AN ANSWER TO INHERITED DEPRAVITY
In this lesson we will answer the following questions:
1. What is sin?
2. Why is it important to know if babies are born sinners or if they become sinners by choice?
3. What does the Bible teach?
4. What is the conclusion? What must be done to babies and young children to ensure their salvation?
Let us keep in mind that we are eternal creatures and these things affect our eternal being. May God bless our studies. Now, let us jump right in…
1. WHAT IS SIN?
Generally, people answer the question “What is Sin?” in one of two ways: in a broad way or in a narrow way; however, I want to introduce a third way that is based entirely on Scripture.
I once heard a preacher, who studied the Word of God for many years, came up with an exhaustive list of 182 sins. He insisted that, included in those 182 sins, was every sin that a person could commit. He had them grouped into six different categories and claimed that each sin was naturally born into every baby. Is this true? Are babies born guilty of 182 sins at the moment of conception or at the moment of birth?
But, what is sin? Theologians (people who study the nature of God through Scripture) have come up with some pretty strange concepts. One of the most common theological concepts is that a baby is born in sin. They make the claim that Adam sinned, and his sin was so great that all of his descendants are born guilty of sin. To be honest, I wonder if they look at their newborn children just minutes or hours old and think “I have to keep this little person alive long enough to teach them about Jesus or else they will go to hell”? That is the only logical conclusion if a baby is born a sinner.
It is very common, today, for people to understand sin as something that is terrible; a child molester, a murderer, or a rapist are common examples of this type of understanding. These examples are, indeed, terrible and sinful. Society and culture will often deem other things as cheating on taxes, defrauding the elderly, alcoholism, sin as well. These “social ills” are normally sinful and should be avoided by those who are trying to serve God. Society tries its best to create a list of sins; however, this cannot be done because it is never done in Scripture. One cannot say “if I do this thing and not do this thing, I will be sinless”. That is not the way sin works.
We have already looked briefly at what society thinks about sin, but what does God think about sin? How does Scripture define sin? The apostle and evangelist John contributes to our understanding of sin by giving us a definition in 1 John 5:17: “All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death”. Righteousness is God-likeness or the attitude of being like God, not in power but in holiness, purity, and love. Contrarily, anything that is self-centered, contrary to God, or opposite of His revealed will is sin because it is not righteous. This unrighteousness includes our attitudes, desires, actions, or even inactions. John wrote in 1 John 3:4, “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.” This appears very simple. One knows God’s law and chooses to obey it or to disobey it, and, when one chooses to disobey it, he or she sins. Failing to obey the Gospel plan of salvation (once one has reached the proper age) is sin. Sin is a willful transgression of the known law of God.
Romans 1:18-32 says:
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things. 24 Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, 25 who exchanged the truth of God for the lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. 26 For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. 27 Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due. 28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting; 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, 30 backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, 31 undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; 32 who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them”.
The people spoken of in Romans 1 were people who knew God’s law and chose to do differently. The same is to be said for very many today; when we know God’s law, but choose to do anything other than God’s law, we sin.
The definition of sin continues in James 4:17: “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin”. Hopefully, we can begin to see the pattern of knowledge coming about. The “good” James speaks of is near to that of the “righteousness” that John spoke of in 1 John 5. For example, if we know it is good or godly to take care of our neighbor who is sick, but we don’t do so, we sin by our lack of action. If we know it is godly to refrain from dirty thoughts, but we engage in them, we sin by our thoughts. Romans 14:23 reads, “But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin”. In America today, many Christians struggle with balancing being a Christian and having a career. Our society demands many people to work on the Lord’s Day. Businesses often require Christians to work when the church is commanded to come together for worship. When brothers and sisters give in to temptation to miss assembly for work, they sin because it is not of faith. Another illustration is our brothers and sisters who insist on using multiple cups; many do partake this way because they are afraid of germs. What is not of faith is, indeed, sin.
