Question:

Where in the Bible does it say that we only inherit the nature to sin and not the original sin?


Answer:

Don't you just love questions that want you to choose between two possibilities, but neither one is correct?

The concept of man inheriting the original sin of Adam was espoused every early on by a man named Augustine around A.D. 400. Augustine's teachings form the foundation of much of the modern Roman Catholic church's teachings on many issues. In the early days of the Protestant Reformation, a gentleman by the name of John Calvin, took Augustine's teachings, codified them, and made them internally consistent. Calvin's teachings heavily influenced most of the Protestant denominations which formed since his time. The problem is that neither man's teachings are biblically accurate.

The fact that sin is not inheritable is shown by Ezekiel: "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself" (Ezekiel 18:20). Such is perfectly understandable because sin is not like a gene passed from one person to another. "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness" (I John 3:4). Sin exists when a person breaks God's law. If you haven't broken a law, you haven't sinned. And, sin only applies to the person who breaks the law. I am not held responsible for another person's sin.

Nor does the Bible teach that a person must sin, that is that a person inherits a nature that drives him toward sin. What it does teach is that God gives all people choices and that history has proven that people consistently tend to make a wrong choice one or more times during their life. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). The one notable exception is Jesus Christ. "Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil" (Hebrews 2:14). Jesus took on human flesh and lived as a man, yet he did so without sinning. "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: "Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth"" (I Peter 2:21-22). Jesus' life proved that it is not inherent in human flesh inherited sin or a requirement to sin.

The problem is that by our own weakness, we tend to make mistakes. We know that. We have a cliche: "To err is human." Jesus shows it is possible to be sinless; history shows us that we tend to sin. "Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned -- For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come" (Romans 5:12-14). We learn many things from this passage:

  1. Sin doesn't exist without law. Again, reinforcing the fact that sin is the breaking of law.
  2. Death spread to mankind, not because Adam sinned, but because all men sin.
  3. We don't all commit the same sin. Therefore, we are not all guilty of Adam's sin.

It is this weakness of man that makes it so necessary for God to rescue us because we certainly cannot be relied upon to rescue ourselves. "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one"" (Romans 3:9-10).

In other words, we are all given free choice by God. Given a choice, we know that some people will make the wrong choice. Given enough choices and time, we know that all people eventually make at least one wrong choice. In a sense, it is a reality of statistics. It becomes even more apparent as to why when you realize that there is someone actively going around encouraging people to sin, or failing that, laying traps that catch the unaware in sin. "Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour" (I Peter 5:8).