Sin, uncreation and the Devil
In the New Testament all manifestations of sin are finally laid at the feet of Satan but this is not because he is personally responsible for every sin that we commit. Neither Satan, evil angel or demon can make us sin, but the Bible insists that human sin links us with a rebellion against God that goes beyond the human rebellion. When we become part of the new covenant people of God we join ranks with a vast company (Hebrews 12:22-24). When we choose sin we join ranks with that vast company that has chosen to rebel against the Holy Father. (A rebellion we know only a little about. Compare texts like 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6.)
The constant stress in scripture is on human sin and that sin is seen consistently in terms of guilt. However many elements enter into the discussion of that sin it is still seen as guilt and it is never excused or whitewashed. The awfulness of sin is stressed when it is deliberately linked with Satan. The blame for our sin is not laid on him but the character and cosmic nature of our sin is brought home to us by linking it with God's implacable enemy.
What Judas did the night he betrayed Jesus was not just a friend betraying a friend (which it most certainly was!), it was satanic in its character and connection. Luke 22:3 tells us that Satan entered Judas. When people cunningly lie Acts 5:3 says Satan filled their hearts and when people turn from the gospel Matthew 13:19 tells us that Satan stole the seed. None of this has anything to do with questions about Satan's power and has everything to do with the character of our sin and rejection of God--it's satanic. You can write across all sin: Satanic!
We see this from another angle when the prophets bring a word of judgement against rebellious nations. In Genesis 1 & 2 the language of blessing is creation and life and harmony. When we rebelled against God he finally brought the flood and “uncreation” was the result. Waters once divided came rushing back, death was promoted rather than life, chaos rather than harmony. This actually happened.
When the prophets speak of judgment on, say, Edom , Babylon or Judah we have the speech of uncreation. In Isaiah 14 and 34 the world of Edom and Babylon is uncreated. In Jeremiah 4 and Zephaniah 1 the world of Judah is uncreated. “I beheld the earth,” said Jeremiah, “and it was without form and void.” The birds were gone, humans were gone and in Zephaniah the fish were gone as well. The earth was desolate and without trees or growth or anything else that was an expression of life. None of this literally happened in the judgements on these nations so what was the point?
These texts stress the cosmic consequences of sin against the Holy Father but they also point us back to an original rebellion by using the language of uncreation. From all this we learn that human rebellion is a single narrative, a single enterprise. And when the Bible links Satan with the judgements of God that are on the earth we are being reminded again that our sins aren't a mass of independent and individual sins. We are a sinning race! We are all together in the sinning business and it is part of an even vaster rebellion.
But the sin is ours and not Satan's! Because he is the one who initially tempted us and because that's when we rebelled he is always placed at the center of it. And in that pivotal passage in Romans 5:12-22, where Paul summarizes our situation in Adam and in Christ, Paul lays all our sin at Adam's feet. Satan and Adam have their respective places in the unfolding of the drama but neither of them is personally responsible for the individual and ongoing sinning of the human race.
Jesus in Matthew 23:29-36 masses all human sin together and sees it as a single narrative. He says his peers killed a man called Zechariah though that man died long before they were born. He holds them responsible for Cain's killing of Abel. This is has nothing to do with transferring guilt or federal headship! It is Christ's insistence that sinful human rebellion is a single enterprise and that a modern murder is nothing other than Cain at his work again. 1 John 3:12 links Cain's evil with Satan and warns them against that murderous and hateful way of life.
©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.
Many thanks to brother Ed Healy, for allowing me to post from his website, theabidingword.com.