Knowledge of Good and Evil

Posted on 09/02/2007 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.

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I will be still, know You are God

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You may be seated.

Today's message is titled, "Knowledge of Good and Evil."

Most of us are well aquainted with the historical account of the first man and woman, and how they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, bringing the nature of sin upon the entire human race.

But it's rare that we hear an explination of what that fruit was. It's usually portrayed as an apple, but that's not in Scripture. Have you ever wondered exactly what that fruit was, and how it imparted the knowledge of good and evil to the whole human race?

And what IS the knowledge of good and evil? Is it the awakening from ignorance to knowledge, or is there another, perhaps disturbing explination?

Let's read from Genesis chapter two, verse 8 through 9 and 15 through 17...

8 The LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden, and there He put the man whom He had  formed.
9 And out of the ground the LORD God made every tree grow that is pleasant to the sight  and good for food. The tree of life was also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

15 Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.
16 And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;
17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Lord, guide us as we explore your Word, and may your Holy Spirit speak to us today. Amen.

So God created all the trees, and placed in the garden all those that were good for food. At this time, there was no sin and no curse of sin. There was nothing but life, eternal life.

God did not create one single thing about which Scripture says, "And God saw that it was bad," or "And God saw that it flawed," or "And God saw that it was evil." Whatever God created, we read the statement, "And God saw that it was good."

So everything that God created, it was good, including the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

What do you suppose the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was? Was it a tree that had poisonous fruit? Scripture tells us that God caused to grow there every tree that was pleasant and good for food. And from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we see no physical effects that would suggest poisonous fruit.

Since there was no curse of sin upon creation at this time, there was no disorder, no destructive natural forces, nothing that was contrary to the order of life that is the very nature of God.

God created everything that had been created, and he does not make anything bad, or any mistakes.

I'd like for us to jump forward in time a bit, and read the words of the apostle Paul.

Let's read from Romans chapter fourteen, verse 14, 17-18, and 20.

14 I know and am convinced by the Lord Jesus that there is nothing unclean of itself; but  to him who considers anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

17 for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
18 For he who serves Christ in these things is acceptable to God and approved by men.

20 Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are pure, but it is evil for the man who eats with offense.

So we see here that food in itself is not the problem, and food and drink are not part of the Kingdom of God, but rather righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Yet in Genesis, we see that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil separated mankind from the Kingdom of God.

Because everything God created was good, I don't believe there was some sort of physical poison or chemical composition of the fruit which brought sin and a curse upon the human race.

There was something else involved here, something that went far beyond a piece of perfectly good fruit.

Let's read chapter three of Genesis and take a look at the fall of mankind.

Genesis 3

1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had  made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of  the garden’?”

2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden;
3 but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You  shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’”

4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.
5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be  like God, knowing good and evil.”

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes,  and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her  husband with her, and he ate.
7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they  sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.

8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day,  and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of  the garden.

9 Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”
10 So he said, “I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked;  and I hid myself.”
11 And He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I  commanded you that you should not eat?”
12 Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and  I ate.”

13 And the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”
The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 So the LORD God said to the serpent:
      “ Because you have done this,
      You are cursed more than all cattle,
      And more than every beast of the field;
      On your belly you shall go,
      And you shall eat dust
      All the days of your life.
15 And I will put enmity
      Between you and the woman,
      And between your seed and her Seed;
      He shall bruise your head,
      And you shall bruise His heel.”

16 To the woman He said:
      “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
      In pain you shall bring forth children;
      Your desire shall be for your husband,
      And he shall rule over you.”

17 Then to Adam He said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten  from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’:
      “ Cursed is the ground for your sake;
      In toil you shall eat of it
      All the days of your life.
18 Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you,
      And you shall eat the herb of the field.
19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread
      Till you return to the ground,
      For out of it you were taken;
      For dust you are,
      And to dust you shall return.”

20 And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living.
21 Also for Adam and his wife the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.

22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and  evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and  live forever”—
23 therefore the LORD God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which  he was taken.
24 So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and  a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

First we see that the serpent was the most cunning of all creatures. Under the influence of satan himself, the serpent, either by a then-strong sixth sense or by a language shared in that sinless world by man and beast, spoke the greatest deceptions of all time, deceptions which still lead us astray to this very day.

"Hasn't God said that you could eat of every tree of the garden?"

This is the half-truth. Yes, God did say they could eat the fruit of every tree in the garden. This the the out-of-context, leave out what you don't like, type of deception, and it's rampant in the Church today.

