The Origin of Sin
The origin of this sinful nature comes from the sin of Adam in paradise. Adam acted as the representative head of the whole human race when he disobeyed God and came under the condemnation of God. God had clearly told Adam that he could eat of all of the trees of the Garden of Eden except for one–the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil… for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Genesis 3 relates the sad truth of how Adam followed the example of Eve, who listened to Satan, and ate of the forbidden fruit. God had also clearly warned Adam that death would come immediately upon disobedience. Adam ate and died (Gen. 3:6; Rom. 5:12, 17-19).
This death was of two types. Immediately he died spiritually. He was separated from fellowship with God and came under the curse of eternal condemnation. In the second place, physically, from that moment he began to die (and he did die 930 years later). The fact that man grows old and dies is due to the sinful nature that he has inherited from Adam. This first sin caused not just a sentence of death to hang over Adam, but it corrupted his whole nature, and all of his descendants likewise. The righteousness, holiness, and perfect knowledge of God died in Adam to the extent that each of these attributes was totally corrupted by sin.
Since Adam was a representative for the whole human race, in the sin of Adam all men have sinned and stand guilty before God and cursed by God. Romans 5:12 tells us clearly, “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Paul also says, in reference to the curse of God’s eternal condemnation, that all men were by nature “dead in trespasses and sins,” and “the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:1, 3).
While it might be objected that it is not fair that we should inherit the sin of someone else, let us be careful to note that in the same way that all men inherit Adam’s sin, the believer also inherits the righteousness of someone else–Jesus Christ. Both Adam’s sin and Christ’s righteousness are “imputed.” Romans 5:15 and 17 tell us, “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.” and, “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.”
This doctrine of inborn sin (or, original sin) is denied by the Pelagians who believe that man is born in a neutral state–neither good nor evil. This heresy was the product of Pelagius, a British monk, who was a popular preacher in Rome in the 400’s A.D. He taught that every man may live free from sin if he wills. Man’s will was absolutely unaffected by the Fall. His present condition is like that of Adam before the Fall. Man becomes a sinner as he matures and begins to imitate the sins of those around him. Pure Pelagianism would say that an infant who died in infancy would have to be saved automatically because he would not yet have committed a sin.
In the Mennonite Confession of Faith (adopted by the Mennonite General Conference August 22, 1963, Herald Press, Scottdale, PA) Art. 4, this Pelagian doctrine is stated as follows: “Although men are sinners by nature because of Adam’s fall, they are not guilty of his sin. Those who perish eternally do so only because of their own sin.” And again, “We believe that children are born with a nature which will manifest itself as sinful as they mature.” While there is an admission of the predisposition to sin, man is not born with either the guilt or the curse of Adam’s sin on him.
While all Arminianism does not say exactly that, they maintain that man did not fall in the totality of his being. His will is still free from sin. Most Arminianism is a form of Pelagianism which we call Semi-Pelagianism. Semi-Pelagianism admits that there is inability (a limited form which does not affect the will) attached to our inherited sin, but man is not responsible for this inability and therefore cannot be held guilty for it. There are some Arminians who teach that infants are innocent and therefore are saved if they die in infancy. Some even maintain that there is a “baby heaven” where all infants enter upon death. The Bible teaches no such thing.
Eternal condemnation is God’s just reward for all men in fallen Adam. On the other hand, by grace alone, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1).
Blog post content is taken from Rev. Paul Treick’s book, Faith of Our Fathers, Living Still: A Study of the Five Points of Calvinism, available for purchase. It is posted with the gracious permission of the author.
If you’d like to read the blog series from the beginning, start here.