What Is The Sin Nature?
The sin nature is that in man that makes him rebellious against God. When we speak of the sin nature, we refer to the fact that we have a natural inclination to sin; given the choice to do God’s will or our own, we will naturally choose to do our own thing.
Proof of the sin nature abounds. No one has to teach a child to lie or be selfish; rather, we go to great lengths to teach children to tell the truth and put others first. As a matter of fact, if you don’t believe in sin, just watch a two-year old child! Sinful behavior comes naturally.
The evening news is filled with tragic examples of mankind acting badly. Wherever people are, there is trouble. Charles Spurgeon said, “As the salt flavors every drop in the Atlantic, so does sin affect every atom of our nature. It is so sadly there, so abundantly there, that if you cannot detect it, you are deceived.”
The Bible explains the reason for the trouble. Humanity is sinful not just in theory or in practice but by nature. Sin is part of the very fiber of our being. The stain runs deep. It’s in the warp and woof of our souls.
The Bible speaks of “sinful flesh” in Romans 8:3, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:”
It’s our “earthly nature” that produces the list of sins in Colossians 3:5. And Romans 6:6 speaks of “the body ruled by sin.” The flesh-and-blood existence we lead on this earth is shaped by our sinful, corrupt nature.
The sin nature is universal in humanity. All of us have a sinful nature, and it affects every part of us. This is the doctrine of total depravity, and it is Biblical. All of us have gone astray. Isaiah 53:6, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Paul admits that “the trouble is with me,” Romans 7:14, “For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.”
Romans 7:25, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Ecclesiastes 7:20, “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” The apostle John perhaps puts it most bluntly: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us,” 1 John 1:8.
Even children have a sin nature. David rues the fact that he was born with the principle of sin already at work within him: Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Elsewhere, David states, Psalm 58:3, “The wicked are estranged from the womb: they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.”
Where did the sin nature come from? Scripture says that God created humans good and without a sinful nature: Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”
However, Genesis 3 records the disobedience of Adam and Eve. By that one action, sin entered into their nature. They were immediately smitten with a sense of shame and unfitness, and they hid from God’s presence, Genesis 3:8, “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.”
When they had children, Adam’s image and likeness was passed along to his offspring, Genesis 5:3, “And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son in his own likeness, after his image; and called his name Seth:” The sin nature manifested itself early in the genealogy: the very first child born to Adam and Eve, Cain, became the very first murderer, Genesis 4:8, “And Cain talked with Abel his brother: and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”
From generation to generation, the sin nature was passed down to all of humanity: Romans 5:12, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” This verse also presents the unsettling truth that the sin nature leads inexorably to death (see also Romans 6:23a, “For the wages of sin is death;”).
Other consequences of the sin nature are hostility toward God and ignorance of His truth. Paul says, Romans 8:7-8, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Also, 1 Corinthians 2:14, “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
There is only one Person in the history of the world who did not have a sin nature: Jesus Christ. His virgin birth allowed Him to enter our world while bypassing the curse passed down from Adam. Jesus then lived a sinless life of absolute perfection. He was “the Holy and Righteous One,” Acts 3:14 who “had no sin,” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
This allowed Jesus to be sacrificed on the cross as our perfect substitute, “a lamb without blemish or defect,” 1 Peter 1:19. John Calvin puts it in perspective: “For certainly, Christ is much more powerful to save than Adam was to ruin.”
It is through Christ that we are born again: John 3:6, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” When we are born of Adam, we inherit his sin nature; but when we are born again in Christ, we inherit a new nature, 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
We don’t lose our sin nature once we receive Christ. The Bible says that sin remains in us and that a struggle with that old nature will continue as long as we are in this world. Paul bemoaned his own personal struggle in Romans 7:15-20, “For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.”
But we have help in the battle – divine help. The Spirit of God takes up residence in each believer and supplies the power we need to overcome the pull of the sin nature within us: 1 John 3:9, “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.”
God’s ultimate plan for us is total sanctification when we see Christ, 1 Thessalonians 3:13; “To the end he may stablish your hearts unblameable in holiness before God, even our Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ with all his saints.” and 1 John 3:2, “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.”
Through His finished work on the cross, Jesus satisfied God’s wrath against sin and provided believers with victory over their sin nature: 1 Peter 2:24, “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
In His resurrection, Jesus offers life to everyone bound by corrupt flesh. Those who are born again now have this command: Romans 6:11, “Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie
“If we are born in sin, how is it fair for God to judge us for our sin?”
