Thursday, November 29, 2012


"They are Arminians to a man; they deny the absolute sovereignty of God, his eternal choice of an elect people, and that Christ bore their sins only. They deny the total depravity of man, for they insist that he possesses a free will and can accept Christ and be saved by a decision of his own; thus directly repudiating God’s word, as found in John 1:13; 6;44; 8:36; Rom 9:16, and other passages. And where any teacher or preacher is unsound on these basic truths, no confidence must be placed on him on any other subject. If he is all wrong at the foundations, his superstructure is bound to be faulty."

A. W. Pink

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Sermon Against the Roman Catholic Church

(A Sermon against Popery)

by Thomas Watson 
(1620-1686)"Wherefore, my dearly Beloved, flee from Idolatry." -- [1 Cor 10:14]
WHEN I consider that saying of the blessed Apostle Paul, I am pure from the Blood of all men, Acts 20.26; And that which made him say so, was, because he had not shun’d to declare (unto his hearers then committed to his charge) the whole Council of God. Paul had been faithful to the Souls of people; he had preached up Truth, and preached down Error. The consideration of which, hath put me at this time upon this Scripture, Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from Idolatry. From whence I shall (by Divine permission and assistance) assert the truth of the Protestant Religion, against popish Innovation; and amongst all the Errors that are leveled against the Gospel, none are more gross, dishonourable, nor dangerous, than those broach’d and set a running in the Popish Conclave: and therefore there was good reason why the Apostle should say, Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from Idolatry.
Idolatry doth bud and blossom in the Popish Religion. It should be the earnest prayer and endeavour of every good Christian that none of those poisonous streams that flow from the See of Rome, may ever infest this British Isle.
My main and principal design at this time is, to shew unto you some few of those many grand Errors that are in popery, or in the popish Religion, and likewise to fortify you against them.
Among many others, there are these thirteen grand Errors in popery, that every good Christian must take off, and flee from.
The first Error is this, The papists do hold, That the Pope is the Head of the Church: This is diametrically and point-blank opposite to the Scripture, Col. 2.9. Christ is there called, The Head of the Church. Now to make the Pope the Head of the Church is to make the Church monstrous by having two Heads. This is to make the Spouse of Christ an Harlot. I read, Rev. 13.1, of a Beast rising out of the sea. By the Beast there Interpreters understand the mystical Antichristi.e. thePope. Now, if the Pope be the Beast there, and elsewhere spoken of; how ridiculous, yea how impious is it to make a Beast the Head of Christ’s Church. That is the first.
A second Error, which I shall but name, is this, That Papists hold, That the Pope is above Scripture, and that his Laws, Decrees, and Canons bind more than the Scriptures, than the Word of God. Well may he have that name written upon his Miter, that’s mentioned, Rev. 13.1, And upon his head was written the Names of blasphemy.
But I add,
Their third Error, is the Mass, which indeed is gross Idolatry; there is in it these two Errors:
1. Transubstantiation. Bellarmine, with other Popish Writers, say, that the Bread the Host after consecration, is turned into the very body of Christ. Now this is against Philosophy, as well as Scripture and Divinity. ‘Tis against Philosophy, for this is clear, if Christ’s Body be in Heaven, then it cannot possibly be in the bread: But Christ’s Body is in Heaven, Acts 3.22, Whom the Heavens must contain, (speaking of Christ) until the restitution of all things. Moreover, that the bread in the Sacrament is not turned into the Body of Christ, I prove thus, the wicked they do not receive Christ, 1 Cor. 2.14. But if the bread be the very body of Christ, then the wicked when they eat of the bread do eat the very body of Christ. This is so gross an Opinion, that most of the ancient Fathers wrote against it, as Cyprian, Origen, Tertullian, Austin, Ambrose, with many others.
But, 2ly. The second Error in the Mass is, they do daily offer up Christ in the Mass. I grant there are Priests in Gospel times, and Sacrifices too, but they are as such are spiritual; as the sacrifice of Prayer, of Praise, of a broken and contrite heart. But that there should be any external offering of Christ by way of Sacrifice, is a blasphemy against Christ’s Priestly Office; for it supposeth, that Christ’s Offering on the Cross was not perfect. That is notoriously contrary to the very letter of Scripture. See Heb. 10.12, That man, i.e. Christ, God-man, after he had once offered a Sacrifice for sin, sat down at the right hand of God: and verse 14, he saith,That by this one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. This Scripture sheweth the completeness of Christ’s Sufferings and Sacrifice, and that now there needs no offering up any more Sacrifices. That is the third: But,
Fourthly, A fourth Error is: The Doctrine of Popish Satisfactions; they hold that we do, in our own persons, satisfy God’s justice by our Penance, Whipping, Fasting, Alms-deeds. Thus the Council of Trent, and the Popish Rhemes. But where is any thing of this in Scripture? alas, what is our confession of sin? that is no satisfaction for sin: If a Traitor confess his guilt, this is no satisfaction for, but rather an aggravation {} of his Treason. Alas, our Repentance, Fasting, Humiliation, the best of our actions are be-leopard, and mixed with very much sin; our Humiliation is mixed with very much pride, our Repentance and Confession, with much Hypocrisy and Dissimulation. There is much of sin in the cream of our services, and sin cannot satisfy for sin. This is a sure rule (and I pray you mark it) that whatever offering we bring to God for acceptation, we must lay it upon the Altar Jesus Christ, for God’s Justice accepts no satisfaction, but by and through the Lord Jesus. And that’s a fourth.
Fifthly, A fifth Error is, There is distinguishing between sins Mortal and sins Venial: Mortal sins are Murder, Perjury, Adultery, and such like; these (say they) deserve Death and Damnation; but Venial sins, such as vain thoughts, rash anger, concupiscence, these (say they) do not deserve Death.
But we say and affirm, That there is no such sins as they call Venial. It is true, the greatest sins being repented of, are pardonable through the blood of Christ; but there is no sin of which we can say, that do not deserve death and damnation. And this I will prove by a double Argument.
1. If the very least sin be (as indeed it is) a breach and violation of God’s Law, then ’tis no more venial than a greater: But the least sin is a violation of God’s Law; therefore the least sin is no more venial than a greater. The minor [proposition] is clearly proved from Matt. 5.28, Whosoever looks on a Woman to lust after her, hath committed Adultery with her in his heart: In which place our Saviour makes a lascivious look, an impure glance of the eye, to be a breach and violation of God’s Law.
2. If the least sin expose men to a Curse, then they are no more venial than greater; but the least sin doth expose men to a Curse, Gal. 3.10, Cursed is he that continues not in all things contained in the Law, to do them. He that faileth in the least iota or punctilio, it exposeth him unto a Curse. And remember this (my brethren) That without repentance, God hath provided a great Hell for little sins. That is the fifth.
Sixthly, A Sixth Error in Popery is, Their asserting the Doctrine of free-will. That Goliah of the Papists, Bellarmine, saith, That man’s will is inclinable unto good, and that a man hath an innate power to do that which is good. But man’s will being corrupted and depraved, is not inclinable to that which is good, but quite contrary. And this is evident from our own experience, had we no Bible to confirm it.
When the Rudder of a Ship is broke, the Ship is carried up and {} down, to and again, which way the wind will: even so it is with man’s will being corrupted.Austin, in his Confessions, saith, That before his conversion he did accustom himself to fruit stealing, not so much out of a love to the fruit, as to stealing. Hence is it that men are said to love evil, Micah 3.2.
Again, the will being depraved and corrupt, hath no innate power to do that which is good. Indeed the Papists say, That man hath some seed of good in him; but the Scripture doth not say so. Man as Ambrose well saith, hath a free will to sin, but how to perform that which is good he finds not.
Sin hath cut the locks where our strength lay. Therefore are we said to be without strength, Rom. 5.6. Sinners are said to be in the bond of iniquity, and so not in aposture to run heaven’s Race. A man by nature cannot do that that he hath the least bent and tendency to that which is good: he is so far from performing a good act, as that he cannot so much as think a good thought. Hence it is that man is said to have a heart of stone: he can no more prepare himself for his Conversion, than a stone can prepare itself for the Superstruction: Men naturally, are dead spiritually. In man’s will there is not only impotency, but obstinacy. Hence it is men are said to resist the holy Ghost, Acts 7: But I go on.
Seventhly, A seventh Error is, their Indulgences. They say, the Pope hath a power to give a pardon and Indulgence, by virtue of which men are freed from their sins in God’s sight.
Besides the Blasphemy of this assertion, what else is it but a cunning trick and sly artifice to get money by. This is that indeed brings grists to the Popes Mill. How contrary is this to the Scripture, which saith, None can forgive sin but God only? Mark 2.
This Doctrine of Popish Indulgence, is a key that unlocks and opens a door to all manner of licentiousness and uncleanness; for what need persons care what they do, if they (for their money) can obtain a pardon? Mr. Fox in his Book of Martyrs, mentions one that at first was a papist, and being brought before Bonner, said, Sir, at the first I was of your Religion, and then I cared not how I lived, because I could with my money obtain a pardon. But now I am otherwise persuaded and do believe, That none can forgive sins but God only?
Eightly, An eighth Error is, The Doctrine of Merits: they say that good works do expiate sin and merit glory. Bellarmine saith, a man hath a double right to glory; one by Christ’s merits, and the other by his own; And for this he urges 2 Tim. 4.8, Henceforth is laid up {} for me a crown of Righteousness, which the just Judge shall give unto me, and not only unto me, &c.
