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Anthropology and Hamartiology

The Doctrine of Man and Sin

Sin1. Introduction

[26] Then God said, Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. [27] God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. [28] God blessed them; and God said to them, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth. [29] Then God said, Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; [30] and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food; and it was so. [31] God saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day. (Gen 1:26-31)

Why was man created? This is one of the great theological questions, and people have battled with this question for thousands of years. Those who believe in evolution can never answer this question. However, since we believe that God created us, we can be sure there was a reason for our creation.

2. Why did God create man?

Man seems so insignificant in the midst of God’s creation. We already know that God certainly did not need us. In the study of Theology Proper we have learnt that God is totally independent, and therefore did not have to create us out of any need of His own. However, Scripture states that God created us for His glory.

everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made. (Is 43:7 NIV)

When we realise that God wants us to do everything to His glory, whether we eat or drink (1 Cor 10:31); no matter what we do, then we realise the importance of our lives. We can conclude that since God did not need to create us we have no importance at all. However, since we were created to glorify God, we are important to God Himself. Our purpose on earth therefore is to glorify God. If that is our purpose on earth, should we then not live our lives consciously in order to glorify God?

Yet, even though we are to glorify God, which to some must seem a dreary existence, the Bible tells us to delight ourselves in Him. Jesus came that we should have life abundantly (Jn 10:10).

You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (Ps 16:11 ESV)

To David it was a joy to be in God’s presence. It was in God that he found pleasure. It is in God that we will behold true beauty (Ps 27:4). Scripture is full of people finding joy and fulfilment in the Lord (Ps 73:25-26; 84:1-2, 10).

A Christian’s attitude in life itself and its lessons should be one of rejoicing (Phil 4:4; 1 Th 5:16-18; Js 1:2; 1 Pet 1:6, 8).

[1] THEREFORE, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, [2] through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. [3] And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; [4] and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; [5] and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Rom 5:1-5)

When we glorify God and rejoice in Him, the Lord also rejoices over us (Is 62:5; Zeph 3:17-18).

Would it be wrong for God to seek to be glorified? If we think in terms of ourselves we can conclude that it would be wrong. Yet, who is greater than our God? Who is higher in the heavens than our God? None! Only One deserves the glory. Our God! He deserves all the glory. What happens when His creatures try to rob God of His glory?

[21] On the appointed day Herod, wearing his royal robes, sat on his throne and delivered a public address to the people. [22] They shouted, "This is the voice of a god, not of a man." [23] Immediately, because Herod did not give praise to God, an angel of the Lord struck him down, and he was eaten by worms and died. (Ac 12:21-23 NIV)

We can never add to His glory. Herod died because he accepted glory that did not belong to him.

But when God takes glory to himself, from whom is he robbing glory? Is there anyone who deserves glory more than he does? Certainly not! He is the Creator, he made all things, and he deserves all glory. He is worthy of receiving glory. Man may not seek glory for himself, but in thus case what is wrong for man is right for God, because he is the Creator. It is right, not wrong, that he be glorified—in fact, if he did not receive glory from all creatures in the universe, that would be horribly wrong!1

It is totally fitting for the twenty four elders to give glory to God.

"You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being." (Rev 4:11 NIV)

3. The likeness of Man

Only one creature, man, was made “in the image of God.” The plan for God was to make a creature similar to Himself. The Hebrew word tselem meaning, “image” (צלם), and the Hebrew word demut meaning, “likeness” (דמוּת), both refer to something that is not identical, yet similar to that which it represents. The word tselem is used in other passages as a similarity and representative, i.e. of statues  in the “likenesses of your tumors and likenesses of your mice” (1 Sam 6:5, 11), of paintings of “men portrayed on the wall, images of the Chaldeans portrayed with vermilion” (Ex 23:14), of idols when the people went to the house of Baal and tore down “his altars and his images” (2 Ki 11:18). The word demut as a similarity more than a representative is used elsewhere, i.e. king Ahaz sent the “pattern of the altar and its model” to the priest (2 Ki 16:10), of “figures like oxen [which] were under” the bronze altar (2 Chr 4:3), of an idol as “a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female" (Dt 4:16).

