Adam and Eve: Jesus' Love for His Church
There are some curious passages that link Jesus to Adam.
"So it is written: 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit." (1 Corinthians 15:45)
Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come. (Romans 5:14)
From these two little verses come a powerful image that connects a large portion of the New Testament. Understanding Adam can provide a greater insight into the awesome love of our Lord and Savior Jesus.
When God created Adam on the sixth day, neither Adam, nor any of creation, had been corrupted by sin. He was created from the dust of the earth and given life from the Holy Spirit of God. Adam was perfect in mind, body and spirit. Even so, he was lonely for companionship. In order to satisfy his intense longing for a compatible life-mate, God divided Adam into two quite different beings. Each had their own partialities. The man was closer to God who gave him life while the woman was closer to the earth from which she came. Even with their differences, there was a satisfaction –a fulfillment– in their union.
Before God made Eve, He talked to Adam about two trees in the middle of the garden. Eating the fruit from the tree of life was allowed. But Adam was explicitly warned that the consequence was death for eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The fruit from the tree of life would produce eternal life for the eater. But the fruit of the tree of knowledge –discerning what was good and what was evil– would produce judgment. The latter of these –being the judge of what was good and what was evil was reserved for God alone and was never intended for man.
Adam knew his bride and her attachment to the earth –the created things in this world. He added a warning to protect her from temptation, "Don't even touch the fruit." It's apparent in her reply to Satan when he asked "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?" She said, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" (Genesis 3:2-3)
"You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman. "For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." "When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it." (Genesis 3:4-6)
According to Genesis 2:9, the garden had all kinds of trees that were good for food and pleasing to the eye. It was the fruit from just this one tree that also had "wisdom" allowing the eater to gain the knowledge of –discernment between– what was good and what was evil.
It's history now. She was deceived by the serpent and ate the fruit. She had taken on the role –God's role– of judge. In so doing, she gave up life in the garden. Adam was faced with a crushing choice. If he refused to join her in eating the fruit she offered, his life would be spared, but he would return to a life of loneliness. Yet, if he ate the fruit, the life he had known would end. He intentionally chose to be with his bride and that is why we –their offspring– are here today.
There are amazing parallels in this story –between the first Adam and the last Adam –between the soil and the human heart –between Eve and mankind.
God explained the consequences –the curses– of their choices. Not only did Adam forfeit his never-ending life with God in the garden, he spent his remaining days in hard work. His life depended upon working in the cursed soil where he contended with thistles and thorns that choked out many seedlings, reduced his harvest, and made his work painful. Eve did not share in his curses; God had something different for her. Eve's troubles were giving birth, desiring a husband and disliking his authority over her. And they were cast out of the garden where the tree of life stood.
The first Adam and the last Adam: Just as the first Adam was created perfect in a human way, Jesus –the last Adam– was perfect in every way. Yet, He too –in a way that escapes human understanding– longed for companionship that could not be found. Romans 3:23 says "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Effectively, we have all eaten the forbidden fruit. Jesus –the last Adam– made the choice which none can fathom. He chose His bride over living life in heaven. The price He paid for her –for all of mankind– was His own death –and all the pain that went with that decision.
The soil and the human heart: The soil that the last Adam works in is the human heart. Remember the parable of the sower? There were four kinds of soil. The seed planted in each one was the same –it was the word of God –the gospel. Jesus' work is to raise a crop from each heart. Like the soils, some refuse Him. Some like the sound of the benefits of being a Christian, but don't really believe. Some start down the path to salvation, but are distracted by troubles in life before entrusting their lives to Him. A small group accept His word and take Him into their softened, fertile heart. And that gospel-seed matures into a new, different living being.
Eve and mankind: The first to die after the fall were the innocent animals sacrificed to cover sins. The next was Abel who was murdered by his brother. Death had certainly entered the world. But it was physical death. The other death –the second death– is spiritual. That death was not part of Eve's curse. Mankind, like Eve, was never required to suffer that death –to be separated from God. Our troubles are centered on the desire for a God to solve our problems, but we don't want Him to have authority over us. Accepting new life on His terms is nearly impossible. We reject His seed planted within us –leaving many as still-born. In refusing to become born-again, we chose spiritual death over His offer of life as a new, restored creation.
