The Doctrine of Original Sin

by Mike Ratliff

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)

1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; 3 but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'” 4 The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! 5 “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 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 3:1-6 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)

The doctrine of original sin is a vital part of genuine Christian orthodoxy. For a long time I didn’t really appreciate how important it is in our concept of the depths of our guilt before our sovereign and thrice Holy God. However, as I have become involved in ‘discussions’ with those who reject this doctrine, God has revealed to me, through my studying his Word in order to answer certain ‘arguments,’ that when this doctrine is not part of one’s theology then their concept of their salvation is more self-centered and, in some cases, is understood that one is a Christian based solely on religious acts they have done. Let’s look again at the Apostle Paul’s thesis on our salvation, which none of us deserve.

12 Διὰ τοῦτο ὥσπερ διʼ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου ἡ ἁμαρτία εἰς τὸν κόσμον εἰσῆλθεν καὶ διὰ τῆς ἁμαρτίας ὁ θάνατος, καὶ οὕτως εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους ὁ θάνατος διῆλθεν, ἐφʼ ᾧ πάντες ἥμαρτον· 13 ἄχρι γὰρ νόμου ἁμαρτία ἦν ἐν κόσμῳ, ἁμαρτία δὲ οὐκ ἐλλογεῖται μὴ ὄντος νόμου, 14 ἀλλʼ ἐβασίλευσεν ὁ θάνατος ἀπὸ Ἀδὰμ μέχρι Μωϋσέως καὶ ἐπὶ τοὺς μὴ ἁμαρτήσαντας ἐπὶ τῷ ὁμοιώματι τῆς παραβάσεως Ἀδὰμ ὅς ἐστιν τύπος τοῦ μέλλοντος
(Romans 5:12-14 NA28)

12 Because of this, just as sin entered into the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death came to to all men inasmuch as all sinned; 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law, but sin is not accounted when there is no law. 14 But Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not unto the likeness of the transgression of Adam who is a type of the one who was to come. (Romans 5:12-14 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

This passage begins with “therefore” in the many translations, but it is translated as “wherefore” in the KJV.  However this is not the same Greek word that Paul used in 5:1 that is translated as “therefore.” In fact, it is two words, Διὰ τοῦτο. The direct word-for-word translation into English of these two Greek words is, “because of this.” Because of what? Paul is referencing Romans 5:1-11. He is telling us that because of our justification by faith alone apart from works in which we received Christ’s atoning work on the cross, we must understand how the act of one man plunged all mankind into sin and how that validates the veracity of the atoning work of one man who is Christ, “the one who was to come.”

The word sin in this passage is the Greek word αμαρτια or hamartía. It means, “sin, missing the true goal and scope of like. Offense in relation to God with emphasis on the resulting guilt. “ In other words, this is not referring to individual sin which is a different Greek Word, “hamártēma,” which is “sin as an individual act.” The Holy Spirit is telling us here through Paul that the sin that entered the world through Adam is the inherent propensity to sin. This is referring to the fact that at the fall in Genesis 3 the human race became a race of sinners by nature. All are born with their sin nature already present. It is not learned behavior. This makes it impossible for any person to live in such a way that pleases God and this makes them all guilty before God.

The word death in this passage is the Greek word θανατος or thánatos. This word can refer to all three forms of death; the first being spiritual death, which is separation from God (Ephesians 1:1,2;4:18). The second form of death is physical death (Hebrews 9:27). The third form of death is the second death (Revelation 20:11-15). All three forms of death entered into the world and the human race through the fall in Genesis 3. Paul emphasizes this horrible truth in v12 saying, “death came to to all men inasmuch as all sinned” The Greek word Paul used here for “sinned” is ημαρτον or hamartánõ. It means, “to sin, to miss; one who keeps missing the mark in his relationship to God.” It is clear that all men have “hamartánõ” because they have the sin nature that they inherited from Adam whose fall allowed hamartía into the world. Because of this, mankind is plagued by thánatos.

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)

15 Ἀλλʼ οὐχ ὡς τὸ παράπτωμα, οὕτως καὶ τὸ χάρισμα· εἰ γὰρ τῷ τοῦ ἑνὸς παραπτώματι οἱ πολλοὶ ἀπέθανον, πολλῷ μᾶλλον ἡ χάρις τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ ἡ δωρεὰ ἐν χάριτι τῇ τοῦ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς τοὺς πολλοὺς ἐπερίσσευσεν. 16 καὶ οὐχ ὡς διʼ ἑνὸς ἁμαρτήσαντος τὸ δώρημα· τὸ μὲν γὰρ κρίμα ἐξ ἑνὸς εἰς κατάκριμα, τὸ δὲ χάρισμα ἐκ πολλῶν παραπτωμάτων εἰς δικαίωμα. 17 εἰ γὰρ τῷ τοῦ ἑνὸς παραπτώματι ὁ θάνατος ἐβασίλευσεν διὰ τοῦ ἑνός, πολλῷ μᾶλλον οἱ τὴν περισσείαν τῆς χάριτος καὶ τῆς δωρεᾶς τῆς δικαιοσύνης λαμβάνοντες ἐν ζωῇ βασιλεύσουσιν διὰ τοῦ ἑνὸς Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. (Romans 5:15-17 NA28)

