Often when Christians think of the first sin, they think of Adam and Eve and the Fall in the Garden of Eden. While this is indeed the first human sin, it is not the first recorded sin in Scripture. As Christians, we know that the serpent tempted Eve, but we often forget that the devil’s fall from grace was what set the stage for humankind’s fall, both as antecedent and type.
We catch a glimpse of Satan’s fall in the following passage, prophetically directed at the king of Tyre, but in this portion, apparently meant to include someone apart from humanity (specifically referred to as a cherub) who had been in the Garden of Eden, the prophecy turns into a description of an angel, namely Lucifer:
You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.
What was the first sin? We learn about it and Satan’s fall from Isaiah 14:12–15:
How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.
It is obvious from the text that Satan’s sin was pride. He was so beautiful, so wise, and so powerful as an angel that he began to covet God’s position and authority. He chafed at having to serve God and grew angry and rebellious. He did not want to serve, he wanted to be served; he, as a creature, wanted to be worshipped. How starkly contrasted to our savior Jesus Christ, who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister and to give his life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
How did Satan’s prideful rebellion and subsequent fall impact humankind’s first sin? Look at some passages in Proverbs that talk about the sin of pride and what effect it produces.
Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.
When pride comes, then comes shame; But with the humble is wisdom.
Before destruction the heart of a man is haughty, And before honor is humility.
Here it is evident that pride literally went before the fall, both the fall of Satan and the fall of man. Pride causes shame, loss of wisdom, destruction, and ruin. If one were to summarize what actually happened as Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden, would not these passages describe their mental and physical condition exactly? The shame of committing sin against God, physical disease, pain and death looming on the horizon, loss of fellowship with God, and the fight to eke out a living from the cursed ground—all these are the outworking of the sin of pride.
So what was Adam and Eve’s sin? Wasn’t it just disobedience by eating the forbidden fruit? Well, yes, that was the physical act that solidified what had already occurred in their minds and hearts. But let’s take a closer look at the passages in Genesis to see what the real sin was and where it started.
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
Then the man said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate.” And the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
Let’s analyze what really happened in verses 1–7. First Satan questioned God’s word, then he openly lied to Eve, contradicting what God had said. Then he used the tantalizing bait that humanity could be more like God by having their eyes opened, knowing things they currently didn’t know. The real heart of the situation is the statement that Eve thought the tree was good for food and desirable to make one wise. Why would she think this? God himself had told Adam (and either God himself or Adam had told Eve) that eating from the tree would only lead to death. Why would she (and subsequently Adam) accept the word of a talking serpent over the word of God? Only doubt of God’s word and subsequently God’s motives could have led to this tragedy.
They didn’t just ignorantly decide to eat the fruit, nor did they eat it because “the devil made them do it.”
They didn’t just ignorantly decide to eat the fruit, nor did they eat it because “the devil made them do it.” Satan’s outright lies and cunning half-truths brought something to the surface of Eve’s mind that fateful day. She realized that to “be like gods” meant not having to serve God, it meant being equal to God. It meant that she felt as if God had deliberately kept her and Adam in the dark regarding their “divine potential.” Why should they tend God’s garden in Eden when they could be as gods themselves? Why should they have to obey God if they were also gods? The quickness with which Adam acquiesced to Eve’s offer of the fruit may possibly show that he too harbored these same feelings, or it may mean that Adam, though knowing Eve had sinned willfully decided to throw his lot in with her by deliberately eating from the fruit. Eve had been deceived, Adam had not. In any event, we know that it was Adam’s sin that was responsible for the fall and the curse (Romans 5:12). The sin of pride that led to Satan’s fall had now infected the hearts and minds of Adam and Eve, and the result was the same: shame, loss of wisdom, ruin, and death.
In verses 12 and 13, we see Adam and Eve’s response to God’s question. We see the sin of pride showing through in their replies. This isn’t just a pass-the-buck response on their part; look at whom they really blamed for their actions: “The serpent deceived me,” said Eve; “The woman you gave to be with me enticed me,” said Adam. They almost seem to say that if they had been God things would have been different; therefore, it’s all God’s fault. These are not the responses of broken and contrite hearts, they are the responses of a proud and willful people caught in the act of rebellion against God.
What is still man’s most prevalent sin? Little has changed since the fall. Man is still a creature consumed with pride. We read in Romans 1:18–21 the current condition of mankind:
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.
Why does mankind suppress the truth? Why does he not glorify God? Why is he unthankful? Why is his imagination vain and his heart darkened? Because he does not glorify God as God. Mankind wants to glorify himself as God. We want to be the sole decision maker and sole authority in our life. We want nothing to do with a creator God to whom we should owe allegiance. If only we could come up with some natural explanation for everything we see around us, if only we could ignore our conscience, if only we could forget past history that clearly shows divine intervention, then we could rationalize away God and make gods of ourselves. Isn’t this exactly what we see today? Now we have evolution, moral relativism, humanism, revisionist history, and all other attempts to willfully hold God’s revealed truth at arms length. Truly our sinful human pride knows no bounds!
The Lord knows where his creatures are most prone to err, and pride is a many-headed hydra that infects all of humanity. In fact, we could make a case for pride being the fountainhead of all other sins. Anger, hate, jealousy, and ingratitude all stem from pride; something we wanted to happen did not happen and we feel offended, our pride is wounded, and our emotions are stirred to cause us to act sinfully. One could even make the case that “the love of money is the root of all [kinds of] evil” passage in 1 Timothy 6:10 really deals with the sin of pride as well. We know that covetousness is the same as idolatry (Ephesians 5:5), and idolatry is the sin of creating our own god by being too proud and stubborn to worship the True God. Consider the following verses in Proverbs that reflect God’s attitude toward pride.
These six things the Lord hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who speaks lies, And one who sows discord among brethren.
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way And the perverse mouth I hate.
On God’s list of the top seven most heinous sins, pride comes in at number one! In verse 13 we see that the fear of the Lord is equated with hating pride and arrogance. If we allow pride to control us, we do not really fear God as we ought. C. S. Lewis said, “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere flea-bites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.”
What should we as Christians do to guard against this sin? There are no instant cures for this sin. Pride is a sin we struggle with on a daily basis. (Read Romans 7:13–25 to see how the Apostle Paul agonizes over his struggles against sin, and also think of the “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12:7 that was given to Paul to keep him from becoming exalted above measure.) However, God doesn’t leave us or forsake us. He gives us grace and power to overcome even this most insidious sin. A couple of passages in James and 1 Peter deal with this very subject.
Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
1 Peter 5:5–10
Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.
It is only through God’s grace and provision that we can daily overcome our innate pride. We need to pray (cast all our cares upon God), study the Bible (be sober and vigilant), be submissive to God by obeying Him and revering Him, and recognize that it is Jesus Christ who strengthens, establishes, settles, and perfects us. Without Him we can do nothing!
It is interesting that in both of the above passages we are warned to forsake pride and humbly submit ourselves before God in order to resist the devil. Why this twofold warning? We give Satan a foothold when we walk more like him than like Christ (who came to do not His own will but the will of the Father). Secondly, playing to human pride is the oldest trick in Satan’s arsenal. Just ask Adam and Eve.