In Genesis 2:16-17, God tells Adam that he is free to eat from every tree in the Garden of Eden except for the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. His command to Adam is, “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 will surely die.”
Now, in Genesis 3:3, Eve tells the serpent that she and Adam are not to eat of it neither shall they touch it, lest they die. Does this really mean the same thing or is her re-wording of God’s command significant?
At first glance, the distinction might seem trivial. After all, had she never touched the tree, she certainly would not have been able to eat from it. And, if the tree was off limits as a source of food, what would the point be of touching it? The problem when we begin to make subtle additions to God’s Word is that small, subtle additions inevitably will lead to larger ones. What might seem insignificant and immaterial can easily lay the groundwork for entire extra-Biblical doctrines to eventually arise.
This exact thing has happened. The Pharisees had developed such a legacy of making minor additions to the Law given to Moses that, by the time of Jesus, they had entire volumes of nothing but man-made traditions. They proceeded to accord these traditions with equal (and oftentimes, greater) importance to the actual Words that Moses had been given. Eventually, they ended up neglecting and violating God’s Word in exchange for these modifications that bore little resemblance to the inspired Scriptures.
“Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (John 6:29, emphasis added)
The same thing has also happened since our Lord’s Resurrection. Countless cults and pseudo-Christian “denominations” have originated from a small group or single individual making subtle modifications to the inspired Word of God. Many have taken away from God’s Word, but many have also added to it. The tell-tale sign that this has occurred is when anything is taught to be required in addition to faith for Salvation. Anytime someone teaches that faith plus anything is what saves a person, you can be certain that they have added to the Word of God.
God has never given a commandment to mankind that was unclear or ambiguous. There are certainly parts of Scripture that are not easy to interpret and that can be difficult to understand. But when it comes to something that God has specifically told us to either do or not do, then His Word is crystal clear. There is a tendency for people to want to add to the requirements of God for Salvation because Salvation by faith in Christ alone is unappealing to the natural man. It does nothing to gratify our own fleshly desires for self-righteous piety nor does it exclude those we consider to be the most vile of sinners. For many people, it just seems far too easy and straightforward to trust in the finished work of Jesus Christ, they feel that there must be something else that they themselves are required to do, some portion of the price that they themselves must pay. Since the Word of God contains no such edict, they simply insert such stipulations and add to it.
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3)
To Jesus Christ goes all glory. In service to Him,
[This post was originally published August 20, 2009]
**Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) © The Lockman Foundation and are used by permission.
[If you do not know the Lord Jesus Christ or you are not certain where you are headed when this life ends, I invite you to read the article “Am I Going To Heaven?“]