THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN: PART ONE

       Image result for graphics for original sin

       The Christian doctrine of original sin teaches that all humans are born in a state of sin as a result of Adam and Eve committing sin in the Garden of Eden by eating of the forbidden fruit. Humans are seen as having the sin of Adam passed on to them through procreation.  This doctrine is largely based on the teaching of fifth century Catholic theologian Augustine who taught that the whole human race existed in Adam and when Adam sinned, we all sinned.  

       Are humans born sinners or do humans become sinners?  Does human nature equate with sinful nature?  Did the whole human race exist in Adam and when Adam sinned, we all sinned as taught by Augustine?  Or, do we become sinners by choosing to behave contrary to the will of God as did Adam and Eve.  Nowhere do the Scriptures teach the human race existed in Adam and when Adam sinned, we all sinned.  What the Scriptures teach is that we humans all sin and are held accountable for such sin.

       Romans 3:23a:  For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

       Romans 5:12: Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned. 

       1 Corinthians 15:22: For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.     

       Do we all die in Adam because we inherit a sinful nature that befell Adam when he sinned by behaving contrary to God's command?  Or, do we all die in Adam because, like Adam, we develop a sinful nature by expressing attributes of our God given human nature contrary to God's will?  Do we all sin because we inherit a sin nature from Adam or do we sin because we, as did Adam and Eve, make behavioral choices contrary to the will of God resulting in our nature becoming a sinful nature?  Is human nature and sinful nature one and the same or can human nature be a sinful nature or a righteous nature depending on the behavioral choices we make?

      Paul clearly shows Adam introduced sin into the world and with it death.  He shows this death has come to all men because all have sinned.  There is nothing in what Paul wrote that says we die because we inherit a sinful nature from Adam and consequently are predisposed to commit sin.  Paul says we die because, like Adam, we all sin. It would appear that to die in Adam is to experience the same death consequence for sin that Adam experienced. However, humans experience this consequence for their own sin, not for Adam's sin. Adam and Eve were simply the first humans to sin and thus were the first to experience the consequence for sin which is death.       

       While human death is caused in many ways, the underlying cause is sin that began in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:12). Paul shows that all human’s sin (Romans 3:23, 5:12) and that the result of sin is death (Romans 6:23). The reality is that we all pay the death penalty for sin.  The Christ event made human death a temporary cessation of life, not a permanent cessation.  The death and resurrection of Jesus made restoration of life possible.

       Jesus came along and took human sin upon Himself and subsequently died. By taking human sin upon Himself, He came under the same eternal death penalty we all do when we sin.  Paul wrote that Jesus became sin for us (2nd Corinthians 5:21). If God had not resurrected Jesus, Jesus would still be dead today and would remain dead for all eternity. 

       However, God resurrected Jesus (Acts 2:24,32, 3:15,26, 4:10, 5:30, 10:40, 13:30,34, 1st Corinthians 6:14, Romans 8:11,10:9, Galatians 1:1, Ephesians 1:17-20, 1st Thessalonians 1:10, 1st Peter 1:21) and in so doing rescinded the eternal death penalty for sin.  While we humans continue to sin and pay the death penalty for sin, we no longer die eternally. The resurrection of Jesus has enabled humans to pass from eternal death unto eternal life.

       Adam and Eve were not created sinners.  They became sinners when they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which they were commanded by God not to do. They chose to behave contrary to the will of God.  It’s apparent they were born with a natural desire to be wise and successful.  It wasn’t their desire to be wise and successful that was sin.  It was their sinful expression of that desire.  Their mistake was that they choose to express their natural desire in a way contrary to God’s expressed will.   

       Genesis 3:6: When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom (Hebrew: lə-haś-kî, {to be wise, successful, prosper}), she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

       Because Paul told the Corinthians that all die in Adam and all are made alive in Christ, it is often concluded the sin of Adam is imputed to us and causes our death and the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us and causes us life.  Paul, however, qualified his statement about all dying in Adam when he told the Romans that death came to all men because, like Adam, all men have sinned. While Scripture teaches that God credits righteousness to man through faith in God’s resurrection of Jesus (Romans 4:24), Scripture does not teach this crediting of righteousness is to atone for imputed Adamic sin.

       It is commonly taught that Adam's sin is imputed to us at birth and that upon our repentance and acknowledgement of the sacrifice of Jesus, the righteousness of Jesus is imputed to us to replace the unrighteousness imputed to us through Adam's disobedience.  However, nowhere do the Scriptures teach this.  Nowhere do the Scriptures teach that the righteousness of Jesus is imputed to us to replace the imputed sin of Adam. What the Scriptures teach is that the sacrifice of Jesus pays the death penalty we have all incurred because of the sins we have all committed. The righteousness of Christ is not imputed to us to atone for sin we inherited from Adam but for sin we have personally committed.  This results in standing before God as righteous despite our having sinned. The Scriptures speak of our sins being forgiven, not sins inherited from Adam

       Acts 2:38: Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

       Romans 4:25: He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.

