Doctrine of Original Sin

What do we mean by “original sin”?

Original sin refers to the first sin of Adam. Through this first sin of Adam, sin came into this world.

What is the consequence of this original sin?

Sin and death entered the world

(Romans 5:12)  Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—

Does that mean that we are born sinful?

Rom 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all people, because all sinned.

The verse tells us that death spread to all men because all man sinned. Not because one man sinned.

The Bible teaches that each person is responsible for his own sins.

(Ezekiel 18:20)  The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

We are born into a corrupted world. Even if we are not born sinful, by being born into a corrupted world, none of us have enough resolve to keep ourselves from sinning.

Adam, therefore, became the floodgate through which death came into this world. We too face death because all men sinned, not because of Adam’s sin.

Rom 5:18 Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Some interpret the above verses to mean that because all mankind is condemned because of Adam’s choice to sin and not because of our own sin. However, if we were to interpret it this way, we would also have to interpret the above verses to mean that because of Jesus’ death on the cross, all mankind is saved, and we are not saved due to our choice to place our faith in Jesus. We know that this interpretation is not correct. Therefore, we would have to interpret the above verses to mean that what Adam and Jesus did was simply to open the way for death and life respectively. It is then based on our own choice whether to sin, which leads to death, or to have faith in Jesus, which leads to eternal life.

What about the following verse that says that we are born sinful?

(Psalms 51:5)  Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

The verse above could be referring to our sinful nature, which  causes in us the propensity to sin

In Romans 7, Paul expresses his tendency to sin because of the “sin” that lives within him. He uses the expression “sin” to refer to the sinful nature that causes him to want to sin.

Paul tells us he is controlled by his sinful nature.

(Romans 7:5)  For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death.

(Romans 7:18)  I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

He also tells us he is controlled by “sin”.

(Romans 7:8)  But sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, produced in me every kind of covetous desire. For apart from law, sin is dead.

(Romans 7:11)  For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death.

(Romans 7:17)  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.

(Romans 7:20)  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Is it unfair that God creates in us a propensity to sin?

The propensity to sin is the natural consequence of a fallen human race. An alcoholic mother passes to her baby the natural propensity to also become an alcoholic. A parent with AIDS also passes to the child the disease.

Babies who die do not go to hell because of their original sin

There is no direct scriptural reference to that but the story of David gave us and indication of the fate of babies.

(2 Samuel 12:23)  But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”

His son, conceived out of adultery with Bathsheba, died. David wrote that he shall “go to him” implying that the baby is already in heaven.

From Ps 16:10-11, it can also be seen that David believed in the resurrection of the dead. Therefore when he spoke about being with his son after death, he implied that those who died in infancy go to heaven.

Further, the prophet Isaiah (speaking about the coming of Jesus) teaches that there is a point of time when a child begins to be able to distinguish between right and wrong. It is therefore true that before this time, he would not be able to choose.

(Isaiah 7:14-16)  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. {15} He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right. {16} But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.

As a follow-up to this teaching, one can go one step further to say that before a person can distinguish between right and wrong, he will not be held accountable. Jesus teaches that if a person is blind (i.e. not able to distinguish between right and wrong), he will not be held guilty of sin.

(John 9:40-41)  Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?” {41} Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

Jesus also taught that there will be little children in heaven.

(Mark 10:14)  When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.