To understand the plan of salvation we must understand not only the nature of man when he was first created, but what happened to his nature when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit.
The glory of God is His character, and man was created in the image of God for the purpose of revealing His glory. We know that the law of God is a transcript of His character, and an expression of His very nature. The law of God embodies the principles of righteousness, and the very essence of God’s nature is summed up in two words: divine love.
Adam was created with these principles of righteousness written upon his heart; divine love motivated every thought, word, and action of his life. He was in harmony with the character and nature of God and could therefore reflect the glory of God. But when Adam disobeyed God and acquired a knowledge of evil, something changed in his nature.
“The world laid its homage, as a willing offering, at the feet of the enemy.” Testimonies, Vol. 6, 236
“From eternal ages it was God’s purpose that every created being, from the bright and holy seraph to man, should be a temple for the indwelling of the Creator. Because of sin, humanity ceased to be a temple for God. Darkened and defiled by evil, the heart of man no longer revealed the glory of the Divine One.” The Desire of Ages, 161
Paul refers to this in Ephesians 2:2, 3, “You once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” We are familiar with what happened after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. They knew they had sinned, and in shame they hid from God’s presence. Adam said, “ ‘I heard Your voice in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; and I hid myself.’ ” Genesis 3:10
First John 4:18 tells us that there is no fear in love because perfect love, God’s kind of love, casts out fear. If we are afraid, then we have not been perfected in love. Adam was made perfect in love and given a simple test to determine his loyalty to his Creator, but he failed when he ate of the fruit. He yielded to temptation, and his nature was changed.
Now no longer perfected in love, he feared his Creator. This was the first change we see in the nature of man as a result of sin. Adam was now a bondservant of the devil, and as the legal representative of the human race, he had chosen for himself, and on behalf of all mankind to come, to serve the enemy of righteousness.
Adam’s single act of disobedience demonstrated that he believed Satan’s lie and disbelieved God’s word, thereby implying that God was a liar. As a result, he transferred his love and loyalty from God to his new master, Satan. “The white robe of innocence was worn by our first parents when they were placed by God in holy Eden. They lived in perfect conformity to the will of God. All the strength of their affections was given to their heavenly Father. A beautiful soft light, the light of God, enshrouded the holy pair. This robe of light was a symbol of their spiritual garments of heavenly innocence.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 310, 311
Adam and Eve were not naked, they were clothed in light. But once they ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they accepted Satan as their new master, and traded this robe of innocence for the nakedness of sin. We need to know what this garment of light represented, why it is so significant that Adam and Eve were once clothed in it, and what a great loss it was when it was removed from them.
The Bible uses light to represent the law of God and since the law is a transcript of His character, light also represents God’s character.
“For the commandment is a lamp, and the law is light; reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” Proverbs 6:23
“To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” Isaiah 8:20
“Listen to Me, My people; and give ear to Me, O My nation: for a law shall proceed from Me, and I will make My judgment to rest for a light to the people.” Isaiah 51:4
Jesus came as a man to represent God’s law, to bear this light to the world. “Christ came to our world to represent the character of God as it is represented in His holy law; for His law is a transcript of His character.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 17, 8. “The law of God is an expression of His very nature; it is an embodiment of the great principle of love, and hence is the foundation of His government in heaven and earth.” Steps to Christ, 60. The robe of light worn by Adam and Eve before the fall was a symbol of the law of God—the righteousness of God that was written in their heart when they were created.
“This robe of light was a symbol of their spiritual garments of heavenly innocence. Had they remained true to God it would ever have continued to enshroud them. But when sin entered, they severed their connection with God, and the light that had encircled them departed. Naked and ashamed, they tried to supply the place of the heavenly garments by sewing together fig leaves for a covering.
“This is what the transgressors of God’s law have done ever since the day of Adam and Eve’s disobedience. They have sewed together fig leaves to cover their nakedness caused by transgression. They have worn the garments of their own devising, by works of their own they have tried to cover their sins, and make themselves acceptable with God.
