Tag Archives: Union with Christ

Objections to Original Sin – Innocent Babies and That’s Not Fair

 

In the last few posts, we’ve continued working through a series on 1 Corinthians 15, which I find to be one of the more challenging chapters in Scripture, and have arrived at the passages on the Doctrine of Original Sin.  We’ve since turned our attention towards common objections of this foundational teaching from Scripture, beginning first with the Objection of Eve. Here we’ll explore two more objections that are frequently brought up, What about innocent babies and That’s Not Fair.

Objection #2 – Doesn’t this concept of original sin condemn all mankind, even “innocent” babies?

Answer – The doctrine of original sin does condemn all mankind, even babies.  Scripture knows no such thing as the doctrine of accountability, which loosely states that children reach an “age of accountability” around 12-13 years of age (which similarly is the age for the Jewish Bar mitzvah).  Additionally, Scripture knows nothing of a state of innocence  based on age.

If this teaching were true, and if original sin was not inherited even by babies, then there wouldn’t be any death among those under a certain age.  In other words, the Scriptural teaching “in Adam all die” would be wrong, and it’s not.  Death touches us all, even those in the womb, and it is the direct product of original sin upon the world in which we live.  The wages of sin is death and we must all pay, regardless of age.

As a side note, the effects of original sin, namely guilt and pollution, applied to “innocent babies” does not necessarily mean that should infants or young children die that they are automatically condemned to hell.  We must allow room in our thinking for the truth that the Judge of all the earth will do what’s right.  Admittedly, this is a difficult subject deserving of its own post, but in the meantime, I would lean towards agreeing with Charles Spurgeon’s understanding of infants who die, which you can read for yourself here: Infant Salvation

Objection 3 – Isn’t it unfair that God would punish us as a result of another person’s sin?

Answer – This is perhaps the strongest emotional argument against the doctrine of original sin, particularly in light of objection 2.  However, calling God’s own character, namely His holy justice, into question is a wrong starting point.  We must be like Job and place our hands over our mouths and confess that not a day has gone by that we have not sinned on our own.

If the argument of fairness is allowed to stand, then it must also be allowed that it is unfair for Christ to have the sin of those who would believe imputed to Himself and likewise suffer the punishment that they deserved.  Additionally, it would be “unfair” that Christ’s righteousness should be imputed to all those “in Him” who did nothing to earn that.  This objection of equity cannot consistently stand, despite its emotion appeal.

The “That’s not fair” card was played repeatedly in the Old Testament, particularly in Ezekiel 18 which we will look at next time. Instead of stomping our feet and screaming that’s not fair, ought we not to be petitioning the Lord for Mercy.  Assuredly we do not want fairness.  Thankfully, both justice and mercy kiss at the cross of Jesus Christ.

In Adam and Original Sin

 

One of the more neglected doctrinal teachings in today’s evangelicalism is the doctrine of Union with Christ.  Contrary to popular belief, doctrine is not a word to be avoided, nor is it exclusive for academics and theologians.  Doctrine is simply the teaching of Scripture as it relates to a particular subject, in the case of this post – Union with Christ and its related Union with Adam.  Before we can properly understand our union with Christ as the Apostle Paul alludes to in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 (and further exposited in Romans 5:12-21; See also Ephesians 1-2), we must understand another union, that with Adam and his fallen posterity.

As mentioned earlier, a summary statement may be found in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive”  and is expanded upon in Romans 5:21.

The doctrine of union with Adam, or we may say Adam as our federal head or representative, is this: when Adam sinned in the Garden, all those who have been born “in him” share in the guilt and condemnation of that first sin and experience the pollution from that first sin in their nature (edit).  Said another way, the effects (both the guilt and pollution) of Adam’s sin is not limited to him alone, but the pollution is passed down to subsequent generations  and the guilt is “imputed” (credited) to all mankind.  This is an all inclusive imputation of that original sin, to every individual member of the human race, without exception.

Each individual born from Adam on inherits this original sin, meaning that all persons regardless of doing anything either good or evil are born under the guilt and condemnation of sin and subsequently are under the wrath of God simply because they are born.  This shouldn’t surprise us.  We need only to look at Ephesians 2:1-3 for support of this statement, And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind“.

Returning to our verse from 1 Corinthians 15 cited above, we find the parallel statements of “by a man came death” and  “for as in Adam all die” each of which is contrasted with a positive action by Christ, which we will look at in a subsequent post.

For now, we may conclude with the Apostle that through Adam, death spread to all men and that all those “in Adam” die.  Adding Romans 5 to our understanding we read that 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 and Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men” Romans 5:12, 18. 

