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Sin, Its Origin And Outworking

Regarding the origin and outworking of sin, the Scriptures are chiefly concerned with this subject as it affects the human race from the fall of Adam onwards, but glimpses are given of an even earlier expression of sin in the Devil's rebellion against God.

However limited our understanding of this may be, it is indicated that Satan had occupied a position of remarkable dignity and responsibility in the divine presence, but this was forfeited because of iniquity being found in him, in that be desired to grasp the prerogatives of Deity. In 1 John 3:8 we are told that 'the Devil sinneth from the beginning', an illuminating word which points back beyond the Adamic creation, and helps us to appreciate that a power for evil was operating against God's purposes in earth's earliest ages. It was the Lord Himself who said, 'I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven' (Luke 10:18), an allusion, we would understand, to divine judgement on him when 'unrighteousness was found' in him (Ezek. 28:15). Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-17 merit careful thought in connexion with the Devil's rebellion against God. It is remarkable that both Isaiah and Ezekiel introduce these references to Satan's downfall in the context of burdens of judgement upon great nations which held dominating power in their day. Isaiah 14 deals with the overweening pride of Babylon and Ezekiel 28 with the hauteur of Tyre. It is characteristic of

many attaining great wealth and power that they tend to become uplifted in pride. By the leading of the Holy Spirit, the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel introduced against this background of human folly the fearful effrontery which caused Satan to reach beyond his appointed sphere. For in both of these prophecies are statements which could have been fully applied neither to Babylon nor Tyre, as for example in Ezekiel 28:14-17:

Thou wast the anointed cherub that covereth... Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till unrighteousness was found in thee... thou hast sinned: therefore have I cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God...

What was the nature of the unrighteousness that was found in him? Isaiah 14:13-14 suggests that it was pride which aimed at equality with God. The five 'I wills' of this portion are typical of a basic attitude of opposition to the will of God. The one described as the 'day star, son of the morning', is represented as saying:

I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne, I will sit upon the mount of congregation, I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High. In reply to which lawless ambition the judgement of God declared, 'Thou shalt he brought down to hell, to the uttermost parts of the pit'.

Here then is seen the attitude of the Devil in utter opposition to the will of God. This opposition found its outworking in the effort to undo God's handiwork in the garden of Eden. Assuming the guise of a serpent, the Devil approached Eve in the hope of turning her from allegiance to her Creator. His success in turning her and Adam aside from obedience to the divine will was the origin of sin as it affects the Adamic race.

In considering the nature of sin as seen in Genesis 3, it may be helpful to think of it from the viewpoint of four New Testament definitions.

1. 'Sin is lawlessness' (1 John 3:4)

The principle of Romans 7:7 may be applied to the situation in Eden, for God's declared law, when understood brings responsibility to keep it. A plain prohibition had been given to Adam and Eve. They understood perfectly well what God had said (Gen. 2:16,17). The Devil subtly beguiled Eve, the weaker vessel, and she believed his lie. She in turn became Adam's temptress, and then he deliberately broke the divine law. Lawlessness is the rejection of the will of God and the substitution of man's will. This is clearly seen in Genesis 3:1-7, illustrating, at the beginning, one facet of the nature of sin.

2. 'All unrighteousness is sin' (1 John 5:17)

The Greek word for sin in this sentence is adikia, meaning wrongdoing or injustice. If lawlessness is the violation of God's will, as expressed in His law, unrighteousness is the violation of God's standard as expressed in His justice. This aspect of sin is implied in Adam's acceptance of the Devil's statement in Genesis 3:5, 'For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil'. The suggestion that God was withholding good from His creatures was a fearful slander; it was essentially unrighteous. Adam should have repudiated this, but he endorsed it by his action; this was sin.

3. 'Whatsoever is not of faith is sin' (Rom. 14:23)

Adam and Eve were faced with the choice between the word of God and the Devil's lie. Faith rests upon the word of God. The Devil questioned this and then contradicted it. Confidence in God's word having been undermined, Eve acted by sight rather than by faith. Adam would be assailed by conflicting thoughts as he took the fruit, reflecting a truth concisely stated in Romans 14:23, 'He that doubteth is condemned if he eat'. His action was not of faith, therefore it was sin. In doing this he 'exchanged the truth of God for a lie... and served the creature rather than the Creator' (Rom.1:25).

4. 'To him therefore that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it

is sin' (James 4:17)

We are told in 1 Timothy 2:14 that 'Adam was not be beguiled'. This was in contrast to Eve, of whom it is stated that she was thoroughly beguiled. This is confirmed in 2 Corinthians 11:3 'the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness'. Romans 5:19 refers to Adam's disobedience. Adam refused to listen to the voice of God, but listened to his wife's voice. He knew to do good, but did it not; to him this was sin.

