Most people at some time in their life have thought to themselves, “This isn’t fair,” or “I don’t deserve this.” I remember having this conversation in my mind. In reality I was questioning God and saying, “Why am I here? I didn’t choose to be here. I didn’t ask to be born. I didn’t choose to come into this world, and yet, here I am.”
The Bible describes only two destinies—heaven or hell. When younger, I thought I understood which way I was headed, but no matter what I did, it was like swimming upstream against the current. As much as I would struggle and fight to try to do what I knew was right, it seemed as if I was continually going deeper and deeper into sin. It was in this frame of mind that I began questioning God, asking, “Why am I here?”
In Deuteronomy 30:19 it says, “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live.”
Ever since sin entered into the universe, every created being has had to make a decision to ultimately choose life or death. It began in heaven when Lucifer rebelled against the government of God, resulting in all the angels having to choose to whom they would give their allegiance. When God created man, the devil charged Him with being an arbitrary ruler, not allowing His created beings the freedom of choice.
“And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” Genesis 2:7.
Adam was created perfect when he was put in his garden home and given every advantage to know God. Immortality was not given to him at that time. His character had to be tested to see if he would remain faithful to God. It was no fault of God that sin entered into the universe, although He is generally blamed for its results.
“It certainly was not God’s purpose that man should be sinful. He made Adam pure and noble, with no tendency to evil. He placed him in Eden, where he had every inducement to remain loyal and obedient. The law was placed around him as a safeguard.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 1, 1084.
Everything he could have needed was provided for him, and the test God gave him was made as small as possible. After a time, had Adam been faithful, he would have been set apart and set outside of Satan’s temptations.
“God had power to hold Adam back from touching the forbidden fruit; but had He done this, Satan would have been sustained in his charge against God’s arbitrary rule. Man would not have been a free moral agent, but a mere machine.” Ibid.
God wants man to be free, and only in Him is there true freedom. Satan, however, has a different agenda; his “freedom” leads man into bondage.
“In what consisted the strength of the assault made upon Adam, which caused his fall? It was not his indwelling sin; for God made Adam after His own character, pure and upright. There were no corrupt principles in the first Adam, no corrupt propensities or tendencies to evil. Adam was as faultless as the angels before God’s throne.” Manuscript Releases, vol. 16, 8.
God not only created Adam in His own image, perfect without a taint of sin with no inclinations to sin, but He provided him everything he needed. The temptation was as small as possible, yet we know the story of what happened.
“And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” Genesis 3:2–6.
Adam and Eve failed the simple test of loyalty that would assure them eternal security. Now the innocence they had before they fell, “they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25), was gone. Instead, “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Genesis 3:7. When they sinned, they lost the robe of light, the robe of innocence. (See Christ’s Object Lessons, 311.)
They were no longer innocently naked, and their best effort to cover themselves was to sew together fig leaves. The results of Adam’s sin have affected the whole human race.
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Romans 5:12. The decision Adam made affects each one of us through the inheritance we received from him. No other man was created separate to Adam. We are all part of that original creation and Adam could pass on to his posterity no higher character than what he possessed.
“When Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden, they were innocent and sinless, in perfect harmony with God. Enmity had no natural existence in their hearts. But when they transgressed, their nature was no longer sinless. They became evil, for they had placed themselves on the side of the fallen foe, doing the very things that God specified they should not do. Had there been no interference on the part of God, fallen humans would have formed a firm alliance with Satan against heaven.” Christ Triumphant, 28.
“The transgression of God’s law brought woe and death in its train. Through disobedience man’s powers were perverted, and selfishness took the place of love. His nature became so weakened that it was impossible for him to resist the power of evil; and the tempter saw being fulfilled his purpose to thwart the divine plan of man’s creation and fill the earth with misery and desolation. Men had chosen a ruler who chained them to his car as captives.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers, and Students, 33.
