OPPOSING THE DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN

Site Map

TRUTHS AND UNTRUTHS

The object of this article is to show that there was no change in the physical flesh of mankind due to Adam's transgression in the Garden of Eden. Such expressions as sinful flesh, sin in the flesh, defiled flesh, sin stricken nature, fallen stock, condemned nature, the results of Adamic transgression, etc., etc., cannot be truly applied to our physical flesh.

It is equally true to say that "flesh" is often used in Scripture metonymically, as in "walking in the flesh" when referring to people who walk after the lusts of the flesh in contrast to those who walk in the Spirit and seek the things of God. Another example is found in Romans 7 where Paul says, "in my flesh dwelleth no good thing," when referring to his life before conversion, before he walked in the Spirit.

In the Bible there is one definition of sin which states that Sin is transgression of law. Sin is also used in another sense when Jesus and the Apostles refer to Sin as a Master - we are either servants of sin or servants of righteousness. The term "sin" is never used of our physical flesh.

In his lecture "The Slain Lamb," which was Robert Roberts attack on Edward Turney, he said,

"It is a marvellous piece of New-born wisdom to say that 'sinful' applies to the character but not to the substance that produced that character."

This is a shameful statement to put forward in serious argument. It is foolishness to say that substance can produce character. Character is abstract and can be said to be moral reputation produced by the interaction of thought and experience, or, moral reputation which is developed by the process of reasoning guiding our choice of action in face of events. In this we have free will, which again, is not substance, neither are thought, moral reputation, or reasoning.

In support of his claim that brain substance produces character R.Roberts goes on to further mislead and confuse his readers by saying that

"character is the manifestation of the qualities of the flesh,"

but it isn't. Character is manifested as the qualities of the mind and affect behaviour, while the qualities of the flesh are manifested in such things as physical beauty or strong physique, etc.

Robert Roberts' intention, of course, was to 'prove' that sin is an indwelling factor of the flesh, passed down by inheritance from Adam and Eve, flesh with which God is supposed to be at enmity because it is no longer the good substance which He created in the beginning.

It is quite extraordinary that such a notion as sin dwelling in the flesh ever caught on but its origin dates back at least to Persia around the third century A.D. Mani, or Manichaeus who was born in Ecbatana in Persia in 215 A.D., was a religious leader after whom the Manicheans were named. He believed that evil was to be found in matter and that our bodies are trapped in and by this evil matter. By 245 A.D. he was teaching this new religion at the court of the Persian king Sapor where he had a strong following. About an hundred years later Augustine was born in Numibia in North Africa (354 A.D.) and on moving to Carthage where he studied, he became deeply involved in Manicheanism which seemed to him to offer a solution to the problem of evil. He converted to the Catholic faith in 386 A.D. and had such influence on the Catholic Church as to persuade it to accept his version of this doctrine which became known as the Doctrine of Original Sin and ever since it has been a required tenet of the Church.

But what was the attraction of the idea in the first place? Was it because people were unwilling to accept that they were responsible for the consequences of their wrong-doing in the world? Were they looking to place the blame elsewhere, just as did Adam and Eve?

Over the centuries the doctrine of Original Sin was taken on board by all the harlot daughters of Rome and expressed in different forms. Robert Roberts, too, believed and taught this Catholic doctrine as can be seen in Clause V of the B.A.S.F., which is as good a definition of Original Sin as can be found anywhere:-

"That Adam broke this law, and was adjudged unworthy of immortality, and sentenced to return to the ground from whence he was taken - a sentence which defiled and became a physical law of his being, and was transmitted to all his posterity."

We should reject this doctrine on the basis of its origins alone, but more important than this, we reject it for two other reasons, a) because it is not Scripture teaching and b) because the Bible has something far better to offer if we face up to our guilt.

So let's turn to Scripture. "Sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4), that is, God's law which is good. This same law which tells us to love God with all our heart, and all our soul, and with all our mind, and love our neighbours as ourselves. This law gives us the choice to do right or wrong; to obey or to disobey. We cannot obey or disobey without law. This choice was given us in order we should build characters well pleasing to our Creator, if we so choose. And it's all we need really. We can do without this supposed sin in the flesh, and we can do without supposed inherent tendency to sin, and we can do without supposed sin-stricken nature. Law gives us all we need in this department, for we can't build characters without it.

