Exposing the Myth of "Original Sin"
by Jerry Shugart
The Regeneration and Renewing of the Holy Spirit
In the following verse the Apostle Paul describes how he was saved by being made alive by the spirit:
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5).
Here Paul uses the word "regeneration" in regard to his salvation. This word is translated from the Greek word paliggenesia, which is the combination of palin and genesis.
Palin means "joined to verbs of all sorts,it denotes renewal or repetition of the action" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).
According to BDAG, palin refers "to repetition in the same (or similar) manner, again, once more, anew of something a pers. has already done." (Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed., ed. Frederick William Danker. [Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000], 752).
Genesis means "used of birth, nativity" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).
So when we combine the two words the meaning is a repetition of a birth.
Joseph Henry Thayer says that the Greek word translated regeneration "denotes the restoration of a thing to its pristine state, its renovation" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).
Richard C. Trench says that the word has the meaning of "a recovery, a restoration" (Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament).
The word "restoration" means "a bringing back to its original position or condition" (Merriam-Webster.com).
So we can understand that when Paul used the Greek word translated "regeneration" to describe his salvation experience he was speaking of a repetition of a birth.
It is obvious that the reference is not to a "physical" rebirth, or the repetition of one's physical birth. Paul could only be speaking of a repetition of a spiritual birth. And the words that follow make it certain that the "birth" of which Paul is referring to is a "spiritual" birth--"renewing of the Holy Spirit."
Since the renewal of the Holy Spirit is in regard to being made alive spiritually then the previous birth of the Spirit must also be in regard to being made alive spiritually by the Holy Spirit. In other words, since a person is "regenerated" by the Holy Spirit then that means that one must have previously been born of the Holy Spirit. I can only surmise that happens at conception.
Besides that, the Scriptures declare that people are created by the LORD when He sends forth His spirit:
"Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created: and thou renewest the face of the earth" (Ps.104.30).
Elihu told Job the following:
"The Spirit of God hath made me, and the breath of the Almighty hath given me life" (Job.33:4).
It is inconceivable that David would describe the way that he was made in the following way if he thought he was born spiritually dead:
""For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother's womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well" (Ps.139:13-14).
Sinning Results in Spiritual Death
In order to examine the results of personal sins in regard to death let us look first at the following verse :
"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world" (Eph.2:1-2).
The "trespasses and sins" spoken of in this verse are in regard to these people's own sins and that is because in the second part of the verse Paul references their own sins which they committed previously. And that is why we see the following translation:
"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins" (Eph.2:1; NIV).
Joseph Benson wrote that "they are under condemnation, on account of their past depravity and various transgressions, to the second death, or to future wrath and punishment, like criminals
under sentence of death for their crimes" [emphasis added] (Joseph Benson, Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments, Commentary at Ephesians
In The Pulpit Commentary we read that "the death ascribed to the Ephesians in their natural state is evidently spiritual death, and "trespasses and sins," being in the dative seems
to indicate the cause of death - 'dead through your trespasses and your sins' (R.V.)" (The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database; http://biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit/ephesians/2.htm)
Paul also tells the believers at Colosse the following:
"And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col.2:13).
In Vincent's Word Studies we read the following: "In your sins...the dative is instrumental, through or by" (Marvin R. Vincent, Vincent's Word
At Colossians 2:13 we read that Paul tells these people that they were dead previously but now have been made "alive with Christ." This can only be speaking of them receiving spiritual life so their death was a spiritual death. So these people died spiritually as a result of their own sin. That means that they were alive spiritually before they sinned. It is also a fact that no one can die spiritually unless he is first
alive spiritually. And the only possible way that these people were alive spiritually before they sinned is because they emerged from the womb spiritually alive. That means that no one emerges from the womb
spiritually dead and that completely destroys the theory of Original Sin which teaches that all people emerge from the womb spiritually dead. Thomas R. Schreiner is clearly in error when he says that "all people sin individually because they enter the world spiritually dead on the basis of their union with Adam" (Thomas R. Schreiner, Adam, the Fall, and Original Sin", 273-74).
Let us now look at another passage which
teaches the same exact thing:
"But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death" (Jas. 1:14-15).
