Sin was introduced and destroyed man's relationship with God, so God drove man out of the Garden. Practically every picture or painting of this scene shows God leading them out. But this is incorrect! He “drove them out,” implying a punishing anger. Their relationship was broken. A major principle is shown at the very beginning of the Bible: Sin destroys relationships and produces separation.
To understand this further, it is good to understand that at the heart of sin is the concept of failure. It is a specific kind of failure, producing a specific result and a specific fruit. Genesis 2 and 3 teach that sin is the failure to maintain a relationship, first with God, and secondly with man. Sin produces separation, first with God, and secondly with man. Eventually, sin produces death—the first death—and then the ultimate separation from which there can never be another relationship, the second death.
In addition to being separated from fellowship with God, Adam and Eve were also separated from the Tree of Life and access to the Holy Spirit.
A very clear progression is shown in the breaking of Adam and Eve's relationship with God:
1. They became convinced that their way was better than God's.
2. They became self-conscious, and they hid from God.
3. They tried to justify and defend what they did.
In order to build a relationship with God, those steps must be reversed:
1. We must drop every excuse and every justification.
2. We must drop our pride and stop hiding from God, thinking He is unaware of what is going on.
3. We must become convinced that God's way is better than ours.
Genesis 3:24 says that the Tree of Life is guarded. The Holy Spirit is guarded. We understand this symbolically, making it clear that our way back to the Tree of Life and access to the Holy Spirit is not going to be easy. In fact, it is impossible! No human being is going to get past a cherub.
There is no relationship possible with God until He removes the barrier. He then personally and individually invites us to come back. But how do we "come back" when we never had a relationship with Him before? We were separated from Him through the sin of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve had a relationship with Him, and Adam and Eve represent all of mankind. Therefore, in God's mind, we had a relationship, but we wrecked it in the persons of Adam and Eve. God invites us back into a relationship with Him.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part 6)
Now the separation is very clear, and mankind is cut off from God and from the Holy Spirit. The episode in the garden of Eden, as it is recorded, makes it clear that humanity took itself away from God, not the other way around. In addition, Genesis 3 gives no indication that Adam and Eve wanted the breach to be healed. All they did was justify themselves—Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Genesis 3:23: