Now that first man Adam falls through the temptation of Satan and through his own willful disobedience. And through his fall the first revelation of God’s covenant disappears. God had placed His servant in Paradise with a free will. Not, of course, as if that first man was free in the sovereign sense of that with all the life of his will he was not entirely dependent upon God’s good pleasure and God’s providential purpose and decree. In that sense no creature is ever free. God is and remains sovereign, and man remains dependent upon his God also in his volitional, or willing, existence. But in the moral sense Adam was free. He could choose good and evil. This, again, was not thus, that in Paradise Adam stood in a state of childish innocence or moral neutrality, so that he really first obtained knowledge of good and evil and became a moral creature by eating of the tree. On the contrary, Adam was gifted with positive knowledge of God, with righteousness, and holiness. He stood with his face toward God. But through an act of his own will he was able to turn about, to turn away from God and toward the devil. And this was exactly determined by his attitude over against the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Thereby it was very really determined whether Adam in obedience would allow himself to be led by his God, would allow God alone to determine what was good and what was evil, or whether he indeed wanted to be like God, determining for himself and in that sense knowing good and evil. Now Adam decided against God and for Satan. He rejected God’s Word, and thereby God Himself. He listened to the temptation of Satan through the woman. He chose for the darkness, and he rejected the light. He broke God’s covenant. His light turned into darkness, his righteousness into sin and guilt, his holiness into corruption of his entire nature, his life into death, his love into enmity. Death reigned over him. For we must not say that Adam did not die in that very day, still less that a certain common grace delivered him again from the deadly operation of the poison of sin. No, matters stood exactly thus, that Adam at the very moment that he sinned forfeited the favor of God and became the object of God’s wrath and indignation. God slew him. For also in that respect God maintains His covenant in that He slays that man who forsakes Him and raises his rebellious fist against Him. hence, it could not be otherwise than that Adam, who could enjoy life only in God’s favor, must die as soon as he makes himself worthy of God’s wrath. Death reigned over him, and he became the slave of sin. He became this with his seed. For since he sins as head of the race, through his guilt condemnation comes upon all. And since he sins as father of us all and as bearer of our nature, no one shall ever again be able to bring forth a clean thing out of an unclean. And since, finally, he lies at the root of our race, his one sin shall unfold itself in many sins of the thousands and millions of his descendants, until in the entire race that one root-sin has borne its complete fruit and the measure of iniquity is full, it is therefore also no grace or favor when by God’s providential appointment our race does not immediately perish in the root, but must continue to exist and to serve God’s counsel, and when anyone in that race is born outside of Christ. For he is born under guilt and condemnation and in death; and he can nevermore do anything else than through his own sin and guilt cooperate unto the bearing of the fulness of the fruit of that one root-sin, and thus increase guilt with guilt.
Now according to the counsel of the Lord God, Christ stands behind Adam; and from this point of view the fall of Adam serves to make room for the King Whom God had anointed over Zion, the mountain of His holiness. The first servant of the Lord falls. But when he falls, God says, “Behold my Servant, whom I have chosen.” The first Adam falls away in order to make room for the Second. Thus, certainly, the matter must be presented. The fall of Adam took place according to God’s determinate counsel. No Reformed man may doubt that for a moment. For God’s counsel stands, and He does all His good pleasure: and that, too, not only in the sense that He has the final victory over Satan and all the workers of iniquity, while in the course of history the devil in many respects resists and thwarts that counsel. With such a view we end up in heathen dualism. Also the heathen know of a good god and an evil god, who are always fighting one another, but in which battle the good god ultimately will gain the victory. And there are not a few who imagine that if thus they only present matters, they may be called advocates of the antithesis. But matters do not stand thus. In the course of history the powers of darkness never have the victory, not even for a time. God always does what pleases Him, also with sin and the devil. Thus it is also with Adam’s fall. Adam falls, indeed, through his own fault. Nor is God the author of his sin. The fault lies with Adam, not with God. But all this does not change the fact that you may not only explain the fall of Adam from Adam’s free will. He falls according to God’s decree. Otherwise we arrive at a terrible conception of things. Then, after all, the entire history which follows, a history of trouble and distress, suffering and death, with the fearful cross of God’s only begotten Son in the center, would actually be dominated and controlled by the will of Adam, by which he chose for the darkness and against God. But now matters are different. If we conceive of Adam’s fall from the viewpoint of God’s counsel, then the first Adam must fall in order that the Second may come. For God, for the greater revelation of His glory and the higher exaltation of His covenant and the more glorious salvation of His children, had in mind some better thing for us than that which was revealed in the first Adam or which ever could have been realized through him. He willed to establish-His covenant not in that first man, who was of the earth, earthy, but in the Second Adam, Who is the Lord from heaven, Who is God of God and presently enters into our nature in order to make us partakers of the life of God so as the fast man never knew it. That counsel of the Lord also the fall of Adam serves. When now the first man falls according to that counsel of the Lord, Christ stands behind him, in order, as head of a better covenant, immediately to become manifest and upon the ruins of the first house of the Lord in the fast Paradise to build a much more glorious house of the Lord as the Servant of Jehovah and the High Priest forever after the order of Melchisedec. Through this Servant of Jehovah God maintains His covenant and raises it to higher glory. He does that by entering into our nature and uniting the human nature in the most intimate manner with the divine. He does that by assuming our guilt and making atonement for it by His cross. He does that by conquering death and by arising out of the grave with a life of glory such as He alone could receive. He does that when presently He is entered into the highest heavens and is exalted at the right hand of the Father and has received the Spirit for all those given Him of the Father, by becoming the quickening Spirit, entering into them, and bestowing upon them the life of God’s covenant in that fellowship which He Himself so beautifully described in the words, “Thou in me, and I in them, that they may be made perfect in one.”
And so God’s covenant is now the life of the friendship of God in Christ. In that covenant there are no offers and no conditions. The covenant is solely God’s. He establishes His covenant. He chooses and saves. He engrafts us into Christ, and He sanctifies. He makes us friends of God for His name’s sake in the midst of the world. And He then also fights His own battle in us through Christ unto everlasting victory. And we are, through His grace, of God’s party. And when presently the battle has been fought, then He gives us, out of free grace, the crown of victory, a crown of life, a gracious crown.
Now that covenant of God is for us and our children.