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Original Sin (Part 1)

Today we want to discuss the doctrine of Original Sin.

But first, a quick excursus on the Doctrine of Total Depravity:

Before we get into O.S., there is also another doctrine that ties into all of this.

It is what is known as the doctrine of Total Depravity.

This is a Reformed doctrine, that was developed in response to Arminianism at the Council of Dort.

We very much embrace this doctrine, but we are not going to spend too much time developing it. We will simply fold it in with the Doctrine of OS.

Suffice it to say, though, that Total Depravity does not mean that every person is as bad as they possibly could be.

We see that some people sin in the vilist, and most wicked of way, that the fallen human imagination is even capable of devising. Yet others are what most of society would regard as a “good person.”

The point to understand, is that both are equally under the category of Total Depravity.

So again, TD does not mean you are as bad as you possibly could be -- or that your sin is manifesting itself in the worst possible extreme. [“Not everyone’s grandmother is an axe-wielding murderer.” - J. White].

Rather, it speaks to the fact that every aspect (in scope) is now defined by sin.

Now, how that sin works itself out will look worse than others, but all are pervasively sinful.

In other words, sin affects, and covers, every aspect of a person. It is totally pervasive:

- Mental (i.e., noetic),

- Physical,

- Emotional,

- dreams/desire,

- Motivation/will,


It is all under the power, influence, and effect of sin.

When discussing TD, it is important to remember there are two aspects.

1.) The corporate nature of depravity.

The whole of the human race is depraved (1 Kgs. 8:46; Matt. 12:34). The very core of humanity is depraved-- it begins on the inside of man and flows outward (Gen. 6:5; Jer. 17:9). Again, there is a corporate aspect to this. This is why entire cultures are corrupt. It is not just one or two people, but an entire group of people.

2.) Individual nature of depravity.

Again, this speaks to the fact that every aspect of man has been affected. There is no spark of goodness, or purity, in man (Gen. 6:5; Rom. 8:6-7).

So it is not a person’s external environment that makes a person sinful. Rather, sin is something on the inside of every single person, that, then, flows outward.

So again, TD is a Reformed doctrine, but it is also biblical. Perhaps someday we will devote some episodes to an explicitly Reformed soteriology.

The Doctrine of Original Sin

“If this term [original sin] is used, it should be remembered that the sin spoken of does not refer to Adam’s first sin, but to the guilt and tendency to sin with which we are born. It is ‘original’ in that it comes from Adam, and it is also original in that we have it from the beginning of our existence as persons, but it is still our sin, not Adam’s sin, that is meant. Parallel to the phrase ‘original sin’ is the phrase 'original guilt.’ This is… the idea that we inherit the guilt from Adam” (ST, Grudem).

First, it is important to note that the bible connects man’s actual sin to his sinful nature.

Actual sin is not simply something that is learned.

“As the history of humanity abundantly proves, all mankind without exception, turns aside to its own way. We are sinners in grain; every  mother’s son learns to be naughty without a book. Nor will either impulse or example suffice to account for the anomaly of wrongdoing co-extensive with an entire species of moral agents, while our fellow-lodgers, the animal creation, fulfill their instinctive ends without fail. To confine sin to outward acts is merely resorting to a hollow euphemism; for whence these uniformly corrupt fruits save from a corrupt tree? Deny original sin and the state of our world becomes harder to construe [make sense of] than if you embrace the tenet [of original sin]. The evil principle lurks beneath the surface, seated in the hidden heart” (NICNT, Ephesians and Colosians, Simpson).

Key texts:

(Psalm 51)

Psalm 51:5 - “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.”

First, we don’t have time to read the whole Psalm, but if you read it, you will quickly notice that the terms “me” and “I” are used throughout the passage.

David sees himself as the guilty party. Also, he does not separate his sin from his nature. He is not a victim of sin, but rather he is a sinner by nature.

Second, v. 5 makes clear that he traces his sinfulness to the very point of conception.

There was not a time in which sin was not part of who he was.

Sin came at the moment of conception, so there was never a time of innocence. Guilt was his perpetual state.

Ephesians 2:1, 3.

Eph. 2:1-3 “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.

 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”

Some observations:

Notice the language of “dead” (1).

First, this is not a mere sickness or weakness.

Second, this is a state of being.

Notice the realm of the deadness - tresspasses and sin (1). This is speaking of identity.

It is what utterly characterizes a person.

Notice the result (2) Walking in accordance with the course (or natural track) of this world. Walking in accordance to Satan.

What does that look like specifically? (3). A life driven by the lusts of the flesh.

A life that indulges the desires of the flesh and mind.

What was the resultant state? (3) Abiding under the wrath of God.

It is a life that is completely opposed to God.

The point to understand is that Paul is giving a description of the natural state before regeneration.

This is contrasted with the new spiritual state that God creates in v. 4- “But God...”

The clear reading of the passage is that pervasive sinfulness is what man is by his very nature. So a person’s sinfulness is interwoven with his natural state.

Second, the Bible connects mankind's actual and original sin to the first sin of Adam. (Rom. 5:12-19, and this is the definitive passage that we have to deal with). 

This is the key passage for the development of what is known and “Adam Theology” in the NT.

The interpretational issue:

There is an issue in this passage that arises that is known as “solidarity.” This doctrine deals with the idea that God does not deal with mankind only on an individual basis.

In vs. 12 we see an unfinished comparison. 

Rom. 5:12 - “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...”

Now notice, only half of what Paul is talking about is explicitly present. 

The rest is implied through the context.  He is saying that just as all sinned in Adam, so too, those in Christ are righteous.

Yet, what becomes interesting, is that in vs. 14, it is clear that the sin that Adam sinned is not committed by all of mankind.

Rom. 5:14 - “Nevertheless 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.”

Now this is going to become important as we review the three views related to “original sin."

The point that needs to be made is that vs. 12 says thatall sinned,” while in vss. 15-19 there is “the one who sinned.

So the question becomes: is he speaking of the same event-- the Fall?

And if so, how can he contradict himself?

And this is where the doctrine of solidarity comes into play. 

John Murray rightly notes that, “it is a patent fact that in God’s government of men there are the institutions of the family, of the state, and of the church in which solidaric or corporate relationships obtain and are operative. This is simply to say that God’s relations to men (and the relations of men to one another) are not exclusively individualistic; God deals with men in terms of these corporate relationships and men must reckon with their corporate relations and responsibilities.”

(John Murray, The Imputation of Adam’s Sin).

It is such a good quote. In fact, as a  person continues to grow in their study of the Word of God they will begin to see this idea of solidarity all throughout Scripture.


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