“Eve fell under the temptation, and Adam accepted the forbidden fruit from his wife’s hand. He fell under the smallest test that the Lord could devise to prove his obedience, and the floodgates of woe were opened upon our world. He was furnished with a holy nature, sinless, pure, undefiled; but he fell because he listened to the suggestions of the enemy; and his posterity became depraved.” Christ Triumphant, 246.
Depraved—wicked, corrupt, destitute of holiness or good principles. That is the result of Adam’s sin which has been passed on to us. Why did he fall? It was because he didn’t believe God could replace Eve. She had been given to him by God and he loved her so much that he thought he could not live without her; therefore he determined to share her fate.
In contrast, Abraham is called the father of the faithful. Considering the test Abraham endured, it is easy to see why he is referred to in this way.
Where Adam’s test was the simplest that God could give him, Abraham’s test was the most severe, yet in reality it was the same test. God had given Abraham a son in his old age, whom he loved dearly. Then God said, “I want you to sacrifice him” (Genesis 22:2). The father of the faithful passed the test that Adam had failed.
The Condition of the Human Heart
“The heart is deceitful above all things [incurable], and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9.
“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23.
“I am carnal, sold under sin.” Romans 7:14. This is the heritage we have been given from Adam, our first parent. As his offspring, born under sin, we are born in bondage. Paul said that there is none righteous (Romans 3:10) and that in our flesh nothing good dwells (Romans 7:18).
Looking at it from the most basic aspect of things, our natural state is to be filled with all unrighteousness (Romans 1:29).
“Nothing but His righteousness can entitle us to one of the blessings of the covenant of grace. We have long desired and tried to obtain these blessings but have not received them because we have cherished the idea that we could do something to make ourselves worthy of them. We have not looked away from ourselves, believing that Jesus is a living Saviour. We must not think that our own grace and merits will save us; the grace of Christ is our only hope of salvation. …
“There are conscientious souls that trust partly to God and partly to themselves. They do not look to God, to be kept by His power, but depend upon watchfulness against temptation and the performance of certain duties for acceptance with Him. There are no victories in this kind of faith. Such persons toil to no purpose; their souls are in continual bondage, and they find no rest until their burdens are laid at the feet of Jesus.” Counsels for the Church, 47, 49.
“For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do, I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members warring against the law in my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” Romans 7:14–24.
In this passage, Paul says he delights in the law of God after the inward man and he wants to do what is right, but how to perform it he is unable to find. This shows you that willpower is not enough, the reason being that it is sin that dwells in him. Sin is the transgression of the law. Jesus made a more specific application for sin being within the mind. He said that a bad tree cannot bare good fruit and a good tree cannot bare bad fruit. Either the tree is good and the fruit is good, or the tree is bad and the fruit is bad (Matthew 7:17–19).
We are told that there is a law, that when I would do good, evil was present. In Romans 8:2 it says, “The law of sin and death.” There are judicial laws and there are natural laws. Judicial law is implemented when a punishment is given relative to the crime. The consequence of violating the natural law is built into the law. It’s not an arbitrary thing but is a natural course of events.
When God’s law is violated, the natural result is death because we separate ourselves from God. It is not God that arbitrarily says, “If you sin, I’m going to kill you.” It does not say that. The law says that if you sin, you transgress the law and will die as a natural consequence. If you were to violate the law of gravity, which says, “whatever goes up must come down” and jump off a building and get killed, it is not God that killed you. Dying was the result of jumping off the building. It is the same with God’s law—defy it and the natural consequence is death.
Paul says in Romans 7 that there is a law in his members that when he would do good, evil was present with him. Compare this with the illustration of the law of gravity. You can jump up and even get off the ground for a little while, but there is no way to get around the law of gravity which forces you to come right back down.
You could climb up in a tree or climb to the top of a mountain or even get higher, but still the law of gravity exists. Many Christians try to do the impossible by good works. As far as being under the law of sin and death, there’s nothing we can do that can get us out from under it.