Which is the just Judge. Now Bellarmine saith, That God in justice doth reward our Works; and if he doth it of right and in Justice, then certainly they merit.
To this I answer two ways:
1. God giving us in justice a reward: It is not for the worthiness of our work, but for the worthiness of our Saviour.
2. God as a just judge rewards our works, not because we have merited a reward, but because he hath promised a Reward, and so is just in giving what he hath promised.
Objection. But they say, God crowns our works, ergo they merit.
Answer. God (to speak after the manner of men) keeps two Courts, a Court of Justice, and a Court of Mercy: In his Court of Justice, nothing may come but Christ’s Merits; but in the Court of Mercy, our works may come. Nay, let me tell you, God in free grace crowns those works in the Court of Mercy, which he condemned in the Court of Justice. Now that we do not, nor cannot merit by our good works, I will prove by a threefold argument, and this threefold cord will not easily be broken.
First of all, (and I beseech you mind it) that which merits at God’s hand, must be a gift we give to him, and not a debt we owe to him. Now whatever we can do for, or give unto God, it is but a just and due debt.
2. He who would merit at God’s hand, must give God something overplus: But alas, if we cannot give God the principal, how shall we give him the interest? If we cannot give him his due, how can we give him overplus?
3. He who would merit any thing at God’s hand, must offer that to him that is perfect: But alas, can we give God any thing that is perfect? are not our best Offerings fly-blown with pride and corruption?
Beloved, Woe to the holiest man alive, if God weighs him in the Balance of the Sanctuary and do not allow him some grains. I conclude this with that saying of Ambrose, Good Works are the way to but not the cause of Salvation. Therefore when you have done all, say you are unprofitable servants. [Luke 17.10.]
There is no Angel can merit (for he chargeth them with folly [Job 4.18,]) much less vile and sinful man. Therefore count all your own Righteousness but as dung and dogs meat. In a word, rely not on your own merits, put the crown on the head of Free-grace. That’s the eighth. {}
Ninthly, The ninth Error in the Popish Religion is, the Doctrine of Purgatory. There is, say they, a middle and infernal place, called Purgatory. Now what is this but a subtle artifice and trick to get money? for when they (especially those that are rich) are about to die and make Wills, if so be they will give large sums of money, the Priests will pray for them that they go not into Purgatory; or if they do, that they may be quickly delivered out of it. How contrary and repugnant is this to Scripture, that holds forth no Middle place?
The wicked when they die, their Souls go immediately to Hell, Luke 16.23, The rich man was buried, and in hell he lift up his eyes.
’Tis true there is a Purgatory in this life, and that is the Blood of Christ, 1 John 1.17, If we are not purged by this blood, while we live, we shall never be purged after by fire. Wicked men, when they die, do not go into a fire of purgation but damnation.
And, on the other hand, Believers when they die pass immediately to Heaven, Luke 23.43, This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise. Christ Jesus was now on theCross, and was instantly to be in Heaven; and the penitent Thief was immediately to be with Christ: Here is no mention of any such place as Purgatory. The ancient and Orthodox Fathers were all against Purgatory; as Chrysostom, Cyprian, Austine, Fulgentius.
Tenthly, A tenth Error is, the Invocation of Angels, a praying unto them. This is a certain rule, that Angel-worship is Will-worship, expressly forbidden in Scripture,Col. 2.18.
Their distinction of Mediators, of Redemption, and of Intercession, doth not help them; Though we pray (say they) to Angels as Mediators of Intercession, yet we pray to Christ as Mediator of Redemption.
Answer. Jesus Christ in Scripture is not only called a Redeemer, but also an Advocate: and it is a sin to make any our Intercessor but Jesus Christ. That it is sinful to pray to Angels, is clear from many Scriptures: See Rom. 5.10, How shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Mark, we may not pray to any but them in whom we believe: But we cannot believe an Angel, therefore we must not pray to an Angel.1 Heb. 10.17, Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the Blood of Jesus; He only is to be prayed unto, by whom we have entrance into the Holiest: but it is by Jesus Christ that we enter into the holiest; therefore it is only Jesus Christ that we must pray unto. That is the tenth.
11ly. An eleventh Error is, Their Worshipping of Images; they burn {} Incense before the Image, which is a Divine worship unto the Image. Now this is directly contrary to the very letter of the Command, Exod. 20.4,5. Image-worship, and Idol-worship are terms synonimical. God saith of Idols, that they speak Vanity, Zach. 10.2. And is it not a vain thing to worship those things that are vain, and that speak vanities? None can draw the picture of a Spirit, who then [can] draw the Picture of him who is the Father of spirits? This Opinion of Image-worship hath been condemned and exploded by several Councils and Synods.
12ly. Another Error in the Popish Religion is, They deny Jesus Christ suffered the pains of Hell in his Soul. Indeed, to give them their due, they do aggravate the pains of Christ’s Body, but they deny he felt the Pains and Torments of Hell in his Soul. This Opinion doth much lessen the Sufferings of Christ for us, the same doth lessen the Love of Christ to us. But it is clear, Christ felt the pains of hell in his soul.
But when we say, Christ suffered the Pains of Hell in his Soul, we do not mean that he felt horror of conscience, as the damned do; but we mean he felt that that was equivalent to it, he felt the burden and pain of God’s wrath. Christ Jesus suffered equivalently the pains of Hell, that so he might free us really from the Torments of Hell.
13ly, And lastly, another Error is this, The Pope (say they) hath a power to absolve men from their Oaths. Of what sad consequence, and how dangerous this may be to Protestant States, I leave themselves to judge. It hath been often determined by learned Casuists, that an Oath once taken (the matter of it being lawful) persons cannot be absolved from it. But no more of this matter.
I’ll now wind up all in a word or two of application, and it shall be in the words of my text. Wherefore, my beloved, flee from Idolatry, flee from Popery; take heed of that Religion that brings forth so many Monsters. And besides these thirteen Errors, consider briefly these six or seven Particulars:
1. The Popish Religion is an impure, filthy Religion, they allow of Stews and Brothel-houses for money: nay some of the Popes themselves have been guilty of Sodomy and Simony.
2. It is a Superstitious Religion; that appears in their Christening of Bells, in their using of Salt, Spittle, and Cross in Baptism: Indeed Paul gloried and rejoiced in the Cross of ChristPaul had the Power of the Cross in his heart, not the Sign of the Cross in his forehead. It is an unspeakable indignity and dishonour to Jesus Christ, to use that in his Worship that he never instituted. {}
3. Popery is upheld by Deceit and Lying: How have they belied both Calvin and Luther. They say of Luther, that when he died, the Devils were seen to dance about him, and that he died with much horror and despair, when as he went serenely and sweetly out of the world, his last words being those of our blessed Saviour’s,Father, into thy hands I commit my Spirit.
4. The Popish Religion is an out-side carnal Religion, it consists in external things, as Whipping, Fasting, Chringing: There’s nothing of Life and Spirit in their Worship, it’s but a skeleton and carcass; there is nothing of Soul and Spirit in it.
5. The Popish Religion is an unedifying religion, it doth not build men up in their most holy Faith, it doth not carry on the work of Sanctification; there is more ofPomp than purity in it.
6. It is a cruel Religion, it is maintained and propagated by Blood and Cruelty. The Pope will have St. Paul’s Sword, as well as St. Peter’s Keys; and what he cannot maintain by dint and force of Argument, that will he endeavour to maintain by force of Arms. In a word, the Romish Church is a Purple Whore, dyed with the Blood of Saints and Martyrs.
7. And lastly, the Romish religion is a self-contradicting religion. One of their Canons saith, a man (in some cases) may take the Sacrament at the hand of an Heretick: another Canon saith, he may not. A learned and judicious Writer observes above an hundred Contradictions in their Religion. Therefore again I press the words of my Text, Wherefore, my beloved, nay, let me say, my dearly beloved, flee from Idolatry.
To shut up all let me exhort you to these two or three things:
First, Hold fast the Doctrine of the true Orthodox Protestant Religion: the very filings of this gold is precious. Keep all the Articles of the Christian Faith; if you let one fundamental article of your Faith go, you hazard your Salvation. When Samson pulled down but one Pillar, immediately the whole Fabrick tumbled: so, if you destroy one Pillar, if you let go one Fundamental of Truth, you endanger all.
Secondly, Hold forth the profession of the Protestant Religion, I say: do not only hold fast the Doctrine of the Protestant Religion: but hold forth the Profession of the Protestant Religion: Be not ashamed to wear Christ’s Colours. Christians remember this one thing, those Persons that are ashamed of Christ, are a very shame unto Christ. The Religion I exhort you to flee from, is a novelty: that which I press you to stand to, is a verity; it is consonant to Scripture; it is built on the foundation {} of the Prophets an Apostles, and hath been sealed to by the blood of many Saints and Martyrs.
Thirdly, and lastly, do not only hold fast, and hold forth, but also adorn the Protestant Religion: this is holy Paul’s Exhortation to Titus, Titus 2.10, Adorn the Doctrine of God our Saviour. Adorn Religion with a holy Conversation. There is nothing hardens Papists so much as the looseness of Protestants. Therefore adorn your holy Religion with a holy Conversation: Do as Christ did, tread in his steps; make your Saviour your Pattern. Let me assure you, I can hardly think they do truly believe in Christ, that do not really conform unto Christ. The Primitive Christians Sanctity, did much-what propagate Christianity. And this is that I beseech you carry home with you: Hold fast and hold forth the Protestant Religion and adorn it with a Holy and Bible-Conversation; and when you do not hear me Preaching to you, yet let me beseech you hear this good Word speaking in you, Wherefore my dearly beloved, flee from Idolatry.
Consider what hath been said, and the Lord make it advantageous to all your Souls.

