"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 the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die."
- Genesis 2:16,17 (AV)
From the first time I heard this edict given to the man, I, like everyone else, focused on the fruit - that the fruit had some value that, if consumed, would result in the knowledge of good and evil. In fact, I have heard numerous commentaries that have attempted to elucidate what type of fruit it might have been. Some suggestions are that it refers to sex. This is obviously erroneous since it implies that the command was given regarding a concept that the man could not yet appreciate (the woman was created after the command was given). Nevertheless, I am convinced that the emphasis should not be on the fruit but on the act of eating the fruit.
In essence, the fruit from this one tree (only one tree was off limits) was like a bit that could be set to either
FALSE. God would simply perform a logical test on the tree: if there was fruit missing then it would signify that the man had eaten from it. Note, it provided information about the man, not the woman since it was to the man that the command was given.
While, mathematically speaking, this bit represents very little information to God about the man, the implications from eating it represent enormous amounts of information for (not about) man. By eating the fruit, man was sending a message to God that he would not follow His command. But at the same time it opened the man's eyes to possibilities that he had never considered before - the possibility that he could live apart from God's command. It was tantamount to declaring independence from the source that sustains you. It sent a message to the Maker that He was not necessary, which was self-destructive idea.
Therefore, man's act opened the doorway for an idea that man would have to wrestle with for the rest of his earthly days. Now that he knew that he could disobey God, he could not forget it or wish it away. The idea that man can exist (in some form) apart from God is what is referred to as sin. We also refer to the results of this independence as sin though it was the original idea that was the source of all sinful acts. In fact, the serpent did not lie when he spoke to the woman (vv.4,5); rather, he deliberately provided only enough information for his current objective - to get mankind to realise the idea of sin. If she or the man had asked, "What do you mean when you say, 'Ye shall not surely die'?" then the serpent would have been forced to be more specific and would have began to contradict himself and he would have failed in his task. In fact, if it had been realised what he was up to then there would never have been any sin. The question that was begged was whether they really wanted to know good and evil and be 'as the gods' (v.5). Interestingly, it was not something that the serpent could tell her otherwise he would have described how it felt to be 'as the gods', but rather something that had to be experienced. Otherwise, entertaining the serpent would have been sin in itself. Both she and the man had to experience disobedience for them to know what it felt like.
In fact, isn't that the classic way in which we experience sin? We know what we should not do and up to the point that we do it we do not know what it is. Somehow, there is a promise of some 'glory' to be attained yet once we step out in this 'faith' there is no turning back. We cannot rid ourselves of the experience, especially the more pleasurable it is. It stamps itself firmly in our consciousness and the scar never fades. If you think about it, we do not struggle against our flesh but against the ideas that our flesh seeks to gratify. If we are unaware of sinful ideas then we cannot sin. However, the moment we accommodate them and ponder them, we then seek to realise them in our flesh which further reinforces the idea.
However, the beauty of God's Genius is that He had a backup idea. It would be foolish to speculate on the mind of God on why He had a backup idea in the first place - to even consider it is not sensible. The backup idea (clearly outlined in the Scriptures) was to once again rely on the free will to accommodate an alternative idea - that by choosing His Son Jesus the Christ as Lord, and committing to submit to His Lordship we would be reconnected with Him by His Spirit. This is what is referred to as crucifying the fleshand its sinful desires. It is purely an act of faith and an act of obedience by which this is accomplished. When we wholeheartedly consider Him and endeavour to walk in His ways, we strengthen His Spirit, whose voice grows ever clearer and more distinct.