Sin, the Stumbling Block or the Roadblock

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.

In the short look at history Monday, I suggested that the Bible introduces the concept of Man’s sin nature in Genesis. I pointed particularly to chapter 5 in which Scripture 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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Published in: on September 1, 2010 at 4:38 pm  Comments (6)  
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6 Comments

  1. Nice post/series. Thanks!

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  2. The apostle Paul said, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned …”

    In a world where sin has entered the world, and people were still born with a blank slate, but individually choose to become sinners, it would still be true to say that death has spread to all men. In fact, if original sin is true, then the last three words of this quote become incorrect. If original sin is true, then death spread to all men, not because all sinned, but because one man sinned, and we share in the burden of his guilt.

    Interestingly enough, you chose only to quote the first half of Romans 5:19. The whole verse reads, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Note the direct comparison indicated by the phrase “For as…” If all men are condemned by Adam’s action, then ALL men must be saved by Jesus.” And you’re left with a form of universalism. However, if all men are simply given the opportunity to choose sin because of Adam, only then will Paul’s analogy work, because that’s how men are saved by Jesus.

    You said, “Verse 12 makes the clear statement: all men die because all men sin.”

    You said it, not me. It doesn’t say that all men die because Adam sinned. It says that all men die because all men sin.

    Furthermore, the verse says that sin entered the world, not the human line. Animals die without sinning and without being descended from Adam.

    You said, “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?”

    Again, this is a false equivocation. Saying that each person dies as a result of their own sins, rather than by being born human with an unavoidable human nature, the blame doesn’t go to Satan, but to the individual doing the sinning.

    You said, “So too, if the “blank slate” were true, his descendants would have the freedom to obey God.”

    One hundred percent of the people that God created definitely sinless still sinned. One hundred percent of the people who had only a single negative influence in their lives still sinned. We can be born with a blank slate, and our sinning is no reflection on whether or not we were guilty at birth.

    You asked, “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?”

    All of the world was called good. Man was deemed “very good.” Our status of “very good” is a statement of our value as beings created in the image of God, not of our behavior. God called the race of Man good before we breathed our second breath.

    You said, “When a word has more than one way it can be understood, it seems wisest to let Scripture interpret Scripture.”

    Very well. The word translated as “sin nature” in most New Testament original sin proof-texts is the Greek word “sarx.” The word “sarx” literally means the meat of one’s body. In extra-biblical sources, it’s always used as a description of the physical meat of the body. When Jesus said that “This is my flesh,” the word he used was “sarx.” When Paul and John tell believers to be of one body, the word they both use is “sarx.”

    Oddly enough, the only time when “sarx” is translated as “sinful nature” is when the verse can be forced to support original sin. Also odd is the fact that when Paul talks about the sinful nature that comes from man repeatedly giving himself over to individual sins, he doesn’t use “sarx.” In other words, in EVERY instance where “sarx” is used, it can be read as “physical flesh” without any theological problems. However, there are numerous instances were translating “sarx” as “sin nature” become absolutely heretical and blasphemous.

    You quoted David as saying, “Add in what David wrote in Psalm 51 “5Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,/And in sin my mother conceived me.”

    Take away the theological baggage that you’re carrying, and the obvious interpretation of that is that David’s mother conceived him in a sinful act. It doesn’t say he was sinful. Considering that we never once see David’s mother in the bible, and that Jesse did not count him among his sons when Samuel visited with the intention of anointing a new king, the latter seems more likely.

    You said, “Sin acts don’t condemn us.”

    The bible teaches “The soul that sins, dies.” It teaches that “the wages of sin is death.” And Paul’s letters are littered with lists of sins that will keep you from Heaven. Rather than being guilty of acts of rebellion, you’re suggesting that we’re guilty because of something we can’t help. Tread carefully, because you’re stepping closer and closer to heresy, in order to idolize a pet doctrine.

    You said, “The problem that the Pharisees had was one of trying to live sinless lives.”

    No, the problem with the Pharisees is that they only sought to appear sinless, and they (knowing the prophecies) still denied what they knew to be true.

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  3. So my questions is, if you follow that people are born blank slates and then have to sin in order to become sinners… is it possible that there is someone somewhere in this world who has never sinned and therefore does not need God’s redemption?

