Friday, May 30, 2014

We Are All Sinners

"You will be like God . . . . "
Yesterday morning the three grandchildren, all under three years old, visited me, and we walked down to the shallow pond behind the house. On the way back I bribed them with the promise of chocolate milk when we returned because we needed to get home quickly. One-year-old grandson had tripped at the edge of the pond and was soaked in stinky pond water—and I was carrying him back. I wanted to avoid our usual stops to consider the wildflowers, birds, butterflies, and best of all, gopher holes, that can make a five minute walk take half an hour.

The bribe worked and after I cleaned up grandson we all sat in the front yard drinking our chocolate milk, except for the two year old, who was more interested in starting a toddler fight than drinking. She stood facing us, scowling, sippy cup extended, and pronounced, "You can't have my chocolate milk!" She repeated it a few times, but the others were too focused on their own drinks to hear her.

Then she placed her cup on the ground and walked away, pretending she had no interest in it, but still alert, ready to run back to grab it when someone else tried to pick it up. Her plan, which didn't work because the other kids were too busy to notice, was to start a scuffle and also be its victim.

This may seem like sophisticated strategy for a two-year-old, but it isn't. Every new parent I know is shocked at how soon children learn to manipulate to get what they want and how often their wants are despicable. Toddlers are living proof that we're born sinners. (And that some parents don't see this is evidence that sin corrupts human thinking skills, too.)

The Fall

The Bible tells us that it all started with Adam, from whom we've descended. The previous two posts in this series centered on the first two chapters of Genesis in which God created the world and created human beings in his image. Everything was perfect until Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve listened to the serpent in the Garden of Eden and rebelled against the one prohibition God gave them.

There is much we can learn about sin and temptation from this true story, but I'll simply note that Adam and Eve's disobedience was more than just breaking a rule. To quote D. A. Carson,
That is what a lot of people think that "sin" is: just breaking a rule. What is at stake [in the garden] is something deeper, bigger, sadder, uglier, more heinous. It is a revolution.1
After all, the chief motivation for Adam and Eve's rule breaking was a desire to "be like God" (Genesis 3:5). They were setting themselves up as their own gods by doing what they thought was best for them instead of trusting the rightness of the their Creator's rules. To use Carson's term, they were "de-godding" God.

We call this one rebellious act the fall of humankind, because the Bible teaches that Adam, as the first human, represented all of his posterity before God, so the consequences that came from this single sin—a disordering of the creation order, and death (all kinds: physical, spiritual, eternal)—affect all humankind.

And because he represented us, every human being has inherited sin from Adam. Since this inherited sin exists within us at our origin, right at the point we are conceived, the most common name for it is original sin.

Inherited Guilt

The first part of original sin is inherited guilt. The sin of Adam is counted against every one of his descendants. Wayne Grudem writes that "God thought of us all as having sinned when Adam disobeyed,"2 so each of us was born guilty and condemned for Adam's disobedience.

Some complain that this is unfair: How can we be blamed for what Adam did? There are a few ways to answer this objection, but it seems clear to me is that since Christ's representative obedience is necessary for our salvation (a truth we'll get to later), it does us no good to argue that a representative system is unfair. We'd have no hope without it.

Inherited Corruption

The other part of original sin is inherited corruption. We are all natural-born sinners. At birth, the corrupt seed that will grow and blossom into bad fruit is already there waiting to sprout (Psalm 58:3).

This is the reason no one had to teach my little granddaughter to manipulate others to get what she wants. It's an innate ability—or perhaps more accurately, an innate disability. Like the rest of us, she was born with the desire to rule her own life and the lives of those around her—to be her own god, if you will—and as soon as she could express herself adequately, that's what she began trying to do.

Inherited corruption means that every one of us is a sinner, first in our inner being, then in our actions, adding to our guilt before God. So original sin packs a double guilt whammy—guilt inherited from Adam, and more guilt resulting from our inner corruption and all the sins that flow from it.

It's our guilt that leads to our principal sin problem. We are guilty before God, and as a result, alienated from him. And we can't repair the relationship; we can't reverse the revolution.

Thank God our true story doesn't end here.

Learn More

Here are a few ways to learn more about our human sin problem (and as always, I welcome your suggestions for additional resources):
  1. Study Genesis 3, Romans 1-3, and Romans 5.
  2. Read up on sin in your favorite systematic theology. It's chapter 24 in Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, which is the one I relied on most to research this post.
  3. Study Chapter 6: Of The Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the Punishment Thereof in the Westminster Confession of Faith (pdf).
  4. Watch or listen to The God Who Does Not Wipe Out Rebels by D. A. Carson.
[1]The God Who Is There: Finding Your Place in God's Story by D. A. Carson, page 33.

[2]Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, page 494.

This post is the latest in a series of posts on truths every Christian woman should know. Here are the previous posts:
  1. God Has Spoken (posted at the True Woman Blog)
  2. God Is Three and God Is One
  3. God Is Who He Is
  4. God Had a Plan
  5. God Created the Universe
  6. We Are Made in God's Image

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