There was a time when humanity was innocent. Not simply good and well behaved. Innocent.
Neither Adam nor Eve had any conscious sense of ‘goodness’ before they ate from the tree. They had no need for such knowledge, for all that God created, including them, was ‘good’ (Gen. 1:31). They had no conscience, no sense of right from wrong, no moral concept of good and bad. They were simply innocent.
But the tree they ate from was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They never ate the fruit from the Tree of Life (Gen. 3:22). In eating from that tree they acquired knowledge – a consciousness of both moral good and moral evil. In other words, they acquired a conscience.
And with conscience came sin-consciousness. There can be no knowledge of moral good without the knowledge of moral evil. Nor can evil be recognised unless it is measured against good. This is Law, and this Law, this knowledge of good and evil, took root in the human soul when humanity partook of that specific tree (Rom. 2:14,15).
Eve, bride of that first Adam, was a symbol, or a shadow, of the Bride of the last Adam, Christ (1 Cor. 15:45). Christ came to redeem all that was lost, not least of all our innocence. When we read that the Bride of Christ must be blameless, ‘without spot or wrinkle’, many of us wonder what this unblemished Bride might look like spiritually.
This spotless Bride is a bride who has been restored to holy innocence. This is more than good living. It is to be totally free of sin-consciousness. Sin-consciousness is that vague, uncomfortable feeling of guilt, shame or unworthiness that separates us from God. Don’t imagine I am saying sin is unimportant and doesn’t need to be taken to the Cross. I am saying that this spotless, blemish free Bride is a bride whose thoughts and actions flow from genuine, holy innocence, not sin-conscious goodness.
So often we are encouraged to think of that first woman in terms of her pristine, physical beauty. She’s supposed to embody every attribute a perfect woman should display, right? (Many also think of Eve as bearing guilt for the Fall, an untrue supposition based on incorrect understanding of scripture, but that’s fully covered elsewhere .)
But in Eden, it was the spiritual nature of things rather than their physical nature that was dominant. Eve’s greatest beauty lay not in her physical appearance, but in the purity of her soul, because prior to partaking of the tree her soul was innocent. There is no greater beauty than the beauty of holiness.
Christ came to restore us to innocence. Law based religion trains us to be perpetually sin-conscious. Between those two opposing poles there is friction within us. When sin, our own or that of others, is continually being pointed out to us, we are eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; we are sin-conscious, rather than Christ-conscious.
After eating from the tree, Adam thought his sin-consciousness was due to his nakedness, but no amount of animal skins could remove that sense of shame and condemnation (Gen. 3:21). He had lost his state of innocence.
Then the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” Gen. 3:9,10 NASB
Only by continually partaking from the Tree of Life, which is Christ, can we be restored to spiritual innocence and delivered from the natural, sin-consciousness we have inherited from Adam. “To the pure, all things are pure.” When innocence is restored Christ, rather than sin, becomes central.
This does not mean we don’t recognise sin for what it is. Jesus did so and called it out, especially when it hid behind a religious façade. But He did not fear sin, nor was it His focus. His focus was His mission of redemption and the breaking through of His Kingdom. If we are feeding from the Tree of Life our focus will not be sin, it will be Christ and the coming of His Kingdom.
One of the first consequences of the Fall was fear. “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid….”
Prior to eating from the tree, neither Adam nor Eve had known fear in any form whatsoever. Wherever the counterfeit religious spirit that imitates true Christ-Life is operating, fear will be close at hand.
The fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not outwardly undesirable. No, it was very desirable, so much so that by her own admission Eve was deceived into believing the tree and its fruit were holy. It was a perfect imitation of the fruit from the Tree of Life, but without the same substance.
The counterfeit fruit of that tree continues to be offered as desirable and holy just as it was in the garden, but now to Christ’s Bride. It is presented to us as Life, but is in fact death. Now, as then, one of the first things it will produce in us is fear.
Listen carefully to what you’re being taught, for words have power. Consider what you are reading, watching, and sitting under. Is it Christ-Life that is growing in you, or are you subtly being lured down the path of fearfulness where the focus is more on sin, judgment and demonic influence than the all surpassing beauty of Christ Jesus.
Jesus said ‘go into all the world’, but counterfeit religion will teach you to fear the world and withdraw from it. It will tell you that anyone who doesn’t see things the way your pastor or board of elders does should be avoided. It will train you to depend on your own efforts and other believers to keep you from sin, rather than the power of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
And it will teach you to be good rather than holy.
Jesus did not come to make us nice people. He came to make us holy people. Holiness comes through His Life within us. Spiritual death comes through the counterfeit of His Life which is man-made, man-controlled religion. And none of us are immune from its effects.
Do not fear this counterfeit, but by all means learn to discern it, including in yourself. Within each of us there is a Pharisee needing to be healed. If you find yourself more taken up with the power of sin than the love of Christ, step back and survey your surroundings. It may be time for a change of diet.
“Be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves” Jesus instructed the twelve (Matt. 10:16). The Greek word here for innocence means to be totally pure, ‘without any foreign mixture’. As the Lamb being led to slaughter, Jesus demonstrated to the world and the principalities what pure innocence looks like. But in His innocence He was neither naïve nor childish. The apostle John saw the Lamb in His resurrected state and was so overcome with terror he fainted (Rev. 1:17). This resurrected, innocent Lamb of God is anything but compliantly ‘nice’, yet He remains eternally innocent.
Can pure innocence do harm? Yes. But only to pure evil.
© Cheryl McGrath, Bread for the Bride, 2016 and beyond. All rights reserved. Copyright Notice: Permission is granted to freely reproduce any Bread for the Bride articles in emails or internet blogs, unaltered, and providing this copyright notice is included. To permanently display an article on any static website please contact me for permission.