    My personal answer is no because sin is inherently in us. It is not our acts that define us but our very selves. In Ephesians 2:3 it says “All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.”(NLT)

    Paul says we were dead in our sins. So did that death happen the moment we were conceived or the moment we first sinned? Were we ever alive spiritually before coming to Christ?

    And if it is sin that leads to death, then those who have not yet sinned are not dying. But when I look at the world, I see death all around, even for those not yet out of the womb.

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  4. ” …is it possible that there is someone somewhere in this world who has never sinned and therefore does not need God’s redemption?”

    Well, for a time, Adam and Eve didn’t need God’s redemption, so I don’t see a problem with suggesting that it’s possible. Aside from babies who don’t live long enough to sin, I would say that it was inevitable that we will sin. When Adam and Eve were exiled from the Garden, the world was cursed. The odds are stacked infinitely against us, yet the fall must come from our choices, not as a birthright. An analogy: imagine the entire world was covered in tar. Streets, houses, clothes, light switches, everything. Everyone would eventually be touched by the tar. That does not mean, however, that babies were born with tar on them.

    As far as Ephesians 2:3 goes, the word translated as “sinful nature” should be translated as “flesh.” Following the flesh (only) will inevitably lead us into sin.

    You asked, “Paul says we were dead in our sins. So did that death happen the moment we were conceived or the moment we first sinned? Were we ever alive spiritually before coming to Christ?”

    Paul said that he was sold as a slave to sin. That seems to indicate a turning point in his life where he ceased to be a free man and became a slave. I would say that when we were innocent babies, we could be said to be apiritually alive, though not spiritually aware. Throughout the bible, in Psalms, the Epistles, Revelation, we see references to the Book of Life. What most people miss is that it never says we are written into the Book of Life at the point we accept Jesus as our savior. It says we are blotted out of the Book of Life because of our sin and are not to be found there any longer.

    You said, “And if it is sin that leads to death, then those who have not yet sinned are not dying. But when I look at the world, I see death all around, even for those not yet out of the womb.”

    James 1:14-15 – “But each one is tempted when, by his own desires, he is drawn away and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is full grown, gives birth to death.”

    Death entered the world through Adam’s sin, because it was his sin that caused the world to be cursed. Everyone’s eventual physical death comes from that event. Babies die because the world is cursed, imperfect. But spiritual death comes from our own sin. The wages of sin is death.

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  5. “However, if all men are simply given the opportunity to choose sin because of Adam, only then will Paul’s analogy work, because that’s how men are saved by Jesus.”

    There is a choice component, but it’s not what you might think.

    It is certainly true that not all men are born saved and must choose to believe for themselves. Now, if it is also true that all men sin by nature and don’t necessarily choose it for themselves, that might seem like a contradiction, but the Bible provides the solution. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, he said that we must be born again of the spirit. “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:5) All human beings are born of the flesh, which is not their choice. However, human beings can, if they so choose, be born again of the spirit. Through Adam we are born of the flesh, but in Jesus we are born again of the spirit. Paul contrasts the two in 1 Corinthians 15:44-50:

    “If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.”

    The question at hand is not choosing to sin or not, but birth. The world is represented in the Bible as being a prisoner of sin (Galatians 3:22). In Romans 5, Paul says all men died because they sinned, even those who didn’t break a command as Adam did. (Romans 5:14) So it’s not even a question of willfully breaking a command any more. Sin, in its totality, is greater than man’s natural ability to control it, whether by Adam contaminating his progeny or by the moral law being too much to bear. So all men, born in the flesh, born after Adam, will be subject to natural and spiritual death, and the flesh will not inherit the kingdom. But those born of the spirit, because of Christ’s obedience in taking our sins away and dying for us, will have eternal life. That is how through each man we receive life or death.

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  6. ” …is it possible that there is someone somewhere in this world who has never sinned and therefore does not need God’s redemption?”

    Well, for a time, Adam and Eve didn’t need God’s redemption, so I don’t see a problem with suggesting that it’s possible.”

    The problem with saying that is later on in Ephesians Chp 2 it says “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works that no one should boast.”

    If someone never sinned, then they do not need God’s redemption. Basically, due to their good works (or lack of “bad works”, they are made right with God. But God says we are saved not by never sinning but by His Grace alone.

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