Many have tried to specify the specific characteristics of man that are in the image of God. Theologians have come up with lists of what it means to be in the image and likeness of God, such as man’s intellectual abilities, his ability to make moral decisions, man’s original moral purity, etc.

However, the words at hand had specific meanings to the original readers, and it simply meant that man was like God and would represent God. So, Gen 1:26 could say something like Grudem suggests, “Let Us make man to be like us and to represent us.” Trying to make a list of the characteristics of man which are like God would in any event be too restrictive.

4. The Fall: Distorting God’s image

Is man still in God’s image after the fall? Can we still think of man as like God after Adam’s sin?

Even after the fall of man, God still put a high premium on human life, and still specified man as created in His image.

Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image. (Gen 9:6 ESV)

Surely there is still enough of God’s image in man that God would regard the murder of another person as an attack on that part of His creation that most resembles Him! This notion is upheld in the New Testament.

With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. (Js 3:9 NIV)

Since the fall of man, that image and likeness of God in man has been distorted.

Behold, I have found only this, that God made men upright, but they have sought out many devices. (Eccl 7:29)

When God created man, God saw that as very good (Gen 1:31). In order to know what the true nature of man should be like, we only need to look at Jesus as a man on earth. He portrayed the nature of man in the image of God accurately.

5. Aspects of our likeness to God

5.1 Moral

We, as God’s rational creatures, are held morally accountable before God for our actions, and we also have an inner sense of what is right and wrong. Our likeness to God is emulated in behaviour that is holy and righteous when we act according to God’s moral standards.

5.2 Spiritual

Apart from creatures with physical aspects to our nature, we also have spirits that are immaterial. This gives us the capacity that provides the means by which we can relate to God as persons. As a result of our spiritual natures we have immortality. Just because our bodies will one day cease to exist, we will continue to live forever.

5.3 Mental

As human beings we also have the capacity to reason and think logically and as a result also to learn. We have the ability to use abstract language that sets us apart from the rest of God’s creation. We also have an awareness of the distant future, which no animal can have.  As human beings we are also creative in art, music, literature and even in scientific expertise.

6. God “created them male and female”

God did not create us to be isolated persons with no contact or interpersonal relationships.

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. (Gen 2:24)

Apart from the physical unity between husband and wife, there is also a spiritual and emotional unity of fathomless dimensions. When a man and woman get married they are joined together by God (Mt 19:6).

6.1 Equal value

Naturally, today there are many people who claim that men and women are equal. Sure, this is true, but most of these people who give this kind of knee jerk reaction to what the Bible teaches on the subject totally misunderstand the Biblical teaching.

The Bible teaches us that men and women have been created equal in their personhood and importance. When God made man in His image,

in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Gen 1:27; see also Gen 5:1-2)

They are made equally in God’s image. Men and women then are equally important and equally valuable to God. Paul shows clearly that men and women are equal.

[11] However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. [12] For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. (1 Cor 11:11-12 NIV)

The Bible never speaks of any kind of second class Christian among God’s people.

6.2 Different roles

In the Trinity each Person has equal importance. However, each One has a different role. Look at salvation: the Father did not die for our sins, nor did the Holy Spirit, but the Son. The Father sent the Son into the world to die. He did not send the Holy Spirit for that purpose. The Spirit came to empower the church on Pentecost, not the Father or the Son.

In the reflection of the character of God in humans, we can expect to have the same importance among each other, but differences in roles. These differences are noted even in the most basic of differences; that of sexuality among male and female.

Paul shows such a difference in authority:

But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. (1 Cor 11:3)

Even though man and woman are equal in importance, value and basic nature, they have differences in role, such as man being given that of the head.

Many have said that such differences in roles were non-existent before the fall, and as such should not be necessary after being saved, having been restored in Christ to the pre-fall state.

