The Bible has a lot to say about the concept of enmity. At its core, enmity refers to hostility, hatred, or ill-will between people or groups. It is the opposite of friendship and unity. Enmity can manifest in various forms, from personal conflicts to outright warfare. As the Bible depicts humanity’s relationship with God, it becomes clear that enmity stems from sin and rebellion against Him.
The Origin of Enmity
According to the Bible, enmity first entered creation when Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-7). Prior to this, they lived in perfect harmony with God, each other, and creation. But after they sinned, everything changed. God cursed the serpent who tempted them and prophesied future conflict between the serpent and Eve and their offspring (Genesis 3:14-15). This reflects the enmity that now existed between Satan and humanity.
Adam and Eve’s relationship with each other was also damaged; after they sinned, they started blaming one another (Genesis 3:12-13). Their harmony and openness were replaced with discord and shame. Most tragically, sin created enmity between God and humanity. Adam and Eve hid from God’s presence out of fear and were banished from the garden, separated from God’s intimate fellowship (Genesis 3:8-10, 23-24).
The Bible sees Adam’s disobedience as the gateway for sin to infect the human race. As Paul explains, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12). Enmity within the human race stems from this original sin and rebellion against God.
Manifestations of Enmity
After Adam and Eve, enmity is clearly evidenced between their children. Cain murders his brother Abel out of jealousy and rage (Genesis 4:8). He could not resist the sinful urge to destroy his perceived rival. This tragic episode displays hostility between brothers at its most extreme.
As sin increased in the human race, so did enmity. By Noah’s day, “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and…filled with violence” as people pursued their sinful desires (Genesis 6:11). Humanity’s wickedness and violence grieved God’s heart (Genesis 6:5-6). Their enmity toward God and one another ultimately brought His judgment through the Flood.
After the Flood, God commanded Noah and his family to multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1). But soon, the people refused to spread out and instead rallied to build the Tower of Babel in disobedience to God (Genesis 11:4). God confused their languages and scattered them across the earth (Genesis 11:8-9). Their prideful self-interest led them to defy God’s command, illustrating the enmity of the human heart.
The pattern continues throughout Old Testament history. Enmity characterizes relationships between rivals like Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers, David and Saul. It leads to bloody conflicts between Israel and enemy nations like the Philistines and Ammonites. On an individual level, it causes marital strife, power struggles, and family dysfunction.
Of course, the ultimate display of enmity in the Old Testament is Israel’s rejection of Yahweh and embrace of idolatry. Despite God’s love and faithfulness toward His people, they repeatedly spurned Him and chased after false gods. Their spiritual adultery grieved God deeply and led to His judgment at the hands of foreign powers. But God always preserved a faithful remnant in Israel through whom He continued His redemptive plan.
Enmity with God
The fundamental enmity depicted in Scripture is that between God and evildoers. Psalm 5:4-6 declares, “For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you. The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.” This reflects how God’s holy nature is at odds with sin and rebellion.
Isaiah 59:2 explains humanity’s core problem: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you.” Sin creates alienation from God, our Creator. He is light, and we are darkness; He is holy, and we are unrighteous. Rather than seeking after God, we by nature go our own way in pride and unbelief (Romans 3:10-12, 23).
Ephesians 2:3 further describes unbelievers as “children of wrath.” Jesus said, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36). God graciously offers salvation through faith in Christ, yet many spurn His mercy through hardness of heart. This perpetuates their enmity toward God.
Enmity Between God’s People and the World
The Bible presents a clear dichotomy between followers of Christ and the unbelieving world. In John 15:18-19 Jesus tells His disciples, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Conversion creates a deep divide between a believer’s values and the world’s.
James 4:4 warns, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” First John 2:15-17 similarly exhorts, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him…And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.” Loving God entails rejecting worldliness.
Second Timothy 3:12 affirms that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” Righteous living often brings opposition from the ungodly. Jesus’ parable of the wheat and tares depicts evildoers ultimately being removed from God’s kingdom in the final judgment (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43). Until then, enmity remains between God’s people and Satan’s agents in the world.
Christ Defeating Enmity
The central message of the Bible is that Jesus Christ came to defeat enmity and reconcile sinners to God. Romans 5:10 teaches that while we were enemies of God, Christ died for us to restore peace with God. Romans 8:7 states, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.” But Jesus frees us from sin’s control over us.
A key passage is Ephesians 2:14-18:
For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
By dying for our sins, Jesus tore down every barrier separating us from God and each other. He reconciled Jews and Gentiles to God as one body of believers. The enmity stemming from sin is overcome through Christ’s atoning work.
First John 3:8 proclaims that “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.” First John 4:10 adds, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” God’s love expressed through Christ is mightier than any enmity.
As believers, we are called to emulate Jesus’ example. Romans 12:18 implores, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We are to overcome evil with good and love our enemies by God’s grace (Romans 12:21; Matthew 5:44). Though enmity remains in this fallen world, we serve as ministers of reconciliation, embodying the peace of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
The End of Enmity
According to Revelation 20-22, after Jesus returns and judges the world, He will abolish enmity forever by establishing a new creation. There will be no more sin, evil, suffering, oppression, war, or anything else that breeds hostility and hatred. God’s dwelling will be with His people, and He “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more” (Revelation 21:3-4).
Believers will enjoy everlasting peace and fellowship with Christ, while the wicked will be excluded, unable to threaten God’s kingdom anymore. First Corinthians 15:25-28 confirms that Christ will reign until He has put all enemies under His feet as the last enemy, death, is destroyed. God’s plan to redeem and reconcile all things in heaven and earth will be completed (Colossians 1:19-20).
Enmity, in all its forms, will meet its final end. There will be no more barriers between humanity and God, only complete reconciliation, unity, and love. What a glorious future we have to anticipate through faith in Jesus!