The Devil Has Sinned From The Beginning:  1 John 3 And Satan

As we wind down our study of Satan in the Bible, it is worthwhile to note that the New Testament has a surprising amount to say about the subject of Satan’s origins, and manages to do so in a much more straightforward fashion than we saw regarding the etiology of Satan’s rebellion in Ezekiel 28 and Isaiah 14.  This bluntness, though, is often disregarded.  One of the most important discussions of Satan’s character and how it can be reflected in the lives of people comes from 1 John 3:4-15, and its bluntness does not mean that it is often read and understood:  “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.  And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.  Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.  Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous.  He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.  Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.  In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother.  For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.  Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you.  We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.  Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”

How has Satan sinned from the beginning?  This answer, according to John, is somewhat complicated.  John is taking a remez from Genesis 3 and 4 and looking at how the lawlessness of Satan and his children is related to murdering and hatred.  A lot is being discussed in a few verses and a lot of connections are being made that are not always easy to fully recognize.  From the start, John seeks to argue from solid and undeniable premises, namely that to commit sin is to commit lawlessness because sin is a violation of God’s laws and that there is no sin in Jesus Christ and that Jesus Christ came to take away our sins.  All of these are basic, axiomatic, fundamental truths of human existence.  John then moves to discuss the way that those who sin are children of the devil, showing that he had paid attention to what Jesus had said to the crowd of hostile Jews in John 8 (see above for the discussion there on children of Abraham and children of the devil, which is relevant also to this present discussion).  Instead of going back to Abraham, though, John here goes back all the way to the garden of Eden to show it was that Satan was a murderer from the beginning, in inspiring Cain to kill his righteous brother Abel (although this is only implied and not stated outright in Genesis 4) and that through his deception of Eve he is the murderer of humanity in general by making us subject to sin and death.

Indeed, we may say that Satan sinned from the beginning is itself an axiom because Satan’s very name is a reminder of his adversarial relationship to God.  Before Satan sinned he was not God’s adversary.  He was instead God’s servant, an angel of high rank and authority.  His sin of pride in arrogantly wishing to be viewed as God’s rival rather than his servant was what made him Satan, and so it is indeed true that Satan has sinned from the beginning because it was his sin that made him Satan in the first place.  And it is equally axiomatic that those who likewise sin against God are making themselves the enemies of God and are therefore making themselves children of the devil by their rebellion.  The implications are unmistakable once the obvious premises are taken to their logical conclusion.  If we are righteous and have God’s spirit, his “seed,” within us, we will bear righteous fruit in our behavior.  If we lack love for our brethren, and if we lack righteousness in our conduct, it may be inferred that righteousness is not in us.  It is not that we are saved by our righteousness but rather that if we are genuinely saved we cannot help but to be righteous because we will be developing God’s righteous nature and will not be able to help being righteous because God’s character inevitably produces righteousness as a mulberry tree inevitably produces mulberries and not pecans.

And John hits the point home over and over again, making sure that the reader gets the point.  For those who are able to follow John’s syllogistic reasoning, the conclusions that John draws are obviously proven by his premises, and no fault can be found in those airtight premises.  For those who do not grasp his logical flow, John uses equally unimpeachable examples to demonstrate the consequences of hating one’s brother and what this says about us if it is indeed the case.  Those readers who are willing and able to compare 1 John with what John says in his gospel have the advantage in recognizing his hints and what parts of biblical history as well as the statements of Jesus are being referred to, as John frequently refers to his epistle in 1 John and also, like Paul, James, and Jude draws a great deal of insight from the early chapters of Genesis as being emblematic of essential parts of human nature.  To the extent that we draw our identity from sin as Satan did, we are sinners from the beginning of the acquisition of that identity.  Let us therefore choose our identity wisely.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Biblical Guide To Demonology, Biblical History, Christianity, History, Musings and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Devil Has Sinned From The Beginning:  1 John 3 And Satan

  1. Pingback: A Biblical Guide To Demonology Project | Edge Induced Cohesion

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