However, there is another set of laws, and if you come into harmony with those laws, you can actually defy the law of gravity, because you are under a different law. It is called the law of aerodynamics. While in harmony with those laws, the law of gravity has no claim on you.
In Romans 8:1–4, Paul says, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
In order to be free from the law of sin and death, we have to come under a different law, the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. So, now there are two laws—the law of sin and death and the law of the Spirit of life.
Man has two choices—life or death. Being under one is to be freed from the other. Jesus said, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” Matthew 6:24.
There is no middle ground and you are either going to be under one master or the other. So the decision to be made is, Which one will you be under?
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come.” Romans 5:12–14.
Adam is the figure of Him that was to come. “And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven.” I Corinthians 15:45–47.
Adam was a figure of Christ. He stood at the head of the human race and in him the whole human race existed. Christ stands at the head of a new creation, a new race of people, those who are saved. What Adam did affected all of us. What Christ did, and still does, encompasses all of us.
In John 3:5, 6, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Here we have the flesh, Adam and the inheritance he gave us, and we have the Spirit and the inheritance that we have in Christ—two opposing sides.
“For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” Romans 8:5–12.
We either live in the flesh or in the Spirit. Romans 5:15–18 says, “(But not as the offence [contrasting the two Adams], so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many. And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift, for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification. For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”
The words free gift recurs through those verses. When I began to understand this, I thought that God had to deal with lots of things that were unfair. We were not there when Adam chose to sin and could not cast our votes. But we were also not there when Christ lived a righteous life. God knew that it wasn’t really fair for us to be born into this world and sold under sin, so He offered His own Son as a free gift making the way of salvation as easy as possible for us. He sent Jesus into the same world where we live, in the same body with the same struggles, that through His righteousness we can be set free from sin.
“He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” Romans 8:32. Think about that for a moment. What an awesome God to give us such a gift!
“And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.” Revelation 21:6.
Paul sums up the whole thing, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:19.
Here we have two Adams—two realities, the law of sin and death and the law of the Spirit of life. We have righteousness and unrighteousness—two inheritances and two choices—life or death. When Adam was created, he did not have to choose life for that was already his. By his sin he chose death.
We inherit the sentence of death for all have sinned, but through the sacrifice Jesus made we can choose life. “Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” Mark 9:23. This seems too good to be true. It doesn’t really seem possible that God is willing to freely give you His righteousness, but it is the truth.
How do we receive Christ and this new life? “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.” I John 5:11, 12.
“It is the spirit that quickeneth [make alive]; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life.” John 6:63. We receive Christ by faith as we receive His word. And His word is a living Word. The Bible says that every word of God is God-breathed.
When God breathed into Adam, He breathed into him life, just as He breathes life into His word. “The creative energy that called the worlds into existence is in the word of God. This word imparts power; it begets life. Every command is a promise; accepted by the will, received into the soul, it brings with it the life of the Infinite One. It transforms the nature and re-creates the soul in the image of God.
“The life thus imparted is in like manner sustained. ‘By every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’ (Matthew 4:4) shall man live.
“The mind, the soul, is built up by that upon which it feeds; and it rests with us to determine upon what it shall be fed.” Education, 126.
In every command and every promise of the word of God is the power, the very life of God by which the command may be fulfilled and the promise realized. He who by faith receives the Word is receiving the life and character of God. So God has given us through Christ the opportunity to choose life.
“Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue. Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” II Peter 1:2–4. (Emphasis supplied.)
It is through God’s promises, through His word that we receive by faith the divine nature. When we believe the promise, though we may not realize it at the time, we have the assurance that God will fulfill His promise to us. It is my prayer, not only for myself but for each one of us, that we will have this as a reality in our lives, to be in Christ, partakers of the divine nature, and be set free from the law of sin and death.
Jim Stoeckert is currently working as a Bible worker for Steps to Life.