However, many, or perhaps most people find much pleasure in being selfish and the usual desire is to please oneself rather than seek the ways of God, and it is so much easier anyway. Though not born with wrong desires, infants are necessarily selfish in order to be sure they get the attention they need - a baby's cry is astonishingly loud when it is hungry. It's nature's way. From this early stage they quickly see ways of getting their own way and become greedy for the things they want for themselves. Without good parental guidance, a child when grown to maturity, will continue to be selfish not see that it worthwhile putting God or ones neighbour first; besides there is much pleasure to be found in wrong ways and so their hearts become evil, especially if they are surrounded by people of similar bad habits.

The Sermon on the Mount depicts the sort of life God wishes us to lead but it doesn't attract many people and Jesus Christ was well aware of this when, in Matthew 15:19, He said, "For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man." It is for these things God condemns people, "and this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil" (John 3:19). This is the condemnation. thoughts from the heart - the love of 'darkness' - man's choice even when they see God's goodness, the light of the world. God never condemned mankind's flesh.

So for those who choose to disobey God, their end is to perish; they are condemned to death, which is their reward for being sinners. Romans 6:23, "The wages of sin is death." This is the reward paid as wages. Furthermore this reward is not natural death but death by law, typified by the first death recorded, the slaying of the lamb in Eden for the sin of Adam and Eve, a judicial death in which the animal died in order that Adam and Eve should not die without hope.

But while people have life, they have hope. Forgiveness is freely available because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary. "If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and he is the propitiation for our sins; and not ours only, but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 2:12). However serious ones sins may have been they can be forgiven (with the exception of sin against the Holy Spirit - Matthew 12:31), as Saul of Tarsus found from his own experience. And he wrote, in Romans 3:25, regarding Jesus, "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past." And again in Romans 4:25. "Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification."

Peter said, "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

Delivered from what? Saved from what? Sinful flesh? Sin in the flesh? Condemned nature? Not at all. It is law which gives choice to do right or wrong, and it is in choosing to do wrong which defiles a man, that is, stains his character and it is for this he is condemned. So it is condemnation of the law from which we can be saved.

In case you think Paul meant sinful flesh in Romans 8:3, "God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh..." it may be as well here to point out that Paul said no such thing and it should have been translated "flesh of sin". But here again we have the problem of those who will insist on telling us that "flesh of sin" means the same thing as "sinful flesh" when it doesn't. Grammatically, it is in the possessive case, in the same sense I could refer to this "coat of mine" meaning of course, 'my coat' which is my possession. So in the letter to the Romans Paul explains that our flesh is 'flesh of sin' or 'sin's possession.' This "flesh of sin" is flesh sold to Sin as a King at the time of Adam's transgression of the law in Eden, and this "flesh" refers to people who follow after 'King Sin' by desiring the lusts of the flesh. These people are under the federal head of Adam and are said to be in Adam. As Paul says, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body" (Romans 6:12).

Let us go back in the Scriptures to the time of Moses. Under the law animals were sacrificed for sins but this was only until Jesus Christ should Himself be the sacrifice for sins. The law, being our school master to bring us to Christ, taught the need for sacrifice to take away sin and to bring in salvation through faith in that sacrifice. The law of Moses itself could not give salvation, not because of inherent weakness in man's flesh but because man, as 'King Sin's' possession, was in a weak position, being unable to offer a suitable sacrifice which would satisfy the righteousness of the law. Romans 8:3,4, "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God, sending his own Son in the likeness of sin's flesh and as an offering for sin (R.V.) condemned sin (when) in the flesh;" Why so? "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

The weakness then was that the law was unable to save people who belonged to sin, Galatians 3:21, "if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law..." Again, this is confirmed in Hebrews chapter 7 where the first 18 verses show the need for another Priesthood because the first Priesthood under Levi could not bring salvation. Verses 18,19, "For there is verily a disannulling of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did." The R.S.V. is even more explicit:- "On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); on the other hand, a better hope is introduced through which we draw near to God."

