January 24, 1996
(A study about the true understanding regarding approach to God, and how one may unknowingly pursue Him through most incorrect means. The problem of legalism that is so common today, we will discover, is based upon a principle of life which originally threw all mankind into sin. Instead of living by Life, many believers are ignorantly thriving on the principle of the Knowledge of good and evil!)
// WHAT IS THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND
EVIL? // BACKSLIDER'S PLIGHT //
// KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL BARS US FROM GOD //
// LAW LACKS GRACE // IT HAD TO BE GRACE // ARK OF THE COVENANT //
// GOD IS A FORGIVER //
These three passages of Scripture all relate in speaking of one of the most fundamental issues to Christianity and knowing God. The issue goes back to the very beginning of man's fall from fellowship with God and stretches to span throughout all ages until Christ returns to take actual possession of His purchased Church at the end of the world.
Two fundamental ways of life are portrayed from the beginning in the Garden of Eden. They are represented by two Trees - the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. All of human life can be categorized under one of these two trees. After Adam fell and down until Christ, though, only one of the two manners of life was experienced. And that was life based upon the principle of the tree of the Knowledge of good and evil.
Let me explain.
The reason God placed a barrier of cherubims at the single Garden entrance to bar man out after God cast him out was the fact that Adam and Eve had eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That life force was within the people. God would not allow anybody to approach His presence while in that state of existing under the principle of life based upon the knowledge of good and evil. Had man eaten of the Tree of Life instead, man would be yet today existing in fellowship with God without having been cast away and redeemed again. Man would have existed upon the principle of living by God's Eternal Life, Itself.
So the two trees represent two ways of life. They speak of two principles upon which people base their existence.
Since Cherubims were first displayed to us in the Bible as guardians blocking man after man partook of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, we must keep this association in mind. To summarize the thought, cherubims stood as a barrier because man ingested the knowledge of good and evil. We can therefore say that so long as man has this principle of life driving his existence and thus influencing even his very approach to the things of God, a barrier exists. Man brought about the need for the barrier since it was man's fault that he ingested the knowledge of good and evil. Hence, indirectly, the knowledge of good and evil became a barrier to mankind which separated man from God. The Barrier of Knowledge.
Hebrews 6:19-20 is written in the manner of illustrating the fact that Jesus is presently standing in a position that is beyond a veil. And He is there as forerunner.
Let us read it again.
Christ is past the vail. The same hope and faith we have today as believers is that which moves us, too, beyond the vail to where Christ has entered. Since Christ is called a forerunner, we must realize that where He has entered is the same position we must walk into. We, like Jesus, must pass the vail since He is there as our forerunner.
In order to fully grasp the picture we read here in Hebrews, we must consider the Old Testament description of the vail that is mentioned in these verses. The writer is directing our minds back the vail from the tabernacle and temple which was placed in the Holy Place as a barrier to the entrance of the Holiest of Holies. There is a message for us to understand by way of the symbolic picture of the vail.
On the face of the veil the workers embroidered the image of the same cherubims which served as a barrier to the garden of Eden. In this case they represented a barrier again! They stood in the way of the entrance into the holiest of Holies. We see, as it were, a picture of the Garden of Eden in the temple and tabernacle construct. Man's plight of alienation from the Garden of God was not yet been solved in the days of the temple construct. God was telling man that he could not yet approach the fellowship with God that Adam once knew before the fall.
The barrier of knowledge was still standing in the days of the Old Testament.
However, in Hebrews, we read that we can pass the veil! Since Christ first passed the veil, and since He is forerunner, we, too, can now pass that veil. But it requires a hope that the writer of Hebrews mentions. This hope will take us past the veil, into the realm where Christ has entered.
We must ensure we have that faith. We must not take for granted that all believers already possess this faith and hope, for we know that some have weak faith. To understand what the writer is specifically referring to will give us the benefit of knowing what it is that we must concentrate upon, for we can perceive by reading Hebrews that it is a very important element of the Christian life.
We understand we must pass a veil. And the means by which we can do this is by possessing a certain faith and using it. And this faith will take us past the knowledge of good and evil - past the veil - past the cherubims!!
Since it is one of the two principles of living, we must understand precisely what this principle involves in order for us to learn to avoid living by such a principle. How can we avoid that which we are not aware of?
Well, one thing that the principle of the knowledge of good and evil is not is life. This tree of knowledge stood in opposition to the Tree of Life. Man could eat of Life, but not of the Knowledge of good and evil. Let us consider that the life of the tree of Life would have enabled Adam to live forever, had he eaten of it's fruit. Therefore, it is not common life, but rather eternal life. Eternal Life is not merely something which God possesses. It describes what God is. He is Life.
