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Two Trees – Two Ways

Two approaches to God – works and grace
Lesson 11 from The HOPE Study Guide

Introduction

And out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing 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… And the Lord God commanded the man saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you shall surely die.

– Genesis 2: 9, 16-17

In the middle of the garden, there were two trees. One was the tree of life, the other, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God told Adam he could eat from any tree in the garden, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he must not eat, for when he does he will surely die.

– The HOPE, Chapter 2

Observe & Consider

Thus far in God’s story, we’ve witnessed much drama, but no conflict. God created Adam and Eve and placed them in a beautiful garden where they had all they needed. But two trees stood in the midst of the garden. One tree yielded life, the other death; first a spiritual death, and ultimately a physical death.

Bible scholars throughout history have considered the meaning of these two trees. Most agree that the trees represent two entirely different ways of relating to God and life.The tree of the knowledge of good and evil is thought to represent man’s attempt to be fulfilled, and rightly related to God, through his own effort – often by acquiring knowledge and trying to do what is right in His own eyes. The Bible says the end of this approach is death.2

However, the tree of life is, according to theologian John Calvin, a reminder to man that “he lives not by his own power, but by the kindness of God; and that life is not an intrinsic good, but proceeds from God.” 3 The tree of life represents the life–giving favor which flows from God – favor we do not merit and cannot earn, but can only receive in humility and thanksgiving. Continue reading


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Creation of Adam & Eve – Part 2

Our purpose – to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.
Lesson 10 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

He did not create them to be gods. But as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so Adam and Eve were created to reflect the light of God.

– The HOPE, Chapter 1

The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

– Westminster Catechism, Shorter Version, Written in the 1640’s

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

In the previous lesson we considered the truth that man was created in the image of God. In this lesson we will consider God’s purpose for creating man. There are many verses in the Bible that, if studied in total, would help us understand God’s purpose for creating man. However, there is not just a verse that singularly sums up this subject, at least not in a manner that would satisfy most Bible scholars.

There is, however, a document containing a statement that attempts to sum up what the Bible says about God’s purpose for creating man. This document is known as the Westminster Catechism, and the statement to which we are referring appears above. This statement is widely accepted among Bible scholars as accurate, and it provides a point of reference as we consider what The HOPE says about God’s purpose for creating man.

Without a doubt, the brightest visible object in our world is the sun. It is so bright that gazing directly at it can cause irreparable damage to our eyes. Yet God’s brilliance is immeasurably greater than even that of the sun. In 1 John 1:5 we learn that God is pure, undiluted light. And in Exodus 33:20 we are told that His glory is so great no man can look directly at God and live! So how can people behold the glory of God if He is so intensely brilliant that no man can look directly at Him and live? Continue reading


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Creation of Adam & Eve – Part 1

What makes a human different from all of creation?
Lesson 9 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

– Genesis 1: 26-27

And on the sixth day, after God had created everything else, He formed the first man out of the dust of the earth. Then He breathed life into the man and the man became a living being. God called him Adam. And from the very flesh of the man, God created the first woman. Adam called her Eve. And Adam and Eve were different from all of creation, for God created them in His own image.

– The HOPE, Chapter 1

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Notice from The HOPE excerpt and the Bible verse above that man was created “in the image of God.” What does it mean to be made in God’s image? To answer this question people often cite characteristics in humans that are similar to the characteristics they attribute to God. These might include the capacity to be creative, to reason, to make choices, communicate, and experience complex emotions.

Some would argue that certain animals display (to some extent or another) many of these same “God–like” characteristics. They would say (rightly or wrongly) that the primary distinction between humans and animals is not one of essence or nature, but rather one of degree, and that humans are only more highly developed (or evolved) animals. Yet the Bible says that “God created man in His own image,” a distinction not given to any other creature.

Genesis 2:7 offers some important insight in this issue:

“Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Notice from this verse that after forming man’s physical being from the dust of the ground, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” The Hebrew word (nephesh) translated here as “being” may also be translated as “soul.” Soul refers to the nonphysical or nonmaterial part of a person. Some people believe that animals, too, have “souls.” Whether that is the case is not the point here. What’s significant is that – according to the Bible – the way in which man received a soul is entirely unique to man. He received it directly from God Himself! Continue reading


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Creation – Part 2

A scientific case for creation.
Lesson 8 from The HOPE Study Guide

INTRODUCTION

According to His story, God spoke all of creation into existence. By His Word He made everything out of nothing… According to His story, God created the heavens, the earth, and every living thing in six days.

– The HOPE, Chapter 1

OBSERVE & CONSIDER

Even among those who believe that the world was created by God, there are different interpretations of the creation account found in the Bible. However, among the predominant Biblical views there is also agreement on many key concepts. After reading the preceding excerpt from The HOPE video, let’s consider a few of these concepts.

First, because God is all powerful, not limited by anything, He can create however He chooses, even simply by speaking. This concept is clearly presented in the Bible:

“Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” (Genesis 1:3)

“…by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed.” (2 Peter 3:5)

Secondly, God made everything that is, out of nothing. Think about that. When we humans create, we must utilize or draw upon things that existed before us. When we “create” we are really “re-creating.” But God, who created from nothing, is creative in the ultimate sense: Continue reading