Source of Evil

By Lloyd Ellefson

Many discussions have taken place in regard to the origin of evil. Does evil originate in humanity or doesn't it? To answer this important question we need to understand where evil comes from, for the answer forms the basis for God's forgiveness.

The scribes and Pharisees always looked for a reason for an accusation against Jesus, so they brought a woman, caught in adultery, to Him for His judgment. (John 8:3-11) Would He uphold their law, or would He rule against it? Should she be stoned according to the law, or shouldn't she? Instead of condemning her, Jesus forgave her. Why was Christ able to forgive her? For Him to do this, He must have had some knowledge or understanding that neither this woman nor her accusers had. Jesus knew that the cause of her adultery was not the origin, the source or the root of evil.

Romans 5:12 gives us some light on this subject. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned..." Sin entered the world through one man! That means man is the mediator or vessel for sin to come into the world, but sin did not originate in man; he is not the source! The source or root of our sin is not in us.

Sin works through man, and through man it comes into the world. So sin was in existence before it entered the world; at that time it was separate from man. Therefore man was not the source of sin or evil, but the vessel through which sin entered the world. To deal with the source or the real problem of sin, we need to look beyond ourselves. We are only the vessels that perpetuate it.

"For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law." (v.13) The fact that sin was operating in man was not recognized when there was no law; sin was not imputed to man or charged to his account before the law came. The law brought commandments, and disobedience to the law brought punishment and the realization that we had sinned against the command of God.

"Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come." (Rom.5:14) Death reigned from Adam to Moses, that is, until the law was fulfilled in Christ, thus bringing an end to the reign of death! Our old nature was crucified with Christ. The old nature is the vessel through which sin comes; when it is destroyed, sin cannot emerge, for it needs a vessel.

Adam was a type or shadow of Him who was to come. Adam was a man, and therefore could not be a type of God. He was a corporate man, for in Adam all die. So he was a type of the second corporate man, the spiritual man, the Christ who came in the visible body of Jesus. In Him all are made alive! So the type is in the corporateness!

Many questions have been raised in regard to the account of Adam and Eve. Were they real, was the tree real, or is the account only allegorical? If we do not believe that Adam was a man, we'll have a lot of problems. We'll also question the reality of other types. We know that the natural temple, a type of the temple of Christ, had reality and it also was a figure of that which was to come! Therefore, Adam must have been a real man.

"So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind." (Eph. 4:17) The word Gentile includes everyone who does not know God; it includes nations and individuals. So all who do not know God are included in this remark! All walk in the vanity of their minds. Futility entered man when his understanding was darkened.

Where did vanity come from? Vanity or futility belongs to darkness. "Being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart." (v.18) Through ignorance we lost the knowledge of the life that is in us; this ignorance excluded us from the life of God. So when this ignorance is taken away, we are no longer separated from His life. Because of their darkened mind they were alienated from the life of God. A darkened mind is the same as ignorance! This brings about a hardness of the heart.

Christ's life is spirit and His life is in us. If we don't understand that God is our life, we are separated from God in our thinking. This separation is the result of ignorance. Separation did not come first; ignorance came before separation!

In Eph. 5:11 it says, "Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them." A darkened understanding produces works of darkness. We are not to participate in the unfruitful works of darkness, for participation brings us into fellowship with them. Instead, we are rather to reprove them, "for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light." (vv.12-13)

Light dispels darkness. The more light we receive, the more darkness disappears. Knowledge does away with ignorance! Understanding causes ignorance to vanish. This is a gradual process, for we know that darkness and its unfruitful works still exist.

We are not to walk in the vanity of our mind. Our mind is filled with vanity. Our natural mind believes in, and lives by its own ability, its perception and its comprehension. It does not believe that it is in darkness, and that it lacks understanding of the life of God.

Paul continues, "For this reason it says, `Awake, sleeper. and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.'" (v.14) Sleep is connected with darkness! We are to wake up from our sleep - our unconsciousness of who God is, and the unconsciousness of our darkness and ignorance! It's time to be awakened out of this death! We are dead as long as we do not have a true understanding of who God is. The light of Christ changes our understanding. It reveals the ignorance and vanity that brought alienation.

The Genesis account about beginnings does not answer all of our questions, but it contains some fantastic teaching. In Genesis, the place where everything started, we see the reason for all the error in our understanding. We also see the light which was working in Christ.

In Gen. 2:16-17, God said, "From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die." Adam and Eve had no knowledge of death; they had not seen it nor experienced it.

When the serpent came, he said, "Indeed, has God said, `You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?' The woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, `You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.' The serpent said to the woman, `You surely will not die!'" (Gen.3:1b-4)

What is the serpent saying to us today? He is saying that we can learn to know God through our understanding, and through the doctrines of our church. He is intimating that we can find life in ourselves and through the church! He does not know that life is in Christ!