       1 Corinthians 15:3b: Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,

       Colossians 2:13b: God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins,

       1 Peter 2:24a: He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness;

       The NT Scriptures repeatedly speak of being forgiven for your/our sins. Scripture shows death has come to all men because all men have sinned.  Adam introduced death by sinning.  Death has come upon all men because all men sin and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).  Therefore, all men need righteousness imputed to them to facilitate reconciliation with God and experience God's glory.

What about Romans Chapter Five? 

       Romans Chapter Five is often used to "prove" that the sin of Adam is applied to us and we consequently are born a sinner.

       Romans 5:12:  Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned--

       Romans 5:15-19: But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!  Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

       Paul is contrasting the consequence of sin (condemnation) that began with the sin of Adam with justification through the Christ event that applies to all sin that has occurred since Adam.  Paul instructs that it is through the trespass of Adam that death has reigned.  Paul is instructing that Adam initiated death by sinning and such death was subsequently passed on to all men because all have sinned as stated in Romans 5:12. Paul is not teaching that we are born condemned because of what Adam did.  He is teaching we become condemned because we have followed in the footsteps of Adam in that we have all sinned. It is clear from the Scriptures already presented that we die because of our sin, not Adam's sin.   

       We don’t die because Adam and Eve made an unrighteous choice.  We die because we make unrighteous choices.  Adam and Eve simply started the process.  Dying because of one's own sins is clearly established in the Scriptures.  

       Deuteronomy 24:16: Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.

       Ezekiel 18:4: For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son--both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

       The entire eighteenth chapter of Ezekiel is devoted to pointing out that people die because of their own sins and not because of the sins of others. Ezekiel clearly points out that guilt is not shared.  Some may point to what David wrote in Psalm 51 as evidence for humans being born sinners.

What about David's statement?

       Psalm 51:5: Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

       In a commentary on Psalm 51:5, the predestinationist John Calvin wrote that Psalm 51:5 proves David was a transgressor before he was born. It is believed this statement by David shows we humans are sinners at conception.  It is believed we inherit Adam's sin through the process of procreation.  Having a nature that is capable of sinning is seen as having a nature that is already guilty of having sinned before any sinful behavior is consciously committed.  As Augustine taught, the sin of Adam is seen as imputed to us.  Is this what David's statement in Psalm 51 is teaching us? 

       David is expressing his distress over His sin of adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah.  He is not saying he was already a sinner when he was conceived and this is why he committed these horrendous sins.  David is not blaming his sin on being born a sinner.  David was bewailing his failure to express control over the human emotions and desires he was born with. He was lamenting his inability to resist the temptation that was presented to him.  He was deeply repentant and horrified at the great sin he had committed against God and man.  He was extremely distraught over his failure to make righteous choices.  He was very distressed over not exercising God's Spirit but instead sinfully expressing the desires of the flesh.  It is in this context we must read his Psalm.

       David uses figurative language in asking for God's mercy and forgiveness for what he had done.  In verse 7 David writes, “Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.”  In verse 8 David says “let the bones you have crushed rejoice.”  We would not conclude from these expressions that God literally cleanses us with the herb hyssop or that God literally crushed the bones of David. These are figurative expressions.  In like manner, David saying he was sinful from the time he was conceived is a figurative expression of his exasperation over what he had done.      

       There also is another possible way of understanding Psalm 51:5. The Hebrew construction of this passage suggests that the writer is saying he was conceived and brought forth through the sin of his mother.  Here are some alternative translations to the NIV rendering cited above.

       Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me (ESV).

       Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me (KJV).

       Behold, I was brought forth in guilt, And in sin my mother conceived me (NAS).

       Lo, in iniquity I have been brought forth, And in sin doth my mother conceive me (Young’s Literal Translation).

       Fourteen translations I consulted give the impression that the writer is saying that it was through a sinful act of his mother that he was conceived.  It is interesting that in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures), this psalm is shown as 50:7 (not 51:5) and is rendered into English as “For, behold, I was conceived in transgressions, and in sins did my mother bore me” (The Orthodox Study Bible).

       According to several rabbinic sources, David’s mother Nitzevet, is seen as having conceived David out of wedlock and this is what David was referring to in the Psalm. There is a rather bizarre story in the Talmud that suggests this. However, Nitzevet, is not mentioned in Scripture nor is the idea that David was born out of wedlock found in Scripture. 

