Copyright 1996, John H. Stoll
Most Christians would accept the following article of faith that says, "We believe that mankind was created in innocence, but fell into sin through Adam, and is now totally unable to redeem himself". Three parts to this statement are: 1) That mankind was created in perfect innocence; 2) Because of Adam all mankind died spiritually, with the consequences of physical death; and 3) that mankind is unable to spiritually redeem himself from either physical or spiritual death.
1. The Origin of Mankind: In Gen. 1:26,27 it states that the human race was brought into existence by the creative act of God. The first woman was potentially created in the man, and brought into individual existence by a special formative act of God. Thus, the entire human race is descended from this original pair by natural generation (Acts 17:26).
2. The Nature of Mankind: In the Genesis account it states that mankind was created in the "image" of God and after His likeness. This image was a natural likeness to God, morally, with personality, and intellect, sensibility and will. As to Adam's moral likeness he had the Holiness of God in him, though he was not confirmed in Holiness (Note: the prohibition of eating of the tree put him on "probation" to see if he would follow God implicitly). Adam also had a mirroring of the meta-physical moral attributes of God. Prior to his eating of the tree he was perfectly holy (i.e. God's moral attributes).
God in His essence has two attributes: 1) Moral and 2) Non-moral. His moral attributes (i.e. His holiness) were perfectly reflected in Adam before he sinned. God's non-moral attributes (i.e. His omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and omnirighteousness) were attributed to Adam in a limited degree. Mankind has some power, some understanding, a limited body, etc. Only God has the full non-moral attributes. This is what separates God from mankind, and allows Him to be God, and man to be man.
In I Thess. 5:23 it speaks of mankind having a Spirit, Soul, and Body. His Spirit is his closest point of resemblance and contact with God. His being created with a moral side to his nature tells him he ought to do right by God's standards, Rom. 2:14-16. When he sinned his moral nature was marred, not obliterated, though it did separate him from God. He was created as the highest in the scale of created life, for only he had the moral nature of God within him. Even though he became a sinner, he is treated with high dignity and worth, because of who he is by creation, Matt. 12:9-12.
3. The Fall of Mankind: Adam was created with a moral value or nature that was good, Gen. 1:26,31. His testing consisted of two elements, a positive command not to eat of a certain tree (Gen. 2:17), and exposure to temptation through the serpent (Gen. 3:1). The subtle steps of temptation by the serpent (who at this point was Satan's emmissary) are seen in Gen. 3:6: it was a physical allurement, i.e. the lust of the flesh, "good for food"; it was aesthetic, i.e. the lust of the eyes, "pleasant to the eyes"; and it was intellectual, i.e. the pride of life, "make one wise". Satan's methods were: a subtle doubt as to God's goodness, a boldness in denying God's word, and a promise to personal benefit as a result of disobedience.
The fall consisted of two elements: an inward act of disobedience of the will, in deciding for himself, what was good and evil, and an outward act of carrying out the decision he had made. The results of Adam's action are seen in Gen. 3:14-19. It resulted in the curse upon the serpent (v.14,15); a curse upon the woman (v.16), with multiplied conception to make up for the multiplied deaths because of sin, pain in childbirth, and a natural attraction to men, to overcome the thoughts of painful birth; a curse upon the man (v.19); a curse upon the earth (v.17,18); and God's having to begin again, the process of bringing mankind back to Himself through redemption Rom. 5:12, 18-21).
4. Mankind Totally Unable To Redeem Himself: The teaching that mankind is "totally depraved" needs to be clarified. It does not teach: that the unsaved have no disposition to do right, that the unsaved never do anything good, that some men commit every kind of sin; that men are as bad as they can become, and that all men are all making the same progress in sin.
The Bible does teach: that all have sinned and have a sinful nature, which under favorable conditions is capable of the worst of sins, that sin has adversely affected the whole being of mankind, that even when the unsaved do right, it is often for quite selfish motives, and never for the honor of God, that the unsaved are wholly without the love of God, that the sinner always becomes worse, and though they may improve in outward behavior, actually become worse within, and that there is no capacity for recovery.
5. What Is The Nature of Sin? The Bible describes sin in three forms: as an act, as a thought, intent or purpose, and as a state, disposition, or nature. Note: Matt. 15:17-20. In Psalm 32 and 51, David used three words that suggest the course of sin. Sin, in the general or universal sense is anything that is contrary to God's moral nature. Then there are three words subsumed under the general term that are used in the Psalms: 1) Sin - meaning to fall short or to not measure up, like an arrow falling short of its mark. In this sense David did not measure up to what God anticipated of him as king; he failed his subjects. 2) Transgression - which means to go against, like a hunter trespassing on a field. David went against three of God's commandments in that he coveted another man's wife, he committed adultery with her, and then had her husband killed in order to have her to wife. 3) Iniquity - which is the basic nature of the person, out of which comes the acts of sin. David's sinful nature caused him to both fall short as well as transgress.
