Isn’t it odd that the more an individual or a society drowns in a cesspool of moral depravity, the more is dismissed the truth that man is a sinner who sins because he has a nature that has a propensity to defy His Creator? The more evil flourishes the more an individual or a society becomes blind to its own condition. Like a cancer, sin eats away at the spiritual and moral fiber of one’s soul which results in silencing the conscience and seductively blinding one’s eyes. Sadly, we are living in a day when such a concept regarding sin is making inroads in Christendom. As of late I have read several articles by Christian “leaders” who believe it is past time to do away with such terminology as “original sin” and that humans are “sinners.” They contend such terminology should be regarded as offensive and untenable language in the twenty-first century. Instead of using such negative terminology, such “leaders” insist Christendom must focus on the “innate goodness” in man and realize that evil is only the absence of good. However, the fact of sin is evidenced by its manifestation being daily “played out” in society and every honest person recognizes it when they look within their own heart. While we may not all sin in like manner or to the same degree, nevertheless, observation and personal experience teach us we all sin.
Before proceeding, the term “sin” needs to be defined. The most common word translated “sin” in the NT (172 times) is the word Hamartia which means to miss the mark and pictures one whose arrow misses the intended target. It speaks of one who misses God’s intended purpose for their life, who willfully falls short of obedience to God’s divine law; one who is unable to comply with God’s holy demands by their own works. Our source for our developing a theology on sin is the Bible, God’s revelation to man. An initial question to be asked is, “Does man become a sinner by sinning, or does man sin because he is a sinner?” If the answer to this question is that man becomes a sinner by sinning, then ideally one given the proper environment and appropriate social interactions one could possibly avoid ever doing wrong! However, if man sins because he is a sinner, then a second question is raised, “How did we acquire our propensity to sin?”
The best way to answer these two questions is let the Scriptures speak. While many verses could be cited, some focus passages are noted:
• I Kings 8:46, “For there is no man that sins not.”
• Psalm 51:5, ” Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
• Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
• Romans 5:12, ” Wherefore, as by one-man (Adam) sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
• Romans 5:18, “Therefore as by the offence of one (Adam) judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one (Christ) the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”
• Romans 7:18-20 “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
• Ephesians 2:1-4, “And you has given life, who were dead in trespasses and sins….and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
• 1 Cor. 15:22, ” For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
From these verses several truths become apparent that can hardly be denied.
1. All persons actively sin, all persons are universally sinful (I Kings 8:46, Romans 3:23).
2. Sin is both natural and personal (Romans 7:18-20). We sin because we are sinners by nature and choice.
3. Every person is born with a sin nature, and enters the world burdened with a nature of sin (Ps. 51:5).
4. Adam’s disobedience to God affected all mankind, man’s sinfulness is due to his connectedness with Adam from whom he has inherited his sinful nature (Romans 5:12-18).
5. Adam, as “father” of the human race, caused every person after him to be born with a nature that has the propensity to sin. One’s sinful nature is transmitted through procreation. (Romans 5:12).
6. Because man is a sinner by nature and choice, he is under just condemnation and stands guilty before a holy God (Romans 5:18; Eph. 2:1-4).
7. All humanity stands in need of grace, as man is unable in his own power to reestablish a relationship with God. (I Cor. 15:12)
8. While our connectedness with the offence of “one man” (Adam) results in judgment coming upon all men in condemnation, by the righteous life of Christ (the Second Adam), all who embrace Him as Savor receive free pardon from sin and the free gift of eternal life (Romans 5:18, I Cor. 15:12, 45).
The Bible is crystal clear that sin is “a dominant force, and the fact that all men are connected in the solidarity of sin” (H. Berkhof, Christian Faith (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979), 203). Adam’s sin did more than influence mankind in the sense of simply setting a bad example and that at birth we have an “unsinful” nature and become sinners only as the result of wrong choices. No, according to Scripture we sin because we inherit natural, innate corruption from Adam. While there are theologians and leaders today, who throughout Christendom, in an effort to appease the culture, encourage dropping terms like inherited or transmitted sin, or the term credited to Augustine used by most theologians, “Original Sin.” Dislike of the aforementioned terms is the result of an ever-increasing man-centered Christianity, where the focus is on man’s goodness and his ability to pull himself up to God by his own “boot straps.” While “the truth of the doctrine [of inherited sin] may be challenged by those who repudiate the authority of Scripture; that it is a doctrine of Scripture can hardly be denied… That the first man’s lapse [Adam] from a state of innocence entailed disastrous consequences upon himself and his descendants” (Thomas Whitelaw, ‘The Biblical Conception of Sin’ in The Fundamentals, 11, 7-22). Even the rationalistic moral philosopher Immanuel Kant contended that human beings possess an innate propensity to evil and has a natural inclination towards moral corruption, his conclusion derived from personal and empirical observations of man and his behavior. (Kant, Religion within the Limits of Reason Alone, 1793, 6:18). And what Kant rightly discerned through personal and empirical observation, is clearly set forth by the Inspired Word of God.
Though man is a sinner by nature and choice, the Good News is that Christ is the remedy for the sin of humanity. Our Creator God, knowing man could never in his power deal with the universal problem of sin and man’s just condemnation before a holy God, clothed Himself in human flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, and becoming man’s Representative did for humanity what they could never do for themselves. John declared, “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin” (I John 3:5). Paul joyously wrote, “For [God] hath made [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
In Christ, the Representative of humanity, the holy-love of God provided a Savior who on our behalf complied with the holy demands of a righteous God and as well bore the judgement we justly deserved for not complying with His righteous and holy demands. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). In Christ the sin debt that you and I owe, which we could never pay, was paid in full in Jesus Christ. He did for humanity what they could never do themselves. While the first Adam failed miserably, and his posterity inherited his rebellious, sinful nature, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, who was tempted in all points as we yet without sin (Heb. 4:14), has provided for us all that we need to be able to stand uncondemned before a holy God. Paul proclaimed, “There is now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Christ’s resurrection is the proof that the sacrificial sin offering Christ offered to God on our behalf was more than sufficient to pay the sin debt and was accepted by the Father as “paid in full.”
Let us rejoice that though by the sinful actions of one (Adam) judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness life of One (Christ) the free gift came upon all men unto eternal life (Romans 5:18). O, what a Savior!