When God was manifest in the flesh as a man, He said:
Jesus is life.
Another thing which describes God's essence is LOVE.
1Joh 4:8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
He is LIFE and He is LOVE. Therefore, LOVE is LIFE. Life and Love are interlinked. We could say that there stood the Tree of LOVE and the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil. And, in fact, it becomes very clear that this is so as we begin to understand the two major principles of existence. All of humanity today is based upon these two principles. You are either basing your existence upon the principle of Life and love or upon the principle of the knowledge of good and evil.
Another word which goes well with love and life is GRACE. Grace is based upon LOVE. And this links us up with the Tree of Life. Grace is based upon love and not the knowledge of good and evil because God looks down on an evil sinner and watches him repent of sins. God's love moves Him to FORGIVE that sinner. Had God not possessed Grace, He would not FORGIVE. To have no grace is to have no forgiveness. We need grace! We need Life! We must live by this principle and be able to forgive people as God forgave us.
Let us observe the characteristics of a person who does not know grace. When a person wrongs this individual, the thoughts that run through the mind are something like this: "He did me wrong! He did evil and not good! Therefore, I will not forgive him."
This person stands upon the basis of looking at everything in light of the knowledge of good and evil. And in such a heart exists no forgiveness. All the person can see is whether there is a good act or an evil act in question.
One who possesses grace responds to a similar situation in this manner: "I will forgive him even if he did do evil."
By comparing these two reactions let us notice that the former individual cannot see past the fault, and stands as a judge in the matter. One stops at the barrier of KNOWLEDGE. Grace, on the other hand, LOOKS PAST THE FAULT and sees something deeper within the person. As the songwriter sang, "He looked beyond my fault and saw my need." As God acts in grace towards humanity, the believer whose life is based upon the principle of Love and Life likewise sees past the BARRIER OF KNOWLEDGE.
Let me pause at this time to stress that I am not talking about "knowledge" in general. I am referring to the specific knowledge of good and evil. I am not saying that education and the pursuit of human knowledge is to be avoided. Not at all. It is the principle of existence which influences all our ways with one another and even with God called the knowledge of good and evil that the Lord is desiring us to avoid. It is keeping us away from God in the Garden, and we must get it out of our lives!
Ephe 3:16-19 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what [is] the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
Paul's desire was that we PASS THE BARRIER OF KNOWLEDGE and enter into the vast expanse of God's fullness - the breadth, width, height and length. FAITH causes Christ to live and dwell within our hearts. Recall that Hebrews spoke of hope, or faith, which moves us into a dimension that is said to be "past the veil". And here we read that faith is linked to entering a domain that is wide, broad, high and long - a domain in which we can comprehend with all saints a greater plain of spirituality in Christ. It is a place in which we know Christ's love. And that love PASSETH KNOWLEDGE!! It passes the barrier!
We can apply this to many things. It looks beyond faults, and sees needs. And it even takes us past the very barrier that mankind caused to stand between himself and God. It takes us into deep fellowship with God!
Lack of Grace and love puts us in the seat of judges. And if we judge, we will be judged ourselves. In other words, God will not allow us into the fellowship that stands past the barrier.
We must go past knowledge. That does not mean we relegate evil acts away as being unimportant issues. No. Evil is still evil. And good is still good. Yet we must understand that, though we can still see evil and good in others, we must not stop there in our relationship with others, and judge them. We must see past that barrier and recognize something that God sees.
Some people are so hard on everybody. There is little space for error. The smallest fault is exaggerated and dwelt upon by the critic and the judge, and it is cause for the poor victim to experience much harsh treatment.
The paradox is that the hard-hearted person is also hard on him/herself. Such people are in a most miserable state. They know what is right and wrong.. They know good and evil, but dwelling on that aspect of existence alone will drive one mad. This is an imperfect world. The reason we sense the need for a "better life" is the fact that Adam really did have that better life but fell from it, taking all the world with him. And that ancient memory of a better life is within all of us in some form of instinct. If there never really was an Adam and there was not a fall from grace, why is it that we look at life and instinctively believe it should be better? What gives us the awareness that things could be better? Why do we have a concept of "better"?
If all was at it is now, then we should instinctively be simply adjusted to it, and never think to see it any better.
The fact is that Adam did exist and Adam did fall and all humanity has fallen with him. Yet we cannot expect any better of this world for the time being. It is imperfect and will remain so until it is replaced by a new world! That is the reason Jesus is going to return!! Praise God!