Man and woman, Christ and His church...
There is a magnificent passage in Ephesians 5 describing the relationship of the husband and wife. It begins with a request to respect each other for who you are. Then it ties the pattern that we saw above with Adam and Eve to Jesus and His bride. It makes an appeal for submission to the designated provider; and this can only come about with a softened heart.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21)
The next part of the passage characterizes Jesus' love for us –His bride. He views us as "a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless."
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:22-27)
We are perfect in every way because we have been clothed in His perfect righteousness. Understanding this attitude of how the Jesus cherishes us creates a secure relationship that we can enter into –leaving behind fears of condemnation. He will only lift us up –never scolding or berating us. It's these attitudes and actions of His that earn Him our respect –it's a response to such a perfect love.
In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh." This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:28-33)
The passage concludes with a deep insight. When a man views his wife like Jesus does His church –not perceiving her by her own good and bad traits; but a changed person– he provides a secure relationship for her enter into. In so doing, two amazing things happen. She will take on the good characteristics of her husband and she will begin to respect him. This doesn't happen immediately; it takes time for her to become comfortable in the security of his love.
The story's affects on me...
The Old Testament is filled with stories that tell us about Jesus and what He went through for you and me. Such is the case of Adam –a most maligned man. In the Christian realm, He is made out to be a bumbling fool or hormone driven man who ate the fruit just because a woman handed it to him. We ignore the fact that he was created perfect in every human way.
Another example is found in the science of anatomy. That sensitive and vulnerable bump in our throat –the larynx– is referred to as the Adam's apple. It's as though Adam is credited with mans' downfall. It was the woman who sinned first, yet it's not called Eve's apple.
And then there's the art world. Of the many depictions of Adam, how many show him hiding his nakedness (his sinfulness) or being clothed in a fig leaf (self-righteousness)? Nearly all! There is virtually no well known art with Adam covered in God's sacrificial righteousness. Much more of his life was lived dressed in the animal skin than in the fig leaf.
Maybe they seem innocent, but these aspersions against Adam reflect mankind's contempt for Jesus. Even the secular views of him are totally accepted by Christianity.
As a husband and father, there are times when I reflect on possible alternate outcomes of my life –if I had not married –if I had no children. There would have been more time for myself, less worries, less stress, less heartaches... I've tried putting myself in Adam's place.
Did he ponder what life would have been like if he had not left Eden? Did his mind wander to thoughts about the simpler days before he was confronted with the harshness of life? Before Eve, he worked the ground and there were no thorns and thistles to cause wounds. There was no haunting memory of one son murdering his other.
Then I draw a parallel in my mind. What if Jesus had not left heaven? What if He didn't die for me? What if He didn't work in my heart to bring fruit –new life– to me? Remembering what Jesus went through reminds me that every one of my heartaches has been so worth while. And, in turn, I better understand the surpassing power of God's love for mankind.
Understanding the curses on the woman and the man sheds light on the differences in the motivations between the sexes. (I'm referring to their human –not spiritual– nature.) So here are some stereotypes of men and women in the culture in which I live.
The man spends much of his life at work. When one man meets another, they introduce themselves (and rank each other's importance) by their occupation. Even when men are retired, they still reflect on what their life's work was. It's because man was cursed to work all of his days.
Women are consumed with their appearances. Their clothes, make-up, nails and hair are all enhanced to make them "attractive". Consciously or subconsciously, they are presenting an image through which they can gain control over others –particularly men. Women often marry a man with the goal of changing him into her perfect mate. In this way, she takes over the role of authority. Woman was cursed with the desire to have a husband and also to control him. It's demonstrated by the common saying, "She wears the pants in the family."
The other part of the woman's curse has to do with giving birth. It's a major topic with mothers; they talk about is how long and difficult the deliveries of their children were –how many hours it took –if the child birthed naturally or Caesarian –how many times they have endured the troubles. And when mothers get together, they almost always discuss their children. Close friends go into the depths of the mental anguish that their children have produced. It evidence that women were condemned to have trouble in child birth.
Be Reconciled to God
And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10 - NIV)