"There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus," is used to excuse all manner of sin.

"And no one shall be able to pluck them from my hand," is used to defend the notion that you cannot walk away from Salvation.

"Whom he foreknew, he also did predestine to be conformed to the image of his Son," is used to promote the idea that we have no choice in whether we accept Jesus or suffer eternity in hell.

And the list goes on. The half-truth is satan's first attempt at deception, and while it is only the most shallow of lies, it has led countless people to hell.

Eve easily dispelled that deception by stating the Word of the Lord. "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden, but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'"

Now Eve might have goten this a bit wrong, for God said "You shall not eat it," and Eve added, "nor shall you touch it." Perhaps the "nor shall you touch it" were words God said that were not recorded before Eve's retelling of them. Or perhaps these words were Eve's own addition, realizing that if she touched it, she would be overcome by temptation and eat it.

But even if she did not get this exactly right, it was enough to break through satan's first deception, and he went right into the next one.

His next words were this: "You will not surely die," or, "You will not REALLY die." I believe satan understood what we did not, that God was not saying they would physically die that day in the way we would think "you will die today" means.

Rather, God was speaking in spiritual terms. He was speaking of the true meaning of death, which is seperation. While they did die physically that day, only to be manifested at some time in the future, they also spiritually died that day, being separated from God.

So this deception was one of calling God a liar by twisting the true meanings of his words and pointing out that they did not apply to Eve's understanding of those words.

And we fall for this one, too, every day. "The Bible says that nothing bad is ever supposed to happen to me when it says, 'and no evil will come near your dwelling,' but bad things keep happening. So God is a liar, and his Word is not true."

Because we do not understand the true meanings of his words, we fall into the deception of thinking his words are not true. And we are led astray.

But satan did not stop here. He knew he was on a roll, and went right from calling God a liar to calling God selfish and elitist.

He said, "You will not surely die, for God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing Good and evil."

So in this one sentence, satan throws in every deception he uses on us today.

He claimed that God is a liar, God is unfair, you will have great knowledge and enlightenment if you ignore his Word, and you will yourself be a wise, intelligent, all-knowing god.

And both the man and the woman fell for it. When Eve gave the fruit to her husband, Scripture says that he was with her. She did not sneak off, get deceived, do a bad thing, then come back and deceive her husband. Rather, he was right there with her, and through this entire ordeal, he didn't say a single word. Some of you "strong silent types" need to speak up, and when you see someone being deceived, proclaim the Word of the Lord boldly and with the right attitude.

So he called God a liar, unfair, and claimed that God was selfishly withholding something good from us.

The fact is that the opposite was, and is, true.

The day that mankind ate of the fruit, we were separated from God and spiritually died; the same day, our physical death was put into motion, to manifest at a time we frequently least expect.

God indeed knows the results of our actions, and those deadly actions satan claims are good and desirable are actually deadly and destructive.

Who would you rather server? Someone who tickles your ears and delights in your doing things that destroy you and steal your life and true peace and joy, or someone who, unlike the wimp satan is, tells you the truth regardless of your reaction to it and delights in your doing things that build you up and bring you true peace and joy and life in great abundance?

From before time and creation began, God had an intimate love relationship with you in mind. And he wanted you to have a choice in that relationship, as well as in your eternal destiny and the fate of the world around you.

So he gave the angels the power to choose. They could choose to continue in the Kingdom order of God according to the spiritual laws he created which allowed them to exist, or they could choose to compromise with the purity of those laws and thereby follow another path.

Satan chose the latter, the path of compromise. He entertained the thought that he could ascend to the throne of God and be a god himself, with angels worshiping him.

And God's reaction was right and just, and was an action of both love and wrath. Satan was thrown out of heaven, and became the one who pointed out to mankind that they had a choice to either continue in the Kingdom order of God, or choose their own way, their own compromise, their own kingdom.

And this is exactly the reason God told them, "Do not eat of this tree, the tree I am calling the knowledge of good and evil. For choosing to act contrary to the perfect laws I have written and set in motion will result in separation from me, and from life.

You see, life, which brings true peace, joy, and fulfillment, is brought to us by Kingdom order. And it was not a chemical or a physical poison which separated us from God's life that day. Rather, it was our choice to abandon that law to embrace a lie, the lie that God's Word is not 100% true, that God is not completely just, and that God is withholding something from us that is desireable and good.

Before sin entered the world, there was no distinction between good and evil, for everything was good. And the knowledge of good and evil was the familiarity of compromise with the law of God, twisting of his nature, and rebellion against his Kingdom authority and order.

