Was Adam Perfected Before the Fall?
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them. And God blessed them and God said to them. Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves on earth.” -Genesis 1:27-28
Like many in the church, I was taught the creation story in Genesis and the fall of Adam and Eve at a very young age. My Sunday school lessons typically hit on the temptation in the garden – the snake who represented Satan and the fruit of the tree with which he tempted Adam and Eve. The story routinely provoked personal disappointment and frustration with the fall of our first ancestors Adam and Eve. Further, it led to personal reflection surrounding the “what if” question – what if Adam and Eve had never eaten of the forbidden fruit? What if they had lived in paradise with God all their days? Would they still have had children? Would they have aged? Would there be a need for heaven and hell? Were they sanctified before they ate of the forbidden fruit?
Prior to this year I would have answered, “Yes, Adam and Eve were perfected and sanctified with no further refinement needed in their perfect state of walking with God.” As Richard Gaffin explained in one of our readings though, “Although Adam was created in God’s image, he was not immediately that image in the fullest sense, nor was he that image in and of himself. We do not have God’s image before us in its entire richness until we consider the destiny of man involved in it, both for this life and the future.” (Herman Bavinck on the Covenant of works)
Adam was breathed into life by God, he walked in the garden with God, he was naked and not ashamed since he knew no sin, but, as we’ve been learning, he was not complete. Back to the inevitable what if’s, even if Adam had never eaten of the forbidden fruit he would still have needed refinement in His daily walk with God since he was not yet glorified. Adam was created without sin, but he was not yet glorified.
Another helpful Gaffin quote explained this well for us:
Here the comparison goes the deepest and penetrates to the root of the difference between the two. Adam as a whole, both before and after the fall, is contrasted with Christ as a whole, both after and before the resurrection…Although Adam was created in God’s image, he was, being of the earth earthly, dependent on the earth; he had need of food and drink, light and air, day and night, and so still did not have a body that was spiritual, glorified and exalted above those needs; his psychical body had not yet fully become an organ of the spirit. As such Adam is below Christ: Adam is the first, Christ is the second and last, who presupposes Adam succeeds Adam; Adam is the lesser and lower, Christ is the greater and higher. Thus, Adam points to Christ; even before the fall he was already a type of Christ; at the creation of Adam Christ was already in view. (Herman Bavinck On the Covenant of Works)
Gaffin brings into clarity the sovereignty of God that is the alpha and omega, beginning and end, that even before the fall, Christ was to come. In the beginning Adam was created, but not perfected; he was sinless, but felt temptation. Even if he had never eaten of the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve would still have needed refinement in their flesh. Would Christ still had come and died for our sins? This hypothetical question is one that we may not fully be able to answer; but one thing is sure – the glory of God in the realm of time and space goes beyond our fleshly comprehension.
Ashli Peightel is a member of the class of 2018 Tampa Bay Fellows program. She currently works at Galcom International, USA as Outreach Coordinator.