We cannot make ourselves better, that is for sure. How can fallen humanity lift fallen humanity out of a fallen state?
And the perfectionist who bases existence on the knowledge of good and evil and ever tries to rid the world and self of evil will run in circles and circles, never accomplishing that end. One will always see fault, and always remain upset. Misery.
A world that is not perfect does not need perfectionists. It needs LOVE.
Thank God that He does not base Himself upon the principle of the Knowledge of good and evil! If He did, nobody could ever be saved from sin since nobody would ever be forgiven.
The knowledge of good and evil has no forgiveness.
I have seen many "backslide" away from the Christian life and walk back into the sinful lifestyles of the world. And many of them manifest a particular criticism of the Church. They slip into the principle of the knowledge of good and evil and , like the very devil himself, accuse and accuse and accuse the brethren. The most notable element about the backslider is the judgmental, "forgiveless" attitude against the people of God.
Like Adam, they fall and blame their ills on somebody else!
Gene 3:11-13 And he said, Who told thee that thou [wast] naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest [to be] with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What [is] this [that] thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat.
Adam and his wife blamed another for their own sin. Pass the buck!
We have seen how knowledge bars us from seeing the needs of others. It also, more importantly, bars us from God, Himself. Those who base life upon the knowledge of good and evil will never get to God! They will dwell on good and evil acts so much so that they believe their only chance of getting back to Him is to be as good as possible and never commit evil. They cannot see past the surface of the barrier of knowledge. They cannot see the inner root of the problem of SIN. Sin is a principle. It is the "factory" that produces the evil actions we call sins. "Sin" is not "sins". Sin causes us to commit sins. If all we are concerned with is the category of whether something is good or evil we will concentrate on stopping the evil activity, and leave the root of the problem untouched. We will base our religion upon good works as the means to take us to God. But such an approach is based upon the knowledge of good and evil and it will bar us from God.
Such people do not truly understand the need for forgiveness. They do not conceive the concept of asking God to FORGIVE us. The reason this is so is the individual possesses no more than the idea that man must stop committing evil and instead commit good. Forgiveness only exists when there is a need to OVERLOOK error. And the need to overlook error is required when error cannot be otherwise dealt with. Since we cannot help ourselves return to God by making ourselves act "better", God's love moved Him to resort to FORGIVENESS.
Our good is never good enough for good, since it originates with humans who are not perfect, and God IS perfect. His LOVE, though, moved Him to choose to forgive those who will admit their sin and accept God's provision of escape from sin through Christ's death, and render them justified and righteous and fit to PASS THE BARRIER of knowledge, and return to fellowship with Himself once again!!
A police officer is not supposed to stop the violator, who is proven guilty of breaking the speed limit of a highway, and FORGIVE that violator. The officer may WARN the offender and let it go by for this time, but that is not really forgiveness.
A murderer may truly proclaim sorrow over his act of killing another person, but the judge will never FORGIVE that person: "You are wrong, and you can be as sorry as you like, but you will still go to prison."
There is not a way past the knowledge of good and evil since there is no forgiveness involved in that principle of life. Forgiveness does not apply to this principle.
Since man has sin within himself, so long as it is there, man will never get to God without God's forgiveness.
So we find two different aspects of the barrier of knowledge that will bar man from God.
The only course God could take in dealing with man's sin was to implement GRACE. By no other means could man return to God. Man had sin within himself and man could not remove it, himself.
Therefore we understand how the knowledge of good and evil stood as a barrier, but LOVE made a PATHWAY through the barrier! The Barrier of Knowledge and the Pathway of Love.
Jesus went past the veil of the knowledge of good and evil. He is our forerunner! We may pass the barrier also and experience the love that "passeth knowledge"!
Along with the veil of the tabernacle, the Lord instructed Moses to build a chest which would be called the Ark of the Covenant. Within this ark, Moses was to place the tables of stone upon which was written the ten commandments, the rod of Aaron's priesthood and the pot of manna that fell in the wilderness.
Hebr 9:3-4 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein [was] the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant;
Throughout Hebrews 9, the writer explains how the various articles of furniture symbolically spoke a message to the believer. The ark is one of these symbolic articles of furniture.
(Should one ever find that ark today one will be disappointed should one seek to find a box that possesses supernatural powers. The Ark was used in the prechristian days of the Law of Moses, and God's presence over that ark. But Christ came and done away with the Old Covenant rituals and symbols and brought the actual elements which the Old testament items represented. Christ, Himself, is the ARK today!!)