15 But the gift is not like the trespass; for if by the trespass of the one man the many died, by much more the grace of God and the gift in grace of the one man Jesus Christ to the many abounded. 16 And the gift is not as through the one man having sinned. For the judgment following one trespass resulted in condemnation, but the gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:15-17 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Salvation is by Grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Greek word Paul used in v15 that I translated as “gift” is χαρισμα  or chárisma. This a very interesting Greek word. It is derived from the word cháris, grace, and the suffix  –ma indicating the result of grace. This is describing a gift that is a completely undeserved benefit from God.  Therefore, our salvation is that and cannot be obtained by any work that we do or be deserved by quality on our part. It is a gift.

However, the trespass, the act of missing the mark, is not like the gift. Why? The trespass by Adam caused many to die in all three forms. However  the grace of God and the chárisma by the grace of Jesus Christ have abounded for many.  The Greek word translated as “abounded” means “to superabound.” This is telling us that God’s grace that by which we are saved through faith is in itself a miracle beyond our comprehension. This abounding is not describing numbers, but quality. The trespass brought judgment unto condemnation while the chárisma  brought justification. All born of Adam are under the condemnation of this judgment, but those who receive the abundance of grace and the chárisma of righteousness, reign in life through our Lord Jesus Christ. The Greek word translated as “reign” describes the rule of a king. Whereas those who are under the condemnation of judgment are ruled by sin, the ones who have received grace have eternal life, which is spiritual life.

18 Ἄρα οὖν ὡς διʼ ἑνὸς παραπτώματος εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους εἰς κατάκριμα, οὕτως καὶ διʼ ἑνὸς δικαιώματος εἰς πάντας ἀνθρώπους εἰς δικαίωσιν ζωῆς· 19 ὥσπερ γὰρ διὰ τῆς παρακοῆς τοῦ ἑνὸς ἀνθρώπου ἁμαρτωλοὶ κατεστάθησαν οἱ πολλοί, οὕτως καὶ διὰ τῆς ὑπακοῆς τοῦ ἑνὸς δίκαιοι κατασταθήσονται οἱ πολλοί. 20 νόμος δὲ παρεισῆλθεν, ἵνα πλεονάσῃ τὸ παράπτωμα· οὗ δὲ ἐπλεόνασεν ἡ ἁμαρτία, ὑπερεπερίσσευσεν ἡ χάρις, 21 ἵνα ὥσπερ ἐβασίλευσεν ἡ ἁμαρτία ἐν τῷ θανάτῳ, οὕτως καὶ ἡ χάρις βασιλεύσῃ διὰ δικαιοσύνης εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν. (Romans 5:18-21 NA28)

18 So then as through one trespass for all men resulting in judgment, so also through one righteous act to all men resulting in justification and life. 19 For as through the disobedience of the one many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man will the many be made righteous. 20 But the law entered that the trespass should increase, but where sin increased, grace abounded.. 21 so that,  just as sin reigned in death, so also grace may reign through righteousness resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:18-21 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

This is very clear my brethren. The doctrine of original sin is biblical and it is key to understanding the reason our Lord is the Lamb of God. Unless God Himself interceded on our behalf then all men, being dead in their trespasses and sins, were under the condemnation of God’s righteous judgement. Death came into the world because of Adam’s sin. All born of Adam inherited his sin nature. All are spiritually dead and do not seek God. Therefore, God provided the only way for man to be reconciled to Him, which is by receiving the free gift of salvation by God’s grace through the faith that God gives to those whom He regenerates. Only the regenerate have this faith and they believe and repent.

God has commanded all who know Him to preach the word and make disciples from all parts of the world. Therefore, we know that it is through the preaching of the word that men hear and believe. From this we understand that the Holy Spirit works through this preaching of the Gospel to draw men unto salvation. Shouldn’t we be obeying this command?

Soli Deo Gloria!

3 thoughts on “The Doctrine of Original Sin

  1. I was engaged in a lengthy and unprofitable discussion on the “Reformed Baptist forum on LinkedIn, wherein a few Baptists were of the opinion that babies who die young are de-facto elect because they had not yet sinned. The claimed to embrace original sin, but claim that God forgives that as He only damns according to the judgment of our deeds (Rom 2:6, 1 Cor 5:10). I maintain that babies sin as soon as they have brain waves, being uninhibited in their selfishness. I was ridiculed and lambasted by one fellow in particular, who declares God is too loving to “kill babies”.

    Is the church not consumed with an earthly view of human life, love, and God?

    Thanks for this reminder, my brother.

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