THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE FIRST SIN
God considers the sin committed by Adam as a pattern of the countless sins that mankind would later commit. God wants us to understand that the nature of Adam’s sin is the nature of the thousandfold worse sins that men have committed since. God wants us to understand that outwardly some sins may be refined and others may be coarse, but their nature and principle are always the same. Adam’s sin was going along with his self-will. Since God forbade him from eating the tree, Adam should have ignored his self-will and obeyed. But Adam ignored God’s command and ate according to his self-will. By this, he committed sin. His sin was acting apart from God according to his self-will. Although his descendants’ sins are quite different in form from his (because no man can commit Adam’s sin again), in principle they are the same because they involve acting according to the self-will.
Is it really a sin to have the knowledge of good and evil? God also knows good and evil (Gen. 3:5, 22)! Is it a sin to be like God? Is it not good to pursue the knowledge of good and evil? Is it not good to pursue being like God? Yet this is the very root of man’s sin and trouble. Why is this? Truly this is the best kind of pursuit, but God did not command us to do this, neither did He promise us this. Adam was trying to gain this knowledge apart from God and by his own self-effort. Therefore, it was a sin. Brothers, do you see the word independence here? All independent acts are sins. Adam did not trust in God, nor did he deny himself to obey God; rather, he acted alone, apart from God, and declared independence from God by trying to gain the knowledge of good and evil. God said this was his sin.
WHAT IS SIN?
Dear saints, please see this clearly! Sinning is by no means just committing many dirty and horrible acts. In God’s eyes, all activities apart from Him are sins. "To be like God" is certainly a good thing, but when we do not obey God’s command and wait on Him, even the desire "to be like God" is, in God’s eyes, a sin. We all consider evil things as sin and good things as righteousness. However, God does not look at it this way. He does not contrast good with evil; rather, He cares for the way a thing is done. Anything done without seeking His heart’s desire, waiting for His arrangement, or depending on His strength is something carried out according to one’s own desire, with one’s own eagerness, and by one’s own ability. Even though what is done may be the very best and unsurpassed in man’s eyes, God regards the thing that the believers are doing as sinning. God does not care if something is good or evil. He only cares where it comes from and by whose ability it is done. Besides His own will, God is not satisfied with anything else; besides His own ability, God does not value anything else. Even if the believers can accomplish something better than God’s will, God does not approve it. In fact, God sees it as sinning.
Dear saints, are all of your work and pursuit truly according to God’s will, or are you just doing something independently out of yourselves? Is your work initiated by God, or are you working according to your own delight? Brothers, our independent actions, no matter how good they are, are not accepted by God. In God’s eyes, every action that is not a result of a clear understanding of God’s will is sin. In God’s eyes, everything done without depending on Him is sin. Today’s Christians are too capable, too active, and have done too many good things! God does not care how many good things you have done. He only cares about what you have done according to His instructions. God does not ask how you labor for Him; He only asks how much you depend on Him. Brothers, it is not fervent activity that pleases Him; rather, it is dependence on God that pleases Him. No matter how zealously you work for God, all of your works are useless; the only thing that is useful spiritually is the work done by God through you. We should ask ourselves: Are all my works done by God through me, or are they just my own works? All independent works that are not done through an absolute trust in God are sin.
Brothers, we may be committing sins while saving souls. If we try to exhort others to turn to the Lord merely according to the gospel we have understood and the experience we have acquired, without trusting in God Himself, in God’s eyes, we are not saving souls but committing sins! If we try to edify the believers according to our biblical knowledge and clever words, without realizing our own weaknesses and without applying only God’s power and trusting in such power, in God’s eyes, we are not giving a message but committing sins! All acts of love, all works of charity, and all endeavors which look good outwardly are sins in God’s eyes if they are not done through a deep realization of one’s helplessness, or if they are done through sudden impulse from the self or through the power of the self. Brothers, God does not ask whether or not you do well; He only cares whether or not you have trusted in Him. Everything that comes from the self will be burnt on that day before the judgment seat, but everything that comes from God will remain.
(Collected Works of Watchman Nee, The (Set 1) Vol. 08: The Present Testimony (1), Chapter 6, by Watchman Nee)