       The Scriptures show that Boaz, who was of the tribe of Judah, married Ruth who was a Moabite.  This marriage produced a son named Obed who married and produced a son named Jesse who married and produced eight sons and two daughters. David was the youngest of the eight sons.  Since Old Testament Law instructs that Israelites were not to intermarry with Moabites and since David’s linage includes Moabite blood, some Jewish writings suggest that David believed this linage made his conception and birth sinful in that his great grandfather Boaz had violated God’s law by marrying the Moabite Ruth.

       In view of all the foregoing observations, it is highly unlikely that David was instructing us that we are born sinners in that we inherit a sinful nature from Adam. As was the case with David, we sin when we surrender to temptation and allow our fleshly desires and human passions and emotions to be expressed in ways contrary to God's will.  Apostle James explains the process involved in committing sin.

The Birth of Sin:

       James 1:13-15: When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone. Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

       James explains that sin occurs when we allow evil desires to tempt us to behave contrary to God’s will.  All humans are born with a nature made up of a variety of human emotions and desires.  Those emotions and desires are not evil in and of themselves.  They become evil when expressed in ways contrary to God’s will.  Adam and Eve had a God created in-born human desire to have knowledge, be successful and become wise.  Such created human attributes are certainly not evil in and of themselves.  They become evil when they are expressed contrary to the will of God.  Adam and Eve choose to gain knowledge and become wise by disobeying God’s command not to eat the fruit of the one tree.  All humans have expressed human desires in ways contrary to God’s will except for the man Christ Jesus.   

       It is our sinful behavior for which we are condemned to eternal death, not inherited sin over which we have absolutely no control.  To be born a sinner is to conclude we are born condemned to eternal death before we have consciously committed sin.  We are in essence condemned not for our sin but for somebody else's sin.  We are dead on arrival not because of what we do but because of what somebody else did.  Adam is seen as changing the human nature God originally created as good into an intrinsically sinful nature predisposed to committing sin.  This altered nature is seen as being passed down to all of Adam’s progeny. 

       Scripture shows that by eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve came to know good and evil (Genesis 3:22).  While it is clear their eating of the tree was an act of disobedience to God and considered sin (Romans 5:14), their coming to know good and evil did not predispose them to choosing evil over good nor does it predispose their progeny to choose evil over good.  To conclude we are born with a sinful nature that predisposes us to commit sin is totally incompatible with the many Scriptural admonitions to choose righteousness.

       Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).  Sin is defined as missing the mark.  Sin results from behaving in a manner contrary to the will of God.  From the beginning God established parameters of behavior for His human creation and instructed us to choose behavior defined by those parameters.  When God gave Israel the Law, He instructed them to choose obedience and experience life as opposed to choosing disobedience and dying.

       Deuteronomy 30:19: This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.

       How could God instruct Israel to choose righteousness over unrighteousness if they were inherently unable to do so because of being born with an intrinsically sinful nature which prohibited them from being obedience?  In 1st Chronicles 28:9 we read the following:

       And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

       Here it is plainly demonstrated that in our desires and thoughts we can choose to either seek God of not seek God. To seek God is to seek righteousness and to not see God is to seek  unrighteousness.  The choice is ours. Our human nature is not predisposed to do one or the other. We can choose God or reject God.  God has given us the freedom to do that. 

       God repeatedly instructed Israel to love Him and obey Him with their whole heart.  How could they do this if they were born with an evil heart?  In Deuteronomy 5:29, God is recorded as saying, “O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children for ever!” (KJV) God is not here reflecting on having created man with a heart that is predisposed to disobeying Him or a heart that became that way because of what Adam did.  God is expressing the desire that Israel have a heart that would be obedient to His will.  God is expressing His desire that His chosen people would make righteous choices so all would go well with them.  God could not have expressed such a desire if the heart of man is inherently evil making it virtually impossible for man to obey Him in any consistent way.

       Prior to the time of Israel, God destroyed His human creation by a great flood when it became apparent they would not choose to live righteously.  Were these humans destroyed because they couldn't obey God or because they choose not to obey God?  From Genesis to Revelation we are admonished to choose righteousness over unrighteousness.  A primary focus of Scripture is to repent and turn from sin.  The orthodox teaching is that because of what Adam did we are born with a sinful nature that predisposes us to sin.  Theologian John Calvin taught that humans are born utterly depraved.  If this is true, there is serious tension between what humans are instructed to do and what we are actually able to do. It is akin to me loaning my car to someone and instructing them not to crash it and then rigging it so that it crashes.  

       God has not rigged our human nature to crash.  The sin of Adam did not rig our human nature to crash.  Beginning with Adam and Eve, God has allowed humans to make either righteous or unrighteous choices and live by the consequences. 

