Wilhelmus a Brakel

Why Was Adam Barred From the Tree of Life?

tree of life

I have often had trouble understanding the meaning of this verse: Genesis 3:22, “And the LORD God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.'” Is this saying that Adam truly became like God? Would he really live forever if he ate of the tree? Is God implying that His plan has been foiled and is making  a strategic move?

Then, naturally, I always thought that this banishment was a matter of God’s grace. By removing Adam from the Garden, it would keep him from eating of the tree of life and physically living forever in a state of misery and sin. But this enlightening installation of a’Brakel gives a different insight on this verse, one that I am beginning to favor.

p. 362-363

“Sixthly, this [the Covenant of Works] is also confirmed by the tree of life. Here two trees are contrasted with each other. Since the one symbolizes eternal death, why would the other one not symbolize eternal life? The name also indicates this, for it is expressly called the tree of life. What else can be deduced from this than that it was a sacrament, that is, a sign and seal of life? There is not the least indication that the meaning here is limited to corporal life, and thus we may not do so either. Moreover, if Adam lost corporal life, he at once also lost the spiritual life which e possessed. Therefore, by the word life we must understand both the corporal and spiritual life which he then possessed, as well as eternal felicity which generally is comprehended in the word ‘life,’ even tough the word ‘eternal’ is not added to it. ‘If thou wilt enter into life…’ (Mat. 19:17); ‘Narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life’ (Mat. 7:14). This is stated in many other texts as well. For this reason, after Adam had lost this life, the Lord no longer wanted him to be a partaker of this seal of eternal life By means of an angel, the Lord expelled him from Paradise, ‘… lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever’ (Gen. 3:22)

“When he had sinned by eating from the one tree, which he ad no right to do, God was not willing that he should also eat from the other tree. Would he have lived eternally if he nevertheless would have been able to gain access to this tree and have eaten from it? most certainly not, for there was no inherent power in this tree to restore the spiritual life and communion with God which had been lost. Adam certainly knew this. What could corporal life have benefited him without spiritual life? Neither was there any inherent power in the tree to nullify and rescind God’s threat, ‘Thou shalt surely die.’ Even if he were able to preserve his corporal life, Adam knew very well that he would not be able to do so. Why then did God say, ‘… and live forever’? My response is that this is a rebuking and reprimanding manner of speech, as is evident in that same verse, ‘Behold, the man is become as one of us’ (Gen. 3:22). It is as if God said, ‘Behold the man, who thought that by eating of the forbidden tree he could become as one of us. Behold, how he now resembles us!’ God said as it were, ‘how he has been deceived in his objective, for instead of becoming like one of us, he has become unlike us.’ This is also the manner of speech in the phrase, ‘and live forever,’ meaning, ‘for he would again be deceived in his objective and opinion, if he were to think that by eating of this tree he would live forever.’

“‘And live forever’ therefore refers to that which he would imagine, as if after having sinned this tree would continue to be a sacrament of life. God did not want him to abuse the sacrament since he had forfeited the matter itself, that is, eternal life. it was the Lord’s will that he would now turn away from the broken covenant of works, and, being lost in himself, would put all his hope in the seed of the woman, which was promised to him immediately after the fall.”

Did Adam Need a Law?

Wilhelmus_à_Brakel

For my anthropology class in my systematic theology course, one of our assigned readings is Wilhelmus a Brakel’s “A Christian’s Reasonable Service.” I am currently reading the chapter in his first volume that is on the covenant of works before Adam’s fall into sin. I find it to be an excellent read. It is straightforward, clear, and is educating me on this fascinating issue, and I am discovering that I am fairly ignorant of the vast details of this doctrine. Since I enjoy it so much, I will share the bits that I have found striking, enlightening, or stimulating, and I won’t limit it strictly to things found in this chapter

This first post will piece together two select quotes that I think succinctly show Adam’s need of a law. It shows that mankind’s natural knowledge or rationale does not determine what is good, nor is it knowing that something is good is that which makes it good. Also, by virtue of Adam’s dependency upon God, not only for his physical existence and sustenance, but especially for his rationale and will that moves him, a law was necessary.

p. 356

“The first matter to be proved is that God gave a law to Adam, this being such a law which in content is identical to the ten commandments. The law is given of God to be a regulative principle for man as far as his inner man and actions are concerned. It declares what is good and evil, and by virtue of its divine authority obligates man to obedience. [emphasis mine]

“Man’s rational intellect, be it ever so perfect and capable of a proper perception of the requirements of the law, is not a rule for good and evil. A matter is neither good nor evil merely because a proper perception determines to be so. A proper perception does not obligate man to obedience; it is merely a means to know and acknowledge both the law and one’s obligation. The divine law and its divine authority are the rule for good and evil, and obligate to obedience.”

p. 357-8

“…the nature of God as well as the nature of Adam requires that Adam have a law. By virtue of His nature God is the foremost and supreme Lord who is worthy to be honored and served. As soon as a creature appears upon the scene, He stands above that creature and the creature is subordinate to Him. This is also true for man as a rational creature, not merely because He has created man or has entered into a covenant with him or even because man has sinned, but more particularly due to God’s nature, since He is Jehovah. Adam, being a creature, was of necessity dependent upon His maker in all things, for otherwise he would be God himself. One cannot view the nature of the creature as being anything but dependent.

“If Adam is dependent upon God, this is not only true for his being, but also for his motions. This is not merely true in relation to the motions he has in common with the animals, but also relative to his rationality enabling him to function intelligently. If God by virtue of His nature is supreme and independent, worthy to be honored, served, and feared (‘Who would not fear thee, O king of nations? for to Thee doth it appertain’) (Jer. 10:7), and since man is dependent in his nature, activities, and intellect, then man in his perfection had a rule by which his nature and activities had to be regulated, that is, a law. This law was embedded in Adam’s nature so that he did not have to search for it as one who was ignorant of his obligations, or be concerned that being weak he would be led astray by his lusts to do otherwise. Knowledge of and conformity to the law were embedded in his nature.”

One of my professors translated a Brakel’s volumes- Here is his site: http://www.abrakel.com/