This past Lord's Day, we began a series of sermons regarding God's covenant(s) with mankind. As as we looked at God's covenant with Adam, there were numerous features that are vital to our understanding and application of God's dealings with His creation.
The first thing we saw was that God is the one who institutes the covenant with our father, Adam. This means that the covenant was "imposed" upon him by his creator. We also saw that Adam was created in God's image and thus, he was given unique gifts and responsibilities and privileges. In particular, Adam was given dominion over the creation and was commanded to populate the planet. This was the glorious condition of your father Adam in his original state.
Secondly, we saw that God not only imposed the covenant on Adam, He also dictated the terms of the covenant to him. In 2:15, God took and placed Adam in the Garden with a mandate. Again, we see that it is the creator God who takes the initiative and put Adam where he was to be and gave him his specific tasks: dressing and keeping the Garden. But Adam's life under the covenant was not merely one of endless toil, the covenant was gracious and generous. The Creator was under no compulsion to have this kind of relationship; yet, He makes covenant with Adam and gives him everything to use. In the midst of all this grace and generosity there was only one thing denied to Adam. Adam's obedience to God was to be tested by this one thing: do not eat of that tree. If he obeys, he will live; if he disobeys, he will surely die. We know what he did, and he was subject now to death.
Nevertheless, the covenant God met the disobedience of Adam with mercy. Adam's transgression was not going to frustrate God's eternal purpose, and so He declared war on the serpent and his seed. The sin of Adam was indeed punished, but even the punishment was a merciful punishment. He was still to work the ground, Eve was still to bear children, but the circumstances were now different. What was intended for joy, would now often bring heartache and the creation would resist the dominion of Adam - and this penalty, this judgment, is still in effect because Adam was our natural covenant representative. Romans 5 makes it clear that by nature we are, in every respect, his sons and daughters. As the old saying from the New England Primer says, "In Adam's fall we sinned all." But if we are in Christ by faith, we have another covenant head and representative.
This is the greatest expression of divine mercy and grace. Even as our natural father, the first Adam, disobeyed and brought sin and death, the second Adam brought redemption and life. Praise God for His wonderful grace and mercy!