“Original Sin” - Fact or Fiction?
Part IV of V
Having previously considered key verses of refutation against the theory of Original Sin, we will now proceed to examine the most common proof-texts employed by adherents of the theory. The reader is reminded that a simple rule of interpreting the word of God is that no contradictions exist in inspired Scriptures. The following verses cannot be forced into conflict with the various passages previously reviewed which declare God will not punish the son for the sin of the parent, nor will He punish the parent for the sin of the child. God deals justly with individuals (Exodus 32:33; Ezekiel 18:1ff; Jeremiah 31:30).
Whenever the topic of Original Sin is broached, adherents invariably appeal to Psalm 51:5 as proof that David acknowledged inherited sin: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” Although this is one of the premier proof-texts for the theory of Original Sin, notice that not one mention of Adam or his original sin is found in this verse.
Does the language of this passage teach directly in contradiction to Ezekiel 18:20 where God decreed that the child does not bear the sin of the parent? Is David literally claiming that he inherited the sin of his mother or the sin of Adam despite what was spoken through the prophet Ezekiel? If so, this presents the Bible student with an insuperable difficulty. If a real contradiction exists, the Bible must not be inspired and therefore cannot be trusted in any part. But is there an explanation of this verse which does not bring it into conflict with other clearly stated passages of Scripture?
The dedicated Bible student must recognize that the Psalms are written in Hebrew poetry, not unambiguous literary prose; and such poetry, even though inspired, abounds in imaginative terminology, graphic figures of speech, and hyperbolic expressions which are intended to heighten the force of the song/prayer by figurative exaggeration.
Failure to discern the difference between this type Hebrew poetry and the unambiguous language of literary prose has resulted in a host of false doctrines emerging from groups like the Watchtower Witnesses who derive the doctrines of soul-sleeping and annihilation of the wicked from the poetic books of the Old Testament. It is a grievous error of exegesis to extract isolated statements from Hebrew poetry and exploit them as foundations for doctrinal formats for Christianity when such doctrines are never mentioned in the New Testament.
Exodus 32, Ezekiel 18, Deuteronomy 24, etc, are written in unequivocal prose, and in each passage, it is God specifically declaring what He will or will not do. In Jeremiah 31:29-30, God explicitly speaks in direct opposition to the theory of Original Sin, saying, “In those days they will not say again, ‘The fathers have eaten the sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But everyone will die for his own iniquity; each man who eats the sour grapes, his teeth will be set on edge.” God has spoken expressly against the idea that children are held accountable for the sin of the parent.
What is the meaning of Psalm 51:5? In surveying the entire context of the passage, there can be no doubt that David is not addressing the inherited sin of Adam or even the sin of his own earthly mother. David petitions God concerning his own iniquities. He seeks forgiveness for his own sin. Psalm 51 is the lamenting prayer of one acknowledging personal sin before God.
Notice the consistent emphasis of David: “Be gracious to me, O God…blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight” (51:1-4).
The context of this Psalm is the sin of David–not the sin of Adam or of any other person. David recognizes his personal transgression, and confesses his personal sin to God. Not a solitary word concerning original sin is mentioned by David. If verse 5 is interpreted to mean David speaks of being born a sinner, the entire spirit of the Psalm is changed from a prayer of contrite penitence into a brazen Psalm of excuse for sin.
But the words of the Psalm do not correspond with one making an excuse for sin; these are the words of one broken and humbled by personal culpability, the admission of a sinner who comprehends his personal guilt before God and seeks forgiveness through heart wrenching contrition. In verse 5, David employs the strength of dramatic exaggeration to declare his painful awareness of the sin he has committed.
The apostle Paul did likewise, saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all” (1 Timothy 1:15). Was Paul, in reality, the vilest sinner ever? Was he even the vilest of his day? Of course not. Many others ruthlessly persecuted Christians, not out of a sense of duty before God as did Paul, but out of sheer delight in perpetrating evil. Paul and David both utilize the power of exaggeration in remorseful lamentation and acknowledgement of personal sin. It is regretful that sin no longer bears this effect on most in the church.
Psalm 51:5 contains hyperbolic, figurative language, and this type language appears in several verses which follow. David said to God, “Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow” (v. 7). He goes on to say, “Let the bones which you have broken rejoice” (v. 8).
