by Mike Ratliff
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV)
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6 ESV)
“By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”
(Genesis 3:19 ESV)
God commanded Adam to eat from every tree of the Garden of Eden except from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. He told Adam that if he did eat of it that he would surely die. In the next chapter we find Eve beguiled by the Serpent’s wiles to look upon that tree and desire it for food to become wise. She took of it and ate then gave some to Adam. God then encountered them as they hid from him since their eyes were now opened because they now knew good from evil. They had lost their innocence. Their vertical relationship with God was now broken. Their ability to commune with Him was no longer there. Why?
The part of them that related to God vertically, had become cut off from Him because of sin being in the heart. They died spiritually. Instead, they became temporally focused. The fulfillment they had always received from their relationship with God was gone. Sin was now present in them and, being desperate for fulfillment, they began to seek it from the flesh. They went from being Spirit-led to being flesh driven. Their bodies also began the process of dying.
Adam’s sin contaminated our entire race. All born of Adam are in the same spiritual death condition that Adam and Eve found themselves after they sinned. Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. Pelagius argued that this last statement was untrue. He was a moralist who taught that all men are capable of not sinning. How would that be possible? He taught that people could simply make up their minds to not sin then use their will power to do good. He argued that we do not need God’s help in this endeavor either. Not only is that fallacious, it is unscriptural. All are born dead in their trespasses and sins.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3 ESV)
All who are dead in their trespasses and sins walk in them as the world does. Why? They have no relationship with God and are, therefore, spiritually dead. All who are dead in their trespasses and sins cannot commune with God. He can speak to us, and can make Himself known to us, but we cannot have that deep personal relationship with Him until our spiritual death is taken care of. We must be Born Again or regenerated in order for this deplorable condition to be reversed.
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7 ESV)
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:15-19 ESV)
Now tell me, if we can be good and holy and sinless without God’s help then why did Christ die on the cross? Why is it that our salvation so radically changes us if it isn’t necessary? No! The washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit was poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life! I hope that you also noticed that regeneration comes first as well as that Christians’ righteousness comes through Christ’s obedience while the lost are dead in their sins because of the disobedience of Adam. The difference is made when people are Born Again. Our salvation is both supernatural (our regeneration) and forensic (our justification).
Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21 ESV)
The Law condemns people who are lost in their sins. However, salvation results from grace reigning through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? The end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:20-23 ESV)
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. (Romans 8:1-11 ESV)
From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:16-19 ESV)
Okay, now if we are all born not under the condemnation of sin like the Pelagians teach then what is Paul talking about here? Why and when would we attain the Holy Spirit if we didn’t need Him? As we have seen already, we are all born in sin and are saved by grace through faith, not by our works. Paul also makes it clear that it is the washing of regeneration that enables us to believe and repent and become justified by God. He imputes Christ’s righteousness to our account. Since we are New Creations and we have the Holy Spirit, we set our minds on the things of the Spirit not on the things of the flesh. The natural mindset is hostile towards God, but the transformed mindset is in communion with Him. This is something that requires spiritual growth, but it is still true even in new believers. (Romans 12:1-2)
Lastly, please reread the passage above from 2 Corinthians 5:16-19. Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. Now what does that mean? What is going on that so many people hate our message, but only a few get it, grasp it, and live by it as God regenerates them and makes them part of His family? Is there something wrong with our message? No, not as long as we preach it just as Jesus, His disciples, and Paul did. I pray that you saw my heart here. God saves His people and they cannot be saved any other way. Also, we need to spread that good news to everyone by preaching both the Law and Gospel because we have the spirit of reconciliation.
Soli Deo Gloria!