In all studies of sin, it is crucial to remember that we will face God in judgment, and we will be judged by the words of His Book. Romans 2:16 reads “in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel”. Therefore, it is crucial we know what God says, and not trust what men, theologians, preachers, or other denominations say. When one becomes a sinner, they become estranged from God, cursed, and bound for the blackness and fires of hell: John 12:48 “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day”.
2. WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO KNOW IF BABIES ARE BORN SINNERS OR IF THEY BECOME SINNERS BY CHOICE?
Why is it important? Does it really matter? The answer is yes! Knowing that babies are not born sinners affects our view of God, our view of man, and our view of redemption.
First, our view of God is affected. If men are born sinners, God could not be fair or just. Sin comes with a serious penalty of condemnation in hell. Can you imagine proclaiming God’s love while He sends helpless newborn babies to the pits of the darkness of hellfire? I cannot! But God is fair and just. Man becomes a sinner by choice, not by birth. If man chooses to serve God, then God grants him an eternity in Heaven with Him; however, if man chooses to disobey God, then God condemns him to an eternity of punishment. Secondly, teaching that God makes all infants sinners is saying God prefers sin over holiness, righteousness, and innocence. We can see in Scripture that man was not created to be sinful: Ecclesiastes 7:29 “Truly, this only I have found: That God made man upright, But they have sought out many schemes” and Genesis 1:31 “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day”.
Secondly, our view of man is affected. If men are born sinners, we begin to see ourselves as helpless robots. Instead of being made in the image of God, we see ourselves made in the image of the devil. Rather than being made in God’s image as the chief of creation, as the prime and pride of God’s making, we view ourselves as “less”. Rather than have dominion over the earth, we believe the earth dominates us, and we seek to be like nature, rather than like God. Paul said in Romans 1, we “worship and serve the creature rather than the creator”. Generally speaking, those who hold to the idea that babies are born sinners believe that man is only a little better than the animals, but that is not how the inspired writers described man: Hebrews 2:9 “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone” and Genesis 1:28 “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’".
Finally, our view of redemption is affected. If men are born sinners, then men have two kinds of sin from which we must be redeemed: 1. An infant’s “sin nature” that is inherited and 2. The actual sins that we commit. This seems to go with the idea of being a robot of sorts. Before this mysterious deliverance one is a robot, a slave to sin, then afterward one is a robot slave to God. One’s choice is left out completely. The reality is that we are redeemed from sin when we choose to obey the pattern of the gospel, Romans 6:1-3. God in his great grace has gifted man the responsibility of choice. Man chooses to obey and be saved or disobey and sin. Infants or the fetus in the womb cannot choose. We must always remember that sin as well as salvation require choice! Neither can happen until an individual is able to choose.
3. WHAT DOES THE BIBLE TEACH?
In section 2, we defined sin, but where did sin come from? And are babies born sinners? Furthermore, what can we do about sin? These three questions are extremely important, and thank God there is a clear answer in the Word of God.
First, where did/does sin come from? Way back in Genesis, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, the original sin occurred. Man, having been created in the image and likeness of God, was righteous, but had the ability to choose evil. If you recall, God had specified a certain tree in the middle of the Garden of Eden and commanded them not to eat of that tree. Genesis 2:16-17 “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’”. We can learn something about the nature of sin here: sin is the transgression of the law of God, it is unrighteousness, it is choosing to not do good, and it is not of faith. The first principle is easily seen: do not eat of this tree.
a. This was a command
b. It was a command that they understood
c. It was a command that they were capable of keeping
d. It was a command with a consequence attached upon failure to keep it
e. It was a command that they chose to break to fulfill their desire
The slippery slope of sin took off rather quickly. Before very much time had elapsed, Adam and Eve had sinned away their likeness of God and their relationship with God for a cheap substitute.
Genesis 3:1-7 says:
Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” 2 And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat 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 has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’” 4 Then the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. 5 For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.
