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).

Made Like His Brothers in Every Way

The Scriptures reveal that the Lord Jesus was make like his brothers in every way:

"For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people" (Heb.2:17).

The meaning of the Greek word translated "to be made like" is "'to make like'...'to be' or 'to become like' to one...Heb. ii. 17" (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon).

It is inconceivable that it would be said that the Lord Jesus was made like His brothers "in every way" if He was born spiritually alive and His brothers are born spiritually dead. Since the Lord Jesus came into the world spiritually alive then we can know that all people emerge from the womb spiritually alive.

Sinning Results in Spiritual Death

In the book Fallen:A Theology of Sin David B. Calhoun writes the following commentary about James 1:14-15:

"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. That means that those who die spiritually as a result of their own sin were alive spiritually before they sinned. This cannot apply to those who have been born " again" of the Spirit because their sin does not result in spiritual death. Therefore, it is clear that all people emerge from the womb spiritually alive and not spiritually dead, as the advocates of Original Sin teach.

There are other passages from the Scriptures which also indicate that a person's own sins results in spiritual death:

"Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away" (2 Cor.3:6-7).

Here the Apostle Paul is contrasting the New Testament with the Ten Commandments (written and engraved in stones). In regard to the New Testament he says that "the spirit giveth life" so this is obviously referring to "spiritual life."

We are told to compare "spiritual things with spiritual" (1 Cor.2:13) so in order to maintain a logical consistency we must understand that the "ministration of death" refers to "spiritual" death. This idea is reinforced by the words of Paul at Romans 7:9-11 where he states that he died when he broke one of the Ten Commandments. In the following passage we can also see that it is personal sins which result in spiritual death:

"What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death...For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Ro.6:21,23).

Theoretically Possible?

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).

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