CHAPTER 2-THE ORIGIN OF SIN
This is one of the most difficult questions in theology. Since God made everything good in the original creation, how did sin get started? How was a good creation thrown into rebellion against its Creator? By whom and how was sin originated? There is much we cannot know about the question. But there are some necessary inferences.
1. Sin is not eternal; it had a beginning. The Gnostics believed in two eternal principles: good and evil.
2. Sin was not created by God. God created everything good; He is not the Author of sin. Moral beings were without sin when created. Satan was created a sinless and perfect being "Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee" (#Eze 28:15). God made man upright. "Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions" (#Ec 7:29).
3. Sin was not the necessary result of finiteness. Some claim that because God made man a finite being sin was inevitable. But if this be true, men will always be sinners for none of us will ever become infinite. Infinity belongs only to God.
4. Sin had its origin in a principle of negation, which means that it is not the result of any positive force. Moral beings were created good, but not immutably and independently good. This would have made them equal with God; it would have involved the absurdity of God creating another God. God alone is immutable and independent. There cannot be more than one God, self-existent and self-sufficient, sovereign and supreme.
Moral beings, angels and man, were dependent upon God in remaining good. A sustaining power must continually go out from God if moral creatures continue as created. "Which holdeth our soul in life, and suffereth not our feet to be moved" (#Ps 66:9); "For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said, For we are also his offspring" (#Ac 17:28); "For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist" (#Col 1:16,17); "Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high:" (#Heb 1:3).
Now this sustaining power is of grace and not of debt. It is not a matter of justice. God could exercise this grace or not as it pleased Him. He could have upheld and confirmed in holiness all moral beings. He could have prevented sin from ever getting started among the angels, just as He graciously prevented it from spreading, confirming in holiness those referred to as the elect angels: "I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality" (#1Ti 5:21). He could have kept the sinless Adam from sinning. It will not do to say that because God made Adam a free moral agent, He could not prevent his sinning without violating the freedom of his will. God withheld Abimilech, king of Gerar, from sinning by not allowing him to harm Sarah. "And God said unto him in a dream, Yea, I know that thou didst this in the integrity of thy heart; for I also withheld thee from sinning against me: therefore suffered I thee not to touch her" (#Ge 20:6).
So sin had its origin in the withholding of that grace necessary to sustain moral beings in a state of holiness. If God had not permitted sin there could have been no display of some of His most glorious attributes. There would have been no display of mercy, for mercy must have an object of misery, and there could have been no misery apart from sin. There would have been no exhibition of wrath and anger and hatred, for these are the exercise of justice and holiness against sin. There would have been no display of such gracious love as is seen in God's gift of His Son, who was punished for sinners that they might not perish in their sins. Surely it is not too much to say that God permitted sin that He might overrule it "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (#Eph 1:6). "Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain" (#Ps 76:10).
Sin originated among the angels. That slimy, slippery, shining, subtle thing we call sin was hatched the day Lucifer, son of the morning, said, "I will exalt my throne above the stars of God... I will be like the most High" (#Isa 14:13,14). Lucifer sought equality with God in government, and sovereignty was the bait he held out to man to turn him against his Maker. And in sinning, man has become the tool and ally of Satan.
Most people have a woefully inadequate conception of sin. Sin is the abominable thing God hates. Sin is something more than a slight misdemeanor for which God merely gives man a scolding; sin is a species of high treason against the Almighty and thrice-holy God, and is to be punished by consignment to the lake of fire.
In the human race sin was derived from the first man: "Therefore, as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned" (#Rom 5:12 R.V.)
Now there are but two conceivable ways sin can pass from one to another. The one is by way of example, as Jereboam caused Israel to sin, and as Eve caused Adam to sin. The other is by partaking of the sin of another. It is obvious that our being sinners is not due to the force of Adam's example. Moreover, in the comparison between Adam and Christ "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous" (#Ro 5:19), it is intended to show that sin came by Adam as righteousness comes by Christ. Now we do not become righteous by following Christ as an example, but by partaking of His righteousness. "But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption" (#1Co 1:30). This raises the question of Adam's relation to his descendants.
Adam was the head of the human race. This headship was both natural and federal---natural by the principle of generation (like begets like); federal by Divine appointment.
1. Adam was the natural father or head of the race.
"And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation" (#Ac 17:26); "And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit" (#1Co 15:45). Every person was seminally in Adam. He begat children in his own moral and physical likeness, not before but after his fall. His children became heir to all his ills of body and soul. They inherited his moral depravity and physical weakness. His nature was imparted to his posterity.
2. Adam was the federal head of the race.
This means that Adam was appointed a public and representative person. He represented the race in the covenant of works. "But they like Adam have transgressed the covenant" (#Ho 6:7 R.V.). The federal headship explains why Adam's sin was imputed (charged) to his posterity. "For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners" (#Ro 5:19). Adam was acting for the whole race and what he did was charged to all his descendants. This is the only way to explain the death of infants. Infants die because of Adams' sin, or they die for no reason at all, since they have not sinned personally "Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come" (#Ro 5:14). If Adam did not represent infants in respect to sin, then Christ did not represent them in respect to salvation. If they were not guilty with Adams guilt, they could not be righteous with Christ's righteousness. Babies go to heaven, not on the grounds of innocency, but on the ground of the blood of Christ. If Christ had not died the whole human race, infants and all, would have been forever doomed. There will be nobody in heaven except those redeemed by the blood of Christ. Infants have the guilt of Adam imputed to them without their knowledge and consent. And on the ground of the death of Christ for them the Holy Spirit prepares their nature (which is sinful) for the enjoyment of heaven.
In And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit. The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven" (#1Co 15:45,47), Jesus is called the second man and the last Adam. This is not in respect of existence, but representation. He is not considered personally but representatively. Considered as an individual. He was not the second man or the last Adam. Individually, there were many men between the Adam of Eden and the Adam of Calvary, and there have been many men since Jesus. He is called the last Adam because there are but two public or representative men. God deals with all men through two men, and our destiny depends upon which of these two men we have our standing in before God. Believers are accepted in the beloved "To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved" (#Eph 1:6), and are complete in Him "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power:" (#Col 2:10).
There are two aspects or branches of sin:
1. That which consists of the guilt of some deed committed:
2. Inherent corruption or depravity of nature contracted by that guilt. The sinner's standing is that of guilt before the law of God; his state is that of depravity or corruption of nature.
1. He was charged with guilt and condemned by the law of God:
2. He lost the likeness of God in holiness and became corrupt. Now which of these, or did both of these branches of sin, come from Adam? Some say the guilt of sin is imputed, hence their baptism of infants lest they should go to hell. Others say the corruption of nature was imparted. But we believe that sin in its two branches was derived from Adam. Guilt was imputed, and the corruption of nature was imparted or inherited. In other words, depravity or corruption of nature is one of the consequences of Adam's transgression. Does God punish the innocent? The answer is a loud, No! Then we must all have been represented by Adam in the transgression or we would not be punished with a sinful nature.
How many of Adam's sins were charged to his posterity? Only one for it is written, "For the judgment was by one (sin) to the condemnation, but the free gift is of many offenses unto justification" (#Ro 5:16).
Adam could convey sin to his posterity only as long as he was a public or representative person. Immediately after his first sin, he was put out of office and another covenant was published "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" (#Ge 3:15). And when Adam exercised faith in the promised Redeemer, he was acting in a private capacity; otherwise, his faith would have been imputed as well as his sin. Let both writer and reader thank God for the last Adam who is a life-giving Spirit.