Did you catch that? The devil tempted Eve. The devil said, “Has God indeed said…?”, and, of course, Eve replied that God had said they could have any fruit of any tree except the one in the middle. She also added that God instructed them not to even touch it. If you review Genesis 2, you’ll notice that God never said not to touch the tree; Eve was adding to God’s instruction. Then, listening to the serpent, she went and looked at the tree, and she saw that the fruit was nice and would make her wise. She took and ate from the tree and gave to Adam to eat as well. Eve was tricked by the devil, and Adam was not deceived but disobeyed knowingly. This is where the first sin in all of creation took place.
After Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, sin existed. Neither Adam nor Eve were created with sin, and according to Scripture, neither are any other babies.
Ezekiel 18:20-32 says:
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. 21 But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22 None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. 23 Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?" says the Lord GOD, "and not that he should turn from his ways and live? 24 But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die. 25 "Yet you say, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' Hear now, O house of Israel, is it not My way which is fair, and your ways which are not fair? 26 When a righteous man turns away from his righteousness, commits iniquity, and dies in it, it is because of the iniquity which he has done that he dies. 27 Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive. 28 Because he considers and turns away from all the transgressions which he committed, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 29 Yet the house of Israel says, 'The way of the Lord is not fair.' O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair? 30 "Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, everyone according to his ways," says the Lord God. "Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. 31 Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? 32 For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies," says the Lord God. "Therefore, turn and live!”
This Scripture in Ezekiel clearly disputes what many modern preachers believe about inherited or natural sin. The sins of parents are not inherited by the children, nor do children receive sin at birth from God. Sin is a choice.
The final Scripture in review for this section comes from the New Testament. It teaches us the seed, birth, and end of sin. Like all other passages in the Word of God, there is no mention of the presence of sin when birth occurs: James 1:13-15 “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” James makes it very clear that God does not tempt! If God does not tempt, how can he be charged with creating sin? James also teaches that temptation comes from the desires of our own hearts. When left unrestrained, desires with lead to sin. Too often today, we hear, “God wants me to be happy… doesn’t He?”. No: God wants us to be right. God wants us to be saved. God wants us to be obedient. Being right, saved, and obedient is not necessarily the same as being happy. Man’s idea of happiness is not always what is best for the soul.
Finally, James gives away the secret: sin is not inherited. Sin is not natural, and it is not born in us. Rather, sin is something that we do when we give in to temptation! We should keep in mind that contrary to many beliefs today, temptation is not sin. Sin is submitting to temptation. Yes, we are going to endure temptation (James 1:12), and we are going to have to flee some things (1 Timothy 6:11), but we only sin when we submit to the temptation of sinful desire.
4. WHAT IS THE CONCLUSION, WHAT MUST BE DONE TO BABIES AND YOUNG CHILDREN TO ENSURE THEIR SALVATION?
Romans 6:23 reads “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Those who fear their baby is born in sin would fear the wrath of God and the wages of sin. These people would likely be tempted to baptize their infants, a practice that is very common among modern religions. Indeed, it is right to be worried about the consequences of sin. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 says “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” If a person is guilty of sin, they are guilty and bound for condemnation in hell; however, we have proven (through the Word of God) that babies are not born with sin. As infants, they are not able to choose sin like Adam and Eve, but, instead, they are pure, righteous, holy, and good, made in the very image of God. This eliminates the need for infant baptism, as infants have no sin to wash away.
What is to be done then?
Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it”.
Ephesians 6:4 “And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord”.
2 Timothy 3:14-15 “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been
assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”.
Parents certainly have a responsibility toward their children. Parents must teach their children from birth about the gospel, parents also have the responsibility to teach their children by example and parents have the responsibility of educating their children. Parents have a responsibility toward their children regarding their education, a positive work ethic, kindness toward their fellow man, but most importantly the scriptures. Parents must live godly lives for their children to emulate. One of the most powerful influences in the life of a child and even up to a young adult is the life of Mom and Dad. If it is God focused, church centered, and generous, but humble, the likelihood of the young person becoming such is greater. But most importantly parents have responsibilities toward their children regarding the gospel. One’s own children is the first and most important field of evangelism.