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Is it True That Sin Begins in Secret?

Sin begins in the heart, a place seeming so private and secluded. It all begins inwardly in places where it is thought to be secret since man cannot see it. But not even sin conceived there can escape God’s knowledge.

Dark forest

Nothing is hidden from God. Though sin would like to remain hidden and though impure motives operate in darkness, nothing escapes God and His omniscience. Though the intent is for sin to begin in secret and to continue in secret by those who do not want to have their sin brought to light, it is impossible to have a secret unknown to God.

Sin conceived in the heart and brought to fruition behind closed doors or in the confines of our mind cannot escape the God who created each of us and who calls His children to be holy as He is holy.

When reading Jeremiah 23, it becomes apparent that God brought much-needed correction to those who were shepherds over the people of Israel and those who were prophets not sent or directed by God. The Lord prophesied through Jeremiah of the coming Messiah, the Righteous Branch who would come from the line of David (Jeremiah 23:1-8).

Jeremiah continued to speak for the Lord to the people of Israel, instructing them not to listen to the words of the prophets who filled them with vain hopes and who despised the word of the Lord (Jeremiah 23:16,17).

He made it clear to the people that He did not send those prophets, nor did He speak to them as they were not proclaiming what God would have them to hear, which was a call to repentance and to return to God (Jeremiah 23:21,22).

We then come to the verse in Jeremiah 23:24, “‘Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD.” The words of the prophets, according to God, were in their hearts before they were ever spoken.

They were prophesying the deceit of their own hearts (Jeremiah 23:26), and this was not hidden from God. We know that God knows what is in men, and we see this revealed to us in the Gospel of John (2:25). We know that from the beginning, nothing can be hidden from God and that even sin done in secret is known by God.

The Origin of Sin

It all started in the garden with Adam, Eve, and the serpent. In Genesis 3, we read of the fall in the garden with Adam and Eve eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil by listening to the serpent and his deception.

The actions of Eve showed that sin began in the heart and mind by looking upon the tree and seeing it as a delight to the eyes and a desire to bring wisdom (Genesis 3:6). But this desire and this sin could not be hidden.

Genesis 3:8 says that after this took place, the Lord God was walking in the garden, and when Adam and Eve heard Him, they hid themselves. After answering God as to where he was, Adam said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself” (Genesis 3:10, ESV).

God responded by asking Adam, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” (Genesis 3:11, ESV).

The sin of Adam was not hidden from God. We could say that Adam and Even attempted to keep it hidden from God by hiding themselves in the trees from the presence of God, but it could not be concealed from Him.

He is all-knowing, and even things done in the darkness are exposed by the light. We know from the Word of God that sin entered the world by one man, and death came through sin, spreading to all mankind (Romans 5:12). That sin tried to hide, but it could not.

Praise God that though condemnation came to all men through one man’s sin, one act of righteousness leading to justification and life for all men came through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:18).

Sin Begins in the Heart

When we think about those like the false prophets in Jeremiah 23 who were saying things not received in the counsel of God, speaking in such a way that they were proclaiming the deceit of their own hearts, we begin to understand that sin begins in the heart and mind of each of us.

Jesus Christ spoke of the state of sin in correlation to the heart in Mark 7:21-23, “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come — sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

According to this author, “Jesus is teaching us a simple, yet profound truth: things from within have a direct correlation with things that take place on the outside. Thoughts come before acts.”

James speaks along these lines in individuals being tempted by their own evil desires, and once desire is conceived, sin is birthed. Once sin is full-grown, it gives birth to death (James 1:15). It all begins inwardly in places where it is thought to be secret since man cannot see it.

But God sees it. 1 Samuel 16:7 says that men look upon the outward appearance while God looks at the heart. John MacArthur makes a sobering observation in light of this passage, “If we realized that God himself is the only audience for such secret sins, we might be less inclined to write them off so lightly.”

Romans 2:16 assures us that God will one day judge people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, and 1 Corinthians 4:5 says He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness while exposing the motives of the heart. Sin begins in the heart, a place seeming so private and secluded. But not even sin conceived there can escape God’s knowledge.

What a Merciful Savior

For those of us in Christ Jesus, we reverence God in His omniscience, and we understand that repentance is a beautiful gift we have been given even after salvation in our walk of progressive sanctification.

The Word encourages us as His children not to sin, but if we do sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ (1 John 2:1). This is not a license to sin.

This helps us to understand our need for our Savior and His righteousness and the fallenness of our flesh in a fallen world. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

As children of God by faith in Jesus Christ, we need not be fearful to come before the throne of grace in humility and repentance, asking God to forgive us and to help us in being led by the Spirit and not by our flesh. He is faithful to create a clean heart within us and to renew a right spirit within us (Psalm 51:10).

For further reading:

Conflicted about Judgment

Are Desires Inherently Evil?

Did Evil Exist Before Adam and Eve Sinned?

How Did a Man after God’s Own Heart Fall So Far into Sin?

How Do We Take Our Thoughts Captive?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/stsmhn authorDawn Hill is a Christian blogger known as The Lovesick Scribe and the host of The Lovesick Scribe Podcast. She is passionate about sharing the truth and pointing others back to Jesus Christ through the written Word as the standard of authority for Christian living and instruction while being led by the Holy Spirit into maturity. She is the author of NonProphet Woke: The Reformation of a Modern-Day Disciple. She is a wife to Nicholas and a mother to Anabel and Ephraim. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram