What the Bible says about
Knowledge of Good and Evil
(From Forerunner Commentary)
The Devil asserted that by taking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, human eyes would be opened—implying wisdom and enlightenment—to allow a person to know good and evil as God does. Immediately, Satan places the emphasis on knowing, but it is contrasted with living eternally. Satan proposes that mankind should be like God in taking to himself the knowledge—the definition—of what is right and wrong, asserting that this is a good thing! In contrast, the Tree of Life represents a way of living in which the meaning of good and evil already exists, and eternal life involves submitting through the Holy Spirit to that definition and the Sovereign who is its source.
Likewise, the Gnostics are those who know—who pursue mystical knowledge that they believe holds the key to eternal life through advancing beyond the physical and into the spiritual realm. Gnostics believed the key to eternal life was contained in right interpretation—knowledge—of those esoteric sayings.
The book of Revelation expounds on the Tree of Life in two places:
· To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7)
· Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into [New Jerusalem]. (Revelation 22:14)
The Tree of Life, then, is associated with a way of life—one that requires overcoming (growth against a standard of righteousness) and keeping (doing) God's commandments. The only ones who are allowed to partake of the Tree of Life are those who have changed themselves (with God's help, by His Spirit) to begin living in the same manner as He does. To those who submit to His standard of righteousness, then, He grants life that is both endless and of the same quality that He enjoys.
Satan, though, in addition to casting doubt on what God plainly says, and implying that God is unfair by withholding good things, offers a shortcut. He says, "You do not need to follow God's way, for it is obviously unfair and far too stringent. You can follow your own way. You can take knowledge to yourself of what is good and what is evil. You can be just like God in determining what is right and wrong." Adam and Eve took the bait, and ever since, man has rejected God's standard of righteousness in favor of his own.
This heresy is easily seen in the antinomianism (literally, "against law") of the Gnostics, who may not have been against every law, but were certainly against any law that impinged upon their standard of conduct. Thus the ascetic Gnostics who grieved the Christians in Colossae held to manmade regulations of "do not touch, do not taste, do not handle" (Colossians 2:20-21), while rejecting the command to "rejoice" with food and drink during the God-ordained festivals. Similarly, mainstream Christianity will (rightly) use portions of Leviticus and Deuteronomy to point out God's abhorrence of abortion and homosexuality, but will claim that the same law is "done away" when it comes to the Sabbath and holy days. They have taken to themselves the knowledge of what is good and what is evil, establishing their own standard of righteousness.
A core issue of the Bible is whether we submit to God's governance or try to form a government based on our own perception of what is good or what works. God's way results in eternal life, but it comes with the obligation to submit ourselves to God. It requires keeping all of His commandments and overcoming our human weaknesses that do not rise to that standard. Satan, conversely, seeks to persuade us to do our own thing and to usurp God's prerogative in defining right living. He encourages us to be enlightened, to have our eyes opened, by doubting God and rejecting His way.
David C. Grabbe
Whatever Happened to Gnosticism? Part Three: Satan's Three Heresies
Often neglected in favor of more "exciting" prophecies, this first prophecy holds the fundamental principles for understanding the nature of Satan's relationship to Christ and the church, woman's relationship with man, man's relationship with nature, and sin's role in human suffering. Few subjects are more important!
The setting of this prophecy provides the necessary background information we need to understand the full implications of God's pronouncements in these verses. Adam and Eve were still living in the Garden of Eden. Satan, speaking through a serpent, had just deceived Eve into eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. She, in turn, had persuaded Adam to do the same. These sins demanded the judgment of God, which He expresses as curses that would result from their disobedience.
At first glance, the curses seem severe. These two innocents—babes, really—had no armor "against the wiles of the devil" (Ephesians 6:11). However, they had received instruction from God on the very point in question (Genesis 2:16-17), and this should have been sufficient to deter them. From God's point of view, their actions were sheer rebellion!
In addition, when God inquired about their actions (Genesis 3:11), they neither admitted their transgressions nor sought forgiveness. Instead, they shifted the blame—Adam to Eve, and Eve to Satan (verses 12-13)! Their actions throughout this scenario told God plenty about their character, making his predictions certain.
Thus, what we see is that God did not curse them—they cursed themselves! Because of sin's predictable course, God merely voices the consequences of their actions in prophetic terms. This prophecy, then, includes Satan's ultimate guilt and punishment, mankind's battle of the sexes and struggle to survive, and the need for a Savior to repair the damage they had caused. What we see in microcosm is the plan of God!
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The First Prophecy (Part One)
Satan subtly persuaded Adam and Eve that by taking the knowledge of good and evil, they would be like gods, and by this he inserted himself as a rival to God for man's loyalty. He implied that they could institute their own ways and standards. However, he concealed from them that he would influence mankind in establishing those ways and standards so that he, the god of this world, would be sovereign and obeyed. The result of this is that those who submit to him are made in the Devil's image, rather than God's.
Satan, eminently successful in his ruse, has been imitated by all mankind. By the time God calls us, we are thoroughly in his image. We are so indoctrinated into his way of life that even by nature we are children of wrath!
Satan cunningly hides something else from Adam and Eve: His brand of freedom to establish standards and to choose creates tremendous diversity and thus a constant and wearying confusion. When vanity enters this mix, the result is divorce in the family, social problems in the community, and on a larger scale, bloody warfare. Mankind has paid a horrible price for wrongly choosing Satan as sovereign.
From His nature of love and wisdom, God pre-determined what is right and beautiful, and He taught Adam and Eve His way of life, instruction now included in His Word. If we want to achieve His purpose and be in His image, unlike our first parents, we must limit our free moral agency to choosing whether to submit to the universal, life-encompassing standards He has already determined.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six
1 Peter 1:18-20
Our Savior Jesus Christ was appointed in advance, predestined before the foundation of the world to die for the sins of men. This strongly indicates that God had no doubt that men would sin, so He was prepared. After He created Adam and Eve, He put them in the Garden of Eden and instructed them. Shortly thereafter, Satan came along to make his pitch for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Persuaded, Adam and Eve snapped at the bait of immediate gratification, broke four commandments, and brought the death penalty on themselves. Thus, God set the stage that would create a monumental calamity that reverberates through the millennia, claiming even the life of God in the flesh.
Why did God not step in and stop the sins from occurring? Why did He not restrain Satan or speak out saying, "This is the way. Walk in it"? He could have at any time. He was not distracted elsewhere, and no one could restrain His hand. Further, we must understand that God did not make them sin or force them into it. He did allow them to do it if they so chose. He did nothing to stop them from being seduced by the temptation.
God's awareness of what is happening in His creation and His power over every aspect of it are so complete that, if something happens to us, He has willed it. This does not necessarily mean He plans every occurrence, but He does will it to happen simply by doing nothing to stop it. The actions of Satan, Adam, and Eve in no way caught God by surprise; He knew they were going to sin. There was no "Plan B." Because God is never surprised, He does not get frustrated. He always has things under control, so He does not get fearful and nervous as we do.
John W. Ritenbaugh
God's Sovereignty and the Church's Condition (Part Two)
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