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Knowing Good And Evil

by David Johnson

Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program


     Thank you for listening to these Words of Life radio broadcasts as we share the good news of Jesus Christ and the things of God, may you listen in order to act upon the will of God in your life as I must in my life.

The title for the lesson is: “Knowing Good and Evil.” And our primary text is taken from the Old Testament Genesis chapter 3 verses 1 through 5. Please listen to the Word of God. “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’? ”  The woman said to the serpent, “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.’”  “You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” This is the Word of God. May he add his blessing to the public reading of his word.

     We know evil exists and it must have come from somewhere. Some would claim that evil must have come from God. Let’s consider what the Holy Scriptures reveals.  Consider Deuteronomy in the Old Testament chapter 32 verse 4 which says “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are Just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.”  Certainly, true of our God. And yet Scripture states of God in the New Testament, the gospel of John chapter 1 verse 3 which says, “Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.”  Therefore, if our God is Creator of all things, and He himself in all his ways is just, how is it that evil is in the world? Did God create evil? If God did not create evil, how does it in fact exist?

     God is perfectly good and holy, and created only perfect creatures in the beginning, as well as the entire universe and everything in it. Yet, God gave His angels and human beings free will. Angelic beings and human beings had a choice to obey their Creator; to believe that He is good and that He, the Lord God, had their best interest at heart when he gave them a command to obey. Sadly, both angelic beings, some of the angelic beings, and human beings eventually used this good power of free will to choose to disobey. This reality is what brought evil into the cosmos and into this world.

     Therefore, the possibility of evil did arise from God’s purposes but only indirectly. Evil came from an abuse of a good power of choice voluntarily given by a sovereign God who is morally perfect. God is responsible for the possibility of evil existing in the world, yet it was the choice of angels, some of the angels, and human beings that made evil a reality.

     A biblical commentator succinctly puts it this way: “We can say that God produces the fact of free choice, but it is the individual man or woman who performs the act of free choice.”

This all begs the question so then why did God give angels and humans free choice knowing, since God is all-knowing, omniscient, that they would act on their free choice and bring evil into existence? Why did God do that? God could have created a world without free will. Angels and humans could have been “programmed” to only do good and only obey their creator perfectly. Ah! There’s the rub! There’s the issue! Because in a cosmos and world without choice the true meaning of “I love you” would not truly exist. The true meaning of I will obey you would not truly exist.

     Yet, Scripture also reveals in the New Testament, the first epistle of John chapter 5 verse 16 which says in part “God is love” and also from the pen of Paul inspired of the Holy Spirit in First Corinthians chapter 13 verse 13 it reads “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.  But the greatest of these is love.”

     Even for God, our Creator, our Sovereign Creator, in the fulfilling purpose and genuine reality of loving another is void and meaningless with out the power to freely choose. God deeply desired for His angels and human creatures to experience the actual reality of a love relationship evidenced by obedience toward Him.

The risk so-to-speak, was the possibility of evil. Yet the great responsibility and accountability to act on the possibility rested with angels and humans, not with God. So, God desiring proven love allowed evil to be possible, yet angels and human beings made it actual.

     Tragically, eventually angels and human beings chose deception and disobedience toward a perfectly good and Holy God, their Creator. Consider a few disastrous phrases in our key text in which Satan, as already an unfaithful, disobedient angel as spirit entered the serpent. Genesis chapter 3 verses 1 through 5 says in part “He said to the woman, ‘did God really say, ‘you must not eat from any tree in the garden?’  The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’  ‘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.’”

     So, Eve and Adam, the first created humans, ate of the forbidden fruit “from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die” as according to Genesis chapter 2 verse 17. And they both immediately died spiritually, not physically by the grace of God, but they immediately died spiritually and so evil entered the world and through them the sinful nature to all of mankind.

     This is extenuated in the New Testament in Romans chapter 5 and verse 12 “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all men, because all sinned.”  This will amount to eventually spiritual and physical death.

     God gave the first human couple the power of free will to obey or disobey their Creator. They chose their own desires rather than God’s. They, in effect, chose the knowledge and the experience of evil along with their knowledge of good. Evil was born out of a choice to believe that God was denying them what was best. As a result, our original, human parents, the headship of the human race, committed the first human evil act of self-sovereignty of selfishness in opposition to their Creator’s command, and thus failed the test of true, perfect love. Failed the test of true perfect obedience.

     But how could God allow this catastrophe to happen that would spread to the whole human race? Simply because in the supremely wise council of the Godhead, Father, Son and Spirit, before the foundation of the world, God already had the remedy for this catastrophe determined.

John chapter 3 verses 16 through 18 “For God so loved the world that he gave is One and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

     Dear listener you must believe; you must have faith. It is impossible to please God without faith. And a genuine faith has a pattern of obedience because obedience is the evidence, especially the outward evidence that we truly love our Lord. Jesus Christ Himself, the only begotten Son of God stated in the gospel of John chapter 14 verse 15 “If you love me, you will obey what I command.” And so, we are saved by the grace of God, and it is through faith, but a faith that stays has an obedience that comes with faith. Something for all of us to think about as believers, and even as unbelievers, for we all sin and continue to fall short.      May we please God by receiving Him through personal faith and obedience and as Christians may we know that we need to confess and repent of sin, and He is faithful and just to forgive us all of our unrighteousness.  


             David Johnson is minister of Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

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Philippians 4:13