Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Genesis 2:15-17, Thinking about Grace Before the Fall

"The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the Lord 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.'"

This is fleshed out by the Apostle Paul, primarily in the fifth chapter of Romans, and is traditionally referred to as the Covenant of Works, because God promises eternal life to Adam on the basis of obedience. As the footnote in the Geneva Bible puts it, the purpose was "that man might know there was a sovereign Lord, to whom he owed obedience." Before the Fall, Adam had the opportunity, along with the ability, to earn eternal life by his works. The tree was forbidden to him as the test of his works, with the warning that disobedience would bring death upon him. Fine so far. With that understanding, I had never gone on to think what role grace played under this Covenant.

I am reading a book on the federal theology (an alternative name for covenant theology) of Thomas Boston of Ettrick, one of the original Scottish Seceders, a group of particular interest to me.

Boston was concerned to show that grace was fundamental to the covenant of works. First, he pointed out that God, as Creator, would be purely in His right to expect obedience from Adam as creature, with no obligation to offer a reward. To promise eternal life as a reward for obedience was an act of condescension, purely of free grace. I was astounded! That had never occurred to me. Further, he points to the forbidden tree. Boston describes this as an act of grace because it gave Adam a visible warning of the risk and consequences of sin. More subtle perhaps, but a good and edifying interpretation.

In this post, I am not advocating for this particular interpretation. I found it intriguing, so I am presenting it for its thought-provoking character. I am sure that I will be mulling it for a while.

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