by Mike Ratliff
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— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 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. (Romans 5:12-14 NASB)
I cannot count how man times Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians have objected to the teachings here on the doctrines of grace through arguments against original sin. That view is totally man-focused and utterly unbiblical. On the other hand, I have many friends who have escaped from the Word of Faith Movement. When we discuss these things on public forums those who see it as their role to defend WOF usually try to attack and ridicule my friends as they testify clearly that they left churches which were becoming mired in apostasy. Are these things related? At first glance, Pelagianism, WOF, and the growing apostasy in our churches do not seem to have much of a relationship. However, there must be one because these attacks and discussions are against a common theme. That theme is the differences between the natural man mindset and the transformed mindset.
Let us look at our salvation by grace through faith that the Pelagians tell us we can do by our own willpower alone.
16 The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die. (Genesis 2:16-17 NASB)
6 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 desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 3:6 NASB)
19 By the sweat of your face You will eat bread, Till you return to the ground, Because from it you were taken; For you are dust, And to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19 NASB)
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 spiritual part of them that related to God vertically had become cut off from Him because of sin being in the heart. Because of this, they became primarily related to the temporal and this took control of them. The fulfillment they had always received from their relationship with God was gone. Sin was now present in them and the spiritual part of them, desperate for fulfillment, began to seek it from the flesh. They had died spiritually. They went from being Spirit-led to being self-focused and controlled by their flesh. 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.
1 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. (Ephesians 2:1-3 NASB)
All who are dead in their trespasses and sins walk in them as the world does. Why? They have no relationship with God and, therefore, are spiritually dead. Therefore, we 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.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-10 NASB)
3 For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:3-7 NASB)
15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ. 18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. 19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:15-19 NASB)
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).
20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21 NASB)
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.
20 For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 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 NASB)
1 Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did:sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, 7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9 However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. 10 If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. 11 But 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 NASB)
16 Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. 17 Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:16-19 NASB)
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. God saves His people and they cannot be saved any other way. Also, we need to spread that good news to everyone because we have the spirit of reconciliation.
Soli Deo Gloria!