Why Does Man Sin?

       Why does mankind sin?  Is it because we are born sinners and have a built-in predisposition to sin or is it because God created us with certain attributes and allows us to choose how those attributes are expressed?  Adam and Eve sinned by expressing certain of their God-given human attributes contrary to God’s will.  God allowed them to exercise the free will with which they were created. 

       You may ask why they chose to sin.  The same could be asked of the angels that sinned.  Scripture indicates that a number of angels sinned (2 Peter 2:4).  Did these angels sin because they had a sinful nature?   Were they created with a sinful nature?  Why did other angels not sin?  I submit that both angels and humans were created with basic emotions and desires and the power of choice to express such emotions and desires either righteously or unrighteously.  God has created within his cognitive Beings the ability to reason and make choices.         

       What caused Adam and Eve to sin?  Scripture says Eve was deceived and became a sinner (1 Timothy 2:14).  Sin often results from believing a lie and acting on such belief.  To be deceived is to believe a lie.  When believing a lie leads to behavior contrary to God’s will, we sin.  The serpent lied in telling Eve that eating of the tree would not lead to death.  Eve chose to believe the serpent's lie and eat of the tree. It is apparent Eve didn’t know it was a lie. What she did know was that God had instructed not to eat of this tree. However, because of her desire to be wise, she allowed this desire to become an evil desire in defying God’s instruction.

      There always are reasons why we believe something.  Eve's choice was based on her desire to become wise (Genesis 3:6).  She persuaded Adam to eat of the forbidden tree as well.  Scripture says Adam was not deceived (1 Timothy 2:14).  It’s recorded in Genesis 3:17 that because Adam listened to his wife he was being punished.  Adam may not have been deceived by the serpent but he apparently was persuaded by Eve that eating of the forbidden fruit was OK.

       All indications are that Adam and Eve sinned because they used the reasoning capacity they were created with to choose between obeying God and believing the serpent.  They apparently came to believe God was holding something back from them when told by the serpent they could be like God in knowing good and evil if they eat of the tree.  They now saw the tree as the pathway to becoming wise like God.  They were not predisposed to believe the serpent but simply exercised their God-given attributes of reason and made the choice to believe the serpent.

       Some believe it was God’s will that all of mankind sin so He could have mercy on all through the Christ event. Romans 11:32 is cited where Paul writes that “God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.”  When this passage is read in the context of Romans 11 and Paul’s entire letter to the Romans, it will become evident that Paul is not saying God has purposely willed and insured that all men sin but that all men have sinned and through the Christ event God has bestowed mercy on all men.

       Some believe Adam and Eve were programmed to sin and the serpent was deliberately placed in the garden by God to facilitate God’s will to have Adam and Eve sin.  In this respect, the serpent was simply acting as God’s servant in carrying out God’s will to deceive Eve.  Adam and Eve were simply carrying out God’s will that they eat of the tree and thus sin.  Neither Adam, Eve nor the serpent had the power of free will or choice to behave differently from the way they did. 

       Others believe Eve had free will but it became inoperable by her belief in what the serpent told her. It is believed free will had no bearing on Eve’s eating of the forbidden fruit because her belief in what the serpent told her determined her behavior and she could not have behaved in any other way.  Her behavior was determined by her belief in the serpent’s lie.  She could not have chosen to do something different because her belief was that the serpent was telling the truth and that belief dictated her behavior.  There was no free will because she couldn’t choose contrary to her belief.  It is supposed that believing the serpent's lie removed Eve’s ability to have control over her behavior and, therefore, free will had no bearing on what she did.       

       It must be understood, however, that while Eve’s belief that the serpent was telling the truth determined her behavior, she still was responsible for the choice of behavior she made and she was held accountable for that choice by God. The fact she was held accountable tells us she had the ability to choose to obey God or disobey God.  Her belief that the serpent was telling the truth didn’t remove her ability to choose.  Even if she had come to believe the serpent was telling the truth and God was lying about the consequences of eating of the forbidden tree, she still could have chosen to obey God.  She could have chosen not to believe the serpent and if she would have done so we would be looking at a different history than that which we are looking at.      

       Much of human behavior is based on what we have come to believe is true.  However, such belief, while being a driving force in how we behave, does not remove our ability to choose. We still choose to believe or not to believe something and it is that choice that is the ultimate driver of our behavior and is why we are held accountable for our behavior.

