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by Jacques More

'Original sin' is the term used in theology to cover the topic of what part the sin of Adam plays in the sinful nature of all men and the collective imputation of the guilt of Adam's sin upon all mankind.

There are numerous views historically in the Church on this topic ranging from just a tendency to sin being in the nature of every human born since Adam and, on to the other extreme, that the full and complete guilt of Adam's sin is transferred to every man since. What is needful then is to see what the bible says.

Is the guilt of Adam's sin transferred? No.
We see this in that the Lord spoke to the prophet Ezekiel to remove from Israel the very belief in a then common saying 'The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge' (Ezekiel 18:2). In other words, if the parent sins then, the child will automatically be affected. This is spoken against like this:

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.

Ezekiel 18:4

This is repeated and re-emphasised by,

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.

Ezekiel 18:20

So here we read that any idea that the guilt of Adam's sin is borne by his progeny are false. A fact affirmed by the clear observation of life by the writer of Ecclesiastes:

Truly, this only I have found: that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

Ecclesiastes 7:29

Further then what Paul says in Romans 9:11 'For the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil' where the implication is made that little children are innocent and not accounted as sinners, in Ecclesiastes it is explicit, man born upright gives us the idea of a clean start for everyone, not just in terms of guilt of others not passed on, but also that the opposite of uprightness: an unclean or unfit state of sinfulness or tendency to sin since Adam is absent from the newborn and infant.
Therefore it is not just the guilt that is absent, but also the tendency to sin in the being of the newborn.

What about the fact that we all die? Do we?
Enoch never died (Genesis 5:24), nor did Elijah (2 Kings 2:11). So it is a fact that not all men are subject to death even if Adam as their 1st parent sinned. But the following has been read to mean we all inherit death:

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

1 Corinthians 15:22

Is that what Paul actually said and meant?
No, because in the preceding verse i.e. in context, Paul had said,

For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.

1 Corinthians 15:21

What Paul is saying then by 'in Adam all die' is that death occurs because of Adam and when we are in Adam. The flesh is the means whereby death is inherited, just as 'in Christ all shall be made alive' means that when in Christ only can new life be found. Since not all shall be made alive and some will inherit eternal separation (death) in hell, and the emphasis thus proved that it is by being 'in Christ' that all are made alive, so it is with death (eternal separation) is valid only by being 'in Adam' and remaining in the flesh.

It is a position of remaining in the one attachment that the effect is inherited. Both Enoch and Elijah were in Christ and they did not inherit death. When we are in Christ we are no longer in death and no longer in Adam. Nevertheless physical death will be experienced by some of us, but the guarantee of resurrection is there if we are in Christ. The full outworking of salvation for all in Christ occurs at the resurrection.

We can see further in Romans 5 where Paul says,

Therefore, as through one man's offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man's righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.

Romans 5:18

Here Paul is not saying all men receive the condemnation, just as he is not saying all men receive justification of life. He is saying due to the act of Adam - the one man's offence - all men can receive condemnation, just as all men can receive justification of life due to the righteous act of Jesus - the one Man. This Paul confirms by removing the word 'all' in the next verse and replacing it with the 'many' in saying what actually happens:

For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man's obedience many will be made righteous.

Romans 5:19

This then gives us a context for what Paul earlier stated in Romans 5:

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.

Romans 5:12

Paul is saying death and sin entered the world due to the one man - Adam. But, that death spread to all men because they all sinned too. Paul adds 'because all sinned' to qualify why and how death spread to all men. This is affirmed by the context already quoted. Paul does not contradict Scripture that guilt is not passed on from parent to child, he is affirming that it is our own sin that condemns us and makes us fit for death - separation.

For the wages of sin is death . . .

Romans 6:23

What about Psalm 51:5?
Psalm 51:5 is often quoted as a proof text of total depravity - in itself an extension idea from original sin: That man is born a sinner and totally guilty and disabled spiritually (dead).
David instead, is just highlighting the sinful environment out of which he came to be, as part of the setting of confessing his sin to God. He said,

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.

Psalm 51:5

But earlier, David confesses his sin to God:

I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me.

Psalm 51:3

Against You, You only, have I sinned . . .

