Did Man Have To Sin To Know Good & Evil?


Did Man Have To Sin To Know Good & Evil?


There is no question, that Adam and Eve came to know the difference between good and evil when they ate of the forbidden tree. However, the question I would like to put forth is did they have to eat of the tree in order to gain this knowledge? Could they not have obtained that knowledge by also obeying God and avoiding the consequences of sin? Let’s explore the Scriptures and see what they have to tell us. 

First of all, the shame and guilt that Adam and Eve experienced after sinning was not the knowledge of good and evil. These were the consequences of sinning or death. God had told them that if they ate of the tree they would die and that is exactly what happened. The death that God spoke of was more than the physical death that we all have to face. Death encompassed the whole realm of man including the spiritual realm. Though they later would start to feel the effects of physical death, such as sickness and aging, yet they immediately experienced the effects of spiritual death that being the separation of man from God. 

Gen. 3:7 says they knew they were naked and so they sewed fig leaves together to cover their nakedness. Now this was not necessary before they sinned. They would walk in the garden with the Lord and had no problem with the fact they were naked. The difference now is that they knew that they had sinned and that sin made them uncomfortable to be with God. They thought that if they covered their bodies that some how this would conceal their sin but ultimately they realized this would not work and so they hid themselves from God when He walked in the garden. This rift between God and man would be felt by every man born into this world. It has been passed down from Adam and Eve to us and will continue to be passed on to our children and their children. It is sin and the spiritual death that accompanies it that makes us cower from the presence of God. Sin makes us dead to God. As Paul writes in Eph. 2:1, “And you He made alive who were dead in trespasses and sin.” It is only through faith in Christ as our Savior can that condition be reversed and we now can have fellowship with God again. 

Heb 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Heb 10:19, “Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,”

Yes their eyes were opened when they ate however what followed was not the knowledge but the results of dying spiritually because of sin.

Secondly, to know about something and its consequences does not require experiencing it. For example I have never experienced the power of dynamite or other explosives. However I have the knowledge of what will happen if it is used in an improper manner. Likewise Adam and Eve could have come to the knowledge of the difference between good and evil without experiencing evil. Let me give some biblical support for this.

1) The concept of death: Adam and Eve before the fall had the concept of what death was even though they had never tasted of death. What value would it have been for God to tell Adam and Eve if you eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you will die, if they did not have some concept of what death was? A warning only has "teeth" if the individual understands the consequences if he chooses to ignore the warning. If you tell me I should not touch a live electrical line because it will do something to me of what value is that warning? What does "it will do something to me" mean? So it was when God told Adam and Eve the consequence for eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was death. If they had no concept of what this meant there would have been no incentive to avoid eating it.

Some one might ask but why would Adam and Eve choose to eat knowing they would die? Why do any of us make decisions that we know are not best for us? We do it because we do not believe the warning or we think we are smart enough to do it and avoid the consequences (Gen. 3:4). A few years ago I was doing some wiring in my home and I chose not to turn off the power. I knew the danger it posed but I thought I could get around it. When I touched that live line with metal pliers I knew instantly that the line was alive. Needless to say, I paid the consequences for not heeding the warning!

2) The knowledge of God: The Bible tells us that God is omniscient or knows all things (Acts 15 :18; 1 John 1:5). This would also have to include the knowledge of good and evil and of death. Yet God has never sinned and until Christ died on the cross, had never tasted of death. It is clear that God knows these things without actually experiencing them.

Thirdly, God never said that eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was the only way to understand the difference between these two. Please note in Genesis 2:17, the only thing God said would happen if they ate of the tree was they would die. He never mentions that they would know the knowledge of good and evil. It was Satan who suggested that eating was the only way they would know good and evil (Gen. 3:5). He told them that God did not want them to eat of it because God knew in the day they ate of it they would be like God, knowing both good and evil. Since when has Satan ever told the truth (John 8:44). Satan’s very statement should have been a clue that it was a lie. He admits that God knew the difference between good and evil and yet God had never sinned. This should have told Eve and Adam that there was more than one way to obtain this knowledge. If God had it without sinning so could they.

Finally, this idea that sin was necessary does not line up with logic. If we say that man had to sin in order to know the difference between good and evil we have a problem. Prior to man’s sin, he evidently did not have this knowledge. If it took sin to understand evil, then it would take obedience to understand good. But there was no obedience and yet man’s eyes were opened. Therefore the knowledge of good and evil had to do with the decision to obey or disobey. Either decision would have opened their eyes to knowledge.

The problem comes from only focusing on what happened to Adam and Eve when they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We do not consider what the consequence of obedience would have been. God knew that this tree and His command about this tree was going to have eternal consequences. What would have happened if Adam and Eve had chosen to resist the temptation and obey God? Would they have lived with that temptation throughout all eternity or would they have been confirmed in their holiness through obedience to God, thus inheriting eternal life and total freedom from temptation? This is what happens to us when we accept Christ. We make the choice to continue in our sins and inherit death for eternity or we make the choice to accept Christ as our Savior and inherit eternal life and freedom from all temptation when we see Christ.

I believe that God created that tree to bring man to the point of deciding whether to follow God or to follow Satan. I believe either decision would have brought the knowledge of good and evil. The only difference in the decision was whether man would inherit eternal death or inherit eternal life. Would he live in a constant struggle with sin and death or would he live with complete freedom from sin and know eternal life.

This seems to have been the same thing that happened with the angels. The angels were evidently created sometime shortly after the beginning of Creation. Sometime after creation, Satan and his demons made the choice to disobey God. The consequence for making this choice is the everlasting lake of fire (Matt. 25:41). Satan and his angels are sealed to this fate. But what about those angels who chose to obey God? Were they sealed by their decision to obey God for all eternity? The consequences of their decision would be everlasting life. 1 Tim. 5:21 speaks of the godly angels as "elect" which implies they are confirmed in their holiness forever. Both groups have the knowledge of good and evil. It was the decision they made that brought that knowledge.

We know that Adam and Eve choose the path of sin. We live with the consequences of that decision on a daily basis. However, more importantly, Christ came to die on the cross and arise the third day that He might reverse that condition. When we obey God by placing our trust in Christ as our Savior, we immediately inherit eternal life (John 3:16). We are no longer separated from God but have been united together with Him in fellowship. Have you made this decision? Why not do so today!