Paul Derengowski, ThM
“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
As the biblical testimony reveals, there is not one man, one woman, or one child who has not sinned. All have sinned and fallen short of the standard of God’s glory. The one exception is Jesus Christ who took on human form, was tempted to sin, but resisted the temptation to act upon it (Heb. 4:15; 2 Cor. 5:21). But, where did sin come from? The answer is twofold: the angelic realm of demons and then through the first humans, Adam and Eve.
The Angelic Realm
The first indication that sin entered the world is seen in the Book of Genesis and the encounter between the first human couple and the serpent, the latter of which would later be found to be none other than the devil himself (i.e. Satan). Adam and Eve, as well as all of creation, were living in a pristine environment, free from sin, and in obedience to God, especially in light of His command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (2:17). The serpent, “of old who is called the devil and Satan” (Rev. 12:9), entered the scene, successfully tempted Eve (first), then Adam, to disobey God and from then on man has been on the run from God (Gen. 3:8).
There is no indication in the fall of man narrative of how long the devil had existed in a fallen state himself before he approached Adam and Eve, nor is there an extensive explanation given which caused the devil to rebel either. From other passages in Scripture there are hints as to what the devil was like in his pre-fallen existence and the apparent motivation which led to his demise. One must “read between the lines” in passages like Ezekiel 28:12-17 and Isaiah 14:12-15, which have traditionally been understood as references alluding to the devil, what he was like, and what led to his rebellious fall from grace. In those passage the devil is depicted as a being who was “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty,” “the anointed cherub,” and “blameless in all [his] ways.” But, because of dissatisfaction with his standing before God, and a desire to be like God, instead of ascending to such lofty heights, he was “thrust down to Sheol, to the recesses of the pit” (Isa. 14:15).
Elsewhere, Jesus commented that the devil “was a murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44). There is no explanation of whom the devil murdered, and the beginning is usually understood as the beginning of human existence. How long Satan existed prior to humanity’s creation is not given, either. But given the rapidity of the effect of sin on any created being, it probably was not an extended period of time. Satan, filled with pride, failed to keep his first estate (Jude 6), and soon after Adam and Eve were created, he approached them with the same sinful proposition which caused him to fall, in an effort to get them to do the same thing. That in itself is likely the motivation behind his statement to Eve: “For God knows that in the day you eat from it [the tree of the knowledge of good and evil] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:5). Sinful pride was the devil’s demise, and man’s as well.
The Human Realm
While Satan and his minions were the first sinful creatures in existence, it was both Adam and Eve who accepted his proposition to question God’s word (“Indeed, has God said?”), as well as God’s veracity (“You surely shall not die!”), and would become the human exemplars for the rest of the human race as sinners before God. Humanity has been successful in following their lead as it has constantly done the same.
“Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—” wrote the apostle Paul (Rom. 5:12). Adam, which in the Hebrew language is simply the word for “man,” decided, using the same prideful reasoning that Satan used, he dissatisfied with his lot in life and so he freely chose to improve upon that lot by skeptically calling God’s command into question, as well as His sovereignty to mete out retribution for disobedience. Adam became his own “god,” although a fallen one. Each of his offspring unto today also engages in human idolatry every time they act independently of God’s declaration on any given matter.
Because of the first human couple’s act of autonomy, or self-law, each and every human being has shared in the same selfish, pride-filled, nature and mentality. Shortly after the fall, the sinfulness of man had become so pervasive and perverse that God would record: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
Similar statements are found throughout Scripture denoting the depraved nature of man. “When they sin against Thee (for there is no man who does not sin)…” (1 Kg. 8:46; 2 Chr. 6:36). “The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one” (Ps. 14:2-3 cf. 53:2-3; Rom. 3:9-12). “Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and who never sins” (Eccl. 7:20). “If you then, being evil…but the bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matt. 7:11, 17). “Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin” (Jn. 8:34). “But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin…” (Gal. 3:22).
