(I desire to share what I have learned from reading Thomas Watsons book ‘Body of Divinity’. I hope it will be as helpful to you as it has been for me)
The subject of the fall of humanity answers for us key questions like: why is there evil in the world? Why is there suffering in the world? Why is there an end to human life?
But in order to know this answer, we must first go back and look into the beginning, before the fall of mankind. The Bible teaches that the first man, Adam, was created by God perfect, with no evil and no death. Death did not come until after humanity had sinned against God.
The respected puritan writer Thomas Watson in His book ‘Body of Divinity’ explains for us in simple words what happened. When God created man, He entered into a covenant (an agreement) with him. Man was to be perfectly obedient to God and was forbidden to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16-17). If Adam disobeyed, God said he would surely die;. He was allowed to eat from other trees in the garden but not this specific tree that God had forbidden. Because he was made perfect, Man was able to be perfectly obedient. This is known as the covenant of works. Watson wrote “This covenant was made with Adam and all mankind; for Adam was a public person, and the representative of the world”. In other words, what Adam did, we did, what He thought, we also thought with him.
Another reason is Adam was put on probation by God, because Adam had the power to keep that law of the covenant of works and he was righteous by nature without any blemish within him. He was perfect. He had God’s law written in his heart. However, this covenant of works has a promise and a threat. The promise was ‘do this and live’ and the threat was ‘ thou shalt die the death’. Adam would not only die physically, but also eternally, which would mean being separated from God for eternity.
There are a few things we must consider to know about the covenant of works: Watson wrote “Working was the ground and condition of man’s justification”. The Apostle Paul quoted the words God speaks about His law in Leviticus 18:5 “the one who does them shall live by them”. Under God’s law we are required to work our way into heaven, to use our own strength to be right with God and be justified in His sight. Our work must be as rich, perfect and holy as God’s. This of course is humanly impossible. For this is why this covenant is a strict covenant.
Adam was called to do all things that are written in the book of the law without error. Not even the slightest dust of error was to be seen. If he did not, then he would be cursed (see Deuteronomy 27: 26, Galatians 3:10). He was commanded to remain in perfect obedience for ever. Just one slight thought of evil would disqualify him immediately. Thus, the covenant of works has no room for mercy and no room for grace, because it is so strict.
Let us also consider: the covenant of works was not built on a firm foundation. In reality, mankind can never remain perfectly obedient in keeping God’s law. Remember, this first covenant was made with Adam before he sinned against God. Before the fall Adam was righteous and holy and had the ability to stand strong against evil. He was able to save himself; he was the captain of his own ship.
But once Adam had sinned, disobeying God, as Watson wrote “man’s condition was very deplorable and desperate”. The Scriptures tells us that Adam and Eve disobeyed God by listening to what the serpent (also known as Satan) told them about the tree and about God’s character. Satan, the father of lies, lied to Eve saying that if she ate from the fruit of the tree that God had forbidden, she would not die. This was shown to be a lie by what happened when she followed the serpent’s words. Sin entered into the world. Adam and Eve’s original innocence was replaced by guilt and shame (read Genesis 3:1-7). It gets even worse. Adam then blamed God for giving him Eve (Genesis 3:12); Eve tried to throw the blame on the serpent. This was partially true but it in no way excuses her distrust of God’s word. In Genesis 3:17-18 we read of God cursing Adam and the rest of humanity. By this one sin mankind became mortal. Watson then added “He was left in himself helpless; there was no place for repentance; the justice of God being offended set all the other attributes against him.”
Man could not be good any more, because he had broken God’s law and thus became the object of God’s wrath for ever. Because of his sin mankind cannot perfectly obey the covenant of works, as Adam was able to do before the fall; instead he must receive the punishment and the justice that he deserves. When we discuss the attributes of God, we must bear in mind that God is not only love, He is also Holy. Justice must bring punishment to lawbreakers, otherwise God is not being good. If He is not good then He is not loving, If He is not loving He is not Holy. And if He is not Holy, He is not God. And so we must understand that we cannot have love without justice.
People say that God is responsible for all the pain and death’s, claiming that He is unjust with His actions. But actually it is the exact opposite. Dr Macarthur in his study notes on this chapter (Genesis 3:19) wrote that man “became liable to all the sufferings and miseries of life, to death, and to the pains of hell forever”. In short, the reason why there is death, suffering and pains in life is because it is our fault. We became liable to suffering and death because we choose it. And because of Adam, we all are born fallen. As it is written “just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”(Romans 5:12).
If you are interested to purchase Thomas Watson ‘Body of Divinity’ visit : http://mcbs.springroad.org.uk/book/9780851511443
If you desire to learn more about what Christians believe; please listen to sermons on : http://www.metropolitantabernacle.org/sermons-online/gospel