lost their love and their joy.

The test given our first parents was the lightest conceivable. It was so light that there could be no possible excuse for transgression.”|

After Adam’s fall God could have let Adam and Eve die, and started again with a new pair. But that would be to confess failure. Would it not be better, to give Adam and Eve another opportunity? Perhaps they had learned their lesson, and would not disobey again. God could simply forgive them, and give them another trial. But that involved other considerations. If given another probation, and if they again should fail, would not still another trial have to be given them, and another and another, without end? And if that were done would they ever learn the lesson that death lurks in the least deviation from God’s will?

Unless they learned this, safety could never be attained in this world or in the universe. God could indeed forgive, but the matter was not so simple as that. Man had sinned, and it was necessary that he learn what the wages of sin are, and that God does not arbitrarily decree death because of transgression, but that death is wrapped up in the sin itself.4


God Looks For the Response of Faith

Adam and Eve in their sinless pristine state lived in perfect surroundings. God and the holy angels visited them regularly. This was their life. They thought about God, spoke of Him, made the Garden of Eden beautiful for Him. All their creativity in song, art, word, and action was to bring praise to His name. God had created Adam and Eve in His image! They had a love for God that we, as sinners, only dimly appreciate. Sin did not even enter their thinking.

God never intended that humans know and experience sin. When sinners receive the new birth (John 3:3-21), they become a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17) and all things become new. As they realize what Christ has done, the Holy Spirit changes the motives. They now love God and want to live for Him. Jesus hides the sinful nature under the robe of His righteousness.

If people exercise faith and give consent to the work of grace, they receive power to obey the law and become more like Christ. The memory of sin fades. This is what God wants for every person.

There are still steps to take, and there are besetting sins to overcome: the habits of the past and the tendencies of the sinful nature. Why does not God take all these away too? Remember, God gave humans free will as a sacred gift. He never overrides one’s power to choose. Trials, temptations, and testing reveal weak points. Sinners must now recognize their sin, confess it, and ask for the grace of God to overcome sinful tendencies. Such prayer God is always glad to answer with a “yes”!

Is this process ever complete? Are all sins ever overcome? We have the promise that when Jesus comes again, the sinful nature will be removed: “The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality” (1 Cor. 15:52, 53). Jesus Christ stands for us in the judgment. Until then, our “perfection” on this earth is always in Jesus Christ and His perfection.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. (1 John 5:4)

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Heb. 11:6)

God’s plan has always been that He have a close association with the human family. This beautiful relationship began in Eden. The efficacy of the grace of God is to restore the image of God in humankind, to show “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). This is the goal for the Christian today. We are sinners. We need the objective standard of the law to show what is right and what God is like. More than this, we need to know Jesus Christ. By faith, the relationship with Christ can be close and personal. Our thoughts, words, and actions may be patterned after what Christ says and does. Jesus must be everything to us. Is the law set aside? Of course not! (Rom. 3:31) However, people in close connection with Jesus do not focus on law; they see Jesus as “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28), as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

How is this attained? It is by loving God as did Adam and Eve before sin; it is by obeying God as did Noah and Abraham; it is by seeking God’s presence as did Moses; it is by rejoicing in God’s favor as did David; it is by trusting God as did Job; and it is by praying as did Jesus Christ. We will find Him as we study God’s Word (Luke 24:27; John 5:39, 46).


Cain and Abel’s Sacrifices

While living near the gate to Eden, God instructed Adam and Eve to make animal sacrifices as an illustration of the sacrifice Jesus must make to take the penalty for their sin. Abel honored God by offering a lamb as he had been instructed. Cain, hoping to make a more valuable sacrifice, offered fruit. God did not recognize his bloodless sacrifice. Cain’s offering was not by faith (Heb. 11:4).

This experience humiliated Cain. As the older brother, he expected to be the leader in all things. Cain misunderstood the meaning of the sacrifice. He rebelled against God by going his own way and disobeying a direct command. He tried to gain the favor of God by his “valuable” sacrifice. He expected that God would be pleased with his generosity. The problem was that only a blood offering could illustrate Jesus’ dying in the sinner’s place, paying the penalty for sin that it might be pardoned. In giving fruit, Cain refused to recognize that he was a sinner (Heb. 9:22).

The sacrifice of the lamb showed the heart of the gospel. The shed blood of Jesus Christ at Calvary mediates grace to the family of man, and only through grace is the law written in the heart. This is the focus of the new covenant.

The bloodless offering of Cain was an attempt to do God’s will through human effort. It was a valuable offering, but, without the shedding of blood, it could not point to the coming Redeemer. The offering of Cain did not show forgiving grace or exercise enmity against sin or reflect the law in the heart. It was the essence of the old covenant.

The everlasting covenant is not something that one does to be saved. The old covenant is the attempt to do the work of God by human efforts. Accepting reconciliation and salvation through the grace of Jesus Christ is the new covenant-it is the everlasting covenant. This truth every Christian must clearly understand. Grace changes the life and restores in us the image of God.


Endnotes

1. After Adam and Eve sinned, they were at the mercy of Satan, having chosen another master (Rom. 6:16). Left to themselves, they would unite with Satan in rebellion against God. However, they did not have full knowledge of the character of God nor of His grace. God gave them probation to learn and to repent.

2. For a further discussion of the human sinful nature, see Ellen G. White, “Enmity Between Man and Satan,” The Great Controversy (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1911), pp. 505-510.

3. Those who love God and their fellow human beings do not find God’s commandments burdensome (1 John 5:3).

4. M. L. Andreasen, The Book of Hebrews (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 1948), p. 285.