Aquinas, Calvin, Luther, Arminius, Iraneus, Anselm, Wesley – these are some of
the great names in church history. They are also men who do not agree on a
very fundamental doctrine: original sin. We shall not settle the debate in
this lesson, but we hope to make matters a little clearer – and along the way
point out the important things upon which all agree.
do a little dictionary defining:
- Original sin – the doctrine that humanity, individually and
collectively, is by nature sinful as a result of the sin of Adam.
- Concupiscence – the doctrine that the method of transmitting
original sin is by sexual lust in procreation.
- Total depravity – the concept that original sin makes man absolutely
helpless to correct the problem.
- Predestination – the concept that (largely due to total depravity)
man cannot determine his own destiny, but is predestined to heaven or hell
as God (alone) decides.
now have a scorecard.
as important as this would, one might think, be the subject of majority
agreement. It is not. A little history of the big guns in Christian thinking:
- Augustine – developed the idea of original sin as a response to
the Pelagians. The Pelagians held to the idea that man is morally
perfectible (in short, Paul got it wrong); in response, Augustine
expounded the first clear statement of original sin. From this, Augustine
concluded that infant baptism was necessary – otherwise dead babies go to
hell. This later became a point of argument. Iraneus used the concept
against the Gnostics as well, but in the context of the fallen nature of
the world. He also decided that concupiscence was the mechanism by which
original sin is transmitted. This, ultimately, was said to imply the
immaculate conception. (Gets complicated, doesn’t it?)
- Aquinas –
rejected the doctrine of concupiscence. This eventually blossomed into
full debate as to whether or not sex is inherently sinful. Aquinas
himself barely touched on the subject – but the rest of the church picked
it up for him.
- Luther –
picked up Augustine’s idea of concupiscence. This was enormously
influential in determining Protestant ideas and attitudes toward sex (and
the inferiority of women).
- Calvin –
extended Luther’s concept to the point that mankind was so consumed with
original sin as to have “total depravity” – and therefore was unable to do
anything about it. Even the act of faith had to come from God; therefore
you are predestined to heaven or hell by Almighty God.
Churches (Restoration Movement)
what of our little denomination? Stone and Campbell rejected original sin;
contending that we each die for our own sin. (This is why there is no infant
baptism in our church). Many such churches now accept original sin in some
form or another.
particular change arising recently comes from the “Emergent Church” movement.
Theologically a bit fuzzy, it contends that (like the Semi-Pelagians of old)
man is morally perfectible in this life – at least, after baptism. Man does
not need the aid of God beyond baptism (though he may seek it), but by
virtuous acts can rise to moral perfectibility. Regular listeners will
recognize the characteristic ideas that people have problems, not sins, which
can be solved by a set of easy rules to follow.
on earth did all this come from???? From three little verses.
Paul really said
Romans 5:12-14 NIV
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through
sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned-- (13) for before the law was given, sin was in the
world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. (14) Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of
Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a
command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
nature of sin
need to start simply in this. What is the nature of sin? In the original, it
means “to miss the mark.”
implies that there exists a mark to miss – a commandment, a sense of right and
wrong. But Paul has already shown us there are two kinds of “marks:”
is the explicit standard – a commandment from God, to violate which is
is the implicit standard, inferred from nature. This applies to those who
don’t have the explicit kind. As we have seen, all mankind has this.
the original explicit sin was Adam’s – as before that there was
no commandment. (Hence the name, “original sin.”) That doesn’t mean that
there was no implicit sin before Adam; the Scripture is almost silent on that
point. But as Paul points out here, if there is no commandment, then God
doesn’t take sin into account. We might see this as no additional
consequence. We still do much the same; we are much lighter in judgment on
those who were ignorant than those who are not.
nature of death
source of conflict about this in the modern world is the idea, popular in the
early 1900’s, that before Adam there was no death. The fossil record seems to
indicate to the contrary (to put it mildly). How can we understand this?
remember that Christ is the source of life. When he proclaims that he is
the word used for life means biological, not spiritual, life. So if you
are to live, God must continue to sustain it.
sin separates man from God.
therefore, sin means death because it separates you from “the life.”
Whether that sin is against the explicit or implicit law would make no
as we have said, committed the first explicit sin. That kind of sin is always
taken into account by God.
therefore tells us that Adam is a type of Christ. The word “type” means
something like a model, a figure or even a statue. Suppose you took your
grandchild to Washington, DC, and your grandchild pointed to a statue and
asked, “who’s that?” You might reply, “That’s George Washington.” You don’t
mean that the statue is literally George; rather, it’s a picture of
George in three dimensions. Paul’s language means the same here.
is going to compare Christ and Adam in the next section. But here we see an
example of imputation: because of Adam, God imputes sin to us. Because of
Christ, he imputes righteousness. How this works is explained next.
Romans 5:15-21 NIV But the
gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one
man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the
one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! (16)
Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The
judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many
trespasses and brought justification. (17)
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how
much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the
gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. (18) Consequently, just as the result of one
trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness
was justification that brings life for all men. (19)
For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners,
so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. (20) The law was added so that the trespass might
increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, (21) so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also
grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus
Christ our Lord.
you know why there are no one-armed Bible teachers? Because we have to be able
to say, “On the other hand…” Paul does that here: he performs a logical
analysis known generally as “comparison and contrast.” Two options or ideas
are compared, usually point by point, to show the differences. We can do that
more graphically than Paul. Consider the ubiquitous T-chart:
Chocolate Ice Cream
be eaten by tortoises
rejected by tortoises
be used as a highway flare
burn, even with gasoline on it
tasteless and woody
you get the idea (I hope). Paul does the same thing here, comparing and
contrasting Christ and Adam, the trespass and the gift:
died as a result
live as a result
followed one sin
followed many sins
point, then, is startling: everything that could go wrong did when Adam sinned
– but how much greater is the grace of God through Jesus Christ. Just how much
greater, we will expound next lesson.