Genesis (Pt. 6) (The First Covenant)
Text: Genesis 2:4 – 17
By: Ken McKinley
Well we’ve been going through Genesis for a few weeks now, and we’ve looked at the creation of the heavens and the earth, we’ve looked at the 6 days of creation and last Sunday we looked at 3 of the 4 ordinances given in creation. Next Sunday; Lord willing, we will look at the fourth of those ordinances, marriage. But today we’re going to concentrate on the first covenant. Now my sermon this morning only has two points… but within those two points are several things I want us to look at.
The first point we see in verses 4 – 14; and in those verses we see that the original covenant with man was filled with blessings. Now verses 4 – 6 are recapping what we’ve already read about in chapter 1. Then verses 7 – 9 are talking about the origin of man, again this is a recap of how God created Adam, but Moses, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit also tells us that the two trees, the Tree of life, and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil were in the Garden. So God makes man out of the dust of the earth, and He breathes into him – this is where we became a living, immortal soul. So we didn’t come from apes, we came from dirt. You know, scientists are always comparing human DNA with that of various animals, I wish they would compare our DNA with the dirt that’s found between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. You know, they could just dig down a couple hundred feet or so, to where the soil from 6 – 10 thousand years would be and compare it with human DNA. I think that would be an awesome experiment. Anyway… God creates man, and God also creates a garden for man. In other words, God provides food for man. The provision that man needs is there. Food and water are both abundant in the Garden of Eden. But there are also these two trees.
The 1st one; the Tree of Life, is a sign of a promise that God has implied. The other tree – the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil… is a test. Or I guess we could say… it’s a probation. Now I don’t know about ya’ll but when I imagine these two trees, I think of the tree of knowledge as this huge tree, full of leaves and fruit, with lots of branches, and as probably very distinct from every other tree in the garden. And when I imagine the tree of life… I see it as some sort of cross shaped tree. I mean, that’s just the way I see it, because it was a cross, many thousands of years later, that would lead us to eternal life.
And so man is placed in this perfect environment. There’s plenty of food, water, there’s even gold and precious stones. And so what we see here is God’s provision for man… even though Adam was in a perfect place. God still provided. And I said it last time. If Adam needed God’s provision in the Garden of Eden, how much more do we need it today in this fallen, sin infested world that we live in?
Verses 15, 16 and 17… this is where the covenant comes into play. Verses 4 – 14 show us the blessings, the privileges, the wonderful provision God has given to Adam, but verses 15 – 17 show us Adam’s responsibilities. So the first covenant, was full of blessings, but it also entailed obligation. Look at those three verses again (Read 15 – 17).
Here we have God entering into a special relationship with Adam.
Now this is amazing to me. God creates this man, and He creates all of these things on the earth for man, and then… God; this amazing Creator, who created all things out of nothing; chooses to enter into a relationship with His creation.
And so God has created Adam. He’s blessed Adam. And now He’s commanding Adam. In-other-words, there are things that Adam is obligated to do, and there’s one thing. ONLY ONE THING that Adam is forbidden from doing.
Verse 15 tells us that God took Adam and put him in the garden to tend it and keep it. God gave him a job. Despite what you might hear, prostitution is not the worlds oldest profession. Farming is! And if you remember, this is one of the ordinances. The ordinance of labor. And it’s important for us to understand, that this ordinance was given to man BEFORE THE FALL. Work is not a “bad thing.” It’s good, it’s a gift from God. So Adam is put in the Garden, in order to tend the Garden. And then God says to him, “Eat whatever you want… EXCEPT for the fruit from this one tree!” There’s the test… the probation.
This is our 2nd point, and this is where we get the idea of covenant. You see, in the Bible a covenant is a relationship established and given to us by God. And that relationship has blessings and obligations, and it is of life and death significance. That’s what a covenant is in the Bible. The Lord sets down the obligations, and says, “This is what you are to do. If you do these things, then these are what I will bless you with, and if you don’t do these things then this is what your punishment will be.”