“But this they can never do. Nothing can man devise to supply the place of his lost robe of innocence.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 311
Revelation 16:13 describes the sixth plague as three unclean spirits that come out of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet. These spirits go out to the kings of the earth and the whole world to gather them together to that great battle of the great day of God almighty. We want to notice, right in the middle of this description, Jesus stops and makes an announcement in verse 15, “ ‘Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.’ ” Mrs. White explains this more clearly in Manuscript Releases, Vol. 8, 345, “ ‘Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked (without the robe of Christ’s righteousness) and they see his shame.’ ”
Friend, there is nothing that we can ever do to cover our own nakedness, no more than could Adam and Eve. People try, just like Adam and Eve tried, but the only way your spiritual nakedness can be covered is with Christ’s righteousness, a spiritual robe of light that embodies the principle of God’s law and love.
So, what happens when there is an absence of God’s love in the life and nature of man? “For God is love, and love is life.” Christ’s Object Lesson, 258. “Leaving the first love is represented as a spiritual fall.” The Review and Herald, December 15, 1904. Having left his first love, Adam now feared God, because he no longer had the perfect love of God in his heart, and his connection with God was severed. His robe of light—righteousness—was replaced with a robe of darkness—selfishness.
“Under God, Adam was to stand at the head of the earthly family, to maintain the principles of the heavenly family. This would have brought peace and happiness. But the law that none ‘liveth to himself’ (Romans 14:7), Satan was determined to oppose. He desired to live for self and sought to make himself a center of influence. It was this that had incited rebellion in heaven, and it was man’s acceptance of this principle that brought sin on earth. When Adam sinned, man broke away from the heaven-ordained center. A demon became the central power in the world. Where God’s throne should have been, Satan placed his throne. The world laid its homage, as a willing offering, at the feet of the enemy.” Counsels to Parents, Teachers and Students, 33
“Man was originally endowed with noble powers and a well-balanced mind. He was perfect in his being, and in harmony with God. His thoughts were pure, his aims holy. But through disobedience, his powers were perverted, and selfishness took the place of love.” Steps to Christ, 17
“When man fell, the law of self was set up. This law harmonizes with the will of sinful humanity. There is no strife between them. But when the word of God speaks to the conscience, telling of a higher than human will, even the will of God, man’s will desires to go its own way, irrespective of consequences. The charm of obedience was broken by Adam’s disobedience. A sense of the importance of obedience as an absolute necessity, ceased to exist in the mind. And now man thinks, If I choose, I can obey God; and if I choose, I can disobey Him.” The Signs of the Times, January 25, 1899
“Love is power. Intellectual and moral strength are involved in this principle, and cannot be separated from it.” Gospel Workers, 311. Paul says in Romans 7:22, 23: “I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” What is that other law? Paul calls it the law of sin. Mrs. White calls it the law of self. When Adam fell, the desire to live for self, the principle of selfishness that governs Satan’s kingdom, became the governing principle of the heart and mind of man.
“When man transgressed the divine law, his nature became evil, and he was in harmony, and not at variance, with Satan. There exists naturally no enmity between sinful man and the originator of sin. Both became evil through apostasy.” The Great Controversy, 505
The Bible says that the heart of man is, “deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Jeremiah 17:9. The literal translation of desperately wicked is incurably wicked. Remember that the heart, mind, and will are used synonymously in the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, so these words all represent the governing power in the nature of man.
Think about this for a moment. When Adam sinned, everything about him changed. His perfect heart and mind, became sinful. His will, while still free to choose, became a slave to wickedness and, without determined effort and divine aid, would naturally always choose to do evil. His body was no longer free from age or disease or the desires of his selfish heart. His thoughts were no longer filled with love or in harmony with God’s mind, but were now open to and willing to receive the temptations and dictates of his new master. Adam could say, “I don’t want to be this way. I’m going to go back and be like I was before,” but he couldn’t make it so. Adam would be forever a sinner, unless he surrendered himself to the transforming power of God, which can and will change the heart, mind, and will of every man, woman, and child if they choose it, restoring once again the principles of righteousness and love within.
