The Doctrine of Sin
KNOW WHAT YOU BELIEVE
LESSON 6 – THE DOCTRINE OF SIN
Sin…it’s an ugly topic, and one personally we should avoid…yet if we are to see God, it must be dealt with. But the biggest debate on this subject lies in the area of the responsibility for sin. Most Bible believers agree that Adam’s sin had physical effects on all of his offspring (hard work, pain in childbirth, physical death – Gen. 3:16-19). The real debate is whether Adam’s sin has affected all mankind spiritually. Is a child born guilty as a result of Adam’s sin (the belief of original sin)? Are we born depraved because of Adam’s sin? Or is man born innocent and chooses or learns sin later in life? Total depravity…partial depravity…or born innocent?
To clarify this doctrine, we will have to examine two issues: guilt and depravity. As we will see, how we approach this issue will also have an affect on our doctrine of salvation.
1. Define sin. (Missing the mark, breaking God’s law, falling away.) 1 Jn. 3:4 Who do we sin against – God, self or others? (All three.)
2. What are the sources of sin? (From our text: Satan, the world, our heart.)
3. How do you address the subject of original sin in Ps. 51:5?
Insight: A whole doctrine has been built around this verse and it pays to do a grammatical analysis of it. David is not applying the sin and iniquity to himself. The prepositional phrases “in iniquity” and “in sin” are used to modify the act of being conceived and the act of being born. It is possible that the sin belongs to his mother. The phrase “in sin my mother conceived me” is grammatically parallel to “in drunkenness my husband beat me.” In verses 1-4 David addresses his personal sin in connection to Bathsheba, but he is not implying this refers to iniquity connected with his birth. He is humbling himself before God in figurative language in the same way other writers sometimes refer to man as a worm (Ps. 22:6; Isa. 41:14). In grammar this is a hyperbole, or exaggeration for emphasis.
4. Tackle another difficult verse: Eph. 2:1-3, reconciling the phrase “children of wrath” with your view of the responsibility of sin.
Insight: In verses 1-2 Paul addresses the Gentile Christians “(you”) and their pre-Christian life in harsh terms. In verse 3 he admits that the Jews (“we”), before they came to faith in Christ, were also slaves to sin and “were by nature children of wrath” (lost), “even as the rest” (the Gentiles). His main point is that unbelieving Gentiles and unbelieving Jews are part of the same family…the lost. The question is whether they were lost by birth or by choice. This phrase is a metaphorical reference to the years prior to coming to Christ, not literal; there is no connotation to the state before birth. The language here implies nothing about how we got that way. It is not our eternal nature to be children of wrath; it is not our created nature to be children of wrath; nor are we children of wrath by divine appointment. We became children of wrath by our own personal choice. Eph. 2:1 Verse 5 attributes the death to multiple “transgressions”. By giving in to sin we made sin our very nature – we joined the family of the lost.
5. How does Paul contrast the consequences of Adam’s sin with the consequences of Christ’s atoning death in Rom. 5:12-19?
Insight: Rather than thinking this passage supports original sin, the opposite is actually the case – it supports original grace. The context of these verses is revealed in verses 1-11. Paul assures us that we can put all our hope and confidence in one saving act (the cross) of one man (Jesus Christ). In these verses he makes ten references to the saving efficacy of Christ and his cross. Then in verses 12-19 Paul shows the contrast of one act of Adam upon the human race. The purpose of this passage is to increase our confidence in the all-sufficiency of the death of Christ.
Insight: Whichever view of original sin you hold, Paul’s main point in this passage is that whatever man got from Adam has been completely canceled out for the whole human race by the gracious atoning work of Jesus Christ. The only consequence is physical death, and it is countered with the promise of resurrection to eternal life.
6. Let’s turn from original sin to the topic of personal sin. What are your criteria for deciding the age of accountability for sin?
Insight: The age of accountability is not when they know the difference between right and wrong, but when they choose the wrong and feel guilty and make efforts to “come clean.” It is a matter of spiritual development. It is the age when a child connects the law to God, and connects disobedience with eternal penalty. Discerning when a child reaches this point requires a careful and prayerful monitoring of their spiritual development. Rom. 1:18; 2:14-16
7. Why do you think the unsaved have a tendency to deny their guilt and their personal responsibility for their sins?
Insight: Look at the progression of thought: The very idea of sin presupposes the Law of God…which presupposes the existence of God…and it presupposes we have a free will to choose sin. If you deny sin, you don’t have to deal with all these conclusions.
8. What problems do we face as the result of our own sins? (Distance from God, guilt, damaged relationships, habits that enslave us and wound others, tossing in our sleep, no peace, death, God’s image in us is corrupted.) Ps. 38:1-22
9. What happens to the person who sins against God? (Ultimately, death and judgment that ends with eternal condemnation in Hell if you do not know Jesus as your Lord and Savior.) 2 Cor. 5:10
10. Describe for me the sinful nature that sin brings about in the sinner? (Weakness of the soul, making it harder to resist temptation; our spirit is corrupted, and depraved; the mind is blinded from the truth; the sinner is spiritually sick and evil in their inner nature.) Matt. 12:33-35; Eph. 4:17-19
11. What weaknesses do you see in Calvin’s doctrine of total depravity? (This doctrine teaches a sinner is totally unable to believe the gospel and turn to God for salvation; it teaches that sinners are unable to do anything good.)
12. What simple steps can we take to completely remove sin from our soul? (Repent, confess, ask Jesus to be your Savior.)
“O Lord God, our sin is ever before us. It haunts us like a hound day and night. By day, temptation faces us at every corner. By night, the guilt will not let our heart rest. Wash us clean, Father. Wash away the guiltiness and the damage it has done to our soul and our relationships. Oh how we long to be like You – what You forgive You remember not more. Though we are not like You in this manner, give us such a reassurance of the forgiveness of our sin that the remembrance of it has no right to haunt us. Thank you Jesus for all You willingly did to remove our sins from us as far as the east is from the west. Amen.”