Certain far-reaching consequences of sin are seen in Genesis 3, and these may be summarized as follows:

(a) Eyes opened to evil (v.7)

(b) Fear - hiding from God (vv. 8,10)

(c) Enmity (v.15)

(d) Sorrow (v.16) and toil (v.17) - the same word in Hebrew.

(e) Curse (v.17)

(f) Death (v.19).

'It is a sore travail that God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised therewith', declared the Preacher (Eccles. 1:13), and throughout all human history these consequences of sin have been apparent. If we take enmity as a specific illustration, we are told that God would put enmity between the Seed of the woman and the serpent's seed. Here is enshrined the first Messianic prophecy, foretelling the victory of Calvary. The seed of the serpent is identified by reference to John 8:44 as those who reject the truth of God's Word, for they showed the same characteristics as their father, the Devil. They were three times described as an 'offspring of vipers' and they will share the serpent's judgement (Mat. 23:33). This basic enmity will persist until the fulfilment of the triumphant word in Romans 16:20: 'The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly'.

All through Scripture the outworking of the principle of sin in human experience finds consistent illustration. It is one evidence of the divine authorship 6f the sacred writings that they penetrate so accurately to the root of mankind's dilemma in the early chapters of Genesis, and then present from the wide range of human experience a selection of convincing evidence to the effects of sin, and God's abounding grace despite it. Let us consider for example the outworking of the principle that 'sin is lawlessness'.

Adam's transgression of the law of God in Eden was followed within his own family by the tragic act of lawlessness when Cain slew his own brother Abel. 'Cain was of (ek, out of) the evil one, and slew his brother' is the divine comment through the apostle John (1 John 3:12). God dealt graciously with Cain in the matter of the rejection of his offering. Yet Cain deliberately refused to receive the counsel of God, and sin, 'couching at the door' as a wild beast ready to devour, soon impelled Cain to commit the first murder. It was the Lord who said that the Devil was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44), and in Cain's action we see a typical expression of lawlessness to that extreme.

As the human family multiplied there was a sinister development of this aspect of sin. The Spirit of God traces the dark sequence from unworthy thoughts concerning God to basest forms of wrong-doing (Gen. 6:5-11; Rom. 1:21,26). If the antediluvian race lacked the precise instruction of a written law such as was later given at Sinai, they nevertheless had certain salient truths of divine law 'written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them' (Rom. 2:15). The measure of the affront to God by their utter defiance of His most obvious laws may be seen in the fearful severity of the great deluge. The earth had become corrupt before God and was filled with violence, the latter a projection of Cain's violence to Abel, and of Lamech's proud boast of having slain a man for wounding him (Gen. 4:23). If more localized, the later condition of Sodom and Gomorrah had similar conditions of lawlessness (Gen. 18, 19), again expressed in gross immorality and recourse to violence without provocation. Lot was distressed by their 'lascivious life' and 'lawless deeds' (2 Pet. 2:7,8).

Even when God called Israel to special privilege in holy nationhood the outworking of sin as lawlessness found grave manifestation. The failure at Sinai is an amazing commentary on the power of sin through human weakness. Accompanied by unique manifestations of the divine presence, God's laws were pronounced in the hearing of an awe-struck people. The first two commandments forbade the worship of other gods or the making of graven images. Yet within a few

weeks Moses, the meekest man in all the earth, shattered the tables of the law at the foot of the mount, an action fittingly symbolizing human readiness to reject divine law. Later wilderness experiences only emphasized the lawlessness which so readily asserts itself. The crisis of disobedience at Kadesh-bamea was the climax of successive acts of rebellion against God's word through Moses, and in pronouncing the judgement of forty years' wandering in the wilderness God stated that they had tempted Him these ten times, and had not hearkened to His voice. Even within the most privileged ranks of the Aaronic priesthood a lawless attitude developed when Nadab and Abihu brought the judgement of death upon themselves through offering strange fife before the Lord 'which He had not commanded them' (Lev. 10:1).

Numerous other examples will readily occur to students of Scripture. Suffice it to mention finally that extreme outworking of human lawlessness at the time of the end, when 'the man of sin' otherwise termed 'the lawless one', will oppose himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped, setting himself forth as God. The real character of sin, as shown through Satan before the Adamic creation, and in human experience since Adam's expulsion from Eden, will he seen in blackest intensity through the blasphemous claims of Antichrist.

Our study may fittingly conclude with a brief reference to the gloriously

welcome contrast seen in the sinless One, 'Who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied Himself ... and being found in fashion as a Man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the Cross' 'The law of His God is in His heart; None of His steps shall slide'. The delight of His heart was to carry out the divine will (Ps. 40:8; John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38).