The Doctrine of Original Sin

Intro: This morning we studied about THE original sin, as historically recorded in Gen. 3. Adam and Eve both violated God’s clear command. It is not difficult to see how these two became sinners. They were not always sinners, but they personally disobeyed God’s rule. We also noticed the severe consequences, both immediate and remote, they suffered as a result. But there is another question we need to consider – a more personal one. How did you become a sinner?

  • This question was not much debated for the first 3 centuries following the revelation of the gospel. It was commonly believed that man continued with freewill after the events of fall in Gen. 3. “It was the universal faith of the church that man was made in the image of God, pure and holy, and fell by his own guilt. But the extent of sin and the consequences of the fall were not fully discussed before the Pelagius-Augustine controversy in the fifth century.” (Schaff, Vol. II, p. 246)
  • Augustine is credited with championing the doctrine that said because every future person on humanity was in Adam’s seed potentially, thus every human was morally corrupted and made guilty of sin by Adam’s sin. This doctrine, known as Adamic sin, or original sin, was accepted into Catholicism at the Council of Trent (1545) at the beginning of the reformation movement. … “Adam’s first sin has been transmitted to all his descendants”.
  • The creeds of the reformation adopted the doctrine, and Calvin devolved his systematic theology with original sin, or inherited depravity, as its foundational doctrine. For example, the Augsburg Confession of Faith (1530), Lutheranism’s creed, asserted: [A]ll men, born according to nature, are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without confidence towards God and with concupiscence, and that this original disease or flaw is truly a sin, bringing condemnation and also eternal death to those who are not reborn through baptism and the Holy Spirit (Article II).
  • The Westminster Confession of Faith in the Presbyterian Book of Confessions. “Our first parents … sinned … By this sin they fell from their original righteousness, and communion with God, and so became dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body. …the guilt of this sin was imputed, and the same death in sin and corrupted nature conveyed to all their posterity…From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions”–(Chap. VI, sec. 1-4.) “Every sin, both original and actual … doth, in its own nature, bring guilt upon the sinner, whereby he is bound over to the wrath of God, and curse of the law, and so made subject to death, with all miseries spiritual, temporal, and eternal”–(Chap. VI, sec. 6.)

I. What does the Bible Teach? The scriptures do speak to the pervasive and far-reaching consequences of Adam’s original sin. But there is no Biblical basis for teaching that we share in the guilt of that sin, or any sin other than our own. We did not see it even implied in Genesis 3. Forgiveness is always offered and considered with actual transgressions in view. Consider a passage that is interpreted as evidence of inherited sinfulness.

• Rom 5:12-1912 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned — 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

Note: The first thing that the honest scholar & Bible student admits about this verse is that it is liable to more than one interpretation. George Eldon Ladd, who wrote a theology of the N.T. wrote about this verse: “It is quite clear that Paul believed in original sin in the sense that Adam’s sin constituted all men sinners.” He says this because he is a Calvinist, and has interpreted these verses in light of his Calvinism. He goes on to say about Rom. 5:12, “…grammatically, this can mean that men died because they have personally sinned, or it can mean that in Adam all men sin.” This could be called a grammatical ambiguity.

A. Context: Paul is discussing justification through Christ. The Christian has been justified by faith (vs. 1) and has access to God through Jesus Christ. The marvelous nature of this justification is exhibited in at least two ways in Paul’s writings here:

1. He died for those who were unworthy sinners. It showed His great love (v. 8)

2. The effects of that justification are available to every person (Jew & Gentile), and Paul uses Adam to make his point. What does he teach here?

a. vs 12 – the first therefore: sin & death entered through one man, and death spread to all men, because all men sinned… and

b. vs 18 – second therefore: as through one man came judgment, resulting in condemnation- (as in the curse pronounced in Gen.3), so through One Man came the free gift, resulting in justification (as pronounced in the promises of the gospel.)

c. Implications of seeing Original Sin in these verses: if the judgment is a universal imputation of Adam’s sin to all, then so is the free gift of righteousness. It is an unconditional imputation of Jesus’ righteousness, and all are saved that were condemned (v. 18,19)

B. This verse says nothing about Adam’s sin being passed on to anybody. It does say that it was Adam who caused “sin” to enter into the world, and as a result of that, “death” entered as well. It then says “thus death spread to all men.” As a result of what Adam did, all men after him will physically die.

1. The word “death” also has a secondary meaning referring to “a separation” from God when man sins. This verse says that death spread to all men, “because all have sinned“. Although Augustine accepted the Vulgate rendering of that last phrase, the consensus of the translations render it grammatically correct. Because all sinned. All men after Adam have sinned, thereby sharing in the fate as Adam—separation from God.

C. Ezekiel 18 – The Israelites were in captivity, at least part of them. (1st deportation in 606 – Daniel was taken to Babylon, in 597 second deportation, and finally the last deportation was in 586 B.C. Between the 2nd deportation and the destruction of Jerusalem in 586, Jeremiah was prophesying in the city of Jerusalem trying to get the Jews to surrender. Accused of conspiracy. (He makes his case on their accountability in Jer. 18). God sent Ezekiel to Babylon to speak to the Jews who are already there. They think that God is going to intervene, and they will be restored to Jerusalem. Ezekiel says not so, but they will be there the whole 70 years, and they need to accept their own responsibility for why they are there.

1. They had created a proverb – “The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.” It is our eating of grapes that makes our teeth to be set on edge. Every generation blames their problems on the previous generation. Ezekiel’s response: Ezek. 18:3-5“As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel.”Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die.

