Surprised By Grace - Part 2

Theme: Where Grace Begins

This week’s lessons show us how grace came unexpectedly to Adam and Eve when they sinned, and that this same grace is given through Jesus Christ to all who will come to him for salvation.

Scripture: Genesis 3:21

So where do we begin? If grace is as important as I have been suggesting, it will not surprise you if I begin at the beginning, that is, with the early chapters of the book of Genesis.

The first and second chapters of Genesis tell about God's creation of Adam and Eve, our first parents. They were perfect originally, which we would expect of something made by God, and they were placed in a perfect environment with meaningful work to do. They were what we might call God's regents in creation. They were to rule over the creation, care for the Garden of Eden, and name the animals. We are not to think of this last task in a silly manner, as if they merely pulled names out of the blue and tacked them onto whatever animals came by. Naming something in a meaningful way is not easy. If they were to name the animals, presumably they were to study and classify them according to their true biological relationships. Would that we had it so good! Adam and Eve had a perfect and beautiful environment in which to work, a loving companion with whom to work, and interesting work to do.

But there was a catch. Although Adam and Eve were given what seemed to be a maximum amount of freedom to live and act as they pleased, they were nevertheless made by God and were responsible to God for what they did. God gave them something to remind them of this relationship. He placed a tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden with instructions that they were not to eat from it. His warning was, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die" (Gen. 2:17).

Well! Not eat of that tree? And without any explanation of why not? The command seemed arbitrary and, no doubt, offensive. At any rate, it must have seemed so to Adam, for there is no suggestion anywhere in the story that he was deceived by the devil's talk, as Eve was. He ate simply because the command had been given, and he was offended by it. Why shouldn't he do what he wanted to do? Especially since it was “his garden" and he was in charge of what went on there.

I understand him. One spring, when I was in the sixth grade, our school principal came into the classroom just before we were to be released to go home for lunch. He had heard that some of the students had been playing with firecrackers, and he wanted to say that this was definitely not allowed. Firecrackers were dangerous. They were against Pennsylvania state law. If any of his students even brought a firecracker into school, even if it was not set off, he would expel him from school immediately.

I did not own any firecrackers. I had not even been thinking about firecrackers. But, you know, once a person starts thinking about them, firecrackers really are an intriguing subject. As I thought about it, I remembered one of my friends who had some.

On the way home from school a friend and I went by this other friend's house, picked up a firecracker and returned to school within forty-five minutes after the principal's announcement. We went into the cloakroom, invited a friend to come in with us and said, “You hold the firecracker by the middle of the fuse. Pinch it very tight. Then we will light it. The others will think that it is going to explode. But when it burns down to your fingers it will go out, and everything will be all right.”

What we had not counted on was that the fire would burn our friend's fingers. When we lit the fuse, it did. Our friend dropped the firecracker. It exploded in an immense cloud of blue smoke and tiny bits of white paper in the midst of which we emerged from the closet, shaken and a bit deaf. You cannot imagine how loud a firecracker sounds in an old public school building with high ceilings, marble floors, and plaster walls.

Nor can you imagine how quickly a principal can get out of his office, down the hall, and into one of the classrooms. The principal was in our classroom before my friends and I had staggered through the cloakroom's open door. He was as stunned as we were, though for a different reason. I recall him saying over and over, after we had been sent home and had come back to his office with our parents, “I had just made the announcement. I had just told them not to bring any firecrackers into school. I just can't believe it.” He couldn't believe it then. But I am sure that our rebellion, as well as other acts of rebellion by children over the years, eventually turned him into a staunch, Bible-believing Calvinist—at least so far as the doctrine of total depravity of children is concerned.

Eve does not seem to have been quite as rebellious as we were with the firecrackers. But she sinned too, because the devil deceived her. We know how he approached her. He began with a question that cast doubt on God's goodness: “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Gen. 3:1). I suppose the emphasis was upon the word “really," spoken in a somewhat incredulous tone of voice. “Really?" Satan was saying. “I find it hard to believe a command like that. It's so unreasonable. Could God possibly mean that?”

By the time Eve had straightened the devil out, explaining that God had not forbidden them to eat of every tree in the garden but only that one tree that was in the middle of the garden, the damage was already done, and she had begun to wonder if God was really a benevolent God after all.

Study Questions:

  1. Describe Adam’s and Eve’s relationship to God when they were created. What privileges and responsibilities characterized it?
  2. From the study, what were the two different reasons presented for why Adam and Eve, respectively, each partook of the fruit from the forbidden tree?
  3. Perhaps you can relate to Dr. Boice’s illustration of bringing firecrackers into school. Can you think of any experience where you acted in a way that clearly showed your relationship to Adam and Eve in their fallen state?

Application: Read Romans 5 and note how Paul compares our relationship in Adam and our relationship in Christ. Pray and ask the Lord to give you the grace to remember your true identity in Christ when the next temptation to behave like Adam comes.

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Thinking and Acting Biblically from James Boice is a devotional of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. It is supported only by its readers and gracious Christians like you. Please prayerfully consider supporting Thinking and Acting Biblically and the mission of the Alliance.