 Freewill and God's Sovereignty:

      The ability to choose (freewill) is the most powerful attribute of human nature God has given us. Some believe having freewill limits the sovereignty of God. What does it mean for God to be sovereign?  God is sovereign in that He has supreme power, authority and control over all things. All that happens in the universe happens in accordance with God’s will that it happens the way that it happens. Nothing happens contrary to God's will. This being the case, some believe human freewill undermines God’s sovereignty by allowing for behavior contrary to His will.    

       However, being able to behave contrary to His will is His will. Throughout Scripture, we see it is God’s will that man behave righteously. Throughout Scripture and the human experience, we see man behaving contrary to God's will that we behave righteously. Therefore, it should be obvious that it is God’s will that man has the ability to make choices and behave in ways contrary to righteousness. This in no way limits God’s sovereignty. It upholds His sovereignty. As sovereign, God can do anything he wants including allowing for his created humans to have freewill and make behavioral choices contrary to his overall will for them to behave righteously. 

       It is not God's will that we sin. To conclude that in His sovereignty God has willed that we sin is an oxymoron.  It is evident from Genesis to Revelation that it is God’s will that we refrain from sin and behave righteously. However, God does not force righteous behavior upon us. He allows us to make unrighteous choices. That is as much a part of His will as it is His will we behave righteously. This is not a contradiction in the will of God.  God, in his sovereignty, can and does will that we behave righteously and at the same time will that we have the ability to behave unrighteously.

        God did not will that Adam and Eve eat of the tree and, therefore, they had no choice but to do so. This should be evident by how God reacted when they behaved contrary to His instruction.  Adam and Eve were held accountable for their disobedience and they were punished. Even the serpent was cursed for its lying behavior.  God said to the serpent, "because you have done this, "Cursed are you above all the livestock and all the wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:14).  God said to Adam,Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, `You must not eat of it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life” (Genesis 3:17).      

          If God willed the sinning behavior of these three participants in what is commonly referred to as the “fall,” it appears rather strange that He punishes them for the very behavior He willed upon them.  It is clear God held these three participants accountable for their behavior which presupposes their behavior was the result of the exercise of free will.  Adam and Eve had the ability to make righteous choices but chose not to. The very language God used in informing the serpent and Adam as to the consequences of their sin tells us their punishment was because of what they chose to do and not because of what God willed that they do.  It was not God's will that Adam and Eve sin.  It was God's will they have the ability to choose whether or not to sin, the same ability to choose all humans have.

       Throughout Scripture it can be seen that God holds humans accountable for their behavior.  If God foreordained that we sin, how can He justly hold us accountable for sin?  Scripture teaches we are held accountable for sin because we have the God-given power of choice to sin or not to sin.   

        Are the descendants of Adam and Eve predisposed to sin because of what Adam and Eve did?  Does the whole human race exist in Adam and when Adam sinned we all sinned?  Jeremiah wrote that "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked" (Jeremiah 17:9 [KJV]).  Jesus said that from within men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly (Mark 7:21-22). Paul often spoke of the sinful nature of man (Romans 7:5, 18, 25, Ephesians 2:3).  In Galatians chapter 5, Paul provides a list of behaviors that he classifies as acts of the sinful nature (The Greek rendered "nature" in the NIV is sarx and means flesh and is so rendered in many other translations). 

       Are these human evils the result of us being born with a sinful nature/flesh that has these evils resident within such nature/flesh or do these evils result from expressing inborn human emotions and desires in an evil way?  Is the heart inherently deceitful and is our nature/flesh intrinsically sinful by virtue of being born a human?  Or, is a deceitful heart and sinful nature/flesh the result of the choices we make?  Jesus spoke of man having both good and evil in his heart. 

       Luke 6:45: The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.     

      This teaching from the lips of Jesus provides important insight into the human makeup.  Humans were created with the ability to express both good and evil.  Simple observation will reveal this to be the case.  Humans are capable of great acts of love, compassion, and altruism, but they are also capable of violence, cruelty, and selfishness.  It is how we choose to express the God given traits of human nature that determines whether we behave righteously or unrighteously, whether we express sinful nature or righteous nature and whether we store up good or evil in our hearts.

        God created Adam and Eve with the ability to choose good and evil, obedience or disobedience.  Their sin was not in desiring wisdom and knowledge.  They were created with such desire.  Their sin was in expressing that desire contrary to God’s command. Their eating of the forbidden fruit opened their eyes to the reality of evil in contrast to the reality of good.  They came to understand what evil is and that there is a price to be paid for evil behavior.

       When Jeremiah said the heart is deceitful and wicked (Jeremiah 17:9), he quotes God in the very next verse as saying: "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve" (Jeremiah 17:10 [NIV]).  For God to search and examine an inherently evil heart and mind would be superfluous.  The implication here is that God examines the choices we make and the behavior that derives from those choices and responds to us accordingly.  This is the approach found throughout Scripture.  Humans are rewarded for righteousness and punished for sin.  This presupposes the ability to choose between good and evil and not that we are inherently good or evil.