Here is continued symbolic language expressing David’s recognition that God alone can forgive sins. David does not literally believe he will be made whiter than snow in his body, does he? Neither does he literally intend that “hyssop” is the purifying agent for sin. These figurative expressions are employed to signify that God can cleanse the sinner, making the soul clean again. If we are to accept the contents of David’s prayer as literal in every aspect, are we also to believe that God engages in breaking men’s bones? And that the broken bones are thereafter able to “rejoice”?
In the same way that these expressions must be understood as figurative to avoid the absurd, the language of verse 5 must also be interpreted in a manner that causes no conflict with any other clearly stated truth. A primary rule of biblical interpretation states, “The language of Scripture may be regarded as figurative, if the literal interpretation will cause one passage to contradict another” (Dungan n.d., p. 196).
It is widely accepted that Psalm 51 is David’s petition of God regarding His sin with Bathsheba and the subsequent murder of her husband, Uriah (2 Samuel 11; cf. Psalm 51:14). At least five explanations for the language of Psalm 51:5 have been offered which do not place the passage in contradiction to any other verse of Scripture. While a couple of these seem improbable as the intended meaning, the other explanations offer reasonable plausibility without the danger of militating violence against the inspiration of the Bible.
Of these, the most reasonable explanation appears to be that David felt the gross weight of his sin before God, and through employment of hyperbolic language (i.e. exaggeration for emphasis sake), David expressed his feeling of being overwhelmed by the guilt of his sin. In another prayer for forgiveness, David beseeched God, “Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions” (Psalm 25:7). Notice that no mention is made of Adam’s sin or the sin in which David was born, but only “the sin of my youth or my transgressions.”
In a relative sense, the words of Psalm 51 indicate that David felt his entire life had been marked by sin. But not once does he ask for forgiveness from anyone’s sin but his own. David knew that it was his personal sin that stood between him and the Almighty. The exaggerative language of Psalm 51:5 is similar to Job’s expression: “If I have kept from the poor their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, or have eaten my morsel alone, and the orphan has not shared it (but from my youth he grew up with me as with a father, and from infancy I guided her)” (Job 31:16-18).
Job speaks of taking care of the widow and orphans, but in the highly figurative language of Hebrew poetry, Job says he cared for the widow “from infancy.” Are we to believe that Job was busy caring for widows while he was yet an infant? Or are we to understand that Job considers his entire life as marked by helping others? When did the choice to serve others initiate in the life of Job? Was it at birth? Or was it in the days of his youth when he knew to refuse evil and choose good?
It should also be recognized that Psalm 51:5, if taken literally, teaches that David was a sinner from conception, not simply from birth. If Original Sin advocates are sincere in their efforts to baptize infants to protect them from the consequences of Adam’s original sin, the baptism of embryos should be conducted in order to protect the unborn fetus from the same original sin, for David says, “in sin my mother conceived me.”
Psalm 51:5 must be interpreted in the same manner as Job 31:16-18. Both passages employ hyperbolic expressions for the sake of emphasizing activities engaged for the majority of life. Job did not literally practice benevolence to widows while he himself was an infant, and neither does David literally contend that he was born with inherited sin. Both poetic passages emphasize the respective activities as characterizing or marking the majority of life. Psalm 51:5 does not teach the dogma of Original Sin.
Another passage used to bolster the theory of Original Sin is Psalm 58:3: “The wicked are estranged from the womb; these who speak lies go astray from birth.” It is claimed that this verse designates all men as sinners from birth, thus evincing inherited sin. However, several points of interest should open the eyes of the discerning reader who desires to know the true meaning of the passage.
(1) The Psalm involves a contrast of the “wicked” with the “righteous” (v. 10). If all men are designated as “estranged from birth,” who does the psalmist have in mind when referring to the righteous? It is only the wicked who are spoken of as “estranged from birth” – not the “righteous” who “will wash his feet in the blood of the wicked” (v. 10).
(2) It must be recognized that the Psalm is written in highly poetic language consisting of graphic figures of speech and hyperbolic expressions. The wicked are described as having “venom like the venom of a serpent” (v. 4), and “Like a deaf cobra that stops up its ear, so that it does not hear the voice of the charmers” (vv. 4-5). The use of the serpent simile is intended as an invocation for God to destroy the wicked to prevent their poisonous venom from becoming deadly to others (v. 6), but if pressed to mean that all infants are born with original sin, the call is for God to kill all babies! (cf. v. 6, 10).
