Within the next month, and by the grace of God, my wife and I will be welcoming our first child. Along with the stories and helpful advice that everyone has been offering, I’ve been paying more and more attention to our friend’s babies to see how they act or respond to certain situations. Now yes, I agree that babies are adorable and I cannot wait until ours arrives, but there is something else entirely on display even in infants that often gets overlooked, namely the sinful nature of man and our willingness to sin. For instance, a friend of ours was telling us a story about how they had walked to the edge of the driveway with their daughter and explained to her that she should not step across onto the road. Immediately after this, the little girl (age 2) goes right up to the road, pauses, looks around and steps her toe onto the road. Is that really any different than how we act as adults when we sin? We go right up to the line, look around to see who’s watching and maybe at first just stick a toe over to test out the sin, but once we see it’s ok, we jump right in. King David so beautifully illustrates this in his lament of Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
In the nature of man, even as infants, we can see 2 laws at work, doctrines for those students of Systematic Theology. One is called the Doctrine of Original Sin and the other is the Doctrine of Imputed Sin. The first refers to the “sinful tendencies, desires, and dispositions in our hearts with which we are all born,” as a result of Adam’s sin in the Garden and just as we read from David earlier. The second is the guiltiness associated with Adam’s sin that has been transferred down through all men. The Apostle Paul speaks of both of these doctrines in Romans chapter 5:12-21
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned- 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
In verse 12, we see evidence of both laws, that sin entered the world through Adam, yet we can’t blame only Adam, because we too are responsible for our sins, “death spread to all men because all sinned.” We all sin because it’s inherent in our nature. Likewise in vs. 18-20 we find condemnation, or the declaration of guilt, came to all men through Adam’s imputed sin. These two doctrines that we mentioned earlier provide evidence of a problem, what then is the solution, or better how do we address each?
Paul’s discourse on our sinful nature is so powerful because it serves to explain to us that sin is not just something we do with actions or even decisions we make, but also each of us are sinners by nature. Because of that nature, each of us is born guilty in the sight of God, regardless of how “good” we think we are. And because of this guilt each of us faces condemnation before God who must be just in His judgment of sin. But there’s good news, in fact, there’s great news, because God is not only just, but the Justifier. (Romans 3:26) In order to solve the dilemma of Imputed sin, man needs a Savior. Look briefly at verse 18 again, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Guilt, conviction, and condemnation came to man through Adam, i.e. his sin was imputed to us. However, the converse of this is that through the “one act of righteousness”, namely Christ’s death on the cross, justification became available to all men. Believing in Jesus, trusting in Him as Savior cancels Adam’s debt of sin that has been imparted to us.
But we’re still left with the problem of our sinful nature, did Paul forget about this or is it too solved by our justification? In chapter 5 of Romans, Paul details the solution for our imputed guilt by way of justification by the free gift of grace through Jesus Christ. However, chapter 6 of Romans is all about answering the problem of our sinful nature. In Romans 6:3-4 Paul states, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” He states again in Romans 6:6, “We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” That old self is the old sinful nature that we talked about earlier that came to us through the original sin, yet if Christ is our Savior, we died with him on the cross and were buried with him, and we therefore are no longer under the bondage of the original sin within our nature. Paul continues by giving several commands for life, namely “let not sin reign” and “Do not present your members as sin,” with the outcome leading to sanctification, an ongoing process in which the Holy Spirit works in our lives cleaning out more and more of our old nature to make us more like Christ until we are joined together in heaven. It is by justification that the guilt of our condemnation is removed and by sanctification that our nature is progressively becoming more like Christ through the work of the Holy Spirit.
In the age of the postmodern church, no one wants to talk about sin, for fear it’s too judgmental or offensive. Nobody wants to get to know their sin, how it works and attacks their life, and certainly no one is talking about killing sin (deeds, not flesh) in their lives through the power of the Holy Spirit. But until we, as a Church, start to confront sin beginning with learning where it comes from and understanding that we don’t just do sin but we are born sinners, then our depravity will not resonate within us and our desperate need for a Savior will not be manifest in our lives. Until this happens there will be no revival, no reformation or awakening, and no spiritual growth. We’re at a crossroads in Church history that will require us to either get on our knees crying out in repentance of our sins or we will be forced to our knees crying for mercy. Recognize your sins and eliminate them from your life.