1 It may be our author had in mind that place of Scripture, Gal. 1.8, though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed, so that the meaning is, we may not believe anything which an angel teaches in contradiction to the revealed Word of God. Or perhaps, (which is suggested by the preceding phrase,) the meaning is, we cannot believe on an Angel as our Saviour, therefore we must not pray to an Angel. We believe that there are Angels, and such ones as the Scriptures relate to us. We may, as well as those to whom they spake in the Scriptures, believe the Angel’s message, if such a one were sent to us from God. But we may not believe an Angel, that is, make him the object of our faith, as we believe on Christ Jesus for Salvation.—JTK.

Added to Bible Bulletin Board's  - Thomas Watson Collection" by:
Tony Capoccia
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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Altar Call?

I have not researched this site, nor its author; however, I agree with his exhortation about examining how, where, why altar calls came into existence and if they are substantiated with Scripture.

The Altar Call as part of the modern Invitation System is an activity used by many evangelical churches today. Many Christians think, as I once did, that if a church does not have one for salvation, that they must not care about souls. But is that true? Is it possible that it could be the opposite, and that people that don't use the Altar Call care just as much about souls if not more? Perhaps some Christians will think after seeing the title of this article, that there is already much unity now since so many churches use the Altar Call for salvation. If so, this writer of the article reminds you that the desire is for more "biblical unity" not just "unity." "Biblical unity" for this writer means to endeavor for more unity in local churches of the body of Christ without compromising the preaching of sound doctrine, the gospel of Christ, whole counsel of God, and biblical church practices and government. And I do not recall anything in God's word about an Altar Call.

So where, or better when, did the Altar Call come about? As a new Christian and for the next ten years, I just assumed that since it was called "this old fashioned altar" that it was being used since the first century church, or a very long time. But in the late 90's I learned that the Altar Call Invitation For Salvation was popularized by revivalist preacher Charles Finney in the latter half of the 19th century. Mr. Finney did not believe in the biblical teachings of Original Sin, the inability of man to come to Christ in his own power, and the substitutionary atonement of Christ, all false teachings that fall outside of biblical, historical Christianity. Therefore he believed people could be "persuaded" in their own power to give their life to Christ, and did this through the Altar Call invitations.

At this point you may be thinking "what's the big deal with having an altar call anyway, there is no harm in it is there?" Well actually, I and a growing amount of Christians and Ministers disagree that there is no harm in it. The word of God teaches us that those that the Father gave to Christ will come to Christ (John 6:36-39). So we are not concerned that people won't be saved because of the altar call invitation system. On the contrary, those who are being saved at that moment in time are being saved before they get to that "old fashioned altar." But what we are not in the "spiritual business" of doing is giving professing Christians a false hope and false assurance, something that is most likely happening to millions and millions of professing Christians who think they are saved just because they "went forward" and repeated the "sinners prayer."

This issue really stems from two false assumptions based on Scripture. The first is that anything that is not specifically forbidden in God's word is permissable in the local churches, and the second one being that one Christian or Pastor is to give another Christian (especially the one that just went foward to make a profession of faith) assurance of their salvation. The system of thought that the local church can do anything that is not specifically forbidden in Holy Scripture is called "The Normative Principle." It leaves it up to man's so-called wisdom to decide what is an acceptable practice in the church (and one doesn't have to look long and hard to see what that has often led to). Many other local churches, but few in comparison too all local churches, hold to what is called "The Regulative Principle." The system of thought that the local church should only do that which is mentioned in God's word, and that if it isn't in there it shouldn't be done. It comes from the belief that since Christ is the Living Word that is Author of the written Word, and Head of the Church, we should only do what He says we should do in His Church- worship Him in spirit and truth through prayer, song, His word proclaimed and received, water baptism, and communion. There is nothing in the word of God about an Altar Call. As a matter of fact, we have two instances mentioned in the book of Acts when the message, the sermon, the word, was proclaimed, then a response came without the need of an Altar Call: "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (2:47); "then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (16:29-30). This is not about the setting, in that this doesn't apply because it is not in a church or temple. The point is that if the gospel in the word of God does not bring a person to Christ, nothing will. The way the modern church today thinks that the Altar Call is a must, makes some of us wonder if such people thought about how many people were saved down through the centuries without one. It's as if many Christians today do not think God can do it through His word anymore and that He needs help with altar calls, dramas, skits, concerts, dance, and other forms of entertainment. When a pastor and Christians understand that the nature must be changed first through regeneration/being born again/made alive/drawn (1Cor.2:9-14; Titus 3:5-7; John 1:12-13; 3:3-8; Eph.2:1-5; Col.2:12-13; John 6:44), and that it is through the word preached (1Cor.1:18-31; James 1:18; 1Peter 1:23), they will realize that there is no need for an Altar Call and that God's word is His sufficient means to save and keep His people.

Let's stop giving many a false hope and assurance, and trust in His word, His gospel to save those He is drawing. God saved people without it for centuries, and He can still do it today. Flee from or stop that "Old Fashioned Altar."

Bret M. Lovitz; Former Pastor, Founder,
Director, of Biblically Correct Ministries

Monday, November 19, 2012

Born Guilty

Courtesy of Contend For the Faith

Did you know that everybody enters the world guilty of a sin committed thousands of years ago? To understand this and how it relates to us, we must go back to the beginning. Adam was the first human being the God created. God then created Eve, Adam's wife, out of his side and placed them in the Garden of Eden, where they lived in fellowship with God. God also placed in this Garden a certain tree, called the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, in order to test them. They were told not to eat of the tree, and that death would follow upon their disobedience. By implication, continuance in life would follow upon their obedience. The bad news is that Adam failed the test. He sinned and disobeyed God. But are you ready for the really bad news? You, and all human beings, are also considered by God to have sinned at that moment. Therefore all humans, as a result of Adam's disobedience, are born guilty of sin.[1]

This very important doctrine, called imputed sin, is an important teaching of the Bible and a historic Christian doctrine. This truth has a very forceful way of impacting us with the true state that the world is in and thereby making us look upon the salvation won by Christ with even greater admiration and thankfulness.

What is imputed sin?
To impute means "to lay to someone's account such that they are fully and justly responsible for it." In theological usage, it specifically means to give a person the credit or blame for something that he did not personally do. So when we say that Adam's sin is imputed to us, it means that even though we are not the ones who personally violated God's command in the Garden of Eden, we are given the blame for it. This doesn't mean that Adam stops being guilty for his sin and we are guilty instead. It means that we share in his guilt. His sin and its guilt is transferred to every member of the human race such that we are counted guilty for it as well. To put this all into a single sentence, we may say thatimputed sin is the doctrine that when Adam first sinned, that sin (and its blame) was rightly regarded by God to be our sin as well.

What's the difference between imputed sin and original sin?
Do not confuse imputed sin with original sin. They are both true of all people and they are both a result of Adam's sin, but they refer to different things. Original sin is the sinful nature with which all humans are born. It is the evil tendencies, desires, and dispositions in our hearts that are against God. Thus, original sin is inherent in us--it is a morally ruined character. We are all born totally imprisoned in original sin--there is no island of goodness left in us.

Imputed sin, on the other hand, is not the moral ruin of our character. It is not the sin that is inherent in us as a result of Adam's fall, but the blame of Adam's sin that is credited to us. It is the ruin of our standing before God, not the ruin of our character. And as we will see more clearly later, it is very important to recognize that we are not imputed with Adam's sin because of the original sin that we are born with or because of actual sins we do in our lives, but because Adam was acting as our representative when he sinned. In other words, because Adam was acting as the representative of all humans, we are all imputed with his sin and his sin's guilt simply because we are human--not because of the sinful nature inherent in us or the sinful acts we personally commit in life.

So the distinction is that imputed sin concerns our legal standing before God. It is something external to our hearts--the blame for what another has done that is rightly credited to our account. Original sin, on the other hand, concerns our moral condition. It is internal to our hearts. The original sin that we are all born with manifests itself throughout our lives in actual sins--the actions, thoughts, and feelings we have that violate God's moral commands. So our sinful hearts (original sin) cause us to make sinful choices, think sinful thoughts, and feel sinful feelings (actual sins). Original sin, like imputed sin, makes us worthy of condemnation. Actual sins, in turn, add even more guilt upon the guilt of original sin and imputed sin. I have dealt with original sin in an article entitled "Born Sinful." In this article, we will investigate imputed sin and where it is taught in the Bible. The main passage we will look at is Romans 5:12-21.

Evidence for the imputation of Adam's sin
In Romans 5:12 we read that all humans are considered to have sinned when Adam sinned: "Therefore just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned." The context indicates that when Paul says "death spread to all men because all sinned" he is not referring to the actual sins we commit, but to the sin of Adam. For example, in verse 15 he says "by the transgression of the one the many died" (see also verses 16-19). Further, the verb Paul uses (aorist indicative) indicates that he is speaking of a "completed past action. Here Paul is saying that something happened and was completed in the past, namely, that `all men sinned.' But it is not true that all men had actually committed sinful actions at the time that Paul was writing, because some had not even been born yet, and many others had died in infancy before committing any conscious acts of sin. So Paul must be meaning that when Adam sinned, God considered it true that all men sinned in Adam."[2] Thus, in verse 12 the "all sinned" is considered to be the same as the sin of Adam. In other words, when Adam sinned, we sinned. Since we did not yet exist when Adam sinned, this must mean that we are imputed with the sin of Adam. We are given blame for what Adam did and therefore his sin was our sin as well.