To the woman he said, "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." (Gen 3:16 NIV)

Is Gen 3:16 an indication of what we became due to the fall? The Bible, however, does not concur on this point. It does show a difference instituted by God. What are the points we can look at for differences before the fall?

  • Adam was created before Eve. Creating Adam some time before Eve suggests that God had a leadership role in mind for Adam. The Old Testament pattern has always been that the first-born in any family has leadership in the family for that generation. We do have a backup from the New Testament in Paul:

For Adam was formed first, then Eve; (1 Tim. 2:13 ESV)

Paul uses this for his argument for restricting some distinct governing and teaching roles in the church to men.

  • Eve was created a helpmeet for Adam. God made Eve for Adam, not Adam for man (Gen 2:18).
  • Eve was named by Adam. In the Old Testament the right to name someone implied authority over that person. In such a way we see Adam naming the animals (Gen 2:19-20). In such a way Adam then named Eve as woman (Gen 2:23). A Hebrew name designated the characteristics or function of someone, and so Adam was specifying the characteristics or functions of the animals. This he also did with Eve.
  • God named the human race as man, not woman (Gen 5:2). God named the human race with a term that specifically referred to Adam, which term was also used to make a distinction from woman.
  • After the fall, God spoke to Adam first. God spoke to Adam before Eve was created and now after the fall God first spoke to Adam. This, in spite the fact that Eve first sinned. God saw Adam as the leader in the family and held him accountable for what happened. God spoke to Adam before He spoke to Eve saying that “he will rule over you.
  • Adam represents the human race. The fact that Eve sinned first did not deter God to hold the human race accountable because of Adam’s sin. We are told in the New Testament that we all die in Adam (1 Cor 15:22; 49f; Rom 5:15, 12-21).
  • The curse after the fall brought distortion, not new roles. When God punished Adam and Eve He did not introduce new roles, but simply distorted the old roles they already had. From now on, the work of Adam will bring seat and hard work, and Eve will deliver children with pain. It is at this point that God told Eve “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” On the word desire from the Hebrew teshuqah (תּשׁוּקה)

see Susan. T. Foh, “What is the Woman’s Desire?” in WTJ, vol. 37 (1975), pp. 376-83. Foh notes that this same Hebrew word occurs in a closely parallel statement just a few verses later, when God says to Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door, and its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Gen. 4:7). The parallelism in the Hebrew text between the verses is quite remarkable: six words (counting conjunctions and prepositions) are exactly the same, and in the same order. Another four nouns and pronouns are in the same position and have the same function in the sentence, but they differ only because the parties involved are different. But in that sentence the “desire” that sin has for Cain is surely a desire to overcome or conquer him, as is evident from the image of an animal “crouching” at the door waiting for him.

Thus, Susan Foh has competently argued that the Hebrew word teshuqah mean “desire to conquer,” indicating a wrongful desire by Eve to assume authority over her husband. This introduced conflict into their relationship and a desire by Eve to rebel against Adam’s authority just like he rebelled against the authority of God.

When God said that Adam would rule over Eve He used the word mashal (משׁל). This word is usually used of monarchial governments, not in a general way in families. It does not imply any participatory government but is dictatorial and absolute. This also introduced conflict in this relationship.

  • The New Testament affirms the created order. With the distortion of roles at the fall of man, we can expect an undoing of these distortions with Christ. We can expect the New Testament pattern to be that of the creation order: men not to rule their wives harshly, and wives not to rebel against their husbands’ authority.

[18] Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. [19] Husbands, love your wives and do not be embittered against them. (Col 3:18-19; see also Eph 5:22-23; Tit 2:5; 1 Pet 3:1-7)

If this pattern were indeed incorrect for wives to submit to their husbands, Paul and Peter would not have commanded this order to be maintained.

7. Man’s nature

Some people believe that man consists of two part: body and soul (dichotomy). There are those who add a third part: spirit (trichotomy). Which is the correct view?

