Title Sovereignty in Salvation: The Doctrines of Grace on blue mountain background

When God created the universe in six days, He described everything He made as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). As fallen human beings, it is difficult, if not impossible, for us to comprehend what it means to live in a world where everything is perfect. No sin. No disease. No suffering. No death. Even our greatest imaginations of a true utopia pale in comparison to life in the Garden of Eden prior to the Fall. Adam and Eve enjoyed perfect communion and fellowship with their Creator and with each other, both being “naked and not ashamed” (Genesis 2:25). We all know what happened next in Genesis 3: the serpent deceived Eve into eating from the tree of which God commanded our first parents not to eat, Adam willfully chose to disobey God, and all of creation was cursed as a result of Adam and Eve’s sin. Paradise was gone, innocence was replaced with shame, the perfect fellowship that Adam and Eve once enjoyed with God was now broken. Access to the Tree of Life was now blocked off by the cherubim.

Read the rest of Genesis and one thing becomes clear: wherever man was present, sin was always present. The very first murder took place by the hands of none other than Adam and Eve’s own son Cain (Genesis 4:8). Five generations later, people were entering into polygamous relationships (Genesis 4:19), and by the time of Noah, mankind was exceedingly wicked and “every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). God wiped out the entire world with a great flood, only sparing Noah and his family: a total of eight people out of millions. When the Flood had ended, Noah responded by building an altar to the Lord and offering up burnt offerings, yet it did not take very long before the biblical narrative once again records mankind’s sin. Noah planted a vineyard and got drunk, and his son Ham saw his father’s nakedness and responded unbecomingly rather than cover him up like his brothers did. By the time of the Tower of Babel incident in Genesis 11, mankind’s sinfulness was already back in full swing. They were openly defying God’s commission to multiply across the face of the earth, instead staying in one place and building a tower. As a result, God brought confusion among the people so they would not understand each other’s speech, and He scattered them over the face of the earth.

The history of Israel – whether it was during the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the times of the judges, the kingdom era, during their captivity, or the post-exilic period – is the history of a stiff-necked people whose hearts and minds were prone to grumbling, “doing what was right in their own eyes” (Judges 21:25), idolatry, fear of man, and pride. Indeed, the history of all mankind is full of sin, right up to the present day.

Why is this? Why is it that, as Romans 3:23 succinctly puts it, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”? The apostle Paul explains the answer with these famous words: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

In other words, sin is not just something that we do, it’s part of who we are in our fallenness. We sin because it is in our nature to sin, a nature that was passed down to us from Adam. The ultimate proof is that everyone dies, for “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death was the consequence of Adam’s sin, which is exactly what God warned would happen if he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:17). This is commonly known as the doctrine of Original Sin, because it answers the question from whom our sin nature originates (not to be confused with the origin of sin itself, as that is an entirely different discussion). When Adam sinned, he did so as our federal head. This is not to say that all of us share culpability for Adam’s sin, for the Bible makes it clear that every person is responsible for their own sin (Ezekiel 18:20, John 8:21). But, Adam was our federal head in that he represented all of humanity, and because he sinned, he plunged everyone into darkness. Federal headship is a concept that is perhaps somewhat lost to us as American citizens because of the uniqueness of living in a constitutional republic, but it is more easily understood by those who are under a monarchical system. Just as a king (or queen) makes decisions on behalf of everyone who is subject to him, irrespective of the convictions and attitudes of individuals over whom he rules, so, too, Adam made decisions on behalf of all of humanity. Because Adam disobeyed the word of God and was found guilty, every person who comes from the loins of Adam is likewise guilty of sin.

This doctrine is important for us to rightly understand because it addresses the very core of what separates us from the perfect fellowship with our Creator that God intended for us to enjoy. We are sinners by nature, from the very moment that we were conceived. After his sin with Bathsheba, King David pondered this very issue when he wrote, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). There is an ancient heresy known as Pelagianism that seeks to deny the existence of original sin and insists that mankind is inherently good and possesses the ability to choose not to sin by his own free will. But, the testimony of Scripture loudly proclaims the opposite to be true over and over again. Even our life experiences remind us of the folly of believing in man’s inherent goodness. Why is it that parents do not have to teach their children to lie, disobey, or steal? Why do little kids have to be taught to obey their parents, share, and treat others fairly? Why is it that one of the first words a child learns is “no”? It is because these young ones, as cute and innocent looking as they might be, are indeed little sinners who are doing what is in their nature to do.

Don’t think for a second that because we are sinners from the very moment of our conception, we can dismiss ourselves as mere victims of something that is beyond our control. As we have already touched on, each of us is responsible for our own sin and God will judge each of us according to our works (Romans 2:6). We are not victims: we are perpetrators who willingly commit cosmic treason against the sovereign King of the universe. All of us have violated the law of God, and we deserve eternal punishment for our sins. God’s standard that He calls us to is absolute perfection. “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16). This is precisely our problem: God is perfect, and we are not. Consequently, it would take nothing short of a miracle for any of us to enter into heaven, and as we will discuss in the coming weeks, a miracle indeed took place that provides the way of escape from God’s eternal wrath. Next time, we will take a closer look at the depravity of man and how deep our corrupted nature truly is.