Ask Steve: Original Sin

Kingdom First


Currently Reading:

Kingdom First: Starting Churches that Shape Movements

by Jeff Christopherson w/ Mac Lake

Category: Christian Ministry

2015, B&H Publishing




Question: Steve, what are the implications of Adam’s sin to the rest of the human race?

Answer: It is amazing to think that the world’s evil and brokenness is historically linked to the actions of the first man who had ever lived. Yet this is what God’s word teaches. The fall of Adam, as described in Genesis 3, is the cause of all the evil, pain, and suffering that has happened in creation ever since. The first man Adam, as well as the first woman Eve, was created sinless, fully capable of free will in obeying God and choosing good. This was a time in which no sin, evil, or disorder existed in God’s created universe.

When Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating of the fruit from which the Lord commanded them not to eat of, they changed the entire course of history. They committed a grave sin which changed their moral condition (Gen 3:3; Rom 5:12). Not only did the sin destroy Adam and Eve’s moral purity, but also that of their offspring. In fact, sin ruined the whole of creation, which is why labor for man became difficult, and why there is disease, natural disasters, disorder, and decay. Because Adam was given dominion and stewardship over all the earth, his fall affected both his offspring and nature. This is called the doctrine of federal headship, which is defined as Adam legally representing his entire line of descendants in his moral actions. Because our federal head (Adam) fell, all of his descendants (while in Adam’s loins) fell as well. Because our federal head became guilty before God, that same guilt was imputed to all of those whom he represents – his children. This comprises everyone on earth who has lived since then, including you and me.

What exactly then is the implication of Adam’s sin for the human race? It is that every man born today is sinful by nature and incapable of repairing or altering their moral condition. This is the result of Adam’s original sin: it brought about physical and spiritual death, eternal separation from God, condemnation for sins, and personal depravity. The doctrine of original sin does not mean that we are all held personally accountable for Adam’s Garden of Eden disobedience, as if we are being punished for his crime against God. Scripture teaches that every man is held accountable for his own sins (Deut 24:16; Gal 6:5). Rather, original sin is the resulting condition of Adam’s transgression. Simply put, it is the default sin nature and consequences that was passed down to all of Adam’s descendants – a condition that would not have been so if Adam had not fallen into sin.

Adam 3This sin nature is the reason behind mankind’s total depravity. Total depravity is the teaching that every person is enslaved to a sinful lifestyle, with no real capacity to obey God and to live holy. This is because they are spiritually dead, and as a result, cannot please God with the purpose of earning salvation or even divine blessings through their everyday actions and lifestyle. This results in a separation between God and man which man cannot fix on his own efforts. Romans 3:10 states, “There is none righteous, not even one; There is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have come useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”

Mankind has no desire to seek God and to live for Him. They can certainly seek after a false god or an idol, but not the true God of the Bible. As Jesus taught, men love the darkness rather than the light (John 3:19). By nature, men live in the domain of darkness (Eph 5:8) and are likened to spiritual offspring of Satan (Jn 8:44). The depravity of man and their innate moral condition cannot be more obvious than Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7:7, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” Jesus casually, but significantly, affirms the sinful nature of humanity in this verse, and even affirms in Mark 10:18 that “no one is good except God alone.”

Adam 1Our sinful condition is the reason why we commit sin everyday. It is why we lie, cheat, steal, commit adultery, fornicate, curse, gossip, slander, and hate others. Sin has affected our inward thought life, which includes pride, greed, lust, bitterness, unforgiveness, evil thoughts, covetousness, sloth, and jealousy. Sin has caused us to enjoy things which are sinful and to even encourage others to stumble into this sin, whether it be drunkenness, gluttony, homosexuality, abortion, or idolatry. Sin has even caused us to shrink back from failing to do what we ought to do, whether it be upholding justice or simply doing what is right. People struggle with different sins to a varying degree, but there is no case in which no person is not sinful by nature.

This reality is antithetical to the spirit of our age. Pop culture teaches that people are good by nature and only occasionally fall into minor sins, while major sinners are the truly evil people. In certain circles where moral absolutes are not defined, there is no such thing as a good or bad person, only mentally sane and insane people. New Age and Eastern philosophy teaches that every man has a divine nature within their being that only needs to be tapped into. Even Jewish and Muslim theology do not believe in the idea of original sin, but that men are born with a clean slate, and only occasionally do bad things. There are also certain sectors of Protestantism that do not believe that original sin has totally incapacitated man. The heresy of Pelagianism holds that original sin did not taint human nature completely. Man can still will to live a sinless life and to freely choose between good and bad.

Adam 2Are men capable of “doing good?” It depends on what standard you abide by. In secular morality, a person is good as long as he is kind to others, respect every one’s rights, is tolerant, and does not do commit major crimes like murder or theft. The Bible does not teach that men are incapable of doing things that are morally pleasing to other people. There are people who show acts of kindness, charity, selflessness, and patience. However, it is the motives behind these acts that God takes into consideration. The ultimate motive for every selfless, righteous act must be the glory of God. It must be done as an act of worship. If not done under these conditions, then every act of “goodness” is tainted and filthy rags in God’s sight (Is 66:4). Because unbelievers do not seek God and serve themselves, non-Christians who display such acts of charity only do so out of convenience, personal inclination, public praise, or because they are expected to do so in order to be men-pleasers. This is what Scripture means when it says that the intentions of the human heart are evil continually (Gen 6:5).

The implication of Adam’s sin is serious because it describes the moral dilemma that the world is in. Without acknowledging the reality of original sin, there is no logical explanation behind the evil and sufferings that we see in the world. Most importantly, there is no desire for the cure that is only found in the gospel. The gospel is not necessarily if the fall of Adam has not affected every man who has ever lived. There is no such thing as a righteous or good person, which is why every man needs to repent and believe in Christ in order to be delivered from the penalty (justification), power (sanctification), and presence of sin (glorification). Only than is there hope. The Holy Spirit not only applies the judicial righteousness that is required for a sinner to enter heaven, but also the practical righteousness that is required for a sinner to worship God in spirit and in truth.