SIX PROOF-TEXTS EXAMINED.
Now, I am going to turn aside for a while from the more than 100 Bible texts that show the doctrine of original sin to be unbiblical and false, and respond to six texts that are taken out of context to support the doctrine that men are born sinners. These texts, when they are taken in their context, do not teach that men are born sinners. On the contrary, they agree with and teach what the whole Bible teaches, that men are created good and upright and in the image and likeness of God.
First Proof-text Examined1. Psalm 51:5: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
This text is not literal, it is figurative. For example, let us compare Psalm 5l:5 with Job 1:21: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.”
If Psalm 51:5 can be interpreted literally to teach the doctrine that David and all other men are born sinners, then Job 1:21 can also be interpreted literally to teach the doctrine that Job and all other men will go back into their mother’s womb: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither.”
Neither Psalm 5l:5 nor Job 1:21 should be understood literally. Both texts are figurative expressions. The same rules of interpretation that would permit Psalm 51:5 to teach that little babies are born sinners, if they were also applied to Job 1:21 (or if they were applied to many other passages from the Bible), would permit every kind of perverted and absurd interpretation of the Word of God.
David was not teaching in this passage that he was born a sinner (which would have been an excuse for his sins in a Psalm which was clearly a Psalm of confession). On the contrary, he was confessing the great magnitude and guilt of the sin he had committed; and he broke out in the language of strong feeling and emotion–the language of figure and symbol–to express themonstrousness of his sin: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”
The Psalmist David uses figurative language throughout his Psalms; and he uses several figurative expressions in Psalm 51. Verses five, seven, and eight of Psalm 51 are all figurative expressions. So that if verse five can be used to teach the doctrine that babies are born sinners, then also verse seven can be used to teach the doctrine that hyssop cleanses us from sin:
“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean.” Psalm 51:7
Also, verse eight can be used to teach the doctrine that God breaks the bones of the Christian when he sins, and that his broken bones rejoice when he is forgiven:
“Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice.” Psalm 51:8
And another Psalm, Psalm 58:3, can be used to teach the astonishing doctrine that all babies talk and tell lies from the very moment of their birth:
“The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” Psalm 58:3
But, who would teach from this last text the doctrine that babies really do speak as soon as they are born? None of these passages should be taken literally. They are all figurative expressions. If they were taken in their literal sense, they would all teach what we know to be contrary to reality and impossible: Men do not enter again into their mother’s womb. Hyssop does not purify our sins. Babies do not start speaking as soon as they come out of the womb. And babies are not born sinners!
Second Proof-text Examined2. Psalm 58:3: “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”
This text is supposed to teach that babies are born sinners; but like Psalm 51:5 it is figurative and not literal. If it were literal, it would teach that babies speak and tell lies as soon as they are born, and that they alienate themselves from God and go astray from him immediately upon coming out of the womb.
But all of this is clearly contrary to reality. We know that babies do not do any of these things at birth. Therefore it is clear that this language is not to be understood literally. If this verse taught that Babies literally came forth from their mother’s womb “estranged from God,” it would contradict other passages from the Bible that teach that babies are not “estranged from God” at birth. John the baptist was not “estranged from God from his mother’s womb.” On the contrary, the angel who announced his birth said, “He shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb.” Luke 1:15. This fact is hard to reconcile with a literal interpretation of Psalms 51:5 and 58:3. Job also testified that he was a guide to the widow “from his mother’s womb.” Job 31:18. Job obviously did not mean that from the moment he was a helpless newborn infant that he had been ministering to the needs of the widow. Also, the Psalmist David himself testified that God had been his help “from the womb.” Psalm 71:6. It is easy to see that the phrase “from the womb” is often used in a figurative sense and should not always be understood in its literal sense.
Third Proof-text Examined3. Ephesians 2:3: “And were by nature the children of wrath.”
This text is torn completely from its context to teach the horrifying doctrine that little babies are sinners, and condemned and under the wrath of God from birth!
But the word “nature” in this text has nothing to do with “birth” and neither does it have anything to do with “babies.” It is speaking of adults and it is speaking of the wicked character of adults. This is clearly evident from its context. The context of Ephesians 2:3 shows that Paul was not speaking of the “birth” of children at all when he used the word “nature.” On the contrary, he used the word “nature” to describe the wicked character and the wicked works of men before they were converted.
