Disobedience and the Fall
"In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth" (Gen 1.1). All that exists was created by God. On the sixth day of creation, God created man in His own image (v.27), and pronounced everything He had made as being "very good" (v.31). In the beginning, the entire creation was subject to, and obedient to, God, and that obedience resulted in peace and happiness being universal. The whole creation existed in harmony, and God communicated with Adam and Eve (Gen 1.28-29; 3.8). Adam had dominion over the animals (1.26) and tended the Garden of Eden (2.15).
Adam was put under one prohibition by God. He was told, "...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" (2.16-17).
In Genesis 3 we read of Adam's disobedience and the fall of man. Satan was cunning and spoke to Eve, seeking to sow doubts in her mind regarding the truth of what God had said, and as to the goodness of God's motives in withholding something which Adam and Eve would enjoy and from which they would benefit. Eve was tempted and fell. She did not consult Adam who was her head (1 Cor 11.3), but looked at the tree and saw that it was good for food, pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise (Gen 3.1-6). This causes us to think of the warning in 1 John 2.15-16, not to love the world nor the things which are in the world: the lust of the flesh (good for food), and the lust of the eyes (pleasant to the eyes), and the pride of life (to be desired to make one wise). Eve took and ate and gave to Adam who ate, and in so doing disobeyed God. Eve was deceived by Satan and sinned, then Adam, knowingly and deliberately, chose of his own free will to disobey God and he sinned (1 Tim 2.14). We read in Romans 5.12 that "by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned". It all started with not trusting God, doubting what He had said, and with Eve believing that she, and not God, knew what was best for human beings.
Satan continues to cause men and women to doubt the truth of God's Word, to doubt the love of God, and to refuse to put their faith and trust in Him. Satan seeks to undermine the authority of the Word of God and obedience to it by individuals and assemblies of God's people. He will add to, or subtract from, the Scriptures and attempt to persuade people to disobey God and do that which is right in their own eyes (Judg 17.6; 21.25). Satan still seeks to prevent people believing that "the wages of sin is death" (Rom 6.23), not just physical death but eternal separation from God, suffering for sins. As a result of disobedience to God we have all the moral degradation, violence, dishonesty and chaos that exist in the world today.
Those of us who have been saved by grace still have the old sinful nature within which will be with us as long as we live on this earth. Satan would seek to undermine our faith and he makes sinful suggestions which appeal to the old sinful nature: the gratification of physical desires (the lust of the flesh); the acquisition of material possessions (the lust of the eyes), and the achievement of success and fame (the pride of life). It is essential that, under the leading and guiding of the indwelling Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6.19), believers and assemblies study the Scriptures to learn the will of God, and then trust Him and obey what He graciously reveals.
Obedient unto Death
Judgment inevitably followed Adam's disobedience to the revealed will of God, and he died when he was 930 years old (Gen 5.5). God is holy (Lev 19.2), and every sin must be punished. We have all sinned against God (Rom 3.23; Ps 51.4), but "God is love" (1 Jn 4.8), and so great is His love that "he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (Jn 3.16). The Lord Jesus Christ humbled Himself, and "took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men" (Phil 2.7). He "became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (v.8): He was always obedient to God, His Father. He went to the cross, His precious blood was shed, and God punished Him for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn 2.2). He completely fulfilled the demands of the law and paid the penalty for sin. Now, by the grace of God, and through the perfect obedience and substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus, a sinner can be saved by repenting and trusting in Him.
As a result of Adam's disobedience, sin came into the world, and by this "one man's disobedience many were made sinners", but we read concerning the Lord Jesus that "by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (Rom 5.19). Because Adam disobeyed God, all men would have been condemned to eternal separation from God, but the Lord Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim 1.15; Lk 19.10). God's love for us is shown in that it was while we were yet sinners Christ died for us (Rom 5.8). A believer can now rejoice, thank and praise God, knowing that "the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom 6.23).
The Lord Jesus Christ became a man, but He never ceased to be God: He was "God with us" (Mt 1.23). He was a real man, but not a mere man because His humanity was holy humanity. Adam was created out of the dust of the earth but the Lord was God "manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim 3.16). The "first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven" (1 Cor 15.47). The Lord always did the things that pleased His Father (Jn 8.29). His obedience to His Father was perfect and complete: He glorified Him and finished the work His Father had given Him to do (Jn 17.4).
Obedience of the Believer
The Lord Jesus Christ redeemed those of us who are believers from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us (Gal 3.13). He was made "to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him" (2 Cor 5.21). We are a new creation: old things have passed away and new things have come into our lives (2 Cor 5.17), and significant changes should be seen in the way we live and spend our time. We are told, "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called" (Eph 4.1). It is the will of God that a sinner who has been saved by grace should grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, gradually becoming more like Him (Rom 8.29), and doing those good works which God has planned for him to do (Eph 2.10).
To live in obedience to the revealed will of God, to trust Him, be faithful to Him and please Him, believers should be separated from the world and unto God (2 Cor 6.17; Ps 1.1-2). To know God and His will so that He might be obeyed, it is necessary to study and meditate on the Word of God, and seek to obey what the Holy Spirit reveals. Through such study and obedience, we will learn to trust Him more fully, be less conformed to this world, and be increasingly transformed by the renewing of our minds (Rom 12.2). Separation from contact with evil is impossible in the secular, idolatrous, pagan and materialistic world in which we live, but as separated believers, trusting and seeking to obey our God and Father, we should avoid compromise, compliance, conformity and contamination with evil. We should avoid making permanent relationships with unbelievers (2 Cor 6.14-17). In our desire to obey and please God, we need to make a prayerful choice of companions, employment, and the places to which we go, and we must be careful regarding the things on which we allow our minds to dwell.
The separated believer, led by the Holy Spirit, possesses spiritual discernment and will be sensitive to sin. When we sin, our sin comes between us and God. We do not lose our salvation, but our communion with God and our service for Him are interrupted. We do not lose our peace with God (Rom.5.1), but we lose the peace of God in our hearts (Phil 4.7). The shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ is eternally efficacious, and "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 Jn 1.9).
Continued diligence and steadfastness in the things of God are essential if believers are to grow spiritually, live lives of obedience to God, and serve Him in accordance with His revealed will. We should regularly and frequently gather with like-minded fellow-believers, helping and edifying one another in the Word of God. When the Church was in its infancy, the believers "continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers" (Acts 2.42), and as a result the believers were blessed and the Church flourished (Acts 2.46-47).
As believers, we should be increasingly occupied with the Person, work and perfections of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Scriptures, that we might be enabled to obey God and lead separated lives which glorify Him and exalt the Lord Jesus Christ. Trusting and being obedient to God results in peace and happiness. After He had been teaching His disciples, the Lord said to them, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (Jn 13.17). How wise the hymnist was when he wrote:
Trust and obey, for there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.
(J H Sammis)