What the Bible teaches about man and sin

The doctrine of man: Adam’s fall into sin.

Below is a question from the Westminster Shorter Catechism with answers and supporting Scripture proofs. Explanatory notes follow.

 

Q: Did our first parents continue in the estate wherein they were created?

A: Our first parents, being left to the freedom of their own will, fell from the estate wherein they were created, by sinning against God1.

1 Ecclesiastes 7:29Ecclesiastes 7:29
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.  

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. God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.


Q: What is sin?

A: Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God1.

1 1John 3:4John 3:4
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?  

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. Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.

Q: What was the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created?

A: The sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created, was their eating the forbidden fruit1.

1 Genesis 3:6-8Genesis 3:6-8
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. pleasant: Heb. a desire 7 And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. aprons: or, things to gird about 8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden. cool: Heb. wind  

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. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

 

Adam was created in a state of purity and innocence, Ecclesiastes 7:29Ecclesiastes 7:29
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

29 Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.  

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. We have already seen that he was characterized by knowledge, holiness and righteousness. It was in this state that he sinned and from this state that he therefore fell. God had placed him on probation under the covenant of works — with the promise of life and the penalty of death before him and suspended on his obedience of God’s commands.

 

I ADAM AND EVE SINNED BEING LEFT TO THE FREEDOM OF THEIR OWN WILL.

1. The freedom of the will. “Free will in man…has been called the freedom of self-determination, or spontaneity. That is man’s free will consists in his ability to choose according to the disposition, inclination, or bias of his own will.” (Dictionary of Theological Terms, Dr. Cairns) A ball will freely roll down hill, it freely rolls with the inclination. Man’s free will is exactly the same. Arminian theology adds to this definition the power of contrary choice but this is an unscriptural addition. The power to contrary choice is not necessary to free will, or else God Himself is not free since He has no power to choose sin.

A free will is seen in a variety of ways:

  • It may be freely inclined to God — as is the will of God and the unfallen angels.
  • It may be inclined wholly to evil — as in the devil, his angels and the unregenerate who are his children spiritually.
  • It may be inclined to both good and evil — as in the regenerate sinner who has a new inclination toward good and holiness but must still struggle against the old nature whose inclination is to sin.

Adam’s will was free. He was inclined to holiness, God and righteousness. His will however was mutable — not yet confirmed in holiness as he would have been had he fulfilled his probationary terms. He was therefore inclined to good but liable to temptation. In this he was different to every one of his descendents by ordinary generation who have inherited his depraved nature and an inclination and will that is wholly and only disposed toward evil.

What it means to be left ‘to the freedom of their own will’. It simply means that God sovereignly purposed not to give Adam the extra measure of grace to make him proof against temptation. We must not suppose that God was in any way bound to give this grace, nor that by not giving further grace He was denying Adam the ability to withstand temptation. He was simply put on trial and left to the exercise of the holy will and heart that he had been given at creation. What resources he had were sufficient to have him obey God.

 

II A DEFINITION OF SIN.

1. The Law of God is the only arbiter of sin. All that is sinful is determined to be so by the Law of God. All that Divine legislation prohibits is sin; and even when man legalizes that which is in conflict with God’s Law it is still sin.

2. The Law of God is found summarized in the ten commands of the Moral Law.

3. Sin is seen to have two elements:

  • A lack of conformity to the Divine standard — when what is required is not performed it is sin. When the Law demands that we love the Lord our God with all our heart and we fail to do so, that is sin.
  • A transgression of the Divine standard. This entails doing what is prohibited by the Law — the “Thou shalt not” commands are violated.

 

III THE SIN THAT CAUSED MAN’S FALL.

1. Disobedience of the command of God on which the whole covenant of works was based. This was a simple command to abstain form the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

2. They were induced to engage in this sin by the Devil’s temptation which appealed to self-interest and sensual appetite. Cp Genesis 3:1-6Genesis 3:1-6
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

3 1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Yea...: Heb. Yea, because, etc. 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. pleasant: Heb. a desire  

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. Eve was first in the transgression and induced Adam to eat. 2 Corinthians 11:3, 12 Corinthians 11:3, 1
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

3 But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 11 1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me. indeed bear...: or, indeed ye do bear with me  

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Timothy 2:14.

 

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