The Difference between Evil and Sin

 By Lorraine Day, M.D.

“All is of God” according to Romans 11:36, but when it comes to Satan and sin, that basic truth of divine revelation is so severe a strain on Christendom that men instinctively reject it.  They excuse their lack of faith on the ground that it is repulsive to their spiritual natures to associate God with “evil.”  They set aside the truth of the Bible, that “ALL us if God,” by making the devil the source of all evil, yet they fail to tell us how the enemy could originate evil unless the power were given him by his Creator.  The text says:

For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are ALL things: to whom be glory forever, Amen.”  Romans 11:36

The reason most shrink from associating evil with God is because of their conception of evil and sin, even though God’s plain statements concerning them are clear.  But most modify God’s Word to suit their misconception and to suit their own preconceived theological beliefs.  That is why further study is so important.

God’s Word contains many passages that reveal the great truth that ALL things – the evil as well as the good – come from God, who alone can originate.  Paul tells us that the Creation was not subject to vanity (futility – sin) willingly (voluntarily).  It has no will or choice in the matter.  God is subjecting the Creation against its will!

“For the Creation (“creature” is an incorrect translation here) was made subject to vanity (futility – sin), not willingly (voluntarily), but by reason of Him who has subjected it in hope (literally - expectation). 

“Because the (entire) Creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption (sin) into the glorious liberty of the children of God.”  Romans 8:20,21

This text tells us that God has subjected His entire Creation to sin, against our will (we did not ask for this), in order to bring about an expected outcome – which is the delivering of the entire Creation, including ALL humanity and ALL of nature, from the bondage of sin into the glorious liberty (salvation) of the children of God.

God says,

Behold, I make ALL new.”  (Revelation 21:5)

This subjection is only temporary.  It is in the expectation that our afflictions will lead to an overwhelming glory for which these sufferings are essential.  Creation is enslaved by corruption with a view to a future liberty that can be enjoyed only by one who has tested its opposite.

Before sin entered their life, we have no record that Adam and Eve ever thanked God for the beautiful Garden in which they lived.  How could they?  They didn’t know anything else.

They didn’t thank God for their health.  How could they?  They didn’t even know what sickness was.

They didn’t thank God that nothing in the Garden of Eden died.  How could they?  They had never seen anything die.  They didn’t even know there could be such a thing as “death.”

They didn’t thank God for being allowed to walk and talk with Him every day.  How could they?  They didn’t know anything else.

It is impossible to appreciate our life, our health, beauty around us, or being one with God, unless we have known what it is to be without them.

It is impossible to know good without knowing evil.  That is why the tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden was not the Tree of Evil – but the Tree of Good and Evil. 

The big problem is that most people fail to distinguish between evil and sin.  Yet God Himself, tells us that He is the “Creator of evil.”

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things].  Isaiah 45:7

But that does not mean that we teach that God is a sinner.  After all, this is the Word of God, Himself. 

In the language of the original Greek and Hebrew Biblical revelation, evil and sin are clearly distinguished by terms that are not in any way related to each other.

The word evil means calamity. A specific calamity may or may not be a sin, as will be illustrated below.

With very few exceptions, the Hebrew stem ro underlies the English rendering evil (see Job 24:21, Psalms 41:8, Psalms 140:11, Proverbs 12:21).  This word is rendered in many different ways, including break, displease, ill, effect, harm, hurt, mischief, punish, vex and wicked.  To these uses in adjective from are added these interpretations: adversity, calamity, distress, grief wretchedness, wrong, trouble, sorry, etc.  But this wide diversity of translation does not help us to form a correct or concise conception of the real meaning of the word.

It will help if we look at Psalms 2:9 or Daniel 2:40 where this word is translated break.  The word is equivalent to the present English word “smash.”  In Daniel it is used to mean break in pieces or to pulverize.  In its literal root meaning it describes the effect of iron, the hardest of the common metals, when used to smash and destroy.

In these renderings, the Hebrew word ro, translated evil, has no moral bias such as we usually associate with it.  In the following passage quoted, the evil is done by the hands of the Son of God.