If the will is right, then all the rest of the being will come under its sway. The will is not an inclination, it is the choice, the deciding power, the kingly power which works in the children of men, either to obey or to disobey. “This will, that forms so important a factor in the character of man, was at the Fall given into the control of Satan.” Testimonies, Vol. 5, 515. Adam and Eve, by their deliberate choice to disobey God, gave their will to the tempter. Now in control of the will of man, Satan works in and through man to bring about his utter ruin.
“When man sinned, all heaven was filled with sorrow; for through yielding to temptation, man became the enemy of God, a partaker of the satanic nature. The image of God in which he had been created was marred and distorted. The character of man was out of harmony with the character of God; for through sin man became carnal.” The Signs of the Times, February 13, 1893
Carnal is from the Latin word caro which means flesh. The Greek word is Sarks, also meaning flesh. To be carnal is to be flesh. Just like heart, mind, and will, carnal and flesh are used synonymously in the Bible. Notice also, in the previous quotation, that the prophet uses nature and character synonymously. Let’s read that quotation again: “Through yielding to temptation, man became the enemy of God, a partaker of the satanic nature. The image of God in which he had been created was marred and distorted. The character of man was out of harmony with the character of God; for through sin man became carnal.”
Man sinned and became carnal, his nature governed by selfishness. The mind of man is intimately associated with his nature, and his mind is now ruled, not by the principle of divine love, but by the natural, ruling principle of selfishness.
“Selfishness and covetousness are at the foundation of all sins, yet many are not convicted of the sin of selfishness because it is a part of their nature, and they do not listen to the reproving of the Holy Spirit.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 13, 270
“It is a weakness of humanity to pet selfishness, because it is a natural trait of character.” The Faith I Live By, 140
“Sin alienated him [Adam] from his Maker. He no longer reflected the divine image. His heart was at war with the principles of God’s law. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ Romans 8:7.” The Great Controversy, 467
We clearly see that when Adam sinned, the change that occurred in his nature—replacing the robe of light representing the principles of love and obedience with a robe of selfishness and sinfulness—is a change that affected all who came after him, right down through time to all of us today. But we must look carefully at something else that was handed down to us as part of the change in our nature.
“Adam sinned, and the children of Adam share his guilt and its consequences; but Jesus bore the guilt of Adam, and all the children of Adam that will flee to Christ, the second Adam, may escape the penalty of transgression.” The Signs of the Times, May 19, 1890
Many Adventists do not believe or at least struggle with the idea, that through Adam we all share in the guilt for an action that we had nothing to do with. But let me ask a question: Is the guilt a result of Adam’s decision to eat of the fruit, or is it a consequence of something else?
“It is plainly written on the unrenewed heart and on a fallen world, All seek their own. Selfishness is the great law of our degenerate nature.” Ibid., December 8, 1881. “Selfishness is the want [lack] of Christlike humility, and its existence is the bane of human happiness, the cause of human guilt, and leads those who cherish it to make shipwreck of faith.” Mind, Character, and Personality, Vol. 1, 271, 272. What is the cause of human guilt? It is the governing principle of selfishness in the heart of man.
When Adam sinned, his loyalty and allegiance, and that of the entire human race, was transferred from God to Satan, and the principle of selfishness which is the cornerstone of his government became the natural ruling principle in man’s life. The key word here is natural. Man’s nature is now naturally selfish. It cannot, of itself, be any other way. And since selfishness is sin (The Signs of the Times, April 13, 1891), man is guilty of selfishness whether he commits a particular act of selfishness or not. Adam’s disobedience resulted in the consequence of a ruined nature, and the principle of selfishness by which his nature, and ours, is now governed, is the cause of our guilt.
In addition to this ruinous change in man’s nature and the guilt that accompanies the principle of selfishness that governs his heart, there is another consequence of Adam’s sin that his children must face.
“Sin is the cause of physical degeneration; sin has blighted the race, and introduced disease, misery, and death.” Pacific Health Journal, February 1, 1902. Consequences to our moral nature led to a selfish, sinful nature and involved us in guilt, but there are also degenerative consequences to our physical nature that are not sin. It is very important to understand the difference.