The Pelagian view. It seems clear that verse 12 is teaching imputed sin. But this will become even more apparent to us when we consider the failure of what is called the "Palegian" interpretation. This view claims that the "all sinned" in this verse doesn't refer to us being imputed with Adam's sin, but refers to our own actual sins in daily life. On this view, Adam is just the symbol of what all humans do on their own. Thus, we are not (on this view) imputed with the sin of Adam.

There are at least four decisive reasons against this view. First, this view is disproved by history. It is not true that all people die because they themselves actually and willingly sin. Infants die, and they have never sinned voluntarily. So they must be regarded as guilty for what someone else has done--namely, Adam. Otherwise, why do they die when Paul says in this verse that death is the result of sin? Paul also says in Romans 6:23 that "the wages of sin is death." Death is the result of sin. If you were not guilty of sin, you would not die (the example of Christ does not disprove this because he willingly laid down his life for our salvation, whereas the rest of us ultimately have no choice about the fact that we will die; Christ died in order to conquer death, which we were under).[3] Therefore, the fact that infants die before they have personally and knowingly sinned proves that they come into the world already guilty of sin--that is, they are born imputed with Adam's sin.

Second, in verses 13 and 14 Paul states the direct opposite of the Pelagian view. Paul is clear that Adam is not merely a figure of speech used to mean "each individual for himself" because he speaks of those who did not sin in the way that Adam did: "Sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come." The fact that this verse says that death reigned over those who "did not sin after the likeness of Adam" indicates that Adam's sin was unique. Thus, Paul is not using Adam symbolically to mean the sins that we personally commit. As Grudem has said, "[Paul is pointing out] that from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, people did not have God's written laws. Though their sins were `not counted' (as infractions of the law), they still died. The fact that they died is very good proof that God counted people guilty on the basis of Adam's sin."[4]

Third, at least five times in the following verses Paul says that death comes upon all humans because of the one sin of Adam (vv. 15, 16, 17, 18, 19). Paul's use of the terms "one sin" and "transgression of the one" indicates very clearly that it is not our own individual sins that he is talking about, but the sin Adam committed.

Fourth, the Pelagiane view destroys Paul's constant analogy, in verses 15-19, between Adam and Christ. As Paul's doctrine of justification teaches, we attain to life by what another has done (Christ), and thus, through the contrast between Adam and Christ, Paul is saying that we are guilty of sin by what another has done. Just as we are not justified on the basis of our own action, so also we are not declared sinners on the basis of our own action. "So then as through one transgression [Adam's] there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness [Christ's] there resulted justification of life to all men" (v. 18). As John Murray says, "If [Pelagianism was] Paul's teaching here the parallel that would be necessary on the other side would be justification by works, that each individual would be justified by his own actions and attain to life on that basis. But we know that this is the reverse of Paul's teaching."[5]

Original sin or imputed sin in Romans 5:12? These reasons sufficiently disprove the Pelagian view. Another view is that verse 12 is not referring to imputed sin, but to original sin. There are at least three reasons against this view. First, as we saw earlier, the verb tense Paul uses indicates unmistakably that he is referring to a completed, past action in history when he says "all sinned." Thus, the "all sinned" is something that happened once and in the past. This is only consistent with imputed sin, which states that the sin which Adam committed long ago is considered to be our sin as well. Original sin, on the other hand, is something that is a continual state and in the present. Put another way, if Paul is teaching original sin in this passage, then Paul would not have said "all sinned" in verse 12, but would have said "all are sinners." But the verb tense unmistakenly refers to an action, not a state. The verse is saying that "all didsomething" (thus teaching imputed sin), not that "all are something" (which would be original sin).

Second, original sin is not the one sin of Adam, but the continuous depravity we have as a result of Adam's sin. Imputed sin, on the other hand, is the one sin of Adam, reckoned to our account. Paul's repeated references to theone sin of Adam in verses 15-19 therefore indicate that he is speaking of imputed sin, not original sin.

Third, the view that verse 12 and the following context is referring to original sin is inconsistent with the parallel Paul draws between Adam and Christ. Paul compares the results of Adam's sin with the results of Christ's obedience. Christ's obedience results in our justification. Justification does not mean that we are internally changed into righteous people, but that we are imputed with Christ's righteousness and declared righteous because of it. Therefore, due to the parallel with Adam, Paul is not saying here that Adam's sin causes us to be inherently sinful. That would destroy the contrast he is making with justification. As Murray says, "if we are condemned and suffer death because we are depraved and inherently sinful the only analogy or parallel to this would be that we are justified because we become inherently holy. And that is plainly not Paul's doctrine. We are justified and attain to life by the obedience of the one, namely, Jesus Christ."[6]

The traditional Protestant view. Our critique of the Pelagian view and the original sin view of this passage has shown these views to be untenable, and also given good evidence for the traditional Christian view that Adam's sin is imputed to us. There are many other reasons in the context of Romans 5:12-19 and elsewhere which indicate that the Bible teaches the imputation of Adam's sin to all humans (except Christ).

First, according to verses 15 and 17, all people are punished by death because of Adam's sin: "By the transgression of the one the many died" (v. 15); "By the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one" (v. 17). Since death came upon all because of Adam's sin, this requires that this sin had been imputed to all--for death is the punishment of sin.[7]

Second, according to verses 16 and 18, all people are under condemnation because of the one sin of Adam: "The judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation" (v 16). "Through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men" (v. 18). Again, we would not be condemned unless we were guilty of sin. Since condemnation comes upon "all men" as a result of Adam's sin, then the guilt of Adam's sin must have been charged to all, thus making us deserving of condemnation.

Third, according to verse 19, all people are looked upon by God as sinners because of Adam's sin: "Through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners" (v. 19). This is a direct statement of imputation. We cannot take "made sinners" here to be referring to original sin because it is paralleled with "made righteous." The phrase "made righteous" in this context is referring to the great truth of justification. Justification does not concern a change in our characters, the infusion of something inherent in us. Rather, it involves a change in our standing before God. In justification, God declares us righteous because He imputes to us the righteousness of Christ--not because He makes us internally righteous. Thus, when Paul says "made righteous" here, he means "imputed with righteousness" not "infused with righteousness." Since "made sinners" is paralleled with "made righteous," it must also be referring to imputation. Thus, Paul is saying that we are all imputed with Adam's sin such that we are considered guilty before God.

The verses we have seen so far show that because of the one sin of Adam, death came upon the whole human race (vv. 12, 15, 17) condemnation came upon all humans (vv. 16, 18) and all humans are regarded as sinners (v. 19). Thus, Adam's sin is imputed to all humans, which has the devastating effects of death and condemnation.

Fourth, Paul is very clear on this issue of imputation in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22: "For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive." The statement "In Adam all die" equals "in Adam all sinned" because death is the wages of sin (Romans 6:23). Since we did not yet exist when Adam sinned, Paul must be meaning that the sin of Adam is imputed to all humans, and therefore all die because of him.

Is Paul teaching that all will be saved when he says " Christ all shall be made alive"? This cannot be, because Paul clearly denies in his writings the belief that all people will be saved and affirms that only Christians will be saved (Romans 2:5-10; 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9). The all who are made alive in this passage is equivalent to all who belong to Christ, not all people without exception. This is because "In Christ all will be made alive" (v. 22) qualifies the expression "each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to Him" (v. 23). This expression clearly defines who the "all" is that Paul is talking about--all "who belong to Christ." When we look further at the context, we also see that verses 1:18; 5:13; 6:9 are clear that everyone does not belong to Christ. Thus, Paul is describing the manner through which death and life came--death through Adam and life through Christ. He is saying that all who die, die in Adam. All who live, live in Christ. Since everyone is under the curse of death, everyone is imputed with the sin of Adam. Since only, and all, Christians are delivered from this curse and saved, everyone who believes in Christ is made alive in Christ.

Mediate or Immediate Imputation? 
At this point it is important to understand the distinction between immediate imputation and mediate imputation. Mediate imputation is the view that we are imputed with Adam's sin because we posses original sin (if you don't remember what original sin is, it will be helpful to look back to page one). God looks upon us as people born with a sinful nature, and because of that he imputes to us Adam's sin. "In a word [this] position was that the imputation to posterity of Adam's first sin was mediated through the inheritance from him of a corrupt nature."[8] Immediate imputation is the view that Adam's sin is directly charged to our account not because we have original sin, but simply because of the union God had established between Adam and his descendants (which we will see more on later). Both views acknowledge the truth of original sin. But mediate (or, indirect) imputation makes original sin the reason for imputed sin, whereas immediate (or, direct) does not. The Scriptures seem to teach the truth of immediate imputation.

First, Romans 5:12 says that death entered the world through Adam's sin ("sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin..."), and that Adam's sin was also our sin ("...and so death spread to all men, because allsinned"). So it is clear that when Paul says that "one sinned" and then says that "all sinned" he is referring to the same thing. Thus, when we are born into the world we posses the blame for Adam's sin not because we have original sin, but because the sin of Adam several thousand years ago was also "our sin." There is a direct link between Adam's sin and our sin because Adam's sin is our sin.

Second, verse 15 declares death to be the direct result of Adam's sin and nothing else: "by the transgression of the one the many died." Many died because of Adam's transgression--period. There is no room for the mediating link of original sin for the sake of connecting us to imputed sin. To say that Adam's sin is imputed us because of our possession of original sin is to destroy this verse.