He shall deal out evil to the nations with a rod of iron when He comes again.”  Psalms 2:9

This same adjective is used to describe the ill-favored cattle (kine) of Pharaoh’s dream in Genesis 41:3-27:

“And behold seven other kine (cows) came up after them out of the river, ill-favored (evil) and lean-fleshed; and stood by the other kine upon the bank of the river.”  Genesis 41:3

Because theologians firmly associate sin and immorality with evil, they try to shield God from all association with it (evil).  A common translation correctly states that:

An evil spirit from God” troubled Saul.  1 Samuel 16:14

The evil spirit was not an emissary from Satan – but from God!  The translators have tried to hide this at times, as when speaking of the waters of Jericho they say, “The water is naught.”  Actually, the original says:

“The water was evil.”  2 Kings 2:19

The neutral character of evil is evident when both sin and evil are used together.

Zimri “sinned in doing evil.”  (1 Kings 16:19).  From this we may freely infer that evil is not necessarily sin.

The word evil has no “moral” bias.  An act of evil may or may not be wrong.  Jeremiah 42:6 says,

“Whether it be good or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of Jehovah our God.”

Moral evil is sin, and God does not demand that His people sin.

Calamity usually leads the list of evils that have nothing to do with morality or immorality.

Evil, as spoken of in the Scriptures, is an act that smashes and demolishes and brings with it a train of trouble and distress, but it is neither right nor wrong in itself.

An earthquake is evil because it is a calamity, but it has no moral bias.  However, if you purposely blow up your neighbor’s house, that is a calamity that most certainly has to do with morality (or more accurately – immorality).  That calamity is evil AND it is a sin!

The Source of Sin

The traditional mistranslation “Sin is the transgression of the law” is clearly misleading, for sin was in the world long before the giving of the law (Romans 5:12-14).  A more accurate translation is:

“Sin is lawlessness.”  1 John 3:4

Failure to conform to God’s standard is sin.

In the war between the tribe of Benjamin and Israel, the tribe of Benjamin gathered 700 chosen men.  Every one of these men could sling a stone at a hairbreadth and not “sin.”

“Among all this people there were seven hundred chosen men left-handed: every one could sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss.”  Judges 20:16

The King James Version says they could not miss, which is quite correct.  The same Hebrew word is translated sin in hundreds of other passages!

Sin and miss are identical in meaning.  In Romans 3:23 Paul says,

“All have sinned and are wanting of (or deficient in – or fall short of) the Glory of God.”

This means that we have failed to reach the divine standard.  When God charges all with sin, He does not mean that all are guilty of heinous offenses, but that all are mistaken, all have missed the mark, all fall short of God’s ideal.  Even their best efforts – their “good” deeds – are performed in error.  A sinner doesn’t need to do anything that man may condemn in order to deserve his name of “sinner.”  He only needs to fail to fully realize God’s high standard of holiness and glory.

The important question is this:  Since all things are of God, yet God cannot sin, how did sin originate?  From where did it come and how?

Virtually all so-called “solutions” trace sin up a blind alley and stop short of God.  But these “solutions” are neither scriptural nor satisfactory.  It is true that sin came into this world through Adam and Eve, but we cannot stop there.  Sin did not originate in Adam or Eve.  The serpent was in the Garden of Eden before Adam sinned.  The serpent, Satan, was already a sinner.

Nor is it enough to go beyond Adam and say “sin is of the devil,” or Adversary, because the Adversary, like Adam, is a creature – a created being – and as such, originated nothing.

The Bible tells us in 1 John 3:8 that

“The Adversary (Satan) was a sinner from the beginning!”

From the beginning of what?  From the beginning of this world?  No.  Satan was sinning long before he was found in the Garden of Eden.  He was a sinner in heaven, and so effective that he (Satan) convinced one-third of God’s angels that Satan was right and God was wrong.

From the beginning of what?  The answer is:  “From the beginning of him (Satan)!”  Satan was created by God AS the Adversary to do the job he is doing – tempting the whole world.  The name “Satan” means Adversary.

