Question 12 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What did God’s providence specifically do for man whom He created?”
The answer is, “After the creation God made a covenant with man to give him life, if he perfectly obeyed; God told him not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil or he would die.”
I actually prefer the older form of the question which is, “What special act of providence did God exercise toward man in the state wherein he was created?”
Way back when, Eve believed two lies about God. Sinclair Ferguson states,
“The lie by which the Serpent deceived Eve was enshrined in the double suggestion that 1) [God] was in fact restrictive, self-absorbed, and selfish since he would not let them eat from any of the trees, and 2) his promise of death if there were disobedient was simply false.”
In short, Adam and Eve did not act as if they believed God was completely loving. They acted on the belief the God was holding something back.
I find that we suffer the lingering effects of that wrong belief. We either try to earn God’s love through conformity to a set of rules, or we shake our fist at the heavens and make our case for self-determination and freedom from a tyrannical god.
Both responses stem from the same root. A lack of belief in the love and goodness of God. Both responses are a refusal to live life with the understanding that we cannot earn God’s love and it is only his Grace (which flows from his love) which puts us in good standing with God. We cannot earn it.
I love the story of the Loving Father in Luke 15 (usually called the story of the Prodigal Son). The prodigal decides to return to the father and work as a slave to get back in his good grace. Upon his return, before the son could even propose the terms of the revised relationship, the Father embraces the son. The Father’s love was not conditioned upon anything that the son had to say. The embrace said everything about the relationship.
Yesterday a friend shared a one line summary of the Bible that he came across. It goes something like this, “God made it, we broke it and Jesus came to fix it.”