So Paul says, there is something the law could not do, that the law could not give life; while the writer to the Hebrews says, the law was weak and useless in its priesthood, so a new High Priest, "after the order of Melchizedec," came and with Him came hope of eternal life through a new covenant. Our conclusion then is that this weakness does not refer to any inherent weakness defiling the physical flesh, but the urgent need for remission of sins through the shedding of blood of our Lord and Saviour. Nowhere does condemnation have anything to do with sin dwelling in the flesh, but with transgressions, with acts of sin, with walking after the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and these things are not of the Father but of the world; with breaking God's law.

But before Jesus could become an High Priest after the order of Melchizedec He had the task of Redemption to fulfil, to buy us back from the bondage of Sin into which Adam had sold the human race. Jesus Christ laid down His life of His own free will and no one took it from Him. It was His natural life He laid down, His life ('psuche' - Greek) in which He showed beyond all doubt that the flesh is very good for the purpose for which God made it and that we too, in the same flesh, can keep the commandments as He did. Indeed this is the way He condemned sin - by showing that people could keep the law perfectly if they tried as He did. Moreover, this is what He asks of us - to keep the commandments perfectly. "Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I command you." And what is His command for us to keep? He said it was a new commandment, "That ye love one another as I have loved you." Is Jesus asking the impossible of His followers? Not impossible. It was hard for Jesus but He overcame. It is hard for us but we too can overcome. "Be ye therefore perfect even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Hebrews 11 is a good exhortation in this regard. Which of these had it easy, so to speak?

So please don't make excuses for yourselves, "Oh, poor me, I've got sin in my flesh, I can't possibly do what is right." Or "The sin principle in my flesh gives me a bias in the direction of evil, so I'm a poor sinner. Woe is me!" This is false humility; it is hypocrisy! Paul said "I can do all things through Jesus Christ which strengtheneth me." (Philippians 4:13). We too can be made strong, if we ask in faith.

Not only did Jesus die to buy us back from the bondage into which Adam sold us by transgression, but having bought us He is now our High Priest in heaven who is able to forgive us if we ask Him in faith. This is the gospel message of which Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, "...I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you... how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."

This states categorically that Jesus died for our sins and nowhere is there the suggestion of His dying for sinful nature, either His or ours.

Because Jesus gave Himself to die for our sins they are now taken away in Him. This was prophesied in the Old Testament in Isaiah 53:8,10, and 11. "...for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgressions of my people was he stricken... when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin... for he shall bear their iniquities." Jesus, who did no sin, received the reward of sinners, so that we, who failed to attain to righteousness, may receive the reward of the righteous!

Jesus Christ was the great antitype of those sacrificial offerings under the law. He was the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world. He made His soul an offering for sin, (not for sin in the flesh). He bear our iniquities, (not sinful nature). His offering was His life in the blood. Matthew 26:28, "For this is my blood of the new testament which is shed for many for the remission of sins."

There is no place for any change in the flesh of man since sin is transgression of law and no change in the flesh took place. Romans 8:3 is therefore misunderstood by all who subscribe to the doctrine of sinful flesh.

Now let's consider another matter - Galatians 3:13, "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us, for it is written, cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree."

Of this Robert Roberts said,

"He hung on a tree, and by that fact the law cursed Him" -

"Hanging on the tree brought the curse on Him -

"He did His Father's will in submitting to be placed in a position which the law cursed."

Then R.Roberts goes on to say,

"When He died, the law obtained the utmost triumph it could claim."

One could be forgiven for thinking that Robert Roberts believed in a personal Devil who devised a diabolical law to trap Jesus and succeeded.

Was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ a triumph for the law? The righteous law of the Righteous God obtaining the utmost triumph it could claim by the diabolical murder of a righteous man! Perverse spirit! No, the curse that Christ suffered in the shedding of His life blood had to do with sin, our sin and sin carries guilt, our guilt, and He died so that we should not suffer for our guilt. He bought us so that He could forgive us and make us His possession in stead of Sin's possession.

It was not the hanging on a tree that cursed anyone but the sin committed in breaking the law; this sin brought the curse. The punishment of hanging was for those already cursed by the law.