2. Ezekiel gives a 3 generation illustration of this truth:

a. vs. 4-9 a man who lives right (both positive & negative qualities – He shall live.

b. vs. 10-13, a son who forgets his father’s righteousness and does evil – He shall die.

c. vs. 14-17, a grandson turns from his father’s wickedness & does good – He shall live; So Ezekiel urges them to “turn” & “return” from their transgressions.

d. Ezekiel 18:2020 The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

3. The Bible is replete with examples of people who were good, in spite of bad parents, or who were wicked in spite of being raised by good parents. Hezekiah was a good man sandwiched between 2 generations of wickedness – 2 Kings 18:5; His father was Ahaz who extremely wicked. Hezekiah lived as the son of the wicked & corrupt king since he was 9, yet he did what was right. His son was Manasseh, who turned out to be the worst of all. God judged each of these men as individuals on the choices they made. The conclusion that Ezekiel brought them to in viewing their own predicament was “the soul that sins it shall die; each person is responsible for their own choices, and sin is a choice, not an inherited trait.

D. Jesus used the innocence and humility of little children to represent those who were right in the sight of God, and called his disciples to be like them. This would be untenable of children were born with sin or depravity. Matt 19:14But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.

E. Are there any other passages that seem to suggest the doctrine of original sin? Yes. Consider Ps. 51:5– David’s penitential psalm after his sin with Bathsheba. “Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” When I start out with the Calvinist’s concept of sovereignty and bring it here, it supports my Calvinism. But can it be viewed another way – of course it can. It could be a point of emphasis (exaggeration). It says Hezekiah was the best King before or after him – It says the same thing about Josiah. Which of them were? (That‘s the best pie I ever ate!) David is just saying that he was born into a corrupt world and sees the universal nature of sin.

II. Hammering out systems of false Teaching – Melvin Curry spoke of a quotation from the historian Adolf Harnak, where he warns against taking the facts of the Bible hammered them into systems, and wound up going beyond the Bible. That is certainly true of a false doctrine, but can also be true of us, as we react to false doctrine. (see the creationists constructing theories of how the world began, soup, canopy, etc., I don’t read about that in the Bible, I made that up in my mind. It might be reasonable, but it’s mine, not God’s. I only have the 400 or so verses in Genesis: all I’ve ever had. If my conjectures become the orthodoxy, and I am wrong, I have perpetuated a wrong system in response to error.

• Some things are simply paradoxical: deity & humanity of Christ; law & grace, etc. If we take these paradoxes and attempt to hammer them into a system, we are bound to go beyond the Bible.

If we take all the passages about salvation and write a book called the scheme of redemption, it is my scheme of redemption, God did not put it all together that way.

If in response to institutionalism we develop a series of inferences that are simply based on other inferences we are walking on dangerous ground. We may develop a system that is as in error as the one we oppose.

A. Catholicism and Original Sin: This becomes an illustration of how this happens, as they interpret Original Sin. When you see some of the strange doctrines of Catholicism, do you wonder where they come from? Did they come from the Bible? The Catholic says yes & no.

• Some Implications of Original sin in Catholicism: “Adam or the first man, as head of the human race was endowed by God with sanctifying grace and with certain other special gifts, such as freedom from concupiscence, freedom from sickness and death, and knowledge constant with his unique position.”

So, Adam was not born righteous. Righteousness was a unique gift, that he lost at the point of actual transgression. His offspring did not have that original gift, and it could only be bestowed by the grace of God. God withheld this gift (grace), and thus Adam’s posterity were born sinners. That is the point of the sacramental system. It bestows the needed grace through the 7 sacraments of Catholicism. What other doctrines developed as a result of this theology?

1. Infant Baptism – Do they believe this because it is clearly in the Bible? No. Because they believe that Adam’s posterity do not have original righteousness, and can only be righteous through the sacrament of baptism.

a. What if he dies before he is baptized? Can’t go to heaven, but not bad enough to go to hell (committed no sin). So it must go to Limbo – Where is it in the Bible? Not there. Catholic admits that. It is an inference from the doctrine of original sin.

2. Mary – a lot of doctrine surrounding Mary, when there is very little in the Bible about her.

a. Immaculate Conception – not that Jesus was conceived free from sin, but that Mary herself was created free from sin. John O’Brien says, The Immaculate Conception of Mary. – “Not only was she free from the slightest stain of actual sin, but through the singular miracle of divine grace, she was free also from original sin, with which all the other children of Adam are born into the world.” For her to be the mother of God and be free from sin, she had to be free from original sin, so she had to be immaculately conceived. – Where is that in the Bible? – Implied from Original sin.

1) The original gift, given Adam was freedom from lust, concupiscence. If Mary had any sexual desire toward Joseph, that would have been a sign of original sin. If she had other children, then she had relations with Joseph, which means she had desire, which means she had original sin – which she couldn’t have had. So she must have been a perpetual virgin.

2) Another part of this original gift was freedom from sickness & death. If Mary had died and gone back to corruption, that would mean she had original sin, therefore she was bodily assumed by God, and did not see death. Where is that in the Bible? This is the anatomy of a false doctrine.

3) A few years back brethren were discussing if it were possible for a man to live one split second without sin, could he repent of unknown sins; now we are arguing about the deity of Christ. How did we get to that? Stop & accept what the Bible says – don’t hammer out a system. Sooner or later we will inject ourselves into it.

Conclusion: John 8:31-32 – Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

It should not surprise us that the apostles spend so much time warning the early Christians concerning false teachers, and false doctrine. It is only the truth that sets us free – falsehood inevitably leads us into the bondage of more error.