Third, verse 18 considers condemnation to be the direct result of Adam's sin: "through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men." We see the same thing in verses 16, 17, and 19. In the chapter of Romans 5, Paul is teaching that death reigns over all because of Adam's sin (vv. 12, 14, 15, 17), condemnation reigns over all because of Adam's sin (vv. 16, 18), judgement comes upon all because of Adam's sin (v. 16), and that all are constituted sinners because of Adam's sin (v. 19). In other words, everybody is imputed with Adam's sin, which brings about death, judgement and condemnation to all. There is no room here for any mediating link.

Fourth, the analogy Paul brings out between Adam and Christ supports immediate imputation. For believers are not imputed with Christ's righteousness on the basis of good that God infuses into us, but simply by virtue of Christ's act of righteousness for us (Romans 4:5-6). Therefore, we are not imputed with guilt on the basis of bad that inheres in us, but by Adam's act of disobedience.

Immediate imputation seems to be the teaching of the Scriptures. This brings us to another important distinction between original and imputed sin. Original sin is transmitted from generation to generation by virtue of natural birth. It comes to us directly from our parents, and only mediately from Adam. But imputed sin comes to us directly from Adam. Adam's sin is not charged to his children, and then his children passed it on to their children, and so on down to you. Rather, Adam's sin was directly charged to his children, and directly charged to their children, and directly charged to you.

The Ground of the Imputation: Realism or Federalism?
Having seen the clear teaching of the Scriptures that we are born guilty of Adam's sin, there is perhaps one very important question in your mind: How is imputation just? How can God hold us accountable for something that we didn't personally do? To answer this question we must ask, "Why are we imputed with Adam's sin?"

There are two main views on this point. The first is the Realist view. This states that we all existed when Adam sinned, and were literally in him when he sinned. Thus, we are guilty for his sin because we were personally there. To be more precise, this view holds that humanity, not consciously but in its unindividualized unity, existed entirely in Adam, so that when he sinned the common nature also sinned. And therefore, since each person is an "individualized portion" of this unity, we are all justly punishable for it. To illustrate this, imagine a lump of clay to represent human nature. The whole "clay" was in Adam. Each human to be born is simply a "piece" of this clay, and thus is guilty for what Adam did. So the basis of the imputation is that we were really there, though not consciously there.

This differs from what is called the Federalist view. On this view, we were all destined to exist from all eternity, but didn't yet actually exist in any way when Adam sinned. Rather, God established things such that Adam was the federal head, or representative, of the human race. Therefore, we had a union with Adam not in the sense that we were really existing "in" him, but in the sense that he was representing us as well as himself when he sinned. On this ground--that Adam acted in our place as our representative--we are imputed with Adam's sin. Thus, it cannot be claimed that the imputation was a "legal fiction" because there was a real unity between Adam and the human race--he was our representative. God did not arbitrarily impute us with Adam's sin, but did so because Adam was our representative. Therefore, it is just for God to impute us with Adam's sin because we were in a representative union with him.

Another way of stating the Federalist view is that God established a union between Adam and his descendants such that God looked upon us all as being one with him--not by virtue of us being actually one with him, but by virtue of us being legally represented by him. So this does not mean that God looked at Adam as the same person as me, but that Adam acted in my place.

It is important to understand that it is not Adam's sin and our sin in the same way. It is Adam's sin in a way that it is not our sin--since we did not personally do it--yet it is brought to bear upon us in a way that makes us deserving of its guilty. So our involvement in Adam's sin was not actual, voluntary participation as individuals, but yet the involvement was sin and we are guilty of it. The sin of Adam, though his sin in a way that isn't ours, is brought to bear upon us in such a way that makes us deserving of its guilt as if we had done it ourselves.

An analogy of the Federalist view would be congress. Your congressman acts as your representative. The decisions he makes, represent you. On a larger scale, the president is the representative of each in individual in the nation in many ways. For example, if the president declares war on a country, each individual in the United States is considered to be at war with that country--even though we didn't personally make the declaration of war upon that country. We are considered at war simply by virtue of being a citizen of this country, and thereby having been represented by the president.

Be careful not to misunderstand the two views, however. The Federalists do not deny that we were "in" Adam in the sense that our physical genes originated in him. They just deny that we were "in" him in the sense of actually being there, in the sense that all of human nature already existed in Adam, as the Realist claims. Second, the Federalist does not deny that human nature itself was corrupted by Adam's sin. But just as the imputation is not a result of us really being there, so also human nature wasn't corrupted in Adam in the sense that it all existed literally in Adam. Rather, we are born sinners because Adam and Eve produced offspring after their kind--sinners.

There seem to be good reasons for accepting Federalism and rejecting Realism. First, Realism cannot account for why it was only one of Adam's sins that was imputed to us, and not all of them--since we would have been just as "really" in Adam for each sin he committed throughout his life. But those sins are not imputed to us. Therefore, there must be something else that established the union such that it was only that first sin that was imputed to us, not the rest of his sins. As we will see, that something else is representation.

Second, Romans 5:12-19 seems to militate against Realism and teach Federalism. For example, the acts of Christ and Adam are paralleled. Just as Adam's sin brought death, so also Christ's obedience brings life. Now, Christ's obedience isn't imputed to us because we were actually existing in Him. Rather, Christ acted in our place (as our representative) and on that basis his obedience is imputed to us. Therefore, the only way to be consistent with the parallelism is to acknowledge that Adam acted as our representative.

Thus, the Realist view seems to be contradicted by the evidence and the Federalist view is supported--because of the close connection Paul draws between Adam and Christ, we must conclude that since Christ was our representative, Adam must have been.

Imputed sin is not a dry, dusty, irrelevant, academic truth. It is a very sobering, humbling, and relevant truth. We often tend to think that the world is not that bad. We think that sin has had a terrible affect on the human race, but fail to recognize the total grip sin has upon the world. Imputed sin corrects this notion. It makes known to us, in a striking way, that sin has a total and universal affect on the world. There is no escape from the grip of sin--all people are guilty of it from the moment they come into the world. Your next door neighbor who doesn't believe in Christ has the terrible sin of Adam sitting upon his head. And he doesn't even know it! What great danger the world is in! This truth has given me a greater feel of the lostness that our world is in and the darkness that surrounds us. Because of this, I see more clearly the need for Christ. Imputed sin makes me see that the world is worse off than I had thought. This then makes me see that Christ is greater than I had thought.

Paul's reasons for contrasting Adam and Christ in Romans 5:12-19 were not merely for the sake of teaching us this truth. Paul also wanted to show the greatness and extravagant goodness of what Christ has done for us, which is made very evident to us as Paul sets Christ's great saving work against the backdrop of Adam's great condemning work. Adam is not the only federal head. Christ is also the federal head of his people. God looks at all people as ultimately belonging to one "team" or the other. Adam represented every human, and thus every human is under the condemnation for his sin from birth. Christ represented all believers, and thus everyone who trusts him escapes not only the condemnation they are under for their own personal sins, but also the condemnation they were under for Adam's sin. The contrast between Adam and Christ is wonderful. Adam failed--and all humans in him. Christ succeeded--and He gives this success to all believers. Praise Christ! He did what Adam had failed to do--obey God. In doing so, He undid what Adam's transgression had brought upon us. No one else could have done this. Praise Christ for his excellency and obedience to God!

In conclusion, imputed sin is not only important for grasping the depth of sin and the danger the world is in. It is also necessary to understand so that we can have a fuller appreciation of the work of our Savior.


A major resource for this has been the excellent and concise book by John Murray, called The Imputation of Adam's Sin (Philipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1959).

1. Some may wonder why I say that we are born guilty because of Adam's sin, when Eve sinned as well. While it is true that they both sinned, we will see later that God had established things such that Adam was the one representing the human race. Thus, our guilt is a result of his disobedience.

2. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (IV Press and Zondervan Publishing, 1994), p. 494.

3. Some may question whether the "death spread to all men because all sinned" means physical death or spiritual death. The context seems to indicate that both types of death are meant. This is because in verse 14 Paul seems to use the fact of physical death to support his argument. Then in verse 16 Paul speaks of Adam's sin as resulting in judgement and condemnation, which would involve spiritual, eternal death as the result of Adam's sin. These two kinds of death are in no way contradictory. Physical death is the shadow of spiritual death. That is, physical death points beyond itself to the much greater and worse reality of eternal, spiritual death. Thus, Adam's sin resulted in both spiritual and physical death to all humans. In fact, it wouldn't make much sense if Adam's sin resulted in spiritual death without also resulting in physical death (and vice versa).

4. Grudem, p. 494.

5. John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, in two volumes (Eerdmans Publishing Company, original edition 1968, paperback edition 1997), p. 184.

6. Murray, p. 185.

7. Some may wonder why Paul says sin verse 15 that "by the transgression of the one the many died" (see also verse 19). Is he denying that all humans are imputed with the guilt of Adam's sin? This cannot be, because in verse 18 Paul states "through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men." Further, in verse 12 Paul had said that "all sinned." So "the scope of the `many' must be the same as the `all men' of verses 12 and 18" (Murray, Epistle to the Romans, p. 193). Why, then, does Paul use "the many" in verse 15? As John Murray argues, it is for the sake of making a more effective contrast between Adam's sin itself and the results of that sin. Paul wants to use the most forceful means possible to show that the single sin of Adam had manifold and terrible results. Adam's sin didn't just have one consequence, but many consequences--it brought death to all people. One person sinned, but many people died as a result. The point Paul is making is this: "Sin is so serious that this one sin resulted in terrible things to many people." As Murray says, "If he had simply said `all,' the thought would not have been so forcefully expressed, even though in the same context the thought demands express reference to the fact that `all' died" (p. 193).