The trichotomist view has been the popular view in Evangelical teaching. This view teaches that the soul includes man’s emotions, will and intellect. The argument is that man’s spirit is a higher faculty in man, which comes alive when a person becomes a Christian (Rom 8:10), which would then most directly worship God and pray to Him.

The dichotomists, on the other hand, believe that spirit is not a separate part of man, but an interchangeable term for soul.

7.1 What does the Bible teach?

Besides wondering whether Scripture views soul and spirit as distinct parts of man, we need to understand that the Biblical emphasis is on the unity of man, not his separate parts (Gen 2:7). Adam is seen as a living being. Even our salvation is seen by Scripture as that of the whole man: inner and outer man.

The Biblical representation of the nature of man is dichotomic. Even though Scripture sees man as a dichotomy, it never sees man as dualistic. When man acts, Scripture sees the whole of man acting, not just the soul or the body. It is not simply the soul that sins, but man. It is not the body that dies, but man. It is the whole of man that is saved, not just the soul.

7.1.1 Definitions

Let’s have a look at what the Hebrew and Greek lexicons can provide us. The Hebrew lexicographical meanings are from The New Brown-Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Massachusetts, 1979:

SOUL (nephesh - נפשׁ)

soul, living being, life, self, person, desire, appetite, emotion, passion

1)  that which breathes, the breathing substance or being, soul, the inner being of man
2)  living being
3)  a living being whose life resides in the blood
4)  the man himself, self, person
5)  seat of the appetites
6)  seat of emotions and passions

SPIRIT (ruach - רוּח)

breath, wind, spirit

1)  breath
2)  wind
3)  spirit, as that which breathes quickly in animation or agitation
3a) spirit, animation, vivacity, vigour
3b) courage
3c) temper, anger
3d) impatience or patience
3e) spirit, disposition, as troubled, bitter, or discontented
3f) various kinds of disposition, unaccountable or uncontrollable impulse
4)  spirit of the living, breathing being, in men and animals
5)  spirit as seat of emotion
5a) desire
5b) sorrow, trouble
6)  seat or organ of mental acts
7)  rarely of the will
8)  as seat of moral character

Both soul and spirit point to that which breathes and also to that which is the seat of emotions and passions.

The Greek lexicographical meanings are from A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, Second Edition, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois, 1979:

SOUL (psuche - ψυχη)

soul, life

1)  of life on earth in its external, physical aspects
1a) breath of life, life-principle, soul
1b) earthly life itself
1c) soul (as seat and center of the inner life of man in its varied aspects)
1d) seat of emotions and feelings
1e) soul (as seat and center of life that transcends the earthly)
2)  by metonymy that which possesses life or a soul, a living creature, person

SPIRIT (pneuma - πνευμα)

1)  blowing, breathing
1a) wind
1b) breathing out of air, blowing, breath
2)  breath, life-spirit, soul, that which gives life to the body
3)  spirit as part of human personality
3a) used together with flesh denotes immaterial part
3b) as source and seat of insight, feeling and will, the representative part of the inner life of man
3c) spiritual state, state of mind, disposition
4)  a spirit as an independent being
4a) God Himself
4b) good, or at least not expressly evil spirits or spirit beings
4c) evil spirits
5)  the spirit as that which differentiates God from everything that is not God
5a) the Spirit of God
5b) the Spirit of Christ
5c) Holy Spirit

So, soul and spirit both point to the life-principle, or breath of life and also the seat and center of feeling and the inner life of man. Both point to the seat and center of life that transcends the earthly. Both point to the spiritual side of man.

7.1.2 Soul and spirit are used interchangeably

The words for soul and spirit are used interchangeably in the Scriptures. Both terms denote the higher or spiritual element in man.