Psalm 51:4

In Verse 5 David only mentions the influence of sin from his beginnings: 'I was brought forth in iniquity'. David recognises his existence and all ours come from sinful parents. He says 'in sin my mother conceived me'. But we know David already took full blame for his sin:

Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.

Psalm 51:2

So it can be seen in saying 'I was brought forth in iniquity' and 'in sin my mother conceived me' David is NOT saying that sin itself is in the child from the parents, but that a sinful nature is in the parents producing the child. Out of that past, the present is influenced. No more.

Indeed the bible as we read it is explicit as to how we each begin 'God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.' God is direct as to why any of us do not make it or are held guilty:

Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.

Exodus 32:33

To confirm with Adam
Let's confirm that since Adam no one is dead spiritually.
To Adam, we read that God said, in the day that he ate of the tree he would die. Isn't that so?

The literal Hebrew as seen in many bible margins shows that God said 'in the day that you eat of it dying you shall die' (Genesis 2:17). A process of dying would begin only. Death was not imparted to Adam; it was, on the animals, from which God took the skins to clothe Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). God, the first person on record to kill, shed blood to save and provide for Adam. And spiritually it was only as Adam went on to sin further that death and corruption would take full hold (Galatians 6:8).

Does this mean that all are spiritually dead from then on and unable to choose to do what is good?
We can see this with what God said to Cain, Adam's firstborn.

If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it.

Genesis 4:7

Now, some would like to think that Cain had no power or strength to do what was right. They appear not to realise that is suggesting God is into saying to people they can do something, knowing full well they can't. Is that what God is like?

God meant what he said. Cain had the ability in him to go either way. He was not spiritually dead. Nor is anyone afterwards as is plainly told us in Ezekiel.

'Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die . . . For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,' says the Lord GOD. 'Therefore turn and live!'

Ezekiel 18:31-32

In hearing someone's mother shout at their son, 'Clean up your messy room! O why will you live in a pigsty?' Can anyone honestly say the son is unable to clean up his room? That they are unable or, that they are unwilling to clean it up?

But, in our willing to do what is good - in getting ourselves a new heart - God then enables us to do what is right. He gives us more. That is a synergy of wills and activity as Jesus made clear:

For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away.

Matthew 25:29

So we can confirm we are not born spiritually dead, but with an initial ability to choose.
However, the dying process carries on. The corruption is inherited in creation we are told (Romans 8:19-21) and the influences upon the individual means that active opposition to corruption by sowing to the Spirit is how life is obtained and maintained.

For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life.

Galatians 6:8

So, the next question is what kind of spiritual life are we all born with?
We do not have much to go on from the Scripture to describe this to us. Paul tells us that our whole being consists of a spirit, a soul and a body.

. . . may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 5:23

We are clearly told each of us has a spirit from God:

If He should set His heart on it, if He should gather to Himself His Spirit and His breath, all flesh would perish together, and man would return to dust.

Job 34:14-15

Then the dust will return to earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.

Ecclesiastes 12:7

So that, we all have a measure of spiritual life and we are told that God is in the business of forming man's spirit: To work with us to produce a complete spiritual birth.

Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundations of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him.

Zechariah 12:1

So that, when we read of the new birth from Jesus he speaks of being born out of Spirit, just as a newborn babe is born out of the waters of the mother - being born out of water (John 3:5). This links in with John 1:9-13 and I have written separately about all this in my book Will there be Non-Christians in heaven? with The meaning of born again.

Romans 3
There are those who say that Paul taught total depravity by quoting:

As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practised deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Romans 3:10-18

These verses - on their own - can quickly be seen to give an emphasis on total depravity:
'None righteous . . . none who seeks after God . . . none who does good . . . no fear of God'
They do, don't they?
Yes, on their own they look like that. However, is that how Paul is using them?

What is Paul quoting these passages for then?
Remember, he is pointing out that there is a difference between Jews and non-Jews:

What advantage then has the Jew . . ?
Much in every way!

Romans 3:1-2

But this difference does not involve sin. All are sinners: both Jews and Greeks are under sin (Romans 3:3-9).

. . . both Jews and Greeks . . . they are all under sin.

Romans 3:9

Paul then quotes these passages from the law to demonstrate this.
We know this is Paul's use for these passages quoted from the law - the Jewish Scripture - because he immediately THEN says:

Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law . . .

