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The First and all Subsequent Sins

January 31, 2019 | by: Mike Law | 0 Comments

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Brothers & Sisters,

             Have you ever considered that the first sin comprehends and encompasses all subsequent sins? Consider that the first sin comprehends and encompasses the sins of antinomianism and legalism. Here is how Sinclair Ferguson put it:


What was injected into Eve’s mind and affections during the conversation with the serpent was a deep-seated suspicion of God that was soon further twisted into rebellion against him. The root of her antinomianism (opposition to and breach of the law) was actually the legalism that was darkening her understanding, dulling her senses, and destroying her affection for her heavenly Father. Now, like a pouting child of the most generous father, she acted as though she wanted to say to God, “You never give me anything. You insist on me earning everything I am ever going to have.”

            This may not look like the legalism with which we are familiar. But it lies at its root. For what the Serpent accomplished in Eve’s mind, affections, and will was a divorce between God’s revealed will and his gracious, generous character. Trust in him was transformed into suspicion of him by looking at “naked law” rather than hearing “law from the gracious lips of the heavenly Father.” God thus became to her “He-whose-favor-has-to-be-earned.”

            It is this—failure to see the generosity of God and his wise and loving plans for our lives—that lies at the root of legalism and drives it.

            It bears repeating: in Eve’s case antinomianism (her opposition to and rejection of God’s law) was itself and expression of her legalism!

            When this distortion of God’s character is complete, we inevitably mistrust him; we lose sight of his love and grace; we see him essentially as a forbidding God. Geerhardus Vos well expressed this in another context:

Legalism is a peculiar kind of submission to God’s law, something that no longer feels the personal divine touch in the rule it submits to.


Legalism is simply separating the law of God from the person of God. Eve sees God’s law. Eve sees God’s law, but she has lost sight of the true God himself. Thus, abstracting his law from his loving and generous person, she was deceived into “hearing” law only as negative deprivation and not as the wisdom of a heavenly Father.


[Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016), 82-83.]


            May we know, feel, and believe today that what our Father commands not only exhibits his most generous and gracious care for us, but is also for our highest good.


Warmly in Christ,



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