For example, he calls the attention of the believers in Ephesians 2:1-2 to the fact that before their conversion they had lived in trespasses and sins, and walked in every kind of wickedness, in company with other sinners: “Ye were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.” Then, he continues in verse three speaking of their participation with other sinners in carnality and wickedness: “Among whom also we all had our conversation in time past in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature (were by our past wicked works) the children of wrath even as others.”
It was only after he had described their past life of wicked works that he summed up the guilt and ill desert of their past life with the words: “And WERE by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”
We know by the immediate context of this text (as well as the context of the whole Bible) that Ephesians 2:3 is not speaking of being born a sinner or being born under the wrath of God. The immediate context and the context of the whole Bible teaches us that we Christians “were by nature” (were by our past wicked works) the children of wrath, just like the rest of the world that is still living in sin.” Eph. 2:3
The word “nature” in the Bible, when it refers to what we are by birth, never refers to a sinful nature. This is made manifest by Romans 2:14:
“The Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law.” Romans 2:14
Now the word “nature” in the above text does refer to the nature that we receive at birth. But it is evident that the word “nature” here is not a sinful nature. For, how could a sinful nature cause us to do the things contained in the law? A sinful nature would not cause us to do the things contained in the law–a sinful nature would only cause us to do evil!
The word “nature” is used again in II Peter 1:4, and it is used just like it was used in Ephesians 2:3, speaking of character and life. We saw in Ephesians 2:3 that it spoke of the evil character or the wicked works of men; but we will see in II Peter 1:4 that it speaks of the good character and life of God–it speaks of the life and moral perfections of his divine being:
“That by these (promises) ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” II Peter 1:4
Men use Ephesians 2:3 to teach that the “nature” has to refer to being born a sinner. But we see in II Peter 1:4 that the word “nature” is not speaking of a birth at all. It is speaking of the life and moral character of God.
The Bible teaches us that the nature that God has given us is not a sinful nature. It is a good nature that teaches us the difference between good and evil, and a nature that urges us to obey the “law of God written in our hearts.” Also the Bible teaches us that all sin and wickedness is against the nature we are born with. But if we were born with a sinful nature not one sin would be against our nature but every sin would agree with and be in harmony with our nature. So the fact that all sin is against our nature proves that we are not born with a sinful nature.
We see, then, that Ephesians 2:3 does not teach that babies are born sinners, and condemned, and under the wrath of God. What it does teach is that all we Christians, who are presently saved from our sins by the marvelous grace of God, were before our salvation, wicked, abandoned sinners, and dead in our trespasses and sins, and under the wrath of God for our sins, just like the rest of the world that still lives in sin and rebellion against God: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins…we all had our conversation in time past in the lust of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Ephesians 1:1-3
Fourth Proof-text Examined4. Job 14:4: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? Not one.”
This text is supposed to teach that sinful parents cannot help but bear sinful children. But this interpretation completely ignores the context of this text. The context shows that Job had his eyes wholly on the frail and dying state of man, and not at all upon his moral state. The whole sense of what Job was saying was that “no one can bring other than frail and dying offspring from frail and dying parents.” (See the context in Job 14:1-6)
If this text teaches that a sinner invariably produces another sinner, it teaches blasphemy. For if the doctrine of original sin is true, Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus was also born a sinner. And if Job 14:4 really does teach that a sinner must produce another sinner, there could be no way of escaping the blasphemous conclusion that our Lord also was born a sinner.
Fifth Proof-text Examined5. Job 15:14: “What is man that he should be clean? And he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?”
First, these are the words of Eliphaz, and cannot be quoted as inspired truth. God himself testified that Job’s comforters did not hold the truth. (See Job 42:7) But suppose we did accept this verse as inspired truth, what does it teach? It teaches nothing at all about a morally depraved physical constitution. It merely implies the sinful condition of all mankind without saying anything about how man got that way.
But again, this text, like the last, if used to teach the constitutional sinfulness of men, would teach the blasphemy that our Lord Jesus was born a sinner, because he was a man and was born of a woman.
