The great purpose for which Jesus Christ came to earth was to save man from sin. Unless we grasp this important fact, our whole belief in Him is vain.
In the next lesson, we shall study how we may receive forgiveness of sins through Christ. Before doing so, however, we need to learn something about sin and its consequences.
John teaches that ‘sin is the transgression of the law,’ 1 John 3:4. While crime is the transgression of the law of the land and vice is the transgression of the moral standards and customs of the people, sin is the transgression of the law of God. The word literally means ‘to miss the mark’. Since God’s will is the mark, whenever we fail to obey it, we have sinned.
Many sins are moral in nature. Some of these, such as idolatry, adultery, and drunkenness, are condemned in the Bible by name. Other sins, such as gambling, are not mentioned in the Scriptures, but are condemned by moral principles taught in God’s word. John sums up all of these works of the flesh by saying, ‘All unrighteousness is sin,’ 1 John 5:17.
Sins of omission are also condemned in the Divine Book. ‘If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them,’ James 4:17.
For example, Christians are to visit the sick, Matthew 25:36, but if they know of those whom they should visit and neglect to do so, they have sinned. We must not only not do the things God has forbidden, but we must also do the things He has commanded.
Still another type of sin is that of disobedience to God when no moral principle is involved. King Saul as told to ‘utterly destroy’ the Amalekites.
But he thought he knew better than God and saved some of the animals to sacrifice and spared the life of the Amalekite king. Although he violated no moral principle of which we have been informed, he still sinned because he disobeyed God.
In a similar way Christians may sin today. For example, Jesus prescribed the elements to be used in the Lord’s supper as bread and fruit of the vine. Should we substitute chicken and orange juice for these we would be sinning because in changing God’s commends we would be disobeying Him.
The Bible does not teach that there are degrees of sin. It does not condone ‘little white lies’ while denouncing ‘big black lies’. It does teach, ‘But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur,’ Revelation 21:8.
It is true that the physical consequences of some sins are worse than others. We would all rather that another would hate us than that he would kill us. But from the standpoint of the sinner hatred will cost him eternal life as quickly as murder, 1 John 3:15.
In forbidding Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil God said, ‘you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die,’ Genesis 2:17.
When Adam sinned, he did die, both physically and spiritually. As a result of his transgression that day, Adam died physically many years later and his posterity has been subject to physical death since that time.
Of even greater importance is the fact that Adam died spiritually the day he sinned in that he was cast out of God’s presence in the Garden. Spiritual death is separation from God as physical death is separation of the soul from the body.
We ought never to think of spiritual death as annihilation. All spiritual death is the result of sin, Romans 6:23 / Romans 8:13. Paul does not here refer to physical death since we all die physically anyway whether we live after the flesh or after the Spirit, Ephesians 2:1.
Thus, unless a man is ‘made alive’ spiritually in Christ while he yet lives physically, Colossians 2:13, he will after physical death be separated from God eternally in spiritual death in the lake of fire and brimstone, Revelation 21:8.
Do we inherit the guilt of the sins of Adam and our parents, or will we be accountable only for those sins which we personally commit? The Scriptures plainly teach that we must answer to God for our own sins rather than those of our ancestors, Romans 14:12 / 2 Corinthians 5:10.
Note that Paul teaches that we come short of God’s glory through our own sins, Romans 3:23, not that we are born short through the mistakes of our forebears.
The doctrine that a baby is born with the stain of the sin of Adam and his parents upon him is known as ‘original sin’. It concludes that a little baby who has never personally sinned is forever condemned to hell unless that infant is baptised. Neither the expression ‘original sin’ nor the idea it represents is found in the Bible.
God’s word teaches the opposite, Ezekiel 18:20. In other words, a child is not accountable for his parents’ sins. This teaching fails to consider that sin is an act, ‘the transgression of the law’ – 1 John 3:4, and therefore not an inheritable trait. It may no more be inherited than cooking a meal or driving a car since these are acts rather than characteristics.
If babies were born sinners, Jesus would not have chosen them as examples for us to follow, Matthew 18:3. Surely Jesus is not exhorting His disciples to become like sin-blackened children doomed to everlasting punishment.
We are the ‘offspring of God’, Acts 17:29, and our spirits have been given by God, Ecclesiastes 12:7. Were the doctrine of original sin true these passages would imply that we inherit original sin from God himself which cannot be since God is perfect.
What then do we inherit from our physical parents? We inherit the ability to know good and evil, and also the human weakness which in time causes us to sin.
We do not inherit the guilt of Adam’s transgressions nor that of our parents. Until a child is old enough to understand the meaning of sin, he is as pure in the sight of God as the freshly fallen winter snow.
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