One may then ask about verse 18: "through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men." Does this mean that all people are saved by Christ? It cannot mean that because Paul explicitly denies this in many places (see, for example, Romans 9:22). Thus "it is consistent with sound canons of interpretation to assume a restrictive implication....What the apostle is interested in showing is not the numerical extent of those who are justified as identical with the numerical extent of those condemned but the parallel that obtains between the way of condemnation and the way of justification" (p. 203).

8. John Murray, The Imputation of Adam's Sin, p. 43.


Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, by the Lockman Foundation.

For study on the doctrine of original sin, see my article Born Sinful.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Psalm 12:8 Illustrated Yet Once Again

11/08/2012 - James White
The light Tuesday's election cast on the degradation of Western culture's expression in the United States should not have surprised us. But we still hope for some restraint, some sign that God will restrain the madness of men rushing to destroy everything that is good and holy and just. But what did we see? An open lesbian elected to the United States Senate. A trans-sexual elected to office in the Northeast. A bisexual here in my own state of Arizona. The profaning of marriage in multiple states, for the first time by popular vote. It was truly an amazing revelation.

I have avoided watching much media since Tuesday evening. I know too well that Psalm 12:8 is being played out repeatedly:

The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.

Yesterday I was thinking about how quickly things have changed in the United States. There has literally been a revolution in worldview, a degradation of ethics and morals that is stunning in its openness and bravado. But I think my generation has trouble with this kind of change. We want to hold on to how things have been. We still see signs of stability from the past and so we struggle to realize how much the ground is shifting under our feet.

I was riding along a trail I ride all the time when I noticed something that struck me as an illustration of how some of us middle-aged/older folks are feeling. I have ridden this section hundreds of times. But I happened to notice something I had not noticed before. I stopped and took a picture. Notice the sign. It is warning about the severe dip ahead. But, if you look past it...well, they have put in a bridge. Now, I rode that section before they put in the bridge, and yep, it was a pretty severe dip. You had to get out of the saddle just to navigate it. It was a bit of a challenge. But, last year they closed the route for a while and put in a bridge. It's been there quite a while now, in fact. But, for some reason, they forgot about this sign. Well, there's one on the other side, too. They just left them there. I have no idea why. Maybe it wasn't on the work order, I don't know. But there stands the sign, pointing to a reality that is now in the past. The sign is now a lie.

There are many artifacts left in our society of how things used to be, echoes of a day when openly immoral men and women knew the meaning of the word "shame." But those signs are pointing to a reality that does not exist anymore. Someday someone will come along and remove those signs along the pathway. And someday, unless God grants repentance, they will come along and banish the last vestiges of our past when God's hand of restraint held back the public display of man's depravity. Till then, they still stand there, reminding some of us of the world we once knew, but pointing to nothing anymore. 

And, of course, I wonder what folks think who come upon that sign for the first time today. Do they stand there and wonder what it is talking about? Wonder if maybe some confused government worker put it in the wrong place? Are they as bemused as many young people today when they encounter Christian morality and ethics (over against the materialistic worldview they have been spoon fed by government indoctrination)? I can only wonder...and keep pedaling. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Imputation versus Original Sin

Question arose about imputation versus original sin - I stated that I did NOT think they were the same...but wanted, nay, needed to understand it better and came across this article Born Sinful. 

Our view of the human race is too high. We think that people are better than they really are, that people are basically good by nature. Sure, everyone does bad things once in a while, but people are good at heart--we think. But things are actually a lot worse than we think. Our perspective is distorted, and we need the truth of God's word to clear away the fog from our understanding and tell us how things really are. And God, who knows the hearts of all people, says that humans are not basically good at heart, but are basically sinful. In fact, the whole human race has fallen into sin, and therefore we are all born sinful.

If we are going to have an accurate view of ourselves and the greatness of God's grace that rescues believers from sin, we must see the world the way God sees it. In fact, one aspect of our spiritual growth is that our new nature is "being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator" (Colossians 3:10). In order to bring ourselves closer to God's view of the world, we will examine the following five truths that He has revealed in Scripture.

1. Humans are created in the image of God.
2. Humans are all born sinful as a result of the sin of Adam, the first human.
3. Humans are all born fully sinful--there is no moral good in us.
4. God changes the hearts of all those who trust in Christ, thereby giving them moral goodness and the ability to do good things.
5. Everything that unbelievers do is sin, because they are still in the state of utter sinfulness that they were born with.
As we will see in this article, it is of great importance that we understand these truths. If we do not, it can have terrible consequences in our lives such as pride, lack of trust in God, lack of gratefulness to God for the salvation He gives in Christ, and great dishonor to the name of God.

We are created in the image of God
Genesis 1:27 says "And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them." We are created in God's image. This means that we are like God and that we represent God.[1] For the sake of space, we are only going to examine how we are like God.

There are two main ways in which, as originally created, we were like God. The first way we will call the spiritual image of God.[2] We are similar (though not identical) to God in that we will remain forever, we have the ability to think and reason, we know right from wrong, we can form relationships with others, we have affections, and we have immaterial spirits. The second way we resembled God is in our moral character. We will call this the moral image of God. Since God originally created Adam and Eve without sin, they not only had the spiritual image of God, but were also like God in respect to His moral character--they did righteousness, loved holiness, loved one another, and were good by nature. The moral image of God meant that we used our spiritual image of God to honor Him.

When Adam sinned, the human race lost its moral likeness to God. We stopped reflecting God's goodness, love, holiness and other moral qualities, and started defying God's moral excellence. In that sense the image of God is now lost in us. But the image of God is not lost in regards to all respects, because we still have the spiritual image of God. Genesis 9:6, referring to humans born after the fall, says "in the image of God He made man." Humans are still in the spiritual image of God (see also James 3:9; Genesis 5:1-3), however, we have lost the moral perfections of this image. Because we lack the moral image of God, we now use our spiritual image to defy God and attack His glory.

Before moving on to understand just how badly we ruined ourselves, the simple fact that humans are still in the image of God should make us understand two things. First, there is great dignity in being human. Humanity has value. Even now that we are sinful, and there is no moral goodness in us, we still have significance. Wayne Grudem writes that "this has profound implications for our conduct toward others. It means that people of every race deserve equal dignity and rights. It means that elderly people, those seriously ill, the mentally retarded, and children yet unborn, deserve full protection and honor as human beings."[3] Second, this truth that we have corrupted the moral image of God in us, and that we are still in His spiritual image, should nail home to us how terrible sin really is. Because we were originally in the moral image of God, we were given one of the highest responsibilities God could have given us--to display His moral greatness to creation. And we blew it. The greater the responsibility that is violated, the greater the sin. And we have violated one of the greatest possible responsibilities. And because are in the spiritual image of God, we have corrupted something of great importance. What a terrible thing that we stopped using our spiritual likeness to God for the purpose of loving God, and started using it for the purpose of sinning against God.

Humans are all born sinful as a result of the sin of Adam, the first human
Original sin
The Bible teaches that Adam's sin had two main effects on the human race. The first is that it is imputed to everyone. This means that we are all counted guilty for what he did. When Adam was tested in the Garden of Eden, He was acting as the representative of the entire human race. Therefore we share in the blame for his sin. I have written on this doctrine, called imputed sin, in an article called "Born Guilty." What we are going to examine in this article is the second effect that Adam's sin had, called original sin. Original sin means that, because of Adam's first sin, we are all born with an evil nature that is against God. We all come into this world with a sinful nature. It is important to see that whereas imputed sin means that we share in the blame for Adam's sin, original sin means that we become polluted because of Adam's sin. Imputed sin most directly involves our legal standing, original sin most directly involves our moral character.

Sometimes it is thought that original sin means the transgression Adam and Eve committed, since that was the first (and thus original) sin. That is not accurate. Original sin refers to the results of Adam's sin--that all of his descendants are born sinners.

R.C. Sproul very clearly explains one of the very important truths that original sin teaches us: "We are not sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners." People do not come into this world good and then get a sinful nature upon their first willful sin that they commit. Rather, we come into the world with a sin nature and all of our sins are a result of having that sin nature. We act according to our natures. So because of our sin nature, we do sinful actions. A cow does not become a cow by mooing, but moos because he is a cow. Likewise we do not become sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners.

There is a great wealth of scripture teaching that we are born sinful. The Bible everywhere either assumes original sin or outright teaches it. Let's take a look at some of this Scriptural evidence.

Where does the Bible teach original sin?
The first thing to understand is that God did not originally create Adam and Even as sinners. He created them good, without a sinful nature and without sinful inclinations in their hearts. When tested, they sinned by their own choice. Thus, God cannot be blamed for original sin, because he originally created Adam and Eve morally good: "God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices" (Ecclesiastes 7:29).

Scripture says that we are born sinners and that we are by nature sinners. Psalm 51:5 is a very clear statement that we all come into the world as sinners: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." Ephesians 2:2 says that all people who are not in Christ are "sons of disobedience." Being a son of something involves being born with its traits. For example, just as Bill Clinton was born with the traits of the Clinton family, so also all humans are born with the trait of disobedience. Ephesians 2:3 also establishes this, saying that we are all "by nature children of wrath." We are all "by nature children of wrath" because we are all by nature sinners--for God's wrath is not on a person unless they are a sinner and deserve that wrath. And since we are sinners by nature, we see that sin is not just something you do, it is something you are. Thus, Adam and Eve were originally created morally good, but because of their sin moral goodness vanished from the human heart and all of their descendants are thus born with a sinful nature.