Sin is thought of in the Bible as an offense against three parties; against the sinner himself (Prov. 8:36), against society (Rom. 5:12), and against God (Ps. 51:4). This is why the Bible states, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory (i.e. moral character) of God", Rom. 3:23.
6. The Beginning of Sin: The Bible is explicit as to where sin originated. There are three areas of beginning: 1) It began in the universe through Satan, who at one time was Lucifer, the arch angel of God (Isa. 14:12-14; Ezek. 28:12-19). 2) It began in the human race through Adam (Rom. 5:12). 3) It begins in the heart of every individual (Mark 7:21,22). Thus, it extends to all the human race (Rom. 3:10,23).
7. The Consequences of Sin: The Bible speaks of sin as the defilement of the body (Ps. 38:3-5), the speech (Ps. 58:3), and that it corrupts the whole nature of mankind, flesh, spirit, mind, and conscience (Rom. 3:10-20). It also brings disorder against nature (Rom. 1:26,27, and in II Tim. 3:3 it says that mankind is, "without natural affection"), and produces moral paralysis (See Eph. 4:18 - "past feeling", and I Tim. 4:2 - "conscience seared with a hot iron"). Then sin brings bondage (Rom. 7:22-24), produces misery (Prov. 14:12,13), guilt (Rom. 3:19), and ultimately death (Rom. 6:23, both spiritual, physical, everlasting).
God has made provision to eradicate any and all of these sins from mankind, through Christ's work on the cross in our behalf. It is each individual's responsibility to acknowledge that they have sinned, and to confess that to God, through accepting Christ's redemption for them, by trusting in Him. There is only one unpardonable sin, of which the Bible speaks, and that is what is called, "blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" (Matt. 12:31,32, Mark 3:28,29, Heb. 10:29). This has no reference to swearing, as some would mean, but refers to a conscious refusal of what Christ has done on the cross for each person, and not allowing the Holy Spirit to bring regeneration of spiritual life and reconciliation to God. To refuse the convicting and pardoning work of the Holy Spirit and regeneration, is the only sin in life that God cannot pardon. It would adversely affect God's holiness, without which no one can measure up to God's requirements (Heb. 12:14).
8. Release From Sin and Its Effect: Commitment of one's self to Christ's redemptive work on the cross in His death, burial, and resurrection for the forgiveness of sin, brings release from the bondage of sin as well as from the eternal penalty for sin.(Rom. 6:23; I Cor. 15:3,4; Titus 3:3-8; Rom. 10:9,10; John 3:16,36; John 5:24).
There are many effects of this commitment to the Christian. First and foremost it makes one a new creation in Christ Jesus (II Cor. 5:17). Now, the Christian enjoys the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, who brings a new nature to life, and a whole new outlook on life (Rom. 8:14-16; I Cor. 12:13). This new outlook is summarized in II Tim. 1:7, "For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of power (to live constructively), and of love (to live sacrificially), and of a sound mind (to live reasonably)". It also gives one an assured hope for the future (Phil. 1:6), as well as having peace with God (Rom. 5:1), and a maturation in life that brings an inner peace from God (Col. 3:15).
The Christian physician who attended the skeptic Voltaire on his death bed recorded these words: "When I compare the death of a righteous man, which is like the close of a beautiful day, with that of Voltaire, I see the difference between serene weather and a black thunderstorm. It was my lot that this man should die under my hands. Often did I tell him the truth, 'Yes, my friend', he would often tell me, 'You are the only one who has given me good advice. Had I but followed it, I should not be in the horrible condition in which I am now. I have swallowed nothing but smoke. I have intoxicated myself with the incense that turned my head. You can do nothing for me. Send me a mad doctor. Have compassion on me. I am mad.' I cannot think of it without shuddering. As soon as he saw that all the means he had just employed to increase his strength, had just the opposite effect, death was constantly before his eyes. From this moment on, madness took possession of his soul. He expired under the torment of the furies."
What a contrast in this account, to the hymn written by Bernard of Clairvaux, when he penned the words;
Jesus the very thought of thee,
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see,
And in thy presence rest.
O hope of every contrite heart,
O joy of all the meek,
To those who fall, how kind thou art,
How good to those who seek.
But what to those who find, ah this.
Nor tongue nor pen can show,
The love of Jesus, what it is,
None but His loved ones know.
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