(3) If the entire passage is to be interpreted as literal, one must recognize that the text does not even concern human beings, but “young lions” (v. 6) that possess the ability to speak lies (v. 3). If the literal view is adopted, we have certainly departed the solemn search for truth in order to delve into the cartoonish animation of outlandish absurdity. Every serious Bible student knows that one of the most basic rules of hermeneutics is that no passage should be forced to affirm the ridiculously illogical or to contradict reality, unless it can be demonstrated that supernatural power is appealed to for the sake of inspiration, revelation, and confirmation.
(4) If humans are correctly perceived as the reality of the figurative “young lions” mentioned in verse 6, the literal interpretation of verse 3 would involve a contradiction of reality. As every parent knows, infants are not capable of speech for the first year of life, and the telling of lies comes even later in life; but a literal interpretation of verse 3 requires infants to be speaking lies immediately after birth! And according to verse 6, these infants have teeth that God should shatter in their mouth! These expressions, if taken literally, contradict what all men know to be true and must therefore be rejected.
(5) If interpreted literally, a contradiction occurs between Psalm 51:5 and Psalm 58:3. Psalm 51:5 would teach that a child is a sinner from the time of conception, whereas Psalm 58:3 says the child does not “go astray” until after birth – thus a full nine months of difference. Which passage speaks the truth if both are interpreted as literal?
(6) The phrase “go astray” (58:3) cannot mean “born astray” as alleged by Original Sin. To “go astray” indicates personal culpability for straying from God. The fact that God makes men “upright” (Ecclesiastes 7:29), but “all of us like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6) is clearly established in the Bible. Men are not born sinners, but “our iniquities, like the wind, takes us away” (Isaiah 64:6), and “your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you” (Isaiah 59:2).
Where is the verse that says we are separated from God by sins other than our own? It is not the sin of Adam that hides God’s face from all men, and neither is it Adam’s original sin that takes us away, but it is the personal sin of each one committed long after birth at a time when teeth are in place and the knowledge to reject evil and choose good has been acquired. God declared, “the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (Genesis 8:21). It is not evil from conception or even birth, but “from his youth.”
Jeremiah concurs, saying, “for we have sinned against the Lord our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even to this day. And we have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God” (Jeremiah 3:25). Unless an infant can be expected to obey the voice of God, it is likewise true that an infant cannot disobey the voice of God. Jeremiah says the people sinned from youth, not obeying the voice of God. Implied is the comprehension of God’s instructions for man. Very young children are incapable of comprehending the Lord’s instructions, and are therefore not under consideration by Jeremiah.
(7) The claim that all humans are “estranged from the womb” contradicts the writings of Luke. John the Baptist was not “estranged from the womb,” but was “filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). It is impossible to reconcile Luke’s account of John the Baptist in the womb with the literal interpretation of Psalm 58:3. John was not “estranged from the womb,” but possessed the Holy Spirit while “yet in his mother’s womb.”
The phrase “from the womb” is used several times in the Old Testament with a figurative sense. David said to God, “You are He who took me from my mother’s womb” (Psalm 71:6). Job declared, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there” (Job 1:21). Does the figurative connotation not resound from these passages? Surely Job did not literally intend that he would re-enter his mother’s womb at death, did he? The same figurative sense must be applied to Psalm 58:3 as well.
The entire life of the wicked seems characterized by evil, and thus the psalmist speaks figuratively of their being “estranged from the womb.” To interpret this phrase literally contradicts reality, just as a literal interpretation of Job 1:21 does. Psalm 58:3 says nothing about the original sin of Adam being inherited by the human population. It is only the fanciful imagination of those searching for corroboration of an erroneous doctrine which reads into Psalm 51:5 and 58:3 what was never intended by the author.
In Psalm 58:3, the psalmist contrasts the insuppressibly wicked with the “righteous” who seek to serve God. It is common to refer to the language one has known since childhood as “the language to which we were born” (Acts 2:8). Although no one is capable of speech at birth, the expression refers to the familiar language learned early in life. The sin of the wicked in Psalm 58:3 is not that they literally speak lies from birth, but that evil and a lying tongue characterize the life of the incorrigibly wicked.