The sin act of Adam and Eve had dire consequences on their progeny, and no one, except Jesus Christ, has failed to act just like they did. All humans are sinners who stand condemned from the outset of their lives—“The wicked are estranged form the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth” (Ps. 58:3). To argue to the contrary is to slip back into and embrace original lies told by Satan and accepted by the first parents of the human race.
What About God?
Sometimes a question is raised concerning the origin of sin beginning with God. After all, He is the Creator of all things. So, why could he not be the source of sin rather than Satan or human beings?
First of all, sin is not something that God created. Creation is reserved for the cosmos and all the articles which comprise it: the sun, moon, earth, human beings, bugs and birds, etc. Sin is not an article. It is a moral or ethical decision to either obey or disobey God. Besides, due to the nature of sin, if God did create it, then He would have contradicted himself the moment He ceased creation and said, “it was very good” (Gen. 1:31). God, himself, would have negated His very existence by having within His being the real ability to commit sin in a dualistic struggle with His inherent goodness, which in turn would have made God a liar (Num. 23:19; Tit. 1:2), since He had already declared His holiness and that He does not tempt others with sin (James 1:13). The parasite of sin would have been equated with the host as they cancel each other out in an eternal struggle for supremacy. God would have ceased to be God which is a necessary fallacy; it is the very thing Satan wished to have occurred in his attempt to ascend to throne of God, as God, when he first rebelled against God (Isa. 14:13-14).
Second, just because the first creatures—Satan, the angels, and Adam and Eve—had the propensity to sin, because God had created them with a will that allowed them the moral free choice to either obey or disobey God, does not necessitate that God was responsible for their actions. Although God knew in advance of their decision, that knowledge was not His individual decision to act against Himself. Acts of sin were the sole responsibility of those who chose to participate in them, and act against God. If God was the source of sin, then, once again, He would have undermined His very being, as well as His self-revelation that He is not a God of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).
Finally, the Bible makes it clear that God hates sin. “For thou art not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with Thee,” wrote the Psalmist (Ps. 5:4; see also Ps. 11:5; 34:16). Zechariah the prophet would quote God as saying, “Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate” (Zech. 8:17). Finally, Jesus, who resided with the Father prior to his incarnation (Jn. 1:14), while chastising the hypocritical Pharisees stated, “You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men, but God knows your hearts; for that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God” (Lk. 16:15). Clearly, if God was responsible for the origination of sin in the universe, then those men called of God to speak for and represent Him in their inspired commentary would have been liars! God, Himself, would have perpetrated a grander ruse than even Satan could have contrived and would have used His own creation against Himself to do it. Again, God would have ceased to be God and so would have the whole of creation ceased as well. Yet, creation maintains, and has maintained, amid sin’s presence in the universe.
Sin is an ever-present reality in the created order. Its origin also finds itself within creation, especially those intelligent and sentient beings that God created with the untested freedom to choose to either obey or disobey Him. Satan was the first creature to sin against God as motivated by self-desire to be “like God.” When he fell out of favor with God and was summarily cast down because of his transgression, he devised a plan to try and cause those created in God’s image to rebel as well. Utilizing some “crafty” reasoning, he was successful in persuading man to essentially call into question God’s word and His sovereign ability to punish those who would rebel. Adam, therefore, became the source of introduction into the world of human beings. Everyone since the time of Adam, as his progeny, have been born with the same sin nature that Adam developed when he decided his way was better than God’s. Those who commit sin are in bondage to it until God sets them free. The sin nature is the reason why death is a surety for all.
Moreover, even though God created all beings, He cannot be the source of sin. Sin was not a created thing. It is disposition inherent in the will of intelligent beings that initially had the option to either freely obey or disobey God. Since the fall of both Satan and man, their wills have changed in a way whereby the decisions they make are tainted by the presence of sin. “For I know that nothing good dwells in me,” wrote the apostle Paul, “that is, in my flesh; for the wishing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not” (Rom. 7:18). Why? Because of the sin that indwelt Paul, and that was after his conversion (Rom. 7:20). Although some may try to place the blame upon God for man’s fall into sin, Scripture makes it quite clear that God cannot sin, nor does He use sin to try and compel anyone to sin.