       It should be evident from a review of human history that while much evil behavior has occurred and continues to occur, humans have also produced a great deal of good.  As Christ said, "a good man brings forth good things out of the good stored up in him," or as the KJV renders it, “out of the good treasure of his heart.”  Many humans live the Law of Love and express their humanity within the parameters established by God.  Only one person has done this perfectly throughout His life, the man Jesus.  In a parable, Jesus speaks of how the word of God can fall on good soil characterized by a noble and good heart. 

       Luke 8:15: The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

       The human heart is not inherently good or evil.  The heart can develop good or evil proclivities based on how we express our God given human emotions and desires.  Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world by behaving contrary to God’s will. The descendants of Adam and Eve have continued to make sinful choices to one extent or another.  Much of our sinful expression of human emotions and desires results from being born into a world where sinful behavior has prevailed since creation.  We all have been conditioned by this culture of sin and we all participate in it to one degree or another. 

        It is evident from the Scriptures and simple observation that we have the power of choice over our behavior.  We don’t sin because we have a sinful nature.  We are not born defiled as is commonly taught.  We become defiled when we make sinful choices.  Jesus taught that it is evil thoughts of the heart that generate sin and leads to defilement of the man and not that man is inherently defiled.  We become defiled by choosing to express our God-created human emotions and desires contrary to righteousness.

       Mark 7:21-23: For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man (KJV).

       You will notice that Jesus said it is the evil things that come from within that defile the man. This should tell us that we become defiled and not that we are born defiled. 

       Human nature is not sinful in and of itself.  Jesus had human nature (Romans 1:3). Jesus never sinned.  Human nature consists of God created desires and emotions that define our humanity. Such emotions and desires are not sinful in and of themselves. God did not create human nature as sinful nature. It is recorded in Genesis 1:31 that "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good." Before eating of the forbidden tree, Adam and Eve's behavior was righteous in that they had done nothing contrary to the will of God. Eating of the forbidden tree opened their eyes to the existence of evil which can be defined as any behavior contrary to the will of God.  They were now able to distinguish between good and evil just as God does.

       The human emotions of love, hate, compassion, empathy, fear, anger, frustration and anxiety are some of the emotions that make up our human nature. Scripture shows Jesus had all these emotions as part of His human nature but never expressed them sinfully. We see many of these same emotions displayed by God. God has the same emotions as part of his makeup as we do. 

       God loves (Jeremiah 31:3, 1 John 4:8, John 3:16).  God hates (Proverbs 6:16, Psalms 5:5, 11:5). God gets angry (Deuteronomy 9:22, Psalm 7:11, 106:40, Isaiah 5:25). God can be jealous (Exodus 20:5, Joshua 24:19). God can show mercy and feel compassion (Genesis 19:16, Deuteronomy 32:36, Judges 2:18, Psalm 135:14). God can express joy (Isaiah 62:5, 65:19, Jeremiah 32:41, Zephaniah 3:17).  God grieves (Genesis 6:6, Psalm 78:40 Isaiah 63:10). God even has the attribute of laughter (Psalm 2:4, 37:13, Proverbs 1:26).

        Scripture shows we are made in the image of God. What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

       Genesis 1:26-28: Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

       Genesis 1:26-28 records that mankind is made in the image and likeness of God so that man may rule over all other living things on earth. So, it appears that a major aspect of being made in God’s image is to have ruling power and authority over lesser living entities. There is nothing here to suggest anything beyond that as to what it means to be in the image of God. The only aspect of being born in the image/likeness of God revealed here is to have having power and authority to rule.

       However, it is evident from the Scriptures alluded to above that human nature is made up of many of the same attributes that make up the nature of God. It is evident that part of being made in the image of God is to have many of the same attributes God has. It is apparent that God made us to reflect what already existed within Himself.

       One attribute of God we don't have is the inability to sin. It is not part of His nature to be able to sin. We know Adam and Eve sinned.  It was part of their nature to have the ability to sin.  So, it should be obvious that they were not made in the image of God in any total sense.

       Being made in the image of God did not include being unable to sin as is true of God. Man was created with a nature that can sin and the history of human activity on planet earth shows that the expression of this aspect of human nature has been dominant. Sin is defined in Scripture as missing the mark. Missing the mark is seen throughout Scripture as behaving contrary to the will of God. Behaving contrary to the will of God has been pandemic throughout human history.          