Due to our union with Adam, the doctrine of original sin dispels any notion that we are born either morally neutral or morally good.  We are born sinners and act only in accordance with our nature.  Apart from the super-natural work of the Holy Spirit to give us new life and a new heart, we are dead in our trespasses and sins.  Guilty because of our own iniquity and guilty from simply being born downstream of Adam.

Because the doctrine of original sin is opposed to man’s natural inclination that he/she is either morally neutral or morally good, we will look to address some more common objections in a future post.

For Further Study see: Romans 1-3

The Sanctifying Power of the Gospel

 

“So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.” Romans 1:15

In the first chapter of Romans the Apostle Paul introduces his most profound and dense letter to the saints of Rome.  Undoubtedly the most quotable verse of this chapter occurs just after the one quoted above.  Verse 16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” has garnered a significant amount of attention, and rightly so, but it has in part caused me to overlook what the Apostle has said right before it.

“So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.”

For me, the focus for this verse has often been on Paul’s desire to go and preach at Rome.  This is no doubt true, for Paul has prayed “that somehow by God’s will I may now at last succeed in coming to you,” “long[s] to see [them],” and has “often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented).”  However, lost in the anticipation for Paul to preach at Rome is the content of the message he intends to bring to the saints there.  The Gospel.

Remember that in the opening verses of chapter 1, Paul is intentionally addressing the saints, i.e. the saved, collectively the Church.  He writes in verse 7, “To all those in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints.”  This is important not only for the passage we’re looking at today, but for the overall scope and direction of the letter.  It is not intended to be a letter for unbelievers.  Though we often use the “Roman Road” for evangelism, the Epistle to the Romans, like the other letters of Paul (and arguably the entirety of Scripture), was intended for the Church, i.e. believers only.

As it relates to verse 15, this becomes all the more significant in that Paul doesn’t intend to bring the Romans a message of high-theology, a second work of grace, or philosophical musings that will grant them a deeper understanding of the workings of God.  He intends to bring the message of the Gospel to the saints!  Perhaps a first or second reading of this chapter might leave one with the impression that Paul’s anticipated mission to Rome is one of evangelism, however the Church is his intended audience and the gospel his intended message.  We must step back then and ask why would this be his message?  Given our understanding of the gospel in so many of today’s evangelical churches, who see it as a first step unto salvation rather than the beginning, middle, and end of all the Christian life, it’s no surprise why this verse might be overlooked.

Throughout Paul’s writings, he views salvation as past-saved (Romans 5:1, et.al.), present-being saved (1 Cor. 15:1,2, et.al.), and future-will be saved (Phil. 1:6; 2:12-13, et.al.).  When he follows up his statement on his desire to preach the gospel with, “for it is the power of God unto salvation” I think it is helpful to understand that for Paul, salvation most always encompasses more than a past event.  Secondly, we must come to understand the significance of the gospel in our lives as an on-going reality of the finished work of Christ on the cross and the implications of this as we become more conformed to the image of Christ.  Practically speaking, the Gospel is the key, the fuel, and the destination of the Christian life.  It is inaugurated (justification), anticipated (sanctification), and consummated (glorification) in the life of a believer.

Note how Paul unfolds the Gospel in chapter 6 of his epistle,

1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 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.

5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 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. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

In verse 1, Paul begins his argument for sanctification in the life of a believer by asking the rhetorical, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” (for complete context, refer back to Romans 5).  He then frames his argument by referencing the finished work of Christ on the cross, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” and the implications for us of His resurrection, “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.”  This is the Gospel and woven within Paul’s description is the implication for how the believer ought to live a life of holiness.  The significance of Paul’s statements here is the union of Christ with the believer.  Again, this unappreciated doctrine, can be expressed in Romans 6 in terms of past (vs. 3,4,5,6), present (vs. 4,6,7,11), and future (vs.5,8,).  The elect of God have been united to Christ before time began, “Even as he chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world.” Eph. 1:4  Believers have been united to Christ by faith in the present (Eph. 1:7,11, 13; Gal. 2:20; 3:26; John 15:5) and will be united to him, as His bride – fully consummating this union, at His second coming having been saved from the wrath of God (Romans 8:1; Eph. 1:10,13,14).

This is the Gospel.  It is not an introductory Sunday School lesson for unbelievers or infant Christians.  It is the entirety of the Christian life and all that he or she is flows forth like a fountain from this great and powerful work of Christ through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.  Hasten to know the Gospel in and out, daily returning yourself to the meditation herein, for truly it was, is, and will be the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.