What is Original Sin?
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" Jeremiah 17:9
According to the Bible when Adam, the first man chose to sin in the Garden of Eden sin came into the world, and passed on to every person. Every child born from this point on would have a sinful nature. According to theology "original sin" is defined by two things: (1) the first sin that Adam committed. (2) the sinful nature that passed on to all mankind since Adam. This sinful nature is also referred to as depravity. The sinful nature of man simply means that all human beings are born into this world as sinners, as it says in the Psalms:
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me." Psalm 51:5
The sinful nature means that every person born into this world does not possess the love of God, but rather loves himself. The sinful nature thrives on the appetites of the flesh, the lust for self-satisfaction. The true sinful nature lies within the heart of every man or woman, and according to the Bible it is from within the heart that sin originates and this sinful heart is exactly why people sin. Every person is a sinner because their heart is full of wickedness, and therefore it is not the sinful act which makes a person a sinner, they already possessed a sinful nature and that is why they sinned. Jesus made this clear in the Gospel of Mark:
"There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man...." Mark 7:21-23
"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man." Mark 7:15
Man's sinful nature is what makes him a sinner and therefore every man sins, and every man is more prone to commit sin and to seek after the desires of the flesh rather than the will of God. During the time of Noah the whole world had become corrupt, Genesis 6:5 says that every imagination of the thoughts of the heart were continually evil, and that is why God destroyed the world with the flood. Noah and his family were saved not because they were not sinners, but because Noah sought after the Lord and approached him on the basis of substitutionary atonement by building an altar and making a sacrifice.
The sinful nature does not mean that every person is completely wicked and incapable of doing good, even Jesus recognized very good qualities in people. But the issue of sin had to be dealt with on the cross, Jesus knew that every man was a sinner and that was the root issue and purpose for his coming into the world. He knew that sin separates man from God, and no matter how good a person is, his sin would separate him from God for eternity.
The Old Testament makes it clear that God's biggest requirement for all mankind was to love God and to love one another. God knew when he gave the law that man was not capable of following it, yet man needed to know what sin was. God gave the perfect law to reveal sin, and God also continually gave his wonderful promises through the prophets that he himself would come and save mankind from their sin. Read this carefully:
"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" Romans 3:20-24
God foreknew from the very beginning that man would sin and death would follow, therefore God planned the great salvation before the foundation of the world. God came to this world to conquer death, to break the power of sin, and to set men free to love God and to love one another. This was all done freely by his grace through Jesus Christ.
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. " Romans 6:23
Who can say, “I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin”? Proverbs 20:9
One of the reasons that the Law was given to Israel was to expose the sinful nature "so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God." (Romans 3:19). It was to produce an awareness of our sin nature so we could ask God for grace. "God's law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God's wonderful grace became more abundant." (Romans 5:20 NLT)
Jesus Christ, who was born under the Law, and preached largely to those under the Law seemed to strengthen the Law and apply it even to the thoughts and motives of the heart so that people wouldn't be misinformed about the demands of the Law and perceive themselves righteous by the Law. For example Jesus said,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart (Matt 5:27, 28)
Some see the Sermon on the Mount as a comforting and great moral teaching. It is a great moral teaching, but this is not comforting, it is terrifying for anyone who wants to please God by living out the Law. It appears to be more of an honesty and humility test designed to drive us to our knees, gratefully clinging to the Savior who died for our sins. Still think you're righteous? Jesus said, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matt 5:48) Perfection is the demand of the Law and Jesus was proclaiming how to get to heaven via obedience to the Law.
One young man really got precise with Jesus in his questioning, "As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)
What would we say to someone like this? He fell on his knees asking, "What shall I do?" He seems to display a lot of humility, desire and willingness. Jesus throws out a clue about the purpose of the Law. “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good - except God alone." Wow! No one is good? Can we all repeat this? No-one-is-good. Can we let this take down our self righteousness? There is original sin in our DNA.
Is Jesus including Himself in this declaration? No, because He also said, "Which of you convicts Me of sin?" (John 8:46) Jesus seems to be saying, "Before I answer your question, let's define goodness, there is no one good but God, and as an aside, if you're calling me good, you're calling me God." This sets the foundation for an interesting exchange. The question is still out there, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answers, "You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother." Jesus is preaching the Law. He is born under the Law. Gal. 4:4 and He is giving the Law's answer to the question.
The young man's answer back, "Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy." Do you think this statement is true? Did he really keep all of the commandments since He was a boy? Perfectly? Perhaps he really believed that he had. Jesus has a classic case of denial standing before Him, and so He applies the Law to the young man's core in an act of love. Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. We can all feel the pinch on this, whether we have a lot of money or very little. The disciples got the point. They asked, "Then who can be saved?" This man was shown in a terrifying moment of clarity that he is not obeying the commandments. Perhaps his money is an idol before God. (Command 1) Perhaps he covets. (Command 10) In any case, he went away greatly sad and humbled, which means he was probably prepared to receive the soon coming grace of the Gospel!!! Imagine his reaction when he heard the crowd ask on the day of Pentecost, "What shall we do?" "Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38, 39). This young man might have been first in line for beautiful and precious gift!
Original sin is in all of us. And we run with the ball to one degree or another. We need only a few circumstances changed in our lives to reveal just how bad we can be. But..."If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)
Dear Father, I know the legal grip of sin is broken over me, yet many times I still feel evil desires and even act on them sometimes. I'm sorry for my sins and ask for your forgiveness...again. But I thank you that I have an advocate now, your son Jesus! And I thank you that I have also experienced great success, I can feel my desires changing little by little. I'm less annoyed when things don't go my way. I feel more compassion for others. I noticed my heart softening. I felt like I wanted to talk about problems rather than isolating with them. I feel more of a desire just to be kind, instead of distant. I seem to care more about the people around me. My mind seems to be getting clearer too. I feel less shame because I know you love me and will never put me to shame! Lord, I thank you that it is your grace working in me, and shining through me that is giving me the desire and the power to do what pleases you! I praise you and thank you with all my heart for my new life in Christ! Keep changing me from glory to glory! Amen!
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