Psalm 58:3 offers no commentary or support for the theory of Original Sin. It is only the grossly wicked who are addressed in verse 3 – not every human. Desperation to uphold an erroneous doctrine is what leads advocates of Original Sin to force passages such as this into a supporting role for their beloved theory. The previous points demonstrate the insuperable difficulties one must face when attempting to twist this verse to say what it was not written to declare. The doctrine of Original Sin is not found in Psalm 58:3.
In the New Testament, Paul’s statement in Ephesians 2:3 is declared evidence of Original Sin. The fuller context reads: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest” (2:1-3).
Proponents of Original Sin allege this verse teaches, “and were by birth children of wrath.” However, the entire tenor of Paul’s discussion surrounds the personal sins of his Gentile auditors and the personal sins of himself and the Jewish brethren. Several factors from the overall context and specific language of Paul deny the assertion made by supporters of Original Sin that all men “by birth” are children of wrath:
(1) Paul identifies the sin that alienated the Ephesians from the Creator, and it was not the original sin of Adam that Paul cited, but he declared, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins” (v. 1). Although the KJV (following the Textus Receptus) omits the personal pronoun “your,” it is affirmed by the earliest versions of the New Testament, also by the writings of the Patristic Fathers, and by modern English translations based upon the oldest extant Greek manuscripts.
The Ephesians were once sinners, not because of birth, but on the basis of their own personal trespasses and sins. Paul emphasizes the personal culpability of all men for walking away from God. Men are not born astray, but “All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6).
(2) The apostle says the Ephesians had “walked according to the course of this world, according to the power of the air” (v. 2). The choice to follow God or to follow Satan belongs to every rationally minded human, and like all men, the Ephesians had chosen to walk in accordance to the evil influence of Satan, resulting in personal trespasses and sins which caused their spiritual death (v. 1). They were not born sinners; they became sinners by walking according to the influence of Satan rather than of God.
(3) Although the Ephesians had escaped the power of the devil through obedience to the gospel, Paul reminds them of their previous failings, and that they were formerly led by “the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience” (v. 2). The term “sons of disobedience” further registers the individual culpability of the sinner. In what manner has a baby or small child been disobedient to God? The “spirit” that was working in the “sons of disobedience” was the evil influence of Satan that tempts all men to forsake obedience to God.
Every phrase by Paul condemns the sinner for choosing a sinful course of life; he offers no excuse for sin on the grounds that it cannot be helped due to the taint of Original Sin. The word “disobedience” does not mean “misfortune.” If all men are born sinners, that would be the greatest misfortune to plague mankind. But “disobedience” involves voluntary choice–not involuntary inheritance.
(4) Paul includes the Jews in the former “disobedience” as well, saying, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind” (v. 3). A man is not guilty of sin due to birth, but by “indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind.” Inherent in Paul’s statement is the mental development necessary to choose indulgence. Again, what sin has an infant chosen to indulge?
(5) Paul did not excuse sinners because men are born with inherited depravity, but said they sinned “because of the hardness of their hearts; and they, having become callus, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” (Ephesians 4:18-19). The Gentiles made the choice to “practice…every kind of impurity and greediness.” They gave “themselves” to a sustained lifestyle of sin.
Here we find explanation of the admission that they “were by nature children of wrath” (2:3). The verb emetha (“were”) is an imperfect tense, middle voice form. The imperfect is the “tense where the writer portrays an action in process or a state of being that is occurring in the past with no assessment of the action’s completion,” and the middle voice is the “grammatical voice that signifies that the subject of the verb is being affected by its own action or is acting upon itself” (Heiser, 2013).
The Greek middle voice is the key to understanding the sinful predicament of each one as elaborated by the apostle. Paul says men are sinners, not because of an inherited nature of sin, but as a result of his “own action.” The middle voice identifies the individual as culpable in the trespasses and sins that issued in death. Combining the imperfect with the middle voice intensifies the verb as, “you kept on making yourselves children of wrath.”
Sin is committed by the individual, and Paul explains it is “because of the hardness of their hearts” that men “have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness” (Ephesians 4:18-19). If the Holy Spirit desired to express the idea of Original Sin, He would have inspired Paul to say, “and were born children of wrath.” This is what Original Sin advocates claim the verse means, but that is not what Paul says. In fact, the Bible never says men are born sinners.