Those who had died and left their bodies are called souls (Rev 6:9; 20:4), not spirits as would be expected in the trichotomist view. One would also, under that view, expect to be told to love the Lord with our spirits, being that part of man that is “intimately” involved and connected with God. Yet, we are told to love the Lord with our souls (Mk 12:30). What is anchored to the Lord? Is it our souls or our spirits? We are told in Hebrews 6:18-19 that our souls are anchored to the Lord.

We find Hebrew parallelism in the New Testament as it is used in the Old Testament. The concept of Hebrew parallelism, is a poetic device in which the same idea is repeated by using different words that are synonymous.

[46] And Mary said: My soul exalts the Lord, [47] And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. (Lk 1:46-47).

Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. (Job 7:11)

This poetic device is used throughout the Scriptures and is very common (Job 12:10; Is 26:9).

The Scriptures sometimes contrasts the body and the soul (Mt 6:25; 10:28) and sometimes the body and the spirit (1 Cor 5:3, 5; Eccl 12:7). In death, the soul is sometimes spoken of as given up (Gen 35:18; 1 Ki 17:21; Ac 15:26), and at other times the spirit is spoken of as given up (Ps 31:5; Lk 23:46; Ac 7:59). Furthermore, both soul and spirit are used to indicate the immaterial element of the dead (Heb 12:23; Rev 20:4).

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. (Rev 6:9 NIV)

through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison (1 Pet 3:19 NIV)

Jesus speaks of His troubled soul (Jn 12:27) and of His troubled spirit (Jn 13:21).

Another example of the interchangeability of soul and spirit in man can be found in the account of Hannah’s great sorrow in 1 Sam 1.

She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. (1 Sam 1:10)

The NIV here translates “greatly distressed” as “bitterness of soul,” as does the KJV. Five verses later, after Eli the priest accused her of being drunk (the reason for her emotional condition according to Eli), she responds to Eli to explain the reason for her weeping.

But Hannah replied, No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the LORD. (1 Sam 1:15)

See how the passage now changes soul to spirit? In verse 10 she is in “bitterness of soul,” but now it shows her as “oppressed in spirit.”

In Scripture, the soul is seen as departing at death (Gen 35:18; Lk 12:20) or the spirit is seen as departing at death (Ps 31:5; Lk 23:46; Eccl 12:7); man is either body and soul (Mt 10:28) or body and spirit (1 Cor 5:5; Js 2:26); the soul (1 Pet 1:22; Rev 18:14) can sin or the spirit (2 Cor 7:1, 34; Ps 78:8) can sin. In essence, Scripture shows us that all that we can say of the soul can also be said of the spirit.

7.1.3 What about the “trichotomist” verses?

The two verses most commonly used as “proof” texts for the trichotomist view are 1 Thes 5:23 and Heb 4:12.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thes 5:23)

Does this verse teach a trichotomist view of man? Does Moses teach a trichotomist view of man in Dt 6:5?

And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might (MKJV)

Do you notice that the trichotomy proposed by Moses is different than that of 1 Thes 5:23? It seems that he teaches a three-part man of heart, soul and might (strength). Paul does not mention heart and strength. Should we then conclude from this that man is a five part (pentachotomy) being?

Paul’s intention was not to split man into three parts any more than Jesus intended to split man into four parts.

He answered: "`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind' ; and, `Love your neighbor as yourself.' " (Lk 10:27 NIV)

When Jesus repeats this saying later in Mt 22:37, He says it a little differently. Note that the word “strength” is dropped then. However, the same account of Mt 22:37 is also in Mk 12:30, this time with “strength” present. The conclusion is that Jesus did not mean to split man into four parts, but He is using a style that would have made His hearers understand that He is talking of the complete human being. Man’s love of God should be complete. We can ask the same questions about many other passages of Scripture.

And like unto him was there no king before him, that turned to the LORD with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; neither after him arose there any like him. (2 Ki 23:25 King James Version)

Is this passage now also teaching some type of trichotomy by itself?

What then about Heb 4:12?

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Heb 4:12 NIV)

Many contend that this passage must prove the existence of a separation between spirit and soul and therefore they are not synonymous.

