Today, I listened to one of the greatest preachers in America today preach quite possibly one of his greatest sermons ever. It was Dr. James Merritt, former President of the Southern Baptist Convention, delivering “The Freedom that Freedom Brings”. This thing is basically a Christian equivalent to Atlas Shrugged, and if anything I am UNDERstating its importance there. It is that good.
But something Dr. Merritt said in there came to my mind moments ago, so I decided to look it up for myself.
We know God created mankind. We know they had a very intimate relationship in the Garden of Eden, where God and man walked side by side and spoke as friends. (BTW: Ted Dekker’s Circle Series does a great job of depicting this outside the Bible.)
But wouldn’t it be appropriate to think that the Creator’s first words to the Created be of supreme importance? After all, this is monumental! At this point, God had created EVERYTHING else, and this ‘man’ thing he was just about to create was to be the FIRST with at least two qualities found NOWHERE else in all of Creation: First, man would be God’s Image Bearers. Man alone looked like God Himself! Second, man alone, in all of Creation, would have the ability to make his own choices. He alone in all of creation would have Free Will.
So for this monumental creation, this Image Bearer who would walk and talk with God as friends, what would God choose to say first?
He could have been like me on a date: “Hi, I’m Jeff.”
He could have been like the pilot on your plane: “This is your Creator speaking.”
He could have been like a President of the Universe: “My fellow beings.”
He could have been friendly: “Hi, how are ya?”
But he didn’t say any of that. The VERY FIRST words God speaks in the entire Bible are found in Genesis 2: 16-17, and in them God is not friendly, but commanding:
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
So what were the very first three words God spoke in the Bible, and to man directly?
“You are free.”
WOW. The Creator didn’t tell the Created “I created you.” He didn’t say “Bow before me.” He said “You. Are. Free.”
Do whatever you want, man! I created you, but you are absolutely free! (Oh, I know exactly what you’re about to do with that Freedom, and I’ve already got a plan ready for when you do, but we’ll get to that.)
In the next few words, God gives man his very first commandment: “See that tree right there? The ONLY thing I’m telling you not to do is that you can’t eat from THAT tree. ANYTHING else you want to do, go ahead. Just don’t eat from THAT tree. If you do, you will die. You have the ability to eat from it – it is the same as any other tree, pick off the fruit, stick it in your mouth, and chew. Not hard at all, once you’ve learned the mechanism. But I don’t want you to, because I JUST created you and I like you and I don’t want you to croak on me just yet, ok?”
And you know what? Man didn’t eat from that tree. I guess he figured “Ya know, I just got here. I don’t know what this ‘death’ thing is, but it doesn’t sound so hot. Besides, this ‘God’ guy is pretty cool. He’s set me up with this nice place to live, given me a job, given me all the recreation I can think of, I think I’ll stay around for a while.”
Now, we know the rest of the story. God sees that man is missing something – a helper. Everything else is paired off into a dude and a chick, but so far this Image Bearer dude doesn’t have an Image Bearer chick. So God puts the dude down for some surgery, takes out a rib, makes the chick, and she is NICE! Dude sees chick, sees she’s the only other thing in creation other than God that looks like him, figures she was made for him – literally.
Eventually the chick, who hasn’t had as long to get to know God as the dude has, is approached by Lucifer. “Here, eat this fruit. Nothing is going to happen.” Guess what? As far as immediate action goes, Lucifer was right. God wasn’t going to strike the chick with a lightning bolt, he wasn’t going to remove her arm, sew her mouth shut, or anything else that He could have done simply by thinking it. He didn’t cosmically appear in front of the chick and slap the fruit from her hand – even though He certainly had the power to do so.
The chick does what every single person has done ever since: She decides to test the ONE rule God had given her, through the dude. She had been told of the “Do NOT eat from that tree, or you WILL die” thing. She KNEW it. But she wanted to see what would happen. So she eats.
She then goes to the dude “Look what I ate, don’t you want some?”. The dude has a choice – he knows he will die if he eats the fruit, He knows she will die now that she has eaten the fruit. He doesn’t know what will happen if she dies and he doesn’t. Will God make him another chick to help him? Will he like this other chick? He doesn’t know – and he doesn’t risk it. He eats the fruit.
Again, God had all power to stop either one of them from eating the fruit. Two separate chances, and at that point there are only two humans in all of Creation. Surely, a being so powerful as to be able to intervene throughout time with MILLIONS more humans at any given moment can intervene when there are just two, right?? Yet He doesn’t intervene either time. He lets this “Free Will” thing work itself out,
Because He knew it would happen this way all along, and He’s already lined up the Ultimate Gift that this Greatest Gift of Free Will will ultimately require.
Both humans ate the fruit. And God remained true to His word. Both later died. We have no way of knowing how long they lived before they ate the fruit – possibly Aeons, for all we know. But we do know this: once they ate the fruit, they DID eventually die.
But before they did, they started procreating. Dude human and chick human got together and formed baby human – several times.
Dude Human 1 and Chick Human 1’s kids keep forming more baby humans, and many, many years later, God’s Ultimate Plan is revealed:
He will come into the human realm as a Son of Human, via his God the Son identity. The Son of God and the Son of Man will be the exact same being, and that being will be executed as brutally as humans can devise, to make up for Dude Human 1 eating that fruit, and for every subsequent human doing something equally against God.
The Son of Man who is the Son of God is the one we know as Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and his death for our sins became the Ultimate Gift, required by the Greatest Gift revealed in God’s First Words:
“You. Are. Free. (But I’ll never give up on you.)”