Selfishness as Sin 60

It appears from the account given of his [Adam] first offense that it essentially consisted in loving himself supremely. He voluntarily partook of the forbidden fruit, from the motive of increasing his own knowledge and happiness, in opposition to the glory of God and the good of all his posterity. This was freely and voluntarily turning from benevolence to selfishness, which is the essence of moral depravity. He became morally depraved in the same manner that Satan, the first sinner in the universe, became depraved. Satan had no corporeal instincts or appetites to tempt him to rebel against his Maker. He loved his own glory more than the glory of God, and aspired to become independent and supreme, which was the essence of selfishness, or moral depravity. The prevailing notion that Adam became morally depraved by the mere want of holiness is repugnant to the very nature of moral depravity, and to every dictate of reason and Scripture. (Nathanael Emmons, Selfishness, International Outreach)

At the heart of the fall is Satan’s fall into selfishness and then his temptation to man to be like God which was Satan’s great desire. Satan hated the glory of God at this point and so he tempted man to become like himself (though he did not tell them that) in opposition to the glory of God and man’s greatest good. In setting this out we can see this through the lenses of who God is and of His manifestation of Himself and His true holiness in the Greatest Commandments and the Ten Commandments. If you think of the Ten Commandments as nothing but a system of laws, then this point will be missed. If you think of the Ten Commandments as setting out God and His glory as how He is toward Himself and then human beings, then the Ten Commandments are not seen as legal commands but how we share in His love for Himself and His own glory. The two positions are diametrical to each other and that to the extreme.

The 1st Commandment is not just an arbitrary command that God gives, but instead it reflects how He Himself is within the Trinity. This command is given to men in order that they would be like God in all they do and that His glory would be manifested in and through them. This does not mean that man has the ability to even start to keep this command, but man can only keep this commandment (though far from perfectly) by the free-grace of God. It is not legalism to say that man is to be like God and yet man can only do that if grace enables him. This grace in man points to the life of Christ who is in man and since Christ keeps this God-centered command perfectly in the Trinity and in His incarnate life on earth He will work this command in men.

The selfish heart does not like the 1st Commandment since it is consumed with God and His glory. The command to man is not to have any other God in the presence of God. Since God is everywhere (omnipresent), this is a command not to have any other gods at all. It flows out of the Great Commandment to love God with all of our being, yet this Great Commandment can only happen when man is united to Christ by grace and has Christ living His live in the soul. The problem, however, is that the selfish heart has itself as its god and it seeks self rather than the true God. Fallen man wants to live out of love for self and deceive himself into thinking that he loves God. Fallen man wants to think that he has the ability to love God and it is a matter of choice, but true love has its origin in God and can only come to and through those who are born of God and know God (I John 4:7-8).

The 1st Commandment, if we think of the Commandments as flowing from the nature of who God is, teaches us how God is within Himself. The triune God has no other gods in His presence and as such He always does all He does for His own glory and out of love for Himself as triune and love for His own glory and the manifestation of His glory. God, as the only perfect Being in the universe, must love Himself as His chief love. The 1st Commandment, then, shows us who the true God is and how He is within Himself.

The 1st Commandment also teaches us our utter inability to love Him perfectly and so how desperately we need Christ to take away our sin of falling short of His glory. Our utter inability to keep this also teaches us our desperate need to have Christ as our perfect righteousness and He is the only perfect righteousness in the universe. But it also teaches us that for us to love God and have Him as our only god, we need a source of perfect love that will be able to share that love with us. The Commandments are not just some legalistic requirements, but they teach us how God is and how we are able to share in that. All sin, then, in light of that is so horrible. It is nothing but a selfish heart seeking self and the glory of self by the strength of self. It is diametrically opposed to God, all He is, and all He does. A selfish heart is to be like the devil who tries to be like God in loving Himself, but self-love is an evil love without love for God.

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