This knowledge has to come to us through revelation! Jesus told Peter that flesh and blood had not revealed to him the knowledge that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God! This knowledge had not come from his own mind, but from the Father who is in heaven. (Matt.16:16-17) God the Father had spoken to Peter, and said, "This is the Christ." However, at that time Peter had not yet been regenerated at Pentecost - the real life of the Spirit had not yet come, so this knowledge had not yet come to his spirit. So after Jesus was arrested, Peter still denied knowing who He was. The knowledge that is in our natural mind does not keep us in time of temptation!

At that time, Peter was still in the sleep that Paul refers to in Eph. 5. The natural man, in his ignorance and darkened understanding, doesn't know God! So Peter, along with all of mankind, didn't understand God until he is awakened.

Today, the burden of man's redemption is generally placed on man's efforts, man's belief and man's change. We are told that because we are evil and sinners, we have to quit doing what is wrong, so we can get right with God. But the question is: Is man able to get himself out of sin and make himself right with God? This is impossible! It has to be God who changes us!

Let's look at the parallel between Adam and Peter. Adam heard God speak to him, and Peter heard God speak to him. Eve only received her information second-hand from Adam. Adam and Peter had both heard the word of God. Then they heard another word from a different source, and they believed that word. Adam and Eve both ate of the forbidden fruit. The fruit of that tree gave them a wrong understanding of good and evil, and a wrong understanding of God. As soon as they had eaten this fruit, they recognized their nakedness, and became afraid of God.

How did this wrong idea of God and the wrong idea of how to become like God, come into being? Who was the source of this ignorance? Did these ideas originate in Adam and Eve? Since the serpent presented these wrong ideas to Eve, they did not originate in her, but came from the serpent. Since the serpent was the source of evil, man could not be the source.

Eve's actions seem like a paradox to us. Although she did not truly know God, she wanted to become like Him. The serpent latched on to her desire, and offered her the fulfillment of that desire, by telling her she could become like Him by disobeying Him! In essence he was calling God a liar by telling her that disobedience would not result in death as God had said; instead, she would become like God. In other words, by making the right choices she could become like God!

Now the question is: were Adam and Eve subjected to vanity and darkness before they ate the forbidden fruit or after they ate? We know that God put Adam to sleep before He took Eve out of Adam, and it doesn't say that He woke Adam up. In sleep we are unconscious of who we truly are. So in a sense, both Adam and Eve were sleeping in the darkness and ignorance and vanity of their mind that God had subjected them to.

This vanity brought man into the bondage of sin, and he became a slave to sin. Paul said, "For when you were slaves to sin, you were free in regard to righteousness." (Rom. 6:20) Man's mind was darkened and he thought his darkness was light. Jesus said, "If the light (the understanding) that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness?" This darkness is the lack of understanding.

Therefore, deception is the Adam man's truth. That which looks like truth to him is deception. The more natural man is convinced that his thinking is truth, the more rooted he becomes in his deception! Doesn't that make you glad that Christ came to bring light and understanding? As we come under the authority of Christ and His rule of righteousness, we lose our bondage to sin!

Evil entered the world through man. This resulted in a universal darkness and a universal ignorance of God. Natural man has a problem hearing God, so he cannot rule the evil that is in him. He cannot subject sin and become its master, like the Pharisees taught. He cannot do that!

Since "death reigned from Adam to Moses" (Rom. 5:14), who was reigning - man or death? Death was reigning! Death reigns in all who are under the law. Who reigns when we are put into Christ - Christ or we? Christ is! We are always in subjection to someone, to either death or Christ, aren't we? We may think we are free moral beings, but we aren't!

Jesus said that only God is good! Since He is good, everything He does is good! Therefore creating man, putting him in the garden, putting him to sleep, dividing him, putting that tree (it only had knowledge of good and evil, but there was no good in it, for only God is good) in the garden and letting the serpent in, was good! Doing this was not Adam's idea, it was God's! It was God who set up the whole situation. God had a good purpose for putting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden and letting the serpent in. Let's remember that God is able to achieve the good purpose for which it was intended.

It is difficult for us to understand that God had a purpose for all the darkness, pain and suffering that has come as a result of sin! It is also difficult for us to admit that a good God could be responsible for it! Although He does not condone sin, He takes the responsibility for all our sin. That is why Jesus could say to the woman caught in adultery, "I don't condemn you." Christ, speaking on behalf of God, could release this woman and all of humanity, not only from the condemnation of sin, but also from being the mediator of sin.

Since through one man sin came into the world (Rom. 5:12), man is the vessel that brought sin into the world. Man is not the originator or source of sin, but he is the vessel through which sin entered the world. The natural man mediates sin into the world and is therefore the priesthood of sin. So in Christ, God gave us a new law and a new priesthood. So those who are in Christ no longer minister sin; they minister life!

"For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." (Rom. 8:20-21)

God subjected man to vanity, not because man wanted it, but because God intended it for man's good. God put him in a place where he would be controlled by darkness and sin. Since everything God does is good, He has to be justified in His purpose, otherwise it is not good. The goodness of His purpose becomes apparent to us the moment we see the purpose He has for us in Christ!

