A Murderer from the Start
“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him” (Jn. 8:44).- John 8:44
One commentator has wisely noted that we need the Ten Commandments as a guide because of the inherent bent of the fallen human heart away from the kind of life that God expects from all people, not least the covenant community. When it comes to the sixth commandment, the proclivity to sin is made manifest in many different ways. Suicide, which is self-murder, is forbidden in the sixth commandment (Ex. 20:13). Unjust wars violate the commandment against murdering innocent life. Criminal negligence that leads to injury and death also falls within the scope of the law against murder (21:28–32). Even those attitudes that can lead to murder are prohibited by the sixth commandment, for the law of God is concerned not only with our outward actions but with inward purity as well (Matt. 5:21–26). The commandments are to penetrate deep into the hidden recesses of our hearts, so that the Spirit might use these principles to sanctify us.
We must all deal with the reality of inner corruption because our first parents chose the way of the one who is darkness itself. In today’s passage, we read of a statement Jesus made to some of Israel’s religious leaders in one of the most theologically rich interchanges in the New Testament. Facing those who sought to kill Him (John 7:25), Jesus tells them that their murderous hatred of Him is rooted in their family lineage. They are children of the Devil, who has been “a murderer from the beginning” (8:44). Jesus refers to Satan’s temptation of Adam and Eve in the garden, which introduced death into the experience of those who bear God’s image (Gen. 3). Since that day, all people (except Christ) have entered this world in Adam, who gave up his loving relationship with the Creator to partake of the corruption of the Devil. Abandoning God as our Father, we took Satan as our father in the garden, and we have been reaping what we sowed ever since.
Like those who opposed Jesus, we are born murderers, liars, and thieves, unable to please God even if we never take these evil desires to their most harmful end. Consequently, we must “become partakers of the divine nature” through faith alone in Christ (2 Peter 1:4). Transformed from the inside out, we are enabled by the Holy Spirit to follow His law as we submit to Him.
Scripture’s emphasis on both the inward attitudes of evil and the outward deeds of wickedness results in a doctrine of sin that is both robust and realistic. The problem of sin is rooted within, and it takes an inward cleansing by the Holy Spirit to release us from the predicament of being in Adam. Let us rejoice that we have “become partakers of the divine nature” by faith and are therefore able to please God in what we do and think.
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