The phrase “were by nature children of wrath” refers not to birth, but to a habitual or sustained life of sin. The word “nature” translates the Greek physei, and in this passage, renowned lexicographer, J. H. Thayer, says physei refers to “a mode of feeling and acting which by long habit has become nature” (1958, p. 660).
It is by disobedience unbroken by repentance that men, whether Jew or Gentile, become children of wrath. The immediate context of the phrase in question concerns the individual responsibility for the resultant destiny of wrath–nothing is said to suggest that men are born sinners because of the original sin of Adam. Ephesians 2:3 teaches that men are sinners due to an undeterred, continual practice of sin, and as such, are worthy of wrath. Each one is “affected by [his] own action.”
Romans 5:12, 18, 19
Of all the passages cited by Original Sin defenders, Romans 5:12-19 represents the sole passage where the reader may be led to believe that Paul hints at the theory’s major tenet, i.e., that all men involuntarily inherit the sin of Adam. However, on careful analysis, the first impression proves to be much more than is intended by the inspired author, and would, if true, stand as a blatant contradiction to the entire tone of the Scriptures with reference to sin and punishment.
Contrasting death brought by sin with life offered in Christ Jesus, Paul relates: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned…So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:12, 18, 19).
Physical death is a consequence of sin–not the punishment for sin. The unrighteous “will go away into eternal punishment” (Matthew 25:46), being cast into “the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is called the “second death” (Revelation 21:8). Because of Adam’s sin, “death spread to all men.” It wasn’t Adam’s sin that spread to all men as taught in the doctrine of Original Sin, but “death spread to all men.” In the same way that only Adam and Eve ever experienced the earth without a curse upon the ground, neither has any other ever experienced life without the certainty of death.
The sin of Adam unleashed dire consequences that all men must endure without and apart from personal sin. These consequences are not experienced because each one has inherited the sin-guilt of Adam, but such are the result of sin entering the world. Paul does not condemn all men because they inherited the sin of Adam, but “because all sinned” (v. 12). This harmonizes with what he had written earlier in 3:23, saying, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Of course, Paul is not insinuating that babies or very young children have sinned, but he refers to rational thinking humans. “Nevertheless, death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam” (5:14). The contrast of life and death as the context of this portion of Paul’s letter must remain in mind. Those not careful to do so have claimed that “Adam’s sin spread to all men” instead of “death has spread to all men.”
The contrast is really that of Christ with Adam. Whereas the transgression of Adam brought death to his posterity (v. 17), the righteousness of Christ gives life to His posterity. The emphatic lesson by Paul is that the power of sin, death, and condemnation resulting from Adam’s disobedience has been overcome by the power of grace through Christ’s righteousness.
An important theological principle is left unstated by Paul in the immediate text, but it is certainly expounded on at length in the following chapter. That principle is the personal choice of each one to choose life or death. We are made sinners by identifying ourselves with Adam who sinned, or we may choose to be made righteous by identifying ourselves with Christ who is righteous. Either way, the choice belongs to each one.
By isolating 5:18-19, some contend for the doctrine of universal salvation. These allege that all men will ultimately be saved apart from any conditions of obedience. If this is true, an insuperable difficulty would appear as Christ Himself plainly taught that the majority of humanity will not attain eternal life (cf. Matthew 7:13-14), and that “many,” although thinking all was well, will hear Christ announce, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practiced lawlessness” (Matthew 7:21-23; cf. 25:41-46). Notice it is not Adam’s sin that caused their banishment from Christ, but that personally, they had “practiced lawlessness,” i.e., a sustained, ongoing indulgence in sin.
Paul does not teach universal salvation based upon the righteousness of Christ; neither does he teach universal sin-guilt based upon the sin of Adam. At contrast are the death and life of humanity resulting from Adam (who initiated death) and Christ (who initiated life). Although the general resurrection of the dead will bring all humanity back to life (cf. John 5:28-29), Paul is speaking of “eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:21). Those foolish enough not to identify with Christ in the current life will suffer the “second death” (Revelation 21:8).
