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2. The Origin of Sin

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What is the origin of sin? How did it come into the world? First, it must be said that God did not create sin. In Job 34:10, Elihu, Job’s friend, rightly said, “Therefore, listen to me, you men of understanding. Far be it from God to do wickedness, from the Almighty to do evil.” Likewise, 1 John 1:5 says, “God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all.” God is totally pure; he cannot be corrupted by sin, tempted to sin, and he doesn’t tempt anyone to sin (Jam 1:13).

Well then, how was sin introduced into creation? Sin came into being because God created creatures with freedom—the ability to obey or disobey. Why? Scripture never directly says, but the fact that he created creatures with freedom implies that he wanted them to choose rightly. It’s like in a marriage. In general, nobody wants someone to be forced to marry them. They want a person to choose of his or her own free volition. God is the same. He commands us to follow and obey him, but he also wants us to choose freely, which is why he commonly informs us of the benefits of obedience and the consequences of disobedience. For example, with Adam and Eve, he told them to not eat of the forbidden tree. If they did, they would know good and evil and eventually die (Gen 2:17). God typically gives us a command, reasons to obey it, including the consequences for disobedience, and the ability to choose whether to obey. God did not want to create robots who had no choice, though he could have. He decided to create creatures that could choose to love, trust, and obey him, which opened the door for sin to happen.

Unfortunately, the creatures that God created chose to rebel against him. The first rebellion happened in heaven. By considering Ezekiel 28:11-19 and other passages, it is clear that Satan was originally a beautiful angel with an exalted position at the throne of God. However, Satan became prideful—wanting to be like God (Is 14:12-14). Therefore, he rebelled, and one-third of the angels rebelled with him. Consequently, Satan and his followers were cast out of heaven (Rev 12:3-4). This was the beginning of sin.

But sin later happened on earth as well. When God created humans, he gave them one prohibition—to not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:17). The reason he gave them a prohibition was to remind them that they were not God—they were under his rule. Soon after, Satan tempted the first humans with the same temptation he fell to (Gen 3:4-5, Is 14:12-14). He said to Eve that they would be like God if they ate of the tree. Eve, in seeking to be like God (and therefore independent from him), ate of the tree. Then Adam ate of the tree as well, leading the human race into sin and bringing God’s creation under a curse.

This is sin’s origin. It began in heaven with an angelic rebellion, and it continued on earth when humans rebelled as well.

Why Did God Allow Sin?

Why did God allow sin? Does the advent of sin mean that God ceased to be in control of his creation? Though hard to understand, Scripture teaches that God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipotent (all-powerful), and sovereign (in control of all things, including evil). This is a mystery that Scripture clearly teaches. Ephesians 1:11 says, God “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will.” Also, Colossians 1:17 says God is at all times holding all things together by his mighty power—including our solar system, planet, humans, Satan, demons, animals, and plants. This means Satan and the other rebellious angels were never in control. Like all creatures, they are totally dependent upon God for their existence, and yet, by God’s sovereign choice, “free” to make decisions.

Though creatures are free to make decisions, God is somehow in control of them. In Job 1 and 2, we see that Satan needed to get permission from God to afflict a man named Job. All the afflictions, including the theft of his goods, death of family members and servants, devastating natural disasters, and physical sickness, though caused by the devil, were all under God’s control. Again, Scripture says God “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11) and that all things work to the good of those who love the Lord (Rom 8:28). This means the view called dualism, which teaches that in the world there are two competing equal powers—good versus evil—is not true. God is totally in control of Satan and demons. In fact, Scripture teaches that before God created the earth, he chose a remnant of “elect angels” (1 Tim 5:21) who would not rebel against him and an “elect” remnant of people on the earth who would not remain in rebellion—but would repent and follow God. Ephesians 1:4 says, “For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love.” This means that God knew about these future rebellions (with angels and men), planned for them, and allowed them for some greater reason.

Why did God allow these rebellions and the resulting sin and destruction? Scripture gives us a few reasons: Somehow, God allowing sin brings greater glory to himself. Consider a few support texts. Romans 9:22-23 says:

But what if God, willing to demonstrate his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath prepared for destruction? And what if he is willing to make known the wealth of his glory on the objects of mercy that he has prepared beforehand for glory

In describing God’s sovereignty over people (both good and bad), Paul said that God is demonstrating his “wrath” and “power” by being patient with the “objects of wrath” (v. 22)—beings who rebel and do evil. Also, with the “objects of mercy” (v. 23)—people who sinned but God saved—God is making his “glory” known through their salvation. Both objects of wrath and objects of mercy allow God to demonstrate different facets of his glory—his wrath, power, and mercy.

In addition, Ephesians 2:7 gives this as one of the reasons God saves sinners who repent: “to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” God’s saving of people who rebel against him will demonstrate his grace—unmerited favor—throughout eternity. It has been said that when the angels rebelled, God demonstrated his holiness and wrath. No mercy was offered to any fallen angel. However, with humanity, God demonstrates his grace—something the angels never saw. God gave unmerited favor to a remnant of people—saving them from their sin and the consequences of it. This demonstrates that God allowed sin to manifest aspects of his glory including his wrath, patience, power, and grace. Like a diamond sparkling more magnificently against a black cloth, God allowed sin to demonstrate his glory and to ultimately bring about great good.

Finally, Ephesians 3:10-11 says this about God’s saving of the church—which consists of Jew and Gentile together:

The purpose of this enlightenment is that through the church the multifaceted wisdom of God should now be disclosed to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly realms. This was according to the eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord,

God’s work in saving the church (sinners who repent and believe in God) will not only demonstrate his grace—unmerited favor—but also his “multifaceted wisdom” throughout eternity (v. 10). To take the mess that rebellious angels and humans created and make it glorious will show God’s tremendous wisdom.

In eternity, before creation, God could see millions of different options and ways things could have turned out, and yet, he chose to allow the current one. On this side of eternity, especially when considering how corrupt things are and have been, it may not make sense, but one day, we will all fall down and declare that God is glorious, merciful, gracious, and wise. He knows what is best, and we can trust that he chose the best plan which would bring glory to himself and bless his people (Rom 8:28).

Certainly, we see a perfect display of this in the gospel. Jesus, the Son of God, was murdered by evil people, which is the greatest crime ever committed. However, God took the worst thing that ever happened and made it the greatest thing that ever happened, as God saves people through the death and resurrection of his Son. Even this evil event was planned before time and allowed by God for the greatest good. In Acts 2:23, Peter said this to those who murdered Christ, “this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles.” Surely when it is all said and done, God will be proven to be truly wise, omnipotent, and glorious, as he allows and uses sin for a greater purpose.

Reflection

  1. What stood out most in the reading and why?
  2. Where did sin come from?
  3. Why did God allow sin?
  4. What other questions or applications did you take from the reading?

Copyright © 2020 Gregory Brown

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Related Topics: Christian Life, Hamartiology (Sin)

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