The question is some times asked: Why did God impose the death penalty, not only on Adam and Eve, but also on the whole human race, just because they ate a piece of fruit in the Garden of Eden? Surely that was a very small thing to incur such a huge penalty? The answer lies in our having a correct understanding of what was involved in this event, as well as of the holiness of God.

On probation

In the Garden of Eden, God gave Adam everything needed for his enjoyment, with one significant restraint. ‘And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die’ (Genesis 2:16–17).

Why this one restraint?

It is not hard for us to see this as a test of man’s love for God. There was just one thing that Adam was forbidden to do—to partake of one tree, and that because God purposed to make a simple test of man’s obedience. Man was thus given a choice, which showed that he was a free moral agent before God, and which would also show, when exercised, whether he was prepared to trust and obey God and reciprocate His love, or go his own way. In short, Adam was on probation….

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