Romans 3:19

And who is under the law?
No one but the Jews! Paul is quoting from the law, in order to show the Jews who are under the law are sinners too. In Romans 3:19 then, Paul is explicit for his use of the quotes in Romans 3:10-18. Just as Paul said from the outset, just before the very quotes:

What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin.

Romans 3:9

In Romans 3 therefore, Paul is only saying both Jews and Greeks are sinners. He is not advocating total depravity; just that we are all in need of a saviour.

. . . all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:23

Ephesians 2:1
This is another popular proof text for total depravity and spiritual death.

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins

Ephesians 2:1

DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS = With no life and ability to live.
HE MADE ALIVE = It is God who brings the dead to life.
This is what is said about Ephesians 2:1. Let's look at the Greek.

Kai humas ontas nekrous tois paraptómasin kai tais hamartiais
Kai - and
Humas - you
Ontas - being
Nekrous - dead
Tois - the
Paraptómasin - offences
Kai - and
Tais - the
Hamartiais - sins

Now the word 'in' in the Greek is 'en', but where is it in Ephesians 2:1?

How can we see 'in' is from the Greek 'en' quickly? Let's look at the next verse.

. . . in which you once walked . . .

Ephesians 2:2

Greek: En hais pote periepatésate
En - in
Hais - which
Pote - once
Periepatésate - you walked

So since en = in, where does 'in' come from in Ephesians 2:1?
It comes from 'the trespasses' and 'the sins'. Because the grammatical case in which those words are found is the Dative. And 'in' is there because it is the instrumental use of the Dative.
What does that mean?
It means that BY MEANS OF 'the trespasses' and 'the sins' you are dead. So that it is WHILST IN trespasses and sins that you are dead. That is the only way 'IN' can be read in Ephesians 2:1.
Even if a 'locative use' of the Dative is a preferred reading, it is still during the activity of trespasses and the sins that you are found (located as) dead.

So what is Ephesians 2:1 proof for?
It is proof of an ability to not be in sin and thus dead by it. Since it is the 'activity' of the sins and the trespasses that kills: The ability to be active is clearly inferred: The very opposite of the way it has been used in the translated English.

And you He made alive, who were dead [WHILST] in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked . . .

Ephesians 2:1-2

1 Corinthians 2:14
This is also used as a proof text of total depravity.

But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.

1 Corinthians 2:14

If, the natural man is the man without God, without God's new input it is impossible for such a man to turn to God, since he does not receive the things of God. That would make total depravity a reality, wouldn't it?

Paul instead is comparing the natural with the spiritual and that amongst Christians.
He is writing about Christians and is comparing the natural with the spiritual.

But he who is spiritual judges all things . . .

1 Corinthians 2:15

Paul in both verses uses the same verb in the Greek: ANAKRINÓ - To DISCERN in V.14 = ANAKRINÓ - To JUDGE in V.15 = ANAKRINÓ. The natural man cannot discern V.14 - The spiritual man can discern V.15
Paul then says,

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.

1 Corinthians 3:1

He is saying you - the Christians in Corinth - are not discerning because you are not being spiritual. Remember chapter divisions were placed in the 13th Century. Paul is saying to Christians, 'You have both facilities: to be natural or spiritual'. Just as Paul also said to the Galatians: He who sows to his flesh will reap - corruption: death; He who sows to the Spirit will reap - life (Galatians 6:8).
You choose.


So what does the bible tell us about original sin?
God says,

Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.

Exodus 32:33


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.

Ezekiel 18:20

Can you think of any better words God could use to say Adam's sin is not accounted against us?
Paul made clear his view of the Old Testament Scripture. He said,

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

And what can we learn from the searching of the Preacher in Ecclesiastes in his observation of life?

Truly this only I have found:
That God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.

Ecclesiastes 7:29

That God made man upright, and they - they have sought out many devices.

Ecclesiastes 7:29 YLT

It is thereby explicit in the Scripture that though the inclination to self-will and to err is quickly witnessed, man starts clean and upright: innocent and free from the Fall of Adam:
Original sin is not a doctrine in the bible.

Ref. M.027

Unless otherwise stated Bible quotes are from the New King James Version

© copyright Thomas Nelson Inc. 1979,1980,1982.

© copyright Jacques More 2009. All Rights Reserved.

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