Some of you might not like the fact that a compromise with or twisting of life is death and separation from pure and eternal life, but not liking something does not make it a lie. Not thinking something is fair does not make it unfair. Not thinking something is true does not make it a lie. Thinking God is anything less than completely good, completely just, and in complete authority, does not make him any less good, just, and supreme ruler of the universe.

So that day in the garden we got what we set out to get -- the knowledge of good and evil, the familiarity with the twisted, the compromised, the counterfeit, and the defiled. And as a result, we separated ourselves from God and brought a curse upon all creation and all of the human race.

"Well that's just not fair," you might say. "I didn't eat the fruit, why should I suffer?" Of course this is about the same as saying, "I didn't take drugs while my mother was pregnant with me, so why do I have to live with the resulting defects and deformities?"

In the garden of Eden, satan may have whispered his deceit. And since that time, he has repeated the same lies over and over, louder and louder, with more and more rage, until he is screaming it from every direction, determined to keep you from finding the path that leads to life.

And yet all the sickness, unfairness, calamity, distress, disease, disasters, suffering, cruelty, and depravity we see all around us is a direct result of bringing the knowledge of deviation from life into the world.

You see, God gave mankind dominion over all of creation. And by entering into a compromised path, Adam brought all that was under his authority into compromise. And ever since that time, creation has groaned under the weight of the curse of sin, awaiting the day of eternal deliverance.

So the knowledge of good and evil is still that with which we battle today. And it's important to realize here that knowledge is not the same thing as discernment. Knowledge is simply having the facts. Discernment is dividing those facts into absolutes, dividing even the slightest darkness from the purest light.

And this discernment comes only from God by his Holy Spirit. So let us pray every day for discernment, and I pray right now that our eyes would be open, and we would have discernment for our knowledge.

Knowledge without discernment will always lead us away from God. Discernment as the guide through the seas of knowledge is better than a bright lighthouse, because it shines a light on every wave, every decision, every direction, and every choice.

Knowledge of good and evil is already ours. We are already aware of everything from the absolute purest of God's ways to the absolute depravity of evil. And yet we so often take the wrong path, we struggle with sin, we excuse compromise, and we stumble around in confusion and defeat.

And that, my fellow travelers, is the knowledge of good and evil. It was not the obtaining of something withheld from us that we achieved that day. Rather, we won the prize of knowing what it was like to compromise and distort the laws and the nature of God.

I'd like for the altar workers to come to the front now.

And I don't need to ask if there is anyone here who lacks discernment. We ALL lack discernment. We ALL walk outside of the perfect Kingdom order of God. We ALL experience on a daily basis a life that falls short of the glory of God. And we ALL struggle every moment of our lives with the knowledge of good and of evil.

The question is, what are we doing about it? Are we comfortable with where we are? Are we holding on to our little bits of compromise? Are we happy with a little bit of deviation from what discernment would tell us is the perfect nature of God?

Or are we falling on our faces daily, crying out to God for mercy, deliverance, and wisdom and discernment, so we can move just a little closer to him today?

When Jesus' disciples asked him how they should pray, his answer is what we call "The Lord's Prayer." And yet, it is not just the Lord's prayer, it should be OUR prayer, our daily heart's cry.

And directly after a time of worshiping God for the holiness of his character, his nature, his name, come the words, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Do we pray every day that the holy, perfect nature of God would come more clearly into our focus, and that the kingdom authority and order of God would come into our lives?

Lord God, we worship you today, for you are holy and just, righteous and awesome, perfect and perfectly good. Holy is your name. And we ask for your Kingdom to come. May your kingdom order be established in our lives, Lord. Give us discernment to guide us through lives that are filled with the knowledge of good and of evil. And give each one here a growing desire to turn their lives toward your perfect ways, and to follow hard after you.

If you will join with me today in declaring to yourself and to God that you will seek after guidance and discernment, you will pray daily for the Kingdom of God and his kingdom order to be established in your life, and that you will believe his Word over all of even the most subtle of the enemy's lies, then come to the front right now.

And as we gather at the front for a time of prayer and dedication, be sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Feel free to invite someone to pray with you, if they have a heart to follow after God. Today is the day that the Spirit of the Living God is calling out to you to throw your excuses and every hinderance aside, and to follow after him. And if you are not following after Jesus, today is your day of Salvation.

If you would like prayer or ministry, instant message one of these on the ministry team, and as your time of ministry is over, everyone is invited to the room on your left for fellowship.

Come, and let's seek after God together.