16 Who Is Responsible for Sin?

If God is not the author of sin, then who is? James 1:13–15  provides us with the answer, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” We are solely responsible for our own sin.


If God cannot even tempt us to sin, then how could anyone conclude that God predetermined, willed, and necessitated us unto sin? No, we alone are to blame for our sin. Man sins because his nature is corrupt, and he chooses to sin.


Adam and Eve tried to blame others for their sin. Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. Nevertheless, God blamed them. Genesis 3:11–13, and 17 says:

And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat. And the LORD God said unto the woman, What is this that thou hast done? And the woman said, The serpent beguiled me, and I did eat. … And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; (emphasis added)


Before punishing them for their sin, God made it clear that they alone were responsible for their actions. How could this be if God was truly the mastermind behind their fall? If God had secretly willed and necessitated their sin, then He could not justly blame and punish them for that sin.


Remember that God made us in His image. If we are truly imagers of God, then like God, our wills must be free. In granting us free will, God revealed the true extent of His power and sovereignty. Only a truly free and all powerful God could grant anyone a genuinely free will. In arguing that God has given man the ability to resist God’s will and act contrary to it, we are not limiting God. Instead, God chose to limit Himself. God, in His wisdom and sovereignty, chose to extend some of His freedom to us.


We know that God can choose to limit Himself. We have seen this in the life of Christ. According to Philippians 2, Christ made Himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a man and becoming obedient unto death. Christ was God; He never lost His attributes—including His omnipotence and sovereignty. Nevertheless, Christ was limited. This limitation was not something that man placed upon Him but rather something God did to Himself.


God has chosen to limit His own freedom by extending genuine freedom to man. We might imagine it to be something like the maker of a board game. He fashions the board, the pieces, and the rules. Having created and authored every aspect of the game, he then invites another to play it with him. Before beginning, he chooses to submit himself to play by the rules he himself had established for the game. By doing this, he knows that he might lose the game or struggle. Nevertheless, he deems it more important to play by his rules than to invoke authorship and break the rules to accomplish his will of winning the game.


God has created a rule for Himself. He refuses to trample the free will of man. Of course, God has the power to break this rule, but He chooses not to—even though at times it means watching His creation fight against Him and choose to reject Him. Nevertheless, it is more glorious for God to will the affection and submission of men who choose Him than it is for Him to break His rule and force man to comply with His will.  God’s will, according to clear Scripture, is for all men to be saved (2 Peter 3:9). However, God does not force man to be saved, but rather, allows man to use his God-given free will to choose salvation or to reject it.


In this way of thinking, God remains all powerful. He always has the power to compel man to do His will. God is sovereign. God chose the rules—nobody else. However, God is also limited. He is not limited by outside forces but by Himself. In His goodness and holiness, we can be certain that God will always remain true to the rule He Himself established when He chose to give us free will.


It is only according to such thinking that we can properly explain passages such as Psalm 78:41, “Yea, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.” Consider this: Which is truly more glorifying to God?

  • God is unable to be sovereign and all-powerful if man has free will.
  • God, in His sovereignty, gave man free will. He could overpower man’s will at any time, but He chooses to use other means to win their affection and submission.


A simple illustration might help to illuminate this idea. If you had the power to make someone love you, would you use that power to force that person to love you? Or, would you rather show your love to that person so that she could respond of her own free will and choose to love you—not because you forced her to, but because she chose to? We know that forced love is not true love. God also understands this. He was faced with this same choice, and He chose to win man’s affection. God is not any less powerful, glorious, or majestic because He allows man to have free will and to make a free will choice.



Is God the Author of Sin? Copyright © 2011 by Timothy Zebell. All Rights Reserved.


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