Answer: A common accusation against Christianity is that it unfairly judges people. In particular, some people say that God sets us up for failure and then punishes us for the failure that He caused. If that were true, it would indeed be an unfair situation. Is that the way Christianity works? Does God unfairly judge us for something we have no control over? The answers are found in the Bible.
To begin, we must find out what the Bible says about our being born in sin. David, the man after God’s own heart, wrote in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” The apostle Paul wrote: Ephesians 2:3, “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” That means there is something naturally inside us that pushes us toward sin.
So, the Bible certainly does teach that we are born in sin. Did God just arbitrarily decide people were going to be born sinful? The answer is found in connection with the first man, Adam. When Adam was created (without sin) by God and placed in the garden of Eden, he was also given a simple law, Genesis 2:16-17, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Adam disobeyed God’s law, and God pronounced him guilty and sentenced him to death. It was Adam’s choice to disobey that made him guilty before God. He was the father of the human race, and his traits were passed on to his children. Romans 5:12 says: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:”
Some might argue that we cannot choose our family, so God cannot hold us accountable for the sin nature. While we might not have any choice about how we’re born, the Bible is clear that we do have a choice about our sins.
Earlier, we looked at Ephesians 2:3, “Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” which says that we gratify the cravings of our sinful nature. That is a choice.
Romans 5:12 says: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” We are sinners by deed as well as by nature. Our own sin condemns us, not just Adam’s. We are born in sin, but we continue to sin by our own personal choice. When we choose sin, we become guilty before God, and His judgment is fair.
God is not only fair, but merciful. The Bible’s teaching about personal sin doesn’t end with a declaration of man’s guilt. Romans 5, which tells us that sin and death entered the world through one man, also tells us of the greatest blessing, which also came through one man. God’s gift of grace came through Jesus Christ, Romans 5:15, “But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.” Verse 19 says, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
God is just in applying Adam’s sin to the entire human race, and He is just in applying Jesus Christ’s death to all who will receive Him by faith. Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world, so that the world might have life through faith in His sacrifice. That’s not “fair” – that’s grace!
Recommended Resource: Basic Theology by Charles Ryrie
“What is a sin of commission?”
Answer: There are two basic ways we sin: either by omission or commission. Sins of omission are those in which we knew we should have done something good, but refused, James 4:17, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
A sin of commission is a sin we take action to commit, whether in thought, word, or deed. A sin of commission can be intentional or unintentional. Foreknowledge is not the issue. If you visit another country in which traffic drives in the left lane, and you drive in the right lane, you are still breaking the law whether you know it or not.
The Old Testament Law prescribed special sacrifices for sins that were unintentional but were nevertheless sins: Numbers 15:22-24; “And if ye have erred, and not observed all these commandments, which the LORD hath spoken unto Moses,
Even all that the LORD hath commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day that the LORD commanded Moses, and henceforward among your generations; Then it shall be, if ought be committed by ignorance without the knowledge of the congregation, that all the congregation shall offer one young bullock for a burnt offering, for a sweet savour unto the LORD, with his meat offering, and his drink offering, according to the manner, and one kid of the goats for a sin offering.”
Compare Hebrews 9:7, “But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people:”
Humanity’s first sin was a sin of commission. God forbade the eating of a certain fruit, Genesis 2:16-17, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Adam and Eve knew God’s command and disobeyed anyway (Genesis 3:6, “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.”