“Adam disobeyed, and entailed sin upon his posterity.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 6, 3. The word entail means to be settled on a person and his descendants. Adam settled sin upon his posterity. This entailment separates us from God because we now have carnal minds and hearts.
“ ‘The carnal [or natural] mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.’ Human nature could not keep the law, even if it would. Apart from Christ, without union with Him, we can do nothing. ‘Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God.’ The law requires us to present to God a holy character. It demands of men today just what it demanded of Adam in Eden—perfect obedience, perfect harmony with all its precepts in all relations of life, under all circumstances and conditions. No unholy thought can be tolerated, no unlovely action can be justified. As the law requires that which no man of himself can render, the human family are found guilty before the great moral standard, and it is not in the province of law to pardon the transgressor of law. The standard of the law cannot be lowered to meet man in his fallen condition. No compromise can be made with the sinner to take less than the full requirement of the law. The law cannot acquit the guilty, it cannot cleanse the sinner, or give power to the transgressor to raise himself into a purer, holier atmosphere. Standing before a holy, good, and just law, and finding ourselves condemned because of transgression, we may well cry out, What shall we do to be saved?” The Signs of the Times, May 30, 1895
This statement is very clear. The law requires righteousness, a holy character. The law must be written in the heart, stamped on the soul. We do not have this righteousness, but Jesus does, and He offers it to each and every one of Adam’s children. He offers it to you and me.
“By nature we are alienated from God. The Holy Spirit describes our condition in such words as, ‘Dead in trespasses and sins;’ ‘The whole head is sick, the whole heart faint;’ ‘no soundness in it.’ We are held fast in the snare of Satan, ‘taken captive by him at his will.’ ” Steps to Christ, 43
Let’s do a quick review and answer the following questions:
What does it mean to be naked?
To be naked represents an absence of Christ’s righteousness. Christ’s righteousness is represented in His law which is described in two words: divine love.
Why did Adam’s nakedness cause him to fear?
Because perfect love casts out fear and Adam had left his first love.
What does being naked have to do with the change in man’s nature after the fall?
The robe of light was a symbol of God’s law—His righteousness surrounding them, the principles of righteousness and love in their hearts. This garment departed when Adam and Eve sinned and selfishness became the natural, ruling principle of the nature and character of man.
Does this nakedness have anything to do with death?
Paul tells us in Romans 8:6, “For to be carnally [fleshly] minded is death.” Remember, “God is love, and love is life.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 258. Without God’s love and righteousness in the life, death is the inevitable result. Adam, having left his first love, died spiritually that day, and would have died physically as well if Christ had not interceded on man’s behalf. Man’s choice resulted in death, but Christ’s choice to intercede resulted in redemption.
“When man sinned, all heaven was filled with sorrow … . They ceased their songs of praise, and throughout the heavenly courts there was mourning for the ruin sin had wrought. … Since the divine law is as changeless as the character of God, there could be no hope for man unless some way could be devised whereby his transgression might be pardoned, his nature renewed, and his spirit restored to reflect the image of God. Divine love had conceived such a plan. …
“The Creator of man, could be his Saviour. No angel of heaven could reveal the Father to the sinner, and win him back to allegiance to God. … None but Christ could redeem man from the curse of the law. He proposed to take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin—sin so offensive in the sight of God that it would necessitate separation from His Father. Christ proposed to reach to the depths of man’s degradation and woe, and restore the repenting, believing soul to harmony with God. … Christ redeemed him from the condemnation of the law, and imparted divine power, and through man’s cooperation, the sinner could be restored to his lost estate.” The Signs of the Times, February 13, 1893
Any particle of selfishness in my heart makes me a partaker of the satanic nature and an enemy of God, and I have no ability to remove selfishness from my nature. But there is hope for mankind—it is to surrender and be born again. The Christian religion is more than just Jesus dying on the cross and forgiveness of sins. That was necessary or I could not be saved, but I can never be saved until the natural selfishness of my nature has been replaced with a new heart and a new mind. This is accomplished only when I surrender my heart, mind, and will to the working of the Holy Spirit.
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.