Were Adam and Eve real, historical, three-dimensional people? There’s no reason to suppose that they were anything but what the Bible says. Some dismiss this prototype couple as myth, but the Bible stakes its own credibility on the reality of Adam and Eve, referring to them repeatedly as real people, and to their lives, actions and example as actual and historical (Gen. 5:1-5; 1 Chr. 1:1; Hos. 6:7; Lk. 3:38; Rom. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 15:22,45; 2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:13-14; Jude 1:14). If Adam and Eve were not real, but only mythical or symbolic, then all the Bible is open to question. As Christians, we believe that all of the Bible is God’s Word, completely reliable and authoritative, the essence of truth. Thus, Adam and Eve are real. They were the only humans ever to live without experiencing birth, childhood, puberty and adolescence – all the stages of maturing. They began life as adults, from the hand and breath of the Creator (Gen. 1-2), long before the enemy of truth hatched the theory of evolution!
There was never a moment when Adam and Eve were not capable of grasping their relationship with their Creator. Yet they failed to value it rightly. Their innocence was not the innocence of infancy, as they were fully aware of God and consciously experienced and enjoyed His fellowship. How many Christians today fail to value and honor this intimate relationship with their Creator-Savior, and thus stray from the path of obedience and the blessing that follows?
Failing to rightly value their own relationship with God, Adam and Eve were evidently unable to effectively communicate to Cain, their firstborn, a due appreciation for this awesome relationship, and the duty to revere, respect, honor and obey Him. The very first children born into the human race needed the nurturing care and guidance of adults to find their way to adulthood, just as we do today. Though they never experienced childhood themselves, Adam and Eve were in no way disadvantaged for raising children; they had 130 years of experience getting to know themselves, their environment and their Creator. Some things they would learn along with their children, just as we today learn many things from and with our children.
However, the most significant lesson they would learn, a tragic one, was learned before they had children. It is also one of the first lessons we learn from Adam and Eve: that disregarding God’s instructions in order to advance our own agenda has far-reaching consequences for ourselves and for those who come after us. A single self-centered action by this couple was etched on the DNA of all their descendants – the entire human race from that day on – an enormous genetic flaw and a heritage of sin and death. Nevertheless, their lesson is so essential for our warning and instruction: “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12).
Every problem we face, both in our own lives and in the world, is directly attributable to that first couple’s leap into the mysterious unknown to “find” themselves. And in so doing they turned their backs on the Creator whose instruction, when taken to heart, makes so many painful learning experiences unnecessary wastes of time and energy.
It would be easy to blame only Eve; but where was Adam? He ought to have been there to help and protect her – as a second opinion, if nothing else. And, if he was there (as several Bible commentators suggest) why didn’t he put on the brakes? Instead, he ate the forbidden fruit with her. And when God came calling, it was Adam, the responsible one, that He summoned, not Eve. This is a very important lesson in headship/leadership (Gen. 3).
Know Your Enemy!
Through their experience we can learn to recognize the voice of Satan – the enemy, the deceiver, the father of lies. First, he questioned whether God really said what He said, planting the seed of doubt in Eve’s mind, nurturing the now instinctive human tendency to question God rather than trust Him. We need to learn, as a first priority, to recognize our Creator’s voice and purposely guard His words (not misquote them) in our hearts and consciences, deliberately disposing our wills to obey Him without question. Then we need to urgently and deliberately instill this lesson in our children.
Next, the tempter flatly contradicted God: “You will not surely die” (Gen. 3:4). The substance of the lesson is this: Get to know God through regular study of His Word. Get to know His voice so well that when He speaks there is no doubt that it is He. Thus, when any other voice is speaking there will be no doubt that it is not God. Jesus taught about this in the relationship between the Good Shepherd and His sheep: “His sheep follow Him because they know His voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice” (Jn. 10:4-5).