They took action to commit a sinful act. When King David committed adultery and then had Uriah killed to cover it up, both were sins of commission: 2 Samuel 11, “And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah. But David tarried still at Jerusalem. And it came to pass in an eveningtide, that David arose from off his bed, and walked upon the roof of the king’s house: and from the roof he saw a woman washing herself; and the woman was very beautiful to look upon. And David sent and enquired after the woman. And one said, Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite? And David sent messengers, and took her; and she came in unto him, and he lay with her; for she was purified from her uncleanness: and she returned unto her house. And the woman conceived, and sent and told David, and said, I am with child. And David sent to Joab, saying, Send me Uriah the Hittite. And Joab sent Uriah to David. And when Uriah was come unto him, David demanded of him how Joab did, and how the people did, and how the war prospered. And David said to Uriah, Go down to thy house, and wash thy feet. And Uriah departed out of the king’s house, and there followed him a mess of meat from the king. But Uriah slept at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and went not down to his house. And when they had told David, saying, Uriah went not down unto his house, David said unto Uriah, Camest thou not from thy journey? why then didst thou not go down unto thine house? And Uriah said unto David, The ark, and Israel, and Judah, abide in tents; and my lord Joab, and the servants of my lord, are encamped in the open fields; shall I then go into mine house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife? as thou livest, and as thy soul liveth, I will not do this thing. And David said to Uriah, Tarry here to day also, and to morrow I will let thee depart. So Uriah abode in Jerusalem that day, and the morrow. And when David had called him, he did eat and drink before him; and he made him drunk: and at even he went out to lie on his bed with the servants of his lord, but went not down to his house. And it came to pass in the morning, that David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. And he wrote in the letter, saying, Set ye Uriah in the forefront of the hottest battle, and retire ye from him, that he may be smitten, and die. And it came to pass, when Joab observed the city, that he assigned Uriah unto a place where he knew that valiant men were. And the men of the city went out, and fought with Joab: and there fell some of the people of the servants of David; and Uriah the Hittite died also. Then Joab sent and told David all the things concerning the war; And charged the messenger, saying, When thou hast made an end of telling the matters of the war unto the king, And if so be that the king’s wrath arise, and he say unto thee, Wherefore approached ye so nigh unto the city when ye did fight? knew ye not that they would shoot from the wall? Who smote Abimelech the son of Jerubbesheth? did not a woman cast a piece of a millstone upon him from the wall, that he died in Thebez? why went ye nigh the wall? then say thou, Thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. So the messenger went, and came and shewed David all that Joab had sent him for. And the messenger said unto David, Surely the men prevailed against us, and came out unto us into the field, and we were upon them even unto the entering of the gate. And the shooters shot from off the wall upon thy servants; and some of the king’s servants be dead, and thy servant Uriah the Hittite is dead also. Then David said unto the messenger, Thus shalt thou say unto Joab, Let not this thing displease thee, for the sword devoureth one as well as another: make thy battle more strong against the city, and overthrow it: and encourage thou him. And when the wife of Uriah heard that Uriah her husband was dead, she mourned for her husband. And when the mourning was past, David sent and fetched her to his house, and she became his wife, and bare him a son. But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD.”
The Bible does not hide the often sordid details of the lives of people He loved and used anyway. Its pages are peppered with sins of commission by great leaders such as Abraham, Genesis 20:2, “And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah.”; Moses Exodus 2:11-12, “And it came to pass in those days, when Moses was grown, that he went out unto his brethren, and looked on their burdens: and he spied an Egyptian smiting an Hebrew, one of his brethren. And he looked this way and that way, and when he saw that there was no man, he slew the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.”; David 2 Samuel 12:13, “And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the LORD. And Nathan said unto David, The LORD also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.”; Solomon, Nehemiah 13:26, “Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these things? yet among many nations was there no king like him, who was beloved of his God, and God made him king over all Israel: nevertheless even him did outlandish women cause to sin.” Peter, Matthew 26:74-75, “Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.”; and Paul Galatians 1:13, “For ye have heard of my conversation in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it:”
We are all guilty of sins of commission. We all commit intentional sin by acting in ways God has forbidden. We also commit unintentional sin in our ignorance of God’s standards: Acts 3:17, “And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers.”; 1 Peter 1:14, “As obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance:”; Leviticus 4:13-14, “And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and the thing be hid from the eyes of the assembly, and they have done somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which should not be done, and are guilty; When the sin, which they have sinned against it, is known, then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation.”
Our sin nature keeps us from fellowship with God. We may be able to limit the number of sins we openly commit, but we cannot cleanse our hearts. Jesus said that: Matthew 15:18-19, “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:”
That’s why we need Jesus. We cannot stop ourselves from sinning, and by sinning we eliminate any hope of connecting with a holy God. Only when we allow Christ’s death and resurrection to be our substitute can our sin be expunged: Colossians 2:14, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; Romans 6:6, “Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Jesus took upon Himself all our sins of commission and omission and paid the debt we owe God.
Psalm 51 is the prayer David wrote after he had been confronted with his own sin of commission. He had sinned greatly, and there would be consequences: 2 Samuel 12:14-15, “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. And Nathan departed unto his house. And the LORD struck the child that Uriah’s wife bare unto David, and it was very sick.”
But he knew how to repent. And he had enough confidence in the mercy of God to cry out, Psalm 51:10-12, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit.”
David models for us the right way to deal with our sins of commission. When we recognize our sin against God, we can turn to Him, acknowledge that sin, and ask for His cleansing. We can trust in the power of Jesus’ shed blood to wipe away our sin. God promises to restore us to fellowship and strengthen us to live in a way that pleases Him, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
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My sincerest apologies. I am unaware of just who is the author of this work. I found, upon the discovery of this writing, that it is a very clear and concise analysis of our sinful nature. My having misplaced the author’s name gives testimony to my own shortcomings and failures. Again, my humble apologies…