Why did Adam and Eve, once they had become sinners, only give birth to more sinners? Why weren't their children born good? Because God has established things such that things reproduce after their kind. Since Adam and Eve were sinners, their children, who were born after their nature, were also sinners. Job 14:4 says "who can make the clean out of the unclean? Not one!" So because Adam and Eve became sinners, all of their descendants are sinners (which is the whole human race) because unclean people cannot produce clean people, but only more uncleanliness.

Scripture calls humans wicked from infancy. Along the same lines as the evidence we have just seen, there are verses which declare that we are wicked from the time that we are born. Proverbs 22:15 says "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child." Genesis 8:21 declares, "...the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth." Jonathon Edwards, in his classic work The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended, remarks that on this verse: "The word translated youth, signifies the whole of the former part of the age of man, which commences from the beginning of life. The word in its derivation, has reference to the birth or beginning of that the word here translated youth, comprehends not only what we in English most commonly call the time of youth, but also childhood and infancy."

Wickedness is often spoken of in Scripture as something belonging to the human race as a whole. This implies that it is the property of our species. In other words, wickedness is considered a property of human nature after the fall. Thus, it must be concluded that we are all born sinners, since we are all born human and sin is regarded as a property of humanity. One very clear passage on this we have already seen. Ephesians 2:3 says that we are "by nature children of wrath." The verses before this are also relevant to original sin: "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 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. 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" (vv. 1-3). Paul is reminding Christians of what they were like before their conversion to Christ ("you were dead in your which you formerly walked"). Thus, all people, until and unless they are converted, are sinners. Paul went on to make it absolutely clear that all Christians came from this state ("...we to all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh") and that all non-Christians are still in this state ("...and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.") Thus, Scripture regards all people before they are saved by Christ as sinners and thus deserving of punishment from God.

In Psalm 14:2, 3 we read: "The Lord has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one." This verse is clear that wickedness is a property of all humans: "they have all turned aside...there is no one who does good." The phrase "together they have become corrupt" seems to point to the fact that all humans became corrupt at the same time--when Adam fell.

Job 15:14 similarly declares that wickedness is a property of humanity: "What is man, that he should be pure, or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?" Verse 16 says that humans are "detestable and corrupt" and that we "drink iniquity like water!"

Jeremiah 17:9 says that "the heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it." This seems to assume original sin--wickedness is a property of the human heart. Ecclesiastes 9:3 declares a similar truth: "...the hearts of the sons of men are full of evil, and insanity is in their hearts through their lives." Again, the human heart is wicked, and therefore all humans are wicked. This proves that we are born that we, for if infants did not come into the world as sinners, it could not be true that all humans are wicked and that wickedness is a property of humanity.

These texts make clear, then, that human nature is corrupt. Therefore, even infants are corrupt because they are human. And if infants are corrupt, then this is the same as saying that we are born that way--which means we are born with original sin. One may, however, object that these texts speak nothing of infants, only those who are old enough to make moral decisions. All of those people are wicked, but this doesn't mean that infants are. This is an ingenious objection, but it does not succeed.

First, the texts do not seem to restrict themselves to people who are old enough to make intelligent decisions. They seem to speak of human nature as a whole, a classification under which infants certainly fall. Second, as Jonathon Edwards pointed out, "..this would not alter the case...For if all mankind, as soon as ever they are capable of reflecting, and knowing their own moral state, find themselves wicked, this proves that they are wickedby nature."

In other words, even if these verses were only speaking of people old enough to mentally understand sin, they would still be teaching original sin. For on that view, these verses would be saying that all people, as soon as they know good from evil, find themselves sinners. But if all people, as soon as they are capable of moral decisions, find themselves sinners, this proves that they are that way by nature.

Third, Edwards also says, "why should man be so continually spoken of as evil, carnal, perverse, deceitful, and desperately wicked, if all men are by nature as perfectly innocent, and free form any propensity to evil, as Adam was the first moment of his creation?"[4]

Infants die, therefore they must be sinners. Death--both physical and spiritual--is a result of sin (Romans 5:12; 6:23). Thus, death cannot come upon anyone unless they are guilty of sin. Since infants die, they therefore must be sinners. Someone may point to Christ, who was sinless and yet He died. But He willingly gave up His life, and He did it to conquer the curse of death that we were under. In fact, God imputed to Christ our sins on the cross, and Christ died in punishment of those sins. (Remember, imputation involves your legal standing, not moral character. Christ was not turned into a sinner on the cross--He remained perfectly holy in His nature. He was counted guilty, or blamed, for our sins.)

God executes His judgements on infants. Thus, they must have come into the world guilty of original sin, since they have not yet committed any personal sins. Have you ever been troubled by the many Old Testament passages where God commands Israel to destroy whole cities--including the infants? These are very difficult passages! But that is because we do not have a proper view of sin. Since God is commanding the infants to be destroyed in judgement along with the rest of the inhabitants, the infants must be sinners. For God does not judge people for sin unless they are guilty of sin. But if the infants are guilty of sin, it cannot be by their own personal choice--since they don't yet have the mental capacity to make moral decisions. Thus, they must come into the world sinners because of Adam's sin.

Let's take a closer look at some of these passages. When God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, he said he would not destroy the righteous with the wicked (Genesis 18:25). The only righteous person found was Lot (and perhaps his family), and he was therefore rescued with his family. But the infants were left to be destroyed in that city. Therefore, the infants must have been wicked. This means that infants must be guilty of original sin. People often have the idea that infants are innocent before God. Not so! Looks are very deceiving. They are sinful just as we are.

In 1 Samuel 15:3 God commands Saul "Now go and strike Amalek and utterly destroy all that he has, and do not spare him; but put to death both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey." The fact that God's judgement extends to children and infants must indicate that they are sinners. These passages should alert us to the fact that we have a very low, weak view of sin. We tend to think of sin as not being that big of a deal. But God considers sin to be so serious that even infants are deserving of judgement for their sinful natures.[5]

If we are not born sinners, why must we be born again? In John 3:6 and other places, it is said that we must be born again. But why is this, if the first time around we all enter the world fine? In declaring that we must be born spiritually, Jesus is declaring that physical birth is not enough for salvation (John 3:3-15). But how could He say this if we are born into the world innocent of sin?

If there is no original (or imputed) sin, there is no need for us to be redeemed by Christ. Christ came to save a fallen world. If our world is not in the clutches of original sin, then it is not fallen. If it is not fallen, what ultimate need is there for Christ?

If humanity is not born in sin, wouldn't we expect there to be some people who have "beaten the odds" and never sinned? If we are born innocent and good, wouldn't you expect there to be at least some people to have continued in this state and be sinless today? I think all of us know that "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 6:23). The fact that everybody sins needs some explanation. The best explanation is that we are sinners by nature--we are born that way. Someone might argue that the reason all people sin is because society is sinful, and thus society renders it impossible for anybody to keep themselves entirely pure. But that only pushes the question back one step. How did society get sinful in the first place? If people are born morally good, wouldn't we expect there to have been at least some societies develop which are morally good?

The OT ceremonies indicate original sin. In his book The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, Loraine Boettner writes: "The Old Testament ceremonies of circumcision of the new-born child, and of purification of the mother, were designed to teach that man comes into the world sinful, that since the fall human nature is corrupt in its very origin."

Is original sin fair? One may wonder if it is fair for us to be born sinners because of what somebody else did before we were even born. I believe that many reasons are able to establish the fairness of it. But for the sake of space, I will only give one. Consider these words of the great theologian R.L. Dabney: "[Man] is obviously under a curse for something, from the beginning of his life. Witness the native depravity of infants, and their inheritance of woe and death. Now, either man was tried and fell in Adam, or he has been condemned without trial. He is either under the curse...for Adam's guilt, or for no guilt at all. Judge which is most honorable to God, a doctrine which, although a profound mystery, represents Him as giving man an equitable and most favored probation in his federal head; or that which makes God condemn him untried, and even before he exists."

What a shocking truth: there is nobody and nothing on earth that is unaffected by sin. There are no pockets of goodness left in human society, apart from what God puts there by His redeeming power. Let us be gripped by the startling truth that the whole world is corrupted by sin!

Human Beings are all born fully sinful as a result of Adam's sin
It is clear that we all fell when Adam sinned, and as a result we come into this world sinful. But how far did we fall? How sinful are we? Are we born just partially bad, with an island of goodness remaining in us, or are we born totally sinful? In other words, have we fallen only half-way down the cliff, or have we fallen so that we can't get up?

The Scriptures answer that we are born fully sinful. There is no island of goodness that is left in us. Genesis 6:5 says about mankind that "every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." Lest anyone object that this was only the case before the flood (which occurred in Genesis 7) and after the flood God had wiped out this terrible evil in our hearts, God declares after the flood that: "The intent of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21).

Ephesians 2:1 says that before conversion, Christians were "dead in trespasses and sins." We weren't simply sick, we were dead! People who are dead in sins cannot do good any more than a dead corpse can obey your command to wake up. Paul goes on to spell out just how terrible this condition really is, and to say that it is the condition of all people by nature (as we saw): "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 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. 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).

