What is it that separates man from God?
In Isaiah we read:
I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins.
Sin is like a cloud between God and man. Sin is what separates us from God.
Why is that?
Because sin makes the sinner guilty and this guilt is what remains and what separates from the eternally innocent and holy One.
We are also told that:
The wages of sin is death.
Death is the payment for sin. The final separation of death is caused by sin.
But whose sin is it that separates?
Are we born separated from God or do we experience this separation only after we sin ourselves?
The simplest way to know this is by recognising that when one sins, the guilt - what separates - is not passed to another, but is held only by the one who sins.
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son.
Here it is clearly told us that the guilt of sin is never passed on to a descendant. It is only one's own sin that causes separation. This truth is absolute. There is no guilt viewed - there is no separation due to guilt - because of a parent. This includes our 1st parents Adam and Eve. Their guilt is not our guilt. Could God be any clearer in this next verse?
Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die.
The Word of God is telling us that the individual's own sin is what separates not the sin of any parent that has gone before.
This can also be seen by the observation of life of the writer of Ecclesiastes. He is seen to make observations in his lifetime:
"Here is what I have found," says the Preacher, "Adding one thing to the other to find out the reason, which my soul still seeks but I cannot find: One man among a thousand I have found, but a woman among all these I have not found. . . "
He then continues about observations in his lifetime,
". . . Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes."
In his observation the Preacher says that man is made upright, but they become guilty. The bible then tells us that no man is born guilty and separated from God since they are made upright. But, all become sinners.
Now these passages are part of the Old Testament which Paul wrote about when he said:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine...
2 Timothy 3:16
So "God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes" is valuable for doctrine: we are born upright, but we all become sinners.
This is why Paul adds the qualifying clause "because all sinned" to a preceding statement that death happens to all. It is not because of our forebears that death happens to all, but because all sinned.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.
The death is spread through the sin of all, not the sin of the one man at the beginning. It began in the world through the one man, but it spread to all through our own sinning. Mind you, whenever I read "death spread to all men" I am always reminded that 2 are on record as never having died: Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11). It is also of interest that the bible that was most in use in Europe from about the 5th century to about the 16th was the Latin Vulgate and the Greek for "because all sinned" is there translated as "in whom all have sinned" which thereby was saying that we all sinned in Adam and this "proof" was a buttress to the belief in infant baptism and original sin: the doctrine that we are all guilty because of our birth in Adam's race. But it is explicit instead that death spread to all since Adam, due to the fact that they "all sinned".
And it begins at youth:
I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth...
This is confirmed in Jeremiah:
We lie down in our shame, and our reproach covers us. For we have sinned against the LORD our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day, and have not obeyed the voice of the LORD our God.
It is "from our youth" that we sin and are held guilty. So that each of us is held accountable for our own sin which tells us Adam's sin is not held against us in any way:
So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.
All this, of course, bears well for babies and little children who die, as they are then not held as guilty or separated. If babies are not born separated from God, then how is this seen otherwise?
Paul describes our existence as a three part being with a spirit, a soul and a body:
Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 5:23
And Hebrews tells us that God is the Father of every spirit:
Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live?
But our spirit (part) is incomplete when we are born into the world, so that we are told God is involved in a process of forming the spirit of man.
Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.
Since God is not acquainted with evil, do we believe God would form something that was?
The spirit is quenched however by deliberate acts of sin and this forming by God is prevented to occur where sin is active. But if reception of the light that John mentioned occurs, then God brings to full birth this embryonic spirit. Here is mention of the light given to every man. John - when talking of Jesus as the Logos - says that He is...
. . . the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
And Job tells us that He - as the light of life - can be resisted.
God works all these things, twice, in fact, three times with a man, to bring back his soul from the Pit, that he may be enlightened with the light of life.
But, if instead, He - as the light - is received THEN, AFTER that reception, a full spiritual birth happens as the spirit is fully formed...
. . . as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name . . .
This rebirth process is all of God following the reception mentioned in Verse 12:
. . . who -- not of blood nor of a will of flesh, nor of a will of man but -- of God were begotten.
John 1:13 Young
I explain how this rebirth happens - this birth of the spirit - as Jesus also explains it in John 3, within my chapter entitled The meaning of born again in my book Will there be Non-Christians in heaven? (And as per the explanation for a recommended note in John 1:12 in my book Serious mistranslations of the bible). But, suffice to say that the untainted spirit from God in man is in every child and baby, if not fully formed. Without moral choices yet made and thereby no right and wrong done (Romans 9:11), these are not separated from God.
The above is of importance to how we tell others about Jesus and salvation. Why?
Because we do not convert anyone; God does. And the Holy Spirit is the One who convicts.
. . . He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment . . .
But, He will not convict anyone of something that is not true. If we speak the truth then He can convict of that. So that just as Jesus said,
. . . what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man . . . those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man . . .
Matthew 15:11, 18-20
So, it is the mention of these things that convict the person of what is in their hearts. If we speak of Jesus as the saviour and the sacrifice for our sin it is true and He will convict of that, but if we say we are all in a state of separation because we are born into that, He will not convict of that. He will work with the conscience God has given us. Which as Paul mentioned is what it does,
. . . their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them...
And what does our conscience accuse or excuse us of?
Of our own sin in relation to what we know is right and wrong or, what we hear of as right and wrong as we are told of sin we were not aware of in our lives. That is what the Holy Spirit convicts individuals of. When Paul mentions conscience here it involves the law written in the heart of folk who did not have the law of Moses - or indeed any part of the gospel at all - cf. Romans 2:12-16. So in sharing the truth of the gospel it is the mention of sin, in the same manner as Jesus did above, that involves the Holy Spirit's conviction of sin. Not, the mention of the sin of our 1st parents as making us guilty or separate since that is not in Scripture.
Let's work with our God and see more souls saved.
For further reading about original sin see also my article "Original Sin" with answers to passages like Ephesians 2:1, Psalm 51:5, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, Romans 3 et al.