The tables of the commandments represent the Law of Moses. That Law was the knowledge of good and evil. the law, itself, was not evil, but since man housed sin within him, man could not keep such a holy law. In other words, supplying the knowledge of good and veil was not what man needed. Sin within man made it impossible for man to apply that knowledge and use it by making oneself line up to the good and avoid the evil.
Within the ark was the knowledge of good and evil. But COVERING that chest was the Mercy Seat - a solid golden lid or cover which was placed over the open chest of the ark and closed it. Upon this lid were the images of two cherubims! And this Mercy Seat was to be splattered with the blood of the atonement sacrifice which was made very year in order to remove Israel's sins from them for another year.
That blood represented and foreshadowed the precious blood of Jesus Christ which was to be shed on the cross to remove man's sin, not for one year alone but, forever!
Exod 25:10-19 And they shall make an ark [of] shittim wood: two cubits and a half [shall be] the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof, and a cubit and a half the height thereof. And thou shalt overlay it with pure gold, within and without shalt thou overlay it, and shalt make upon it a crown of gold round about. And thou shalt put into the ark the testimony which I shall give thee. And thou shalt make a mercy seat [of] pure gold: two cubits and a half [shall be] the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. And thou shalt make two cherubims [of] gold, [of] beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: [even] of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof.
Levi 16:14 And he shall take of the blood of the bullock, and sprinkle [it] with his finger upon the mercy seat eastward; and before the mercy seat shall he sprinkle of the blood with his finger seven times.
Blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat! And blood is representative of LIFE.
Levi 17:11 For the life of the flesh [is] in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it [is] the blood [that] maketh an atonement for the soul.
So, in seeing the blood sprinkled on the cover of the ark which contained the law, we see a picture of the manner in which the principle of LIFE overrides the principle of the Knowledge of good and evil!
LOVE HAS GRACE for the failures which are proclaimed in a person's life by the Law.
God does not want perfectionists in His church. He wants "forgivers".
1Cor 13:4-6 Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
1Cor 13:7-13 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth: but whether [there be] prophecies, they shall fail; whether [there be] tongues, they shall cease; whether [there be] knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these [is] charity.
Love, according to verse 7, thinks for the best! Have you ever noticed how critics approach a situation in which the full truth is not known and they think the worst? For example, a promise was made by an individual to meet another at a certain time. The other person waits and waits, and never does meet the one who promised to come. The other person begins to imagine, not knowing what actually happened, and thinks that the person relegated the rendezvous to merely a waste of time and chose to not even bother with the one whom the person promised to meet. Evil thoughts begin to formulate and soon a hatred exists which is based upon pure assumption. The worst possible scenario is thought.
This, of course, is extreme (although many have done this very thing!), but it shows my point. Why can we not think and hope for the best. Love hopes all thing. Love covers a multitude of sins and overlooks faults. Love forgives. That is not to say that forgiveness is blind to faults. If that were so, then it would not even be love, for forgiveness only exists if there is a fault at hand. One who dwells upon love will always think for the best rather than think the worst.
Luke 7:47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, [the same] loveth little.
The harlot was forgiven of much sin. In turn, she manifested much love for Jesus. Let us learn a lesson. A true believer is not a gnit-picker, but a forgiver!
The world is full of imperfect and damaged people. therefore, the only Church that is going to successfully win this world is going to be a Church filled with forgivers.
Think of what bad feelings would be averted if all believers based their Christianity upon Life and love rather than the knowledge of good and evil!
Failures do not remove you from God's love. That is the nature of love. It goes past knowledge.
People who are bound by the curse of the knowledge of good and evil will commit an error and so condemn themselves that they walk away from God and do not realize He is ready to forgive them should they only ask! The power of condemnation is the knowledge of good and evil. Since they base their lives upon the principle of knowledge, they do no conceive forgiveness properly. God is a God of grace.
Such people who thrive on the principle of knowledge must be delivered from that way of life by fellowshipping with believers who are forgivers. They need "safe" relationships where they will not be negatively criticized.
Love passeth knowledge.
So man believers mistakenly base their Christianity on the knowledge of good and evil! They must learnt he truth be made free from the bondage of condemnation.
Basing our beliefs upon the knowledge of good and evil, as mentioned, will move us to doubt God's love for us, which is a contradiction since the meaning of love involves forgiveness. What a state the devil threw man into! Not only did man fall into sin at the devil's temptation, but man ingested the cursed knowledge of good and evil. This inbred principle of looking at life causes one to wrongfully feel that God hates us when we act sinfully, and in effect causes us to keep ourselves from repenting! And if we do not repent, God cannot forgive us! Oh, how the world needs to know the truth. And many believers need to know this truth!
Love is a pathway that passes the barrier of Knowledge.