Romans 3:9-12 is another stunning incitement on all humanity. "...both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, `There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.'" Jeremiah 17:9 says that "the heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" Job 15:16 says that man is "detestable and corrupt" and that he "drinks iniquity like water." So much for the common American notions that "people are basically good at heart" and "we aren't that bad after all." Let's stop flattering ourselves!

God changes the hearts of all those who trust in Christ, thereby giving them moral goodness and the ability to do good things
Since we lack any moral good by nature, it is clear that if we are going to be good this good must come from outside of ourselves. God says that this is given to those who rely on His Son, Jesus Christ, for salvation from the penalty and pollution of sin. If a person believes in Christ, they have a changed heart and are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The power of sin is broken and there is now goodness in the person's heart (Ezekiel 36:26-27). While they aren't perfect, Christians are now oriented toward obeying God (Colossians 3:9-10; Romans 8:14). It is a lifelong process to put to death more and more of the sin in our hearts and to bring to life more and more goodness, and it will not be complete until death.

The fact that we are born totally sinful should make it clear that all of the transformation that a Christian undergoes in becoming more and more holy and escaping more and more of the pollution is from God, and not ourselves. It couldn't be from ourselves because there was no moral good left in us. Therefore, we cannot take credit for any good we do as Christians. Everything good that we do is a result of the grace of God working in us (1 Corinthians 15:10). This knowledge is a powerful sword with which to fight pride. How can we be prideful of anything we do if we truly recognize that God was the ultimate cause of it all? If we see pride coming upon us, we must fight it with the words of Paul: "For who regards you as superior? And what do you have that you did not receive? But if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Corinthians 4:7).

We can't even take credit for our faith, because that too was a gift from God (Philippians 1:29). If you think about it, it couldn't be any other way. If by nature "every intent of man's heart is only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5), we would never believe in Christ by our own power. For believing in Christ requires that we have a good intention in our hearts enabling us to choose Him, which Genesis 6:5 says we do not have. Therefore, God must be the one who changes our hearts and puts a good inclination in us so that we will believe in Christ. Thus, while we become more and more holy as we continually trust Christ, we must recognize that there is a change that our hearts undergo before our first act of faith. This change, called "regeneration" or the "new birth," is necessary to enable and cause us to have faith. Since this change precedes and enables faith, it is not something we choose of our own will. Rather, God alone decides who will be changed, and therefore God alone decides who will be saved (see John 1:12-13; 6:44, 65; Romans 9:13-24; Acts 13:48).[6]

Everything unbelievers do is sin
Since there is no good in us by nature, and the only people with renewed hearts are those who are trusting in Jesus Christ, then it follows that everything unbelievers do is sin. This is because they have not received a new heart through Christ, and thus everything they do comes out of the sinful, evil heart they were born with.

The Scriptures teach this in many places. Titus 1:15-16 says, "To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed." For unbelievers, "nothing is pure." They are "worthless for any good deed." Hebrews 11:6 says "Without faith it is impossible to please God." Unbelievers have no faith, therefore they cannot please God. In John 15:5 Jesus says "apart from Me you can do nothing."

Unbelievers are apart from Christ, therefore they can do nothing of any value. That is, they can do nothing good. Romans 3:12, speaking of people as they are by nature and without Christ, says "There is none who does good, there is not even one." Romans 8:7 says that non-Christians are hostile toward God and do not subject themselves to His law. In fact, they aren't even able to obey His law. Paul then says in verse 8, "those who are in the flesh cannot please God." Thus, if you are a non-Christian, nothing that you do pleases God. Everything that you do is sin. You aren't even able to obey God.

But don't we see unbelievers do good things all the time? Don't they very often give food to the poor, give to charity, tell the truth, and love their neighbor? Yes. They very often conform externally to the law of God. But they never conform to it internally. Their motives are never love for Christ or to bring glory to God. They are not obeying by faith. Therefore, the things they do which externally conform to God's law are sin because they do not spring from proper motives. Their good deeds have the outward appearance of virtue, but inside have the appearance of dead men's bones.

It is a terrible dishonor to God to say that people can be good without Him. How can we call an action good if it is not done with respect to the one who is the source of all good? Sin is defined as a "falling short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). What a terrible thing, therefore, it is to believe that actions which are not done for the glory of God can be considered morally good.

Further, to think that people can do good apart from God flatters us and causes pride. This is because it establishes our independence from God through the prideful attitude, "God, I don't need you. I can be good all by myself." But if we recognize that we need God to be good, this makes us humble because we realize that we aren't as good as we thought, that we are not independent as we thought, and that we must depend wholly on God. Dependance on God is the complete opposite of pride. "An arrogant man stirs up strife, but he who trusts in the Lord will prosper" (Proverbs 28:25).

The applications of these truths are very important. We have already seen many of them, but let me give a quick review and add a few more.

Since humans were originally created in the moral and spiritual image of God, we should not think that sin is an essential property of humanity. After the fall all humans are born sinful, but this is not the way human nature is supposed to be. It is a corruption of our humanity. The maxim, "To err is human" is wrong. We err and sin not because those things are human, but because those things belong to fallen humanity. Second, since we were created with such a high standing, the fact that we have corrupted ourselves and lost the moral image of God should strike us as a very serious sin. Third, since we are still in the spiritual image of God after the fall, we should treat all people with respect.

As you let the truth of original sin sink into your heart, it will have many good effects. You will begin to see the world the way God does--doomed, utterly doomed, with no hope apart from His grace because no one escapes the clutches of sin, not even infants. Let this wake us up to the extent of sin's grip upon the world. We often lack awareness of how wide-spread sin really is. The fact is that everybody, always, since the time of Adam and Eve has the terrible evil of sin in their hearts. Let this destroy the cocky security we may be tempted to take from any thoughts about the "goodness of humanity." Humanity is not good! Let us stop flattering ourselves and admit the truth.

Further, as we let the truth of original sin grip us, it will help drive home to us that we cannot save ourselves, because no one is unaffected by sin. We will see that we have to look outside of ourselves to Christ Jesus for salvation--for He is fully God and fully man, the only perfect human to ever live. We should see the value of Christ's redemptive work shine more clearly as we come to terms with the extent of sin and that our world is totally unable to save itself. We need help from above, and God has provided that in Christ.

Understanding original sin also strips us of any superficial views of sin that we may have, because sin isn't just something humans do, it is something that we are. Sin is not just on the surface of our being, it goes to the very core of our being. Original sin also wakes us up to the seriousness of sin. The fact that even infants, which outwardly appear so good, are sinful should be a very sobering thought. That infants therefore deserve eternal judgement should show us how terrible and offensive to God sin really is. Finally, the great truth of original sin teaches us not look to the ways of the world--merely human ideas, religions, or how-to books--for instruction on how to live. They are all themselves affected by sin since they are a product of a world in the clutches of sin. Instead, we will use the infallible and pure word of God as our standard in discerning the truth, and as our only fully trustworthy guide to doctrine and practice. Of course we should not close ourselves off from human teachers, but we should mainly seek to learn from the people that teach the word of God, not the wisdom of the world.

The extent and seriousness of sin should combine to make us feel the danger that the world is in. If you are saved, praise God that he saved you. And have a greater sense of urgency in reaching the world for Christ. Life is serious!

The fact that we have fallen all the way, such that there is no moral good left in us, also has many applications. We need to see how ruined we are before we can see the greatness of the rescue we need. The fact that we were in the utter depths of sin, unable to even do one good thing for God, should make us admire the great lengths that God went to in order to save us, and the power He had to manifest to accomplish it. Let our worship of God became more thankful, humble, and awe-inspiring.

The fact that all moral goodness comes from the transforming power of Christ should preserve humility in us as Christians. For this truth teaches us that any good that is in us, and any good action that we do, is ultimately a result of the amazing grace of God.

Finally, the truth that everything unbelievers do is sin should bring us back to a God honoring view of obedience. Let's stop leaving God out of the picture when we define sin and righteousness! And this truth should help lead unbelievers to the Savior, teaching them that they are utterly dependant upon God for everything.

Finally, this all should spur us Christians on to become more holy. Our hearts have been changed so that there is good in us and that we can do good. We should detest the remnants of original sin that remain in us and strive to put our sin more and more to death (Romans 6:12; 8:13). And we should strive to bring to greater dominance the grace of God and fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Romans 6:19).

"And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgive each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity" (Colossians 3:12-14).

1. See Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (InterVarsity Press and Zondervan Publishing, 1994), p. 442.
2. "Spiritual image of God" is not a special theological term. However, the two main ways in which we resemble God are standard theological doctrines. I came up with the term "spiritual image" for the sake of clarification when referring to this first aspect, not because it is a technical or commonly used phrase.
3. Grudem, p. 450.
4. Jonathon Edwards, "The Great Christian Doctrine of Original Sin Defended," in The Works of Jonathon Edwards Vol. I, (Banner of Truth Trust, 1995 reprint), p. 188.
5. I know that this may raise the question in many people's minds about what happens when infants die. I believe that God is able to save them if He so desires. For example, it says that John the Baptist would be "filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb" (Luke 1:15). However, I do not know if God saves all infants who die, or only some. We must also recognize that if an infant is saved, it is not because of any inherent goodness in them. They are guilty and must be forgiven, and thus it is out of God's sheer mercy that He would act in saving any of them.
6. For more information on this issue, see my article Predestination and Human Freedom.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1977, by the Lockman Foundation.

For study on the doctrine of imputed sin (which was mentioned earlier as the other affect Adam's sin had on his descendents), see my article Born Guilty.