Few events in the Bible were as pivotal as the moment humanity first chose to disobey God. I don’t think it’s possible to sufficiently describe the weight of the decision to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil. That single decision ultimately turned the universe around. Because of that decision, God the Son came down to earth, became flesh, died as a human being, and would remain a human being forever. That one decision brought a change in the Godhead.
One decision changed everything. But since “everything” is so nondescript, it would be useful to focus on one particular change that sin caused. In the book Education, writer Ellen G. White wrote:
Adam and Eve had chosen the knowledge of evil, and if they ever regained the position they had lost they must regain it under the unfavorable conditions they had brought upon themselves. No longer were they to dwell in Eden, for in its perfection it could not teach them the lessons which it was now essential for them to learn. In unutterable sadness they bade farewell to their beautiful surroundings and went forth to dwell upon the earth, where rested the curse of sin. (Emphasis mine)
It says that because Adam and Eve chose to sin, they brought upon themselves an unfavorable condition. This condition was not purposeless, however, since it was a means through which they could regain their first position.
The second sentence contains what is, for me, a truly groundbreaking concept. It says that because of sin, the perfection of Eden could not teach them the lessons they needed to learn anymore. Is there anything better than perfect?
The Ideal Classroom
When I think of the ideal classroom to learn and to study, I naturally think of a perfect environment. By perfect I mean in its totality. No evil, no violence, no suffering, nothing negative at all. In other words, it is something like Eden. Yet in God’s estimation, this perfect place was not suited anymore for the education of Adam and Eve. Perfect wouldn’t do any longer because they sinned, and with sin came a whole nature that was incompatible with how God and the sinless worlds operated.
That decision to disobey God was more than just a wrongful deed. It transformed the entire nature of how we, human beings, learned. The whole mechanism for us to go from not knowing to knowing, unlearned to learned, changed. Before sin, a perfect environment like Eden was the ideal venue for learning. But that perfection became unfitted for sinful men.
But couldn’t we see the truth in that statement? Don’t we say this a lot: suffering, struggles, and failures teach us the most? Yes, happy moments teach us too, but when it comes to an accelerated track to learning and gaining wisdom, we get our curriculum from the school of suffering.
And so Adam and Eve moved to dwell on earth, which by implication was now the fitted classroom to their sinful nature. God seemed to have a lesson for them, for humanity to learn, and He was adamant that this lesson was learned. Before sin, Eden’s perfection was the means to learning this lesson. But as a Good Teacher, He didn’t impose the same method categorically. When His students changed, He too changed His classroom, His approach.
The Education of Jesus Christ
Given this backdrop, ponder with me the import of this verse in Hebrews:
“Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” Hebrews 5:8.
Jesus Christ learned through suffering.
First, Jesus Christ learned. “Though he were a Son,” the Omniscient God the Son, he learned. When Jesus put on the garb of humanity, He did not access that omniscience. Instead, He humbled himself to not know everything, and after a season of time, to learn and know them, just like we all do.
Second, the way that He learned, in particular the lesson of obedience (the lesson that God wanted Adam and Eve to learn in the beginning), was through the things that he suffered.
Here’s the marvelous thing. Because Jesus did not sin, He did not have to get on this education track that required suffering as textbooks. He was perfect. In other words, perfection like the one in Eden was the ideal classroom for Him to learn.
But when Jesus came down to earth and put on the garb of humanity, He set aside that first education track and adopted the one that we, sinful human beings, had to be on. Why? Hebrews 5:9 says, “And being made perfect,” through obedience, and before that, through suffering, “he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” He did this so that we could obey and follow His example.
O to marvel at the incarnation of Christ…
All the world’s a classroom is my personal slogan. But such is the nature of this classroom: glorious at times and horrendous at others. Its history has bright and dark periods, and noble and despicable characters in it. But in the divine arrangement, this is to be so for now so that I can learn what I need to learn, until one day, I can transfer to the heavenly classroom. On that one day, I will be changed, so that I will not have to learn through suffering anymore.
Yet even more beautiful is the fact that God himself joined me in this imperfect classroom and went through the education that I have to go through, at the very least, so that I know that he is a High Priest that can “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” (Hebrews 4:15) What a marvelous God.
But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren. Hebrews 2:9-11