Are we certain it was immoral for Adam to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil?
And Jehovah God planted a garden eastward, in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made Jehovah God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Genesis 2:8-9 (ASV)
Along with the tree of life, there was a variety of trees good for food and nice to look at. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was there too. However, God had forbidden Adam and Eve from eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This was not a moral law because that is what the tree of knowledge of good and evil would give to them awareness of if they ate from it. The law Jehovah gave was what we term a positive law. Positive law is a commandment of God that must be complied with but it is not in itself a moral law. Once Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Genesis 3:7 (ASV) From that moment on, mankind will be amenable to moral law, the knowledge of good and evil. They were now accountable to remaining virtuous. They had come to realize their nakedness and were ashamed.
Sin is a transgression against the law of God, any standing law of God. There are positive laws and there are moral laws. There is a difference. Let me give you some examples of moral laws. In Genesis 3:8, “it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. Genesis 4:8 (ASV). Murder is an example of violating moral law. It is immoral to commit murder. It is wrong in all dispensations of human history. Morality consists of matters of virtue.
Yea, and for this very cause adding on your part all diligence, in your faith supply virtue; and in your virtue knowledge; and in your knowledge self-control; and in your self-control patience; and in your patience godliness; and in your godliness brotherly kindness; and in your brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, they make you to be not idle nor unfruitful unto the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he that lacketh these things is blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins. 2 Peter 1:5-9 (ASV)
All of the attributes of godly character are the root of loving one another. And, certainly loving our neighbor is the second greatest commandment.
The second is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these. Mark 12:31 (ASV)
When Cain slew his brother it was hateful. Love is not easily provoked. From the time of Adam’s transgression until now, people have been violating moral law. When the Law of Moses was given, its intention was to expose sin. However, non-Jewish people were not amenable to the positive laws of the Law of Moses. Sacrifices and ordinances of worship practice were not binding on Gentiles. These Gentiles were justified or condemned based upon whether they were righteous or wicked morally.
“Righteousness exalteth a nation; But sin is a reproach to any people.” Proverbs 14:34 (ASV)
It is alleged by some “free thinkers” that God will only judge souls based upon moral laws. But, that was not the case with Adam. He did not know what immorality and morality were until his wife gave him fruit from the knowledge of good and evil, which he ate. Instantly he became accountable for his nakedness. The fig leaf bikinis they sewed for themselves were insufficient. “Jehovah God made for Adam and for his wife coats of skins, and clothed them.” Genesis 3:21 (ASV) It was in their best interest that they be prohibited from eating from the tree of life.
And Jehovah God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever– therefore Jehovah God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden the Cherubim, and the flame of a sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. Genesis 3:22-24 (ASV)
The positive law clearly defined as given by God to Adam was this:
And Jehovah God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. Genesis 2:16-17 (ASV)
Eating from the tree was not an act of hate against Adam’s neighbor. But, it was a transgression against God. That is what made it the greatest sin. Any moral sin has been an act against our neighbor. Any moral or positive violation against God is a transgression against the greatest commandment.
The first is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God, the Lord is one: and thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength. Mark 12:30 (ASV)
An example of positive law in the New Testament is to give a contribution at assembly on the Lord’s Day.
Upon the first day of the week let each one of you lay by him in store, as he may prosper, that no collections be made when I come. 1 Corinthians 16:2 (ASV)
This example commanded to the Corinthians is an account of action we must follow today. Now, it is not a moral law. It is not immoral to decline to give in the collection plate. It is, however, sinful. It is a transgression against God. It is an infringement upon the positive law of God. Adam’s transgression of positive law led to a breach of moral law and consequently led to death of the physical body and separation spiritually from the God of peace and life. Where do you stand with God today?