That “all have sinned” is one of the most redundant facts of the letter (Romans 3:10, 5:12; 6:23), yet Paul offers hope of salvation to all humanity through Jesus Christ. In the same way men are not “made sinners” involuntarily, neither are men “made righteous” involuntarily. Men are made sinners “because all have sinned” (5:12), but men may regain righteousness by submitting their own sinful identity to death through repentance, allowing the dead body to be buried with Christ in baptism, from whence God raises each one to a new life in Christ Jesus (Colossians 2:11-13).
Following his announcement of grace reigning “through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (5:21), Paul does not neglect to remind his readers how all men may obtain the promise of eternal life. Romans 6 opens with a question concerning the saved and sin: “Are we to continue in sin that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”
Eternal life in Christ Jesus is not forced upon anyone involuntarily, but eternal life is bestowed upon those who are willing to die to sin, submitting the old self to death through burial with Christ in baptism, from whence God raises a new creature from the watery grave, allotting a “newness of life” as discussed in Romans 5:12-21. That freedom of choice attends the matter of disobedience resulting in condemnation, or of obedience resulting in righteousness, is made clear by Paul in Romans 6:16-23.
Men are not born sinners, but Paul says, “For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification” (v. 19). Men make the personal choice to sin, and in order to be saved, men must make the choice of “obedience resulting in righteousness” (v. 16).
Many refuse to believe that obedience, especially baptism, is essential to salvation, but Paul held no such foolish reservation. Paul knew that he had been baptized in order to wash away his own sins (Acts 22:12-16), and he explained the necessity and purpose of baptism lucidly in Romans 6:3-11.
Following his detailed illustration of baptism as the transition point for receiving a new life in Christ, Paul commended his Roman auditors, saying, “But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (v. 17).
Here is the answer to the question that opened the 6th chapter: Christians are those who have chosen to die to sin, obeying from the heart the doctrine of baptism into Christ Jesus. Those identifying themselves with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection through baptism are “freed from sin,” having chosen to become “slaves of righteousness” (v. 17).
It is impossible to disassociate the reading of 5:12-19 from the explanatory discourse which follows in chapter 6. Eternal life is bestowed upon the submissively obedient–not the willfully disobedient. Salvation in Christ Jesus is conditioned upon requisite acts of obedience (cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; etc.), and Paul emphasizes the immense significance of baptism into Christ (cf. Galatians 3:27-29).
Romans 5:12-19 does not teach that all men are born sinners, but it does teach that “all sinned.” In order to obtain the promise of life in Christ Jesus, Paul emphatically declares that men are “baptized into Christ Jesus,” even “baptized into His death” (6:3). Having died with Christ through baptism, we are raised to life in the likeness of His resurrection (6:4-5). But new life is not foisted upon anyone apart from their submissive obedience to the form of teaching related by Paul. As with sin, each one has the individual choice to be saved in Christ or to remain lost outside the Savior.
Conclusion (Part IV)
It has been well said, “No man becomes evil at once, but suggestion brings on indulgences; indulgences, delight; delight, consent; consent, endeavor; endeavor, practice; practice, excuse; excuse, defense; defense, obstinacy; obstinacy, boasting; boasting, a seared conscience and a reprobate mind” (Edwards, 1901, p. 527).
Commenting on the unbelief of the Pagan world, Paul describes their initial error as “though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks” (Romans 1:21). How many of the earth’s population have started to walk in darkness by simply refusing to honor God with a word of thanks before consuming their daily food? From that seemingly harmless misstep, Paul then reveals the increasing depravity to which man willingly descends after refusing to acknowledge and honor God (1:22-32).
Man does not become evil at once, and he is certainly not born totally depraved. Sin is a choice each one makes for himself; but in spite of sin, God offers salvation to those who are willing to hear and obey the teachings of Christ (Matthew 7:24ff). The apostles of Jesus were sent to preach the gospel to all nations, “baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). God extends the opportunity for salvation, giving explicit instructions through Christ and the apostles as to what the sinner must do in order to be saved.
Original Sin provides an excuse for the sinner; but the Bible says there is no excuse (Romans 1:20). Sin is committed in rebellion against the benevolent government of the Almighty, yet pardon from sin is granted through obedience to the terms of the gospel, receiving the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in Christ Jesus.
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Heiser, Michael S. and Vincent M. Setterholm (2013), Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic
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