       While human nature appears to be made up of attributes that easily lend themselves to sinful behavior, such attributes are not sinful in and of themselves.  Did God create human nature in such manner as to be inclined to express the traits of human nature in a sinful way? In Genesis 6:5-7 it is recorded that, “The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth.” 

       If indeed God made human nature with an inclination to sin, how could God be grieved that He made man the way He did? He would virtually be grieving over what He had willed man to be. Now it could be argued that God created man with an inclination to sin and became grieved at the extent to which man followed such inclination. If this should be the case, it shows man was created with the ability to choose to behave righteously or unrighteously and it was unrighteous behavior that became the norm and that is why God was grieved that He had made man. 

       After the flood God is quoted as saying, “Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood" (Genesis 8:21b). Did God create such inclination in man or does it develop as a result of making sinful choices. This is unclear.

       Jesus and Paul identify as works of the flesh behaviors that are contrary to righteousness. The whole force of the teachings of Jesus and Paul was to resist the works of the flesh and do so by embracing the spirit of God as the driving force behind our human behavior.  In doing so, we avoid inclination to sin and develop inclination to behave righteously.     

       The Scriptures clearly teach that we humans can avoid inclination to sin by allowing the Spirit of God to drive our behavior.  Jesus always lived by the Spirit and therefore was always able to effectively quench any inclination to sin. If we express our human nature righteously it is seen as participating in the divine nature. Peter spoke of participating in the divine nature.   

       2nd Peter 1:4: Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.


      What about anthropomorphism?   The word anthropomorphism is a combination of two Greek words, “anthropos” which means man, and “morphe,” which means form.  It means in the form of man.  Anthropomorphism usually is seen as the attribution of human characteristics/attributes to non-human entities. This is commonly seen in pagan religion where human characteristics/attributes are applied to gods and goddesses.

       Some believe that when the God of the Bible is seen as expressing emotions it is the attribution of human emotions to God that we are seeing and not that God is actually experiencing emotions as we experience them.  

       If this is the case, we really can’t know anything about God. The Biblical God is no different from pagan gods.  The Biblical God becomes made in the image of man rather than man being made in the image of God.  Since the Scriptures clearly reveal we are made in the image of God, it should be apparent that the manner in which we experience emotions is the manner in which God experiences emotions, a thing the Scriptures clearly indicate.

Replacing the sinful nature:

       Paul sees the sinful nature as a nature all humans have developed including himself. He sees this sinful nature as being very difficult to harness and control (See Romans 7). Some see this as Paul teaching that we are born with a sinful nature. Yet Paul nowhere says we are born with such a nature. Instead, he speaks of replacing the sinful nature with the spirit which he shows is a way of thinking and behaving contrary to the sinful nature.

       Romans 8:5-9a: Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.  The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.  You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you.      

       Paul associates sinful nature/flesh with what goes on in the mind.  It is in the mind where behavioral choices are made.  God wants us to have thoughts that are expressed in righteous behavior and Paul associates such thinking with having the mind of God.  Sinful thoughts are hostile to (against) God and can’t be subject to God.   God wants us to pursue righteous thoughts which result in righteous behavior. 

       Philippians 4:8: Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. 

       Jesus was born with the same nature we all are born with. Jesus, however, never expressed the traits of that nature contrary to the will of God.  Jesus had the mind of God from birth.  Therefore, Jesus never generated a sin nature. Jesus was not a robot.  He was able to choose between good and evil.  Having the ability to choose either to obey or disobey God is foundational to the makeup of humans and even angels.  The indication is that a third of the angels sinned.  There is no indication they sinned because they were created with a sin nature.  They apparently sinned because they chose to express the emotions and desires they were created with in a manner contrary to God’s will.  As is true of His human creation, God created angels with free will.

       As is apparently true with the angels, we sin because we have the God-given ability to reason and make decisions as to how we express our God-given attributes.  Human nature is not sinful in and of itself. If we express our human nature sinfully it becomes a sinful nature.  If we express our human nature righteously it becomes a Godly nature.  It’s how we express human nature that determines whether it is sinful or righteous. 

       It is apparent we humans were created with certain God given emotions and desires and the power to choose how those emotions and desires are expressed.  God did not create man with sinful emotions and desires.  They become sinful when expressed contrary to what God intends. 

       For example, sexual passion is not sinful in and of itself.  It is not an expression of sinful nature.  It becomes an expression of sinful nature when expressed as fornication, adultery and other forms of prohibited sexual conduct. This is when it becomes sinful nature as opposed to simple human nature. Anger is not sinful in and of itself.  When expressed as rage or when it leads to hatred, it becomes sinful and an expression of sinful nature.  Desiring to have something someone else has is not sinful but if it leads to envy, greed or theft, it becomes an act or expression of sinful nature.  We produce sinful nature by allowing our God given emotions, desires and other attributes to be expressed contrary to the will of God.