However, the word used here in Hebrews for dividing (merizw - μεριζω), is never used in the New Testament for the division of two different things, but rather the division of the same thing, or the different aspects of the same thing (see Heb 2:4; Lk 11:17-18; 12:13; Mt 27:25; Jn 19:24; Rom 12:3; 1 Cor 1:13). This word can also be seen as synonymous with diamerizw (διαμεριζω), as can be seen in the parallel passages in Mk 3:24-25 (μεριζω) and Lk 11:17-18 ((διαμεριζω).

The point, therefore, of Heb 4:12, is not that God separates two distinct entities – soul and spirit – but that the Word “judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” This verse stresses the power of God’s Word to enter the deepest parts of a person’s being. If a division was intended, we would have expected the author to use “bone and marrow” and not “joints and marrow.”

7.1.4 Man, a vital union

J. Barton Payne, in his The Theology of the Older Testament, Zondervan, Thirteenth Printing, 1980, p225, gives a slightly different explanation with similar results.

Nefesh, Soul

In essence this is saying dust + breath = flesh and flesh + spirit = soul. The point of the Biblical stance concerning the composition of man is that man is one, and God deals with man as such. God does not deal with man on one level and not on another.

We can see this indivisible union in man by looking at the effects the one has on the other. When the soul leaves the body, the body ceases to live. Certain states of the body produce corresponding states in the mind, and vice versa. The mind sees, hears, feels, but only through the appropriate organs of the body. A healthy condition in the body is necessary for a healthy state of mind. Certain diseases or conditions of the one can cause derangement in operations in another. Emotions can also cause the body to react. Shame causes us to blush. Joy causes the heart to beat faster. A blow on the head renders the mind into another state. A brain disease may cause erratic action in the mind such as insanity. See Gen 45:27; Lev 5:15; Num 11:6; 21:5; Josh 5:1; Jud 15:19; 16:16; 1 Sam 1:10, 15; 30:12; 1 Ki 21:5; Job 30:15-17; Prov 18:14.

8. Man and Sin

Sin is the failure to adhere to the law of God in act, attitude or nature.

8.1 The origin of sin

We cannot blame God for sin, since it is ourselves who sin. God is perfect and cannot sin.

His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He. (Dt 32:4)

James puts it this way:

[13] When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; [14] but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. (Js 1:13-14 NIV)

The existence of sin, to a large extent, is still a mystery to us. All we know is that it does exist. How did sin come into existence? What was its origin? How could a good God allow sin to originate in His creation? If God did not stop its “birth,” was He unable to? Apart from the fact that God cannot be blamed for sin, nor can He ever sin,

we must guard against an opposite error: it would be wrong for us to say there is an existing evil power in the universe similar to or equal to God himself in power. To say this would be to affirm what is called an ultimate “dualism” in the universe, the existence of two equally ultimate powers, one good and the other evil.2

The fact is that sin did not surprise God! Sin did not defy or conquer His omnipotence in His creation. The truth is that God

works all things after the counsel of His will. (Eph 1:11)

This God who

does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, "What have You done?” (Dan 4:35)

did ordain that sin would come into the world, even though he does not delight in it and even though he ordained that it would come about through the voluntary choices of moral creatures.

Before Adam and Eve sinned, sin was present among the angels with the fall of Satan and his demons.

[12] How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! [13] You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. [14] I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High." [15] But you are brought down to the grave, to the depths of the pit. (Is 14:12-15 NIV)

The first sin committed by Adam and Eve occurred in the Garden of Eden (Gen 3:1-19). Grudem gives four reasons for Adam and Eve’s sin. First, it answered the question What is true? God said one thing and they wanted to see if the opposite opinion of Satan was true (Gen 3:4). Second, it answers the question What is right? God told them that it would be right not to eat from the tree, but they wanted to see if the serpent was right in that they would become like God (Gen 3:5). Third, their sin answered the question Who am I? They were dependent on God and existed because of Him, but they had to see if they would become like God (Gen 3:5). Fourth, all sin is ultimately fallacious. Did it really make sense for Satan to rebel in the hope of usurping God’s place, or did it really make sense for Adam and Eve to disobey God in the hope that they could gain anything at all by doing so? (See Ps 14:1; Prov 10:23; 12:15; 14:7, 16; 15:5; 18:2)

