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THEOLOGY > Sin > Man's Disobedience > Probation 


PROBATION 

And YHWH God commanded the man, saying,
“You may surely eat of every tree of the garden,
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil
you shall not eat,
for in the day that you eat of it
you shall surely die.”
Gen. 2:16-17

After the command was given by God and before the sin of Adam and Eve (see: God's Command), there was a period of probation, a period of trial, a time of testing to determine if the newly created couple would obey their Creator or seek to determine their own destiny. Would there be submission to God, or would there be an assertion of personal autonomy?

The probationary period was not just for Adam but also for the race; this is true because of Adam’s identification with the race and the consequences that his decision would have for the entire race that would come from him. God established the test so that it would determine for Adam and his descendants whether they would exist in a state of life or whether all people would experience a state of death.

During the probation, which was for a very brief period, Adam enjoyed a state wherein he  was righteous and free from sin and its damning consequences. He had been created with goodness and had a bias directed toward the good (see: Morally Upright). He was created upright with a knowledge of God and God’s Word, having a clear understanding of God’s command that had been given to him—he knew God’s will and God’s law (see: Innate Knowledge and Intellectually Astute). There was no corruption in him; for he was made in the image of God, and he was made “very good” (see: Created by God, Image of God, and Morally Upright).

But the goodness that was his could be lost; his spiritual life was not immutable. God did not create him with the intent that he would remain unchanged; it was not good in God’s sight to create Adam in a righteous state with immutability. Rather Adam was created mutable (see: Mutable), for God can do as He pleases and what He does is right.

Adam could obey God and continue in his righteous state, or he could rebel against God and lose that which he had been given. And the two options were related to a tree. The tree was not a special tree; it could have been any tree that God chose by which to test Adam—it  was sinful to eat because God said it was sinful to eat. The uniqueness of the tree resided in the precept that was attached to it, not in any particular fruit it contained. To eat of the tree was to come to know good and evil by moral experience.

Adam’s choice during this probationary period would result in either life or death for himself and for the race that was identified with him (see: The Principle of Identification and Representative). It was possible for him to be confirmed either in the state of righteousness the he enjoyed or to be confirmed in a state of depravity that would come to him if he disobeyed God. The time of probation was terminated by Adam’s sin and the statement and action of God following his sin:

Then YHWH God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever.” Therefore YHWH God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen. 3:22-24).

Some writers speak of this probationary period as a vital element of what is known as the Covenant of Life or the Covenant of Works, consisting of the following points: 1. God entered into a covenant with Adam; 2. Life constituted the promise; 3. Obedience was the condition; and 4. Death was the penalty.

But this study is suggesting that perhaps a better approach is to use the concept of identification as the means by which to understand Adam in the Garden and his relationship to the race. Part of the reason for doing so is the insufficient evidence in the text to suggest a formal covenant between God and Adam. Though the four aspects listed above are in the text, they should not be set in the context of a covenant. Rather they simply constitute God’s instruction and warning to the newly created man (see: The Principle of Identification).


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