The two Trees
Jesus said, ” Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.”(Mat. 7:17&18) He also said, “Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit…. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart brings forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”(Mat. 12:33&35)
In the Garden of Eden, there were all manner of trees to be eaten from, but there were two major trees that really made the difference. One tree was the Tree of Life, and the other was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which was the tree of death. The contrast is simple. One was the tree that brought life, while the other was the tree that brought death. If anyone looks at the text and thinks any different, then they are not reading it correctly, for the Lord specifically said, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die.” It was the tree of death, and it still is the tree of death. (Gen. 2:9&16)
The Tree of Life represented faith in what God had provided. All Adam and Eve had to do was to eat of the fruit of this tree and live. They didn’t need to work for it or struggle for it or jump through some proverbial hoop to get it. All they had to do was to pick the fruit from the tree and eat it and it would give them life. Moreover, it would sustain their lives for eternity; provided they continued to eat from that tree daily. They would never have died; because they were never meant to die. The message of this tree, and a message, incidentally, from God to humanity was: “believe, eat and live.”
The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, on the other hand, is a representation of human efforts. This tree would have the opposite effect. The message of this tree was a message from humanity to God. It could be summed up in this way: “just give us the knowledge of what is right and wrong, and we will take it from there.” In other words, “we don’t need your help, God. We can do it ourselves. We don’t need your Tree of Life, and we don’t need your Garden of Eden; we can make our own life, and we will make our own Garden of Eden.”
The first tree, representing faith, gave life that came totally and completely from God, and that life involved no effort from the one partaking of it. The second tree, representing human effort, left God out completely. It left mankind in a state of having to struggle and fight for every ounce of life, only to find that there was no life. The only true source of life in all the universe is God, and having turned his back on God, mankind would never attain to life no matter how hard he tried. Adam and Eve walked away from true life, trying to find their own life, and they died.
Now, bringing this over in to the life of a Christian today: we know that salvation comes by faith and not by works(Eph. 2:8&9); at least if we are Christians we should know that. However, though many Christians taste of the Tree of Life and believe and they are saved, we very often turn right around and start trying to improve our lives, or save ourselves, or make ourselves into something more than what we are by our own efforts. We eat from the Tree of Life and then turn right around and eat again from the tree of death. Why do we do this? I think mainly because there is something within all of us that wants to be able to say, “I did this… I saved myself… I made myself into this great and wonderful thing… My strength and my willpower, and the fact that I am such a strong person saved me.” Our pride wants to be able to say that, but in doing so we once again leave God out of the picture. We tell God, “thank you for giving me life”, then we turn right around and start trying to live our lives without Him again. In other words, we keep thinking “I can do it myself.” This is what Jesus meant when He said, “Come unto me all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”(Mat. 11:28)
Obviously, the Lord was not talking about physical labor in this instance, but rather He was referring to this effort of men and women to try to do the good and abstain from the evil. In other words, He was saying stop struggling and fighting to try to find life, and just trust Me that I have it right here for you. He also said, “I am the resurrection and the life.”(John 11:25) How could it be any more plain? He is the Tree of Life. So what does that mean? Does it mean that we literally eat Jesus flesh and drink His blood(John 6:53)? Obviously not! That is impossible, and what good would it do anyway? But what it means is this: He would say in another place, “my words are Spirit, and they are Life“(John 6:63), so it is His words that we must ingest which give us life, and not just life, but the true life which comes down from God.
The Word of Life
Let it be understood that the Bible is the story of Jesus. The Bible tells us either what we can have if we live for Jesus, or what we will forfeit if we don’t. It tells us of the painstaking efforts of humanity to find true life, and it tells us of the even more painstaking efforts of God to bring humanity to its senses, most often to no avail. It tells us of who God is and what God is and where God is, and it tells us that Jesus is in fact God. It tells us of the love that God has for us, in that He would sacrifice His only Son in an effort to save whosoever would come and believe. Jesus is the word of God, and He is God(John 1:1-14).
Jesus is called the living word, while the Bible is called the written word. But the Bible is not just the story of who Jesus is, but it is also the story of what He has done in relation to the human race. We were lost forever, with no hope of life, because of our sin, but the story of Jesus is that He came and died in our place; because He was the only one who could do it. That is the story of the Bible. We were lost and Jesus came to find us; we were wounded and sick, and Jesus came to heal us; we were dying —indeed, we were already dead— and Jesus came to give us life.
The Death of a Vine
A tree was planted long ago in the Garden of Eden. It was planted when Adam ate from the corrupt tree, and it has been growing ever since. Jesus would tell His disciples, “I am the true vine; you are the branches.”(John 15:1-8) And in contrast, we were once branches on the vine that began with Adam. We grew out from Adam. We were rooted in Adam. And just as the corrupt tree cannot bring forth anything but corrupt fruit; as branches of that evil vine, we could not bring forth anything but evil fruit. In that state there was no way for us to bring forth good fruit. It just could not be done. Paul said, “I find then a law, that when I would do the good, the evil is present with me.”(Rom. 7:21) So even when we may have done good things, the evil was still a part of us. That’s what he is saying. The evil, or the sin nature, which is the nature that we inherited from Adam, becomes a part of us the moment we are born, and an evil tree cannot bring forth good fruit. And God cannot accept us in that condition. The only way He can accept us is if we bring forth good fruit.
Obviously, if a vine will not bring forth anything good, then it is good for nothing.
Now, according to John 15, we must remain or abide in the vine, which is Jesus. Jesus said, and speaking of trees, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abides alone: but if it die, it brings forth much fruit.”(John 12:24) And Jesus died and was planted in the ground and He brings forth much fruit, and we died and were planted with Him. Paul said as much: “For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”(Rom. 6:5&6) So as Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches, we need only to abide in Him, and we will grow and increase, and become more and more like the vine, and we will bring forth good fruit. It’s just that simple. Jesus cannot bring forth evil fruit, and if we remain in Him we cannot either. And here also he tells us that if we are planted with him, the body of sin —in other words the corrupt tree— has been destroyed.
So why then do Christians sin, if the body of sin has been destroyed? This is a big question, and I will answer this question in the next post: Life and Death Part II
The reason I have broken this up is because there is so much information here, but it is all information that is crucial to the Christian life. And it is all so very important that I feel it would be better to meditate on this first part before going further in the study. Spiritual things are so very difficult at times to latch ahold of, because we are born spiritually dead, and the ways of this world are then infused into our minds for our entire lives, so that everything that we have ever learned must be unlearned before the truth can be readily understood. So read on in the next post. It will change your life.