If the Bible does not teach that we are sinners by nature, condemned and lost because we are born in a world of sin, why has original sin become the majority belief among most Protestant and Catholic Christians? As is true for most errors in doctrine, there are some texts which seem to support the doctrine of original sin. This final lesson will look at these texts, to see if they really teach that we are born condemned and lost.
Notice that David does not say that he was a sinner from birth. Some Bible versions say this, but that is a theological interpretation rather than a correct translation. Where else could David have been born except in iniquity and sin? His mother and father were sinners, and he was born in pain because of the sin of Adam and Eve. David was born in a sinful world to sinful parents. If a child would happen to be born in a family of thieves, where thievery was practiced and taught by the parents, he would be born in thievery. Would this in itself make him a thief? Likewise, to be born in sin does not automatically constitute one a lost and condemned sinner. It does mean that one's circumstances from birth are extremely undesirable, and that one is most likely to end up a sinner.
This text clearly says that our fallen natures deserve nothing but wrath. Our fallen natures are not righteous, and the only just response to our natures is destruction. Our inheritance from Adam is definitely not good. We need to search the Scriptures a bit more for a solution.
This text states rather unequivocally that all men are condemned because of Adam's sin. This is exactly what the text says. Once again, we need to search the Scriptures a bit more.
There are some rather unique texts in the New Testament which speak of Christ's work for the whole race of mankind. Following are a few of them.
In some very important sense Christ's death affected all human beings. That includes Adam and Eve, and it even includes Cain and Hitler. In some way all were dead because of the atonement of Christ.
What other texts say similar things?
"...who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe." 1 Timothy 4:10
"And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:2
"God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." 2 Corinthians 5:19
Christ's redeeming work includes not only the sins of those who have repented and believed in Christ, but He has done something for all the sins that have ever been committed. The work of the atonement was a work of reconciliation--a removing of barriers to fellowship and love. In other words, there were no hindrances on God's part to man's restoration to Edenic unity and harmony. Now the only barrier would be on man's part, if he refused to accept what Christ had done for him.
What do all men receive from Christ?
"Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." Romans 5:18
Now we return to the text which speaks most clearly of the damage Adam did to the human race, but this time we must read all of the verse. How many were condemned because of Adam's sin? All men. What about those who have never even heard of Adam and who have never heard of the Biblical record of creation and the fall? Are they still born under condemnation? All men--the human race--were legally destroyed by Adam's sin. Irrespective of knowledge or choice, every human being was doomed by Adam's rebellion.
But is this the whole story? Right in one verse we have the complete picture. Not only were all men affected by Adam's sin, but all men were affected by Christ's life and death. The same "all men" who were doomed by Adam's sin were freed from condemnation by Christ's righteousness. To put it simply, what Adam did to the human race, Christ undid for the same human race. But what about those who have never heard of Christ and the Biblical record of the atonement? Do they still receive the free gift? All men--the human race--were legally reconciled to God by Christ's life and death. Irrespective of knowledge or choice, every human being was reconciled by Christ's atonement.
The word "justification" in this verse has the meaning of "acquittal," being cleared of charges brought against one. In Romans 5 all mankind is acquitted of the correct charge of rebellion which has been brought against the whole human race. In other words, the race--and all individuals in the race--are no longer under condemnation. Corporate condemnation through Adam is cancelled by corporate acquittal through Christ. Because of Adam's sin, we suffer under many of the curses of sin, one of which is inheriting a fallen nature, but this in itself does not constitute separation, condemnation, or lostness.
Conclusion: Now we can see the total picture. If it is true that we are all condemned through Adam, it is far more importantly true that we are all freed from that condemnation through Christ. If the first part is true, then the glorious truth is that the second part is just as true. Just as Adam condemned all men, Jesus freed all men from condemnation, both without personal involvement or choice, and both at the same instant of time. All human beings were given a second chance to make up their own minds about the gift of personal salvation.
Some believe that the texts about the first Adam are enough to prove that we are all born under condemnation because of Adam's sin. But those statements alone are not enough. What we must have, if it really is true that we are born into this world as lost sinners, is a clear text that we stand condemned because of Adam's sin. Without this statement, there is no support for the belief that we are born lost sinners.
The practical reality of all of this is that while we are born in a sinful world with a fallen nature, we are not born lost sinners. We become lost sinners later by willfully choosing to sin when we know the difference between right and wrong. Unfortunately, an entire gospel system is based on the false belief that we are born sinners. This false gospel changes the Biblical teachings about justification, sanctification, and our present assurance of salvation.
But with a correct diagnosis of what sin really is, we are free to study the Bible further to understand how salvation really works. The gospel is full of good news from beginning to end. Happy studying!