Man doesn’t make the bargains. We don’t say, “Ok, God, I’ll keep 8 of the 10 commandments. It’s alright if I don’t get all the blessings, as long as I don’t get all the cursings.” That’s not what the Bible teaches happens in a covenant. In order to keep the covenant, we must keep it in its fullness, if we disobey in one part, even the littlest part, the covenant is broken and we should expect punishment. And this is exactly what we see established with Adam in the Garden of Eden.
Now there are three things I want you to see about this covenant.
First; it’s a covenant of works. God says, “Do this… and don’t do this.” It was dependant upon Adam to fulfill his obligations. His obligations were to tend the garden and to not eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. And what this covenant does is that is shows us that all of mankind stands in covenant relationship with God. In the Old Testament, we see the Hebrew prophets not only condemning the nation of Israel for its unfaithfulness to God, but at times they would even condemn the Gentiles for their unfaithfulness to God as well. And we say, “Well what basis could they have for that? What basis could Hebrew prophets condemn Gentiles for not following after the God of Israel?” And it’s because all of mankind is under obligation to God on the basis of this very first covenant. All of mankind is under obligation to God. You see the Egyptians and the Babylonians and the Philistines weren’t given the 10 Commandments and yet they stood guilty before God. And its because of this covenant of works given to Adam placed all of humanity under obligation to God. That’s actually the starting point of the Gospel. If we don’t see ourselves as in direct rebellion to God, or as covenant breakers… or as we put it today; as sinners, then reconciliation and redemption mean nothing. If we think we are without sin, then how could we possibly understand why Jesus died?
If you think, “Well, I’m basically a good person and God will accept me based on that fact.” Then you’re missing the point entirely. Jesus did not die to save people who were “basically good people.” He died to save sinners, covenant breakers, rebellious – sinful people, who were at enmity with God. So all men are under obligation to God. As our Creator, He has entered into covenant with us and we owe Him our obedience.
Secondly; this covenant of works was conditioned upon Adam’s obedience. IF Adam fails to obey, there is no promise of continued blessings. God told him, “The day you eat of that fruit, you shall surly die.” In-other-words, “Adam, the day you break the covenant, the blessings stop; the fellowship stops, the relationship ends.” And we know the rest of the story. Adam broke the covenant. He failed to obey; and his disobedience plunged the human race into sin and misery.
So why is it so important that we understand that the first covenant was based on works and obedience? Because the second covenant God makes with man, our salvation is based on the obedience and works of the 2nd Adam – Jesus Christ! You see, Jesus obeyed the Law perfectly. He was without sin. And thus His righteousness is credited to our account when we come to Him through faith, by God’s grace.
Thirdly; and this is the cool thing. This second covenant isn’t really between God and us at all. It’s between God the Father, and God the Son, and we become partakers of it through faith in Jesus Christ, by a gift of God’s grace.
So in essence, we become partakers of this second covenants blessings through faith in the fact that God the Son, Jesus Christ, has perfectly met God’s righteous requirements and fulfilled the law of God, and by faith in the fact that Jesus’ death on the cross was more than enough to satisfy the wrath of God and serve as a propitiation for our sins.
Jesus Christ is the second Adam, or a better way to say it would be “the last Adam.” The Apostle Paul tells us about that in Romans chapter five. And He fulfilled the Law on our behalf, and He obeyed the Father on our behalf, and He died on our behalf. And for us, or for anyone to say that they are saved by works is the biggest affront to God a person can commit. Because when a person does that, what they’re saying is that Jesus didn’t do enough. That His life of obedience and sacrificial death on the cross was not sufficient to save us.
So either Jesus did it all and we trust in Him completely, resting from all our works, or He failed miserably and died in vain. And people will tell you, “Well I would never say that.” And they wouldn’t. They would never come right out and say that with their mouths, but all the while they’re trying to work their way into heaven.
Let me close with this.
God never calls us to be “good enough.” He calls us to have faith and trust in His only begotten Son Jesus Christ. It is Christ alone who paid for our sins and satisfied the justice and wrath of God. Now and for all eternity. And if you’ve never trusted Him as your Lord and Savior, I pray that God would save you this day.