Turning to 1 Corinthians 12:3 we read "No man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed." So what is the teaching of Galatians 3:13? It is that Jesus willingly took the sinner's curse on Himself and in doing this He bought us from the curse of the law in order that we should not suffer it and perish.

Looking again at R. Roberts statement that "He did His Father's will in submitting to be placed in a position which the law cursed," he is perfectly correct. This is exactly what Jesus did, for He put himself in the position of the sinner. He took the sinners place. This is substitution. But this of course is not what R.Roberts meant.

Our next matter for consideration is the brasen serpent which Moses lifted up in the wilderness. It is widely taught amongst Christadelphians that the brass of this serpent represented the sin stricken nature of Jesus.

But we ask, does brass in the scriptures stand for physical human nature? And we answer, it does not stand for our physical nature, but it does represent actual sin as transgression or disobedience.

In showing this to be the case we look at Numbers 21:6-9, where the Israelites complained about having been brought out of Egypt: "And the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses and said, We have sinned for we have spoken against the Lord and against thee."

Here we see sin and death but not a sin stricken nature. It is sinners being punished for their sin in complaining of God's goodness in bringing them out of the bondage they suffered in Egypt. To save those who had faith, a brass serpent was made and lifted up on a pole and every one who had been bitten and had faith enough to look up to the serpent upon the pole, was saved from the death of the serpent's bite. This faith acknowledged the supremacy and mercy of God in bringing them out of Egypt but the brass serpent signified the transgression which brought about their death, and cannot be considered to stand for the physical flesh. It was their sin which caused their death, yet those of faith could be saved.

The parallel Jesus made between the lifting up of the serpent in the wilderness by Moses and the lifting up of Himself on Calvary was twofold, a) between the sin of the people which caused the serpent to be lifted up with the sin of the world which caused our Saviour to be lifted up, and b) the faith required by those who would be saved by looking up to the serpent and the faith required by those who would be saved by looking up to Jesus.

Brass then, does not represent sin-stricken nature but can be said to represent actual sin, i.e. transgression of law.

Another association of brass with actual sin is to be found in Numbers 16:36-40, for after the earth had swallowed up Korah, Dathan and Abiram with their wives and families "there came out a fire from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense. And the Lord spake unto Moses saying, Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning... and the censers of these sinners... make broad plates for the covering of the altar; for they offered them before the Lord, therefore shall they be hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel. Then Eleazar took the brasen censers..."

So were these brass plates with which Eleazar covered the altar a sign of inherited sin stricken human nature, or were they a sign of people's transgression? A sign of transgression. Also it was a warning that God would not tolerate presumptuous sin, for those 250 were not appointed by God to offer incense, hence the covering of the altar with this brass would remind and caution the people every time an offering was made upon the altar.

Brass, here again is associated with sin and death and not with the doctrine of Original Sin or Clause V of the B.A.S.F. as some would have us believe.

To sum up: we see that the Scriptures do not speak of defiled physical flesh, variously referred to by Christadelphians as sinful flesh, sin in the flesh, sin stricken nature, the results of Adamic disobedience, fallen stock, condemned nature, etc., etc.

Scripture speaks of sin as transgression of God's law and it is this alone which brings condemnation. It is serious error to complicate these things with the trappings of mystery and superstition, for that is what the doctrine of Original Sin consists of. Sin is abstract and cannot possibly be a physical element pervading the flesh.

In 150 years of Christadelphian reasoning from the Scriptures they have provided no proof of a change taking place in the physical nature of our first parents when they transgressed God's commandment.

Certainly many Christadelphians have repeatedly put forward verses by which they claim to support the theory, but the more reasonable amongst them can only say, "well, there must have been a change" and then point out that human nature is pretty awful. We agree that human beings can be and are all too often, 'pretty awful' but this is no proof of defiled flesh but proof of their evil thoughts and deeds.

The usual story is that the doctrine of sin in the flesh has to be deduced from the Scriptures. But why should anyone want to deduce a doctrine which makes Sin a substance dwelling in our bodies - except to excuse themselves for their awful failings?

Without exception the quotations put forward, when prayerfully examined and put into context fail to give the required proof or even the shadow of support for changed nature which Christadelphians so long for.

Thanks and Praise be to God!

Russell Gregory.

Site Map