Me or Adam? By Winkie Pratney (Part 4)
What Sin Is
(1) Sin is universal
Nothing is clearer in Scripture or in daily life. World history is a chronicle of wickedness. Every man prior to conversion is a slave to his own selfishness. Every unsaved man knows that he is selfish. The Bible shows the unsaved to possess one common wicked heart or character: Gen. 6:5; 1 Kings 11:9-11; 15:3; 2 Chron. 12:14; Ps. 28:3; 66:18; 78:37; 95:10; Jer. 17:9-10; Ezek. 14:2-3; 18:30-32; Eccl. 9:3; Matt. 5:27-30; 9:4; 13:15; Mark 3:5; 7:18-23; 8:17; Lk. 21:34; Acts 8:21(18-24); Rom. 2:4-6; Rom. 8:7; Heb. 3:7-15. All men without God are totally selfish at heart. It is exceedingly humbling to admit that all of a man’s pre-conversion actions are not in the least virtuous when examined in Eternity’s light. Man has nothing to commend him to God, when he comes asking for forgiveness. He can never pass the final test at the bar of justice.
The Bible further reveals that from the beginning of our moral accountability (seeing spiritual responsibility to God and our fellow men) we have made a choice to live supremely for self. True virtue consists in right relationship to God. Without this surrender and trust, everything is tainted by self-seeking. No exceptions of true goodness, no pauses for really virtuous behavior, no alternating weeks of true holiness with sinning. Many factors influence the forms of this selfishness; there are many “good” clean-living, outwardly moral sinners, as well as those who are humanly despicable and degraded. Sinners choose the particular forms of selfishness that bring them the greatest pleasure, and this includes deeds and actions usually considered “good” by society, including prayer, religious activity, Bible-study and preaching! But all sinners, from those who have done “many wonderful works” to those God has had to “give up to vile affections”, have one uniform morality – “there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” This universal persistency in sin is also shown in: Gen. 8:21; Ps. 10:4; 14:13 (53:1,3); 28:3; Ps. 94:11; Eccl. 1:14; Is. 55:7-9; 64:6; Jer. 13:23; 17:9-10; Matt. 7:21-23; 12:34-35; Rom. 1:21; 3:10-12; 3:23; 6:16-17; 6:20; Eph. 2:1,3; 5:8; Tit. 1:15; 3:3; 1 Pet. 2:25.
YOU AND YOUR ORIGINAL SIN
(2) Sin is original
There is nothing clearer in the Bible; man is very original in his sin! Sin is not transmitted; it is re-created by any being misusing the elements of true morality – emotion, reason, choice, moral light and spiritual perception of God’s law. (See “Man and The Origin of Evil” for a full discussion and documentation on this subject.) To see why man is accountable for his own “original sin” we must study the fall of our first parents.
At the dawn of Creation, God made His most wonderful work; out of the basic elements of the earth, a being “made in His image”, beautiful and perfect in every respect. There was no sickness, pain, or death. Man was not made sinful. He was placed in an earthly Paradise, in the best possible circumstances. He was given the elements of morality, (made like God as a person) and subjected to a test of his obedience. Since “right” and “wrong” cannot be created in a being, morality is the result of any being’s own response to that which they perceive as most valuable. If Adam were designed so he could not have sinned, he would not have even been “good;” a man unable either to do good or bad cannot be considered moral or responsible. For Adam, a tree was the test: provided he choose to draw his life and truth first from his loving Creator, he was righteous.
Adam’s body and soul were perfect and unblemished. He served God, but without any real test of obedience, as nothing had yet entered Eden to tempt him to disobey. He was more innocent than holy, having no real pressures of temptation to test his faithfulness. No command of God crossed any of his natural inclinations; he was allowed to have his own way within the Garden God had given him. Finally, the great test came. The serpent suggested something that appealed to Adam and Eve’s love of conscious freedom in opposition to the direct command of God. Tree of life or tree of knowledge; and they chose terribly. Tragedy struck; Eve, then Adam, surrendered to the desire to have their own way, and broke the clear command of God. In unspeakable sadness, God was forced to clamp down His Divinely-appointed penalties. These penalties were of a twofold nature:
Physical – Man began to physically die. His body felt the sting of the results of sin, and began to feel the curse of sickness, weakness and decay. This curse was essential, as a man who was allowed to continue forever in sin would become a second Devil, with every unrepentant year of his existence reinforcing his evil and increasing his wickedness. It spread to his family, society and his world.
Moral – Adam and Eve were cut off from God, in spiritual death. Their sin now separated them from their brokenhearted Creator, Who came saying “Adam, where are you?” Other terrible consequences followed. With sin also came guilt and, remorse and shame. They were expelled from the Garden, losing their sense of place and belonging lest they become immortal in sin by taking of the Tree of Life. The ground itself, even the whole creation around them was cursed, so men would have to labor to live, having less time for self-pleasing and resultant deeper sin. Eve was placed under protective subjection to her husband, because she had been first deceived. Their first child murdered their second and became a fugitive.