8.2 Original sin

The phrase “original sin” does not refer to Adam’s first sin. Traditionally it has meant the sin that is ours as a result of Adam’s fall. This doctrine would be better understood as “inherited sin.” The reason why “inherited sin” may be misunderstood is that we do not inherit our sin from our parents. Our sin is inherited or imputed from the original sin of Adam’s fall. The guilt belongs to us because it belonged to our first father, Adam.

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— (Rom 5:12 ESV)

The effects of Adam sin are of such a nature that God thought of all of us as having sinned when Adam sinned (Rom 5:12-21). It is futile for us to claim that it is unfair, when we deal with an omniscient and all-powerful God. We cannot even begin to claim to know better than God.

[20] The thing molded will not say to the molder, Why did you make me like this, will it? [21] Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use? (Rom 9:20-21)

If it were unfair for God to count Adam’s sin to our account, then it was also unfair of God to count the righteousness of Jesus to our account. Yet, this is exactly how God gets it right in His almighty justice to get us away from having to keep the law don to the final iota for our salvation. If it were not for this system of God of one for all, we would have had to keep the whole of the law for our salvation. The result would have been that no one would ever be saved. Therefore, if we are so happy to accept the work of one man on the cross to buy our salvation, then we should not be hesitant to accept the sin of one man to our account! Apart from the fact that Adam’s guilt was imputed to us, it also remains a fact that each one of us have committed many actual sins, and we will be judged for those (Rom 2:6; Col 3:25), because we are guilty. Adam is our representative in our sin, in the same way as Christ is our representative in salvation.

We have not just inherited the guilt of Adams’s sin, but we have also inherited the corruption of that sin.

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. (Ps 51:5)

David is very conscious of his sin in the whole passage, especially from verse 1 to 4. David shows here how our nature has a disposition to sin.

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. (Eph 2:3)

Naturally, the tendency of humans to sin does not mean that human beings are all as bad as they could be. God has put many constraints in this world to prevent us from being as bad as we could be: civil law, family and societal expectations, and human conscience (Rom 2:14-15)

We totally lack any spiritual good before God. It is not just some parts that are sinful, rather every part of our beings has been affected by sin, intellect, emotions, desires, etc.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. (Rom 7:18)

To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. (Tit 1:15)

The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it? (Jer 17:9)

We are totally unable in our actions to please God. We do not have the ability to come to God in our own strength.

Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God. (Rom 8:8 NIV)

For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Is 64:6; cf Rom 3:9-20)

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. (1 Cor 2:14)

8.3 Actual sin

Apart from having the guilt and sinful corruption imputed to us, we are also sinful before God in practice. There is a universal sinfulness in mankind.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. (Ps 14:3 ESV)

The fact is that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23; cf Rom 1:18-3:20).

8.4 Result of sin

The final result of sin is God’s wrath against the sinner.

[30] Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, [31] because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead. (Ac 17:30-31)

The day will come when judgement will come upon sinners, those who have not believed in Jesus (Mt 10:15; 11:22, 24; 12:36; 25:31-46; 1 Cor 4:5; Heb 6:2; 2 Pet 2:4; Jude 6)

[5] But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. [6] He will render to each one according to his works:  [7] to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; (Rom 2:5-7 ESV)

9. Conclusion

Man was created in God’s image, but because of the sinful fall of man, he has become unable to please God or to come to God in his own strength. Man has become totally unable to approach God, and is therefore doomed to endure God’s wrath unless…. unless he believes in the Lord Jesus Christ for his salvation!


[1] Wayne Grudem, SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1994, p442.
[2] Grudem, p492.
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