Psalm 1 emphasizes this same truth from another angle: “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers (because) his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-2). Get to know the sound of the Lord’s shepherd-voice, and other voices will simply not ring true.
Another psalmist wrote: “I gain understanding from Your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path … and because I consider all Your precepts right, I hate every wrong path” (Ps. 119:104,128). Also, “As for the deeds of men – by the word of Your lips I have kept myself from the ways of the violent. My steps have held to Your paths; my feet have not slipped” (Ps. 17:4-5). Our Shepherd’s voice is heard first in His written Word, then in our consciences as they are formed by that Word. If nothing else, Adam and Eve should have been alerted to Satan’s fraud by his blatant contradiction of God’s Word! It was the first clue.
Innocence And Intimacy Lost
A lesson we must all learn (and the sooner the better) is that we are hopelessly helpless without God. Thank God that we who enjoy a relationship with Him through Jesus Christ and His salvation will never experience ultimate separation from or abandonment by God, which is the essence of hell. Nor did Adam and Eve experience this. Yet, what must have been their shock when they realized that their intimacy with the Creator’s protective embrace, that had cradled their human frailty, was gone! How many Christians today fail to truly experience such intimacy with God, and thus only vaguely miss it when it is compromised.
Like all of us, the first children born into this world were born of sinful parents; they would never experience the free intimacy of innocence with their Creator, but only a strained relationship that rested on a continuous sequence of bloody substitutionary sacrifices of innocent animal victims. May God help us to learn this lesson well from Adam, Eve and their first-generation children; and may we never take for granted the preciousness of the intimacy we have been given with our God, and the price our Savior paid for it – the ultimate, eternally valid substitutionary sacrifice.
Those first parents reaped the tragic consequences of their own rebellion in the rebellious nature of their children. And we, whether or not we learn from Adam and Eve, cannot escape the painful consequences of their original sin in our natures and our children’s. Though often too dull and insensitive to learn, we nevertheless confront those bitter, heart-breaking lessons in our own selves and in the generation that we are responsible to raise.
Lessons To Learn
Only when our children disobey, rebel and reject us, turning our love for them into pain in our souls, do we begin to sense something of what the Creator felt when His creatures defiantly rebelled against Him. This is when we learn the great lesson of the depth of God’s love. This is when we begin to grasp the marvel of our redemption: that He turned our rebellion against Him upon His sinless Son, adding to it His own righteous wrath against sin, and unleashing on His Son all the fire of hell. Finally, He accepted His Son’s sacrifice as full payment for our sin freely pardoning us, welcoming us as holy children into His divine family.
There is yet an ironic lesson: While our tendency is to excuse ourselves and blame others, we are quick to look at disobedient or unruly children as evidence of the parents’ failure. The irrational injustice of this view becomes clear when we consider that, from Adam and Eve on, all of God’s children have failed in some degree – frequently in shocking ways. Is God to blame for His children’s rebellion or disobedience? Of course not. Nor is it always a failure of parents when their grown and responsible children go astray. Of course, all parents fail to some degree because we are human. We ourselves are disobedient children first, then we have children in our own image (Gen. 5:3). But God, the only perfect parent, can never be blamed for His children’s failures. We are responsible for our own choices and decisions.
Is This Fair?
And this is fair by virtue of the fact that our loving Creator has given us a conscience, a sense of right and wrong, and the freedom to choose, as part of our humanity (Rom. 1:18-20; 2:14-15). Further, He forms that conscience by His Word – through His instructions, warnings, and corrective counsel. We are then responsible to follow His Word. When we obey our own fallen inclinations (inherited from Adam and Eve) rather than His supreme wisdom, we alone are responsible. Yet, even in our disobedience, His love and mercy shine upon us: He offers us not only forgiveness through His Son’s death and resurrection, but also His Holy Spirit to indwell us and enable us to behave for His glory.
There is much we can and should learn from Adam and Eve. And the sooner the better.
By Bill Van Ryn
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org