Sixth Proof-text Examined
6. Rom. 5:12, 18-19:”Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned…Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
This passage is supposed to teach that all men are born sinners, and born under the condemnation and wrath of God because of Adam’s transgression.
But this passage does not teach that men are born sinners. It does not teach that they are born under the condemnation and wrath of God. It does not teach that they inherit a sinful nature from Adam. It does not teach that sin is transmitted physically or any other way from Adam to his descendants. It does not teach that the sin of Adam was imputed to his descendants. And it does not teach that men have sinned “in Adam.” On the contrary, Romans 5:14 teaches that Adam’s descendants did not sin ”in him.”
“Them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” Romans 5:14
The fact that Paul says there was a body of people “that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s sin” shows that Paul did not consider Adam’s sin to be their sin.
It is true that Paul connects the sin of Adam with the sin and condemnation of all mankind. But it is also true that he connects the obedience of Christ with the salvation and righteousness of all mankind:
“Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Romans 5:18″For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.” Romans 5:19
To interpret the phrase “made sinners” to mean that men are born sinners and become sinners involuntarily and necessarily by receiving a sinful nature from Adam, is a forced and inconsistent interpretation of this passage, for this passage not only says that all men are “made sinners” because of Adam’s transgression, it also says that all men are “made righteous” by the obedience of Christ, and that the free gift of life “came upon all men” by Christ Jesus. So for the advocates of the doctrine of original sin to arbitrarily give to the phrases “made sinners” and “came upon all men” the meaning of physical force when these phrases refer to Adam’s sin, without giving the same meaning of physical force when they refer to Christ’s righteousness, is an example of a forced and inconsistent interpretation of this passage dictated by a prepossessed belief in the doctrine of original sin.
Paul does not affirm an involuntary, necessary, or irresistible connection between either the sin of Adam and mankind or the righteousness of Christ and mankind. Otherwise, Romans 5:18 would teach the universal salvation of mankind:
“The free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Romans 5:18
We know that universal salvation is not taught in the Bible. Men are not saved involuntarily, automatically, and necessarily because of the obedience of Christ. Nor are they “made sinners” involuntarily, automatically, and necessarily because of the transgression of Adam. But the context of Romans 5:12-21 (and the context of the whole Bible) shows that men are “made sinners” in the same way they are “made righteous,” that is, voluntarily or willingly.
Paul did not teach that men are “made sinners” involuntarily, by an act of physical force; because he would have been teaching at the same time that all men are “made righteous” involuntarily, by an act of physical force. In other words he would have been teaching that every human being upon the face of the earth is saved involuntarily and necessarily whether he believes the gospel of salvation or not!
“By the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” Romans 5:18
It is true that Adam brought sin and death into this world by his transgression; but his sin and his death did not pass upon his descendants. The Bible (Romans 5:12) says that “death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” Men are sinners because they have sinned. Sin is an individual, voluntary choice. No human being can sin for another human being. Adam did not sin and could not sin for anyone but himself.
The purpose of the Apostle Paul in this passage is to show that, although the transgression of Adam has been a powerful force to bring sin, death, and condemnation upon all men, the righteousness and obedience of Christ in his work of atonement for sinners has been much more powerful to bring grace, reconciliation, righteousness, and eternal life upon all men. (See the overall context in Romans 5:6-21). The following Scriptures show that no man can be guilty or condemned for the sin of Adam–Adam could sin only for himself:
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him.” Ezekiel 18:20″The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” Deuteronomy 24:16
“But he slew not their children, but did as it is written in the law in the book of Moses, where the Lord commanded, saying, The fathers shall not die for the children, neither shall the children die for the fathers, but every man shall die for his own sin.” II Chronicles 25:4
“He shall not die for the iniquity of his father, he shall surely live. As for his father, because he cruelly oppressed, spoiled his brother by violence, and did that which is not good among his people, lo, even he shall die in his iniquity.” Ezekiel 18:17-18
“The soul that sinneth, it shall die.” Ezekiel 18:4
“I will judge…everyone according to his ways, saith the Lord God.” Ezekiel 18:30
“That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Gen. 18:25
(100 passages against original sin – A.T. Overstreet)