       Galatians 5:20-21:  The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

       When Paul wrote in Galatians 5:24 that “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires,” he was not teaching that in Christ we lose our God given human passions and desires. As already discussed, Adam was born with a nature having basic passions/emotions and desires as we all do. Such passions and desires are not sinful. However, they can become sinful when expressed contrary to God’s Law. Paul was teaching that in Christ our human passions and desires are no longer sinfully expressed.  Our human passions/emotions and desires are now expressed in righteous behavior pleasing to God. We turn from sinfully gratifying human passions/emotions and desires to expressing them in a Godly manner.

       Galatians 5:16-17: So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.

       Romans 13:14: Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  

      Jesus had the same human emotions and desires we all have but never expressed those emotions and desires contrary to God’s will.  He was totally orientated to obeying His Father God.  No other human has ever been given the level of power Jesus was given to submit to the will of God.  While Jesus had the ability to sin, he never did sin because He was provided the appropriate level of power to consistently resist temptation to sin.  This is why Jesus was able to be tempted in every way we are and yet without sin.

       Hebrews 2:14-18: Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.      

       Hebrews 4:15: For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin.

       If Jesus didn’t have the ability to sin, how can it be said he is able to sympathize with our weaknesses by being tempted in every way we are. It should be apparent that Jesus had the ability to sin just as we do and had to resist temptation just as we do.  If this isn't the case these statements in Hebrews make no sense at all.   

        We see throughout Scripture instruction and admonition to not sin which means we are not to allow our inborn emotions and desires to be expressed contrary to God’s will and produce sinful nature. Instead, we are constantly admonished to produce righteous nature.  God created us with the ability to choose righteousness over unrighteousness.  God also foresaw that man would choose unrighteousness over righteousness much of the time and determined the consequence of such unrighteousness would be eternal death. God foreordained He would redeem man from eternal death through the Christ event. That is why it is said Christ was slain from the creation of the world (Revelation 13:8).


      We humans are not sinners because we inherit Adamic sin.  We humans are sinners because, like Adam, we yield to temptation which leads to sin.  Paul wrote to the Roman and Corinthian Christians that sin entered the world through Adam and like Adam we all sin and because we all sin we all die.  We die because of our sin, not Adam's sin.  Adam was not created a sinner and we are not born sinners.  We are born with the ability to make choices.  Our choices determine whether our behavior is sinful or righteous.  Apostle James wrote, “Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins” (James 4:17).  This statement by James is a witness to our ability to choose how we behave.  All humans, except for one, have made sinful choices and have consequently been condemned to death since the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). It is through the foreordained Christ event that we can have the penalty for sin eliminated and be reconciled to God.

       It is believed by many that we are born with a sinful nature. This nature is often referred to as the Adamic nature. The Adamic nature is seen as being the same as human nature which is seen as being a sinful nature. However, it is apparent God created Adam with a number of attributes that made up his human nature.  When Adam expressed attributes of his nature contrary to the will of God it became a sinful nature.

       Are we born with the sinful nature Adam acquired when he sinned or are we born with the same God given human nature with which Adam was created before he sinned?  I submit that we are born with a God given human nature having a variety of God given attributes (including free will) which can be expressed righteously or unrighteously.  Our human nature becomes a sinful nature when we make choices to behave contrary to the will of God as did Adam.  When we make unrighteous choices we generate sinful nature. When we make righteous choices, we generate righteous nature. 

       Even if it should be that we are born with a human nature that has a God created inclination to behave contrary to His overall will which Scripture clearly shows is that we behave righteously, it should be evident God has given us the power of choice to submit to or not submit to such inclination. God has given humans the power to suppress inclinations to behave sinfully.  Jesus had this power in great abundance enabling Him to never fall prey to any inclination to sin.  

      Paul shows our behavior is controlled by how we think (Romans 8:5-9). When our minds are set on the sinful expression of the attributes of our human nature, that nature becomes a sinful nature and we come under its control.  However, when the mind is controlled by the Spirit of God, we virtually take on the nature of God. Our minds become set on righteous behavior, not sinful behavior.    

      We do not inherit Adam's sinful nature at conception/birth. We are born with a human nature consisting of God given traits that can be expressed righteously or unrighteously.  When we express these traits unrighteously we generate a sinful nature.  When we express these traits righteously, we generate Divine nature.  All humans, except for Jesus, have expressed the God given traits of human nature contrary to the will of God to one degree or another. Jesus was born with the same nature we all are born with. Jesus, however, never expressed the traits of that nature contrary to the will of God.  More on the nature of Jesus in part two of this series.