Genesis describes how everything God created was good (Gen. 1). God created humans as his royal image bearers to rule over creation, tend his garden, and care for his creatures—honoring their creator in all. Adam and Eve were righteous and upright, with the full ability to obey God and keep all his commands.
The theologian Herman Bavinck writes: “Why did God create the world? the answer is: Because he so willed.” God didn’t have to tell us why he made the universe, but he wanted us to have specific knowledge about him (special revelation) that we could never acquire from observing and studying the physical world (general revelation).
The Bible begins and ends in a beautiful garden with a life-giving tree located in each one. There is a good reason for this: God created the world for his glory—so that his creation would live unto him, giving him praise in all things. Genesis describes how everything God created was good (Gen. 1). God created humans as his royal image bearers to rule over creation, tend his garden, and care for his creatures—honoring their creator in all. Adam and Eve were righteous and upright, with the full ability to obey God and keep all his commands. After breathing life into the first human,
The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 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.” (Gen. 2:16– 17)
Adam and Eve were responsible to serve God and care for all the creation under their dominion. To prove their faithfulness to their Creator, God gave Adam a test: Adam must obey God’s command to not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in order to eat from the other mentioned tree in the garden—the tree of life (Gen. 2:9)—and live forever in God’s presence.
The Covenant between God and Adam
The relationship that existed between God and Adam had a condition placed upon it, which was Adam’s obedience, as well as a reward for obedience (life) and a consequence for disobedience (death), and Adam represented all of humanity in this covenant. The seventeenth-century theologian Herman Witsius states,
If Adam therefore had persevered in obedience, the law would have brought him to that same inheritance [eternal life], which now in Christ is allotted not to him that worketh, but to him that believeth.
This conditional covenantal relationship Adam had with God is also known as the covenant of works.
Jesus Teaches Us How the World’s Problems Began
There was an enemy in God’s garden—one who had rebelled against God and now sought to bring humanity under his dominion. The serpent, a fallen angel called the devil, wanted the glory for himself (Isa. 14:12–15; Matt. 4:8–10; Luke 4:5–8). He enticed Adam and his wife Eve to disobey God by eating the only forbidden fruit in the entire garden, falsely claiming that the fruit would make them “like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4–5).
The moment Adam and Eve ate the fruit, their eyes were opened—but not in the way Satan led them to believe. They painfully saw the shame of their sin and rebellion against God and attempted in vain to hide from him. Adam and Eve tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves, but their own efforts could do nothing to remove their guilt and punishment (Gen. 3:7).
Because of Adam and Eve’s disobedience, Eve would now bring forth children in increased pain, and her husband would rule over her (Gen. 3:16). God cursed the ground from which Adam must now toil to produce food (Gen. 3:17–18). Then God replaced the man-made fig leaves Adam and Eve wore: “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21). Finally, God drove Adam and Eve out of the garden and placed an angel to guard the tree of life. Instead of communing daily with God, the sin of the first man and woman made them unworthy to stand in their creator’s holy presence.