Flesh and, therefore, the need for Jesus' death had their origin in the Garden of Eden.
The story of Adam and Eve is quite familiar to the majority of folks, but what we must understand is WHY God created man. Because He desires to be worshipped in Spirit and in Truth, God made man with the capability for worship.
The bible says man was created in the image of God;1 formed from the dust of the earth, and made alive by the breath of God.2 The form was lifeless, until God breathed life (spirit) into him. Because man was made from dust, he will return to dust after he dies. David said, "You take away their breath, they die, and return to their dust." (Psalm 104:29b Amplified).
According to the Hebrew dictionary, "image" means "phantom." Or one could say, "spirit,"3 which would mean that man was a spiritual being. Although he was flesh and blood, he was capable of communicating with his Creator. There was no consciousness of man's humanity because, as the scripture says, Adam and Eve were naked (nude) and "were not ashamed."4 There was nothing to separate man from his Creator. They could walk and talk in pure communion, Spirit to spirit.
Just think what it must have been like in the Garden of Eden, when God communed with man, His creation. The peace and serenity must have been beyond anything our finite minds can comprehend. There would be no such thing as the hustle and bustle we have now in this twenty-first century. The fragrant flowers, the fresh green foliage, the carpet-like grass, and the exhilarating, oxygen-rich air must have been beyond description! Imagine the beautiful birds of every kind, in chorus with their unique sounds. It must have sounded like a symphony! Can you picture a beautiful, stately doe grazing in the woods, as she listens to the music of the birds? And imagine the spotless, woolly sheep wandering in the meadows, without fear of danger. Everything in the Garden was perfect.
Of all the trees in the Garden of Eden, the two mentioned are the Tree of Life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.5 Why these two trees in particular? What is the significance? I believe we can see them as opposites, with the fruit of one giving Life and the fruit of the other resulting in death.
As is commonly known, God told man if he were to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he would "surely die."6 God gave them the choice of life or death, and they chose death, because the serpent tricked Eve. That old serpent, the Devil, told her they would not die, but would "be as God, knowing good and evil."7 They ate the fruit and, just as the serpent had said, their eyes were opened. But what did they see? They did not see they were nude, as before, and "were not ashamed." This time they saw they were "cunning," as the Hebrew word for this "nakedness" shows.8 Their flesh was exposed. They were now creatures of flesh, with self-awareness due to the knowledge of good and evil. And the man and woman tried to hide their nakedness with fig leaves.9 God knew they had eaten the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and He found them attempting to hide their flesh.
The LORD God clothed Adam and Eve with coats of skins.10 But in putting to death the animals from which the skins were taken, there had to be bloodshed. Remember, the meaning of "blood" is "that which when shed causes death."11 Now we see how Jesus would one day shed His blood to provide a robe of righteousness for man. Even before the foundation of the world, God knew man would make the wrong choice.
With man's new-found knowledge came the awareness that he could be his own god. And now being like God, knowing good and evil, the LORD God had to put him out of the Garden of Eden "lest he put forth his hand, and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live for ever."12
Had man taken and eaten of the Tree of Life in his fallen condition, and lived eternally, God would have lost forever His creation who was made to worship Him. Man's condition of flesh now separated him from his Creator, but God's redemptive plan begins to unfold! He would one day reconcile man to Himself as we see in Romans 8:3-4: "God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and as an offering for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the ordinance of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
Was it Adam's act of disobedience that made all mankind sinful? Or was it the result of his disobedience? If simple disobedience were the problem, the tree with the forbidden fruit could have been a cherry tree or a fig tree. But no, it was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The fruit of the tree caused the problem: not merely the eating of it. Yes, man ate the fruit in disobedience, but the fruit itself provided the source of trouble for all mankind from that moment on. Man's heredity was now to be born a mere man of flesh, both literally as well as figuratively. That is the reason Jesus said to Nicodemus, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born anew." (John 3:6-7).
Another word for flesh is "self," and when man's eyes were opened he discovered his self-awareness, with its accompanying self-sufficiency. Rather than rely on God, man now relied on his knowledge of good and evil.
This new knowledge became the guiding force in man's life, and his condition changed to one of mortality--subject to death. As Paul said in Romans 5:14, "Death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the likeness of Adam's transgression, who is a figure of him that was to come." Death reigned because man was flesh, and flesh ultimately will die.
