When our first parents were placed in the beautiful garden of Eden, they were tested in regard to their loyalty to God. They were free to choose the service of God, or by disobedience to ally themselves with the enemy of God and man. If they would abstain from that which God had forbidden, they might keep possession of their beautiful Eden home, and remain in the favor of God, but if they disregarded God’s commands, and listened to the voice of Satan, as he spoke through the serpent, they would not only forfeit their claim to Eden, but to life itself. The penalty for sin had been set before them, and they were informed as to the tremendous issues depending on their action in obeying or disobeying the requirements of God.

With what intense interest the whole universe watched the conflict that was to decide the position of Adam and Eve. How attentively the angels listened to the words of Satan, the originator of sin, as he placed his own ideas above the commands of God, and sought to make of none effect the law of God through his deceptive reasoning! How anxiously they waited to see if the holy pair would be deluded by the tempter, and yield to his arts. They asked themselves, Will the holy pair transfer their faith and love from the Father and Son to Satan? Will they accept his falsehoods as truth? They knew that they might refrain from taking the fruit, and obey the positive injunction of God, or they might violate the express command of their Creator.

The mildest test was given them that could be given; for there was no need of their eating of the forbidden tree; everything that their wants required had been provided. The special work of Satan was to misrepresent the character of God, and in the first effort at man’s overthrow he impeached the veracity of God. God had said to them of the forbidden tree, “In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” [Genesis 2:17];* but the enemy of all righteousness declared: “Ye shall not surely die; for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” [Genesis 3:4, 5]. Satan represented God as a deceiver, as one who would debar his creatures from the benefit of his highest gift. The angels heard with sorrow and amazement this statement in regard to the character of God, as Satan represented him as possessing his own miserable attributes; but Eve was not horror-stricken to hear the holy and supreme God thus falsely accused. If she had turned her thoughts toward God, if she had looked upon beautiful Eden and remembered all the tokens of his love, if she had fled to her husband, she might have been saved from the subtil temptation of the evil one. One word of repulse would have brought to her the aid that God could give. One word in vindication of her Creator would have caused the accuser to flee, and her integrity would have been untarnished. If she had resisted the first temptation, she would have stood on higher, holier ground than ever before; but she yielded to the flatteries of her enemy, and became a captive to his will.

Our first parents fell through disobedience to God’s express command, and this is where thousands fall today. The Lord says, “Thou shalt not,” but Satan persuades that it is for man’s interest to disobey God. There are many who even claim to be sanctified, who do not yield obedience to God’s expressed command, and these cannot be sanctified through the truth. They seek to climb up to heaven some other way than the way which has been appointed. They say, “Believe, only believe,” and they make a great boast of their faith, but the faith they claim to possess is simply presumption, and they have no knowledge of what constitutes genuine faith. The Jews cast aside Christ, and rejected the idea that faith in him would be efficacious in saving their souls; but they trusted in their works as a means of salvation. Genuine faith in Christ works by love and purifies the soul. Faith and works go hand in hand, for faith without works is dead [James 2:20]. God requires of every soul today what he required of our first parents in Eden—perfect obedience to his law. There must be found in the life unswerving allegiance to God, righteousness without a flaw in the character. We must be clothed with the righteousness of Christ, and stand without blemish before God. The requirement that God has made in grace is the requirement that God made in Paradise.

It is a dangerous theory that leads men to declare that all that is necessary to salvation is to simply believe in Christ, while disregarding his plain commands. The gospel is not the Old Testament standard lowered, it requires faith that works righteousness, that keeps the commandments of God. Says the apostle, “This is the love of God that we keep his commandments, and his commandments are not grievous” [1 John 5:3]. When men claim to be saved while living in violation of God’s law, they claim that to which they have no right. Their salvation is not assured, but they are deceived by the falsehood of the evil one. The same sophistry is indulged, the same lie repeated by men, as was first spoken in Eden through the mediumship of the serpent. Though the medium is changed, the sentiment is the same.

God’s law appeals to man as an intelligent being; he possesses a mind to understand its demands, a conscience to feel the power of its claims, a heart to love its requirement of perfect righteousness, a will to render prompt and implicit obedience. God does not compel men to render obedience to his law. If man purposes to defy God, and transgress his law, as did Adam, he may do so, but he must suffer the terrible consequences. If he chooses to obey God, he may attain to the experience of the psalmist when he says, “I love thy commandments above gold; yea, above fine gold.”

Ellen G. White was the author who had the largest number of articles published in Signs of the Times® over its 150-year history.

* Bible quotations in this article are from the King James Version.

Grace and God's Requirements

by Ellen G. White
From the July 2024 Signs