In the book Fallen:A Theology of Sin (a book which defends the theory of Original Sin) David B. Calhoun writes the following commentary about this passage:
"Temptation leads to sin, and, for the unrepentant, sin leads to spiritual death. 'Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it is conceived gives birth
to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death' (James 1:14-15). James describes the deadly progression from evil desire, to being dragged away, to enticement, to conception, to birth and then finally to
death. This sixfold progression proceeds from the mind, to the affections, to the will, to outward action, and to spiritual death" (David B. Calhoun, "Sin and Temptation" in Fallen: A Theology
of Sin, 264).
Calhoun is right when he says that a person's personal sins result in spiritual death.
There is None Righteous, No, Not One
John Calvin wrote the following in an effort to try to prove that the whole posterity of Adam has been corrupted:
"The Apostle, when he would humble man's pride, uses these words: 'There is none righteous, no, not one: there is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone
out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps
is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: their feet are swift to shed blood: destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known: there is no
fear of God before their eyes,' (Rom. 3: 10-18.) Thus he thunders not against certain individuals, but against the whole posterity of Adam - not against the depraved manners of any single age,
but the perpetual corruption of nature" [emphasis added] (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 3, Section 2).
When we look at the verse which precedes the ones which Calvin quoted we can understand that those who Paul says are "under sin" are spoken about in the previous chapters:
"What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one" (Ro.3:9-10).
Paul wrote that he had before proved that they were all under sin but in the previous chapters there is no mention of Adam. But in those same chapters we can see that all people were under sin because of their own sin:
"For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law" (Ro.2:12-13).
Those who Paul says are "under sin" are that way because of their own sin and not because of the sin of Adam. And since infants and little children have not yet sinned they are not under sin so there is no such thing as
a "corruption" of all of Adam's posterity.
God Created Mankind Upright
"So I turned my mind to understand, to investigate and to search out wisdom and the scheme of things and to understand the stupidity of wickedness and the madness of folly. I find more
bitter than death the woman who is a snare, whose heart is a trap and whose hands are chains. The man who pleases God will escape her, but the sinner she will ensnare. 'Look,' says the Teacher,
'this is what I have discovered: Adding one thing to another to discover the scheme of things--while I was still searching but not finding--I found one upright man among a thousand, but not
one upright woman among them all. This only have I found: God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes'" (Eccl.7:25-29).
We can understand that here Solomon is speaking of the uprightness of "mankind" and not just the uprightness of only Adam and Eve, saying that "I found one upright man
among a thousand." Mankind is created upright and all people are created morally good according to Mark Dunagan:
"God made men upright"-i.e. morally good, God created men and women in His own image...God has given to every one the ability to recognize divine law as truth. This explains why
Solomon found only one righteous man in a thousand. The failure wasn't due to how God created people, rather, God created mankind upright. Note the verse isn't saying that people are born
inherently depraved, rather, after being born, after a period of childhood innocence, most people depart from God and search out excuses for not serving God" (Mark Dunagan, Commentaries on the Bible,
"Commentary on Ecclesiastes 7:29; https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/ecclesiastes-7.html. 1999-2014).
Adam Clarke agrees with Dunagan, writing the following: "Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright - Whatever evil may be now found among men and women, it is not of God; for God
made them all upright. This is a singular verse, and has been most variously translated: "Elohim has made mankind upright, and they have sought many computations" (Adam Clarke, The Adam Clarke
Commentary,Commentary on Ecclesiastes 7:29; https:https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-7.html)
In the following passage Paul says that even at the time he was persecuting the church and therefore spiritually dead he was able to keep the moral law:
"Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the
righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil.3:5-6).
Paul also makes it known that the Gentiles could in fact do the things contained in the law which is written in their hearts:
"For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another" (Ro.2:14-15).
Many of the early church leaders believed that all people have the power or ability to do good, as witnessed by the following words of Irenaeeus:
"Those who work it will receive glory and honor, because they have done that which is good when they had it in their power not to do it. But
those who do not do it will receive the just judgment of God, because they did not work good when they had it is their power to do so"
[emphasis added](The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson,1885-1887; repr. 10 vols. [Peabody, MA:
Hendrickson, 1994], Volume 1, 519).
Clement of Alexander mirrors what Irenaeus said:
"To obey or not is in our own power, provided we do not have the excuse of ignorance" [emphasis added] (Ibid.,
Volume 2, 353).
Tertullian speaks of a person's power to be obedient to the law:
"I find, then, that man was constituted free by God. He was master of his own will and power...For a law would not be imposed upon one who did
not have in his power to render that obedience which is due to law" [emphasis added] (Ibid., Volume 3, 300-301).