WHAT HAPPENED TO ADAM?
It is vitally important to notice here how Adam fell, and the consequences of his fall. To understand present human depravity, we must first define the word “depravity”. From the Latin de, very, and pravus crooked, depravity means the failure to meet an existing standard, a fall from a place of original perfection. Adam became depraved in two ways; his heart and soul first failed to obey God, then his body began to fail. The first depravity was thus moral, followed by the second, which was physical, caused by Adam’s selfish choice in spite of the clear warning of the penalty of God. These two depravities caused two kinds of death; physical and spiritual. Although these are linked, they are not the same thing. Both deaths are states of separation: spiritual death being a state of separation from God (essentially, to live sinfully is to be spiritually dead, (1 Tim. 5:6)) and physical death being finally a separation from the material world of Earth. And as a careful study of Romans 5 shows, it is physical death, not moral, that is transmitted to his race.
Every time in this difficult and disputed passage, (with the possible exception of v.17), where “death” is mentioned is manifestly temporal, or physical, and not spiritual death. This passage has nothing to do with proving that sin “descended from Adam”. This interpretation was not found in the early church fathers; it was never given to the passage until the fourth century; was never adopted by the Greek church at all; and is wholly at variance with the design and scope of Paul’s whole argument and presentation. Romans 5:12-14 shows that “death” was the penalty of disobeying God’s law, but men died from Adam to Moses when there was no law. Thus, the transmitted death that all die is not spiritual, but physical. Because Adam sinned, all men die; they inherit not sin, but death. In verse 17, Paul catches on points of correspondence between Adam and Christ (cf. I Cor. 15:45-49). Here the work of Christ equals and even surpasses Adam’s own failure; while Adam brought temporal death to his race, the Lord Jesus brought to man the gift of eternal life. Nothing is said, as would be expected in verse 20, about Adam’s fall extending to his race. Paul knew the word for “impute” (logazomai) meaning to count, reckon, and used it for righteousness (Rom. 4:22) but a different word is used in Romans 5:13 (ellogeo – to bring into account). Verse 20 shows instead that the law came in as the occasion of universal sinfulness, implying that men sin now just as Adam did then; by intelligent transgression of known law of God.
Romans 5:19 is an exact parallelism. A key is the phrase translated “were made.” What does it mean? Does it mean made so without choice or chance? If it should be translated “constituted” as some have said, then all men are or will be saved, (no choice or chance) because of what Christ did! This is obvious Universalism. However, this phrase occurs 21 times in the New Testament and in all other places where Paul uses it, it means “to ordain, appoint, put in place of”. It is used of the ordination of elders, bishops, priests or judges, and properly means “to put, place, lay down” or “put in a position”. To be put in a position is not genetic. Deacons and elders have conditions to meet for their place; they can also lose it. With this qualification, the passage is clear. Adam’s sin put all men in the place of choosing sin. He fell first, damaged us all and set us up to follow his lead. But Jesus did not sin. His victory over sin and death put all men in the place of choosing righteously if they will respond to Him! As Adam’s sin is the occasion (not cause) of a race’s ruin, so Christ’s obedience is the occasion, not cause of its redemption.
What then, did Adam pass on to his race? It is easier to sin than do right. People that sin keep sinning more. All, indeed, “have sinned”. What happened in Adam that brings us now into a world with two strikes against us? The effects of sin are as profound as God’s creation connections in our beings. Because of his organic link to us, Adam fathered physical depravity, reinforced by our ancestral parents’ selfish choices to recur right down through history. This is the true “original sin”, an inherited, accumulated damage that hurts us with a bias, or tendency towards self-gratification. Notice, it is not sin that is passed down, but degraded emotional patterns, a weakened or defiled physical body and over-hyped propensities that give sin its power and make all of us open to the tug of temptation. A parental addiction or greed may result in a child’s inherited unnaturally strong appetite. While this is not in itself sin, the results of their sin are still transmitted, becoming in turn the occasions of further wrongdoing in future generations. Thus, a parent’s sin is “visited on their children” although all such awakened desires or weakened bodies are the child’s misfortune, not his crime. Such hereditary effects may last three or four generations, even when the child does not follow his parents’ or grandparents’ example. Apart from God’s transforming work in salvation through Christ, the world’s sin once begun can only multiply with each generation. (Ex. 20:5; Num. 14:18; Deut. 5:9)
The Bible testifies to our physical depravity by birth and circumstances. This makes it easier for the will to choose self-gratification, while not the cause of our wrong action. It is obvious that man is in a weakened and unbalanced condition: Ps. 103:15-16; Matt. 26:41; Rom. 6:19; Rom. 8:3,23; 2 Cor. 4:11; 5:2-4; 12:7; Gal. 4:13-14; Phil. 3:21; Jas. 4:14. This gives him a bias towards selfish action, the key among many influences for sin.