Have you ever been in Church or on a ministry team where you or others are clearly hearing from God on a decision or issue, but the leader simply will not listen because he or she has their mind made up? One clear thing that spoke to me about organic church was the idea that The Head, Jesus, expresses Himself through speaking to all the members of the body. I was eager to participate in a group where all members were allowed to share what they hear from the Head, and not just one leader.
Later on, I came across a teaching under the category of “Eating from the tree of life.” Some refer to this as the deeper Christian life. I admit I really liked what I was hearing. One of the affects of The Fall was that people were no longer able to eat from the tree of life. So redemption ought to restore us to eating from the tree of life, right?
The “tree” teaching I was exposed to sounded quite attractive. It basically poses that Jesus is the tree of life, and that we can now eat of it. This teaching mixes in some scripture from John 6: 53-56, where Jesus talks about eating his flesh and blood, and some from Revelation 22 that speaks of this tree of life at the fulfillment of time.
This teaching further goes to say that when we use the scriptures to simply discern good from evil, or right from wrong, we are eating from the other tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. This also made sense to me, as I have read a few too many Christian “how-to” books, you know the kind with titles like 7 Steps to Being a Better Father, or 3 Steps to Success, and so forth. I had also experienced the frustration of trying to apply truths like these outside of biblical community, which is much of why seminary at times can be so brutal. Truth without the grace and power to live it out is pretty frustrating. Therefore, when I heard about the power of God in eating from the tree of life, I was excited and eager to apply what I was hearing in community with my organic church brothers and sisters.
I am all for eating of Jesus’ flesh and drinking of his blood. I am all for walking by the power of His Spirit in community with a family of believers. Trying to live out truth without this is futile. But to call this eating from the tree of life seems to forget that if we actually did this, we would physically live on forever (Gen 3: 22-24). Furthermore, Revelation 22 still refers to humans only having the right to eat of this tree if they endure in faithfulness to the end. Eating from the tree of life is the reward for walking in faith until the end. Although we are to eat of Christ, and walk in His Spirit, the Bible itself does not refer to believers eating of this tree until the final resurrection depicted at the end of Revelation.
While learning about how to do organic church, we were taught to come to church to eat from the tree of life. Than later we heard that much of the rest of Christianity is eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If true, a reality is depicted where the organic form of the body is hearing from the Head, but many other institutional parts of the larger body of Christ are hearing from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. With this new teaching, participants in organic church no longer perceive that Jesus is expressing Himself through the entire body, but most often through their local expression of organic church.
The idea posed in the first paragraph was no longer in operation. Instead of Christ speaking to His whole body, I found myself in a group that in theory aspires to this, but in actuality practiced the opposite via this tree of life teaching.
Why some of the “how to” books and wisdom parts of the Bible did not sometimes work for me had nothing to do with what tree I was eating from. It simply does not work to live the Christian life alone. It must be lived in community. But we must never subjugate wisdom to “eating from the tree of life.” God gives richly all things for us to enjoy.
So how do we understand the tree of life versus the tree of knowledge of good and evil? Eating from the tree of life is the reward of living a life in faithfulness to our God. It simply is being given physical eternal life, and we get to eat of it in the resurrection. Eating of the other tree can be selfish desire, wanting good things our way instead of God’s way, or even wanting good without God. It can also be pure evil. This is done sinfully or in defiance of God. An example might be having sex outside marriage; taking something good, but not going about it God’s way. In sum, eating from the tree of life imparts eternal life and eating from the other tree is sin and death.
God indicated that if Adam, Eve or any other humans were able to eat from the tree of life, they would live on indefinitely but knowing both good and evil (Gen 3:22-24). Not allowing them to eat of it was in a sense placing a cap on how long their fallen nature could go on living, and like giving them clothing, was a blessing. This was step one in God putting a cap on evil.
Last, we also must remember that more than 2 trees are mentioned in Genesis-God gave Adam and Eve permission to eat of every tree except one. So to boil down every possible action of humanity as eating from these two trees is inconsistent with the very narrative that describes them. Wisdom may not necessarily be eating of this tree, but eating from many of the thousands of other trees God gave to bless humanity. Let’s enjoy all things that God gives to bless us!
I believe those teaching this are sincere, Christ loving people, who are simply teaching what they have been taught. Some of them are my friends. But regardless of that, this does not hold water Biblically or hermeneutically.
I am so glad to have broken out of this thinking, and to be blessed by the many great followers of Christ who are sharing what the Head is teaching them amidst the many various forms of Church they participate in. All believers in all churches occasionally share things that are life giving, as well as ideas that deserve more testing and yes, perhaps rejection. Testing the spirits ultimately edifies the whole body, and I hope this discussion will fulfill that aim.