Does the Bible teach that Man has a sin nature? That question really needs to be the point Christians focus on when discussing sin. If the authoritative Word of God teaches it, even though we may not understand exactly how it works, then we need to embrace it as true.
The Bible introduces the concept of Man’s sin nature in Genesis. Chapter 5 states that Adam, created in God’s image, gave birth after the Fall to sons formed in his image (rather than in God’s).
Paul in Romans 5 explains this in some detail as he contrasted Adam and his act of disobedience with Jesus and His act of atonement. Here are the key portions focusing on sin:
12Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned …
14Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come…
16aThe gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation…
17aFor if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one …
18aSo then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men …
19aFor as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners,
Verse 12 makes the clear statement: all men die because all men sin. If, however, sin comes about as a result of the “blank slate” of our lives being corrupted by Satan and the world, Man is not at fault. Why then must he die?
Further, how would the “blank slate” be a fundamental shift from Adam, made in God’s likeness, to Adam’s descendants, fallen from grace? Adam had the freedom to obey God. So too, if the “blank slate” were true, his descendants would have the freedom to obey God. Where is the alteration of the human race that Romans 5 points to?
Was it only in the introduction of death as the consequence for sin? But verse 15 says all die because all sin. If all don’t sin, but all die, then God would appear to be meting out undue punishment.
If, on the other hand, the giving of free will was the cause of all Mankind sinning, then how was what God created deemed good?
No, something changed because Adam sinned. He who was good—according to the witness of Omniscience—and consequently able to be in God’s presence daily, chose against God, forever shutting the door on the possibility of Man entering God’s presence on his own. Sin barred the door.
Was this sin, a sin nature or merely sin acts committed by each person? A sin nature.
A cursory study of the original words in the Old Testament translated as “sin” or “iniquity” show that the meanings can refer to a one time act (or guilt) or to a condition.
When a word has more than one way it can be understood, it seems wisest to let Scripture interpret Scripture.
Hence the verses in Romans should guide our thinking about sin as a condition, as should the passages in Genesis. Add in what David wrote in Psalm 51 “5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,/And in sin my mother conceived me.”
A verse like Exodus 34:7 seems to be rather thorough in naming what God forgives: “who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” Would all of those refer to specific acts and none to a condition? (And can someone remain guilty if his sin acts have been forgiven?)
The entire book of Job serves as a wonderful explanation of sin nature. Job was a righteous man. God declared it, Job insisted upon it, and yet in the end, he lay face down before God, repenting. Why? Because his righteousness wasn’t God’s righteousness. His, like mine or any person’s is but a filthy rag.
If sin wasn’t a condition, then it would not of necessity block us from God. The sacrifices God instituted for the nation Israel should have been sufficient to remove sin from God’s presence. But Isaiah tells the truth about sin:
Behold, the LORD’S hand is not so short/ That it cannot save;/ Nor is His ear so dull/ That it cannot hear./ But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,/ And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.
– Isa 59:1-2
In other words, sin is the roadblock that keeps us from reconciliation with God.
What saved Abraham, then? God’s choice of him and his belief in God. It wasn’t righteous acts. Abraham actually went on to do some unrighteous acts after God declared him justified.
What saved Peter? Christ’s choice of him and his belief in Christ, though he too went on to do some unrighteous acts after God justified him.
Sin acts don’t condemn us and righteous acts don’t save us. Jesus said in John 3:18 we are already condemned if we don’t believe in Him.
“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
The problem that the Pharisees had was one of trying to live sinless lives. As Paul said, he had the credentials if anyone did. He had the blood lines, the education, the connections, and “as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless (Phil. 3:6b).” But he went on to say, he counted it all as rubbish in order to “gain Christ.”
Reconciliation with God doesn’t come from good works, not because God doesn’t want us to do good works (He’s give us lots of admonition and instruction about how to live our lives) but because righteous acts fall short. They fail to deal with our sin nature. Sacrifice could deal with a sin act, but it can’t cleanse the heart. That takes the blood of the perfect, spotless Lamb of God who alone can take away the sin of the world.
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This article is a re-post of one entitled “Sin, the Stumbling Block or the Roadblock” which appeared here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in September, 2010.