If we allow that God created Satan (as such), the crucial question arises, Did God SIN in creating the Adversary?  The answer will depend entirely upon the object God had in view.  Was it God’s intention that sin should invade the universe or was it due to an error on God’s part?  Remembering our definition of sin, if sin’s entrance into the universe was a mistake, then God sinned!

If God created Satan perfect – as “Lucifer” – and his defection was a surprise and a disappointment to God, then there is no use in hiding behind mere words.  God failed!  He started out to make a flawless creature who turned out bad!  There is NO ONE else to charge with this failure but God.  But this is ALL WRONG – for God NEVER fails, or sins.

Sin has an essential, though transient, part in God’s purpose.  God made preparation for it before it came. 

“The Lamb was slain from the (foundation) disruption of the world.”  (Revelation 13:8)


There can be no Saviour apart from sin.  There can be no reconciliation apart from enmity.

“God locks all up together in stubbornness that He should be merciful to all.”  Romans 11:32

The only way we can experience the perfect peace of Oneness with Christ is to realize our need for Him in our life, to realize our need for Him to run every aspect of our life.  In order to reach this place, we must have trouble – lots of trouble.  If everything in our life is fine, we never change.  “Trouble” forces us to change.

“Since sin must enter this scene and play its part, since it is essential to God’s purpose, and Absolutely under His control, since it will eventually change the universe from cold, independent creatures into a loving family circle, and God from a distant Creator into an affectionate Father, it was by no means a mistake (or sin) on God’s part when He created a creature who should not only commit sin but scatter it throughout all creation.”  Knoch, A.E., The Problem of Evil and the Judgments of God, Concordant Publishing Concern, 1976, p. 22

We have now arrived at the answer.  It was no mistake for God to create Satan, for the Adversary did exactly what God had intended he should do.  And the astonishing conclusion forces itself upon us that the moment we try to shift the ultimate origin of sin to Satan, then we are making God into a SINNER!  For - - if God did not intend that Satan sin, and Satan did it on his own initiative, then God missed the mark!

But God does not fail or sin.  It is only by acknowledging that God created Satan to sin that we can possibly clear God from the stain of sin.  If one believes that sin has broken loose from the control of God, or never was under God’s control, then all we can look forward to is chaos.

We are assured that God is in total control of Satan when we read the first two Chapters of Job.

In Job, Chapter 1, Satan complains to God that Satan is unable to have full access to Job because God “has made a hedge (or protection) around Job.”  Satan asks for it to be removed.  God then allows Satan limited access.

Satan answered the Lord, and said, Does Job fear God for nothing?

Have you not made a hedge of protection about him, and about his house, and about all that he has on every side?  You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land.

But stretch forth Your hand now, and touch all that he has and he will curse You to Your face.

And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold, all that he has is in your hand; only upon his person you cannot put forth your hand.  So Satan went forth from the presence of the Lord.  Job 1:9-12

Satan then had the power to harm Job’s family and his possessions, but he could not harm Job, himself.   It is clear that Satan can do nothing unless God allows it.  Satan has no power of his own.

In Job, Chapter 2, Satan again meets with God and, being previously unsuccessful in drawing Job away from God, even after Satan had all of Job’s children killed and all of Job’s possessions stolen, Satan now asks God to remove the hedge of protection around Job himself so Satan can attack Job directly.

Satan answered the Lord, and said, Skin for skin, yea, all that a man has will he give for his life.

But stretch forth your hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.

And the Lord said unto Satan, Behold he is in your hand; but save his life. 
Job 2:4-6

Here, again, the Bible reveals that Satan has no power or authority of his own.  He can only attack Job physically now that God has allowed it.  But God limits Satan’s attack by saying, “You cannot take Job’s life.”

Satan is under the total control of God.  He is a created being and can do nothing unless God allows it.

 The true understanding of the entire question of “Who is in charge?” lies in the acceptance of God’s Word that says:

ALL is OUT of Him and THROUGH Him and FOR Him.” 
(Romans 11:36)

Even though theologians attempt to distance God from being in charge of everything, God states His position boldly.

