Where did the first sin come from? When God created the world, everything was good and perfect. We understand our sinful natures after the Fall, but where did sin come from (whether in terms of the Tempter or in terms of evil desires) in the first place if everything God created was good?
That’s a great question and, at first glance, it looks like a fair doubt to have. The right answer lies in understanding and clarifying some of the premises of the question.
First off, let’s talk about sin. I teach my son about sin in the simplest way I can. I tell him sin is anything we think or do that shows that we don’t love God the most or that disobeys His law directly or indirectly.
That’s as simple as I can get in summarising what sin is and what it looks like in the very first instance of human sin in Genesis 3.
In Genesis 1-2, we read the narrative of how God created a world that was orderly and set up in perfect harmony with all parts of creation — a world He called ‘good’.
God gave several positive (to-do) laws to man (Genesis 1:28), but the one negative (don’t-do) law stated to man was specifically not to eat of the ‘tree of the knowledge of good and evil’ (Genesis 2:16,17). This was famously broken by man’s disobedience, prompted by the cunning doubts of Satan.
This first sin polluted the entire human race by giving to us by inheritance the sin nature that, from birth, inclines man to seek after our own desires rather than that of God’s. And here we come to the crux of the question.
While we can account for the fallen humanity, we struggle to understand how Adam and Eve sinned if they were created good. The way to understand this question is to understand a few truths revealed to us from scripture.
Adam and Eve were created good, but they were not ‘unchanging’.
Scripture declares that man was created as ‘upright’, but that man has always been seeking out other ways (Genesis 1:31, Ecclesiastes 7:29). It further points out that only God possesses the ability to be unchanging and that, even in his ‘good’ state, man still could ‘change’. By change, I mean the ability to make choices and respond actively to situations. Adam’s choice was in accordance with his intellect (or reasoning) and not necessarily his nature.
Only God possesses the ability to be unchanging so, even in his ‘good’ state, man still could ‘change’
Adam and Eve were created as free creatures, not as robots.
One of the consequences of the ability to change, as discussed earlier, is the idea that the choices made are real and cause change. A common misunderstanding of the ‘meticulous’ sovereignty of God is that it implies man has no ‘real’ choice. This is a false understanding of the basic image of God as seen in man.
Like God, man has real choices. However, unlike God, his choices are always contingent on many factors, such as heart motives, circumstances and temptations. Adam’s choices were his own.
Adam and Eve voluntarily disobeyed God’s Law
As the 2nd London Baptist Confession (1689) describes it, “Satan used the craftiness of the serpent to seduce Eve, who then seduced Adam. Adam acted without any outside compulsion and deliberately transgressed the law of their creation and the command given to them by eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:12-13; 2 Corinthians 11:3).”
This act of disobedience was not under compulsion. Adam and Eve were under no pressure from God’s decree or from some sort of demonic possession.
Augustine, commenting on this dilemma, states that Adam, in his original state, possessed the ability to both sin and not sin, in comparison to man’s current fallen state where he has no ability to not sin. Adam chose to disobey God.
Like God, man has real choices. Adam’s choices were his own
Sin is not a substance, but a choice.
Today, the language and concept of sin has morphed to either being irrelevant to most people (who talks about sin and the wrath of God anymore?) or being described almost as an external force or substance (many talk about deliverance from or rebuking of sinful spirits).
At its core, sin is an action in the direction that goes against God and His goodness. An action that responds to internal and external factors seeking to pursue what God has declared as evil. We sin with our hearts and with our hands. We don’t sin because some demon has possessed us or because God forced us to do something we didn’t want to do. We sin because we want to.
So, where did the first sin come from? The simple answer is that it came from Adam. While Satan worked to sow doubt and tempt Adam, we don’t have any other explanation other than that, though he was made upright, Adam chose to knowingly disobey God’s law.
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 1 John 2:1
In fact, this is love for God: to keep His commands. And His commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. 1 John 5:3-5
A weekly brief of new resources and Scripture-based insights from our editorial team.