The word "adam" means "man."13 However, "man" is also translated from a second Hebrew word meaning "mortal,"14 and is derived from another word that means "to be frail, feeble."15 A whole book could be written to show the difference in the uses of "man [adam, mankind]" and "man [mortal]" throughout the Old Testament. But for now, I shall quote only the first verse where "man [mortal]" occurs: "And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos [mortal]16: then began men [mortals] to call upon the name of the LORD." (Genesis 4:26). In acknowledgement of man's fallen condition, Seth named his son "Mortal."
A flesh heredity
Adam did not pass on to man the sin heredity because he sinned. He passed on a flesh heredity that came with the knowledge of good and evil. All that which flesh produces is sin, whether it is good or evil. This can be seen in Leviticus 5:4 (Amplified): "Or if anyone unthinkingly swears he will do something, whether to do evil or good, whatever it may be that a man shall pronounce rashly taking an oath, then, when he becomes aware of it, he shall be guilty in either of these." This verse in the Law reveals to us that man was guilty of sin whether he swore "to do evil or good." The determination "to do" was the problem.
Satan had "fathered" flesh when he planted in man the seed of a thought, "to be as God, knowing good and evil."17 The devil knew that with the knowledge of good and evil, man would be in his domain. His own original sin was exaltation of self, which caused him to be thrust down from the position he once held. He wanted to be God,18 but he became only the god of this world and the realm of flesh. In the end, the God of all gods will triumph over ALL flesh!
The serpent had deceived man into exalting himself through the knowledge of good and evil, which was his God-likeness. But God chose to humble Himself and come in the "likeness of sinful flesh," to put to death the flesh that had come between man and Himself. In crucifying flesh, then being buried and raised to life by the Spirit, Jesus made a way for man to receive the knowledge of the Truth. God's response to man's God-likeness was for Himself to come in the form of man-likeness.
Only God Almighty, Creator of all things, can Father the new creature by planting His own Seed, His Spirit, in all who will come to the end of self and receive His Son who is LIFE. God fathered Jesus, and He is also now Father to those born again--or "born from above," which is the true meaning of the Greek word. Only the truly born-again believer can be called a "new creature in Christ Jesus."
What is sin?
If sin were a deed, this verse would make no sense: "Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him." (2 Corinthians 5:21). Paul was referring to the fact that Jesus was made flesh so that He could destroy the heredity of flesh, thus making a way for man to become the righteousness of God in Christ. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me." (John 14:6).
Man did not merely have a sin nature; the sin nature was the manifestation of what he had become--a creature of flesh. Man's fleshly heredity is the root of his sin nature, and deeds spring from heredity. Therefore man's heredity must be altered, and only God can alter heredity through the new birth.
I grew up believing that just because Adam sinned, it would make sinners of all those born after him. I thought, "How can that be? It has to be more profound!" The Lord showed me that it is indeed much more profound. That which transpired because of Adam's deed produced the root of all trouble. This root, deep within the heart and soul of mankind, brought such depravity that Jesus had to die in order for the root to be removed.
We must not trivialize the Cross of Jesus Christ. He came because of man's heredity of flesh, and the death which most certainly results. After all, our flesh is mortal, which means "that must eventually die."19 When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He made very clear the difference between flesh and spirit, saying, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit." (John 3:6).
In the whitewashing of the truth, we have overlooked the absolute need to be born again, not merely forgiven. If a mere deed was the problem with Adam eating the fruit of a wrong tree, God could simply have forgiven him, and all of Adam and Eve's offspring would have had to avoid eating that same fruit in order to obey God's command. His command also included the fact that man would die if he ate the fruit-- not that the fruit would kill him or that God would kill him, but that the knowledge of good and evil would reduce man to a creature of mortal flesh. And from that point on, all offspring would be born in this man-likeness.
1. Genesis 1:27
2. Genesis 2:7
3. Hebrew #6754
4. Genesis 2:25
5. Genesis 2:9
6. Genesis 2:17
7. Genesis 3:5
8. Hebrew #5903 from #6191
9. Genesis 3:7
10. Genesis 3:21
11. Hebrew #1818
12. Genesis 3:22-23
13. Hebrew #120
14. Hebrew #582
15. Hebrew #605
16. Hebrew #583
17. Genesis 3:4-5
18. Isaiah 14:12-15
19. Webster's New World Dictionary - Simon & Schuster Inc. 1986