We also read the following:
"All the creatures that God made, he made very good...whoever wishes to may keep his commandments...everyone is given liberty of will" [emphasis added] (Ibid., "Disputation of Archelaus and Manes," Volume 6, 204-205).
Those in the Flesh Cannot Please God
Those who teach the theory of Original Sin often quote the following verse:
"So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (Ro.8:8).
In his commentary on this verse John Calvin says that "those who give themselves up to be guided by the lusts of the flesh, are all of them abominable before God; and he has thus far confirmed
this truth, --that all who walk not after the Spirit are alienated from Christ, for they are without any spiritual life" [emphasis added] (John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistle of
Paul the Apostle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Christian Classics Ethereal Library], 250).
According to Calvin this verse is speaking about the unsaved. R.C. Sproul is of the same mind, writing the following:
"Fallen man is flesh. In the flesh he can do nothing to please God. Paul declares, 'The fleshly mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be.
So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God' (Rom. 8:7, 8)." (R. C. Sproul, John 3:16 and Man's Ability to Choose God; https://www.ligonier.org/blog/mans-ability-choose-god/).
However, these verses which are speaking of the "flesh" are speaking of a Christian's "walk." A Christian can either walk after the Spirit or after the flesh:
"That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Ro.8:4).
When Paul contrasts walking in the flesh with walking after the spirit he is speaking about being self-centered as opposed to being God-centered. Paul speaks
about that same principle here:
"For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit" (Ro.8:5).
We can also understand that it is indeed possible for a Christian to walk or live after the flesh because Paul tells Christians that if they live after the flesh they shall die:
"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live" (Ro.8:13).
If it is impossible that a Christian can walk after the flesh then it would make absolutely no sense for Paul to tell Christians that "if they live after the flesh you shall die."
The "death" spoken of here is in regard to the Christian's walk, that "we should also walk in newness of life" (Ro.6:4) so that "the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our
mortal flesh" (2 Cor.4:11). The second part of verse 13 is telling Christians that if they mortify the deeds of the body they will live. Christians are already received eternal life so Paul's words there are also
referring to walking in newness of life.
From all of this we can understand that Christians can indeed walk in the flesh and when they live or walk that way they cannot please God. The Apostle John refers to that kind of walk as walking in darkness:
"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we
lie, and do not the truth" (1 Jn.1:5-6).
Matthew Henry wrote the following commentary about Romans 8:8:
"Believers may be chastened of the Lord, but will not be condemned with the world. By their union with Christ through faith, they are thus secured. What is the principle of their
walk; the flesh or the Spirit, the old or the new nature, corruption or grace? For which of these do we make provision, by which are we governed?" (Matthew Henry, Concise Commentary on the Whole Bible; http://biblehub.com/commentaries/mhc/romans/8.htm).
Sir Robert Anderson writes, "This verse is used to support the dogma that, because of the Fall, man's nature is so utterly depraved that he is incapable of leading a moral and upright life. As the Westminster Divines express it, 'We are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good.' This theology obviously impugns the righteousness of God in punishing men for their sins. In fact, it represents Him as a tyrant who punishes the lame for limping and the blind for losing their way" (Anderson, Misundersood Texts of the New Testament [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1991], 75).
Next we will examine if the Scriptures teach that, at least in "theory," a person can obtain eternal life by his own works. Of course the Scriptures declare in no uncertain terms that no one has ever obtained eternal life as a result of his own works but the question which confronts us is whether or not it is theoretically possible.
This is important because if a person is born spiritually dead then no amount of law-keeping could possibly bring eternal life and no amount of law-keeping could serve to justify a person before God. That is because once a person falls under the sentence of spiritual death then if he is ever going to attain eternal life and enter into the kingdom of God he first must be born again, born of the Spirit.
Who Will Render to Every Man According to His Deeds
In the second chapter of the book of Romans Paul reveals that a man can theoretically obtain eternal life by his "deeds" or by his "works":
"But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile" (Ro.2:5-9).
In his commentary on this passage Douglas J. Moo writes that "Verses 7 and 8 outline the two possible outcomes of God rendering to 'each' according to works. On the one hand, to 'those who by their persistence in good works and seeking glory and honor and immorality' he will 'render' eternal life. Paul's suggestion that a person's 'good work' might lead to eternal life seems strange in the light of his teaching elsewhere" (Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eedermans Publishing Co., 1996], 136-7).