“I have created the waster (destroyer) TO DESTROY!”  Isaiah 54:16

To waste, or corrupt, is not simply evil (a calamity), it is sin.  God does not claim to DO it, but He does claim to have created the one WHO DOES.  If the destroyer were created by someone else, or if he is “self-existent,” then he would be out from under the control of God and God could not control the evil or harness it for His purpose.

You may ask, “What Scripture do you have for the statement that God created Satan, as such?”  But you may then be asked, “What Scripture do you have that God created YOU?

God’s plain declaration in the Bible is that ALL came into being through the Word, and apart from it NOTHING has come into being.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The same was in the beginning with God

And ALL things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.”  John 1:1-3


For by Him were ALL things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or dominions, or rulers, or authorities, all things were created by Him and for Him.  Colossians 1:16

Satan is specifically included as the chief of the aerial “authority.”

“Wherein in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience.  Ephesians 2:2

At present, the evil in the world is in accord with the Scriptures, and an essential ingredient in God’s plan.  It is the only way to the highest blessing for ourselves and for the human race as well as for all creation.  Evil is necessary as a background for the display of God’s grandest glories because stars only show brightly on a backdrop of darkness.  Our understanding of that necessity will prepare us to endure with thankful hearts all our present trials and tragedies that He sends to us.

The only way mankind can realize what God is to them is by an actual experience of what it means to be without Him.


Lessons from Job about Evil and Sin


When we are passing through difficult times and all seems contrary to us, we must remember that all around the world, the unseen hand of God is operating, in accord with a law that is above our understanding.

Job’s Faith

“Job was sifted, as was Peter, and his faith held.  In spite of his recriminations he looked beyond the immediate, regarding his affliction as of God.  And this is the strong note of the narrative.  The origin and purpose of evil is OF and WITH God.  There is a meaning in its existence beyond human knowledge.

“Men do evil, but apparently no good comes of it.  But when God employs it, it is ONLY and essentially for good.  The ordering and the end are His own.

Satan is just an instrument, powerful as may be his office.  Men, too, are unconscious agents of God’s supreme will.  Through it all, however, the Lord’s consummation is sure. 

“The infliction of evil is for our learning, and thereby, we are shown, as was Job, the nearness of God.”  Mealand, Wm., Lessons from Job; Unsearchable Riches, Nov 1998, pg 267

God’s Use of the Counterworker

“The object of the book of Job is to set out, once and for all, that God uses one who works contrary to Himself, and through this method God reveals Himself to His creatures to a fuller degree than is possible otherwise.  The adversary, as a counterworker, is in this way lifted out of an obscure position that lacks either reason or value, and is shown as a factor NEEDED in the ways of God.

Thus the Adversary fills that part for which he was intended.  And the result is that God is able to reveal the glories of His righteousness and His love.  These are glories which show Him to be the Father, the One Who is to be All in all His creation.” Clayton, E.H., Lessons from Job; Unsearchable Riches, Nov 1998, pg 268-269

God’s Underlying Purpose

“The underlying purpose of God in dealing with mankind is brought before us in the book of Job, who lived before the law was given.  According to popular notions prevailing in religious circles today, Job should never have suffered, for he was a just man and feared God, though he obviously was NOT perfect.  (The ONLY “Man” who has ever been Perfect is Jesus Christ!)

“We rarely consider the end result that the Lord has in view.  We imagine that all evil must be related to something bad in the past - instead of something good in the futureWe do not realize that evil is a gift from God, designed to bring us down to our proper place and raise God up to the position His deity demands in the glorious consummation, when He will be All in all.

Trial, testing and tribulation are things God does not need for Himself, since He knows all.

“But His creatures need them, for they are here to learn, like Job, not only what is in themselves, but also what is in God.

“We NEED evil for what we ARE, and SHALL BE, not merely for any wrong that we have done.

“Evil is not essentially a penalty, but a preparation.  It is humbling and revealing and necessary for the appreciation of good and of God.”  Knoch, A.E., God’s Underlying Purpose, Unsearchable Riches, Nov. 1998., pg 269,270. 

© Lorraine Day, M.D. 2007. All Rights Reserved.
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