In man's subjection to vanity, he was ruled by sin and evil. Man couldn't rule sin - it ruled him. Paul addressed this dilemma in Rom. 7:20, "But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me." Paul was not the source of that sin or evil; the sin that dwelt in his flesh was the source.

Paul also said, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Gal. 2:20) This is interesting! Here Paul expresses an identification with Christ. He understood that he was not the source of sin and death; neither was he the source of life! He rejected the idea that he was a sinner and that he was responsible for sin, and he embraced the idea that God was responsible. When Paul claimed to be the foremost of sinners, he was referring to the time before he was saved.

In Christ, God took the responsibility for our sins! Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery before His crucifixion, resurrection, and the pouring out of His Spirit. How could He forgive this woman before He died? How could He forgive the man who was let down through the roof? How could He forgive their sins and not condemn them before He had paid the price on Calvary? He could forgive them because He was ministering God's responsibility for sin!

On Calvary the old Adamic man was crucified together with Christ! Now we can be put into the new man! In the new man we receive a new mentality! Christ causes us to understand that God has taken the responsibility, and that we are pardoned and forgiven. We know that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, and He was not counting their trespasses against them. (2 Cor. 5:19) Not only that - He gives us a new nature, and this new nature cannot sin! If we live in this new nature, we won't sin, for the new nature cannot sin.

Can you see what happened in the garden? Because man believed Satan instead of God, the deception that is in Satan passed into man, causing him to believe that man was the source of sin. So even after people are born again, many insist that they are still sinners. This reveals that they do not understand who they are in Christ. When we were sinners, we had a nature that wanted to sin. It was a nature that had been subjected to vanity and had allowed sin to come in, but it was not the source of sin.

This helps us to understand our inability to change our nature, and how easy it is for God to pardon us. When we are in slavery to the darkness of our mind, it makes us immune to spiritual realities. In our darkened state we think we can counsel God. We think we are in control of our lives, and that we can command God to do things for us. All our trying has no effect on God; it does not influence Him! God does everything according to His superior knowledge and according to the counsel of His will! (Eph. 1:11) He does what is best for us according to His wisdom!

We need to believe this! We need to know what He wants for us and who He is for us, and that He is for us! Having that faith causes us to understand that the difficulties we face are best for us. We don't know what to pray for unless we are taught by the Spirit. Submitting ourselves to what He wants for us brings us into rest! Asking God to bless us by turning us from our own ways, is a prayer according to the will of God! (Acts 3:26)

Our carnal mind with its wrong ideas and wrong thinking is our greatest enemy! Rejecting it, is our biggest battle! After we have been awakened out of our sleep of vanity, out of our ignorance of the life of God, we can be resurrected - raised out of our death in sin and trespasses and into the life of Christ! Only when we recognize that we are in God can we have victory over the carnal mind! Sin and death can only be overcome by life. Now that we are in Christ, who is the resurrection, we have His life, and it is ascending us into Him.

Adam and Eve initially knew the authority of God! The serpent deceived Eve, and gave her the idea that there was another authority; not just God's authority. Adam came into the same thinking, and humanity is still promoting the same idea! It thinks it has a choice between the two.

God has all authority! He was the source of everything in that garden, including the planting of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, the division of Adam and the forming of Eve. He is the only source of truth! The idea that the devil has authority comes out of the lie the serpent fed Eve. Believing his lies causes us to live in the deception that he has authority, and that his authority rivals God's authority.

Where are we today? Do we still believe the serpent's lies? Do we still believe there is a great battle between two great forces, one good and one evil, each vying for our souls? That one is God, and the other is the devil? As long as we are involved in the battle of good and evil, we are eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We should be participating in life - not in good and evil.

It was very evident that Jesus didn't recognize any power except the power of God. It did not faze Him when the sea was raging, when someone needed healing or a dead person needed life. He was not concerned about the power that had come through deception. He knew that any so-called power that thought it could have supremacy over God's power, was in error. It did not present a problem to Him; all He had to do was speak the word that was in Him - that word of understanding and knowledge - and the problem would be resolved immediately.

Humanity is in a sleep of darkness. Paul said, "Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you." (Eph. 5:14) Notice that sleep and darkness are related. To come out of that darkness, the light of Christ is needed. His light is the light of the knowledge of the glory of God! (2 Cor. 4:6) We have not understood His light, have we? We have not understood, like Christ did, that God has the responsibility for, and the power over everything - that He is the source of everything - and that there is no power that can successfully work against Him! When we agree with God and submit ourselves to the one authority, the one God, we are working with Him.

We have not obeyed God's command to worship only one God. We have had other gods, and have obeyed the god of this world. John said, "The whole world lies in the evil one." (1 Jn. 5:19) Paul admonished the Ephesians not to walk in the vanity or futility of their mind, because that mind is excluded from the life of God because of ignorance. (4:17-18) God is not calling us to pay our tithes, to try to make ourselves better, etc., but to awake, to arise from the dead and let Christ give us light! When we walk in His light, we will not yield to the lusts of the flesh!

"For you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober...But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation..." (1 Thess. 5;5-8) Since we are children of the day, we don't walk in darkness!

Praise the Lord! Amen.

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