Moo understands that Paul is saying that it is at least theoretically possible for a person to obtain eternal life by law-keeping. And of course that teaching of Paul sounds strange to those who believe that a person emerges from the womb spiritually dead and unable to do any good works which could lead to eternal life. However, those who do not believe in the dogma of Original Sin, men like Sir Robert Anderson, teach that man has the ability to continue in well doing:
"Therefore also is it that while 'patient continuance in well doing' is within the human capacity, Rom. 2:6-11 applies to all whether with or without a divine revelation...The dogma of the moral depravity of man, and irremediable, cannot be reconciled with divine justice in punishing sin. If by the law of his fallen nature man were incapable of doing right, it would be clearly inequitable to punish him for doing wrong. If the Fall had made him crooked-backed, to punish him for not standing upright, would be worthy of an unscrupulous and cruel tyrant. But we must distinguish between theological dogma and divine truth. That man is without excuse is the clear testimony of Holy Writ" [emphasis added] (Sir Robert Anderson, "Sin and Judgment to Come," The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth; Volume VI [Chicago: Testimony Publishing Co., 1910], 42-3, 38-9).
Ordained to Life
In the following passage Paul says that the commandment was "ordained to life":
"For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died. And the commandment, which was ordained to life, I found to be unto death" (Ro.7:9-10).
These verses also demonstrate that at least in theory a person can obtain eternal life by keeping the commandments. John Calvin wrote, "Was found by me, etc. Two things are stated here -- that the commandment shows to us a way of life in the righteousness of God, and that it was given in order that we by keeping the law of the Lord might obtain eternal life, except our corruption stood in the way" (John Calvin, Commentary at Romans 7:10; http://www.biblestudyguide.org/comment/calvin/comm_vol38/htm/xi.iv.htm).
Yes, if a person keeps the law perfectly then he will obtain eternal life. That means that a person has the ability to keep the law perfectly but not the "will" to keep it that way. That is made plain by Paul when he wrote the following:
" For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness" (Ro.2:14-15).
Next, let us examine the following exchange between a lawyer and the Lord Jesus Christ:
"And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou? And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself. And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live" (Lk.10:25-28).
Anderson writes, " 'What shall I do to inherit eternal life?' The question was framed by a professional theologian, to test the orthodoxy of the great Rabbi of Nazareth. For evidently it was rumoured that the new Teacher was telling the people of a short road to Heaven. And the answer given was clear - no other answer, indeed, is possible; for what a man inherits is his by right - eternal life is the reward and goal of a perfect life on earth. A perfect life, mark - the standard being perfect love to God and man" (Sir Robert Anderson, Redemption Truths [Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1980], 11).
There is no doubt that the Lord Jesus made it abundantly clear that it is at least theoretically possible for a person to gain eternal life by keeping the law. We can see a similiar conversation in the book of Matthew where the Lord Jesus said, "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Mt.19:17).
What the Lord Jesus said there is either true or it is not. And since the Lord Jesus would never say anything that is not true we can understand that it is at least theoretically possible for a person to obtain eternal life by his own works.
The Apostle Paul says that it is the doers of the law who shall be justified:
"For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified" (Ro.2:13).
Even Moo understands that it is at least theoretically possible for the doers of the law to be justified, writing that "he (Paul) upholds faithful obedience to God, or to the law as a 'theoretical' means of obtaining justification (cf. 2:13; 7:10)" [ emphasis added] (Douglas J. Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, 141).
If it was theoretically impossible for those under the law to be justified before God by law-keeping then it certainly would make no sense for Paul to say that "the doers of the law shall be justified." If it is not theoretically possible for anyone to obtain eternal life by keeping the commandements then the Lord Jesus certainly would not have told anyone that they could inherit eternal life by keeping the law. But He did!
If "law" was never a way whereby a man could theoretically obtain righteousness then why would Paul say that "Christ is the end of law for righteousness to every one that believes"?:
"For Christ is the end of law for righteousness to every one that believes" (Ro.10:4; DBY).
Paul also speaks of the believing remnant out of national Israel and says that their election is of grace and therefore "it is no more of works":
"Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace" (Ro.11:5-6).
If no one could theoretically be saved by "works" then why would Paul say that "it is no longer of works"?
If a person is born spiritually dead, as the advocates of the theory of Original Sin maintain, then no amount of law-keeping could possibly bring eternal life because once a person is spiritually dead due to his own sin then he must be born again of the Spirit in order to enter into the Kingdom of God (Jn.3:5).